Author Topic: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?  (Read 3610 times)

Offline redliox

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Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« on: 04/30/2017 12:53 PM »
I'll sum it up short n sweet: could the ITS booster lift the Mars Direct-style vehicles while preserving its reusability?

The booster seems ridiculously huge enough to do the trick...but wanting to hear opinions as the devil always is in the details.
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Offline RonM

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #1 on: 04/30/2017 04:36 PM »
ITS booster is not designed to reach orbit. SpaceX would need to build a second stage for it, preferably reusable.

A cargo variant of ITS spacecraft could do the job, but it seems to me it would be a better idea to stick with the original plan and send ITS spacecraft to Mars.

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #2 on: 04/30/2017 05:20 PM »
Is Falcon Heavy not a better option for this? Especially in reusable format, it can put significant payloads into LEO without expending any cores. So if you need a few hundred tons in LEO for a manned Mars mission, Falcon Heavy could put it there far more cheaply than any other launch system could.


Online Kaputnik

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #3 on: 04/30/2017 07:14 PM »
Is Falcon Heavy not a better option for this? Especially in reusable format, it can put significant payloads into LEO without expending any cores. So if you need a few hundred tons in LEO for a manned Mars mission, Falcon Heavy could put it there far more cheaply than any other launch system could.



The bottleneck with using FH is fairing size. As originally envisaged, Mars Direct relies on a 10m+ PLF to enable entry vehicles that have suitable ballistic coefficient to enable EDL without recourse to hypersonic retropropulsion.

The BFR would be a great starting point for a Mars Direct launcher, but as RonM says you still need a second stage/EDS. And it's pretty hard to make your EDS reusable, by definition.
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Offline RonM

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #4 on: 04/30/2017 07:49 PM »
Is Falcon Heavy not a better option for this? Especially in reusable format, it can put significant payloads into LEO without expending any cores. So if you need a few hundred tons in LEO for a manned Mars mission, Falcon Heavy could put it there far more cheaply than any other launch system could.



The bottleneck with using FH is fairing size. As originally envisaged, Mars Direct relies on a 10m+ PLF to enable entry vehicles that have suitable ballistic coefficient to enable EDL without recourse to hypersonic retropropulsion.

The BFR would be a great starting point for a Mars Direct launcher, but as RonM says you still need a second stage/EDS. And it's pretty hard to make your EDS reusable, by definition.

I was thinking the EDS would be separate from the second stage. One of the many payloads to build the Mars Direct stack.

Big question is would a Mars Direct mission put into LEO by the ITS booster be cheaper than building the ITS spacecraft and tanker?

Online Patchouli

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #5 on: 05/01/2017 03:33 AM »
Since the ITS booster would be staging much lower and slower than something like the SLS core the second would have to be much larger and higher thrust more like the S-II stage of Saturn V.

I don't know what the pure payload of ITS is as I think the 550ton number often quoted includes the spaceship or tanker which is also the second stage.
I think a realistic performance expectation with an expendable upper stage might about 300 to 450 tons of pure payload into LEO depending if you want to reuse the booster.
Even 300tons could send both the ERV and Hab to Mars at the same time.

Expended it probably could even launch the nuclear thermal propulsion DRM 4.0 mission in one go.
« Last Edit: 05/01/2017 04:03 AM by Patchouli »

Offline TomH

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #6 on: 05/01/2017 06:26 AM »
In this thread I posited, somewhat jokingly, that the RS-25s on the SLS core be replaced with J-2X (BE-3U could work) and that be placed atop MCT (now ITS) as a disposable S2. I know that has its problems (primarily-core may need strengthening-boosters lift from upper thrust beam), but could it suit this purpose with a flared 10m fairing? Would it be easier than building something else from scratch?

« Last Edit: 05/01/2017 06:39 AM by TomH »

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #7 on: 05/01/2017 07:08 AM »
The traditional Mars Direct by Robert Zubrin and David Baker had Direct vehicles of about 45 tons being sent on Trans-Mars Injection. This is about what the SLS Block II with 'Dark Knights' solid boosters could achieve with an Exploration Upper Stage. If the corestage was redesigned for 5x RS-25E and the EUS had slightly higher thrust engines, this could raise the Direct Vehicle's masses to about 50 tons.

