Conceptual design of a small earth reentry vehicle for biological sample return

Grant Rossman, Matthew J. LeVine, Sean Lawlor, Tyler Sloss, Pranay Mishra, Zu Puayen Tan, Robert D. Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


A conceptual design of an Earth return vehicle is presented with the goal of safely returning biological samples from orbit. Key entry, descent, and landing trade studies were completed at the conceptual level for two different mission scenarios: return from the International Space Station and an autonomous, free-flying vehicle returning from low Earth orbit. The analyses that follow for each key subsystem drove design decisions to create the Biopan Deployment in Orbit for Microgravity Exposurevehicle with the versatilityto satisfy both of the aforementioned mission scenarios. The final design features a ballistic entry, a 45 deg sphere-cone aeroshell with a diameter of 88 cm, a phenolic impregnated carbon ablator heat shield with a thickness of 7.7 cm, and a passive landing system containing an 8-mdiam ringsail parachute combined with a 7.8-cm-thick crushable carbon foam. Analysis of the vehicle performance verified survivability of biological samples due to heat and deceleration loads from entry. Trajectory dispersion analysis yielded crossrange and downrange limited to ±1.5 and ±30 km, respectively, whereas landing velocity was confirmed to be =4.0 m/s for all cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246-257
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Spacecraft and Rockets
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017

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