BART & MARGE is a fully integrated, fully mobile architecture with no fixed centralized infrastructure to reliably produce large quantities of methalox bipropellant from thick ice sheets at the mid-northern latitudes of Mars. Recognized with the First Place Overall and Best in Theme awards at the RASC-AL 2022 Challenge, this 45-min video presents details of the architecture.
Aiming at producing 50t/yr of propellant on the surface of Mars from subsurface ice with minimal human intervention, the desired system-level attributes of our architecture were high reliability and operational flexibility. Based on per-ton risk proxy metrics such as travel distance, material transfer connections / disconnections and boreholes drilled, we ruled out distributed architectures of fixed infrastructure served by resource acquisition rovers and explored the design space for a fully integrated, fully mobile approach.
BART is an end-to-end “ice to propellant” system and includes a RedWater drill, CO2 freezer, water electrolysis and Sabatier reaction chambers, cryocoolers and storage tanks. It is powered by MARGE, our mobile power truck design based on NASA’s upcoming 40kWe Kilopower reactor. Our proposed campaign includes a precursor ice scouting and de-risking mission, and a main mission with 4 tandems of BART & MARGE. Each BART has a storage capacity of 25t and a production rate higher than 25t/yr to compensate for downtimes, making the campaign is double-fault tolerant with margin to spare.
Other risk-reduction features include: material flow connections tested and sealed on Earth, ready to produce on Mars with just a power cable connection and a technology demo of BART & MARGE during the precursor. Our integrated approach enables synergies such as reusing waste heat to save energy, fully utilizing available energy sources, and gives rise to new capabilities such as delivering propellant to any Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) location while also enabling simple scaling of production in future.
The key innovative, enabling technologies (Kilopower and Honeybee’s RedWater drill) are low TRL but deemed low risk due to the expertise of their manufacturers. The campaign can be executed with 3 flights of 45tons each.
MIT’s BART & MARGE is innovative, resilient, feasible and scalable and can met its methalox production goal of 50t/yr before 2040. For more details, please see the technical paper, poster and final presentation video.