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'Red Dragon' - unmanned Dragon flight to Mars in 2018?

Posted by: Mchl - Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:20 pm
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'Red Dragon' - unmanned Dragon flight to Mars in 2018? 
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Space Walker
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Post 'Red Dragon' - unmanned Dragon flight to Mars in 2018?   Posted on: Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:20 pm
www.space.com wrote:
NASA is working with private spaceflight firm Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to plan a mission that would search for evidence of life buried in the Martian dirt. The NASA science hardware would fly to the Red Planet aboard SpaceX's Dragon capsule, which the company is developing to ferry cargo and astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

This so-called "Red Dragon" mission, which could be ready to launch by 2018, would carry a cost of about $400 million or less, researchers said.


http://www.space.com/12489-nasa-mars-li ... ragon.html


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Post Re: 'Red Dragon' - unmanned Dragon flight to Mars in 2018?   Posted on: Wed Aug 03, 2011 12:53 pm
In comparison, the MERs (Spirit and Opportunity) cost $820m to get to Mars. So $400 is rather good, but not revolutionary. Of course, it also depends on how advanced whatever it is that they'll put on that Dragon will be.

Incidentally, with the Shuttle retiring, did it occur to anyone else that F9/Dragon is shaping up to be exactly the universal space truck that the Shuttle was supposed to have been?

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Post Re: 'Red Dragon' - unmanned Dragon flight to Mars in 2018?   Posted on: Wed Aug 03, 2011 7:02 pm
Strange. Dragon capsule designed to Earth, but it is sent to Mars... How much extra weight? Probably it's cheaper to develop the ideal mission.
Lourens wrote:
Incidentally, with the Shuttle retiring, did it occur to anyone else that F9/Dragon is shaping up to be exactly the universal space truck that the Shuttle was supposed to have been?

It is logical step.


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Post Re: 'Red Dragon' - unmanned Dragon flight to Mars in 2018?   Posted on: Thu Aug 04, 2011 8:07 pm
Lourens wrote:
Incidentally, with the Shuttle retiring, did it occur to anyone else that F9/Dragon is shaping up to be exactly the universal space truck that the Shuttle was supposed to have been?


Actually it promises to be a lot more versatile. Still, no way to bring the Hubble back from orbit ;)


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Post Re: 'Red Dragon' - unmanned Dragon flight to Mars in 2018?   Posted on: Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:05 am
Dmitriy wrote:
Strange. Dragon capsule designed to Earth, but it is sent to Mars... How much extra weight? Probably it's cheaper to develop the ideal mission.


I think Musk always intended the Dragon to be something more than a cargo carrier to the ISS, hence the future rocket assisted landing. He said at the first flight that the heatshield was good enough for Mars atmospheric entry, which makes me think he always had that in mind.

My concern is that the capsule can deliver a lot of cargo to Mars surface, but you need some way of them getting that cargo out of the capsule to the surface (if you are doing test that require access anyway). But I guess they have thought of that....

As for the 'ideal mission' - Musk reckons this can get to the surface for $400M. That's a LOT cheaper than the 'ideal' Spirit and Opportunity rovers.


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Post Re: 'Red Dragon' - unmanned Dragon flight to Mars in 2018?   Posted on: Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:06 pm
Well, to be honest, the MERs were two launches with two rockets and two rovers. Having a single launch with a single vehicle for half the price does not sound that spectacular. The main question I think is in the payload mass: does F9/Dragon deliver significantly more to the Martian surface than the MERs did?

As for a custom optimal solution vs. an off-the-shelf mass produced somewhat suboptimal one, the greater production rate always wins. With a greater production rate, you can distribute the costs of development and of setting up a production line over more units, making them cheaper individually, which increases demand, which means prices can go down further, and so on.

That is why having ten identical engines per rocket is better than one economically as well as safety-wise, and why having your upper stage tank be simply a shortened lower stage tank is better than having different ones. Of course, there's a limit to this as well, which is why there are almost always different versions of a product. A clever manufacturer makes them share as much as possible though, to minimise costs.

It's interesting to compare SpaceX with Arianespace in this regard. Arianespace has Ariane 5, which is a two-stage LOX/LH2 rocket with solid boosters, they've recently added a Soyuz launch facility, which is a three-stage LOX/RP-1 rocket (with the first stage consisting of four identical liquid-fuel boosters), and they'll have the Vega rocket, which is a three-stage solid rocket with a fourth UDMH/N2O4 stage on top. In total, that is four different types of propellant, ten to fifteen different types of rocket engines, and three completely incompatible vehicle designs. Compare this with SpaceX' Falcon 9 Heavy, Falcon 9 and Falcon 1, and you see only one propellant combination (LOX/RP-1), the same Merlin engine everywhere except for the F1 upper stage (Kestrel, which is pressure-fed), and effectively only two types of vehicle, F9 Heavy being an F9 with another two F9 lower stages strapped to it. All this means much lower development cost and capital investments for SpaceX compared to Arianespace, and thus cheaper flights to Mars.

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Post Re: 'Red Dragon' - unmanned Dragon flight to Mars in 2018?   Posted on: Tue Aug 09, 2011 12:09 pm
Each Mars lander had the following spec...from Wikipedia

Quote:
The Mars Exploration Rover was designed to be stowed in the nose of a Delta II rocket. Each spacecraft consists of several components:

* Rover: 185 kg (408 lb)
* Lander: 348 kg (767 lb)
* Backshell / Parachute: 209 kg (461 lb)
* Heat Shield: 78 kg (172 lb)
* Cruise Stage: 193 kg (425 lb)
* Propellant: 50 kg (110 lb)
* Instruments: 5 kg (11 lb)[30]

Total mass is 1,063 kg (2,343 lb).


Musk recently said
Quote:
"This would possibly be several tons of payload — actually, a single Dragon mission could land with more payload than has been delivered to Mars cumulatively in history."



So, $500M ($425M is for the Hardware not including launch cost) seems like quite a good deal.


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