NASA planned for AG NEP Mars transit

by Chris Bergin

While the recent ESAS (Exploration Systems Architecture Study) Final Report revealed brief – yet significant – information on the Mars element of President Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration (VSE), presentations have been acquired that show NASA was previously looking towards a Mars Transit Vehicle (MTV) that used Nuclear Electric Propulsion (NEP) and utilised artificial-gravity (AG) for the crew.

Both reports can be downloaded, with instructions at the end of the article.

The current plan shown in the ESAS Final Report – published by prior to release to the general public later this month – revealed an MTV that didn’t incorporate AG, while Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) was noted as the preferred option of transit. Final plans, however, are still a long way from approval, with a manned mission to Mars expected around 2030 at the earliest.

Two PowerPoint presentations show the level of research and intellectual concepts involved in potential solutions to manned missions to Mars, both produced before the appointment of Mike Griffin as NASA administrator. It is understood the concepts were mothballed, ready for any change in plan from the current ESAS roadmap.

The first, titled ‘Artificial Gravity for Human Exploration Missions,’ is dated July 2002 and outlines a masted vehicle, reusable for at least three missions, with a crew module at the opposite end to a nuclear reactor, along with two propellant tanks either side of a central pod. Called the ‘Fire Baton’ concept, the ship is one of three designs noted on the presentation – yet finds itself as the main focus in the bulk of the report.

With the whole vehicle rotating at four revolutions per minute, the benefits listed include the elimination of rotating joints, power connections, fluid connections, etc, while a major challenge was the vehicle’s angular momentum would have to be continuously vectored for TVC (Thrust Vector Control).

The 58 page presentation noted the objectives of the preliminary engineering feasibility of AG, interplanetary human exploration spacecraft and identification of positive or negative system and mission impacts related to the AG requirement.

The second document is a 71 page presentation based on evaluating Mars transit trajectories, titled ‘Earth-Mars Artificial-G NEP Architecture Sun-Earth L2 Architecture (3-Week Parametric Trade Study).’

Dated March 3, 2003, the report again centers around the ‘Fire Baton’ vehicle concept, with two studies evaluating timelines and transit routes for the Mars journey, titled ‘NEP parametric mission design trades.’

The first study called for a Determination of cost (mass, time) required to depart from an Earth orbit and spiral to/from selected Mars parking orbits for Earth return.

Study two evaluated the Sun-Earth liberation point (L2), the mission deploy/maintenance of satellite constellation and a dress rehearsal for a Mars mission.

The animation of ‘Fire Baton’ rotating, along with both PowerPoint presentations can be downloaded here: (sign up to the forum, for free, to view our video section and many downloads. We do NOT use your e-mail or pass it on for spam. It is ONLY used to send you your password).

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