Poll

When will SpaceX launch their first Red Dragon mission to Mars?

2018 window
87 (49.7%)
2020 window
69 (39.4%)
2022 window
11 (6.3%)
2024 window
3 (1.7%)
Never
5 (2.9%)

Total Members Voted: 175

Voting closed: 07/23/2016 11:49 PM


Author Topic: POLL: When will the first Red Dragon mission be launched to Mars?  (Read 15562 times)

Offline jongoff

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I didn't see a poll to cover this already, so when do people think SpaceX will successfully launch its first Red Dragon mission to Mars?

Elon announced that they're shooting for the 2018 window, which according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploration_of_Mars#Launch_windows is less than two years out from now (if I'm reading that correctly). I've seen a range of opinions about how likely he was to make that window, and when he was likely to fly if he didn't make that window, but I wanted to gather the collective wisdom of NSF readers.

For purposes of this poll, assume that "successfully launch its first Red Dragon mission to Mars" means that a Red Dragon designed for Mars landing has been placed into mars transfer trajectory following a successful TMI burn. While I'm asking for opinions only on when it is first attempted, if you want to leave a comment about what you picked, why, and whether or not you think they'll pull off the EDL on the first attempt (and if not, when that'll happen), that would be very interesting.

I have the poll currently set to stay open for one month.

~Jon

[Moderators: If I'm blind and missed a similar poll, feel free to merge or delete this]

Edit/Lar: See also http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=37233, a different, but similar poll.
« Last Edit: 06/26/2016 02:59 PM by Lar »

Offline jongoff

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I'll go first. I personally don't think they'll make the 2018 window (I give them less than 30% chance), but I do think they'll make the 2020 window. This is a high priority for SpaceX, so I don't think "never" works. But it's always seemed as though the schedules in Elon's announcements make the most sense if you assume he's using Mars years instead of Earth years for how far in the future something will happen...

As for if they'll make EDL the first time? I'd give them better than even odds of pulling it off the first time. They've got a sharp team, and they'll analyze the crap out of it. And frankly, if JPL could land MSL and SpaceX could pull off some of their high-energy barge landings, I think their odds of making Supersonic Retropropulsion work the first time on Mars is reasonably good.

~Jon

Online Robotbeat

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I voted 2020 as well, but they still could have a decent, 40% chance of making it.
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Offline rpapo

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One must always attempt to compensate for Elon's time dilation factor...
An Apollo fanboy . . . fifty years ago.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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What may be misunderstood about RD is that it is the pivot for SX to actually make Musk's circus acts suddenly have meaning, a purpose. The fan's get caught up in the "vision"/hallucination thing, the aerospace professionals, planetary scientists, SC engineers get caught up in the operational realities. Neither.

It's a goalpost. He'll do it because he has to use SX as a fulcrum to bend "all space" in the direction that allows him to know that he can reach his near term objectives (1. world launch provider 51%+ market with generic launch, 2. one or two 100% reusable BFR's that earn-out for 24 of 26 months, where 2 are spent solely with BFS missions, 3. BFS that operates on two planets). His ego isn't about things but changing the way the world works, where that suits eventually where he heads.

So ... he'll launch for 2018, and cross fingers.

Because even if he doesn't get 100% mission success, given what he's brought off, people will be certain that he'll have a greater chance than any government of reaching Mars with a HSF program eventually.

add: (missed part of Jon's request for comments)

what you picked:
  2018

why:
  believe, like with constant booster recovery, he "wins" irrespective of outcome by attempting the "impossible"
  "L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace."

whether or not you think they'll pull off the EDL on the first attempt:
  95% to cruise, 80% to EI, 75% to 75km, 66% to 100m, 50% to 0m, 10% full mission.

and if not, when that'll happen:
  second/third encounter
« Last Edit: 06/24/2016 12:40 AM by Space Ghost 1962 »

Online the_other_Doug

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I'd like to preface this with the caveat that we're talking about SpaceX here, and sometimes they do employ, shall we say, innovative development techniques.  But, that said...

