Oct 14 2014

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A critique of the current NASA’s 2009 Mars Design Reference Architecture 5.0

John Strickland makes a fantastic case for a complete revamping of the MDR Architecture 5.0.

Mars Sample Return Mission


Assuming at some point there will be a version 6 of this report, what are the most important lessons to be learned from the 2009 mission design, and issues to be addressed, based on the new knowledge and technology gained since that report was issued? Clearly future planning for Mars missions should be based on the use of reusable boosters and spacecraft to the largest extent reasonably possible. Missions should have a minimum of two of each module critical to crew survival, all critical propulsion should have engine-out capability, and all crew vehicles doing landings and/or takeoffs need crew escape capsules in case of vehicle failure during flight. Use of such emergency capsules should be designed to be feasible at any time during a flight, up or down. Mars missions should be mounted from a logistics base near the top of the Earth’s gravity well, such as at Earth-Moon L1. Scale tests of supersonic retropropulsion vehicles should be accomplished on sounding rockets to validate the method and to avoid the use of giant expendable aeroshells. Cryogenic propellant depots need to be perfected by advances in both cryocooler technology and in the transfer of cryogenic liquids in micro-gravity. Existing technology to turn dirty ice into liquid hydrogen and oxygen needs to be engineered to operate on Mars and the Moon. Mars expeditions need to carry much more equipment including scientific equipment to make a Mars mission worthwhile. With the probable participation of the private sector, Mars is a very enticing destination for the global space community. Let’s make it happen.

As the man says, read the whole thing.

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