In-situ cryogenic propellant production could enable a more robust exploration program by significantly reducing the propellant mass delivered to low earth orbit, thus warranting the evaluation of cryogenic rocket engines versus the hypergolic bi-propellant engines used in the Apollo program. A multi-use engine. one which can provide the functionality that separate engines provided in the Apollo mission architecture, is desirable for lunar and Mars exploration missions because it increases overall architecture effectiveness through commonality and modularity.
The engine requirement derivation process must address each unique mission application and each unique phase within each mission. The resulting requirements, such as thrust level, performance, packaging, bum duration, number of operations; required impulses for each trajectory phase; operation after extended space or surface exposure; availability for inspection and maintenance; throttle range for planetary descent, ascent, acceleration limits and many more must be addressed.
Within engine system studies, the system and component technology, capability, and risks must be evaluated and a balance between the appropriate amount of technology-push and technology-pull must be addressed. This paper will summarize many of the key technology challenges associated with using high-performance cryogenic liquid propellant rocket engine systems and components in the exploration program architectures.