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#1 2003-12-20 17:02:57

Palomar
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From: USA
Registered: 2002-05-30
Posts: 9,734

Re: Airplanes on Mars

Read Me

*I just now happened across this article while checking out the day's offering at Astropix.  From NASA.

I don't recall this having been posted before; sorry if it's a repeat...

--Cindy

P.S.:  I know it's an -unmanned- plan, but I've placed it in this folder anyway.


We all know those Venusians: Doing their hair in shock waves, smoking electrical coronas, wearing Van Allen belts and resting their tiny elbows on a Geiger counter...

--John Sladek (The New Apocrypha)

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#2 2003-12-20 18:30:37

Shaun Barrett
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From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Airplanes on Mars

A marvellous idea! The sooner they do it, the better.
                                         smile


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#3 2003-12-21 02:00:10

Rxke
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From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,657

Re: Airplanes on Mars

Wasn't that one of the proposed (er...) relatively cheap parrallel missions NASA plans to do, while concentrating on their 'bigger' mars stuff?



(EDIT: Um... Mars Scout, was the word i was looking for. They proposed a plane too for these missions, but it didn't get chosen... )


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#4 2003-12-21 19:00:54

Mad Grad Student
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From: Phoenix, Arizona, North Americ
Registered: 2003-11-09
Posts: 498
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Re: Airplanes on Mars

One serious limitation of this proposed mission is that it's too short. The plane exits the capsule and maybe gets an hour of flight time at absolute best, then its mission is complete. $100 million for a mission that I can fly here on Earth for a $100 glider rental. The inherant problem with all robotic probe missions is that the price is almost entirely destination charge and teaching a robot to fend for itself, only a tiny fraction is the actual cost of the probe.

Another idea would perhaps be to launch a solar-powered plane that could stay aloft for at least three months at altitudes of up to 20,000 feet. Similar flights have been made on Earth, and perhaps they could soon be applied to Mars. This would combine the best of both worlds, the endurance of a balloon and the manuverability of an airplane. Also, you could land a probe and then launch a helicopter that could land at the pad when needed. This would be able to search much farther than a rover, but have the lifetime of one.

If any of you want to know what it'd be like to fly on Mars, you should download the demo of  X-Plane, and perhaps by the full version. To the best of my knowledge, it's the only flight sim out there that allows you to fly on Mars, and even lets you create your own planes to fly on either planet! I've found that it's far harder to fly there than it would seem, play the demo and you'll see why.

EDIT: Good grief, that last paragraph had WAY too much repition, the edit is much better.


A mind is like a parachute- it works best when open.

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#5 2003-12-22 07:24:58

Rxke
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From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,657

Re: Airplanes on Mars

The X-plane simulator is cool, they keep upgrading it, hours of fun to be had (you can build your own stuff also)

Frankly, I don't like the whole 'plane-on-Mars' idea, for the same reason as Mad Grad Student: a mission that lasts one hour? Crazy...
It SOUNDS cool but it's idiocy, sorry for the bright minds working on it, but i guess there's a good reason that at least one of them started looking into alternatives, as Shaun's submitted link shows... in another thread... (In: Acheron Labs/Unmanned probes/another reason to send people  Sciencenews


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#6 2003-12-22 08:34:44

Palomar
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From: USA
Registered: 2002-05-30
Posts: 9,734

Re: Airplanes on Mars

Frankly, I don't like the whole 'plane-on-Mars' idea, for the same reason as Mad Grad Student: a mission that lasts one hour? Crazy...
It SOUNDS cool but it's idiocy, sorry for the bright minds working on it, but i guess there's a good reason that at least one of them started looking into alternatives,

*Um, yeah...but can't they create an airplane that is reusable?  Sure, it'd be nuts to spend that much money on a totally dispensible, 1-time-only flight...but perhaps the plan is for repeated use?  If so, the subsequent costs (repeat performances) would be minimal and getting it there initially would be the biggest cost...I presume (?)

It's such a short article...

--Cindy


We all know those Venusians: Doing their hair in shock waves, smoking electrical coronas, wearing Van Allen belts and resting their tiny elbows on a Geiger counter...

