Features of Martian Mission Concept
The classical manned planetary landing mission profile is as follows. The elements of the vehicle are first delivered to low
Earth orbit where they are assembled into a single vehicle. Then, using propulsion units, this vehicle is injected
into the interplanetary trajectory, and over the next few months the vehicle transits to Mars.
When it is near Mars, the vehicle decelerates and goes into a low Mars orbit. A special lander separates from
the main section of the vehicle to take to the Martian surface the mission crew or a part of the crew.
Upon completion of their work, the crew returns to the vehicle on an ascent module included in the lander, and heads for Earth.
Martian mission profile
for the interplanetary
Overall view of the interplanetary
In accordance with the above concept the interplanetary vehicle consists of the following major components:
- an interplanetary orbiter where the crew lives and works throughout the entire mission and which houses all the primary equipment;
- solar array-powered electrical propulsion unit to support transit from Earth to Mars and back;
- a lander with an ascent module which takes a part of the crew down to the planet surface and brings them back to the main vehicle.
There can be alternative configurations for
the vehicle. The key objective is to assure a high probability
of the crew return to Earth. That is why it is important
to adopt a mission profile and engineering solutions that
are simple and reliable.
The key decision, which drives both the vehicle configuration
and all the subsequent decisions, is the choice of the propulsion
system for the interplanetary transit.
Various approaches could be used: for example, one could
use liquid-propellant engines, the most widely used and
mature space technology. But a vehicle with such engines,
because of their low efficiency, will have a huge mass,
and as a result, it will be very expensive, but the most
important point is that, in spite of high maturity of liquid-propellant
engines, the mission reliability and safety requirements
will not be met.
A more efficient solution, from the standpoint of the vehicle
initial mass, would be to use a nuclear engine, where the
energy of nuclear reactions heats up a gas providing the
required thrust. But it turns out that this engine does
not meet crew safety and cost requirements either. Considerable
costs would be incurred by the ground developmental testing
facility for the propulsion unit.
Among the existing engines, the most efficient ones for
the use on a Martian vehicle are electric propulsion engines.
These are high reliability and low-cost engines. A vehicle
using such engines would have the minimal mass. It is easier
to construct in low Earth orbit than any other type of engine.
The proposed concept for the Martian mission has he following
- High probability of safe crew return. It is difficult
to imagine a mission concept, where this probability would
- Preliminary evaluations show minimal mission costs,
both for the vehicle itself and for its ground developmental
- The use of electrical propulsion engines and solar
arrays allows to make the vehicle reusable, which would
allow to expand the in-flight developmental testing program
and considerably reduce the costs of the Mars exploration
- The program of flight developmental testing of the
lander/ascent module during an unmanned mission to Mars,
besides increasing the safety, will also allow to conduct
a comprehensive Martian surface research program;
- The desire to achieve environmental safety of the interplanetary
vehicle will increase the likelihood of support for the
project from the world public opinion.
| Key data on the interplanetary vehicle of the RSC Energia concept |
Initial vehicle mass
|about 600 tons
Total mission time
|about 2 years
Number of the crewmembers
Interplanetary engine thrust
Solar power plant capacity