Optimization of vehicle weight for Mars excursion missionsThe excursion class mission to Mars is defined as a mission with one year durations coupled with a stay time of up to 30 days. The fuel budget for such a mission is investigated. The overall figure of merit in such an assessment is the vehicle weight ratio, the ratio between the wet vehicle weight to the dry vehicle weight. It is necessary to minimize the overall fuel budget for the mission in order to maximize the benefits that could be obtained by sending humans to Mars. Assumptions used in the analysis are: each mission will depart and terminate in low-earth-orbit (LEO) (500 km circular) and the maximum stay time at Mars is 30 days. The maximum mission duration is one year (355-375 days). The mass returned to LEO is 135,000 kg, the dropoff mass left at Mars is 168,000 kg. Three propulsive techniques for atmospheric interface are investigated: aerobraking, all-chemical propulsion, and nuclear thermal propulsion. By defining the fuel requirements, the space transfer vehicle's configuration is defined.
Ferebee, Melvin J., Jr. (NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)