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NASA Meets Key Objective in Developing New Propulsion Method
12.20.06
 
Steve Roy
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256.544.0034)

Photo release: 06-141


Artist concept of a spacecraft using aerocapture to enter an orbit around Mars. + Large (3333 x 1667, 300 ppi)
+ Medium (720 x 360, 72 ppi)
+ Small (100 x 75, 72 ppi)

An artist concept illustrates how aerocapture might be used to enter the orbit of Mars. Aerocapture technology is a flight maneuver that inserts a spacecraft into orbit around a planet or moon by using the destination's atmosphere like a "brake." The dense atmosphere creates friction, which is used to slow down a craft, transferring the energy associated with the vehicle's high speed into heat. This allows for a quick orbital capture without the need for a heavy load of on-board propellant, which increases launch cost.

Aerocapture is part of a unique family of "aeroassist" technologies being developed by NASA for science missions to any planetary body with an appreciable atmosphere. Along with Mars, these destinations could include Venus and Saturn's moon Titan, along with the outer planets. (NASA)


A test of thermal protection system panel + Large (3333 x 1667, 72 ppi)
+ Medium (720 x 480, 72 ppi)
+ Small (100 x 75, 72 ppi)

A panel of an innovative thermal protection system reacts as sunlight, focused by large mirror arrays, heats up the target during testing at the National Solar Thermal Test Facility at Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque, N.M. The tests were conducted by the In-Space Propulsion Technology Project at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The test series is part of efforts to develop advanced thermal protection systems for future spacecraft. (NASA/MSFC/S. Moon)


The National Solar Thermal Test Facility + Large (2272 x 1704, 180 ppi)
+ Medium (720 x 540, 72 ppi)
+ Small (100 x 75, 72 ppi)

Located on Kirtland Air Force Base at Albuquerque, N.M., the National Solar Thermal Test Facility is a nine-acre test site at Sandia National Laboratories. The facility consists of a 200-foot-tall solar tower, 212 computer-controlled mirrors called heliostats, and a separate five-story control tower. These heliostats harness the power of the sun and direct it to a test sample mounted near the peak of the 200-foot-tall solar tower. (NASA/MSFC/S. Moon)


The National Solar Thermal Test Facility + Large (3504 x 2336, 300 ppi)
+ Medium (720 x 480, 72 ppi)
+ Small (100 x 75, 72 ppi)

Located at Sandia National Laboratories on Kirtland Air Force Base at Albuquerque, N.M., the National Solar Thermal Test Facility includes 212 computer-controlled mirrors called heliostats. Each heliostat is composed of 25 individual mirrors, each measuring four square feet. The total square footage of mirrors is more than 84,000 square feet, which covers more area than 42 average homes and can deliver up to 260 watts of thermal energy per square centimeter on a test specimen. (NASA/MSFC/S. Moon)


+ News Release