Supersonic Retro Propulsion for Trips to Mars

Apparently, the decision has been made at NASA that supersonic heavy load parachutes just won’t work.  So instead, a rocket to Mars will enter the Mars atmosphere at supersonic speeds using the shockwave from a blasting “retro” rocket to plow through the air instead of the old fashioned heat shield  (“retro” here meaning opposite the direction of travel, not old fashioned)

Given this decision it’s interesting that SpaceX’s last booster reentry intentionally started it’s reentry burn high to simulate supersonic reentry burn conditions in the Mars atmosphere.    And NASA mobilized special thermal cameras to record this experiment (that otherwise would’ve cost NASA hundreds of millions to test/simulate)

http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/october/new-commercial-rocket-descent-data-may-help-nasa-with-future-mars-landings/index.html#.VEGN4BbdeI0

Also see:

Development of Supersonic Retro-Propulsion for Future Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing Systems (PDF)

SupersonicRetroPropulsionAnd a video at:

Supersonic Retropropulsion (wind tunnel) Test, Mach 4.6 Schlieren Video (youtube)

I like saying “Supersonic Retro-Propulsion”

Author: Ben Slade

I'm a software technologist with a political bent. My views tend toward the contrarian and slightly curmudgeonly end of the spectrum.