Mars Exploration Using Sailplanes

Adrien Bouskela, Alexandre Kling, Tristan Schuler, Sergey Shkarayev, Himangshu Kalita, Jekan Thangavelautham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We present the preliminary design of sailplanes, used for Mars exploration. The sailplanes mitigate the weight and energy storage limitations traditionally associated with powered flight by instead exploiting atmospheric wind gradients for dynamic soaring, and slope/thermal updrafts for static soaring. Equations of motion for the sailplanes were combined with wind profiles from the Mars Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (MRAMS) for two representative sites: Jezero crater, Perseverance’s landing site, and over a section of the Valles Marineris canyon. Optimal flight trajectories were obtained from the constrained optimization problem, using the lift coefficient and the roll angle as control parameters. Numerical results for complete dynamic soaring cycles demon-strated that the total sailplane energy at the end of a soaring cycle increases by 6.8–11%. The absence of a propulsion system, allowing for a compact form factor, means the sailplanes can be packaged into CubeSats and deployed as secondary payloads at a relatively low cost; providing scientific data over locations inaccessible by current landers and rovers. Various sailplane deployment methods are considered, including rapid deployment during Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) of a Mars Science Laboratory-class (MSL) vehicle and slow deployment using a blimp.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number306
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • CubeSat
  • Mars
  • atmosphere
  • blimp
  • dynamic soaring
  • sailplane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Mars Exploration Using Sailplanes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this