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Mars Space Transportation

Elon Musk To Unveil Mars Spacecraft Later This Year, For 2025 Flight (foxnews.com) 101

frank249 writes: Fox News is reporting that Space X and Tesla CEO Elon Musk expects to unveil plans for the spacecraft that would send humans to Mars within a decade. Speaking at an event in Hong Kong, Musk said he was 'hoping to describe the architecture' of the spacecraft at the International Astronautical Conference in Mexico in late September. "That will be quite exciting," Musk said. 'In terms of the first flight to Mars, we are hoping to do that around 2025.' As for his plans to go into space, Musk said he was hoping to reach the International Space Station 'four or five years from now.'
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Elon Musk To Unveil Mars Spacecraft Later This Year, For 2025 Flight

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  • Timothy!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by qbast ( 1265706 ) on Saturday January 30, 2016 @05:26PM (#51405219)
    The whole page of submissions from 'timothy'. What the hell?
    • He's the only one sober enough to submit stories.
    • by fhage ( 596871 )
      He's been the only one posting stories since Thursday morning. I'm willing to cut him a bit of slack at this point.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by lhowaf ( 3348065 )
      There are new editors. They've eaten Timmay and are submitting stories under his account.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Mars in 2025, Spellchecking in 2026.

  • Safely??? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Saturday January 30, 2016 @05:46PM (#51405381) Homepage

    I have no doubt than in ten years he can build a rocket powerful enough to reach Mars. Then if he wishes to do it safely, he would have to send several unmanned missions (I'm thinking three) before he can get a safe certification for the one year (wo)manned journey.

    A hell of a lot of things can go wrong in a year, as the ISS proves, and that is within the protective realm of the earth's magnetic field.

    • Re:Safely??? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ravenspear ( 756059 ) on Saturday January 30, 2016 @08:57PM (#51406405)

      The rocket is not in question.

      Right now the long pole in manned Mars surface missions is not rocket launch technology, it is Mars surface survival.

      What kind of structure will people live in on Mars? How will it land? Heavy large structures that would be required for human habitation have not been landed on Mars to date and that is quite tricky.

      How will the people live there? What kind of suits and structures will they use for radiation protection? For oxygen and water generation? For food production?

      Obviously all of these problems have been addressed on ISS but only in the sense of solutions that can be relatively quickly resupplied from earth which won't be the case with a Mars surface mission.

      • by Alomex ( 148003 )

        I'm assuming that the first trip is a return trip, with only a fortnight on the surface. I might be wrong though.

        • Re:Safely??? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Rolgar ( 556636 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @09:47AM (#51408495)

          Earth is moving about 20% faster than Mars. What this means is that the optimal time to launch from Earth to Mars is when Earth is behind Mars. The space ship will continue to have a speed advantage which will have to be negated. Now, the travel time from Earth to Mars is so long that Earth will long pass Mars by the time the spacecraft reaches Mars. Now, since the Earth will be ahead and getting farther away, to catch the Earth before it goes around the Sun, the space craft would have to speed up the difference plus even more to actually catch up. Fuel efficiency wise, the mission will have to last about half a year before the astronauts have an opportunity to launch and head fly on an intercept course with Earth.

      • What kind of structure will people live in on Mars? How will it land? Heavy large structures that would be required for human habitation have not been landed on Mars to date and that is quite tricky.

        What? Why would you need to land heavy large structures? What you need to land is a heavy large backhoe, so that you can bury things.

        Obviously all of these problems have been addressed on ISS but only in the sense of solutions that can be relatively quickly resupplied from earth which won't be the case with a Mars surface mission.

        There is no point to going to Mars to stay unless you plan for regular resupply.

        • Doesn't even have to be a heavy and large backhoe - a small backyard backhoe would probably be adequate for burying early structures, and if you built it out of carbon fiber it could be pretty darn light. If you need more weight for leverage, just add sandbags that can be filled on site. You could probably even get by with manpower and shovels in a pinch, though I'd be way happier with the backhoe.