I really can't believe that SpaceX would announce their intention to launch Red Dragon to Mars in the 2018 synod unless there was a complete, detailed design for the entire Red Dragon configuration (including all systems in the trunk) and for how that spacecraft will be operated and managed throughout its mission.  And I'd have to believe that metal is already being bent on the spacecraft that will be sent to Mars.

All of the intensive development and testing needed to build and fly the Red Dragon has really already been accomplished, what with the completion of the Dragonfly hover tests and the refinement of the Superdraco design to correct deficiencies encountered in the pad abort test.

Assuming there are no show-stoppers in getting the Falcon Heavy flying in time, I truly think SpaceX will have a vehicle ready to launch for the 2018 synod.

And if it fails, at least SpaceX will have learned something.  It may delay their first manned landing by a synod, but if the first Red Dragon fails, I would betcha the second one succeeds...
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline rcoppola

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With a star chart in one hand and roll of duct tape in another, come hell or high water, they will throw a Dragon to Mars in 2018.
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Offline david1971

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Well, there's this poll:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=37233.0

Reporting my own post to the Mods...

Offline jongoff

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I really can't believe that SpaceX would announce their intention to launch Red Dragon to Mars in the 2018 synod unless there was a complete, detailed design for the entire Red Dragon configuration (including all systems in the trunk) and for how that spacecraft will be operated and managed throughout its mission.  And I'd have to believe that metal is already being bent on the spacecraft that will be sent to Mars.

Heh, that's funny. You mean like how Elon only told his propulsion guys about how Merlin-1D was now going to be a 140klbf engine the day before his Falcon Heavy announcement? IIRC they had just come to tell Elon that they had managed to get the Merlin 1D test to a higher thrust than expected: ~124klbf.

And when has anything SpaceX proposed actually happened on time? Why do we expect this time it will be different? Was Falcon Heavy not important to Elon? Commercial Crew flights? Etc?

I actually think his idea of a regular milk-run to Mars is brilliant, I just think that people who believe this time will be different need to make a stronger case for why.

~Jon
« Last Edit: 06/24/2016 05:18 AM by jongoff »

Online Comga

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I like the idea of using Martian years instead of Earth years for all SpaceX predictions.
It's not as pessimistic as my old SpaceX Time Dilation Factor of 2.4.
So I picked 2020.

We know Mars is a keen focus of Musk, but it seems incredible to get systems ready that have a chance of surviving for the several month transit in interplanetary space.  On the other hand, he could just toss a Dragon at Mars and see how long it lasts, but that sounds lame.
What kind of wastrels would dump a perfectly good booster in the ocean after just one use?

Offline cleonard

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Re: When will the first Red Dragon mission be launched to Mars?
« Reply #10 on: 06/24/2016 05:27 AM »
You can always launch to earth orbit tomorrow if you are not ready today.  Not so with Mars as "tomorrow" is 26 months away.

Not saying that it's a 100% for sure that they will make 2018, but I do think they are going to try real hard to make it.

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« Last Edit: 06/24/2016 05:27 AM by cleonard »

Offline sdsds

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Re: When will the first Red Dragon mission be launched to Mars?
« Reply #11 on: 06/24/2016 05:49 AM »
Mine is the outlying estimate that they'll make the 2022 window. But no launch system that hasn't already put a payload through TMI is likely to do it any sooner.

"Time dilation." It explains so much....
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Offline stoker5432

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Re: When will the first Red Dragon mission be launched to Mars?
« Reply #12 on: 06/24/2016 02:24 PM »
2018 for sure. Looking at previous Mars missions, what they're proposing to do is much less complex. They're also smart enough to describe it as a "test flight" so just like the first F9 landing attempts, they can point to a failure as a learning experience and a probable outcome.
« Last Edit: 06/24/2016 02:27 PM by stoker5432 »

Offline whitelancer64

If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that the Red Dragon will be the 4th Dragon v2 off the production line. The 1st will be the unmanned test flight to the ISS / in-flight abort test article, the 2nd is for the crewed test flight to the ISS, the 3rd is for the first operational crew flight Dragon, and the 4th would be the Red Dragon.

