Author Topic: Red Dragon science  (Read 5987 times)

Offline Dao Angkan

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Red Dragon science
« on: 05/13/2017 12:43 AM »
OK, so we've all seen the videos of Red Dragon landing on Mars .... but what does it do then? How does it deliver payloads to the surface? Does it power itself, does it need to?

So I thought about this, and this is how I envision a possible way .... how do you envision it, and what issues do you see with my envision?

OK, so Red Dragon lands .... typical docking port isn't needed, so instead a telescopic mast expands from the top of RD after the nose flips open. From the mast solar panels spread out, and at the top of the mast is a camera which surveys the ground 360 degrees.

All critical systems are insulated in Red Dragon, such as computers and batteries, but by the hatch is an unpressurised area, and the hatch opens up to the Martian envirornment. On the back of the hatch door is a robotic arm. Let's say that it is highly mobile, with a reach of 5 metres. It picks up the various payloads and deposits them on the surface of Mars. It also takes a selfie from maximum distance. On board is an atmospheric ISRU experiment, it stores the Martian atmosphere in a a tank. The robotic arm picks up and releases a "rover", but it's quite small, like Sojourner, it can travel around Red Dragon each day, but needs to return home each night.

Each night Sojourner returns home. Robo-arm picks up Sojourner and returns it to Red Dragon, the hatch closes, ISRU experiment releases CO2 to pressurise Red Dragon with insulating air. Some small electric heaters keep Red Dragon warm .... next day repeat.

Offline mikelepage

Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #1 on: 05/13/2017 04:16 AM »
To combine some of your ideas...

That little rover, as long as it can fold up inside Dragon, could potentially be a lot more capable than any rover so far.  Remember, Tesla electric motors/high torque, chunky battery pack, no requirement for solar panels, and Mars gravity.

I'm imagining the rover as more of a "Roomba" rover. 
So option 1 is that the top hatch opens, crane arm puts Roomba rover on the ground.  Then, crane arm puts various payloads onto the rover, which places them in locations nearby which are best for solar power or sampling etc.  The rover only contains enough electronics to scout around between charges, visit various locations to either take samples and return them to the various experimental payloads, or simply move the payloads to the sample. 

Option 2, perhaps the rover is powerful enough to get underneath the dragon itself (which is on little stubby legs), and move the whole vehicle as desired.  As well as everything in option 1.

Remembering that SpaceX itself has a top priority of finding water to demonstrate ISRU, and some of the ISRU equipment likely has to be hardwired into the Dragon itself, I'm leaning towards option 2, if it is possible.

Offline redliox

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #2 on: 05/13/2017 04:54 AM »
If debating how to deploy instruments an item, how about the thought of deploying aerial drones?  The same kind of helicopter being debated for Mars 2020 could literally fly out the hatch.  If there's a docking port still on top, likewise that could be utilized to send up a balloon as a further thought.

The main science a small drone-copter could do would be to survey the site; send a Dragon-pod down to a potential crewed landing site and use the drones to fly around like a pack of Sojourners without terrain limitations.
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Offline biosehnsucht

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #3 on: 05/13/2017 06:36 AM »
Option 3, "crew" access hatch on the side opens up, ramp comes down (roll out perhaps - inflatable or one of those carbon fiber things?), rover can drive in/out of Dragon.

Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #4 on: 05/14/2017 02:48 AM »
Before speculating as to what science can be done, maybe we should focus on what modifications need to be done to allow anything to happen.  Also list which of these are common to any such mission and which are customised to a particular mission. 
« Last Edit: 05/14/2017 04:40 AM by Dalhousie »
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline redliox

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #5 on: 05/14/2017 03:44 AM »
Before speculate as to what science can be done, maybe we should focus on what modifications need to be done to allow anything to happen.  Also list which of these are common to any such mission and which are customised to a particular mission.

Agreed.  Access to the surface is useful.  I can think of a few types of modifications; I'll list them from least to most involved:

1) Vents: A few slits, pop-away covers, and some piping.  Useful for either atmospheric instrumentation or atmospheric ISRU.  Some work involved of course, but the whole capsule doesn't have to be re-engineered to accommodate.

2) Hatch Cannon/Catapult: An over-powered 'spring' of sorts to throw out small, independent, and durable payloads.  The main hatch opens, the mechanism swings into an angled position, and the package is shot out for a semi-hard landing.  Think cubesat meets Pathfinder.

