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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Magnesium Based Rockets for Martian Exploration

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Magnesium Based Rockets for Martian Exploration
In the proposed Phase II program, we will continue the development of Mg bipropellant rockets for Martian PAV applications. In Phase I, we proved the feasibility of this game-changing technology. Through chemical analysis, we determined that Mg can be combusted with CO2 condensed in-situ from the Martian atmosphere to yield Isp ~240 s. We then successfully demonstrated a low fidelity Mg-CO2 rocket in the laboratory, achieving combustion for 43s before voluntary termination. We also analyzed the use of H2O and H2O2 as oxidizers, and Al as a propellant. H2O exists at the Martian poles and below the surface, while both Mg and Al can be acquired in-situ from the Martian regolith. We determined that the ideal vacuum Isp of a 10 bar Mg-H20 rocket would be as high as ~340 s, while the Isp of a Al-steam rocket would be ~380 s, and hydrogen peroxide could yield higher density Isp and operational benefits. In Phase II we plan to develop and test an integrated high performance laboratory model system. We will first fully characterize multiple propellant oxidizer combinations in a linear combustor. Then we will design, build, and test an integrated system including both a rocket and a propellant management system. Comprehensive test results would feed back into the design, culminating in an advanced system sized for prospective near-term applications. More »

Anticipated Benefits

Primary U.S. Work Locations and Key Partners

Technology Transitions

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