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SpaceX updates (Grasshopper RLV)

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neoadorable    405

man oh man those pics make me a happy camper, thanks Doc! looks beautiful!

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DocM    16,757

Hot off the FAA presses. Speculation is rampant, ranging from an entry into the suborbital business to a testbed for recovery of 1st stages for reuse - or both. Elon Musk has an appearance before the National Press Club in Washington DC on the 29th so hopefully he'll clarify things.

SpaceX Grasshopper RLV (FAA tech docs - PDF)....

The Proposed Action (preferred alternative) is for the FAA/AST to issue an experimental permit to SpaceX, which would authorize SpaceX to conduct suborbital launches and landings of the Grasshopper RLV from the McGregor test site in McGregor, Texas (see Exhibits 2-1 and 2-2 below). SpaceX has determined that to support the Grasshopper RLV activities under the experimental permit, it would be necessary to construct a launch pad and additional support infrastructure. Therefore, the Proposed Action analyzed in this Draft EA includes the activities that would be authorized by the experimental permit (i.e., the operation of the launch vehicle) as well as the construction of the launch pad and related infrastructure. The experimental permit would be valid for one year and would authorize an unlimited number of launches2. The FAA/AST could renew the experimental permit if requested, in writing, by SpaceX at least 60 days before the permit expires. SpaceX anticipates that the Grasshopper RLV program would require up to 3 years to complete. Therefore, the Proposed Action considers one new permit and two potential permit renewals.

>

The Grasshopper RLV is a vertical takeoff and vertical landing (VTVL) vehicle. The highest altitude which the Grasshopper RLV would reach during launches conducted under an experimental permit is 11,500 feet above ground level (AGL). SpaceX would need to obtain a Letter of Authorization from the Robert Gray Army Radar Approach Control at Fort Hood to operate the Grasshopper RLV in the proposed airspace before any launches could commence.

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DocM    16,757

VTVL = Vertical Takeoff - Vertical Landing

As God and Robert A. Heinlein intended, SpaceX's Grasshopper project involves a totally reusable Falcon 9 whose stages fly back to the launch site and land as they did in our favorite space stories - ON THEIR TAILS.

Not many details as Elon just finished the announcement at the National Press Club, but here's the imagery and an extremely cool new video showing how they plan on recovering & re-using both the first and second stages..

GAWD........

HD Quicktime video (34 megs)_....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p176UpWQOs4

F9 landing

f9landing640.jpg

Closeup

f9landing640b.jpg

Dragon landing

dragonlanding640.jpg

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neoadorable    405

hahaha love the video, i like their subtle sense of humor, like how they use the same bump/thud effect for all the stage separations and landings. but that aside, this is awesome, still not as awesome as my Valkyrie shuttle, but smart rocket stages that guide themselves back to a landing field? yes, i concur!

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BoredBozirini    235

I hope they at least have a parachute in case of an emergency. It would suck to have one of those stages's boosters fail and make it fall like a bullet.

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DocM    16,757

The F9 1st stage has 9 engines, at least one if which (the center one) will be re-startable and gimble enough to do a propulsive landing. It is possible that 3 will do this as that many light to do the deceleration burn in the video, indicating all of them have restart etc. If so this would provide the required redundancy necessary to omit parachutes.

The srcond stage seems to use multiple thecSuper Draco launch abort/landing thrusters from Dragon around its lower perimeter, not the main engine. Again, these should provide enough redundancy to omit parachutes. If 1 or 2 fail, the avionics can be programmed to throttle up the rest.

Dragon is unique. Notice the Super Draco thrusters are angled to the sides and not vertical. Most people would interpret this as suboptimal, but not SpaceX. Key to this is that Super Draco is to be deeply throttleable and have high thrust levels: 10,000 lbf each in a very small package, and Dragon will have 8.

There are cosine losses aiming them diagonally, but that lets them steer by thrust differential and they have a huge thrust excess being also capable of launch escape at 15g's. They only need ~25% of full thrust for a propulsive landing, and because there are 8 even if they lose some they could selectively throttle up the rest and still do a controlled soft landing.

