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The Japanese SS520-5 nanosat launcher has a payload of 5kg or so to LEO on an all solid fuel rocket with a total mass of about 2.6 tons. To reach LEO its delta-V totalled over all three stages must be about 10 km/s, which is more or less what is needed to get from Mars surface to Earth intercept. Furthermore it's entirely solid fuel, so should survive the journey to Mars (at least from a time perspective).

Which brings me to my question -- if you had one of these (with reasonable adaptations) on the surface of Mars, could you use it to return a few kg of samples and heatshield to Earth, thereby eliminating one step in the current Mars sample return mission plan?

Secondary (but really part of the same question)? Just how hard would it be to get one there? It's about three times the mass of Curiousity or Perseverance, and a rather awkward shape.

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    $\begingroup$ About the rocket - I suppose there are at least two problems. First - to deliver the rocket to Mars. It weights over 2600 kg, and also long and thin - not the best shape for atmospheric reentry. (altough the latter can be redesigned). Second - it should be usable at Martian temperatures. For Mars Sample Return mission a special cover for thermal conditioning is planned AFAIK. $\endgroup$ – Heopps Aug 11 '20 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ Different but related: How do spherical SRB's compare to long skinny ones? What do their thrust curves look like? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 13 '20 at 23:15

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