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A Mission Concept: Re-Entry Hopper-Aero-Space-Craft System on-Mars (REARM-Mars)

A reusable lander, hopper, sample-return col lector cargo system (all-in-one) is proposed for Mars.

Future missions to Mars that would need a sophisticated lander, hopper, or rover could benefit from the REARM Arch i tecture. The mission concept REARM Architecture is designed to provide unprecedented capabilities for future Mars exploration missions, including human exploration and possible sample return missions, as a reusable lander, ascend/descend vehicle, refuel able hopper, multiple-location sample-return collector, laboratory, and a cargo system for assets and humans. These could all be possible by adding just a single customized Re-Entry-Hopper-Aero-Space-Craft System, called REARM-spacecraft, and a docking station at the Martian orbit, called REARM-dock. REARM could dramatically decrease the time and the expense required to launch new exploratory missions on Mars by making them less dependent on Earth and by reusing the assets already designed, built, and sent to Mars. REARM would introduce a new class of Mars exploration missions, which could explore much larger expanses of Mars in a much faster fashion and with much more sophisticated lab instruments.

The proposed REARM architecture consists of the following subsystems:

REARM-dock that would orbit Mars could host both the spaceship traveling between Earth and the Martian orbit, as well as the REARM-spacecraft. It would repeatedly receive cargo shipped from Earth. It could also receive samplereturn containers and would load them into the Earth spaceship for return to Earth. A compartment has been envisioned in the middle of the REARMdock that would perform the exchange of cargo between the Earth spaceships and the Martian REARM-spacecraft. The cargo coming from Earth could include caches of propellant, MPEs (modular propulsion elements), batteries, spare parts for the rovers or REARM system, as well as new science payloads, which could be installed on existing rovers and sample-return containers.
The REARM-spacecraft is envisioned to be a re-entry vehicle that could make round trips between the Martian orbiter and the surface of Mars using MPEs coming from the Earth, or could be solar and battery-powered similar to X37B. It would function in three different modes: (i) As a re-entry ascent/descent vehicle, cycling from the orbiter down to the surface of Mars; (ii) As a hopper, travelling (hopping) along the surface of Mars in order to relocate the rovers and other assets on the surface using a combination of the thrusters underneath it and a stronger turbine on its back; and (iii) As a hoverer, hovering over certain areas, using the thrusters (similar to the MSL’s powered descending) when positioned horizontally.
The sky-crane, which is envisioned to be similar to the one used for Curiosity, could lower objects and deploy them on the surface of Mars. In addition, it could grasp objects, including samples, and pull them up.
A secure-attached-compartment that is envisioned to be a part of the REARMspacecraft could securely hold the large objects that would need to be carried by the REARM-spacecraft.
The sample-return container could hold and collect the samples needed to be sent to the orbiter or to Earth. The sample-return container might be able to acquire samples directly from the surface when REARM’s sky-crane would lower them to the surface.
An agile rover that is envisioned to be light, fast, and small with simple science instruments such as a drill and imagers, and simple spectrometers could be used to detect and excavate important samples that would need further examination in REARM’s orbital lab.
A scalable orbital lab is envisioned to be a part of REARM’s docking station that could be equipped with sophisticated (such as a scanner)science instruments by different space agencies from Earth. By extending the lab in the future, it might also be used as a safe and habitable hub for future human exploration.
On-the-road robotic handymen (on-theroad Robonauts) are envisioned to perform small repairs and maintenance, such as dusting the rover’s solar panels, folding the solar panels, hooking the skycranes securely to the rovers, changing the batteries, replacing new parts or scientific payloads, etc. They could also perform the tests and experiments inside the orbiting laboratory.

REARM is a mission concept for a multi-purpose transportation system consisting of a Martian orbiting docking station and a re-entry aero-space-craft." class="caption" align="right">The design of the REARM-spacecraft could borrow from many existing reentry vehicle technologies. The powered land er and sky-cranes used for MSL have already been designed, built, and tested. Also, making a docking station on the orbit of Mars could be done using previous experience of docking stations in the orbit of Earth and sending different satellites to the orbit of Mars. Therefore, the integration of the technologies needed to actually place the REARM architecture on the Martian orbit could be a conceivable endeavor.

This work was done by Faranak Davoodi of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

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