Author Topic: Possible cost-reduction possibilities for the NASA portions of MSR  (Read 104550 times)

Offline thespacecow

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And we already have ECLSS that keeps people alive for over 20 years, it's called ISS. Also if you want to qualify something to last x years, you do NOT need to test it for x or more than x years, that should be obvious.

not relevant.  Logistics support is only weeks away.

The annual resupply of spare parts to ISS is only around 10 metric tons, you can bring 10 years worth of spare parts to Mars in a single Starship. This makes the timeliness of ISS resupply irrelevant in this discussion.

Offline thespacecow

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Yes, assuming everything about starship works perfectly, its a huge help. But whats the mass dropped? How do people get there, survive for 2 yeras, take off and return?
Starship sending mass to mars is great, but there has been zero work on what the mass is. Thats many many years of work and more money than the starship program costs.

No it's not. The Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) estimated the cost for a crewed Mars mission, the surface systems (habitat, power, suites, ISRU, mobility) only cost ~$7B, and that's with NASA's Mars architecture which has little mass margin. With Starship's huge mass capacity the cost can be further reduced.

"zero work on what the mass is" is wrong as well, given Tom Mueller said he worked on Mars ISRU during his last 5 years at SpaceX: https://x.com/lrocket/status/1740526228589986193, so SpaceX has been working on ISRU for 8 years.

Anyway none of this has anything to do with MSR, Starship can do MSR without a crew.
$7 billion is more than starship. You also ignore the many years ot testing and tech dev. For something like keeping people alive, it cant just past a 2 week trial. Its durability needs to be proven, which means many years of testing.

I worked on the IDA study. Cow is making things up. I suggest ignoring cow.

Oh really? The IDA study estimated the cost for developing a crewed lunar lander as ~$3B ($2.3B + 30% reserve), that is remarkably close to the cost of HLS Option A. Funny how a "made up" number comes so close to reality, yet the non-"made up" number for MSR becomes so detached from reality...

Offline Jim

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The annual resupply of spare parts to ISS is only around 10 metric tons, you can bring 10 years worth of spare parts to Mars in a single Starship. This makes the timeliness of ISS resupply irrelevant in this discussion.

wrong again.  Doesn't work for the trip to mars or the initial lander.

Boy, people keep knocking down your post.
« Last Edit: 02/17/2024 11:32 am by Jim »

Offline Jim

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Oh really? The IDA study estimated the cost for developing a crewed lunar lander as ~$3B ($2.3B + 30% reserve), that is remarkably close to the cost of HLS Option A. Funny how a "made up" number comes so close to reality, yet the non-"made up" number for MSR becomes so detached from reality...

irrelevant. 

Offline Blackstar

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I thought this thread was about MSR. It seems to say so right in the title. So why all this stuff about human missions to Mars? Isn't there a whole Starship thread on that already?

Offline Zed_Noir

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I thought this thread was about MSR. It seems to say so right in the title. So why all this stuff about human missions to Mars? Isn't there a whole Starship thread on that already?

Think certain NSF posters get mesmerized by the promise of the Shiny ship in schedule and cost for doing anything on Mars.

Well, it is still retrieving Martian samples. Just not the program of record with a looming budgetary crisis. Which likely will get worse without drastic program descoping or alteration, IMO.



 

Offline deltaV

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I thought this thread was about MSR. It seems to say so right in the title. So why all this stuff about human missions to Mars? Isn't there a whole Starship thread on that already?

IMO posts that discuss Starship are on topic in this thread if and only if they're about issues that are substantially different when doing Starship for MSR compared to Starship for non-MSR. Issues that are about the same for MSR Starship and non-MSR Starship such as ECLSS reliability or the cost of a crewed Mars program belong in the Starship or crewed Mars sections of the forum.

Offline Coastal Ron

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The IDA study estimated the cost for...

Studies are just that, studies. They are guesses that hopefully include known facts, but inevitably they have to be validated before they can be judged to be valid.

Also, the more the studies rely on things that don't yet exist, the riskier they are to rely upon. Environmental Control & Life Support System (ECLSS) are a good example of that, where we have spent decades trying to perfect durable yet small enough systems that can be used on long term space missions. I don't think anyone thinks we have matured that technology yet for deep space applications.

As far as returning samples from Mars, until NASA is allowed to adopt in-space refueling and fuel depots, all of their space architectures will be Single Point of Failure (SPoF) systems. Which may be acceptable when you are talking about returning samples to Earth from Mars, but the U.S. Taxpayer is still footing the bill for something that is highly risky.

