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Thursday, 28 April 2016

SpaceX to Mars?

Above: An artists impression of the Red Dragon capsule landed on Mars. Courtesy of SpaceX.
SpaceX has announced plans to land a private unmanned mission on the Martian surface, launching as early as 2018. I've only got the time to put up a brief note on this at the moment, but I'll follow with something more detailed when I've had a chance to do the research - and listen to the reactions of various engineers and scientists I'm in contact with. For the moment, here're the highlights of the announcement:
  • Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder, has spoken in the past of hugely ambitious Mars missions.
  • His ultimate goal is private manned missions and a colony.
  • SpaceX have had a Mars adapted version of their Dragon spacecraft, called the Red Dragon, in planning for a while now.
  • Red Dragon will land a payload 5 to 10 times bigger than any previous mission, using  rocket motors to slow it's descent.
  • The science payload hasn't been described yet, but may include a sample return mission. 
  • Red Dragon will be a huge step towards the Dragon 2 craft, which will be able to land anywhere in the solar system. 
  • It will launch on SpaceX's Falcon heavy rocket.

Above: A dragon capsule conducts landing tests, using a similar 'propulsive landing' to that described for the Red Dragon variant.

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