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  1. #1
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    SpaceX - On to Mars

    For years now Elon Musk and SpaceX have talked about their Mars plans. But to many it was just that - talk. Now things start to shape up. I will continue to give updates when events happen.

    In September on the International Astronautic Congress in Mexico Elon Musk will give detailed infos on his Mars architecture. A launch vehicle, a Mars vehicle that will land cargo and Crew on Mars and some plans to build a permanent base on Mars. An endeavour he is willing to fund all by himself, maybe with a little help from his friends.

    He has a bet running that he will land people on Mars in 2025. There is little doubt that he will lose that bet. Though presently he is working under a schedule that is supposed to meet that deadline. If everything goes well, but things never go that well. But around 2030 seems possible. That would be 10 years earlier than present proposals by NASA. Unfortunately those NASA proposals are yet unfunded by Congress and it looks like funding is not coming any time soon. So their plan for the end of the 30ies seem uncertain to say the least.

    In April this year he dropped the first bombshell on his Mars plans. He is planning to send a private mission with a Mars lander in the next Mars launch window in 2018. There is a SAA - SpaceActAgreement with NASA. NASA is confirming those plans. It is unfundend, meaning no money is changing hands. SpaceX will fund the mission. NASA will contribute with data on the Mars atmosphere and providing data transmission from Mars with their DSN - Deep Space Network. NASA will gain information about the EDL - Entry Descent and Landing phase of the mission.

    NASA would need those data if they ever do their own Mars mission and doing their own mission to get those data would require ~ 2.5 billion $ according to a former NASA employee who worked on potential mission profiles. So NASA will profit massively from participation in this project.

    More details are coming soon on this thread.
    "don't attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence"

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    Thanks, Takeovers!

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    An Washington Post article on the mission

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...-soon-as-2018/



    SpaceX says it will fly a spacecraft to Mars as soon as 2018



    Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to land an unmanned spacecraft on Mars as soon as 2018 with the help of NASA, an extraordinary collaboration between the public and private sectors in an effort to eventually get humans to the Red Planet.
    SpaceX made the announcement on Twitter Wednesday, laying out an ambitious timeline for an incredibly difficult mission that only governments have dared try. Landing a spacecraft or a robot that can then operate successfully on the Martian surface is so difficult that the U.S. is the only country to have done it, and many attempts over the years have failed.

    The partnership between SpaceX and NASA, which has the goal of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s, is yet another example of the significant shift in the role NASA is playing in space exploration. While it continues to pursue its own deep space missions, the agency has also spent years, and billions of dollars, helping to support a robust commercial space industry, which it is increasingly partnering with to develop the technologies to explore the cosmos.
    In a statement, NASA said it is providing “technical support” for SpaceX’s mission, without financial support. In exchange, SpaceX would provide “valuable entry, descent and landing data to NASA for our journey to Mars, while providing support to American industry.”
    Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who also runs the electric car maker Tesla, founded SpaceX more than 10 years ago with the goal of colonizing Mars.
    Getting to Mars, however, is exceedingly difficult. On average, it’s 140 million miles from Earth, though the planets come to within about 35 million miles every 26 months. But even under the best circumstances it takes months to get there. And the terrain of deep space is tremendously harsh. Skeptics think that despite its grand aspirations, NASA is nowhere close to getting humans there. And of the 43 robotic missions to Mars, including flybys, attempted by four different countries, only 18 have been total successes.
    In 1971, the Soviet Union became the first country to successfully land a spacecraft on Mars when its Mars 3 lander transmitted for several seconds before going quiet.
    Musk's announcement Wednesday, then, “is a pretty bold statement from a guy known for bold statements,” said Lori Garver, the former deputy NASA administrator.
    The collaboration “is more similar to what you might have with a government-to-government agreement,” she said. “So it is breaking new ground, and I think it’s a good sign that NASA is even a partner. It shows there are people at NASA who are as excited about this as a lot of us are.”
    Once a spunky startup, SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, Calif., has become a major force in the burgeoning space industry, with more than 4,000 employees, a backlog of orders to launch commercial satellites and multi-billion dollar contracts with NASA to fly cargo and eventually astronauts to the International Space Station on its Falcon 9 rocket.

