Deployable Rigid Adjustable Guided Final Landing Approach Pinions (DRAG FLAPs)

PI: Joey Oberholtzer, Masten Space Systems Inc.

Masten Space Systems is developing DRAG FLAPs for use with Masten’s VTVL reusable launch vehicles. The design has been through many design iterations, computational fluid dynamic (CFD) analyses, and a full-sized test article is built. Presently, the design is at TRL 4. Masten plans to raise the TRL through a series of scale model drop tests of increasing sophistication from Near Space Corporation’s SBS platform from an altitude of 35km MSL.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA05 Communication and Navigation
  • TA09 Entry, Descent and Landing Systems
Problem Statement

Deployable, controllable, rigid decelerators have broad applicability to the aerospace industry. DRAG FLAPs are specifically designed for use during descent and landing of an entry, descent, and landing (EDL) trajectory to augment the aerodynamic characteristics of a vehicle. Employing such devices provides aerodynamic stabilization and control, expands the descent time frame to accomplish critical events, improves precision landing, and increases the payload mass to surface. To make this concept useful to multiple customers in NASA and the commercial industry, several advancements are necessary. It needs to be refined for supersonic deployment, made actively guidable, and proven in a relevant environment.

Technology Maturation

Masten’s development of the flap system is ongoing and the current Technology Readiness Level is 4. The first test is intended to prove the scale model’s functionality. Upon completing the first test, both the hardware and software elements of the technology will be proven in a relevant environment and the TRL is raised to 5. The second test is intended to demonstrate active guidance of the scale model. Upon completing the second test, the TRL is raised to 6.

Future Customers

The industry can harness the benefits for use in emerging reusable spacecraft, planetary science missions, and sample return capsules from the International Space Station. The primary benefit to NASA is the opportunity to gain valuable data for a radically different approach to descent for EDL trajectories. Precision landing remains one of the top ten technical challenges facing the agency.

Flight Experiment Objectives

The tests are intended to prove the scale model’s functionality (Flight Test 1), as well as demonstrate active guidance of the scale model (Flight Test 2).

Payload Description

The hardware components shown below display a full-sized composite flap test article and the associated actuation system. The flap is controlled by brushless motors and a breadboard motor controller is built and tested.

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    AFO5 (Jan 2013)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    TRL 4
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 1 Balloon

Development Team

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