Published on: 20 Feb '15Published in: arXiv - Astrophysics - Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics
The novel propellantless electric solar wind sail concept promises efficient low thrust transportation in the Solar System outside Earth's magnetosphere. Combined with asteroid mining to provide water and synthetic cryogenic rocket fuel in orbits of Earth and Mars, possibilities for affordable continuous manned presence on Mars open up. Orbital fuel and water enable reusable bidirectional Earth-Mars vehicles for continuous manned presence on Mars and allow smaller fuel fraction of spacecraft than what is achievable by traditional means. Water can also be used as radiation shielding of the manned compartment, thus reducing the launch mass further. In addition, the presence of fuel in the orbit of Mars provides the option for an all-propulsive landing, thus potentially eliminating issues of heavy heat shields and augmenting the capability of pinpoint landing. With this E-sail enabled scheme, the recurrent cost of continuous bidirectional traffic between Earth and Mars might ultimately approach the recurrent cost of running the International Space Station, ISS.