Satellite Observation System for Space Station Freedom - Abstract
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PERCIVAL Mission To Mars

David W. Reed, et. all

December 10, 1992

Executive Summary


With the downturn of the world economy, the priority of unmanned exploration of the solar system has been lowered. Instead of foregoing all missions to our neighbors in the solar system, a new philosophy of exploration mission design has evolved to insure the continued exploration of the solar system. The "Discovery-class" design philosophy uses a low cost, limited mission, available technology spacecraft instead of the previous "Voyager-class" design philosophy that uses a "do-everything at any cost" spacecraft. The "Voyager-class" philosophy is no longer feasible. The Percival Mission to Mars has been proposed by Ares Industries as one of the new "Discovery-class" of exploration missions. The spacecraft will be christened Percival in honor of American astronomer Percival Lowell who proposed the existence of life on Mars in the early twentieth century.

The main purpose of the Percival mission to Mars is to collect and relay scientific data to Earth suitable for designing future manned and unmanned missions to Mars. The measurements and observations made by Percival will help future mission designers to choose among landing sites based on the feasibility and scientific interest of the sites. The primary measurements conducted by the Percival mission include gravity field determination, surface and atmospheric composition, sub-surface soil composition, sub-surface seismic activity, surface weather patterns, and surface imaging. These measurements will be taken from the orbiting Percival spacecraft and from surface penetrators deployed from Mars orbit.

Percival has been designed as a follow-up mission to the Mars Observer (MO) spacecraft that is currently in route to Mars. As a follow-up mission , it will augment the Mars Observer mission by improving the gravity field map created by MO and by supporting the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS), which was originally planned for the Mars Observer mission. In addition, images and data taken by MO will be used to determine the desired impact sites for the three surface penetrators included within the Percival mission.

As a secondary mission, Percival will support the Mars Balloon Relay (MBR) communications system, similar to the one used on Mars Observer. This system is a separate communications package directed towards the surface of Mars to receive and transmit data from surface landers. During the science phase of the Percival mission, this system will be used for data relay between the surface penetrators and Earth. After the completion of the science phase of the mission, the MBR will be used to support future Mars landers.

The Percival mission scenario consists of the following elements: The design work for the Percival Mission to Mars has been divided among four technical areas: Orbits and Propulsion System, Surface Penetrators, Gravity and Science Instruments, and Spacecraft Structure and Systems. This overview summarizes the results for each of the technical areas followed by a design cost analysis and recommendations for future analyses.

Orbits and Propulsion System

The main objective of the orbits and propulsion group was to develop the best combination of launch system and transfer trajectory that would maximize the allowable mass in Martian orbit. The design of the final Mars orbit was designed to accommodate the gradiometer, the VIMS, and the relay communications packages. The spacecraft propulsion system was designed to provide transfer trajectory corrections, Mars orbit insertion, and end-of-mission boost burns.

The choice of launch system and the design of the transfer trajectory was heavily impacted by the low cost objective of the Percival mission and the Delta-class launch vehicle constraint stated in the Request For Proposal. The Delta launch system is one of the less expensive launch systems, but it is also one of the lower performance vehicles among those capable of supporting an interplanetary payload. To maximize the amount of mass that can be placed into a Martian transfer trajectory, a Delta 7925 with an additional upper stage motor has been chosen. The first two stages of the Delta will place the boost stages and the spacecraft into Earth orbit, while the two Star-48B motors will provide the thrust for the Mars transfer injection burn.

To compromise between minimal energy transfer and time of flight, a broken-plane Hohmann transfer, shown in Figure 2.3, was chosen. This trajectory requires a 3576 m/s DV, provided by the Star 48B's, for transfer insertion. The plane change burn is performed at a true anomaly of 90 deg , requiring a 258 m/s DV to change the orbital plane by 0.53 deg . Course corrections will also be made during this burn. The Mars insertion burn will require a 2178 m/s DV by the spacecraft propulsion system. The time of flight will be approximately 11 months.

The design of the final Mars orbit was driven by the instrument packages onboard Percival. To increase the accuracy and precision of the gradiometer data, a low-altitude (179.4 km), circular orbit was chosen. To increase the groundtrack coverage of Mars, a high inclination orbit was necessary. A sun-synchronous orbit was chosen for this reason as well as to reduce thermal variations on the spacecraft. The sun-synchronous orbit also minimizes the pointing requirements of the high-gain antenna used to communicate with Earth. The period of the Martian orbit will be 108 minutes. The groundtrack for this orbit allows for communication with each penetrator every two to three days and allows for a complete VIMS mapping cycle in 82 days.

