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posted by martyb on Monday August 21 2017, @05:53AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the draggin'-dragon? dept.

SpaceX informed NASA of slowdown in its commercial Mars program

Confirming rumors and suspicions that SpaceX is adjusting its plans to begin dispatching robotic landers to Mars, NASA officials said the commercial space company has informed the agency that it has put its Red Dragon program on the back burner.

Under the terms of a Space Act Agreement between NASA and SpaceX, the government agreed to provide navigation and communications services for the Red Dragon mission, which originally aimed to deliver an unpiloted lander to Mars in 2018. SpaceX confirmed earlier this year the launch of the experimental lander on a Falcon Heavy rocket had slipped to 2020. But Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and chief executive, said last month that the company is redesigning its next-generation Dragon capsule, a craft designed to carry astronauts to the International Space Station, to do away with the capability for propulsive, precision helicopter-like landings as originally envisioned. Returning space crews will instead splash down in the ocean under parachutes.

[...] Musk wrote in a tweet that SpaceX has not abandoned supersonic retro-propulsion at Mars. "Plan is to do powered landings on Mars for sure, but with a vastly bigger ship," he tweeted last month after the announcement that SpaceX is omitting the propulsive landing capability on the Crew Dragon.

Musk said his team at SpaceX is refining how the company could send people to Mars, eventually to settle there. He revealed a Mars transportation architecture in a speech at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, last year, but the outline has since changed. A vision for gigantic interplanetary transporters Musk presented last year has been downsized, he said. Musk said he will unveil the changes during a presentation in September at this year's International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia.

Previously: NASA to Take a Supportive Role in SpaceX's Red Dragon Mars Mission
Elon Musk Publishes Mars Colonization Plan
SpaceX Appears to Have Pulled the Plug on its Red Dragon Plans


Original Submission

Related Stories

NASA to Take a Supportive Role in SpaceX's Red Dragon Mars Mission 6 comments

Writing on Popular Science, Sarah Fecht says:

In 2018, SpaceX could become the first private company to land its own spacecraft on Mars. But it doesn't plan to do so alone. NASA wants to see if SpaceX's landing tech could put astronauts on Mars, and to find out, its vowed to help the private company send an uncrewed capsule to the Red Planet.

Summarizing an article from SpaceFlightNow, she continues:

While SpaceX would fund and build the uncrewed Red Dragon capsule and the Falcon Heavy rocket it launches on, NASA would take a supportive role in the mission, providing communications through the Deep Space Network--a mesh of telescopes around the world that keeps NASA in constant contact with all its spacecraft, despite the Earth's spinning.

NASA will also help locate a landing site for the Red Dragon, Spaceflight Now reports, and will help to prevent Earth microbes from hitching a ride on the Red Dragon and contaminating Mars.

All told, NASA estimates it'll spend about $32 million dollars on the mission--quite a bargain, considering the space agency hopefully get a new landing technology out of it. The Red Dragon would fire retrothrusters to attempt a soft landing on Mars--something that's never been attempted before for such a large spacecraft. SpaceX is expecting to spend about $300 million on it.

By contrast, NASA spent $2.5 billion on the Curiosity rover and its novel "sky crane" landing method. If all goes well, the Red Dragon mission will pave the way to put people on Mars, either by NASA or SpaceX.


Original Submission

Elon Musk Publishes Mars Colonization Plan 56 comments

Elon Musk has published a plan to colonize Mars using as many as 1,000 Interplanetary Transport System spaceships to transport a million settlers at a cost of $200,000 per person:

Elon Musk has put his Mars-colonization vision to paper, and you can read it for free.

SpaceX's billionaire founder and CEO just published the plan, which he unveiled at a conference in Mexico in September 2016, in the journal New Space. Musk's commentary, titled "Making Humanity a Multi-Planetary Species," is available for free [DOI: 10.1089/space.2017.29009.emu] [DX] on New Space's website through July 5.

"In my view, publishing this paper provides not only an opportunity for the spacefaring community to read the SpaceX vision in print with all the charts in context, but also serves as a valuable archival reference for future studies and planning," New Space editor-in-chief (and former NASA "Mars czar") Scott Hubbard wrote in a statement.

[...] ITS rockets will launch the spaceships to Earth orbit, then come back down for a pinpoint landing about 20 minutes later. And "pinpoint" is not hyperbole: "With the addition of maneuvering thrusters, we think we can actually put the booster right back on the launch stand," Musk wrote in his New Space paper, citing SpaceX's increasingly precise Falcon 9 first-stage landings.

Also at The Guardian.


Original Submission

SpaceX Appears to Have Pulled the Plug on its Red Dragon Plans 2 comments

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

In recent weeks, there have been rumors that SpaceX is no longer planning to send an uncrewed version of its Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2020, or later. Now those rumors about the Red Dragon concept have been largely confirmed.

