Design and Resource Requirements for Successful Wind Energy Production on Mars
NASA Johnson Space Center
Manned Mars missions (and some unmanned precursor missions) are expected to be long duration expeditions which rely on the utilization of in-situ resources to the maximum extent possible. Traditionally, nuclear energy has been suggested as the power supply of choice for such missions. However, in the event that nuclear power is unavailable, solar energy is the only alternative power source that has received significant study to date. Unfortunately, the periodic and long duration dust storms on Mars drive the need for extensive solar arrays to meet the mission energy requirements. Wind energy represents a tertiary power production option that may enhance the economy, reliability, and duration of a Mars mission.
In this study, analysis tools for the design of terrestrial horizontal and vertical axis wind turbine systems were modified for application to the Martian environment. This has allowed the development conceptual designs that have been assessed in terms of mass, volume, power production, and interaction with solar based power production. These designs are then used as the basis for feasibility studies of a combined solar/wind production concept. Based on current estimates of solar energy production efficiency during dust storm conditions, the design constraints on a complimentary wind energy system are determined. Using system mass per kW-hour as a figure of merit, the feasibility of Martian wind energy generation is analyzed to determine the requirements on both system mass and required wind duty cycle. This information motivates the development of novel construction/design concepts that will further enhance the feasibility of in-situ Martian power-production systems. The immediate outcome of this work is to provide mission planners with sufficient information to consider the inclusion of wind energy in Mars mission planning and to target precursor mission objectives.