--John Sladek (The New Apocrypha)

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#7 2003-12-22 08:49:47

Rxke
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From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,657

Re: Airplanes on Mars

The problem with planes on Mars... is that there are no runways...

*every* single picture you see, be it Viking, Sojourner, and let's hope: Beagle 2 and the two Rovers... shows thre's millions of small rocks, strewn around the surface. Don't see how a plane could land there...

What we could do is launch a 'bulldozer-rover' that makes a landing and take-off strip... But i don't see that happen in the near future. Verical take-off and landing is a solution: balloons, helicopters, the 'insectbots' ...

Planes would just be doing suicide-missions, now.


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#8 2003-12-22 11:54:24

Palomar
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From: USA
Registered: 2002-05-30
Posts: 9,734

Re: Airplanes on Mars

*That's true, Rik...no runways.  But I'm presuming, based on that little article, that these planned airplanes are small.  And yes, the Marsian landscape is strewn with rocks and boulders.  The plan in the article is to have an airplane drop from an entry vehicle -- which implies a once-only airplane mission.  That'd be too costly, I agree.

But if the airplane is small (say the size of a remote-controlled model some folks like to fly and goof around with on a lazy Sunday afternoon in a park -- hobbyists), it wouldn't require much of a runway, I wouldn't think.  Hobbyist model airplanes take off very abruptly; almost instantaneously off the ground.  I've had something very akin to that in my mind, as regards the article.

But then I don't know how heavy (weight-wise) sensitive instrumentation within the little airplane would be, if a hobby/model-style airplane could handle that sort of thing...

--Cindy


We all know those Venusians: Doing their hair in shock waves, smoking electrical coronas, wearing Van Allen belts and resting their tiny elbows on a Geiger counter...

--John Sladek (The New Apocrypha)

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#9 2003-12-22 13:27:45

Palomar
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From: USA
Registered: 2002-05-30
Posts: 9,734

Re: Airplanes on Mars

The Flight of Helios

*How about something like this?  It's a very brief article.  Is that a row of little propellers on the one side of it?  Also solar powered.  I'm getting out of my league here, I suppose, but just wondering...

It mentions a connection to Mars planning.

(I understand the desire for vertical lift-off on Mars...not sure if this is what we're looking for in this discussion)

--Cindy


We all know those Venusians: Doing their hair in shock waves, smoking electrical coronas, wearing Van Allen belts and resting their tiny elbows on a Geiger counter...

--John Sladek (The New Apocrypha)

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#10 2003-12-22 16:45:55

Mad Grad Student
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From: Phoenix, Arizona, North Americ
Registered: 2003-11-09
Posts: 498
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Re: Airplanes on Mars

Ah, Helios, that was what I was thinking about earlier! A plane like that could stay aloft for months, and when you combine it with the technology of inflatable wings it would be light enough to pack into a Mars probe. A plane like that could explore a huge area of Mars, dipping down to altitiudes of as low as 30 feet. Nice idea, I hope they send a probe like that soon.


A mind is like a parachute- it works best when open.

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#11 2003-12-29 18:03:03

sethmckiness
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From: Iowa
Registered: 2002-09-20
Posts: 230

Re: Airplanes on Mars

I think this would be a thing to use on a Manned mission.  Especially something like a UAV or mini UAV.  Something reminiesent of Global Hawk or Predator, or even the small thing the Army uses might work well.  With a lower version of ASARS (Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar System) imaging, but even an electro-optical system might work well.  It may be possible to use ASARS in a sandstorm, but not sure..  I digress


We are only limited by our Will and our Imagination.

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#12 2004-01-02 19:13:23

Shaun Barrett
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From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Airplanes on Mars

I don't necessarily see a major problem with the disposable one-hour-flight type of vehicle.
    Am I remembering correctly that the Huygens probe, several years in transit out to Titan, will send back pictures for maybe an hour and a half?

