A report presents a design concept for an instrumented robotic vehicle (rover) to be used on a future mission of exploration of the planet Mars. The design incorporates a nuclear fission power system to provide long range, long life, and high power capabilities unachievable through the use of alternative solar or radioisotope power systems. The concept described in the report draws on previous rover designs developed for the 2009 Mars Science laboratory (MSL) mission to minimize the need for new technology developments.

The surface fission power system that would be used consists of a 15 kW (thermal) heat-pipe-cooled reactor coupled with a Stirling generator to provide 3 kW of electrical power. This power system would be compact enough to fit readily into prior rover chassis concepts, allowing further adaptation of previously designed MSL elements, including the aeroshell and pallet lander system, with modifications to support the significant mass added by the nuclear reactor and its associated shielding. The estimated mass of the fission power system, including its mission-specific shielding, is 1,169 kg.

This work was done by John Elliott of Caltech, Dave Poston of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Ron Lipinski of Sandia National Laboratory for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Mechanics/Machinery category. NPO-30865