System Development for Mars Entry In-situ Resource Utilization

thunderclingAI and Robotics

Nov 13, 2013 (4 years and 7 months ago)


System Development for Mars Entry In
situ Resource Utilization

, Robert W. Moses
, Leposava Vuskovic

Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA

NASA Langley Research Center


Game Changing Development Program
require new power systems and in
situ resource utilization


Fortunately, there is an abundance of basic
research that could serve as a basis for such a development. This work is motivated by the major
contradiction in the concepts for p
ower systems for Mars exploration. While the surface
exploration relies on very limited solar power resources that have reduced the range of
applicable solutions, the space vehicle itself has huge amount of power stored in the form of its
orbiting kinetic

energy. This energy is currently not utilized, but rather left dissipated through
heat transfer and radiation. This unused potential is not to be neglected, since it may offer the
opportunities for the use the entry plasma as a powerful resource that stil
l remains to be utilized.

In this paper we report the on the state of effort to characterize Mars entry plasma as a
potential work fluid for on

board power generating systems, and a chemical reactor medium for
oxygen generation. The use of Martian entry pl
asma can be augmented using the concept of
egenerative aerobraking

may offer a revolutionary approach for in situ power generation and
oxygen harvesting during the exploration missions.

The on
board power conversion system
concept is based on a network o
f lightweight magnetohydrodynamic power generators developed
in NASA LaRC and at ODU

e system

technology would capture energy and oxygen from
the plasma field that occurs naturally during hypersonic entry using well understood principles of
rodynamics and oxygen filtration. This innovative approach generates resources
upon arrival at the operational site, and thus greatly differs from the traditional approach of
taking everything you need with you from Earth. Fundamental analysis, computation
al fluid
dynamics, and some testing of experimental hardware have established the basic feasibility of
generating power during a Mars entry.
This system is an example how

regenerative aerobraking
may be applied to support human and robotic missions at Mars

The system consist of several subsystems that would address the
Oxygen production and
storage, utilize MHD cooling of thermal shield, provide power by MHD conversion for fluid
cooling subsystem and heat redistribution to a resistive load to the rear of t
he spacecraft.

description of these systems is the subject of present talk.
Oxygen production, separation and
storage is based on two alternative solutions for separation, (a)


Solid Oxide Electrolysis
, or (b) Silver membrane extraction. B
oth solutions have been tested and validated. An
inflatable container is being developed for oxygen storage and the analysis of its performance
will be given. Power conversion systems will be based on the planar MHD power conversion
unit, presently operati
ng using light
weight rare earth permanent magnets, but a concept using
light weight electromagnets has also been developed. MHD cooling effect was confirmed in
CFD simulations and an optimum distribution of magnets is evaluated. Additional fluid cooling
ystem is based on two alternative approaches using (a) gas or (b) liquid metal as a cooling fluid.
Electric circuit for MHD power redistribution and effective heat transfer to the cold region of the
vehicle will be described and analyzed as a subsystem.


Moses, R.W., “Regenerative Aerobraking,” Space Technology and Applications International Forum (STAIF)
2005, Paper No. 57, 13
17 February 2005, Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Vuskovic, L., and Popovic, S., “Magnetohydrodynamic Power Generator,”Summary of
Research Report for
ODURF Project #133931, March 2004.