      • by Rinikusu ( 28164 )

        Why do we have to land on first try? I would think we could do like we did with the moon: several manned trips to orbit Mars, test the actual transit technology, with a couple probe drops (and possible launch/recoveries). Kudos for wanting to get it all on the first shot, but this could be several missions before we actually put a boot on the surface and try to return it.

        • If they can land a rocket on Earth, I'm pretty sure they could do the same on Mars. And interplanetary travel is going to be WAY more dangerous than a trip to the moon, getting people into radiation shelters on Mars before too much permanent damage is done is going to be a high priority. Plan on a round trip instead, and you have to make each one-way transit in half the time, which means imparting 4x the kinetic energy. And of course that means WAY more than 4x the fuel, which may well make the entire en

          • Landing on Mars is difficult. There's not enough air for effective air braking, but enough to cause serious complications with rocket landings. I'm sure we'll figure something out, and Space-X's experiments with recovering boosters may make this easier, but it isn't trivial.

            Also, radiation exposure on the trip is very unlikely to cause acute radiation poisoning, which means that what's significant is the total dosage. Unless the idea is to send people to Mars with no intention of bringing them back, i

    • Then if he wishes to do it safely, he would have to send several unmanned missions (I'm thinking three) before he can get a safe certification for the one year (wo)manned journey.

      Who exactly is responsible for "safe certification" of manned spaceflight missions?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Tesla Model-X unveling: February 2012, planned for deliver in early 2014. Actual deliveries began on September 29, 2015.

    This is only one data point, and space systems are considerably more challenging; but let's say ball-park, the Musk factor is somewhere around 2. See you in 2034. I hope they get rid of any lingering Unix time bugs before they launch.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cytg.net ( 912690 )
      Ill take 2034 over ???? though.
      • Didn't George HW Bush promise men on Mars by 2011?

        It's not a shame that Musk is ineligible to run for President because he can actually be effective in the private sector.

        • by bondsbw ( 888959 )

          Didn't George HW Bush promise men on Mars by 2011?

          From what I can find, his goal was 2019. Frankly it wasn't a terrible estimate being 30 years away, but it assumed full support from future administrations (which didn't exactly happen).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This monster is going to get people killed in the name of profit.

    • So what you are saying is .. Worst case, absolutely worst case, its business as usual? Good enough for you, me, corporate america and the rest of the "free" world. Whatcha whining about? Still a shot at mars, chicken shit .. you could, like, you know, not sign up.
    • by catchblue22 ( 1004569 ) on Saturday January 30, 2016 @10:06PM (#51406649) Homepage

      This monster is going to get people killed in the name of profit.

      Imagine if the above intrepid poster typified decision makers in sixteenth century. They would never have sent out explorers such as Sir Francis Drake or Ferdinand Magellan on their great voyages to map the world. Hell, if all humans were all like this poster (and those who modded him up), these great explorers [wikipedia.org] would never have existed. Judging by many of the comments on this article, we are turning into a society of Statler and Waldorfs [wikipedia.org] who criticize from the sidelines while offering little of substance. So grow a pair, and remember that all of us are going to die. What are you going to do with your life?

      • by jfengel ( 409917 )

        Those guys weren't sent for the joy of exploration. They were sent because somebody thought they could turn a profit. Magellan gave the Spanish a new route to Asia; Drake was looking for a way to circumvent Spanish (and Dutch) control of those routes. They were sent to bring back a load of stuff, as well as a route that would enable them to get more stuff cheaper. They had no plans to turn over the details to anybody except their employer.