The company had planned to use the propulsive landing capabilities on the Dragon 2 spacecraft—originally developed for the commercial crew variant to land on Earth—for Mars landings in 2018 or 2020. Previously, it had signed an agreement with NASA to use some of its expertise for such a mission and access its deep-space communications network.

On Tuesday, however, during a House science subcommittee hearing concerning future NASA planetary science missions, Florida Representative Bill Posey asked what the agency was doing to support privately developed planetary science programs. Jim Green, who directs NASA's planetary science division, mentioned several plans about the Moon and asteroids, but he conspicuously did not mention Red Dragon.

After this hearing, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor didn't return a response to questions from Ars about the future of Red Dragon.

So the real question becomes how DO they plan to land it?

Source: https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/07/spacex-appears-to-have-pulled-the-plug-on-its-red-dragon-plans/


Original Submission

Boeing CEO Says His Company Will Carry Humans to Mars Before SpaceX 43 comments

Who will make it to Mars first?

It was about a year ago that Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg first began saying his company would beat SpaceX to Mars. "I'm convinced that the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding on a Boeing rocket," he said during a Boeing-sponsored tech summit in Chicago in October 2016.

On Thursday, Muilenburg repeated that claim on CNBC. Moreover, he added this tidbit about the Space Launch System rocket—for which Boeing is the prime contractor of the core stage—"We're going to take a first test flight in 2019 and we're going to do a slingshot mission around the Moon."

Unlike last year, Muilenburg drew a response from SpaceX this time. The company's founder, Elon Musk, offered a pithy response on Twitter: "Do it."

The truth is that Boeing's rocket isn't going anywhere particularly fast. Although Muilenburg says it will launch in 2019, NASA has all but admitted that will not happen. The rocket's maiden launch has already slipped from late 2017 into "no earlier than" December 2019. However, NASA officials have said a 2019 launch is a "best case" scenario, and a slip to June 2020 is more likely.

#SLS2020

Also, the next SpaceX flight is an ISS resupply mission and is scheduled for this coming Tuesday (December 12, 2017) at 1646 GMT (11:46 a.m. EST) from SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The plan is for the booster to return to landing at Landing Zone-1, also at Cape Canaveral.

Previously: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019
Elon Musk Publishes Mars Colonization Plan
SpaceX Appears to Have Pulled the Plug on its Red Dragon Plans
SpaceX Putting Red Dragon on the Back Burner
SpaceX: Making Human Life Multiplanetary

Related: VP of Engineering at United Launch Alliance Resigns over Comments About the Space Launch Industry
ULA Exec: SpaceX could be Grounded for 9-12 Months
Commercial Space Companies Want More Money From NASA
Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022
SpaceX Unlocks "Steamroller" Achievement as Company Eyes 19 Launches in 2017
Trump Space Adviser: Mars "Too Ambitious" and SLS is a Strategic National Asset
SpaceX's Reusable Rockets Could End EU's Arianespace, and Other News


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday August 21 2017, @07:07AM (2 children)

    by c0lo (156) on Monday August 21 2017, @07:07AM (#556903) Journal

    Red dragon [wikipedia.org] is chaotic evil [wikipedia.org] and claims that female humans and young elves taste best.
    Back-burner is a good place for it.

    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by PiMuNu on Monday August 21 2017, @08:52AM (1 child)

      by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 21 2017, @08:52AM (#556933)

      It turns out everything should be on the back burner [safekids.org] and the front burner should only be used as a last resort

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21 2017, @04:07PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21 2017, @04:07PM (#557080)

        It turns out everything should be on the back burner and the front burner should only be used as a last
        réchaud [wikipedia.org].

        FTFY ;-)

  • (Score: 2) by ledow on Monday August 21 2017, @07:12AM (9 children)

    by ledow (5567) on Monday August 21 2017, @07:12AM (#556904) Homepage

    Anyone else read this as:

    "We couldn't get our fancy shite to work cheaply enough, let's do what NASA did in the 60's?"

    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday August 21 2017, @07:43AM (5 children)

      by c0lo (156) on Monday August 21 2017, @07:43AM (#556913) Journal

      Alternatively: "We couldn't get NASA to agree on a higher price, since the current way of doing the things is simple, controllable, cheap and good enough for the purpose".

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21 2017, @08:43AM (4 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21 2017, @08:43AM (#556932)

        That's definitely not it. NASA is currently paying about half a billion dollars [cbsnews.com] per launch. That deserves a lot of adjectives. Cheap is not one of them. It's just risk aversion on part of NASA. Maybe understandable. Rocketry will never be anywhere near 100% safe. We've flown millions of airplanes and accidents still occur with a technology that's magnitudes more simple and less explosive. If something did happen on a system using new technology, it could destroy the entire US space industry even if it wasn't actually related to the new technology. Kind of in a situation where we're trying to sail to the new world and prove each and every person will be 100% safe. That's not practical for old technology and impossible for any sort of new technology. Even if the newer technology is actually safer, proving it is a herculean task.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by c0lo on Monday August 21 2017, @09:01AM (1 child)

          by c0lo (156) on Monday August 21 2017, @09:01AM (#556937) Journal

          It's not about the launch, is about the landing. You know? Parachutes, capsule drops in the ocean, the boat lifts the capsule, etc...

