Author Topic: Recycled technology for Mars Descent Crew Vehicle  (Read 890 times)

Offline PeterAlt

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I started thinking about possible technologies that could be used for a future Mars Descent Crew Vehicle. My thinking has led to a line of questions for a number of scenarios.

1. Can the descent system NASA developed for the Mars Science Lab be  recycled for a small crew vehicle? Could this design be modified for heavier payloads?

2. Could they use the Soyuz (crewed), in theory (with little modification), to enter the Martian atmosphere, parachute down, and use it's retro rockets to soft land, assuming there's a rocket to get it to Martian Orbital Insertion.

3. Knowing there's no ocean on Mars for Orion to splash to (if the same question for #2 were applied for Orion), could Orion be upgraded with a retro rocket landing system to make a Mars landing possible? Could that landing system be the recycled descent system discussed in question #1 or would a new capsule have to be specifically developed in conjunction with any Mars descent system?

4. Assuming questions #2 or #3 are doable, would it be a stretch to presume that we could also land on Mars a launcher that would be capable of sending the crewed Mars lander (assuming it could be an Earth reentry capsule such as Soyuz or Orion) back for a return trip and Earth landing? The rocket lifting it from Mars would be required to lift much less weight in a gravity environment much less comparatively than that of Earth's.

5. Would it be possible to design an All Terrestrial Lander, a lander capable of landing any where - Earth, Mars, the moon, the moons of  Mars or elsewhere, astroids?

Offline Kaputnik

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Re: Recycled technology for Mars Descent Crew Vehicle
« Reply #1 on: 12/14/2010 09:03 PM »
1. Can the descent system NASA developed for the Mars Science Lab be  recycled for a small crew vehicle? Could this design be modified for heavier payloads?
In theory, but every Mars entry vehicle since Viking has relied upon a very extensive (and expensive) NASA R&D program carried out in the 1970s, which certified the basic systems (heatshield, parachute) up to a certain size and performance. MSL is pushing this current knowledge to the asbolute limit. To go any larger, you would need to certify a new generation of entry vehicles, even if was just scaling up the existing technology.

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2. Could they use the Soyuz (crewed), in theory (with little modification), to enter the Martian atmosphere, parachute down, and use it's retro rockets to soft land, assuming there's a rocket to get it to Martian Orbital Insertion.
Not a hope. Mars entry is a very hard nut to crack. It's harder than landing on the Moon, due to depth of gravity well and an atmosphere which will mess with your engine plumes or just fry you. It is also harder than landing on Earth, because whilst you can use the atmosphere for a little bit of braking, it is so incredibly thin that you hit the ground before slowing down much. In fact, the atmospheric pressure at surface level is equivalent to Earth's at 115,000ft. I can't find a figure off-hand but I bet a Soyuz, or any vehicle designed to enter Earth's atmosphere, will still be going pretty fast that high up!

The answer to this is to have a much less dense entry vehicle, i.e. a big wide heatshield and a relatively low mass. This means that the heatshield is not just stopping the craft from frying, but is also acting like a sort of parachute.
If the entry vehicle weighs no more than 150kg per m2 of cross-sectional area, then you are good to go. Such a craft will be slowed quickly enough that you can deploy a parachtue before hitting the surface.
A Soyuz capsule would be more like 800kg/m2. Ouch.
Waiting for joy and raptor

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