        They had very good reason to think that they had a profitable mission

  • by frank249 ( 100528 ) on Saturday January 30, 2016 @06:49PM (#51405769)

    The first demo flight of the 27 engine Falcon Heavy [wikipedia.org] is in April. SpaceX announced in May 2015 that they are positioning Dragon V2 spacecraft variants—in conjunction with the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle—to transport science payloads across much of the solar system, in cislunar and inner solar system regions such as the Moon and Mars as well as to outer solar system destinations such as Jupiter's moon Europa. Details include that SpaceX expects to be able to transport 2,000–4,000 kg (4,400–8,800 lb) to the surface of Mars, including a soft retropropulsive landing using SuperDraco thrusters following a limited atmospheric deceleration. When the destination has no atmosphere, the Dragon variant would dispense with the parachute and heat shield and add additional propellant.

    SpaceX began development of the large Raptor rocket engine for the Mars Colonial Transport [wikipedia.org] before 2014, but the MCT will not be operational earlier than the mid-2020s. SpaceX have not yet publicly released details of the space mission architecture nor all the system components of the MCT, nor a timeline for earliest MCT missions to Mars. Elon Musk hopes to unveil the space mission architecture at the International Astronautical Congress in September 2016.

    The super-heavy lift launch vehicle for MCT is intended to be fully-reusable. Mars Colonial Transporter has been notionally described as a large interplanetary spacecraft capable of taking 100 people or 100 tonnes of cargo at a time to Mars.

    Sounds far fetched but based on Musk's track record, I would not be surprised if he goes for it.

    • by frank249 ( 100528 ) on Saturday January 30, 2016 @07:08PM (#51405877)

      Th US Air Force has just given SpaceX a $33m contract [spacedaily.com] to develop the Raptor Engine [wikipedia.org]. Raptor is the first member of a family of cryogenic methane-fueled rocket engines under development by SpaceX. It is specifically intended to power high performance lower and upper stages for SpaceX super-heavy launch vehicles. The engine will be powered by liquid methane and liquid oxygen (LOX), rather than the RP-1 kerosene and LOX used in all previous Falcon 9 rockets, which use Merlin 1C & D engines. Methane rocket engines have higher performance than kerosene/RP-1 and lower than hydrogen, with significantly fewer problems for long-term, multi-start engine designs than kerosene—methane is cleaner burning—and significantly lower cost than hydrogen, coupled with the ability to "live off land" and produce methane directly from extraterrestrial sources such as the surface of Mars.

      The Raptor engine will have over six times the thrust of the Merlin 1D vacuum engine that powers the second stage of the current Falcon 9, the Falcon 9 v1.1.

      The broader Raptor concept is a highly reusable methane staged-combustion engine that will power the next generation of SpaceX launch vehicles designed for the exploration and colonization of Mars." According to Elon Musk, this design will be able to achieve full reusability (all rocket stages), and as a result, "a two order of magnitude reduction in the cost of spaceflight.

      • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Saturday January 30, 2016 @07:32PM (#51406025) Homepage

        Meh. CH4, H2 and RP1 are all clean, cheap fuels - the levels of pollution and fuel costs are practically non-issues here. ISP, thrust and density are what matter. Methane simply lies on the curve between RP-1 and H2 in terms of thrust, density and ISP (significantly closer to RP-1 than H2). H2 is easier to produce on Mars than methane, which is in turn easier to produce than RP-1 - in this regard, methane is closer to H2 than RP-1 (the mass fractions of current hydrocarbon synthesis from CO2 and H2 tend to produce more methane than heavier hydrocarbons, although the ratios depend on the catalyst, and new catalysts could change this, and you could always do subsequent steps to combine light hydrocarbons)

        Methane probably is a good balance for Mars if you want local propellant production. And really, since Mars round trips are so far down the rocket equation chain, you pretty much have to either use extremely high ISP fuels, or go with local propellant production. SpaceX has chosen the latter.

        • CH4 has a specific impulse much closer to LH2 than RP1. CH4 is 1 carbon per 4 hydrogen atoms, RP1 is about 1 carbon per 2 hydrogen atoms.