          But Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and chief executive, said last month that the company is redesigning its next-generation Dragon capsule, a craft designed to carry astronauts to the International Space Station, to do away with the capability for propulsive, precision helicopter-like landings as originally envisioned. Returning space crews will instead splash down in the ocean under parachutes.

          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21 2017, @02:53PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21 2017, @02:53PM (#557050)

            I thought it was fairly obvious that the launch and the landing are one and the same.

            The capsule that brings the astronauts to the ISS is the same one that they come back in. They don't send a new rocket with nothing but a return capsule to dock with the ISS and bring them back.

        • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Monday August 21 2017, @05:44PM (1 child)

          by bob_super (1357) on Monday August 21 2017, @05:44PM (#557132)

          > We've flown millions of airplanes and accidents still occur with a technology that's magnitudes more simple

          Have you looked at a modern airplane engine, and considered its complexity, constant operation in various environments, and MTBF?
          A significant portion of space launches today are still with engines designed decades ago, being fed exact amount of perfect things to burn, and running once, for 8 minutes. Not even counting those boosters which are just a glorifed "wait until it's done burning" explosive-with-funnel-exhaust candle.

          Space is hard, but modern airplanes aren't orders of magnitude easier just because they don't go as spectacularly boom when there's a bug.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23 2017, @02:12PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23 2017, @02:12PM (#558007)

            No they're magnitudes easier because they have fairly stable conditions, don't have to bring their own oxidizer, and their vast majority of their flight is maintained through lift, [mostly] never have to deal with supersonic velocities, have relative consistence of temperatures, are [relatively] feather weight, and so much more.

            Rockets, particularly now that reuse is likely to become the standard, have to tolerate extreme conditions on completely opposite ends. Enormous pressure, 0 pressure, enormous heat, the freezing cold of space, and more. And their thrust is all they have to bring them up with rockets generally having about an order of magnitude greater thrust behind them compared to something like a 747. And if anything goes wrong in a rocket there's a very good chance of an extreme event. Airplanes by contrast are very failure tolerant.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21 2017, @08:32AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21 2017, @08:32AM (#556928)

      NASA, especially since Challenger, has very stringent safety and bureaucratic requirements. The propulsive landings had a mountain of beaucrazy to overcome due to this. Last I read the capsules will actually still have the hardware required for a propulsive landing (the super draco thrusters in particular) but won't be allowed to use them to actually land. So cost of the hardware itself definitely wasn't the issue.

      And for Red Dragon, that capsule has never been the desired means of getting things to Mars. But SpaceX were aiming for an incredibly aggressive 2018 timeline which meant that the desired means (the ITS [wikipedia.org]) would not yet be ready. So enter Red Dragon which would be quite the money shot.

      As they're pushing their date back and no longer using the propulsive landings on Earth (which would provide the expertise to make a landing on Mars that much more likely to succeed) I think it's unsurprising to see them scrap it altogether and instead focus on the ITS. More information should be available next month at the IAC Conference [iac2017.org] where Musk will be providing further details on the development and progress towards Mars.

      • (Score: 2) by turgid on Monday August 21 2017, @09:15AM (1 child)

        by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 21 2017, @09:15AM (#556939) Journal

        If it were me developing the dragon, I'd test the propulsive landing capability by doing a test of the thrusters at high-ish altitude over the sea before deploying the parachutes and splashing down. Of course the problem with that is you'd have to have the extra fuel aboard which is expensive in terms of weight and there's probably a safety risk when starting up a rocket engine. I also imagine it could be bad for the landing if two on the same side failed, because the capsule would tip over and then you might have trouble deploying the parachutes. Any rocket surgeons care to comment?

        • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21 2017, @02:49PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21 2017, @02:49PM (#557047)

          That's the thing. Since they're working with NASA they have to play by NASA's progress inhibiting rules. There's certainly a distant chance that somehow such a thrust could in turn ignite the parachute or line to it resulting in catastrophic failure - so it's a no go. NASA is absolutely critical for the future of space, but mostly because of their resources both intellectual and economic. In terms of their desirability as a customer, they rank pretty much near the bottom - though the higher costs their conditions require probably at least in part compensates for this.

  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21 2017, @07:42AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21 2017, @07:42AM (#556912)

    My gaping back hole throbs with desire for Elon's red hot sperm.

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