Percival's propulsion system is designed to provide the plane change burn, course corrections, Mars orbit insertion, and end-of-mission orbit boost. These maneuvers will require a DV of 2436 m/s. The resulting propulsion system will have approximately 60 kg of hardware mass and 730 kg of propellant mass.

Surface Penetrators

The surface penetrators group was tasked to design the penetrator system, which includes deployment methods, deceleration methods, impact and stress analysis, structural design, subsystem design, and scientific instrumentation of the penetrators. The purpose of the penetrator system is to provide scientific data from the surface and sub-surface of Mars as an aid to designing future manned and unmanned missions. The data returned by the penetrators will help determine the feasibility of a landing site and the scientific interest of a site.

Each of the three penetrators will be deployed separately from Martian orbit and impact at a different location on the Martian surface. The deployment and deceleration system uses a spring for the initial separation from Percival, a 500 m/s DV deorbit motor for entry, and a 1.14 m diameter drag chute for deceleration and stability through the atmosphere. The transfer from Mars orbit to impact takes approximately 4.5 minutes and results in a 235 m/s impact velocity.

Upon impact the forebody and afterbody of the penetrator separate as shown in Figure 3.1. The umbilical cord connecting the two sections of the penetrator contains power and communications lines. Both hard and soft soil models were used to analyze the impact. The forebody must penetrate deep enough to isolate the seismic instruments from surface wind disturbances, but must not separate from the afterbody farther than the umbilical cord will allow. The penetration of the afterbody must be minimized so that the communications and surface instruments will remain on the surface. The results of the penetration analysis are summarized in Table 3.2.

Each penetrator contains instrumentation that will carry out four scientific objectives: planetary science, imaging, soil analysis, and meteorology. Planetary science is the determination of the interior structure of Mars. This involves the study of the surface structure, global seismology, and the magnetic field of the planet using a seismometer and a magnetometer. Imaging systems on the penetrators will provide information on the geology of the Martian surface. Two imaging systems will be on each penetrator: a descent imager located on the nose of the penetrator and a panoramic imaging system located in the top of the afterbody. Soil analysis is the study of the chemical composition, water content, and physical properties of the subsurface soil. The physical properties of the soil include the subsurface temperature and conductivity. A meteorology package containing four distinct instruments will measure the temperature, pressure, humidity, and wind speed and direction of the local atmosphere.

The necessary subsystems for each penetrator are power, communications, and thermal control. The power subsystem is composed of a 0.5 W Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) and a 20 W Nickel-hydrogen battery. The RTG handles all continuous power requirements and recharges the battery. The battery will provide for peak power requirements, such as transmission of data to Percival. This type of power system provides for a penetrator with an operating life of one year. The communications system uses a helix antenna on the penetrator afterbody for receiving and transmitting data. The thermal system uses thermal blankets and excess heat from the RTG to keep the battery in the proper temperature range. The remainder of the excess heat is transferred to the soil using a heat pipe. Figure 3.3 shows a layout of the penetrator subsystems and instrumentation. Table 3.6 shows a breakdown of the mass and power requirements of the penetrator.

Gravity and Science Instruments

Two of the main objectives of the Percival mission are to augment and improve the gravity field mapping being done by MO and to serve as a support platform for scientific instrumentation that was originally planned for MO. The gravity and science instruments group chose the instruments to accomplish these objectives and developed the constraints that the instruments placed on the Percival spacecraft.

Mars Observer will be using radioscience techniques (Doppler shift measurements) to carry out gravity mapping of Mars. Percival will improve upon the accuracy of the MO gravity map by using a two-axis gravity gradiometer, sensitive in the radial and transverse directions. This instrument uses highly sensitive accelerometers to measure the local gravity field. It is expected that an accuracy of 1 Eotvos will be obtained by using the gradiometer without cryogenic cooling. Since gradiometers have never been used in space, Percival will also have the capability to support radioscience techniques. Doppler shift measurements will still augment the gravity map created by MO, though the accuracy of the map will not be improved.

To achieve the desired accuracy and sensitivity of the gravity field map, mechanical vibrations and accelerations generated by the spacecraft must be eliminated or minimized. The gradiometer also requires that attitude position and rates be known very precisely. Table 4.1 summarizes the requirements placed on the GN&C system. While attitude maneuvers are being conducted, the gradiometer will not make gravity field measurements.

The Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) will also be flown on Percival. This instrument, originally designed for MO, will determine the composition of the Martian atmosphere and surface. The VIMS mapping mission requires the Percival spacecraft to maintain a nadir orientation. This type of orientation requires the spacecraft to maintain a constant revolution rate of one revolution per orbit. This rotation rate is not high enough to significantly affect the gradiometer measurements. A more sensitive, cryogenically-cooled gradiometer would need to take the rotational acceleration terms into account. With an orbital altitude of 179.4 km, one VIMS mapping cycle of Mars will take 82 days.