We probably need to have a new thread about Mars Direct redesigned for alternate launch vehicles such as New Glenn, Vulcan/ACES and Falcon Heavy (latest iteration; with and without propellant cross feed).
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Offline TomH

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #8 on: 05/01/2017 07:38 AM »
The traditional Mars Direct by Robert Zubrin and David Baker had Direct vehicles of about 45 tons being sent on Trans-Mars Injection. This is about what the SLS Block II with 'Dark Knights' solid boosters could achieve with an Exploration Upper Stage. If the core stage was redesigned for 5x RS-25E and the EUS had slightly higher thrust engines, this could raise the Direct Vehicle's masses to about 50 tons.

That means developing RS-25E, Dark Knights, the LUS (as opposed to EUS), and more tower mods for SLS. And this is all at NASA expense, I do not think this will happen. Also, it is all disposable.

The thread OP was about using the ITS booster. Rather than developing all these SLS components, would it be less expensive to employ the reusable ITS booster, strengthen the SLS core, place J-2X or BE-3U (both of which do or will exist anyway) on it, and use that as the combination second stage/Earth Departure Stage? Further, my guess is that gives you a lot of margin, with a lot less for NASA to develop. Senators in SLS states would be happy. Trump might get a landing w/in 8 years. SpaceX can work on their big booster. Somebody gets to build a new HydroLox engine that has already been designed. Those SLS cores actually go somewhere instead of nowhere. The same ITS boosters get reused with the new ITS spaceship, saving a lot of money. Who knows, maybe Robotbeat's OTS (mini-ITS) might even be used as the lander, giving SX a small scale prototype to work with. The public sees that Mars is possible on a somewhat reasonable budget and comes to embrace significant progress in space exploration, perhaps even becoming enthusiastic about it. The sortie missions serve as precursors to the flights of the bigger ITS spacecraft and the later possible beginning of colonization. Once the big ITS ships are operational, the SLS can be gracefully retired, while NASA and Trump take credit for working with the private sector and getting us to Mars. I think Trump might be happy to cooperate with Musk like this. He could finally say he did something. And it would be a very bold something.
« Last Edit: 05/01/2017 08:10 AM by TomH »

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #9 on: 05/01/2017 01:16 PM »
I don't want to diss your idea - which isn't awful - but it is extremely unlikely. Why? I think Elon would view it in 'Not Invented Here' terms or as a kludge of different components and technologies. It is also highly unlikely that Boeing, P&W Rocketdyne, NASA and SpaceX would or could all get 'in bed' with each other to enforce such a concept.

Something like what you're proposing would more likely come from the design team of a commercial SpaceX competitor, such as Blue Origin. Think of a huge cluster of BE4 and BE3 engines designed around a new hull and we'd be closer to the truth. But first there has to be a designated need or agenda established for such a giant launcher in the first place. Elon decided there was - so he's desiring to press on ahead with a certain Vision - which no one else has yet identified or articulated. The next ten years will give us many answers - for good or for worse...
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Offline envy887

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #10 on: 05/01/2017 02:03 PM »
The traditional Mars Direct by Robert Zubrin and David Baker had Direct vehicles of about 45 tons being sent on Trans-Mars Injection. This is about what the SLS Block II with 'Dark Knights' solid boosters could achieve with an Exploration Upper Stage. If the core stage was redesigned for 5x RS-25E and the EUS had slightly higher thrust engines, this could raise the Direct Vehicle's masses to about 50 tons.

That means developing RS-25E, Dark Knights, the LUS (as opposed to EUS), and more tower mods for SLS. And this is all at NASA expense, I do not think this will happen. Also, it is all disposable.