    O.K., it would be much better to have reusable vertical take-off and landing craft, but a simpler fixed-wing, no undercarriage, fast flying machine could cover a lot of ground in an hour. Imagine flying one along the eastern one-third of Mariner Valley, taking high definition video of the canyon floor and walls for 60+ minutes.
    Such an aircraft needn't be very heavy; perhaps three or four of them could be released from the one Mars probe at different locations around Mars. We could end up with over 4 hours of exquisitely detailed digital video images of some of the most enigmatic regions on the planet; far more information than most of the landers to date have returned.
    How about incorporating some means of stalling the planes at the end of their flights and 'gently crash-landing' them onto the most interesting area available in that vicinity? A few lightweight and durable instruments might be able to analyse the regolith and take some meteorological readings before their batteries died.

    Just a few thoughts.        smile


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#13 2004-01-02 20:57:07

Palomar
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From: USA
Registered: 2002-05-30
Posts: 9,734

Re: Airplanes on Mars

I don't necessarily see a major problem with the disposable one-hour-flight type of vehicle.
    Am I remembering correctly that the Huygens probe, several years in transit out to Titan, will send back pictures for maybe an hour and a half?

    O.K., it would be much better to have reusable vertical take-off and landing craft, but a simpler fixed-wing, no undercarriage, fast flying machine could cover a lot of ground in an hour. Imagine flying one along the eastern one-third of Mariner Valley, taking high definition video of the canyon floor and walls for 60+ minutes.
    Such an aircraft needn't be very heavy; perhaps three or four of them could be released from the one Mars probe at different locations around Mars. We could end up with over 4 hours of exquisitely detailed digital video images of some of the most enigmatic regions on the planet; far more information than most of the landers to date have returned.
    How about incorporating some means of stalling the planes at the end of their flights and 'gently crash-landing' them onto the most interesting area available in that vicinity? A few lightweight and durable instruments might be able to analyse the regolith and take some meteorological readings before their batteries died.

    Just a few thoughts.        smile

*Shaun's post is ingenious.  smile  In my mind's eye I can easily see tiny instruments busily at work on the regolith immediately after the trigger which is the gentle "crash landing"...

"Just a few thoughts" indeed!

--Cindy


We all know those Venusians: Doing their hair in shock waves, smoking electrical coronas, wearing Van Allen belts and resting their tiny elbows on a Geiger counter...

--John Sladek (The New Apocrypha)

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#14 2004-01-02 23:48:17

Mad Grad Student
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From: Phoenix, Arizona, North Americ
Registered: 2003-11-09
Posts: 498
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Re: Airplanes on Mars

I think this would be a thing to use on a Manned mission.  Especially something like a UAV or mini UAV.  Something reminiesent of Global Hawk or Predator, or even the small thing the Army uses might work well.

Sure, a UAV would be great, but wouldn't it also be cool to bring an airplane people can actually fly in? cool  I thought of a way to make it work, too, that doesn't tax the (Over IMHO-)lauded Mars Direct plan too much. In the plan you're already sending some robotic construction equipment, right? So, just send some stuff equipped with gear to make concrete out of the regolith and then pave a 5,000-foot long runway. Granted, that also necessitates clearing away a lot of rocks, but some good robotics and equipment could fit the bill. With the runway you can save fuel (Not to mention reliability) by landing the Earth-Mars vehicle at the base like an airplane and also send a plane or helicopter with it to fly around in.

A helicopter would greatly increase a team's mobility around the landing area and give you more opportunities to look at interesting rocks. An airplane would allow you to create much more detailed maps of the local geology and get up closer to the surface than an orbiter can. Overall, aircraft look like a very nice way to get around on Mars (Or Titan for that matter), no one should leave Earth without them!  big_smile


A mind is like a parachute- it works best when open.

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#15 2004-01-03 14:01:01

GCNRevenger
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From: Earth
Registered: 2003-10-14
Posts: 6,056

Re: Airplanes on Mars

A neat idea, but i'm going to have to weigh in against, I don't see the idea as having enough merit. Short-term (<1 martian day) scouting with an airplane that is too light to hold much useful equipment and too light to carry a good communications system to transmit it isn't worth it. You have to be able to transmit the pictures you take, which will prove hard to do with such a limited lifetime/weight constraint.

Any robot bulldozer equipment on Mars will have to pretty small and light, hence not able to do a great deal of digging. Using them early on to make a huge airstrip is not going to happen, either the airplanes must be dropped from the lander, launched by rocket/catapult, or verticle lift. Unless your vehicle can land verticly, this percludes reuseability.