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    Landing on Mars is hard.

    The Soviet Union has landed one lander on Mars. It transmitted data to prove landing but failed a few seconds later, never producing any usable data.

    Europe has landed one probe, but it never transmitted from the surface. Pictures from orbiters prove though that it is there.

    The only entiity that had more success until now is NASA.

    Their first lander was Viking 1 landed in 1975



    More landers followed. Well known and extremely successful were the two small rovers Spirit and Opportunity. They had a design life span of 3 months. Yet Opportunity is still active and roving on Mars over 10 years later. Their power source are solar panels. It was expected that the panels would soon be covered in dust and they die from lack of power. However it turned out that they are regularly cleaned by martian winds.



    The latest and very advanced rover is Curiosity. The heaviest vehicle yet with almost 900kg total weight. It is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator that provides heat and electricity. That weight is about the maximum NASA can land on Mars with present technology. Going beyond that will require new technology. NASA is testing but a new device has failed twice so far. Due to budget cuts the program is stopped at the moment.


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    What makes landing on Mars so hard?

    The gravity on Mars is only 38% of earth. That's a plus, should make it easier. However the atmosphere on Mars is very thin. Less than 1% of earth atmosphere density.

    Edit: atmosphere density, not gravity.

    Probes from earth come in at very high speed from interplanetary travel. They need to brake that speed for landing. It is not possible to brake using only rocket engines. That would require sending huge rockets. So the first and largest deceleration is done by the martian atmosphere using heat shields on the probe. That's similar to what the Apollo and now Soyuz capsules do when they return to earth from space. They have to kill ~8km/s from orbit or ~11km/s coming back from the moon.

    The atmosphere of Mars, thin as it is, can still brake the biggest part of that speed. But with probes getting bigger they are faster when they get near the surface. Parachutes can do some braking but the final braking for landing is done with rocket motors. Probably you remember the animations of the Curiosity lander.

    The maximum possible with that method is ~1 ton, like Curiosity. Anything bigger than that is still supersonic when it hits the ground. At such speeds parachutes fail. A new method is needed.

    NASA tested an inflatable supersonic decelerator.



    The decelerator worked fine in the high earth atmosphere as thin as the martian atmosphere on test flights. However a parachute that was supposed to do more braking failed twice. The program is stopped because Congress did cut funding.

    The only method to land landers of the size needed for manned exploration is using rocket motors. However firing rocket engines against a highly supersonic stream of air was regarded difficult to impossible.
    Last edited by Takeovers; 22-05-2016 at 11:16 PM.

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    NASA has wanted to try supersonic retropropulsion for a long time but never received the necessary funding.

    But SpaceX stepped in. Supersonic retropropulsion is part of their technology development. They need it to make their Falcon 9 first stages reusable and did tests on commercial launches.

    NASA sent a search plane that shot this incredible video in infrared. Again highlighting difference in cost between SpaceX and NASA. Providing only that tracking plane cost NASA about half as much as the customer on that flight payed SpaceX to put their satellite into orbit. The supersonic retropropulsion test after launch was virtually free for SpaceX while the same experiment was too expensive for NASA to do with equipment designed and built for that purpose.

    Watch that video if you have not already. It's absolutely spectacular, emphasized by using infrared which really shows of the engines firing.




    SpaceX does this for landing their Falcon 9 first stages on earth and will use the same methods to land very heavy payloads on Mars.

    Their first test will be the landing of a Red Dragon spacecraft, hopefully in 2018, on Mars. The payload capacity will be at least 2 tons, twice the weight of the Curiosity rover.

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    Cheers, Takeovers...Again, more incredible stuff...

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    Quote Originally Posted by BaitongBoy View Post
    Cheers, Takeovers...Again, more incredible stuff...

    Thanks. Responses like this are a motivation to do the thread.

    There's more to come.

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    Must be quite something to work with these teams...

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    A recent remark by NASA administrator Charles Bolden

    Bolden: we don’t need to work on supersonic retropropulsion (key tech for Mars landing) if comm’l sector, like SpaceX, is.

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    Really interesting thanks for sharing, definitely keep posting.

    Where's Geoff shouldn't he have posted "damn foreigners" by now !!

