MHD Power Generation and Aerodynamic Control for Planetary Entry Vehicles
When a spacecraft enters a planetary atmosphere with a velocity of 6-8 km/s, gas temperatures behind the bow shock can reach 7,000 ? 20,000 K, and the hot gas is ionized: the electrical conductivity of several hundred mho/m or higher exists behind the shock. The conductive fluid can interact with electromagnetic fields. Specifically, with a magnet and a set of electrodes at or near the surface, a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) power generation would be possible. The generated power, estimated to be on a multi-megawatt scale for the future Mars mission, can be useful during the mission. Additionally, asymmetric MHD configuration can provide body forces for aerodynamic maneuvering and stabilization.A successful development of this technology must be based on a comprehensive and reliable set of theoretical and computational models. Although extensive CFD codes for planetary entry exist in NASA and academia, for the planetary-entry MHD application those codes and models must be improved and enhanced, especially with regard to ionization mechanism, ionization enhancement, MHD coupling with the flow, and low-density phenomena such as ion slip. We propose to develop models that would incorporate the relevant physics, and to predict potential performance of the planetary-entry MHD power generators and aerodynamic control devices.
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