I am also largely skeptical about the advantage and airplane has over simply sending another recon satelite with a spy-sat grade telescope/camera and a large fuel tank, which will last for years and capture multiple locations of interest, and could help serve as another Mars communications satelite for the gigabytes of data that will eventually need to be sent to the Mars base or Earth.

The aircraft I would like to see used on Mars is the good old' balloon. Fill it with hydrogen and make it rather large, perhaps putting some polymer solar pannels on top for power... Given the thin Martian atmosphere, I wonder if a propellar might help. An anchor made with an exotic polymer thread would probably also be a must-have; perhaps the anchor could even be used to haul up surface samples for analysis/collection?


"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those that do not have it." - George Bernard Shaw

The glass is at 50% of capacity

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#16 2004-01-03 14:04:39

GCNRevenger
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From: Earth
Registered: 2003-10-14
Posts: 6,056

Re: Airplanes on Mars

Oh yes, and a solar powerd airplane would have to either fly constantly west faster than Mars rotates, or carry batteries to fly at night. Also remember, that Mars has a much thinner atmosphere per amount of gravity, so I have my doubts if any small airplane can fly effectivly.


"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those that do not have it." - George Bernard Shaw

The glass is at 50% of capacity

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#17 2004-01-04 04:07:20

RobS
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From: South Bend, IN
Registered: 2002-01-15
Posts: 1,695
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Re: Airplanes on Mars

GCNRevenger, take a look at websites about Helios. It flew on Earth at an altitude where the air was as  thin as on Mars, so planes can fly in the Martian atmosphere. It was to have fuel cells added to it to fly at night as well, but ir broke up and crashed a half year or so ago. There is also a financial incentive to perfect the technology because a solar-power aircraft that flies for months at a time without ever coming down and above all weather could serve as a "poor man's satellite," relaying cell phone calls and other data for a much cheaper overhead. Mars may benefit from technology that has a concrete use on Earth.

       -- RobS

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#18 2004-01-04 04:23:16

Rxke
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From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,657

Re: Airplanes on Mars

And this low altiude has another advantage: higher-res pictures with fairly simple (read-lightweight) cameras...

Still, i see planes as still a way off solution, that Mars plane that's been proposed is crazy, if they're not going to be able to land it...
For the same price they could send a whole lot of ballons, i'd think, potentially giving you more science-for-the bucks... (although those meteology balloons aren't cheap either... So i could be completely mistaken)

Now that helicopter, that would be neat! (it's posted here somewhere... in this very thread, i think EDIT, No it's in Another reason to send people", See Shaun's link from post on dec 21, scroll down to helicopter stuff)


Land, do some readings, hop, land, do some readings, hop, land...


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#19 2004-01-04 04:35:34

Rxke
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From: Belgium
Registered: 2003-11-03
Posts: 3,657

Re: Airplanes on Mars

Sigh, posted this link already in this thread, (bout the helicopters)

Sorry people, but it's my birthday AND Spirit landed, my thoughts are kinda hazy big_smile


ExoMars' launcher's 2nd stage is probably en route to Mars. Unsterilised... yikes

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#20 2004-01-04 18:15:53

Mad Grad Student
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From: Phoenix, Arizona, North Americ
Registered: 2003-11-09
Posts: 498
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Re: Airplanes on Mars

Any robot bulldozer equipment on Mars will have to pretty small and light, hence not able to do a great deal of digging. Using them early on to make a huge airstrip is not going to happen, either the airplanes must be dropped from the lander, launched by rocket/catapult, or verticle lift. Unless your vehicle can land verticly, this percludes reuseability.

Or, perhaps it would be possible to land a plane without a runway. Normally this would seem ludicrious, but I've seen some of the images from Spirit and Gusev Crater seems to be as flat as Edwards. Not exactly the best place to attempt a landing at 180 mph, but still better than nothing. The only setup this field would require would be to first land a vehicle with a helicopter and a device like those used in ocean trawlers. The helicopter would trawl all major rocks out of the field using the net, detach, and head back to base. Then two weeks later or so the airplane lands  and the two start carrying out experiments together. From Gusev I think an airplane could reach the Mariner Valley in two or three hours.

