Author Topic: Possible cost-reduction possibilities for the NASA portions of MSR  (Read 40848 times)

Offline matthewkantar

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There seems to be a lot of proposals in here to save money by making things a lot more complicated and requiring a lot more new tech.

That's very common to these discussions (and to this forum). It is often phrased with the word "simply," followed by a solution that requires entirely new technology development (in other words, NOT simple).

I think something that people here and elsewhere fundamentally misunderstand is that new technologies can reduce costs in the long run and over time, but that they have a high development cost. If all you are doing is a single mission, or a few missions, then that high up-front development cost will make that solution for a single mission a lot more expensive than using a more proven technology.

The more NASA uses proven technology, the less it pushes tech forward.

NASA is supposed to “expand the boundaries of our technological capabilities to explore our solar system,” according to NASA itself.

Planetary scientists are not the only stakeholder.

Offline Zed_Noir

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<snip>
The type of rocket chosen is going to affect the mass of the launch system. Any throttleable design could reduce the exhaust gas management problem by launching on less than full power and then throttling up when clear of the lander. I hope they studied that sort of thing before they chose the solid rocket over the hybrid rocket design.
You seem to not understand how the proposed MAV launches. It is similar to the man-portable FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile.

A dual impulse solid motor ignites the missile inside a disposable launch/carrier tube. The smaller initial propellant charge ejects the the missile from the tube at low velocity. After the missile travels pass a safe minimum range distance, the larger primary propellant charge ignites to move the missile to initial operational velocity as well as arming the dual warheads.

The Javelin anti-tank missile and similar missiles have use this launch method operationally for many years. It is well understood.

Offline Nomadd

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There seems to be a lot of proposals in here to save money by making things a lot more complicated and requiring a lot more new tech.

That's very common to these discussions (and to this forum). It is often phrased with the word "simply," followed by a solution that requires entirely new technology development (in other words, NOT simple).

I think something that people here and elsewhere fundamentally misunderstand is that new technologies can reduce costs in the long run and over time, but that they have a high development cost. If all you are doing is a single mission, or a few missions, then that high up-front development cost will make that solution for a single mission a lot more expensive than using a more proven technology.

The more NASA uses proven technology, the less it pushes tech forward.

NASA is supposed to “expand the boundaries
of our technological capabilities to explore our solar system,” according to NASA itself.

Planetary scientists are not the only stakeholder.
But that's not really the case here. They're not building a Webb. Just a handfull of rockets that really shouldn't be taking more than constructing a modern aircraft carrier. Talking about 10 billion not being enough to do the job is just insane.
 Me talking like I know what I'm talking about when we have world class players like Blackstar in here is pretty insane too. But I do have a pretty good sense of things like this, and something is seriously out of whack. (Excuse the overly technical terminology)
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.

Offline Jim

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This might be evidence of a problem in NASA's approach to MAV development.

it does no such thing.

This might be evidence of a problem in NASA's approach to MAV development.

For most launchers, the launch system is something of an afterthought. For terrestrial launchers, the mass of the launch system usually doesn't matter. MAV is different. The launch system mass is just as important as the mass of the rocket. In my opinion, MAV and its launch systems should be developed as a single integrated system. The fact that the mass of the MAV is usually quoted without mentioning the mass of the launch system could be evidence that that isn't happening.


You could not be more wrong.  JPL knows what they are doing.  MAV mass quotes are just for PR.   
MSFC and LM are on tap to deliver the Mars Ascent Vehicle Integrated System.  This is launcher, vehicle and any other systems needed.   The MAVIS allocated mass, power and data from the lander.

Offline Jim

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You seem to not understand how the proposed MAV launches. It is similar to the man-portable FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile.

A dual impulse solid motor ignites the missile inside a disposable launch/carrier tube. The smaller initial propellant charge ejects the the missile from the tube at low velocity. After the missile travels pass a safe minimum range distance, the larger primary propellant charge ignites to move the missile to initial operational velocity as well as arming the dual warheads.

The Javelin anti-tank missile and similar missiles have use this launch method operationally for many years. It is well understood.


Not quite the same.  The MAV is "tossed" up horizontally (but with a nose up angle) and then the first stage fires.

Offline Jim

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The type of rocket chosen is going to affect the mass of the launch system. Any throttleable design could reduce the exhaust gas management problem by launching on less than full power and then throttling up when clear of the lander. I hope they studied that sort of thing before they chose the solid rocket over the hybrid rocket design.