There is also speculation that Super Draco will not use the current hypergolic fuel but the NOFBX monopropellant, which if it pans out (tests @ISS in 2012) has a higher ISP (more efficient) and isn't toxic. Odds are the standard Draco attitude thrusters would also switch over. Former SpaceX'er Max Vozoff is in on it and its AIAA presentation hinted at SpaceX involvement at some level.

http://www.aiaa.org/pdf/industry/presentations/Greg_Mungas.pdf

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DocM    16,757

They aren't even pausing to take a breath.

First test flight of the Grasshopper RLV testbed is now set for Q1 of 2012. FAA is already on board and construction of the new pad in McGregor, Texas is getting underway. Avionics code for VTVL must be well along and CAD drawings made and possibly sent out to CNC.

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Tech Star    254

I guess Obama opening up the space program really was all for the best.

Keep up the good work DocM. I enjoy reading the updates in this thread. :yes:

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DocM    16,757

This is on SpaceX's dime, not NASA's. It's to lower their launch costs for all launches, of which straight commercial satellites are the vast majority.

And for the record, and not to minimize something I think Obama's handled well on his watch, the COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) program started in 1996 under GWB.

COTS level D is commercial crew, which is what the CCDev (Commercial Crew Development) program is all about getting ready for. All related programs are handled by NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO)

The COTS levels -

Capability level A: External unpressurized cargo delivery and disposal

Capability level B: Internal pressurized cargo delivery and disposal

Capability level C: Internal pressurized cargo delivery, return and recovery

Capability level D: Crew Transportation.

Cots_logo.jpg

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DocM    16,757

The Falcon 9/Dragon C2/C3 flight has been penciled into the launch schedule. Later than planned because of the Soyuz 2nd stage issues, which appear to be worked out but we can't be 100% sure until it flies again, and delays with NASA getting the required software updates installed at ISS.

If all goes well with the C2 part of the flight (approaching, maneuvered, simulated ISS approach), then C2 goes live and Dragon will attempt to actually berth and transfer cargo.

Entered: 2011-10-13

Flight: COTS SpaceX Demo-2/3

Launch date: 1/12/2012

Who: GSFC HSF Manager Melissa Blizzard

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DocM    16,757

A couple bits -

There are a lot of authoratative rumors that SpaceX is developing an advanced rocket engine powered by a methane based fuel blend. NASA and others have considered pure methane engines before and built testbeds, and XCOR has a small one as well.

As for the blend partner, the first ones that come to mind are ethane and ethylene. Both dissolve nicely in methane over a wide range of proportions and both increase its boiling temperature.

There are a few advantages

1) higher Specific Impulse than kerosene, meaning more efficient

2) easier storage in space than liquid hydrogen - doesn't boil off. Better for long duration missions and deep space. Because of this it's a great fuel for KISS space refueling depots.

3) ISRU (in-situ resource utilization). Methane can be generated using the largely CO2 atmosphere on Mars. This makes it a good fuel for Mars Return Vehicles, on-planet transportation etc.

This is a just released is a pic of the new Merlin 1D engine during a hotfire at the McGregor, Texas test site.

merlin-1dbig.jpg

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DocM    16,757
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Ready to Compete for Upcoming DoD Launches

Hawthorne, CA ? Today the U.S. Air Force issued a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the NRO and NASA that serves as a joint agreement on the process they will use to allow new companies to compete to provide launch services. The MOU will be followed by detailed guidance for prospective new entrants.

?SpaceX welcomes the opportunity to compete for Air Force launches. We are reviewing the MOU, and we expect to have a far better sense of our task after the detailed requirements are released in the coming weeks,? said Adam Harris, SpaceX Vice President of Government Affairs.

The U.S. Air Force is the largest launch customer in the world, but is currently served by a monopoly provider whose prices have consistently risen. Equitable criteria for new entrants, coupled with meaningful opportunities for competition, would save the American taxpayer billions.

