Attitude Control of an Inflatable Sailplane for Mars Exploration

Adrien Bouskela, Aman Chandra, Jekan Thangavelautham, Sergey Shkarayev

Exploration of Mars has been made possible using a series of landers, rovers and orbiters. The HiRise camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has captured high-resolution images covering large tracts of the surface. However, orbital images lack the depth and rich detail obtained from in-situ exploration. Rovers such as Mars Science Laboratory and upcoming Mars 2020 carry state-of-the-art science laboratories to perform in-situ exploration and analysis. However, they can only cover a small area of Mars through the course of their mission. A critical capability gap exists in our ability to image, provide services and explore large tracts of the surface of Mars required for enabling a future human mission. A promising solution is to develop a reconnaissance sailplane that travels tens to hundreds of kilometers per sol. The aircraft would be equipped with imagers that provide that in-situ depth of field, with coverage comparable to orbital assets such as MRO. A major challenge is that the Martian carbon dioxide atmosphere is thin, with a pres-sure of 1% of Earth at sea level. To compensate, the aircraft needs to fly at high-velocities and have sufficiently large wing area to generate the required lift. Inflatable wings are an excellent choice as they have the lowest mass and can be used to change shape (morph) depending on aerodynamic or con-trol requirements. In this paper, we present our design of an inflatable sail-plane capable of deploying from a 12U CubeSat platform. A pneumatic de-ployment mechanism ensures highly compact stowage volumes and minimizes complexity.

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