I fully support the efforts of SpaceX to build a low cost space transportation system, but I also think that NASA could help the U.S. aerospace industry as a whole to develop a whole range of reusable space transportation systems and destinations, and that would make sample return missions far less risky, though it would likely push out the date for the sample return.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline deltaV

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I fully support the efforts of SpaceX to build a low cost space transportation system, but I also think that NASA could help the U.S. aerospace industry as a whole to develop a whole range of reusable space transportation systems and destinations, and that would make sample return missions far less risky, though it would likely push out the date for the sample return.

The portion of the US space industry that is probably willing to do fixed price contracts and isn't SpaceX will soon have a wide variety of propulsion systems, including launch vehicles (e.g. Electron, Neutron, New Glenn, Terran R, Vulcan, Firefly Alpha, Firefly MLV, Stoke Nova, ABL RS1), small lunar landers (Intuitive Machines, Astrobotic, Firefly, Draper), big lunar lander (Blue Origin's HLS), and in-space propulsion (various chemical and solar electric). One thing they don't have much of is experience with atmospheric reentry, especially non-Earth atmospheric reentry. To take advantage of industry experience I wonder if someone might bid an MSR solution using propulsive capture at Mars and propulsive Mars de-orbit and landing. Propulsion is really inefficient mass-wise compared to using the atmosphere but it could be more efficient cost-wise due to reuse of existing hardware. Some development would be required to manage boil-off if cold propellants are used but that's technology that people are interested in developing for lunar applications anyway.

Offline thespacecow

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The annual resupply of spare parts to ISS is only around 10 metric tons, you can bring 10 years worth of spare parts to Mars in a single Starship. This makes the timeliness of ISS resupply irrelevant in this discussion.

wrong again.  Doesn't work for the trip to mars or the initial lander

Not wrong at all. Trip to Mars is just 6 months, the interval between Tianzhou 6 and 7 is about 8 months, so the Chinese already showed that their station ECLSS can work for 8 months without resupply, don't tell me NASA and SpaceX couldn't do what the Chinese have already done.

As for initial lander, this is already covered by Elon's presentation years ago. They'll send multiple cargo ships, both ahead of crewed mission and accompany crewed mission. So like, maybe actually read SpaceX's plan and think instead of arguing just for the sake of argument.
« Last Edit: 02/19/2024 01:12 pm by thespacecow »

Offline deadman1204

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I thought this thread was about MSR. It seems to say so right in the title. So why all this stuff about human missions to Mars? Isn't there a whole Starship thread on that already?

IMO posts that discuss Starship are on topic in this thread if and only if they're about issues that are substantially different when doing Starship for MSR compared to Starship for non-MSR. Issues that are about the same for MSR Starship and non-MSR Starship such as ECLSS reliability or the cost of a crewed Mars program belong in the Starship or crewed Mars sections of the forum.
Nothing has been said about actual sample retreival with starship that is discussed with any seriousness. Its just starship can do it for cheap cause starship. It'll go there and we'll get samples back..... somehow.... definately for cheap/free....

Incredible amounts of magic hand waving, ignoring the entire sample retreival process. Like none of it
1. starship lands on unimproved surface successfully. We can send dozens until 1 makes it, because starships are free!
    a. see nasa's overflowing budget where it totatlly hasn't soft canceled discovery missions and pushed many others off by a few years for budgetary reasons.
    b. its all free practice for the mars colony that spacex is totally doing. Again this is cost free cause its for another plan. Look at all the non-twitter progress they've made in the last 10 years...
2. samples magically get onto starship with much voodoo and black magic. None of this will cost anything of course and it will take zero dev time
   a. likely those magic helicopters and rovers that spacex is totally making right now. Or the ones jpl has sitting around with thier surplus budgets. I'm sure they can whip up a new sample retrieval rover in 3 months or so...
   b. Don't forget, every starship attempting to land will need its set of sample retrieval robots, cause you don't know which one will survive. But these don't cost anything probably. JPL also has all the spare manpower to not only build but also test a dozen of these at once. Mars robot engineers are really easy to find and hire.
3. starship's engines were in no way damaged landing without a pad and is not leaning wierd, and is on very stable ground that can withstand takeoff without collapsing and tipping the ship. The starship is also totally in good shape to take off directly on the ground without a stand of any sort.
   a. why do we even use launch pads on earth since they are obviously unneeded on mars.
4. starship magically refuels and is able to take off - gotta love the mars pixies doing all our work.
5. starship gets to orbit and and meets the 46 other starships to refuel it again for the return to earth
    a. again this cost nothing because starship is free afterall....
6. starship returns to earth and lands perfectly from an interplanetary orbit, just like it has practiced zero times before. SpaceX is well known for taking a long time to perfect things before trying so that it succeeds on the first attempt. Flipping their entire engineering strategy away from practices and failures until it eventually works - thats not hard.
    a. All those tiles designed for leo reentry stayed on perfectly when it took off from earth, was in space for 6-12 months where there was alot of flexing due to very uneven heating/cooling from the sun, did a interplanetary re-entry on mars, lands on dirt. Refuels with lots of new cryto flexing, took off from mars again, was in space for another 6-12 months (lots more heatig and flexing), and another interplanetary re-entry again - this time on earth. Once again at energies WAY higher than the system was designed for.

