When a spacecraft enters the atmosphere at very high speed on Earth or elsewhere, the entry environment produces extremely high thermal loads of the order of MW/m2 on the surface of the spacecraft. This is one of the most critical phases of space missions.
Partially ionized gases then form a plasma envelope around the spacecraft, preventing the passage of radio-frequency signals and leading to a communications failure lasting an average of 5 minutes.
Based on an international consortium of universities, SMEs, research institutes and industry, the MEESST (MHD Enhanced Entry System for Space Transportation) project addresses the problems of entry into the atmosphere of a spacecraft by proposing an applicative solution based on the principles of magnetohydrodynamics (MHD). This technique allows influencing the dynamics of the plasma surrounding the spacecraft.
This new technology aims at:
The MEESST principle will be validated experimentally and numerically by tests carried out at the Von Karman Institute (VKI, Belgium), for radio communication tests, and at the Institute for Space Systems (IRS, Germany), for thermal tests.
The aim is to significantly improve numerical prediction capabilities, thermal load mitigation and communication cut-off phenomena. Numerical simulations are based on new ray-tracing methods and improved plasma models, incorporating the impact of the magnetic field generated by the magnet.
These experimental and modeling efforts will also serve other applications such as radar imaging, surveillance and GPS navigation.
The MEESST project brings together 11 partners:
This system is used to cool the superconducting magnet, which is maintained at 30K to generate a magnetic field capable of repelling the plasma. Absolut System is also responsible for integrating the magnet into the cryostat.
The aim is to develop a prototype to demonstrate MEESST’s ability to :
This prototype, inserted into the IRS plasma chambers for thermal measurements and the VKI plasma chamber for radio communication measurements, is designed to simulate the re-entry of space vehicles into the atmosphere.