In 2012, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission will pioneer the next generation of robotic Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) systems by delivering the largest and most capable rover to date to the surface of Mars. In addition to landing more mass than prior missions to Mars, MSL will offer access to regions of Mars that have been previously unreachable. The MSL EDL sequence is a result of a more stringent requirement set than any of its predecessors. Notable among these requirements is landing a 900 kg rover in a landing ellipse much smaller than that of any previous Mars lander. In meeting these requirements, MSL is extending the limits of the EDL technologies qualified by the Mars Viking, Mars Pathfinder, and Mars Exploration Rover missions. Thus, there are many design challenges that must be solved for the mission to be successful. Several pieces of the EDL design are technological firsts, such as guided entry and precision landing on another planet, as well as the entire Sky Crane maneuver. This paper discusses the MSL EDL architecture and discusses some of the challenges faced in delivering an unprecedented rover payload to the surface of Mars.
Spacecraft Design, Testing and Performance
International Planetary Probe Workshop; 12 Jun. 2010; Barcelona; Spain