Perspectives and recent progresses on the simulation of the entry into the atmospheres of the outer ice giants

Antonio Esposito, Marcello Lappa

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The relatively recent decision of NASA and ESA to plan new missions to the so-called Ice Giants, namely Uranus and Neptune, has prompted a resurgence of interest in the experimental analysis of the aero-heating environment that probes entering such atmospheres would experience. In the present study, arc-jet facilities, previously used to simulate space flight in the atmospheres of Earth, Mars, and Titan, are considered as a relevant basis for the implementation of a more complex framework adequately accounting for the atmospheric features of the Ice Giants. It is shown that the key to the successful realization of such an endeavor is a new operating mode for the plasma torch (relying on a nitrogen–hydrogen mixture) together with the inclusion of a new gas control unit, a new mixing chamber to generate relevant gas mixtures (mimicking to a sufficient extent the Ice Giants atmosphere) and a new thermo-chemical model of the overall flow process. The outcomes of some initial tests are presented to demonstrate the adequacy and performances of the implemented approach with respect to typical entry conditions related to these two planets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-376
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Aerospace Science, Technologies & Systems
Early online date15 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2023


  • planetary entry
  • arc-jet facility
  • ice giants


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