The thread OP was about using the ITS booster. Rather than developing all these SLS components, would it be less expensive to employ the reusable ITS booster, strengthen the SLS core, place J-2X or BE-3U (both of which do or will exist anyway) on it, and use that as the combination second stage/Earth Departure Stage? Further, my guess is that gives you a lot of margin, with a lot less for NASA to develop. Senators in SLS states would be happy. Trump might get a landing w/in 8 years. SpaceX can work on their big booster. Somebody gets to build a new HydroLox engine that has already been designed. Those SLS cores actually go somewhere instead of nowhere. The same ITS boosters get reused with the new ITS spaceship, saving a lot of money. Who knows, maybe Robotbeat's OTS (mini-ITS) might even be used as the lander, giving SX a small scale prototype to work with. The public sees that Mars is possible on a somewhat reasonable budget and comes to embrace significant progress in space exploration, perhaps even becoming enthusiastic about it. The sortie missions serve as precursors to the flights of the bigger ITS spacecraft and the later possible beginning of colonization. Once the big ITS ships are operational, the SLS can be gracefully retired, while NASA and Trump take credit for working with the private sector and getting us to Mars. I think Trump might be happy to cooperate with Musk like this. He could finally say he did something. And it would be a very bold something.

The ITS booster isn't going to exist without the ITS spaceship. If the ITS spaceship exists what's point in developing the Mars Direct departure, transit, EDL and Earth return hardware? It's all grossly out-classed by the ITS ship. The Mars Direct surface ops and refueling hardware would still be useful, but could at that point just be delivered to the surface by ITS.

Offline redliox

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #11 on: 05/01/2017 03:33 PM »
The ITS booster isn't going to exist without the ITS spaceship. If the ITS spaceship exists what's point in developing the Mars Direct departure, transit, EDL and Earth return hardware? It's all grossly out-classed by the ITS ship. The Mars Direct surface ops and refueling hardware would still be useful, but could at that point just be delivered to the surface by ITS.

Every now and then I do seem to see hints that SpaceX is building the ITS spaceship first rather than the booster.  Doing the opposite would make better sense to me.  I will admit though, if the spaceship is up and running and operating with the same engines it would serve as a SSTO LEO launcher which could be where Elon seeks to get most of his money; the booster solo would be overkill for a small-payload-rich v.s. large-payload-poor economy.
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Offline redliox

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #12 on: 05/01/2017 03:36 PM »
We probably need to have a new thread about Mars Direct redesigned for alternate launch vehicles such as New Glenn, Vulcan/ACES and Falcon Heavy (latest iteration; with and without propellant cross feed).

That's actually a good idea.  I think I will actually do what you suggest in the Mars threads.  Hopefully it can include a broad range of vehicles outside of ITS.
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Offline envy887

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #13 on: 05/01/2017 04:22 PM »
The ITS booster isn't going to exist without the ITS spaceship. If the ITS spaceship exists what's point in developing the Mars Direct departure, transit, EDL and Earth return hardware? It's all grossly out-classed by the ITS ship. The Mars Direct surface ops and refueling hardware would still be useful, but could at that point just be delivered to the surface by ITS.

Every now and then I do seem to see hints that SpaceX is building the ITS spaceship first rather than the booster.  Doing the opposite would make better sense to me.  I will admit though, if the spaceship is up and running and operating with the same engines it would serve as a SSTO LEO launcher which could be where Elon seeks to get most of his money; the booster solo would be overkill for a small-payload-rich v.s. large-payload-poor economy.

It's fairly clear the ship is first in the timeline from the IAC speech.

Offline TomH

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #14 on: 05/01/2017 09:55 PM »
I don't want to diss your idea - which isn't awful - but it is extremely unlikely. Why? I think Elon would view it in 'Not Invented Here' terms or as a kludge of different components and technologies. It is also highly unlikely that Boeing, P&W Rocketdyne, NASA and SpaceX would or could all get 'in bed' with each other to enforce such a concept.

LOL! Of course it's not going to happen. But the thread is not about whether it will happen or is likely to happen. The OP inquired re. how could Mars Direct be done employing the ITS booster. This is just an engineering exercise about possibilities. I don't think I said anything about an expectation of it coming to fruition.

Kludge? Of course it is a kludge. So was Saturn I, as would have been AresI and Liberty. So what?

