boffins are cool :)
Common how many can say theyve surfed in space !!!
European space boffins are chuffed to announce that they have successfully 'surfed' the atmosphere of Venus, during a so-called 'aerodrag' experiment in which the solar panels of a space probe functioned as aerofoils skimming the top of the second planet's atmosphere. Graphic depicting Venus Express in orbit about the second …
Full marks for getting that into a *relatively* ordinary sentence.
AFAIK aerobraking has been used by a number of probes to slow down prior to injection into orbits around planets. Mars I think is the most popular target.
However the process is somewhat hit and miss. Atmospheric density is one of the key parameters you send probes out measure in the first place, and it changes over time (Earth's upper atmosphere can grow *tenfold* due to higher solar activity). Doing a measurement run first means (in principle) future probes can calibrate their degree of braking after the first (light) skimming.
Thumbs up all round. This could change how *all* future space probes are conducted.
This could also be a great way to "despin" Reaction Wheels which can be a problem on longer duration flights...
Mind you i would not have wanted to be the mission controller who authorised this if things had gone wrong... Venus express was not cheap and losing it pulling aerodynamic burnouts on Venus would probably not be a healthy career move!
Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022