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Conventional and Bimodal Nuclear Thermal Rocket (NTR) Artificial Gravity Mars Transfer Vehicle ConceptsA variety of countermeasures have been developed to address the debilitating physiological effects of zero-gravity (0-g) experienced by cosmonauts and astronauts during their approximately 0.5 to 1.2 year long stays in low Earth orbit (LEO). Longer interplanetary flights, combined with possible prolonged stays in Mars orbit, could subject crewmembers to up to approximately 2.5 years of weightlessness. In view of known and recently diagnosed problems associated with 0-g, an artificial gravity (AG) spacecraft offers many advantages and may indeed be an enabling technology for human flights to Mars. A number of important human factors must be taken into account in selecting the rotation radius, rotation rate, and orientation of the habitation module or modules. These factors include the gravity gradient effect, radial and tangential Coriolis forces, along with cross-coupled acceleration effects. Artificial gravity Mars transfer vehicle (MTV) concepts are presented that utilize both conventional NTR, as well as, enhanced bimodal nuclear thermal rocket (BNTR) propulsion. The NTR is a proven technology that generates high thrust and has a specific impulse (Isp) capability of approximately 900 s-twice that of today's best chemical rockets. The AG/MTV concepts using conventional Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) carry twin cylindrical International Space Station (ISS)- type habitation modules with their long axes oriented either perpendicular or parallel to the longitudinal spin axis of the MTV and utilize photovoltaic arrays (PVAs) for spacecraft power. The twin habitat modules are connected to a central operations hub located at the front of the MTV via two pressurized tunnels that provide the rotation radius for the habitat modules. For the BNTR AG/MTV option, each engine has its own closed secondary helium(He)-xenon (Xe) gas loop and Brayton Rotating Unit (BRU) that can generate 10s of kilowatts (kWe) of spacecraft electrical power during the mission coast phase eliminating the need for large PVAs. A single inflatable TransHab-type habitation module is also used with multiple vertical floors oriented radial to the MTV spin axis. The BNTR MTV's geometry-long and linear-is naturally compatible with AG operation. By rotating the vehicle about its center-of-mass (CM) and perpendicular to its flight vector at approximately 3.0 to 5.2 rpm, a centrifugal force and AG environment corresponding to approximately 0.38 to 1.0 g can be established to help maintain crew fitness out to Mars and back. Vehicles using NTP/ Bimodal Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (BNTP) can more readily accommodate the heavier payload mass and increased RCS propellant loading associated with AG operation, and can travel faster to and from Mars thereby reducing the crew's exposure to galactic cosmic radiation and solar flares. Mission scenario descriptions, key vehicle features and operational characteristics for each propulsion option are presented using the lift capability and payload volumes estimated for the Space Launch System (SLS)-1B and followon Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV).
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Glenn Research Center
Document Type
Technical Memorandum (TM)
Borowski, Stanley K.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH United States)
McCurdy, David R.
(Vantage Partners, LLC Brook Park, OH, United States)
Packard, Thomas W.
(Vantage Partners, LLC Brook Park, OH, United States)
Date Acquired
December 22, 2016
Publication Date
December 1, 2016
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion And Power
Aerospace Medicine
Report/Patent Number
AIAA Paper 2014-3623
Meeting Information
Meeting: AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference
Location: Cleveland, OH
Country: United States
Start Date: July 28, 2014
End Date: July 30, 2014
Sponsors: Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc., American Society for Electrical Engineers, American Inst. of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 869021.
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
Nuclear Propulsion
Mars spacecraft
Artifical gravity
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