?Fair and open competition for commercial launch providers is an essential element of protecting taxpayer dollars,? said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO. ?Our American-made Falcon vehicles can deliver assured, responsive access to space that will meet warfighter needs while reducing costs for our military customers.?

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neoadorable    405

thanks for the update Doc, so Jan 12, 2012, is the new date to aim for after Curiosity launches? :woot: are we talking about a proper Falcon 9 AND Dragon launch to orbit here, or am i being lazy and not reading something right?

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DocM    16,757

Yup, a fully configured cargo Dragon launch to ISS with non-critical cargo if a berthing attempt comes off. If no one worried about launch abort or manual controls they could mount seats too.

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DocM    16,757

The SpaceX Dragon's revolutionary new launch abort & propulsive landing system has passed its NASA PDR (preliminary design review), an important step to actually putting it into a Dragon for testing.

We also now know that the system will be called DragonRider, as in The DragonRiders of Pern. While it mentions that construction can now start, it's strongly rumored that the SuperDraco thrusters themselves are already under test. No word yet as to fuel - stick for now with hypergolics, go with the NOFBX monopropellant, or something else. With all the recent talk of SpaceX working on methane fueled engines, who knows?

SpaceX has also taken another launch contract from the European launch service ArieneSpace - the $160M Thaicom 6 satellite for Thailand, the 4th largest satellite contract in the Asia & West Pacific market. Thaicom makes up about $100M of ArieneSpace's $1B revenue stream. The Thaicom 6 satellite will be built by Orbital Sciences Corp. Link....

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 20, 2011

media@spacex.com

SPACEX COMPLETES KEY MILESTONE TO FLY ASTRONAUTS TO INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

Hawthorne, CA ? Today, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announced it has successfully completed the preliminary design review of its revolutionary launch abort system, a system designed for manned missions using its Dragon spacecraft. This represents a major step toward creating an American-made successor to the Space Shuttle.

NASA?s approval of the latest design review marks the fourth successfully completed milestone under the agency?s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program and demonstrates the innovation that?s possible when NASA partners with the private sector.

?Each milestone we complete brings the United States one step closer to once again having domestic human spaceflight capability,? said former astronaut Garrett Reisman, one of the two program leads of SpaceX?s DragonRider, which is adding capabilities to the Dragon spacecraft for astronaut carriage.

Now that the Space Shuttle program has ended, the United States relies on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for astronaut transport, costing American taxpayers as much as $62 million a seat. By comparison, Dragon is designed to carry seven astronauts at a time for an unparalleled $20 million per seat.

As with all SpaceX designs, increased safety and reliability are paramount. ?Dragon?s integrated launch abort system provides astronauts with the ability to safely escape from the beginning of the launch until the rocket reaches orbit,? explained David Giger, co-lead of the DragonRider program. ?This level of protection is unprecedented in manned spaceflight history.?

With the latest design review approved by NASA, SpaceX can now start building the hardware at the heart of its innovative launch abort system. The SpaceX design incorporates the escape engines into the side walls of Dragon, eliminating a failure mode of more traditional rocket escape towers, which must be successfully jettisoned during every launch. The integrated abort system also returns with the spacecraft, allowing for easy reuse and radical reductions in the cost of space transport. Over time, the same escape thrusters will also provide Dragon with the ability to land with pinpoint accuracy on Earth or another planet.

In its first flights, on June 4 and December 8, 2010, SpaceX?s Falcon 9 launch vehicle achieved consecutive mission successes. The December mission, which was the first demonstration flight under NASA?s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, marked Dragon?s historic debut and established SpaceX as the first private company to launch and recover a spacecraft from orbit. As a result, many Falcon 9 and Dragon components required for transporting humans to Earth orbit have already been demonstrated in flight.

The new launch abort system provides crew with emergency escape capability throughout the entire flight and returns with the spacecraft, allowing for easy reuse and radical reductions in the cost of space transport.

