Mars Sample Return with Electric Propulsion
German Aerospace Centre DLR,
AbstractThe present paper takes a fresh look at future Mars Sample Return Mission including electric propulsion (EP) for the transfer. The standard mission scenario includes two spacecraft (S/C) launched separately from Earth: an orbiter and a lander. The lander sets down on the red planet together with an ascent vehicle to collect samples. The ascent vehicle would then take off from the Martian surface into Mars orbit with traditional chemical propulsion to transfer the samples to the orbiter waiting there for the return trip to Earth. The results of the system analysis identify EP for the orbiter as most beneficial in terms of launch mass, enabling a launch into Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) by a relatively modest launch vehicle like the Soyuz-Fregat. Concerning the lander, a separate transfer with chemical propulsion appears more advantageous compared to an electrical one. Such a hybrid version of the sample return mission could be conducted within 1150-1300 days. In an advanced scenario, the lander could even ride the electric orbiter, piggy-back style, to the Red Planet.
Keywords:low thrust electric propulsion; mars sample return