Encyclopedia Astronautica
MORL Mars Flyby

MORL Mars Flyby
Credit: NASA
American manned Mars flyby. Study 1965. Near-term manned Mars flyby spacecraft proposed by Douglas in 1965 for flight as early as 1973.

It differed from the contemporary NASA in-house design in using the Douglas Manned Orbiting Research Laboratory as the basis for the habitation module.

Four launches of a stretched version of the Saturn V were required for the expedition. The first three launches put three fully-fuelled S-IVB stages into orbit, which were docked in series. This was followed by launch of the 90 metric ton Mars flyby spacecraft, consisting, from fore to aft, of an Apollo command module with a crew of three, a retro module used to brake the command module prior to re-entry at the end of the mission, and a modified Manned Orbiting Research Laboratory, 6.55 m diameter x 12.80 m long.

After 30 days of checkout, the mission was launched toward Mars. Each S-IV stage fires, one after the other, to put the spacecraft on a trans-Mars trajectory. After separation of the last stage, the crew separate the CRM from the MORL, transpose, and dock with the MORL in typical Apollo fashion. They then enter the MORL for the mission. The MORL was equipped with a single-person centrifuge to provide artificial-G conditioning to the crew during the long zero-G flight.

The three-member crew fly within 5000 km of Mars, releasing robotic probes and landers to explore the planet. After a 655 day flight, the crew entered the command module, and separate from the MORL. The retro module fired to slow the approach speed to one within the capabilities of the command module. The usual Apollo-type re-entry and splashdown occur, with recovery by a US aircraft carrier.

In comparison to NASA's concept, the Douglas approach required no refueling operations in low earth orbit, and required only four launches of an improved Saturn V as opposed to six launches of a standard Saturn V. From Douglas' point of view, it also had the advantage that all of the hardware (MORL, S-IVB stages, retro module) except the Apollo command module would be Douglas-provided. It had the disadvantage of requiring development of planned but not in-being hardware (MORL, upgraded Saturn V).

MORL Mars Flyby Mission Summary:

  • Summary: Manned Mars flyby using Apollo hardware for earliest possible mission (mid-1970's)
  • Propulsion: LOX/LH2
  • Braking at Mars: flyby
  • Mission Type: Crocco
  • Split or All-Up: all up
  • ISRU: flyby
  • Launch Year: 1973
  • Crew: 3
  • Outbound time-days: 125
  • Mars Stay Time-days: 0
  • Return Time-days: 530
  • Total Mission Time-days: 655
  • Total Payload Required in Low Earth Orbit-metric tons: 360
  • Mass per crew-metric tons: 120
  • Launch Vehicle Payload to LEO-metric tons: 137
  • Number of Launches Required to Assemble Payload in Low Earth Orbit: 4
  • Launch Vehicle: Saturn MLV-V-1


Crew Size: 3.

Gross mass: 360,000 kg (790,000 lb).
Height: 76.00 m (249.00 ft).
Diameter: 6.70 m (21.90 ft).

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Associated Countries
See also
  • Mars Expeditions Since Wernher von Braun first sketched out his Marsprojekt in 1946, a succession of designs and mission profiles were seriously studied in the United States and the Soviet Union. By the late 1960's Von Braun had come to favour nuclear thermal rocket powered expeditions, while his Soviet counterpart Korolev decided that nuclear electric propulsion was the way to go. All such work stopped in both countries in the 1970's, after the cancellation of the Apollo program in the United States and the N1 booster in the Soviet Union. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Saturn V American orbital launch vehicle. America's booster for the Apollo manned lunar landing. The design was frozen before a landing mode was selected; the Saturn V could be used for either Earth-Orbit-Rendezvous or Lunar-Orbit-Rendezvous methods. The vehicle ended up with the same payload capability as the 'too large' Nova. The basic diameter was dictated by the ceiling height at the Michoud factory selected for first stage manufacture. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • Douglas American manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Boeing Huntington Beach, Huntington Beach, CA, USA. More...

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