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Final design of TMK-E spacecraft

Credit: © Mark Wade. 7,104 bytes. 640 x 75 pixels.

Class: Manned. Type: Mars Expedition. Nation: Russia. Manufacturer: Korolev.

Feoktistov felt that the TMK-1 manned Mars flyby design was too limited. They proposed in 1960 a complete Mars landing expedition, to be assembled in earth orbit using two or more N1 launches. The spacecraft would be powered by nuclear electric engines, with the reactor moved away from the crew quarters on long telescoping booms. Five landers would deliver a nuclear-powered 'Mars Train' on the surface for a one-year survey of the terrain. The design would be heavily modified as the 1960's progressed, as research showed the Martian atmosphere to be much thinner and the nuclear electric engines to be less efficient than assumed.

TMK-E CutawayTMK-E Cutaway - Cutaway drawing of an early version of theTMK-E spacecraft

Credit: Gleb Aleksushin. 14,336 bytes. 411 x 207 pixels.

Feoktistov's section of OKB-1 felt that the Maksimov TMK-1 design was too limited and optimistic. They concluded that it would not be possible or advisable to produce a single-launch spacecraft. At first they proposed a dual-launch scenario, with the TMK being launched into low earth orbit and going through a long period of systems proving and test. Only after the spacecraft had completed this 'shakedown cruise' would a second N1 launch would put the trans-Mars injection stage into orbit to propel the spacecraft toward Mars.

TMK Mars LanderTMK Mars Lander - Separation of Mars lander from an early version of the Soviet TMK-E Manned Mars expedition spacecraft.

Credit: Gleb Aleksushin. 21,504 bytes. 379 x 274 pixels.

But Feoktistov was already studying ion engines as a means of either increasing the flight mass of the TMK or reducing the number of launches to get the spacecraft going toward Mars. OKB-1 Section 12, led by M V Melnikov, had already started development of such an engine in 1957 at the urging of S P Korolev. Their 7.5 kgf thrust ion engine design could take the TMK-E on a low acceleration spiralling trajectory away from the Earth until it finally reached escape velocity and headed toward Mars. However to power the engine would require solar panels with a total area of 36,000 square meters - clearly beyond 1959 technology. Feoktistov's solution was to turn to the use of a nuclear reactor to power the ion engine.

TMK-1TMK-1 - Early design of TMK-E spacecraft.

Credit: © Mark Wade. 18,837 bytes. 640 x 235 pixels.

Feoktistov's TMK-E became the first project for an expedition to Mars in a spacecraft propelled by nuclear reactor-powered ion engines. The craft would be assembled in near-earth orbit and from there launched toward Mars with a crew of six. The spacecraft as initially designed used a 7 MWt nuclear reactor to power the 7.5 kgf ion engine, which had a predicted specific impulse of 10,000 seconds. The TMK-E would be capable of a three year flight to Mars and return, of which one year was powered flight. From fore to aft the 175 m long spacecraft consisted of:
  • The year-long surface expedition would assemble a ‘Mars Train’ from five separately-landed components. The landing craft, weighing about 10 tonnes each, were conical aeroshells with a blunt base, 5.5 m in diameter and 9 m in height. On the surface the shell would separate and a section of it would provide a carapace for the surface vehicles within. The Mars Train itself would consist of five coupled wagons:

    Mars TrainMars Train - Elements of Mars Train and Zvezda Lunar Base Support Craft. From left: two LK landers; Marsokhod with manipulator arms; Mars Train with reactor, ascent stage, and forward living module; another Marsokhod with manipulator arms.

    Credit: © Mark Wade. 24,363 bytes. 605 x 191 pixels.

    Following assembly of the train on the surface, the crew would begin their long research of the surface and atmosphere of the red planet. Data would be transmitted from the surface to the crew in the spacecraft in its Mars orbit and then retransmitted to Earth. After completing their work, the crew, together with samples of soil and other research results would return to the TMK-E in near-Mars orbit, and from there to the earth.

    Those who worked on this project included K P Feoktistov, V A Adamovich, V V Mologtsov, K S Shustin, V E Lubinskiy, V I Staroverov, L A Gorshkov, and Ts V Solovyov. Feoktistov was OKB-1's premier manned spacecraft designer and would fly in space on Voskhod 1.

    TMK-ETMK-E - RKK Energia drawing of TMK-E

    Credit: RKK Energia. 12,110 bytes. 628 x 92 pixels.


    Craft.Crew Size: 6. Design Life: 365 days. Total Length: 175.0 m. Maximum Diameter: 6.0 m. Total Mass: 150,000 kg. Primary Engine Thrust: 8 kgf. Main Engine Propellants: Xenon. Main Engine Isp: 10,000 sec. Electric system: 7,000.00 total average kW. Electrical System: Nuclear reactor.

    TMK-E Chronology

    01 January 1957 USSR starts ion engine development Launch Vehicle: N1.

    MarsokhodMarsokhod - Nuclear powered crewed Mars Train rover (with ascent stage to orbit in centre).

    Credit: Andy Salmon. 22,788 bytes. 300 x 406 pixels.

    At the urging of S P Korolev, OKB-1 Section 12, led by M V Melnikov, started development of an ion engine. By 1959 it would be proposed that clusters of the 7.5 kgf thrust ion engine could take the TMK-E manned Mars spacecraft on a low acceleration spiralling trajectory away from the Earth until it finally reached escape velocity and headed toward Mars. But to power even such a limited engine solar panels with a total area of 36,000 square meters would be required - clearly beyond 1959 technology. Feoktistov's solution was to turn to the use of a nuclear reactor to power the ion engine.
    23 June 1960 Soviet plan for mastery of space issued. Launch Vehicle: N1.

    Decree 715-296 'On the Production of Various Launch Vehicles, Satellites, Spacecraft for the Military Space Forces in 1960-1967' authorised design of a range of spacecraft and launch vehicles by Korolev, Yangel, and Chelomei. The decree included the N1 (development of launch vehicles of up to 2,000 tonnes liftoff mass and 80 tonne payload, using conventional chemical propellants) and nuclear reactors for space power and propulsion.


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    Last update 3 May 2001.
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    © Mark Wade, 2001 .