The NASA-credited images below are from the BBC News article Europe pushes ahead with 'dune buggy' Mars rover which explains that it will drive around quickly on it's big 70 cm wheels (see article for more details) and:

The new rover is dubbed "Fetch" because its mission will be to find and retrieve the rock samples that have been collected and cached on the surface by the American Perseverance rover, which is heading to Mars next month.

The image depicts a rocket launching from a lander carrying the retrieved samples to orbit, where they will be transferred to another spacecraft that will bring them back to Earth where they hopefully won't start another pandemic.

The article goes on to explain that several large European space contractors will be involved, including Airbus.

Question: Who will build this particular rocket to be launched from the surface of Mars? What kind of rocket is this likely to be? What kind of propellant(s), how many stages, etc.


The Fetch rover will bring the tubes it's collected back to its landing station The tubes will be put in a rocket and fired high above Mars

left: The Fetch rover will bring the tubes it's collected back to its landing station right: The tubes will be put in a rocket and fired high above Mars

  • $\begingroup$ I think the image is exaggerated. Such tiny rocket probably isn't able to reach Martian orbit. It would need to be at least as big and strong as the German V2 to reach orbit, I'd mean. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 5:08
  • $\begingroup$ It needs to be made clear why you say it might start "another pandemic". You obviously assume there might be life on Mars. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 6:33
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    $\begingroup$ @LoveForChrist it's an aside and meant as dry humor, it's not a premise of the question $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 12:05
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    $\begingroup$ A V2 had roughly the delta-v to reach Mars orbit @LoveForChrist, but had a one tonne payload. ESA aren't expecting to return that much earth to Earth, and could probably use something a little lighter than steel. $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 13:22

1 Answer 1


Partial answer:

From this ESA-provided diagram (source), and corroborated by everything I've run across:

enter image description here

It's certain that NASA will be building both the lander & ascent vehicle. But we already knew that--who exactly will be building it? Most of the papers I've read regarding the MAV design specifically are authored out of Huntsville, so it seems likely that Marshall Spaceflight Center (MSFC) will be spearheading construction as well as design.

But here's a bit more specific evidence: This presolicitation notice makes it clear that a) NASA wants MSFC to at least be building the engines, and b) MSFC wants Northrup Grumman to manufacture the grains.

Also note: this is from about a month ago, and those study papers linked above were from last year. The notice makes it sound pretty set in stone that they're moving ahead with a 2-stage solid motor design, like the one I know you've seen before (you've linked this image in one of your previous questions!) that SpaceflightNow has in their article (I haven't been able to track down the exact source, but there are similar diagrams in the study articles).

enter image description here

So to conclude, it seems that hybrid motors are out, and a 2-stage solid design, built by Northrup Grumman & assembled at Marshall, is the plan for the Mars Ascent Vehicle.

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    $\begingroup$ MSFV? Where'd you see that??? cough $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 17:37

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