We know that production has already started on the first two orbital test flight Dragons, and I very much doubt SpaceX would put their Commercial Crew vehicle production at second priority for the Red Dragon, also keep in mind that development of the Dragon v2 isn't done yet, the final dCDR review hasn't been completed and major component testing (including retropropulsive landing tests) isn't done yet either. Assuming no large funding delays or issues coming up during testing that need to be fixed, the orbital test flights are currently projected to be completed by mid-2017. It might have one operational ISS crew delivery flight under its belt at the end of 2017 or in the first quarter of 2018.

That doesn't give SpaceX much time to actually build the Red Dragon before the April 2018 launch window to Mars, given that it will have to be specially built in a clean room for planetary protection purposes. It's not impossible by a long shot, particularly if the Red Dragon is a mostly stock Dragon v2 (a great deal will depend on how much modification will have to be done to the stock design) whose primary purpose is the EDL test, with few or no other experiments on board as a payload, but even so it will be tight timeline with a very solid deadline.

I voted 2020 as the more likely launch window.
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Offline Confusador

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Re: When will the first Red Dragon mission be launched to Mars?
« Reply #14 on: 06/24/2016 04:39 PM »
2018, at about 70%.

I find it difficult to believe that FH and Dragon 2 won't be flying at that point.  So on the grounds that "something" is better than "nothing" I think they'll throw one in the right direction with as much on board as they are able to have ready.  Now, I'd give them low odds of being able to do much useful with it other than EDL (ISRU testing is out until 20), but EDL by itself is valuable enough that the only thing I see holding them back is their ablility to manufacture Dragons quickly enough.

Online Kaputnik

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Re: When will the first Red Dragon mission be launched to Mars?
« Reply #15 on: 06/24/2016 09:06 PM »
2020.
FH isn't flying yet. They need 3-core tests on the stand, then they need cautious test flights with no schedule pressure, and they need sucessful flights, above all else. A FH flight is big, complex, and costly, and I doubt that they will be in a position to confidently hit a launch window in 2018.

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Online the_other_Doug

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Re: When will the first Red Dragon mission be launched to Mars?
« Reply #16 on: 06/25/2016 03:57 AM »
I really can't believe that SpaceX would announce their intention to launch Red Dragon to Mars in the 2018 synod unless there was a complete, detailed design for the entire Red Dragon configuration (including all systems in the trunk) and for how that spacecraft will be operated and managed throughout its mission.  And I'd have to believe that metal is already being bent on the spacecraft that will be sent to Mars.

Heh, that's funny. You mean like how Elon only told his propulsion guys about how Merlin-1D was now going to be a 140klbf engine the day before his Falcon Heavy announcement? IIRC they had just come to tell Elon that they had managed to get the Merlin 1D test to a higher thrust than expected: ~124klbf.

And when has anything SpaceX proposed actually happened on time? Why do we expect this time it will be different? Was Falcon Heavy not important to Elon? Commercial Crew flights? Etc?

I actually think his idea of a regular milk-run to Mars is brilliant, I just think that people who believe this time will be different need to make a stronger case for why.

~Jon

Ah, but you edited out my first paragraph, which came directly before the part you quoted:

I'd like to preface this with the caveat that we're talking about SpaceX here, and sometimes they do employ, shall we say, innovative development techniques.  But, that said...

So, yeah -- I'm quite aware of Elon Time, and his incredible tendency to throw out impossibly optimistic timeframes off the top of his head.

But many of the things you mention are things that were announced in much more low-key manners than this Red Dragon announcement.  This wasn't Elon talking off the top of his head to some reporter he was trying to impress.

This was SpaceX, along with NASA, announcing their entry into active Mars exploration.  The way actual legitimate corporations announce plans to the public.  Not just a lot of vague "I'm doing this because I want to establish a colony on Mars" stuff, or tweets that disappear after a few days, or a giggling Elon saying one outrageous thing after another in a magazine interview and then interrupting himself with "I oughtn't say more, this stuff isn't set in stone yet".  This was a very specific announcement (a joint SpaceX/NASA announcement, IIRC) of a timeframe when they will try to launch a spacecraft to Mars.