3) Robotic Hatch Arm: A robotic arm, mounted inside the capsule, that pulls out devices from the interior and places them on the surface; said devices would be on the small size; Sojourners but not MERs for instance.  Essentially a larger version of the Phoenix and InSight robotic arms.

4) Small Ramp: After the hatch opens a ramp deploys; probably would involve a high incline and the rover would be slightly smaller than a MER.  Ensuring the ramp folds/unfolds would be one challenge while ensuring it doesn't impede other capsule functions another.

5) Enlarged Hatches: Larger hatch to permit MER-size or larger devices access; this would also be useful if the capsules meant for future access for humans in bulky suits.

6) Jettisonable Capsule Sections: Entire portions of the capsule (25% or more) are explicitly designed to be blown off during EDL.  Handy for very large payloads, deploying Mars airplanes or balloons.  Difficult to retain a space-fairing vehicle prior to EDL though.
« Last Edit: 05/14/2017 03:45 AM by redliox »
"Let the trails lead where they may, I will follow."
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Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #6 on: 05/14/2017 04:42 AM »
Before speculate as to what science can be done, maybe we should focus on what modifications need to be done to allow anything to happen.  Also list which of these are common to any such mission and which are customised to a particular mission.

Agreed.  Access to the surface is useful.  I can think of a few types of modifications; I'll list them from least to most involved:

1) Vents: A few slits, pop-away covers, and some piping.  Useful for either atmospheric instrumentation or atmospheric ISRU.  Some work involved of course, but the whole capsule doesn't have to be re-engineered to accommodate.

2) Hatch Cannon/Catapult: An over-powered 'spring' of sorts to throw out small, independent, and durable payloads.  The main hatch opens, the mechanism swings into an angled position, and the package is shot out for a semi-hard landing.  Think cubesat meets Pathfinder.

3) Robotic Hatch Arm: A robotic arm, mounted inside the capsule, that pulls out devices from the interior and places them on the surface; said devices would be on the small size; Sojourners but not MERs for instance.  Essentially a larger version of the Phoenix and InSight robotic arms.

4) Small Ramp: After the hatch opens a ramp deploys; probably would involve a high incline and the rover would be slightly smaller than a MER.  Ensuring the ramp folds/unfolds would be one challenge while ensuring it doesn't impede other capsule functions another.

5) Enlarged Hatches: Larger hatch to permit MER-size or larger devices access; this would also be useful if the capsules meant for future access for humans in bulky suits.

6) Jettisonable Capsule Sections: Entire portions of the capsule (25% or more) are explicitly designed to be blown off during EDL.  Handy for very large payloads, deploying Mars airplanes or balloons.  Difficult to retain a space-fairing vehicle prior to EDL though.

I like this list.  Any hatches (including modifications of the present ones, have to be self-opening of course.  Something like the Dragon  lab hatch for example.

I think the cubesat analog is very apt.  Standardised surface payloads units that a can be handled by a standard deployment mechanism.
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline TripD

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #7 on: 05/14/2017 05:36 AM »
Just wondering if a modified nose section could be used to maximize internal space for a small rover or other equipment.  Flip it open and drop via cables to the ground?

Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #8 on: 05/14/2017 07:45 AM »
Just wondering if a modified nose section could be used to maximize internal space for a small rover or other equipment.  Flip it open and drop via cables to the ground?

Might be better to have sensors in it for atmosphere or astronomy - related experiments
« Last Edit: 05/23/2017 02:27 AM by Dalhousie »
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline Kaputnik

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #9 on: 05/14/2017 08:20 AM »
What happens to Dragon once vented to Mars atmosphere- will its systems survive that? And if not, does it matter, or are we treating it as an empty shell post landing?
Waiting for joy and raptor

Offline guckyfan

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #10 on: 05/14/2017 09:41 AM »
What happens to Dragon once vented to Mars atmosphere- will its systems survive that? And if not, does it matter, or are we treating it as an empty shell post landing?

The avionics will need to survive vacuum. Otherwise the spacesuits for ISS astronauts make no sense.

Computing and data storage capacity on the surface plus communication with satellites and earth would be very useful, when rovers can contact the base. Connection to a deployed solar array would be needed.

