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Technology Opportunity: Transformable and Reconfigurable Entry, Descent and Landing Systems and Methods


NASA has developed a game changing deployable aeroshell concept for entry, descent and landing (EDL) of large science and exploration-class payloads. The Adaptable, Deployable Entry Placement Technology (ADEPT) concept is a mechanically deployable semi-rigid aeroshell entry system capable of achieving low ballistic coefficient during entry suitable for a variety of planetary or earth return missions. It leverages Ames' expertise in Thermal Protection systems (TPS) material and entry system design, development and testing. The deployable decelerator systems offer a lighter-weight solution to current “rigid”, high ballistic coefficient aeroshells. Compared to inflatable decelerators, due to higher thermal capacity, ADEPT offers a compact entry system solution during the EDL mission segment. A single ADEPT can perform both aerocapture and atmospheric EDL. The deployable feature of ADEPT allows each mission to utilize an entry system design that fits within existing launch vehicle systems and later transforms into a low ballistic coefficient configuration for EDL. Consisting of rigid ribs and a TPS, deployment can be done for inspection in Earth orbit by extending the ribs and stretching the TPS in between (in a method similar to an opening umbrella) and thereby reducing the mission risk.
This invention is available for licensing from NASA’s space program to benefit U.S. industry.



• Light weight
• Easily deployable
• Aerodynamic surface can be actuated
• Design can be scaled to fit any size craft or payload
• Support packaging within the launch shroud
• Facilitate redirection
• Accommodate a retro-propulsion system

Technology Details

The invention allows the deployment of a large aerodynamic decelerator relative to the size of its launch vehicle, which is controllable and can be transformed into a landing system. A structure composed of a radial assembly of ribs and struts in a four bar linkage arrangement fits inside a launch vehicle shroud, expands into a deployed size, and permits rotation about a pivot point along the vehicle axis. The mechanism that deploys the decelerator surface, doubles as the actuation/control mechanism, and triples as the payload surface leveling system. The design permits the use of conformable thermal protection systems at the central part and a flexible TPS, 3-D woven carbon fabric, as skin in the majority of the regions of the aeroshell entry system. The fabric handles both the heat and mechanical load generated during entry. This system is very mass competitive with other lightweight systems such as inflatable and rigid decelerators and is believed to be more reliable and testable at sub-scale. Once the payload reaches its destination, the decelerator structure leverages atmospheric drag to slow the craft from hypersonic travel speeds to an appropriate landing velocity. The decelerator can be actuated during descent to generate lift and steer the payload to its intended destination. Retro propulsion engines provide the final deceleration just before landing, and the decelerator structure is inverted to act as a landing platform and help minimize the impact of landing load.

Commercial Applications

• Human and heavy payload Mars missions
• Robotic missions to Venus and Mars
• Small satellite retrieval missions


This technology has been patented. U.S. Patent No. 8,733,706 (Reference No. ARC-16621-1)

Licensing and Partnering Opportunities

NASA’s Technology Transfer Program seeks to transfer this technology out of NASA’s space program to benefit U.S. industry. NASA invites companies to inquire about licensing possibilities for this technology for commercial applications.

For More Information

If you would like more information about this technology, please contact:
Technology Partnerships Division
NASA Ames Research Center

Printable Fact Sheet: Transformable and Reconfigurable Entry, Descent and Landing Systems and Methods



Transformable and Reconfigurable Entry, Descent and Landing Systems and Methods
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Transformable and Reconfigurable Entry, Descent and Landing Systems and Methods
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Page Last Updated: November 28th, 2014
Page Editor: Yael Kovo