However, a system like Helios could stay aloft for months without landing, which could be useful as well. The plane could cruise along the ground giving us images much like those from the Vikings and allow us to inspect potential riverbeds up much closer. The advantage over a rover is that then the plane can cruise on over to another site and scan it, saving a descent amount of money.


A mind is like a parachute- it works best when open.

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#21 2004-01-04 20:19:02

Bill White
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Registered: 2001-09-09
Posts: 2,114

Re: Airplanes on Mars

What about a MarsHarrier? Start with Hawker Harrier blueprints. Aggressively lighten it up with carbon fiber and composites. Maybe just structural members with minimal surface skin.

Add variable geometry wings. Swept back for launch with the ability to pivot forward with substantial wing extenders nested inside the basic wing.

Fuel with methane and LOX? Made on Mars via Sabatier and atmospheric processing? Enough thrust?

Take off:  Use directed thrust. The key to Harrier vertical take off is "four poster" thrust allowing true vertical ascent without airflow over the wings. Attain a few meters altitude (maybe just 1 or 2 meters) then pitch the nose up maybe 30 degrees.

Remember we have variable geometry wings and the wings are swept back with extensions nicely tucked inside. As many extensions as can be engineered. smile

Then light off some magnesium based SRBs - - mine Mars for magnesium and fabricate these SRBs in situ. Attach additional SRBs for future take offs.

Achieve desired altitude.

Sweep wings forward and extend as much of the wing as desired for appropriate lift. This ain't a glider, you have liquid fuel rocket engines for thrust, but, if long lengths of wing span could be retracted and "tucked in" the pilot could deploy very substantial lifting surfaces.

Landing. Chose any open spot, perhaps near science experiments or drill sites, Adjust the wing geometry as needed until handing over to directed thrust vertical descent. British and American Harrier pilots do this every day, 24/7/365.

If you have spare magnesium based SRBs attached to the airframe, the pilot retrieves science data, or whatever, from a remote location, then uses vectored thrust to lft and hover a few meters over the landing site, pitch the nose up and lights off the SRBs.

I am willing to bet some one could design a VTOL Mars aircraft light enough to be folded into an Energia payload fairing and delivered to Mars via direct throw. Cost? The price of one Energia + the cost to design and build the airframe. Fuel is all "made on Mars."

Using GCN propulsion would be better, but hey! we could send a MarsHarrier to Mars with current technology.

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#22 2004-01-04 20:27:11

Bill White
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Registered: 2001-09-09
Posts: 2,114

Re: Airplanes on Mars

Here is a link on burning magnesium in CO2 - here.

http://microgravity.grc.nasa.gov/fcarchi....als.htm

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#23 2004-01-04 20:41:31

Shaun Barrett
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From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Airplanes on Mars

How long can a methane/LOX rocket engine operate on one fuelling?
                             ???


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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#24 2004-01-04 20:55:09

Bill White
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Registered: 2001-09-09
Posts: 2,114

Re: Airplanes on Mars

How long can a methane/LOX rocket engine operate on one fuelling?
                             ???

Don't know - methane/lox kinda popped into my mind. With a sabatier, couldn't you make lots of different rocket fuels?

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#25 2004-01-05 00:44:44

Shaun Barrett
Member
From: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Registered: 2001-12-28
Posts: 2,843

Re: Airplanes on Mars

O.K., let's assume you can make and handle LH2/LOX rocket fuel. I wonder what the fuel consumption might be in a rocket-powered airplane like the one you mention.
    I keep thinking about the German WWII rocket fighter, the Me 163. The duration of the powered phase of a typical flight was only 8 to 12 minutes; the rest of the flight being a fast glide back down to the ground.
    But that was the 1940s of course and we could surely improve on that sort of performance today, I suppose. But could we improve on it enough to make rocket planes viable on Mars?
    That was really the main point of my question.
                                          ???   smile


The word 'aerobics' came about when the gym instructors got together and said: If we're going to charge $10 an hour, we can't call it Jumping Up and Down.   - Rita Rudner

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