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    So how is SpaceX going to land a heavy payload on Mars? Developing a dedicated lander costs a lot of money. They will do it later for their very big system, the Mars Colonial Transporter MCT. But for now they have a cheaper solution.

    They are developing the manned version of their Dragon capsule. It is a contract development for NASA to transport astronauts to the ISS. NASA has two contracts for manned ISS service. The SpaceX Dragon 2 and the Boeing CST-100, now called Spaceliner. The SpaceX contract is significantly cheaper than the Boeing contract. The Boeing capsule is exactly, what NASA wants, no less, no more, not very advanced. The ultraconservatives in NASA like that. No experiments, nothing fancy, not very advanced.

    SpaceX has chosen a different approach. They build as they call it the 21st century spacecraft.



    As always the timeframe Elon Musk gave was too optimistic. But that is in part because Congress chose to underfund the development for years, causing many delays. Part is technical development. Only recently Congress started funding at the required level.

    In this presentation the walls are still bare, you can see how they are machined to make them robust but light. In the final version there will be an interior coating. The seats are made by Tesla, with genuine leather. The touch panels are from Tesla too. Certainly the real spacecraft will have different materials.

    It is capable of 3 different methods of landing.

    The first one is to placate NASA safety worries. Dragon can land in the sea under parachutes. As NASA knows well, Apollo did this, the new ultra expensive Orion spacecraft by NASA will do it too. The first landings with NASA astronauts will use that method.

    However landing in salt water makes reuse difficult and requires expensive refurbishment. SpaceX wants to do land landing. They need to convince NASA that it is as safe but that will take a while and a lot of testing and demonstrating the technology.

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    The second and especially the third method of landing require powerful engines to brake the speed for soft touchdown. Dragon already has those engines. It is totally unlike other spacecraft in that regard.

    All manned capsules have powerfull rocket engines during launch. They are necessary to save the astronauts in case the rocket fails. Rockets are safer than in the past but catastrophic failure is still possible.

    The NASA Orion spacecraft in an abort test shows how NASA does it. Basically the same method was already used for Apollo.



    That abort booster on top of the Orion does not only look massive, it is heavy, it alone has approximately as much weight as the Dragon capsule including the abort engines and fuel. This test was with landing in the desert. Any real abort in Cape Canaveral would end in the sea for a softer touchdown. At some point during launch that booster will be dropped, it won't go into orbit. The massive booster with quite extreme acceleration is needed to get away from the solid rocket motors on the planned launch vehicle, the SLS. Solid rocket boosters cannot be shut down or if they are burning debris is all over the place endangering the parachutes. Acceleration is at a level where injuries are likely, but are accepted to safe the life of the astronauts.

    Boeing CST-100 uses a different system but also extremely high acceleratiion, because the Atlas V rocket uses solid rocket boosters as well, maybe one, maybe two for launch of CST-100.
    Last edited by Takeovers; 23-05-2016 at 08:05 PM.

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    The Falcon 9 launch vehicle of SpaceX does not use solid boosters. This enables SpaceX to use engines with lower acceleration for their abort system. It is much easier on the astronauts. It also allows much smaller engines and a much lower weight of their abort system. The engines are mounted in the side walls of the capsule and go all the way to orbit and back down. They can be reused. The fuel for these engines comes from the same tanks as for in orbit maneuver. This allows for less fuel and less weight as well. Fuel is used for abort or for orbit maneuver and landing, not both.

    The pad abort test of Dragon.



    On that test one of the 8 engines actually underperformed. They had to do some modifications. Still the result was good enough. NASA accepted it as successful abort. It was not as close to the shore as the video seems to show. The abort fires all the fuel, powered landing is not possible after that.

    During a nominal flight and orbit maneuvers to reach the ISS Dragon has enough fuel left to use the abort engines for powered land. SpaceX likes to use the same resources, like fuel and engines for different purposes in different situations. In case of abort, they land in water under parachutes. The same engines and fuel can be used for a soft land landing. They only need to convince NASA it is safe.

    There are two land landing methods. The first option is to use parachutes and use the engines only on the last few meters to soften impact. If the engines fail the landing is harsh but still survivable without injuries. That method is similar to what the russian Soyuz does and NASA accepts it there but not yet if SpaceX does. They hold US companies to a higher standard.

