A report presents an overview of continuing efforts to develop an advanced propulsion system for a spacecraft that would ascend from Mars to bring samples to Earth. The system is required to be smaller and to weigh and cost less, in comparison with a conventionally designed system of equal capability. The development efforts include research on several topics, including the following, which are discussed in the report: (1) warm-gas pressurization subsystems for pushing liquid propellants from supply tanks to engines, (2) lightweight, high-performance rocket engines that burn propellant fluids supplied at temperatures below 0°C, (3) lightweight tanks for propellants and pressurants, and (4) lightweight flow-control components. Finally, the report describes the latest version of the system, which features a two-stage design with pyrotechnic separation.

This work was done by Carl Guernsey, Barry Nakanzo, Hartwell Long, and Andre Yavrouian of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-20428

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Mars ascent propulsion system

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This article first appeared in the July, 1999 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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