          At vehicle scale, CH4 might be even more efficient than LH2. LH2 is a deep cryogenic fuel - boiling point at 20K. The mass of insulation needed it pretty severe, particularly when you account for its low density. CH4 boils at a much, much more reasonable 110K, making it just barely thermally compatible with LOX at 90K - this is significant for interplanetary flights, where

          • by Rei ( 128717 )

            CH4 has a specific impulse much closer to LH2 than RP1

            False. But don't just take my word for it, take CEA2's. Parameters: all chamber pressures set to identical 204.08, pi/pe set to give a constant 100:1 expansion ratio, mdot=2223.8 (same as the SSME). All fuels burned with LOX at a stoichiometric ratio. All chemicals at their boiling point except the RP1, which is set to 300K. RP1 simulated by dodecane.

            ISP:
            H2: 436,9
            CH4: 365,6
            C12H26: 360,6

            Seriously, have you never looked at an ISP table before?

            The mass

            • False. But don't just take my word for it, take CEA2's. Parameters: all chamber pressures set to identical 204.08, pi/pe set to give a constant 100:1 expansion ratio, mdot=2223.8 (same as the SSME). All fuels burned with LOX at a stoichiometric ratio. All chemicals at their boiling point except the RP1, which is set to 300K. RP1 simulated by dodecane.

              Seriously, have you never looked at an ISP table before?

              I have, in fact, looked at ISP tables, but I was going off memory. Apparently I remember it being a lot more efficient than it is - I think I was remembering sea-level efficiencies rather than vacuum.

              Nope. As is typical, it made up about 7% of the shuttle ET's mass. Nowhere near comparable to such an ISP difference.

              7% is not an insubstantial amount, particularly when Falcon's figures for "all non-propellant, non-payload mass" are down to 3-5%. (It might also be worthwhile to point out that the Shuttle ET insulation was not without its flaws, which were perhaps caused by overzealous trimming of mass.)

              Nope, CH4 freezes solid at 90,7K (versus LOX boiling at 90,2K). And it becomes way too viscous as it approaches its freezing point. That doesn't mean that they can't share a common bulkhead, but it does complicate it for long-term storage (aka, Mars missions)

              Fair point, but it doe

              • Nope, CH4 freezes solid at 90,7K (versus LOX boiling at 90,2K). And it becomes way too viscous as it approaches its freezing point. That doesn't mean that they can't share a common bulkhead, but it does complicate it for long-term storage (aka, Mars missions)

                Fair point, but it does simplify things more than LH2+LOX would be, or even RP1+LOX if you found a way to synthesize kerosene on Mars.

                Those boiling points are presumably at 1 atmosphere, but there is nothing special about that pressure. If you pressurise the LOX tank a little you can probably get them both liquid in the thermal contact at 95-100K.

                The higher density, lower compressibility and higher latent heat of vapourisation of methane all make it easier to pump than LH2, saving mass and complexity.

              • by Rei ( 128717 )

                I have, in fact, looked at ISP tables, but I was going off memory. Apparently I remember it being a lot more efficient than it is - I think I was remembering sea-level efficiencies rather than vacuum.

                Huh? Sea level and vacuum performances are directly proportional, within only a small variation between propellants. Do you even understand why there's a difference between sea level and vacuum performance?

                7% is not an insubstantial amount, particularly when Falcon's figures for "all non-propellant, non-payloa

                • Huh? Sea level and vacuum performances are directly proportional, within only a small variation between propellants. Do you even understand why there's a difference between sea level and vacuum performance?

                  In theory, yes, they're directly proportional. In practice, almost all LH2 engines have nozzle geometry optimized for high-altitude/vacuum operation, even on the first stage. That's not intrinsic to the rocket chemistry but you can see how I remembered it as so.

