An Assessment of In Situ Propellant Production for Low Cost Mars Sample Return 951733

Recent concepts for returning sample material from Mars have identified many low-cost approaches. The intention of this study is to create an even playing field for comparison of alternative methods for implementing a Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission focusing on impacts from recent advances in Mars ISPP technologies and accounting for recent spacecraft performance advances. First, trajectories are presented for each of three options: 1) Mars Orbital Rendezvous (MOR), 2) Direct Entry/Direct Return using advanced propulsion (DR-AdvPrp), and 3) Direct Entry/Direct Return using ISPP (DR-ISPP). Next, an assessment of the state-of-the-art for current Mars ISPP technologies is used to compare alternative ISPP systems. Flight system designs were developed attempting to represent a consistent level of technology for all MSR options and then used to compare injected masses for the ISPP system options. The ISPP system with the lowest injected mass is then carried into a cost comparison with the other two MSR options (MOR and DR-AdvPrp). Results suggest the ISPP implementation for MSR should be considered the current baseline approach on the basis of lowest life cycle cost.


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