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Propulsion Module/Entry Vehicle Separation



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Orion and Entry Vehicle separation.

Artwork featured in Issue 34 of 3D Art Direct Magazine Link here

Reaction control jets fire on the Mars Entry Vehicle - increasing the distance between it and the Orion nuclear pulse propulsion interplanetary stage, dropping the Entry Vehicle into a lower orbit. When the distance is increased sufficiently the Orion interplanetary stage will perform one last series of burns, transferring to a high parking orbit for future recovery and use in other applications. The Entry Vehicle completes a partial orbit before arriving at its entry window.

Image is part of a future historical setting, more detail is found on my profile page under the heading Orion’s Arm Future History, A Synopsis. A Timeline Graph is to be found here: Timeline.

The ten thousand ton landing craft is nested inside the Entry Vehicle's aero shell, which protects the lander during aero braking and entry. The landing craft of my fictional endeavor (110 in total) mass ten thousand tons each and are, each, approximately the size of a twenty story building: about 200 feet high (this is the equivalent of tail-landing a Saturn 1b).

The payload is far too massive for parachute descent, the hypersonic entry vehicle will aero brake on entry. Aero braking is followed by a two stage powered descent mode: primary breaking thrust is applied via four externally mounted Gas Core Open-Cycle nuclear thermal rockets firing in unison, generating a combined 600 gigawatts with a resulting braking thrust of 12 million newtons. These are disposed of just as the vehicle goes sub-mach, separation pyrotechnics sever the heat-shield, followed by the aero shell. Now cut free of the webbing which restrained it through its long flight from Earth, seven LH₂/LO₂ chemical rockets roar to life as the landing vehicle transitions to stage-two powered descent mode, descending on a pillar of flame to the landing target.

Note: Open Cycle Gas Core Nuclear Thermal Rockets are notably “dirty” – which means at a later date the entire descent ground track will require decontamination and clean up.

Details of the Orion payload interface are visible in this image: the lander support cradle, internal bracing, red end-caps are hardened micro-meteorite armor protecting impulse charge magazines.

Background image is PIA00407, courtesy NASA/JPL, this is the original full global composite from the Viking EDRs primary data set – cropped. I’ve adjusted level and color, and added atmospheric haze in Photoshop.

Mars Settlement Project Complete Sequence Image Links:

Final Preparations:

Right Before


Orion Nuclear Ground Launch

Terminus of an Arc

Entry, Descent, Landing:

Propulsion Module/Entry Vehicle Separation

Piercing the Veil

Flight Control

A Sound of Thunder

Cue The Pyrotechnics

Riding The Fire

Over Noctis Labyrinthus

Terminal Descent

Post Landing:

Martian Dusk
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cougashika's avatar
The pusher plate gives it away. A precision picture, near photographic.