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posted by martyb on Monday December 11 2017, @01:26PM   Printer-friendly
from the competition++ dept.

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


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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11 2017, @02:49PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11 2017, @02:49PM (#608272)

    Boeing might get to Mars with their spacecraft, but it will likely be put into Earth orbit on a SpaceX milk run.

    OTOH, Voyager just fired an engine after 37 years and it just worked.
    That is serious overkill for LEO, but might be nice to have far from home.

    Deep space may require two mindsets, that brings these two together.
    First, the ability to sit down, do it by the numbers and get it right. (Steely eyed space man.)
    Second, the ability to figure out a simpler way to just get it done. (The often forgotten right stuff.)

    Nasa engineering used to have both, but....

    The classic manned space industry does not lean towards simple and just get it done.
    (Both due to the Nasa/contractor thing and the Nasa/career risk thing.)

    It is a theory that SpaceX does not have a bead on making the serious overkill Voyager like stuff.
    They have never really tried.
    But also, it may be less important.
    Apollo 13 taught a deep space lesson that stuff happens and having 2 space craft was handy.
    From a mission architecture standpoint, this means instead of putting all your eggs in one gold plated basket, 2 stainless ones flying together might be wiser.
    Given this sort of thinking, X might have the upper hand.

    The thing is that it is still a horse race, but a more team effort might be useful.
    NASA certainly gets some credit for setting up a situation that got us to having 2 paths to this goal.

    So what next?
    Standing orders might be: Don't break X and try to what you can with the rest.

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by takyon on Monday December 11 2017, @03:16PM

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Monday December 11 2017, @03:16PM (#608281) Journal

    It is a theory that SpaceX does not have a bead on making the serious overkill Voyager like stuff.
    They have never really tried.
    But also, it may be less important.

    That's fluff, not analysis.

    SpaceX builds rockets. They need to be reliable enough to get into orbit. But they are going beyond that. SpaceX is already estimating how often they can reuse their launchers. This includes some minor checkups or refurbishing on the ground, but that will initially be for safety purposes and their turnaround time will probably drop to the point where they can refly a booster the next day. If these things were built with a disposability mindset, reusing them would be impossible. They are overengineered in order to be reused, and overengineering is a quality that can be applied to Voyager, Mars rovers, etc.

    SpaceX reusable launch system development program [wikipedia.org]

    According to Elon Musk, almost every piece of the Falcon should be reused over 100 times. Heat shields and a few other items should be reused over 10 times before replacement. In March 2017, SpaceX announced progress in their experiments to recover, and eventually reuse, the 6-million dollar payload fairing. On the SES-10 mission, one of the fairing halves performed a controlled atmospheric reentry and splashdown using thrusters and a steerable parachute; fairings are eventually slated to land on a floating "bouncy castle" structure.

    SpaceX began re-flight of previously-launched booster stages in 2017. The first re-flight was accomplished in March 2017, nearly a year after the booster's maiden flight; the second was in June 2017, only five months after its maiden flight. Both were successful, and both insurers and launch service customers are readily supporting the newly emerging market in launch services provided by multiple-use boosters.

    [...] Over the subsequent missions, landing of the first stage gradually became a routine procedure, and since January 2017 SpaceX ceased to refer to their landing attempts as "experimental". Low-energy missions to the ISS fly back to the launch site and land at LZ-1, whereas more demanding satellite missions land on drone ships a few hundred miles downrange. Occasional missions with heavy payloads, such as EchoStar 23, do not attempt to land, flying in expendable configuration without fins and legs.

    [...] During 2016 and 2017, SpaceX has recovered a number of first stages to both land and drone ships, helping them clarify the procedures needed to re-use the boosters rapidly. In January 2016 Elon Musk estimated the likelihood of success to 70 percent for all landing attempts in 2016, hopefully rising to 90 percent in 2017; he also cautioned that we should expect "a few more RUDs" (Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly, Musk's euphemism to denote destruction of the vehicle on impact). As of 31 October 2017 Musk's prediction was not far off the mark, as five out of eight flown boosters (63%) were recovered in 2016, and thirteen out of thirteen (100%) so far in 2017. Three GTO missions for heavy payloads (EchoStar 23 in March 2017, Inmarsat-5 F4 in May 2017 and Intelsat 35e in July 2017) were flown in an expendable configuration, not equipped for landing. In late 2017, additional incremental testing with refinements to the fairing recovery design are planned. SpaceX has indicated that intact fairing recovery is hoped to be achieved in 2017, with reflight of a recovered fairing planned in 2018.

    [...] SpaceX spent four months refurbishing the first booster to be re-used, B1021, and launched it again after approximately one year. The second booster to be flown again, B1029, was refurbished in "only a couple of months" and re-launched after five months. Elon Musk has stated a goal to turn around a first stage within 24 hours before the end of 2017.

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  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday December 11 2017, @03:57PM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 11 2017, @03:57PM (#608292) Journal

    NASA certainly gets some credit for setting up a situation that got us to having 2 paths to this goal.

    What second path? SLS hasn't shown it will be viable and my take is that it is institutionally incapable of being viable. It consumes too much of the relatively fixed manned space budget to allow for the SLS and manned missions to Mars at the same time.