Reference Design for a Simple, Durable and Refuelable Interplanetary Spacecraft
B. S. McConnell; A. M. Tolley (2010), JBIS, 63, 108-119Refcode
: Electrothermal, arcjet, microwave, inflatable structures, electric propulsion, water, steam, hydrogen peroxideAbstract:
This article describes a reference design for interplanetary vessels, composed mostly of water, that utilize simplified RF engines for low thrust, long duration propulsion, and hydrogen peroxide for short duration, high thrust burns. The electrothermal engines are designed to heat a wide range of liquid materials, possibly also milled solids or surface dusts. The system emphasizes simple components and processes based on older technologies, many well known since the 1960s, that are understandable, can process a variety of materials, and are easily serviced in flight. The goal is to radically simplify systems and their inter-dependencies, to a point where a reasonably skilled person can learn to operate these vessels, not unlike a sailboat, and to eliminate many design and testing bottlenecks in their construction. The use of water, or hydrogen peroxide generated in situ from that water, is multiply advantageous because it can be used for structure, consumption, irrigation, radiation and debris shielding, and thermal regulation, and thus greatly reduce dead weight by creating an almost fully consumable ship. This also enables the ship to utilize a wide range of in situ materials, and eventually obtain reaction mass from lower gravity sites. The ability to switch between low thrust, constant power and high thrust, short duration maneuvers will enable these ships to travel freely and reach many interesting destinations throughout the solar system. One can think of them as “spacecoaches”, not unlike the prairie schooners of the Old West, which were rugged, serviceable by tradesmen, and easily maintained.
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