Offline TakeOff

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #11 on: 05/19/2017 10:39 AM »
Sample return is the next big leap in Mars exploration. Even without taking any actual sample, a technology demonstration of an empty lift-off from Mars, just a jump to crash nearby, could be helpful for the future. Launching a rocket untouched for 7 months after having been launched and landed, probably makes even ICBM rocket scientists a bit worried. But the Sky Crane worked all right.

A Red Dragon would have more mass than the sum of everything humans have landed on Mars to date. Even if releasing a rover from a Dragon is too complicated, just drilling several meters straight down from a stationary platform and optically (and hopefully in more ways) study the surface of the drill core taken up, would break a new frontier of interplanetary exploration.

And simply by landing in a region yet unexplored could yield great science. SpaceX says that is the Mars transportation company, don't they? I think universities would give them instruments for free and be very happy.
« Last Edit: 05/19/2017 10:40 AM by TakeOff »

Offline WindnWar

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #12 on: 05/19/2017 11:10 AM »
I think for say rovers as a payload to deliver there, they could easily hold a challenge similar to what they've done for the hyperloop pods and teams from various colleges could compete to build a rover that if it wins the competition could be sent to Mars on a Red Dragon. Same with other deployable payloads. Teams given specs it has to conform too and capabilities it must possess and let em go to work.

Offline Kaputnik

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #13 on: 05/19/2017 11:28 AM »
Previous MSR concepts have considered ISRU, primarily because of the low landed mass budget. And this obviously can massively increase cost, complexity, and timescale- hence why no such mission has ever got even close to the launch pad yet.

Ironically, SpaceX, who are going to be investing heavily in ISRU technology, may soon be able to offer enough mass to the surface to make ISRU redundant for the initial MSR.
Waiting for joy and raptor

Offline AncientU

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #14 on: 05/19/2017 01:15 PM »
Initial MSR may well be a hand-carry like the Lunar samples 50 years ago.
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Offline jpo234

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #15 on: 05/19/2017 01:40 PM »
Initial MSR may well be a hand-carry like the Lunar samples 50 years ago.

That's what I thought. If a manned ITS really lands on Mars in the middle of the next decade, an expensive sample return mission would be pointless.

Offline Kaputnik

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #16 on: 05/19/2017 02:22 PM »
It's quite incredible to think that the first object to return from Mars may well not be a tiny unmanned sample canister, but a huge rocket ship descending on a plume of fire. Heinlein would have been proud.
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Offline AncientU

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #17 on: 05/19/2017 02:47 PM »
It's quite incredible to think that the first object to return from Mars may well not be a tiny unmanned sample canister, but a huge rocket ship descending on a plume of fire. Heinlein would have been proud.

Yup. 
Think about the comparative value of a tonne or two of hand-selected samples...  from a 100 sq km region of Mars surface.

Steve Squyres:
Quote
S: So how do you think this effort affects the manned vs. unmanned mission balance?

Squyres: You know, I'm a robot guy, that's what I have spent most of my career doing, but I'm actually a very strong supporter of human spaceflight. I believe that the most successful exploration is going to be carried out by humans, not by robots.

What Spirit and Opportunity have done in 5 1/2 years on Mars, you and I could have done in a good week.
http://www.space.com/6972-steve-squyres-robot-guy-humans-mars.html

So, why don't we take the $XB intended for caching samples by Mars 2020 plus MSR and get started...

Edit: Added Squyres quote.
« Last Edit: 05/19/2017 03:01 PM by AncientU »
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
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Offline Phil Stooke

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #18 on: 05/20/2017 09:10 PM »
"If a manned ITS really lands on Mars in the middle of the next decade, an expensive sample return mission would be pointless."

The idea is to get at least some samples (including atmospheric gas samples) before people arrive, so you know they are not contaminated.  After that, fine, collect samples during human flights to Mars, but get a control sample first.

Offline redliox

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Re: Red Dragon science
« Reply #19 on: 05/20/2017 09:37 PM »
"If a manned ITS really lands on Mars in the middle of the next decade, an expensive sample return mission would be pointless."

The idea is to get at least some samples (including atmospheric gas samples) before people arrive, so you know they are not contaminated.  After that, fine, collect samples during human flights to Mars, but get a control sample first.

Let's get back to topic again and not wander too heavily - what can Red Dragon do for science before humans arrive suffice to say?
"Let the trails lead where they may, I will follow."
-Tigatron

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