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The effect of interplanetary trajectory options on a manned Mars aerobrake configurationManned Mars missions originating in low Earth orbit (LEO) in the time frame 2010 to 2025 were analyzed to identify preferred mission opportunities and their associated vehicle and trajectory characteristics. Interplanetary and Mars atmospheric trajectory options were examined under the constraints of an initial manned exploration scenario. Two chemically propelled vehicle options were considered: (1) an all propulsive configuration, and (2) a configuration which employs aerobraking at Earth and Mars with low lift/drag (L/D) shapes. Both the interplanetary trajectory options as well as the Mars atmospheric passage are addressed to provide a coupled trajectory simulation. Direct and Venus swingby interplanetary transfers with a 60 day Mars stopover are considered. The range and variation in both Earth and Mars entry velocity are also defined. Two promising mission strategies emerged from the study: (1) a 1.0 to 2.0 year Venus swingby mission, and (2) a 2.0 to 2.5 year direct mission. Through careful trajectory selection, 11 mission opportunities are identified in which the Mars entry velocity is between 6 and 10 km/sec and Earth entry velocity ranges from 11.5 to 12.5 km/sec. Simulation of the Earth return aerobraking maneuver is not performed. It is shown that a low L/D configuration is not feasible for Mars aerobraking without substantial improvements in the interplanetary navigation system. However, even with an advanced navigation system, entry corridor and aerothermal requirements restrict the number of potential mission opportunities. It is also shown that for a large blunt Mars aerobrake configuration, the effects of radiative heating can be significant at entry velocities as low as 6.2 km/sec and will grow to dominate the aerothermal environment at entry velocities above 8.5 km/sec. Despite the additional system complexity associated with an aerobraking vehicle, the use of aerobraking was shown to significantly lower the required initial LEO weight. In comparison with an all propulsive mission, savings between 19 and 59 percent were obtained depending upon launch date.
Document ID
Document Type
Technical Publication (TP)
Braun, Robert D. (NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Powell, Richard W. (NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Hartung, Lin C. (NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
August 1, 1990
Subject Category
Report/Patent Number
NAS 1.60:3019
Funding Number(s)
PROJECT: RTOP 506-40-61-01
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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