The way in this was announced, and the involvement of NASA with planning and their help in arranging DSN access (which SpaceX will pay for, but which no private corporation has ever even requested, to my knowledge), tells me these plans are more solidly set in stone than prior Musk public musings.

It's my own impression, but to me, this one comes off as a more solid timeframe.  YMMV.  We'll all know for sure in two years, at most.  I will say, I'm not the only one who voted for 2018 in this poll, so if I'm crazy, I'm not the only one... ;)
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline su27k

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Re: When will the first Red Dragon mission be launched to Mars?
« Reply #17 on: 06/25/2016 04:11 AM »
And when has anything SpaceX proposed actually happened on time? Why do we expect this time it will be different?

Very good question, I can't actually think of any, goes to show gut feeling (for 2018 in my case) is not always aligned with reality. But nevertheless here's some totally unprofessional rationalization for my gut feeling:
1. The 2018 window is a fixed point in time. A lot of people think this is bad, I'm not sure that's entirely the case. Having a fixed time window means Elon can't just pull a random date/time from his head, everyone knows it's either 2018 or 2020, there're no 3rd choice.
2. When Red Dragon first came out in 2011 as a Discovery class mission, they were aiming for 2018 window, so I assume 2018 is not a total surprise for everyone else.
3. The SAA was signed in December 2014, so they have been working on this for a while.
4. Looking at joek's commonality chart in Red Dragon thread, looks to me there're not a lot of hardware changes between Red Dragon and Crew Dragon, mostly it's removing unnecessary CD hardware. And if they're clever, they could fold part if not all of Red Dragon R&D into CCtCAP, instead of waiting for CCtCAP to complete then start RD R&D.
5. I'm not ruling out they'll modify Crew Dragon hardware for Red Dragon, either using the 2 test articles or the Demo 1 hardware after abort test. This gets around the production lead time issue somewhat.
6. Assuming they also use recovered cores for the launch, it means the mission will have a very low cost, then I can see Space Ghost's point that they'll launch even if EDL is not totally worked out yet. Just having a functional private spacecraft reach the red planet would be a big win, even if it ends in a crater. It would blow the whole "private company can't do BLEO" narrative out of the water.
7. I assume most of the EDL problems are in software, which presumably they can remote update en-route to Mars, this gives them extra 6 months to tweak it.

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: When will the first Red Dragon mission be launched to Mars?
« Reply #18 on: 06/25/2016 06:48 AM »
I voted 2020. I disagree with the idea that Elon will just go with whatever SpaceX has ready in a 2018 timeframe. Mars is the whole reason SpaceX exists, so SpaceX's first attempt at going to Mars has huge importance and significance. Elon will want to maximise chances of success. Also commercial crew has a lot riding on it and politically Elon will want to prioritise that if any conflicts arise.

If everything goes perfectly I think 2018 is possible, but more realistically it'll be 2020.

Offline sdsds

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Re: When will the first Red Dragon mission be launched to Mars?
« Reply #19 on: 06/26/2016 08:09 AM »
I voted 2020. I disagree with the idea that Elon will just go with whatever SpaceX has ready in a 2018 timeframe. Mars is the whole reason SpaceX exists, so SpaceX's first attempt at going to Mars has huge importance and significance. Elon will want to maximise chances of success. Also commercial crew has a lot riding on it and politically Elon will want to prioritise that if any conflicts arise.

If everything goes perfectly I think 2018 is possible, but more realistically it'll be 2020.

I'm honestly trying to follow along on this line of reasoning. Rephrasing it slightly it seems to say, "Whatever SpaceX has ready in 2018 likely won't be acceptable to Elon, but in the subsequent two years the project will advance enough that it will "maximise chances of success."

Why is two years enough for the project to evolve that much? Is it something magic about the alignment of the planets that helps SpaceX make great strides forward in two years time? ;-) Really... how come it won't take three years? Or five?
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