Magnetoshell could be developed more quickly for use with the Mars free return mission

In 2018, the planets will align, offering a unique orbit opportunity to travel to Mars and back to Earth in only 501 days. Inspiration Mars needs to launch date on 5 January 2018. This quick, free-return orbit opportunity occurs twice every 15 years. After 2018, the next opportunity will not occur again until 2031.

Nextbigfuture covered the technical details of the 18 page feasibility study.

Improved Heat Shield is a big technical problem

One of them is getting the crew safely home through Earth’s atmosphere. Apollo astronauts flying back from the moon hit speeds of 25,000 mph in Earth’s atmosphere, which required extensive shielding. With the Mars flight, speeds will near 32,000 mph, and the difference is not linear, MacCallum said. Which means shielding is going to be an especially difficult problem.

NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts Magnetoshell could slow the Mars free return mission

It would make the mission lower cost and allow the returning capsule to be slowed without straining any heat shield past previously proven limits. An orbital demo of a magnetoshell is planned for 2017. Slightly increased funding to bring Magnetoshell testing into 2015-2016 and in time for the 2018 Mars mission

A Magnetoshell doesn’t deflect gas like an aeroshell or plasma like a magnetic decelerator. It captures the hypersonic neutral gas through collisional processes. The momentum of the charge-exchanged gas is absorbed by the magnetic structure.

1. A spacecraft deploys Magnetoshell hardware on a 50 meter tether
2. A 500 Gauss magnetic dipole field is formed
3. A low-temperature, magnetized plasma is injected into that field
4. Plasma shell captures atmospheric neutrals through charge-exchange
5. As the captured particles equilibrate, they decelerate the spacecraft
6. Plasma is fueled and heated from captured planetary neutrals
7. Aerobraking drag can be turned off at any time (or increased)

Mars Scaling

• Martian deceleration is excellent
• At 120 km
• Drag force of 1 kN
• Effective drag radius of 15 meters with 1 meter antenna
• All power, temperature, and plasma provided by incoming flow (after startup)

Neptune Scaling

Neptune Aerocapture and then Aerobraking
• At 1000 km
• Drag force of 100 N
• Effective drag radius of 17 meters with 1 meter antenna
• All power, temperature, and plasma provided by incoming flow (after startup)

Orbital demo of a magnetoshell could be 2017.

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