- Conference date: 12-16 February 2006
- Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico (USA)
With the recently revived national interest in Lunar and Mars missions, this design study was undertaken by the author in an attempt to satisfy the long‐term space exploration vision of human travel “to the Moon, Mars, and beyond” with a single design or family of vehicles. This paper describes a conceptual design for an interplanetary spaceship of the not‐to‐distant future. It is a design that is outwardly similar to the spaceship Discovery depicted in the novel “2001 — A Space Odyssey” and film of the same name. Like its namesake, this spaceship could one day transport a human expedition to explore the moons of Jupiter. This spaceship Discovery is a real engineering design that is capable of being implemented using technologies that are currently at or near the state‐of‐the‐art. The ship’s main propulsion and electrical power are provided by bi‐modal nuclear thermal rocket engines. Configurations are presented to satisfy four basic Design Reference Missions: (1) a high‐energy mission to Jupiter’s moon Callisto, (2) a high‐energy mission to Mars, (3) a low‐energy mission to Mars, and (4) a high‐energy mission to the Moon. The spaceship design includes dual, strap‐on boosters to enable the high‐energy Mars and Jupiter missions. Three conceptual lander designs are presented: (1) Two types of Mars landers that utilize atmospheric and propulsive braking, and (2) a lander for Callisto or Earth’s Moon that utilizes only propulsive braking. Spaceship Discovery offers many advantages for human exploration of the Solar System: (1) Nuclear propulsion enables propulsive capture and escape maneuvers at Earth and target planets, eliminating risky aero‐capture maneuvers. (2) Strap‐on boosters provide robust propulsive energy, enabling flexibility in mission planning, shorter transit times, expanded launch windows, and free‐return abort trajectories from Mars. (3) A backup abort propulsion system enables crew aborts at multiple points in the mission. (4) Clustered NTR engines provide “engine out” redundancy. (5) The design efficiently implements galactic cosmic ray shielding using main propellant liquid hydrogen. (6) The design provides artificial gravity to mitigate crew physiological problems on long‐duration missions. (7) The design is modular and can be launched using the proposed upgrades to the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles or Shuttle‐derived heavy lift launch vehicles. (8) High value modules are reusable for Mars and Lunar missions. (9) The design has inherent growth capability, and can be tailored to satisfy expanding mission requirements to enable an in‐family progression “to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.”
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