                  In any case, point conceded. CH4 is closer to RP1 than LH2 in specific impulse. And I agree with your statements about LH2 for upper stages - the tankage mass there doesn't matter quite so much. But SpaceX is looking at a fuel for all stages, and LH2

        • by AJWM ( 19027 )

          Meh. CH4, H2 and RP1 are all clean, cheap fuels - the levels of pollution and fuel costs are practically non-issues here. ISP, thrust and density are what matter. Methane simply lies on the curve between RP-1 and H2 in terms of thrust, density and ISP.

          Mostly right. Two out of three for clean: RP-1 has a tendency to coke up and can foul injectors or lead to hot-spots in the cooling tubes if you're re-using the engines. (Merlin's pintle injectors are probably not as prone to coke fouling, and all of this is

          • by Rei ( 128717 )

            My impression when they wrote "clean" was "clean from an environmental perspective". :)

            Thrust is strongly correlated with density (as how fast you can burn a fuel depends on how fast your turbopumps can pump it into the chambers), so one can get a good sense of how good a fuel will be from a thrust perspective by its density. Which is why hydrogen makes for lousy first stages ;) Still, methane's reduced density definitely loses out over RP1. But I'm sure the thrust level will be fine.

            You're correct about

      • This is all very impressive, but the reason why USAF wants better rockets is probably nothing to do with Mars. They probably want cheaper and better satellites and the ability to put heavy weaponry in space, such as tungsten rods with retrorockets and guidance. That old cold war idea.

        The Mars trip will happen when there is a compelling reason for people to go there, like if someone other than the US tries to get there first.

    • Will they be getting Tim Taylor to perform the pre-launch introduction?

  • Unveiling plans and unveiling an actual spacecraft are two very different things.

    • He's got a better chance to get it off the ground than does NASA. He runs a dictatorship and is not beholden to the kleptocracy that is the US Congress.

      Bet he gets there before NASA.

  • well new management here seems still under the pay of musk, since every word, regardless of actual achievements (to be fair musk does have some), coming out of musk seems to result in a post here.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      First off, I love your expectation that the instant a purchase takes place, everything is supposed to change, as if making and implementing plans and policy changes takes five seconds to complete.

      Secondly, whether you like it or not, lots of people here have interest in SpaceX - both positive and negative. Which you can see by how many people comment on every one of these threads. So if you don't like it, tough. Go read a thread on some other topic.

  • Maybe before Musks thinks about how to get stuff to Mars he could solve the problem of better (especially with less energy use) getting stuff into space. At about $10000/kg for Earth orbit there will be no way a Mars station will be resupplied for long.

    So we need a space elevator [wikipedia.org] or some mag-lev "cannon" [wikipedia.org] (preferably on the Moon to avoid the air friction) before we can go seriously out to explore space using humans. Rockets are like steam locomotives (actually they are worse) they carry all their propulsion

    • Reducing cost to orbit is precisely what Musk has been working on for the last 15 years. SpaceX has been reducing the cost, and looks to do it even more with re-use of its current rockets. And it is developing a much larger, cheaper launcher, to be completely re-used, since the vast majority of the cost is in building the things. The Shape Shuttle became a bad design because of politics, not because re-use of chemical rockets cannot work well.
  • NASA officials admitted today the Space Launch System [wikipedia.org] — the agency’s next big rocket — is a vehicle without a mission plan [theverge.com] NASA Spaceflight reports [nasaspaceflight.com]. The agency acknowledged what is essentially an empty flight manifest for the SLS at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, during an all-hands meeting on Monday.

    The meeting was held to discuss uncertainty about the SLS. Its first test flight with humans aboard has already been delayed once, and the schedule for the SLS’s tests are

  • reposted from ARS Technica [arstechnica.com]

    We know a few basic things about the SpaceX Mars architecture:

    Two stages to orbit. First stage is a single booster with many Raptor engines which returns to launch site for reuse. Second stage is the Mars Colonial Transport, comprising a pressurized cabin section and a propulsion section, also powered by multiple Raptor engines.

    MCT is refueled in earth orbit by multiple propellant tankers after expending its initial propellant load during launch. After refueling, MCT departs for Ma

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