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Published 1987 | Published
Conference Paper Open

The ballistic Mars hopper: An alternative Mars mobility concept


The ballistic Mars hopper is proposed as an alternative mobility concept for unmanned exploration of the martian surface. In the ballistic Mars hopper concept, oxygen and carbon monoxide produced from the martian atmosphere are used as propellants in a rocket propulsion system for an unmanned vehicle on suborbital trajectories between landing sights separated by distances of up to 1000 km. This mobility concept is seen as uniquely capable of allowing both intensive and extensive exploration of the planet using only a single landed vehicle massing approximately 2000 kg. The technical challenges associated with In-Situ Propellant Production (ISPP) on the surface of Mars are reviewed. A rocket propulsion subsystem capable of using oxygen and carbon monoxide as propellants is described. Finally, results of mission analysis and a hopper landing hazard simulation are reported. It is concluded that an attractive Mars hopper can be developed based on relatively near-term technology.

Additional Information

© 1987, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. This study was conducted in the spring 1986 academic quarter for Mechanical Engineering 130b, a design course offered at the California Institute of Technology and supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as part of the Advanced Space Design Program, University Space Research Association. Part of the work described in this paper was carried out by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with the National Aeronautic and Space Administration. The authors would like to thank Professor Culick for allowing them to take part in this class and study a non-conventional mobility concept. The authors acknowledge R. Frisbee, M. Appel, and R. Klemetson of the JPL Propulsion Systems Section for valuable assistance in this project.

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