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DocM    16,757

The Dragon C2/C3 arrives at the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex-40 today. If the C2 part of the flight goes well then C3 goes live and it will be the first commercial spacecraft to berth at the International Space Station.

http://www.floridatoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011310220015

dragon-cots2.jpg

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DocM    16,757

A pic of another part of the Dragon assembly area. Between sessions in the Dragon's Den, Dragons in various states of assembly (and the C1 flight Dragon) are kept here. Counting the already flown C1 there are a total of 9 Dragons, and likely another just starting up to take C2/C3's slot on the floor. A true spaceship factory.

dragonfactory1024.jpg

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DocM    16,757

Dragon C2/C3 arrived at KSC on time, and we have new pictures.

There are obvious changes to Dragon - a transition from Block 0 to Block 1

1) it looks more "finished"

2) the PICA-X heat shield has a new outer layer (metalized ceramic?)

3) no portholes or hatch window in the cargo version

4) the experiment bay is moved and for cargo will house the ISS arms grapple adapter

5) more refined thruster trim panels

6) revised & relocated Trunk umbilical port

7) small access panels around the top

Other pics show the truck arriving by truck, Dragon Block0-Block1 side-by-side, Dragon in its shrink-wrap, various angle views and of the hangar, and the last is a large image of Dragon to show more details than the B0-B1 pic.

post-347280-0-26387700-1319515306.jpg

post-347280-0-98337400-1319515315.jpg

post-347280-0-50113600-1319515336_thumb.

post-347280-0-39984600-1319515354.jpg

post-347280-0-95120300-1319515402_thumb.

post-347280-0-43031100-1319515604_thumb.

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DocM    16,757

A new interview with Elon Musk.

In it he talks about Mars, and it shows the friction-stir welding system they use to build their hardware.

Also - a graphic showing the paperwork difference between Shuttle, cargo Dragon and crew Dragon -

CCDev-Shuttle-difference.jpg

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DocM    16,757

Elon Musk and others testified before Congress today re: Commercial Crew Development.

Prepared comments....(PDF)

His comments varied from the prepared ones in one major area: while the NASA milestones call for an official test of the Launch Abort System SuperDraco thrusters in Q2 of next year, SpaceX plans on testing them several months ahead of schedule - Q4 of this year.

Selected bits from the prepared statement -

>

The Dragon LAS is a vehicle-integrated, side-mounted engine system selected for its safety, reliability and performance after a system-level analysis conducted by SpaceX. Eight abort engines (known as SuperDracos because they are modified versions of Dragon?s existing Draco thrusters) are located around the periphery of the Dragon service section and fed by hypergolic propellant stored in the spacecraft propellant tanks.

The LAS will be enabled after crew ingress and securing on the pad and will be disabled on orbit after Dragon separation from the second stage. The launch vehicle malfunction detection system for automatic abort will monitor the Falcon 9 and Dragon for engine failures, flight control failure, failure of the booster propellant tank and failure of the booster?s primary structure, among other signatures.

Abort responses will be determined by failure(s) detected and the phase of flight, in order to maximize survivability. For example, a significantly off-nominal change in tank pressure while the vehicle is on the pad may result in an instantaneous high-acceleration abort, while a performance-related failure of the second-stage engine during ascent may result in a delayed abort until ideal entry conditions are met, a pre-abort shutdown of the second-stage engine and a low-acceleration abort profile.

>

SpaceX is designing the Dragon to carry seven crewmembers seated in two rows. The seats will be conformal and a mechanical force accommodation system will cushion any off-nominal landing impacts to assure crew safety. The crew will wear spacesuits to protect them from any rapid cabin depressurization emergency event. The suits will be rated for operation at vacuum and provide communication and cooling systems.

The Dragon environmental control and life support systems will provide the crew with fresh air ventilation, remove carbon dioxide and control humidity and cabin pressure. Fire detection and suppression systems will protect the crew in the event of an emergency. Accommodations will be provided for food preparation and waste disposal.

During the span of the CCDev2 SAA, SpaceX is completing preliminary designs on modifications to our launch pad and mission control center to be ready to fly astronauts. The launch pad will have a new tower and access arm to allow crew to enter the Dragon and egress quickly in the event of a launch pad emergency. Mission control will have a new console position for a flight surgeon for human missions.

