Atmospheres & Climate

Comparative Study of Planetary Atmospheres and Implications for Atmospheric Entry Missions

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
July 31, 2023
Filed under , , ,
Comparative Study of Planetary Atmospheres and Implications for Atmospheric Entry Missions
Schematic showing the variety of atmospheres in the Solar System. — astro-ph.EP

The study of planetary atmospheres is critical to our understanding of the origin and evolution of the Solar System. The combined effect of various physical and chemical processes over billions of years have resulted in a variety of planetary atmospheres across the Solar System.

This paper performs a comparative study of planetary atmospheres and their engineering implications for future entry and aerocapture missions. The thick Venusian atmosphere results in high deceleration and heating rates and presents a demanding environment for both atmospheric entry and aerocapture. The thin Martian atmosphere allows low aerodynamic heating, but itself is not enough to decelerate a lander to sufficiently low speeds for a soft landing.

With their enormous gravity wells, Jupiter and Saturn entry result in very high entry speeds, deceleration, and heating making them the most demanding destinations for atmospheric entry and impractical for aerocapture. Titan is a unique destination, with its low gravity and greatly extended thick atmosphere enabling low deceleration and heating loads for entry and aerocapture. Uranus and Neptune also have large gravity wells, resulting in high entry speeds, high deceleration and heating compared to the inner planets, but are still less demanding than Jupiter or Saturn.

Athul Pradeepkumar Girija

Comments: 15 pages, 18 figures
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Applied Physics (
Cite as: arXiv:2307.16277 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2307.16277v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Athul Pradeepkumar Girija
[v1] Sun, 30 Jul 2023 17:09:47 UTC (2,895 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) πŸ––πŸ»