As NASA continues to develop their plans for delivering humans to the Martian system in the 2030s, a Technical Interchange Meeting has outlined two potential hardware launch sequence options for NASA’s upcoming heavy lift rocket, SLS, that would enable the space agency to utilize SLS’s capabilities while realizing human exploration of Mars.
A Phobos mission in 2033 assumes the introduction of the SLS Block 2B variant of the Heavy Lift Vehicle in 2028, with an annual flight rate of one to two launches.
The two Phobos dedicated flights of SLS in 2028 would take the Phobos Hab and Phobos Exploration Vehicle (PEV) elements to Cis-lunar space as well as the SEP for the Hab module.
This would be followed by two SLS flights in 2029 bringing the Trans-Earth Injection (TEI) stage (and its SEP) to Cis-lunar space as well as the second flight, which would bring up a crew to perform final check outs of the Phobos Hab module.
The year 2030 would then see the launch of the Earth Orbit Insertion (EOI) stage and taxi elements (with their SEP elements).
At this point, all the launched hardware would then depart Cis-lunar space and be pre-deployed to Mars.
In 2031, the Mars Transit Hab (or Deep Space Hab) would be launched, followed in
2032 by the launches of the Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI) and Trans-Mars Injection (TMI) stages in two separate SLS missions.
The launch of the first Phobos crew to the Transit Hab would take place in 2033.
Assuming a full duration, approximately 500 day mission, the final SLS launch needed for the human Phobos mission would occur in 2035, when an SLS rocket would launch and Orion crew capsule to retrieve the Phobos crew following their return to Cis-lunar space.
In all, this campaign would see the SLS deliver a total mass of 394.5t to Cis-lunar space.
Build up for the first human Mars mission would commence in 2033 with the launch of an SLS mission to deliver the TEI stage to Cis-lunar space.
This would be followed in 2034 by the launch of the first two Mars Surface Landers on two separate SLS missions.
The year 2035 would then see two more SLS missions, with the launches of the third and fourth Mars Surface Landers.
This would be followed in 2036 with the launch of the fifth and final Mars Surface Lander.
With the launch of the fifth lander, all pre-deployment payloads for the first human Mars mission will have been launched.
The year 2036 would then see the launch of the EOI stage before the 2037 launches of the MOI and TMI stages on two separate SLS launches.
In 2038, a crewed mission of Orion and SLS would bring a check out crew on a restock mission to the Mars Transit Habitat — which would have returned to Cis-lunar space in late 2035 from the human Phobos mission.
If those checkouts and restocks are successful, the first crew for Mars would then launch in 2039 to the Mars Transit Habitat before departing Cis-lunar space for Mars.
Assuming a nominal mission, a single SLS flight would be needed in 2042 to launch an Orion capsule to retrieve the first Mars crew and their cargo following their return to Cis-lunar space.
For the first human mission to Mars, SLS’s launch campaign will see it deliver 630.7t of mass to Cis-lunar space.