ollection and
imed at

About the challenge

One of the primary challenges for sustained human presence on the surface of Mars is finding life sustaining elements such as water.

Several Mars rovers have discovered and analyzed Mars subsurface ice deposits using on board sensors.

To increase our understanding of the chemical makeup of these ice deposits and further humanity’s goal of being a multi planet species, AIAA American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics has launched a competition to design a cost effective sample return mission to retrieve Mars ice core sample s and ‘I Gelatai’ answered the call with a project with an original design: Ice CREAM Ice Collection and Retrieval Expedition Aimed at Mars mission.

Mission Overview

Launch and Earth to Mars interplanetary cruise
The cruise stage, composed of the orbiter, the rover and the re-entry vehicles, will be launched on November 2026 using SpaceX's Falcon Heavy launch vehicle. Launching from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, the cruise stage will be inserted in a 10 months long, Type II tr ajectory to reach Mars.
Mars Orbit Insertion
After entering Mars sphere of influence the descent stage detaches from the orbiter in order for the latter to raise its altitude and to avoid entering the Martian atmosphere.

The Mars Orbit Insertion consist s of multiple circularization burns to achieve the target orbit. The orbiter, se rves as a relay satellite for the entirety of the Mars surface operations; therefore, its orbit has been chosen to maximize the number of contacts between the ground and the flight assets.

Earth, Descent and Landing:
At 125 km above the surface of Mars the descent stage begins the EDL one of the most intense phases of the Ice CREAM mission. After the "7 minutes of terror", the rover will be safely brought on the target landing site.
Mars Surface Operations:
The rover approximately spends a year on the Martian surface during which the sampling of the ice cores will be undertaken. A robotic arm and a driller are used to reach the ice under the surface. To maintain the ice solid, the samples are stored inside an insulated capsule obtained in the nosecone of the Mars Ascent Vehicle
MAV Launch and Rendezvous Phase:
Around a month before the return trip to Earth, the MAV brings the Orbiting Samples capsule into orbit. The MAV launch date was chosen specifically to reduce the amount of maneuvers ( therefore, propellant consumption) that the orbiter must perform to capture the OS.
Mars to Earth interplanetary cruise:
After securing the OS inside the Earth Re-Entry Capsule the orbiter jettisons the parts, i.e. the capture mechani sm, the TriDAR sensor and their supporting structures to reduce the orbiter's mass before the interplanetary journey back to Earth.
REC separation from MCO:
The Ice CREAM mission falls under the fifth category of COSPARCOSPAR’s Planetary Protection Policy. Such category restricts the destructive re-entry of the orbiter in the Earth's atmosphere to avoid accidentally bringing eventual extra terrestrial contaminants back to our planet. To do so, the REC detach es from the orbiter and latter performs a trajectory correction maneuver to put itself into a fly by trajectory.
Earth re entry and sample recovery:
After the landing, a prepared team safely recovers the samples, with precautions to avoid contamination performing a mid air retrieval.
Previous slide
Next slide



The flight asset

It is a planetary orbiter which employs a chemical propulsion system.

It has the goal to bring the rover to Mars, to provide communications relay service to the ground asset, and to capture the ice core samples bringing them safely back to Earth.


The ground asset

It features a mobile MAV rover architecture and will use a descent stage architecture like the ones used in the Mars Science Laboratory.

Ice CREAMCREAM’s rover will spend almost a year on the planet’s surface, analyzing and picking samples to bring them back to Earth by loading the Mars Ascent Vehicle. MAV is a single-stage fiber composite liquid bipropellant rocket.

Render rendezvous

Orbiting Sample container

The collected samples will be stored inside the Orbiting Sample container (OS) on board the MAV. After the year long stay on the sur face, the MAV will launch and bring the OS to the rendezvous orbit.

After the landing, a prepared team safely recovers the samples, with precautions to avoid contamination performing a mid air retrieval.


Team Manager

Thermal Control Subsystem​
Mission Analysis
Attitude Determination& Control Navigation​
Electric Power Subsystem​
Configuration, Mechanisms​ & Robotics
Telemetry Tracking& Control-Ground segment-Operations​ & OBDH

Propulsion Subsystem

Cost-Risks-Programmatics-AIV and T

Structural subsystem​