Aerocapture, the use of atmospheric drag during a single pass through the atmosphere of a planet in order to reduce the velocity of a spaceship from above to below escape speed, is a technique that is thought to be of use in the exploration of space. No aerocapture maneuver has been performed to date.
This study investigated the aerocapture planetary approach trajectory for a non-lifting spacecraft approaching Mars from Earth on a minimum energy interplanetary transfer orbit. A very simple code was developed to numerically investigate the aerocapture approach corridor width. Another code was then developed to automatically locate aerocapture trajectories of interest. This second code was used to determine the effect that atmospheric variations had upon the aerocapture approach corridor width.