As far as being in bed with each other, do you realize how many companies provided major components for Apollo/Saturn V? Virtually each component was from a different major player. Everybody got a piece of the green pie as well as a piece of the glory. Did you know that during WWII all of the then numerous aircraft manufacturers signed an agreement making all their proprietary plans open source? Thus the government could ask any manufacturer to build any aircraft at any time. National survival took precedence, and everyone made a lot of money. Did you know that the four fiercely rival millionaire California bankers joined forces as the Central Pacific Railroad Company in the late 1850s so that they all could become far richer by building the transcontinental railroad? It's interesting how the opportunity for more money can make fierce rivals become bed fellows. Call it cooperation or call it collusion, money or survival can forge rivals into a team.

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #15 on: 05/01/2017 10:19 PM »
Yes but this is not the 1960s, nor those other eras.
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Offline TomH

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #16 on: 05/01/2017 11:13 PM »
Yes but this is not the 1960s, nor those other eras.

 ::)

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #17 on: 05/01/2017 11:45 PM »
No need for the eye roll - I'm aware of pretty much all the historical events/consequences you mentioned,  and I'm not even American.  I'm just trying to urge you to be pragmatic and realize that pretty much all grandiose schemes and kludges we can imagine simply won't happen - just as they haven't over the last 20 years I've been observing space blogs. If it helps just think of me as a more verbose Jim or Grumpy Cat ;)
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Offline TomH

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #18 on: 05/02/2017 06:09 AM »
 ::)

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #19 on: 05/02/2017 08:10 AM »
::)
Don't Troll - it's beneath you...
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Online Patchouli

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #20 on: 05/03/2017 02:53 AM »
The ITS booster isn't going to exist without the ITS spaceship. If the ITS spaceship exists what's point in developing the Mars Direct departure, transit, EDL and Earth return hardware? It's all grossly out-classed by the ITS ship. The Mars Direct surface ops and refueling hardware would still be useful, but could at that point just be delivered to the surface by ITS.

Every now and then I do seem to see hints that SpaceX is building the ITS spaceship first rather than the booster.  Doing the opposite would make better sense to me.  I will admit though, if the spaceship is up and running and operating with the same engines it would serve as a SSTO LEO launcher which could be where Elon seeks to get most of his money; the booster solo would be overkill for a small-payload-rich v.s. large-payload-poor economy.

I figure it would be most logical to do the booster first as any performance shortfall will effect  the spaceship's design.
Plus the spaceship would be largely useless without it's booster but the latter can be used as a standard LV with the addition of an upper stage.

« Last Edit: 05/03/2017 02:59 AM by Patchouli »

Offline JamesH65

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #21 on: 05/03/2017 11:56 AM »
They clearly need to be designing and building the booster and ITS in parallel.

It's not a question of which comes first - they need to ensure that they are both ready to go at the same time. You cannot have one without the other. I'd expect the ITS to start manufacture first since it is more complicated and therefore clearly on the critical path.

Engine design is mostly the same for both of course (apart from Vac differences), so that's one development path that fits both streams.

Offline sevenperforce

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #22 on: 05/03/2017 02:19 PM »
They clearly need to be designing and building the booster and ITS in parallel.

It's not a question of which comes first - they need to ensure that they are both ready to go at the same time. You cannot have one without the other. I'd expect the ITS to start manufacture first since it is more complicated and therefore clearly on the critical path.
On the contrary: you certainly can have the ITS Spaceship and Tanker without the booster. Both can launch and undergo testing (suborbital testing, at least) without the booster.

Offline JamesH65

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #23 on: 05/03/2017 03:38 PM »
They clearly need to be designing and building the booster and ITS in parallel.

It's not a question of which comes first - they need to ensure that they are both ready to go at the same time. You cannot have one without the other. I'd expect the ITS to start manufacture first since it is more complicated and therefore clearly on the critical path.
On the contrary: you certainly can have the ITS Spaceship and Tanker without the booster. Both can launch and undergo testing (suborbital testing, at least) without the booster.

But you cannot do the job they are being built in any sensible timescale for if you do one then the other. If you want to go to Mars, you have to have both ready at the same time.

Offline sevenperforce

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #24 on: 05/03/2017 08:14 PM »

On the contrary: you certainly can have the ITS Spaceship and Tanker without the booster. Both can launch and undergo testing (suborbital testing, at least) without the booster.

