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posted by martyb on Monday August 21 2017, @05:53AM   Printer-friendly
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


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

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge 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 https://soylentnews.org/~MichaelDavidCrawford
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by PiMuNu on Monday August 21 2017, @08:52AM (1 child)

      by PiMuNu (3823) 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
        r├ęchaud [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) Subscriber Badge 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 https://soylentnews.org/~MichaelDavidCrawford
      • (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) Subscriber Badge 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 https://soylentnews.org/~MichaelDavidCrawford
          • (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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