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Combo Lander Mission
Part of American Mars Expeditions
Combo Lander
Combo Lander
Credit: NASA
American manned Mars expedition. Study 1998. During the spring of 1998, NASA conducted a special study to design a human Mars mission that could be accommodated for launch by three heavy-lift launch vehicles.

AKA: Three-Magnum Mars Mission. Status: Study 1998.

The design team was directed to employ a solar electric propulsion (SEP) stage for delivering the Mars mission elements to a high apogee Earth departure orbit and to not employ nuclear propulsion for any maneuvers. The study was unusual in the approach of designing to a fixed constraint for Earth launch mass. The most significant result was the identification of the technology challenges that had to be met to achieve the launch mass goal.

The reference launch vehicle used in the study was the Magnum, so this mission concept was also referred to as the "Three-Magnum Mars Mission". The capacity of the Magnum launch vehicle defined for this study was 89.5 metric tons for launch packages which employed the launch shroud as an aeroshell, and 85.5 metric tons for payloads which did not include the shroud as payload. The payload capability quoted was for launch from the Kennedy Space Center to a circular orbit of 400 kilometers at an inclination of 28.5 degrees. The dimensions of the Magnum shroud were defined as an outer diameter of 8.4 meters and a length of 28 meters.

The mission defined included a crew of four people, a scientific payload of 1770 kg and two unpressurized rovers with a mass of 650 kg each. The missions were conjunction class with outbound and inbound transit durations of 180 to 200 days and Mars surface stay times of 520 to 580 days. The elements were designed to accomplish missions in six out of the eight opportunities in the synodic cycle. The other two opportunities would require an additional propulsive stage of approximately 16 metric tons.

Several different mission scenarios were considered and two were documented for the study: a Combination Lander Scenario in which all elements were sent to Mars in a single opportunity, and a Split Mission Scenario in which some elements were deployed at Mars in the first opportunity and the crew traveled to Mars in the next opportunity. The Split Mission Scenario was similar to the Design Reference Mission 3.0 whereby propellant for Mars ascent were produced at Mars.

Several strategies were used to constrain the total mission mass with respect to the Design Reference Mission and to achieve the launch mass target.

Several technology development challenges were identified as necessary to achieve the launch mass target:

Combination Lander Scenario

The mission scenario was as follows:

Mass breakdown for the baseline mission was as follows:

Launch 1: SEP, 85,500 kg

Launch 2: 88,742 kg, consisting of:

Launch 3: 89,258 kg, consisting of:

A Split Mission Scenario was sketched out as a means of reducing the payload to under the 75 metric ton payload of the baseline Magnum launch vehicle design. The Split Mission used the ISRU propellant generation on the Martian surface and Mars surface rendezvous concepts of the Design Reference Mission, but also included all of the strategies and technology challenges of the Combo Lander study. The major differences in this scenario were 1) the predeployment of the return vehicle in Mars orbit, 2) pre-deployment of the ascent vehicle on the surface of Mars, 3) the production of propellant on Mars, and 4) the use of methane rather than hydrogen for Mars ascent. The scenario was still constrained to three launches (two at the first Mars launch opportunity, a third two years later at the next opportunity), but reduced the payload requirement for the Magnum vehicle to 75 metric tons.

Each scenario also required a Space Shuttle launch at the beginning of the mission to deliver the crew and their high-Earth orbit taxi and also a Shuttle mission at the end to recover the crew in low Earth orbit. This three-launch strategy was reliant on the key technologies described previously.

Mass breakdown for the split mission was as follows:

Launch 1: 72,931 kg, consisting of:

Launch 2: 72,209 kg, consisting of:

Launch 3: 75,150 kg, consisting of:

Combo Lander All-Up Mission Summary:

Combo Lander Split Mission Summary:

Family: Mars Expeditions. Country: USA. Agency: NASA. Bibliography: 1987, 1989.

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