In addition to these crew vehicle systems, the operation of the vehicle for nominal, contingency and emergency situations is being outlined for all phases of flight. A crew cabin mock-up is being constructed to allow NASA astronauts to evaluate crew accommodations and other human factors considerations. We are conducting preliminary designs for crew display and manual control hardware. The detailed operation of the launch abort system is also being characterized by defining abort modes, triggering events and abort trajectories. Finally, the safety and mission assurance analyses are being evaluated with the goal of ensuring that the Dragon and Falcon 9 vehicle will achieve a level of safety better than any human spacecraft ever flown.

>

SpaceX Falcon 9 / Dragon vs. Russian Soyuz

The Russian Soyuz is an unquestionably capable vehicle with significant flight heritage. Indeed, SpaceX has benefited from lessons learned from Soyuz operations and predecessor spacecraft. That said, we do not intend to duplicate the capabilities of Soyuz, but to improve upon them. Critically, the Dragon will have the capability to transport up to seven crew members to the ISS ? four more astronauts than Soyuz. Further, the Dragon has the capability to carry additional unpressurized cargo to the ISS as well as the capability to return cargo from the ISS ? areas in which the Soyuz is highly limited.

Additionally, the Dragon and Falcon 9 offer several safety improvements relative to the Soyuz, including:

  • modern electronic control systems and computers;
  • improved redundancy in the automatic control system;
  • simpler and safer egress from the vehicle during an emergency on the launch pad;
  • improved data displays for ascent and entry;
  • capability for the crew to initiate an abort during the launch phase of the mission;
  • capability for the crew to initiate the deploy of the landing parachutes;
  • first stage engine out capability; and
  • NASA insight into design, testing and production (NASA has limited insight to the Soyuz rocket design as well as limited access to the production facilities for the spacecraft and the rocket).

One of the largest safety distinctions between the Falcon 9 and Dragon system over the Soyuz transport system is the reduction in separation events ? failure of separation events is one of the most common events leading to mission failures of space systems. The Soyuz launcher and spacecraft must release four side-mounted booster modules, the second stage, the third stage, the launch escape tower, fairing, propulsion module and habitation module prior to the point where the crew can enter safely in the Soyuz descent module. For the Dragon and Falcon 9, there are only four separation events which must occur prior to the Dragon?s entry: separation of the first stage, second stage, external cargo module or trunk and for a nominal mission separation of the nose fairing.

>

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neoadorable    405

thanks for posting that video Doc, very hopeful and upbeat. Elon is a straight-shooting honest person as always, and i agree with everything he says.

my question is, why is Robert Zubrin going around spreading doom and gloom lately? what's his story?

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DocM    16,757

Just Zubrin being Zubrin - meaning mercurial. Last summer he had a bug up his butt about VASIMR.

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DocM    16,757

SpaceX is having an event Dec 1, 2011 at the British Interplanetary Society in the UK regarding DragonLab flights. DragonLab will be a Dragon set up as a robotic on-orbit experimental laboratory. Flights will last from 1 week up to 2 years then bring the experiments back to Earth.

Meeting notice....

DragonLab datasheet & specs....(PDF)

Speaker: Richard Godwin

Date: 1 December, 2011

Start Time: 7 pm

End Time: 8:30 pm

Venue: BIS, 27/29 South Lambeth Road, Vauxhall, London, SW8 1SZ

DragonLab in Orbit. (SpaceX)

DragonLab (DL) is a free-flying, reusable orbital microgravity platform capable of hosting pressurized and unpressurized payloads to and from space. It will be launched to orbit aboard a Falcon 9 launch vehicle built by Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX). It will be useful for standard deployment of satellites or powered return payloads. It can be used as a microgravity research platform such as for materials, fluids, combustion physics, biotech or life science experiments. It can also be used as a technology demonstrator for instrument and sensor developers. DragonLab is expected to start flying from around 2014 onwards. This lecture will give an overview of the DragonLab spacecraft and will be given by Richard Godwin a private consultant to SpaceX on their DragonLab project.