    The second method is what SpaceX actually wants to do and expects to be able to convince NASA to accept it. It is a fully powered landing using the SuperDraco engine. This would allow them landing precision as shown with their Falcon 9 first stages. Actually coming down on a landing pad the size of a Heli pad.

    Here an engine test while suspended from a crane. These tests will help them get very precise data on their engines for powered landing. These engines are a very simple robust design. They are very unlikely to fail. Also for landing even if some of the engines fail, they can land safely with only 4 of 8 engines.


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    These side wall mounted engines are what allow Dragon to land on Mars. First they use the heat shield to brake as much as possible in the thin atmospohere, using some tricks already used by the Curiosity rover landing.

    Then the final landing under power. Landing on Mars needs more power than on earth because of the thin atmosphere. Some extra tanks will be installed inside Dragon to get the weight of cargo to the proposed 2 tons, twice the weight of Curiosity.



    This last video is not officially SpaceX. They call the Falcon Heavy Falcon 9 Heavy. A serious faux pas. But they are correct in showing the two side boosters returning to the launch pad. The central booster will very likely be expended to send something that heavy to Mars.


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    What's the point?

    What was the return on the effort to get men on the moon?

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    Quote Originally Posted by stamford
    What's the point?
    What was the return on the effort to get men on the moon?
    The plan is not to send a crew or a few crews to Mars and build a base like the one in Antarctica. The plan is to colonize Mars and establish a independent civilization there. That will requre to send millions of tons of cargo and hundreds of thousands of people there.

    Edit: I should add that this is the plan of Elon Musk. I am by no means sure this will happen but think it is entirely possible.

    I believe there is now a better than 50% chance, the plans of Elon Musk will succeed at least to a base with a few hundred people on Mars, with children born there and that we have a good chance of seeing it start in the next 20 years.

    I am really looking forward to the big reveal of his plans scheduled for September. A lot of people will be astonished. A lot of people will think he has now gone patently crazy. People have thought this about most every plan he announced, before he made them come true.
    Last edited by Takeovers; 24-05-2016 at 12:17 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stamford
    What was the return on the effort to get men on the moon?
    They got a "return" ticket thrown in, stammie...

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    An article by SpaceNews on cooperation between NASA and SpaceX on the planned RedDragon mission

    NASA confirms they will very likely not have scientific payloads on this flight. SpaceX has not yet given any information on wht payload they are planning to fly. Some expect there will be no payload and this is only to confirm the ability of RedDragon to land on Mars. I don't believe that. I am sure SpaceX will have something ready to go.

    NASA exploring additional cooperation with SpaceX?s Red Dragon mission - SpaceNews.com

    This is a partial quote only. Read more in the article.

    WASHINGTON — NASA’s science and space technology mission directorates are considering ways to cooperate with SpaceX on its Red Dragon mission, including flying payloads on that Mars lander.
    In a June 2 interview during the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Broomfield, Colorado, Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator for space technology, said his office has a “wish list” of technology demonstration payloads they would like to fly on Red Dragon or a future SpaceX Mars mission.
    “We’ve had very preliminary talks on payloads for the 2018 mission,” he said. However, he added that, with less than 24 months before the launch window for that mission opens, it was unlikely NASA would have such a payload ready to fly in time.
    If NASA is able to fly payloads on Red Dragon, Jurczyk said a particular area of interest is in situ resource utilization (ISRU), testing technologies that can extract water, oxygen, or other resources from the Martian surface or atmosphere. NASA already plans to fly an ISRU experiment on the Mars 2020 mission to convert carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere into oxygen, but he said NASA is interested in other ISRU studies.
    “One would be in situ resource utilization using the water in the soil at Mars to generate potable water and hydrogen and oxygen,” he said. Another experiment would be to create methane, which could be used as rocket fuel.
    Jurczyk said other technology demonstration payloads could include systems that could generate 10 kilowatts or more of electrical power on the surface. “We’d like to demonstrate some of those systems on the surface in an operational environment,” he said. “Before we send crew, all of this stuff needs to work on the surface.”
    The head of NASA’s planetary science division is also considering potential collaboration with SpaceX on Red Dragon. During a June 7 meeting of the planetary science subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council, Jim Green heaped praise on SpaceX’s plans, calling them “tremendously exciting.” - See more at: NASA exploring additional cooperation with SpaceX?s Red Dragon mission - SpaceNews.com
    So NASA cannot act fast enough to have a payload ready for 2018. But SpaceX is planning more missions after that and NASA would be interested in flying payloads then.

