Eagle Martian lander
Poland can into space!
Project Eagle is a design of a student heavy Martian lander. We took an immense effort last year and we have an opportunity to show our solution for one of the biggest challenges that stands on a way to colonize Mars. Thanks to commitment to continuous improvement of our technologies and will to broaden the scope of our activities, we have found a contest „Red Eagle – International Student Engineering Contest to Design Mars Lander” held by Mars Society in cooperation with NASA. Learn from an experience gained from our previous projects we decided to accept the challenge and resolve a problem that blocks a possibility of both exploring and colonizing not only Mars but all other planets nearby as well.
Houston, we've had a (ten tonnes) problem!
The biggest challenge connected with Mars exploration is finding a way to deliver there all of the essential equipment. As of now, the heaviest cargo that was delivered to Mars at once is Curiosity rover with a mass of less than one tonne. Lack of the way makes conquering Mars almost impossible but it could be solved by a lander capable of safely landing on its surface with 10 tonnes of cargo. This is exactly a task that was set by Mars Society and NASA. At the end of August 2017 the contest details were announced: design a lander capable of delivering safely 10 tonnes cargo to the surface of Red Planet, using the technology available by 2026.
We have only had several months to solve the problem.
From zero to… space engineers!
Since none of us has had an experience with implementation of professional space industry projects we had to put a big effort in every single detail. We started with gathering a new, interdisciplinary team. Besides having subteams of Mechanical and Electronic engineers, we have created these consisting of Materials scientists, Biologists and Physicians. We have had to learn browsing through science papers to find information on particular solutions and undertaking such ventures. This is why we fostered a scientific dialogue with specialists working in ESA, CERN or Mars Society Poland.
We have accomplished our ultimate goal – our lander design was chosen as one of top 5 projects worldwide and we were invited to the finals, to present our ideas to NASA and Mars Society specialists. We are about to defend them and compete for a victory in August.
About the design itself
Our lander has been designed in a way allowing us to use the cargo space of an orbital-class launch that is being designed and built by NASA – Space Launch System. As a superstructure, we have chosen a stressed skin structure that allows to achieve optimal strength to mass ratio. Cargo bay was placed in a bottom part of the lander is also a cargo elevator what makes an unloading process easier. The space taken up by cargo bay is designed in a way that allows elevator module to be swapped by a life-support system module.
The hardest part of the project was to work out a way of the spaceship deceleration (deceleration) during entering Martian atmosphere. This problem is such a big challenge due to characteristic of the atmosphere that completely excludes typical methods, like using parachutes. Slowing down relying solely on rocket engines is neither the way (as during Lunar descent) because of a need for enormous fuel consumption of these and expensiveness of its transportation through the interplanetary space. Therefore, we decided to use the way using several technologies combined, that is: aerodynamic deceleration using HIAD module (Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator) and relying on rocket engines only during the last part of landing.
HIAD enlarges the effective aerodynamic breaking area thanks to inflating over a dozen of torus-shaped empty containers with increasing diameter, forming up a cone. Implementing the technology allows the lander to decrease velocity to a sufficient value, that finally make use of engines at the final part. The module is detached after usage, lowering the overall mass of the spaceship before the landing using rocket propulsion.
Our innovative approach did not even leave Electronics intact. We decided to use 3D printed boards making circuits much lighter while still staying strong. Printed electronic boards can be thick yet flexible. At the current level of development it is possible to print vast majority of sensors used in space industry, e. g. temperature’s, humidity, pressure’s, wind velocity’s, UV radiation’s and many more.
What is worth noting, on the exact day the final report was sent, NASA published a movie showing its Martian lander concept for the first time. We are proudly safe to say that our ingenuity is comparable to the biggest geniuses in the industry, because our approach relies on similar design.