ESA GNC Conference Papers Repository
Balloon drop tests for aerodynamic stability analysis of re-entry capsule : possibilities and design guidelines
The understanding of aerodynamic stability for earth re-entry capsules is a key technological advance required in the framework of future interplanetary robotic exploration, more specifically for envisaged sample return missions. Drop tests from stratospheric balloons offer the possibility of arriving to transonic conditions in a free flight dynamic environment, effectively reproducing the conditions encountered in a re-entry scenario. This paper presents possibilities, limitations and guidelines for designing cost-effective systems and operations for such balloon drop tests. It addresses: techniques to achieve flight regime drop test simulations of various configurations against the possibilities offered by sounding balloons; drop test preparation and operation A description of all the main elements that are necessary to effectively perform a drop test campaign.