    The article also confirms that these missions by SpaceX are in preparation of planned manned landings by SpaceX.

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    The big question in this plan to Mars is where can such a huge rocket launch? It will be very hard to get permission anywhere.

    Maybe this is the answer.

    Elon Musk is a Bond villain. Tweet from Elon Musk.
    "If this works, I'm treating myself to a volcano lair. It's time."
    Elon Musk
    https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/...999744?lang=en






  • #22
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    He seems to not be focusing on terraforming Mars at all.

    If his aim is to pretty much set it up a human colony, you would imagine that terraforming it is close to vital for the long-term habitability of where he wants humans to colonize.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Luigi
    He seems to not be focusing on terraforming Mars at all.
    He has talked about it. But he believes it is something the Martians will have to decide once an independent civilization has been extablished in the future.

    Elon Musk Clarifies His Suggestion To Terraform Mars By Nuking It | Popular Science

    Elon Musk Clarifies His Suggestion To Terraform Mars By Nuking It

    He doesn’t want to bomb Mars. He just wants to bomb the sky above Mars. Frequently.
    He also clarified that he was thinking not of nuclear warheads as we know them now but about future developments of fusion without fallout.

    Surviving on Mars is hard, as we’ve learned in The Martian and pretty much every other sci-fi movie that takes place on Mars. One way to make the Red Planet more livable is to make it more like home--by firing off nuclear warheads there. Or at least that’s what SpaceX CEO Elon Musk seemed to suggest when he went on Stephen Colbert’s show last month. Well, today, during an event about solar panels (designed by a different Musk-run company), the billionaire supervillain clarified his idea to terraform Mars. He doesn’t want to bomb Mars. He just wants to bomb the sky above Mars every few seconds. Mashable reports:
    "What I was talking about," said Musk, "was having a series of very large, by our standards, but very small by calamity standards--essentially having two tiny pulsing suns over the poles.”
    Is that what all the solar panels are for, Elon Musk?
    Musk says that the two “tiny suns,” formed by fusion bombs, would warm up Mars’ frozen carbon dioxide so that it turns into gas that could help capture heat, creating a greenhouse effect on Mars.
    How long that newly minted atmosphere would survive is anyone’s guess. Mars’ low gravity means it has a hard time holding onto the thin atmosphere that it already has. Plus, because Mars doesn’t have a protective magnetosphere, charged particles from the sun are constantly breaking down its atmosphere. Sounds like we’re gonna need some more bombs.
    I personally am not a great fan of terraforming Mars. There is enough water and CO2 on Mars to get to an atmosphere dense enough for humans, once plants have produced enough oxygen. However the amount of nitrogen is very small, just barely enough to extract it from the atmosophere for a colony in pressurized habitats. Large amounts of nitrogen are available only far out in the solar system because nitrogen becomes gaseous and disperses at Mars temperatures. To get enough nitrogen you have to go way beyond Mars and we are very far from a state of technology to fetch enough of it out there to terraform Mars.

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    Please be gentle.

    What is "terraforming?"


    Great thread, BTW.

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    Terraforming is changing a planet so it can support earth life including humans. As the atmosphere of Mars is less than 1% of earth it is for earth life just a vacuum. Only some very hardy lichens can survive there.

    If you create a vacuum on earth for a high school experiment it would still be denser than the atmosphere of Mars.

    To begin terraforming Mars you would have to melt all of the CO2 that is locked into the martian poles and much of the water there. Then plants like algae could transform some of that CO2 to plant matter and oxygen. But there is not enough nitrogen there to make an earth like atmosphere.

    Also Mars cannot hold on to an atmosphere for long. It would lose its new atmosphere after a short time, like a few million years.

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