ISS Crew May Test Mars Sample Return Concepts
24 Nov 2003
(Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology)
By Frank Morring, Jr.
Aviation Week & Space Technology
November 24, 2003
Crewmembers on the International Space Station may get to test concepts for a future Mars Sample Return mission, using the station's pressurized volume to simulate the microgravity environment above the planet. Payload Systems Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., is developing hardware that will mimic a capture device capable of snagging a sample capsule sent up from the surface to an Earth-return vehicle orbiting Mars. Under a two-year, $600,000 Small Business Innovation Research contract, Payload Systems will build a cone-shaped mechanism for use on ISS with the company's Synchronized Position Hold, Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites (Spheres) system, already built and set for delivery on Progress resupply vehicles. Under control of a crewmember, the 8-in.-dia. Spheres devices--self-contained testbeds for satellite constellation-control software--will basically hurl themselves into the device to define its ability to catch and hold sample capsules arriving at different speeds and angles.
ESA Mars Sample Return Studies Awarded
The European Space Agency has awarded two study contracts to prepare a Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission--the second flagship undertaking planned for the agency's Aurora planetary exploration program. Alenia Spazio heads one team and EADS Astrium the other. The first MSR mission in 2011 would include an orbiter and reentry capsule that would be inserted into Mars orbit in advance of a second mission in 2013. The latter would include descent and ascent vehicles to collect the sample for Earth return. Rendezvous/docking maneuvers for sample return are to be tested in the first Aurora flagship mission, Exo-Mars, set for 2009.