|Purpose||Mars Descent||Mars Ascent|
|Engines||9 Asterex||9 Asterex|
"A long time ago, people who sacrificed their sleep, family, food, laughter and other pleasures of life were called Saints. Now, they are called engineers."
This makers' meme pretty much sums up our existence lately.
Our world celebrates summer. There are barbecues, fireworks, hanging with family and friends, vacation trips, swimming in lakes. Meanwhile, we've been in a dark forest, wrestling math, code and design challenges the size of Olympus Mons. No joy, no rest.
But three days ago, we finally arrived at our "real" MAV engine design. The one that will take our butts of Mars surface back to the Mothership. The one that ultimately our lives will depend on.
6 months of intense work, one last push of a button. Time to face the world.
Or rather, a vetting process including senior engineers from the traditional Space industry, as well as young talent from the fairly new world of additive manufacturing.
Learning from our polar expeditions, we knew that you can plan and calculate to the world's end; ultimately you'll have to run your setup with experienced folks and be prepared to face criticism if you really want to succeed.
You know; check with the Eskimos.
We started with the Space engineers. On a scorching Saturday, out in the legendary Mojave desert, we showed them our design with trembling hands.
What they said:
Seriously. They did say that. Twice.
1. Regen cooling: Fix manifold, uneven flow, recalculate!
2. Thicken around joints.
3. Seals/O-rings - remember the SpaceX rocket that blew? - check they all come in materials compatible with our propellant.
Print maybe transparent first to check mechanics. Start crude, add complexity (print pintle in several version - one fixed/one movable - test, test), add body only when pintle proves to work.
Shuffling our feet into the desert, we went flying out of Mojave.
To the printers
Amundsen, Cook, Columbus and other successful explorers watched for and made use of new tech available at their time and so do we.
Rapid prototyping (CAD/CAM, additive manufacturing/3D print) brings possibilities to Space that weren't there only years ago.
Problem is now you must design not only for Space requirements but also for tool and material restrictions. Will the materials available for print hold up in required vacuum/heat/pressure? What is the print tolerance (how smooth will the surface get and how will it affect fluid and heat exchange)? How do you avoid support structures (design with angle restrictions) and keep costs down (printing within the standard printer box sizes)?
The printing specialists came back with a hefty price tag, but only a few small changes, all related to printer capacity.
Someone said that Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations, or algorithms: it is about understanding.
To understand the challenges of Space, we had to build the first engine ourselves. Now, so close to summit, we feel the fever. Will we survive, or will we burn. We're talking at least ten thousand USD blowing up in a puff of smoke if we don't get it right.
The final adjustments actually mean starting from scratch (version 7) but should be done in a week. Simultaneously we'll finish the plumbing architecture and decide on tanks. Give a few weeks for that.
A final piece of good news by the way: We have got a source for furfuryl. So won’t have to cook mountains of corncobs. Phew.
|Body T C||37.1||37.0|