Companies studying vehicle to launch from Mars
Posted: July 27, 2001

Artist's conception of a Mars Ascent Vehicle lifting off from Martian surface. Photo: NASA/KSC
NASA's Mars Technology Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has awarded three industry contracts for the development of concepts for a small rocket that will lift science samples gathered by NASA's Mars Sample Return mission from the Martian surface and support their return to Earth.

A panel consisting of propulsion experts including NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and JPL selected these companies from the five that responded to the request for proposals. The awardees are:

  • Boeing Company, Huntington Beach, Calif.
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation, Denver, Colo.
  • TRW, Redondo Beach, Calif.

The contracts are valued at $300,000 each and are to be performed over a six- month period. These studies will provide independent concepts and technology roadmaps to develop a Mars Ascent Vehicle for the Mars Sample Return mission. Concepts emerging from these studies will contribute to the final specifications for the eventual Mars Ascent Vehicle.

"The Mars Exploration Program is looking at a wide variety of ideas and concepts to conduct the Mars Sample Return mission. A small, reliable launch vehicle that would launch collected samples from the Martian surface months after initial arrival is considered one of the key building blocks requiring development. Launch of a sample return mission is scheduled for no sooner than 2011," said Dr. Samad Hayati, manager of the Mars Technology Program at JPL.

JPL manages the Mars Exploration Program for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington D.C. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.