Analyses of Blue Origin Blue Moon Lunar Landing Descent Engine Plume Effects



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2023 International Conference on Environmental Systems


Powered landings onto airless bodies like the Moon generate rarefied gas dynamic environments composed of engine plume flows and surface materials including mobilized dusts. These induced atmospheres can cause harmful degradations of spacecraft performance. In particular, lunar dust can cause severe operational problems for human and cargo landing systems, astronauts, and deployed scientific observatories as was observed during the Apollo program. The need to understand and quantify the effects of plume-surface interactions during powered landings onto airless bodies has motivated the development of physics-based modeling approaches at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. JPL incorporates inputs from Blue Origin and literature surveys of lunar regolith and applies computational fluid dynamics, direct simulation Monte Carlo, and Lagrangian particle-tracing simulation methodologies to model the plume exhaust flowfields generated by the Blue Moon descent engines during the final meters of landing, as well as the effects of that plume flow in eroding, entraining, and transporting lunar regolith to the descent element. The effects of dust deposition onto thermal control system radiators are of primary interest in this work, but other detrimental effects can include deposition onto landing sensors and optical systems during and after landing; damage induced by dust impact or subsequent abrasion within exposed lander cavities; and the performance degradation of solar arrays and scientific payload instruments. Plume interactions will also result in lunar dust clouds which may obscure visibility during landing, and may cause mechanical erosion of surfaces downstream of the plume-surface interaction.


William Hoey, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, USA
Maxwell Martin, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, USA
John Alred, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, USA
Carlos Soares, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, USA
Mohammed Ababneh, Blue Origin, LLC, USA
ICES103: Thermal Control of Commercial and Exploration Spacecraft
The 52nd International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Calgary, Canada, on 16 July 2023 through 20 July 2023.


lunar landing, PSI, plume-surface interaction, lunar dust, CFD, DSMC, rarefied gas dynamics