Magnetohydrodynamic Aerobraking for Spacecraft Entry to Earth's Atmosphere (2022–2025)
A spaceship returning from Mars will undergo unprecedented aerodynamic heating as it enters Earth's atmosphere. Magnetohydroynamic aerobraking involves applying a strong magnetic field to the plasma which forms around the spacecraft at these speeds, theoretically protecting it by reducing structural heat loads and enabling less severe flight trajectories. This project aims to experimentally study this technology for Earth return from deep space. It is significant because it will evaluate a new mechanism for managing the tremendous heat loads of planetary entry. The expected outcome and benefit will be development of a new technology to reduce spacecraft heating, leading to safer, more efficient, and potentially reusable spacecraft.