A second rover has arrived in Duna today. This rover is much larger than the previous rover. It also features more tools for resource detection and features a more robust landing system.
RUD has also included a sample return mission on board the landing apparatus. The lander will mine kethane from a deposit and pump it into a small launch probe that will return the samples to Kerbin for analysis. This will be the first sample return attempt from another planet.
The rover, which is about twice the size of a standard sedan, is packed inside a landing housing that will slow its descent with parachutes. The landing housing encases the second Duna rover. Once on the ground, the rover will detach itself from the housing and drive out of the structure. The housing itself has two drills that will extract kethane samples and launch once the rover is clear of the housing to ensure the rover is not damaged by the launch.
This is a more robust rover design that features a lower center of gravity, stronger wheels and much greater overall structural strength. It is also powered by a small Radioactive Thermometric Generator so it does not rely on solar power like the previous rover did. It can operate at night. — Bill Kerman, RUD Astronaut and scientist
The return probe is a small ion powered probe and it will mark the first time that RUD uses their newly upgraded ion propulsion systems outside of our own planetary system. It will use parachutes to return safely through the atmosphere of Kerbin to return the samples to eagerly awaiting RUD scientists.
The landing housing doubles as a launch platform for the sample return probe, as you can see in the picture of the entire launch vehicle attached to this article. The probe launch vehicle is a three stage propulsion system, first starting with a solid rocket motor, then a liquid rocket motor and then the new ion propulsion system. This entire propulsion system is required to bring the sample probe back to kerbin.
The launch vehicle was the most complex ever. It featured everything from solid rocket motors, liquid rocket motors and atomic rocket motors. Together, the initial stage produced 21,000 kN of thrust sending the vehicle to an altitude of 5,000 kilometers above the surface of Kerbin. All but the atomic rocket motors would fall back to Kerbin to burn up in the atmosphere.
The sample return mission may overshadow the importance of the rover but that is understandable. Scientists have found many different qualities in kethane found on Kerbin and the world is eager to see the qualities of kethane found elsewhere in the solar system.