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The Mars ascent vehicle is a critical element of the robotic Mars sample return mission jointly planned by NASA and ESA. The Mars ascent vehicle must be developed to survive a variety of conditions including the trans-Mars journey, descent through the Martian atmosphere and the harsh Martian surface environments while maintaining the ability to deliver its payload to a low Mars orbit. The primary technology challenge of developing the Mars ascent vehicle system is designing for expected conditions while ensuring the mass limitations of the entry descent and landing system are not exceeded. The NASA In-Space Propulsion technology project has initiated the development of Mars ascent vehicle technologies with propulsion system performance and launch environments yet to be defined. To support the project's evaluation and development of various technology options the sensitivity of the Mars ascent vehicle gross liftoff mass to engine performance, inert mass, target orbits and launch conditions has been completed with the results presented herein.
Aerospace Conference, 2011 IEEE
Date of Conference: 5-12 March 2011