Cutaway of the 6 m diameter Forpost Mars orbiter.
Credit: RKK Energia. 87,471 bytes. 639 x 428 pixels.
In December 2000 Leonid Gorshkov of RKK Energia proposed a manned Mars orbital expedition as an alternative to Russian participation in the International Space Station. The expedition would also provide the means for reviving Russian ascendancy in space.
The Marpost (Mars Piloted Orbital Station) spacecraft would have a total mass of 400 tonnes and be assembled in low earth orbit from components assembled in four launches of a revived Energia launch vehicle. As in the 1989 Energia Mars design, it would be powered to and from Mars by matrices of hundreds of solar-powered ion thrusters using xenon as propellant. Unlike the earlier expedition, the crew module would be an enormous 6-m diameter, 28 m long spacecraft housing a crew of six. This module seemed to be a throwback to the TMK-derived modules of the 1960's. Over a total expedition duration of two years the spacecraft would fly to Mars, spend a month or more in Mars orbit, obtain samples from the surface by operation of automated probes, and return to earth. Evidently the large station would be braked into earth orbit on return by the ion engines and was not equipped with a re-entry vehicle.
Based on values in the earlier studies, over half of the 400 tonne initial mass would be xenon propellant, 100 tonnes for the Marpost station, and the remainder for engines and solar panels. Gorhskov's design was based on proven Russian technology - long-duration life support systems, xenon thrusters, and solar panels. This and massive redundancy and reparability would, he asserted, make the expedition entirely safe.
The cost of the scheme was estimated at 10 billion dollars. A relatively modest one billion dollar per year expenditure would allow Russia and any international partners to reach Mars well before the United States.
Craft.Crew Size: 6. Design Life: 900 days. Total Length: 600.0 m. Maximum Diameter: 6.0 m. Total Mass: 400,000 kg. Total Propellants: 200 kg. Primary Engine Thrust: 45 kgf. Main Engine Propellants: Xenon. Main Engine Isp: 4,000 sec. Electrical System: Solar Panels.