A throttleable hybrid design is going to be more complex, heavier and more risky.  Launching at a low throttle isn't going to help with exhaust management.

You need to stop throwing things at the wall to see if it sticks.
« Last Edit: 11/23/2023 02:20 pm by Jim »

Offline Zed_Noir

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You seem to not understand how the proposed MAV launches. It is similar to the man-portable FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile.

A dual impulse solid motor ignites the missile inside a disposable launch/carrier tube. The smaller initial propellant charge ejects the the missile from the tube at low velocity. After the missile travels pass a safe minimum range distance, the larger primary propellant charge ignites to move the missile to initial operational velocity as well as arming the dual warheads.

The Javelin anti-tank missile and similar missiles have use this launch method operationally for many years. It is well understood.


Not quite the same.  The MAV is "tossed" up horizontally (but with a nose up angle) and then the first stage fires.

Not much difference. Just the "tossed" is up for the MAV and away for the Javelin. They both ended up in mid-air with a nose up attitude for the stage motor/primary propellant charge to ignited.

Offline Blackstar

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The more NASA uses proven technology, the less it pushes tech forward.

NASA is supposed to “expand the boundaries of our technological capabilities to explore our solar system,” according to NASA itself.

You're missing my point. Developing new technology costs money and rarely does it save money in the short run. I did not say that they shouldn't develop new technology, only that people should understand what the relationship is.

[Sidenote: One could write volumes about how/where technology development should be done, but generally the consensus is that each NASA science division, like the Planetary Science Division, should fund technology development for that division with at least 5%--preferably more like 8%--of their budget devoted to R&D. NASA also has a separate Space Technology Mission Directorate that also funds relevant technology. One goal is to avoid having new missions fund too much of their own unique technology development, but of course that has to happen. That technology development should be ongoing so that new technologies can be made available to missions over time. That's how MOXIE came along. But if a mission needs a specific upgrade or implementation of a developed technology, that mission budget is going to have to pay for it, and that can be expensive.]

I'll also add to that that MSR already has a lot of new technology development, which is why it costs so much.
« Last Edit: 11/25/2023 04:33 pm by Blackstar »

Offline Blackstar

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Me talking like I know what I'm talking about

I think you should do more research, paying particular attention to the parts where the people involved in the program (like Orlando Figueroa) discuss the technological complexity of the mission.

Offline thespacecow

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PPIRB has standing recommendation to change PP requirements, might as well do it now, especially since you'll need it in about 5 to 10 years anyway, before MSR is even launched.

Reviewed does not equal relaxed, especially around Jezero.  The requirements may become tougher.

It may or it may not, you never know until you work on it. As I said before, NASA is going to have to figure this out soon anyway, it'll certainly be needed before the unrealistic 2030 launch date of POR MSR.


Quote from: VSECOTSPE
Quote from: thespacecow
Right, performing supersonic retro-propulsion

SX demonstrated it first, but it’s important to recognize that supersonic retropropulsion work goes back decades, long before SX existed:

Don't want to be drawn into a side way discussion, the point here is that SpaceX has taken a technology from TRL 3 all the way to TRL 9 (and bonus point being this technology has relevance to Mars EDL too), so the claim that SpaceX has no experience with "figuring out how to do something that has never been done before" is demonstrably false.


launching a constellation of 5,000 satellite has also been done many times

That only requires money and not technology

Right, it's not like MSR is facing a money problem.... Oh wait, it is


I thought the business case would be obvious: It's the crewed Mars missions that NASA is hoping to do under Artemis.

Typical nonsense.  Again typical SpaceX can do anything and everything.
a.  Artemis is only moon
b.  Crew Mars missions are much further away than MSR.

Except we're not asking SpaceX to do "anything and everything", we're asking whether SpaceX can contribute to a Mars mission. Given SpaceX is literally founded to build a transportation system to Mars, and they're also literally building this system right now, it's the entire opposite of "non-sense" to say they may have something to contribute here.

Also I never claimed crewed Mars mission will be before MSR (although it may very well be given the mess MSR is in), you didn't even understand what I'm saying.
« Last Edit: 11/27/2023 01:29 pm by thespacecow »

Offline Jim

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Except we're not asking SpaceX to do "anything and everything", we're asking whether SpaceX can contribute to a Mars mission.

They can launch it with a Falcon 9 Heavy

Offline Zed_Noir

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Except we're not asking SpaceX to do "anything and everything", we're asking whether SpaceX can contribute to a Mars mission.