But you cannot do the job they are being built in any sensible timescale for if you do one then the other. If you want to go to Mars, you have to have both ready at the same time.
Certainly. Just saying, the Spaceship can be flying, at least Grasshopper-style, before the Booster is constructed.

Offline TomH

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #25 on: 05/03/2017 08:16 PM »
... you cannot do the job they are being built in any sensible timescale for if you do one then the other. If you want to go to Mars, you have to have both ready at the same time.

For Mars, they will both have to be operational at the same time. That does not mean they have to be in simultaneous development. That would, in fact, be inadvisable for several reasons. Technology difficulties related to the first can be avoided for the second. One team of engineers can design the first, then design the second with compatible technology. Separate teams working at the same time may drift into divergent technology; they require twice the salaries and work space. Sequential development is far more prudent.

Post Script. Multiple parallel development was required for the Apollo program, but that was necessary in order to meet Kennedy's deadline. In regards to differential technology, look at the problem Apollo 13 had with non-compatible CO2 scrubbers. Having one team develop ITS and its booster sequentially allows engineers to utilize commonality.
« Last Edit: 05/04/2017 01:09 AM by TomH »

Offline JamesH65

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #26 on: 05/04/2017 09:55 AM »
... you cannot do the job they are being built in any sensible timescale for if you do one then the other. If you want to go to Mars, you have to have both ready at the same time.

For Mars, they will both have to be operational at the same time. That does not mean they have to be in simultaneous development. That would, in fact, be inadvisable for several reasons. Technology difficulties related to the first can be avoided for the second. One team of engineers can design the first, then design the second with compatible technology. Separate teams working at the same time may drift into divergent technology; they require twice the salaries and work space. Sequential development is far more prudent.

Post Script. Multiple parallel development was required for the Apollo program, but that was necessary in order to meet Kennedy's deadline. In regards to differential technology, look at the problem Apollo 13 had with non-compatible CO2 scrubbers. Having one team develop ITS and its booster sequentially allows engineers to utilize commonality.

But takes twice as long.

Note, engines are the same so that development path is the same for booster and spaceship. Composite tank development is the same, so that applies to both. In fact most of the composite work is applicable to both.

I don't think it make sense to do one then the other since a lot of the work is already automatically parallel. Just chop the job up in to chunks, use the lessons learn from each chunk apply to the next chunk rather than wait until the end of one program (booster) to apply lessons to the next program, the ITS. Agile rather than waterfall.

Offline TomH

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #27 on: 05/05/2017 06:36 AM »
But takes twice as long.

Whereas parallel development costs twice as much. I'm not sure Elon has the money to do this all at one time. Apollo was only going to the moon, and the parallel development cost 4.5% of the entire federal budget. I think parallel development is cost prohibitive.
« Last Edit: 05/05/2017 06:57 AM by TomH »

Online Kaputnik

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #28 on: 05/05/2017 09:12 AM »
But takes twice as long.

Whereas parallel development costs twice as much. I'm not sure Elon has the money to do this all at one time. Apollo was only going to the moon, and the parallel development cost 4.5% of the entire federal budget. I think parallel development is cost prohibitive.

And an established team will be more productive working on their second project than their first*

* in SpaceX's case ITS is obviously not their first project overall, but certainly the first of this scale using these materials and propellants, etc.
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Offline MickQ

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #29 on: 05/06/2017 12:53 AM »
If the Spaceship is developed first then it can be doing landing cradle testing ( Dare I say a Crash Test Dummy ) and development while the booster is being finished.

Offline JamesH65

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Re: Could the ITS Booster do Mars Direct?
« Reply #30 on: 05/09/2017 11:30 AM »
But takes twice as long.

Whereas parallel development costs twice as much. I'm not sure Elon has the money to do this all at one time. Apollo was only going to the moon, and the parallel development cost 4.5% of the entire federal budget. I think parallel development is cost prohibitive.

No, because they are not independent. Lots of the stuff developed for one will be relevant for the other.  You also only need one set of autoclaves, just schedule appropriately.

I don't think you can compare with the Apollo program, different driving forces, and technology is very different now.

Tags: SpaceX Mars ITS Mars Direct