Mars Ascent Vehicle trajectory optimisation

Investigation of the optimum trajectory for the Mars Ascent Vehicle to bring samples from the Martian surface to its orbit

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The Mars Ascent Vehicle will bring samples back from the surface of Mars to its low orbit in 2031. Its preliminary design has been performed by NASA, defining it as a two-stage solid propellant rocket. However, a research gap exists in finding what the optimum solid rocket motors geometries are to bring the Martian samples to a target orbit between 300km and 375km above Mars.
To this extent, the ascent and propellant burn have been modelled, allowing for variation in the geometry of the motors, but also in the launch and separation angles, and in thrust vectoring control. This model has been incorporated into an optimisation, from which a minimum lift-off mass of 343kg was found, 57kg less than required. In the process, 18 thousand different solutions have been found that satisfy all requirements, would the priority shift from the mass of the vehicle to for instance the burn time, or the final altitude.