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Design Reference Mission 3
Part of American Mars Expeditions Family
DRM Habitat
DRM Habitat
Credit: NASA
American manned Mars expedition. Study 1996. This July 1997 DRM was a subscale version of the original, with a scrub of the original payloads to reduce mass wherever possible.

Status: Study 1996.

An integral pressure structure and heat shield was proposed for the lander, requiring the use of lighter composite structural materials. The stages would be launched without the spacecraft, meaning more launches would be required, but development of a monster heavy lift vehicle would not be needed. There would be 8 launches of a shuttle-derived vehicle with an 85 metric ton payload, consisting of three nuclear stages and three spacecraft on the first launch opportunity. At the next opportunity two more launches would put a fourth nuclear stage and the manned spacecraft in orbit. The total mass hurled toward Mars would be 303 metric tons, 75 metric tons less than the 1993 DRM.

In 1996 public interest in Mars was renewed by the reputed discovery of fossils of microscopic life forms in meteorite ALH 84001, believed to have been blasted off Mars and falling on the Antarctic Ice Cap. NASA responded by reviving its manned Mars study function. In July 1997 the office produced Human Exploration of Mars: Reference Mission of the NASA Mars Exploration Team, which revised 1993's Design Reference Mission 1.0 and was released to coincide with public interest as a result of the Pathfinder robot lander mission.

Design Reference Mission 3.0 Mission Summary:

  • Summary: Refine DRM 1.0 systems concepts and design; smaller class launch vehicle (80mt);source data from Borowski paper
  • Propulsion: Nuclear thermal
  • Braking at Mars: aerodynamic
  • Mission Type: conjunction
  • Split or All-Up: split
  • ISRU: ISRU
  • Launch Year: 2011
  • Crew: 6
  • Mars Surface payload-metric tons: 40
  • Outbound time-days: 150
  • Mars Stay Time-days: 610
  • Return Time-days: 120
  • Total Mission Time-days: 880
  • Total Payload Required in Low Earth Orbit-metric tons: 410
  • Total Propellant Required-metric tons: 140
  • Propellant Fraction: 0.34
  • Mass per crew-metric tons: 68
  • Launch Vehicle Payload to LEO-metric tons: 75
  • Number of Launches Required to Assemble Payload in Low Earth Orbit: 6
  • Launch Vehicle: Magnum



Family: Mars Expeditions. Country: USA. Spacecraft: Cargo Lander Reference Version 3, Crew Lander Reference Version 3. Agency: NASA. Bibliography: 1987, 1989, 4432, 591, 6452.

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