Pterodactyl: Thermal protection system for integrated control design of a mechanically deployed entry vehicle

Zane B. Hays, Bryan C. Yount, Ben E. Nikaido, Jason Tran, Sarah N. D’souza, David J. Kinney, M. Kathleen McGuire

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The need for precision landing of high mass payloads on Mars and the return of sensitive samples from other planetary bodies to specific locations on Earth is driving the development of an innovative NASA technology referred to as the Deployable Entry Vehicle (DEV). A DEV has the potential to deliver an equivalent science payload with a stowed diameter 3 to 4 times smaller than a traditional rigid capsule configuration. However, the DEV design does not easily lend itself to traditional methods of directional control. The NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD)’s Pterodactyl project is currently investigating the effectiveness of three different Guidance and Control (G&C) systems – actuated flaps, Center of Gravity (CG) or mass movement, and Reaction Control System (RCS) – for use with a DEV using the Adaptable, Deployable, Entry, and Placement Technology (ADEPT) design. This paper details the Thermal Protection System (TPS) design and associated mass estimation efforts for each of the G&C systems. TPS is needed for the nose cap of the DEV and the flaps of the actuated flap control system. The development of a TPS selection, sizing, and mass estimation method designed to deal with the varying requirements for the G&C options throughout the trajectory is presented. Specifically, this paper discusses the methods used to i) obtain heating environments throughout the trajectory with respect to the chosen control system and resulting geometry; ii) determine a suitable TPS material; iii) produce TPS thickness estimations; and, iv) determine the final TPS mass estimation based on TPS thickness, vehicle control system, vehicle structure, and vehicle payload.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAIAA Scitech 2020 Forum
PublisherAmerican Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9781624105951
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes
EventAIAA Scitech Forum, 2020 - Orlando, United States
Duration: Jan 6 2020Jan 10 2020

Publication series

NameAIAA Scitech 2020 Forum


ConferenceAIAA Scitech Forum, 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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