Each member may also obtain a free ticket for one guest subject to availability of space.

If you are a BIS Member or Fellow, you can make your free booking below. If you are not a Member or Fellow of the BIS, you can book for ?10.00 via the Online Booking Form

Event Booking Form.

>

>

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neoadorable    405

the more the merrier as i always say, they need to spread the word and get people excited, and this event looks like it might help!

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DocM    16,757

NASA Ames proposal named Icebreaker - an outgrowth of the Red Deagon concept for a Dragon landing on Mars. Landing would be at a Martian pole with Dragon mounted instruments drilling through to sample for subsirface signs of biology.

Those questioning if Dragon could carry enough fuel to retrothrust to a landing ignore something Dragon has that other Mars spacecraft haven't - a positive lift to drag ratio. Bottom line: it may be able to to go into an eccentric orbit then more effectively use aerobraking (see 2010 but without balloons), slowing drastically before landing.

Note: corrected the C2/C3 flights timeframe.

Nature....

Dragon offers ticket to Mars

A cargo carrier designed for low Earth orbit could provide a cheap route to the red planet.

Dragon, the privately built space capsule intended to haul cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), is auditioning for another high-profile role. Its maker, SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, says that the capsule, which is set to make its first test flight to the ISS later this month year, could be dispatched to Mars ? drastically cutting the cost of exploration on the red planet. Together with researchers at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, the company is working on a proposal for a first 'Red Dragon' mission.

In a presentation at a meeting of NASA science advisers in Washington DC on 31 October, the group advocated repurposing Dragon and the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch rocket to send an ice drill that would look for life near the poles of Mars. The mission could launch as early as 2018 for a cost of US$500 million, proponents say ? well within the budget of NASA's least-expensive class of planetary missions.

"These are initial ideas," says James Green, head of NASA's planetary-science division, who invited the presentation. Although NASA officials are cautious, the fact that the proposal was presented at all is telling in a time of tightening budgets.

Christopher McKay, principal investigator at Ames for the Mars proposal, called 'Icebreaker', says that the mission would target polar terrain where ice is present near the surface, similar to that probed by the Phoenix spacecraft in 2008. Capable of piercing Martian permafrost a metre thick, the robotic drill would retrieve samples for an onboard lab that would look for DNA and enzymes.

The most challenging part of any Mars mission is taking a spacecraft through the Martian atmosphere at high speed and then slowing it down to a soft landing. Proponents of the Red Dragon concept say that this could be done using the eight small rocket motors that will be added to the capsule for escape from the Falcon 9 rocket ? a requirement for carrying humans, in case of an aborted launch. These motors would slow the capsule's descent and allow it to land tail-first, says John Karcz, a space scientist at Ames who is leading NASA's evaluation of the concept.

Scott Hubbard, an aeronautical engineer at Stanford University in California and a former Ames director, is sceptical, questioning whether the retro-rockets alone could decelerate the capsule. All previous Mars landers have used parachutes. He notes that a capsule designed to operate near Earth will need extensive changes to cope with the communications challenges and temperature extremes in interplanetary space. "All space is not the same, and deep space is quite different."

Yet the prospect of a fast, cheap route to the red planet could be attractive for Mars scientists, whose other plans are falling foul of budget constraints. Another mission proposed for 2018, a rover that would gather rocks in the first part of a three-stage effort to bring samples back to Earth, would cost $2.5 billion ? a figure that NASA hopes to split with the European Space Agency. But that hasn't been enough to placate US President Barack Obama's budget advisers, who are wary of the $8.5-billion total cost of the multi-launch project and are threatening to leave the missions out of future budget requests.

McKay says some colleagues are fretting that Red Dragon will undermine the push for the 2018 rover mission. "I can see how some people would see that as threatening," he says, but adds that if Red Dragon ends up as the cheapest way to Mars, it should get a fair hearing. He says that Ames and SpaceX will refine the proposal in preparation for a planetary-mission competition that could begin in 2013.

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