They can launch it with a Falcon 9 Heavy

But NASA still have the volumetric limitation of the legacy Viking aeroshell for Martian EDL that drove up the cost of the Mars Sample Return mission. Which the Falcon Heavy can't help with.

Offline Blackstar

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But NASA still have the volumetric limitation of the legacy Viking aeroshell for Martian EDL that drove up the cost of the Mars Sample Return mission.

Please cite a source that indicates that the Viking aeroshell "drove up the cost" of the mission.

Offline ccdengr

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Please cite a source that indicates that the Viking aeroshell "drove up the cost" of the mission.
I expect that someone will trot out the (IMHO fairly handwaving) paper about Red Dragon ("An Efficient Approach for Mars Sample Return Using Emerging Commercial Capabilities", https://ntrs.nasa.gov/api/citations/20160002932/downloads/20160002932.pdf ) at some point, if not now.

How much this has to do with the mold line of the aeroshell is not clear to me.

Offline Zed_Noir

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But NASA still have the volumetric limitation of the legacy Viking aeroshell for Martian EDL that drove up the cost of the Mars Sample Return mission.

Please cite a source that indicates that the Viking aeroshell "drove up the cost" of the mission.
AIUI the legacy Viking aeroshell can land about one metric ton on the surface of Mars due to the size limit of the parachute that can be packed with the lander.

The volumetric and payload mass limitation of the aeroshell make designing the Mars ascend vehicle more complex. Just how to launch the MAV off the Martian surface is interesting. Then the stubby build of the MAV have a more challenging flight profile to get to orbit. As well as be able to fitted inside the aeroshell with the lander and the "tossed" launch mechanism.

If NASA have a bigger Mars landing system with a higher payload mass. The MAV will be less complex and more capable (bigger MAV). Like something with about a 1.5 metric ton payload mass.

Online Emmettvonbrown

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2007 reference Mars EDL paper, by Braun (not von Braun, but close)

https://authors.library.caltech.edu/records/hb8y4-mqn88

A very good reading that explains the limits of the Viking EDL systems: and how to push its boundaries, to 1 metric tons payloads. The jump to manned vehicles was... huge.
This was a good decade before Red Dragon and IAC Guadalajara 2016.

Offline Blackstar

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But NASA still have the volumetric limitation of the legacy Viking aeroshell for Martian EDL that drove up the cost of the Mars Sample Return mission.

Please cite a source that indicates that the Viking aeroshell "drove up the cost" of the mission.
AIUI the legacy Viking aeroshell can land about one metric ton on the surface of Mars due to the size limit of the parachute that can be packed with the lander.


Cite a source that connects that to the cost of the current MSR mission.

Offline thespacecow

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The Planetary Society has an excellent interview with Orlando Figueroa that gives a lot of background on the problems behind MSR. I highly recommend it.

https://www.planetary.org/planetary-radio/spe-what-went-wrong-with-msr

In this interview, both implied that the sample retrieval and return part of MSR is not really a science mission per se:

Casey Dreier: "There's no PI for MSR. And again, the scientific community has been functionally cut out of the mission until the samples come back. There's no instrumentation plan now on it. Was there ever a discussion to say in order to bring the Mars community into this mission, should we add some scientific instruments?"

Orlando Figueroa: "No, we did not look at adding any other instrumentation or science."

So it's incorrect to think the sample retrieval and return part of MSR as a science mission, it is not. It's a space transportation mission, no different from an Apollo or Artemis landing, in fact it has less science than a typical Apollo or Artemis landing because in the lunar landings they actually carry science instruments.

And this means the whole "but private companies can't do science mission" argument is invalid, if NASA can ask private companies to land and return astronauts from the Moon, they damn well can ask private companies to land and return samples from Mars, there is no meaningful difference.
« Last Edit: 11/29/2023 06:22 am by thespacecow »

Offline Jim

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And this means the whole "but private companies can't do science mission" argument is invalid, if NASA can ask private companies to land and return astronauts from the Moon, they damn well can ask private companies to land and return samples from Mars, there is no meaningful difference.

wrong.  Science as in complex non crew missions.

Offline Blackstar

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And this means the whole "but private companies can't do science mission" argument is invalid, if NASA can ask private companies to land and return astronauts from the Moon, they damn well can ask private companies to land and return samples from Mars, there is no meaningful difference.

wrong.  Science as in complex non crew missions.


You're arguing with somebody who posts on NSF about 3 times per year and is only looking for a fight. You can probably let this one drop.

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