Spacecraft Structure and Subsystems

The Spacecraft group was responsible for designing the basic structure and the subsystems of the Percival spacecraft. To eliminate the need for a complete redesign of the spacecraft bus, the Percival spacecraft bus was based on a scaled down version of the Planetary Observer bus used for the MO mission. Systems design was done for the communications, power, thermal, and GN&C subsystems. A schematic of the spacecraft is shown in Figure 5.1. A summary of the mass and power requirements of each spacecraft system is shown in Table 5.1.

The communications system consists of a high-gain antenna and a backup low-gain antenna for communication with Earth. The high-gain antenna will transmit at a frequency of 8.4 GHz with a data rate of 150 kbps. Since Percival will not be able to transmit at all times, the capability to store data in addition to real-time transmission will be used. Ares Industries expects that Percival will receive an allocation of Deep Space Network (DSN) time roughly equivalent to the 8 hours per day that MO receives currently. During the 8 hour period, Percival would be able to transmit approximately 1622 megabits of data.

For communications with the surface of Mars, Percival will use the Mars Balloon Relay (MBR) communications system currently used on MO. This system consists of a low-gain antenna pointed towards the surface of Mars. The antenna will transmit at 401 MHz and receive at 406 MHz with a data rate of 8 kbs. This communications system will support the surface penetrators during the science phase of the Percival mission. Beyond the science phase, the MBR system will support other future surface missions.

An RTG and battery combination was chosen to provide power for the Percival spacecraft. The RTG was chosen for its good mass to power rating (5.4 W/kg) and for its ability to generate power without repointing as solar panels are required to do. The battery would be used to provide power during peak power consumption phases of the mission. Today's RTGs use Plutonium 238 as the radioactive isotope. This isotope is not commonly available, making the RTG very expensive. A less expensive alternative would be to make RTGs that utilize a more readily available isotope, such as Strontium 90. This isotope is a common daughter isotope in all nuclear reactors. In the past, Strontium 90 has been used for SNAP reactors on spacecraft.

The thermal control methods will be based primarily on passive methods to reduce the mechanical noise produced by the system. Passive methods of thermal control will include thermal blankets and surface coatings. The active thermal control methods used will include freon radiators and heaters.

The Guidance, Navigation, and Control system consists of sensors and thrusters to determine and control the spacecraft's position, velocity, and attitude. The GN&C system is designed to be completely autonomous with the capability of ground override. Attitude and position determination will be done using a sun sensor and a fixed-head star tracker. Rate determination will be done using a ring laser gyro. The control system will use 24 reaction control jets divided among two independent systems. One system will use hot gas, while the other will use cold gas. The cold gas thrusters will allow the spacecraft to be controlled more precisely than the hot gas thrusters will allow.


As designed, the Percival spacecraft is not capable of supporting all mission objectives. The constraint of the Delta launch vehicle has limited the allowable mass of the spacecraft to 460 kg dry mass at Mars. This is 75 kg higher than the mass estimate for Percival of 535 kg. To come within the mass budget, one or more mission objectives may have to be eliminated or a higher performance launch vehicle must be used. It may also be possible to take advantage of larger GEMs (Graphite-Epoxy Motors) to provide the additional boost, if they become available in the future.

A preliminary estimate of the development and production cost for the Percival mission has shown that, as designed, Percival exceeds the desired "Discovery-class" budget of $150 million. The current estimate of $270 million includes the development, production, and launch costs for the Percival mission. The cost estimate does not include program costs, operation costs, or other long term management costs. Ares Industries has concluded that the numerous mission objectives of the Percival mission make it unsuitable for a true Discovery-class mission. If a Discovery-class mission is required, one of the three major scientific objectives, gradiometer, penetrator, or the VIMS, should be chosen as the single, primary mission objective.

To design the Percival Mission to Mars beyond the preliminary design phase, detailed design must be done for all portions of the project. The following issues must also be considered. For the propulsion system, the type of propellant must be chosen to give a more precise estimate of the fuel mass required. The penetrator system requires the accuracy of the penetrator targeting to be determined in addition to the effects of winds on the entry trajectory and attitude of the penetrator. Also, the susceptibility of the penetrator structure to failure during an oblique impact must also be considered. The feasibility of increasing the data rate of the Mars Balloon Relay should be determined. For the spacecraft power system, the feasibility of using a Strontium 90 RTG should be further analyzed. The GN&C system of Percival should be analyzed in more detail to determine if it satisfies the position and rate determination and control requirements defined by the gradiometer.