NASA is financing a mission to study the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, to investigate the terrain, chemical compositions, and potential for existent life. This mission is an exciting advancement from Mars Ingenuity, because the quadrotor lander, Dragonfly, will be the first of its kind with four coaxial rotors. Upon entry into Titan, and at near surface atmospheric conditions, Dragonfly will exit a parachute supported backshell that has shed its protective heatshield. The aerodynamics of this state are significant in comprehending the dynamics of the overall system for successful deployment into powered flight. The studies presented here examine the aerodynamic trends of the Dragonfly lander-backshell combination during Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL), using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). More specifically, these investigations will focus on the Preparation for Powered Flight (PPF) sub-phase within EDL. The PPF mission phase begins immediately following heatshield separation, where the jettisoning of the heatshield generates an induced rotation on the lander-backshell system. This demands a "despin" capability to regain control authority prior to release of Dragonfly directly into powered flight. Preliminary evaluations of descent on Titan uncovered a suction force interaction between the rotor and lander body which opposed the current method of rotor control used for despin. The research proposes design modifications to regain control authority such as reassigning rotor control designations and altering the rotor cant. The computational model was benchmarked by comparing CFD results to experimental aerodynamic load measurements for similar backshells, bluff bodies, and rotor-body interactions. The model was adapted for Dragonfly to evaluate different descent configurations to gain a comprehensive understanding of the complex flow dynamics which is crucial in formulating strategies aimed at ensuring positive control authority of the system.


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Graduation Date





Kinzel, Michael


Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering (M.S.A.E.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Aerospace Engineering; Thermofluid Aerodynamic Systems Design and Engineering


CFE0009639; DP0027675





Release Date

May 2023

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)