Aerogravity Assist

Aerogravity assist is an extension of the established gravity-assist maneuver (Chapter 4) with a planet or large moon to increase the speed of a spacecraft non-propulsively. Basically, aerogravity assist is a technique that would allow a spacecraft to dip closer to the planet about which it is seeking to get a boost—so close as to actually fly hypersonically through its upper atmosphere during the encounter—to increase its turning angle well above what is otherwise possible and obtain a much larger change in velocity. Currently, a spacecraft seeking a gravity-assisted boost in speed or change in direction from a planet with an atmosphere must stay well away from the atmosphere lest the fragile spacecraft experience drag and heating—resulting in a loss of the mission. If, however, it is designed with aerodynamics in mind, perhaps even having wings and the ability to fly through the upper atmosphere at many times the speed of sound, then it could get a much bigger "kick" from the planet than is currently possible. While this is certainly theoretically possible, the technologies required are nowhere close to being available today.

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