With the wide variety of NASA objectives for sample return, one clear common thread is that high-performance, reliable propulsion systems for small vehicles will be essential to keeping the missions affordable. Parabilis' proposed bi-axial hybrid propulsion technology addresses this common need and enables mission designers to realize a panoply of new high-value science missions that use low-cost small vehicles. In addition to the sample return missions, a propulsion solution to these challenging problems would also be useful across a range of other demanding propulsion applications where high-performance and compact size are critical. These additional uses include entry, descent, and landing operations, launch vehicle upper stages, kick stages, and spacecraft main engines. Every NASA exploration mission utilizes these components to greater or lesser degree, therefore, advancing the state of the art in sample return propulsion is bound to have payoffs throughout the exploration enterprise.
Numerous sample return missions from various bodies are either currently underway or in development, with the trend expected to grow as exploration continues. Hayabusa 2 is an asteroid sample return mission operated by the Japanese space agency and is currently en route to a 2018 rendezvous with asteroid Ryugu. ESA is contemplating its own version of a Mars Sample Return mission in the next decade, possibly including samples from Deimos or Phobos. Russia has similar plans, based on heritage from its prior Deimos attempt using the Grunt spacecraft. China has also announced plans to return a sample from Mars by 2030. China is currently constructing the Chang'e 5 mission to return lunar samples. ESA had also contemplated the MarcoPolo-R asteroid sample return mission in 2014 but ultimately downselected a competing mission, however, the mission's high ranking at the time might lead to a future funding opportunity with the agency. The strong international interest in sample return missions comprises a potential first market equal in size to the NASA market.