Starship doesn't belong in this thread because its not a plan, its just a magic schoolbus fueled on pixie powder delivering dreams to all the kids. Everytime any actual detail is questioned, its kicked around a bit, forgotten and later on we get "starship will solve all problems!" again.
« Last Edit: 02/20/2024 06:25 pm by deadman1204 »

Offline StraumliBlight

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Incredible amounts of magic hand waving, ignoring the entire sample retreival process. Like none of it
1. starship lands on unimproved surface successfully. We can send dozens until 1 makes it, because starships are free! SpaceX totally has a record of doing things they aren't getting paid for that won't profit them.
    a. see nasa's overflowing budget where it totatlly hasn't soft canceled discovery missions and pushed many others off by a few years for budgetary reasons.
    b. its all free practice for the mars colony that spacex is totally doing. Again this is cost free cause its for another plan. Look at all the non-twitter progress they've made in the last 10 years...
2. samples magically get onto starship with much voodoo and black magic. None of this will cost anything of course and it will take zero dev time
   a. likely those magic helicopters and rovers that spacex is totally making right now. Or the ones jpl has sitting around with thier surplus budgets. I'm sure they can whip up a new sample retrieval rover in 3 months or so...
3. starships engines were in no way damaged and is not leaning wierd, and is on very stable ground that can withstand takeoff without collapsing and tipping the ship. The starship is also totally in good shape to take off
   a. why do we even use launch pads on earth since they are obviously unneeded on mars.
4. starship magically refuels and is able to take off - gotta love the mars pixies doing all our work.
5. starship gets to orbit and and meets the 46 other starships to refuel it again for the return to earth
    a. again this cost nothing because starship is free afterall....
6. starship returns to earth and lands perfectly from an interplanetary orbit, just like it has practiced zero times before.
    a. All those tiles stayed on perfectly when it took off from earth, was in space for 6-12 months, landed on mars, took off from mars again, was in space for another 6-12 months. 

Starship only needs to achieve step 1, place a payload on the surface of Mars.

Red Dragon's 200kg Return Vehicle could deliver a 0.5 kg sample payload to Earth orbit, which would fit through the Starship cargo hatch.

Offline deadman1204

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Incredible amounts of magic hand waving, ignoring the entire sample retreival process. Like none of it
1. starship lands on unimproved surface successfully. We can send dozens until 1 makes it, because starships are free! SpaceX totally has a record of doing things they aren't getting paid for that won't profit them.
    a. see nasa's overflowing budget where it totatlly hasn't soft canceled discovery missions and pushed many others off by a few years for budgetary reasons.
    b. its all free practice for the mars colony that spacex is totally doing. Again this is cost free cause its for another plan. Look at all the non-twitter progress they've made in the last 10 years...
2. samples magically get onto starship with much voodoo and black magic. None of this will cost anything of course and it will take zero dev time
   a. likely those magic helicopters and rovers that spacex is totally making right now. Or the ones jpl has sitting around with thier surplus budgets. I'm sure they can whip up a new sample retrieval rover in 3 months or so...
3. starships engines were in no way damaged and is not leaning wierd, and is on very stable ground that can withstand takeoff without collapsing and tipping the ship. The starship is also totally in good shape to take off
   a. why do we even use launch pads on earth since they are obviously unneeded on mars.
4. starship magically refuels and is able to take off - gotta love the mars pixies doing all our work.
5. starship gets to orbit and and meets the 46 other starships to refuel it again for the return to earth
    a. again this cost nothing because starship is free afterall....
6. starship returns to earth and lands perfectly from an interplanetary orbit, just like it has practiced zero times before.
    a. All those tiles stayed on perfectly when it took off from earth, was in space for 6-12 months, landed on mars, took off from mars again, was in space for another 6-12 months. 

Starship only needs to achieve step 1, place a payload on the surface of Mars.

Red Dragon's 200kg Return Vehicle could deliver a 0.5 kg sample payload to Earth orbit, which would fit through the Starship cargo hatch.
I see more magic hand waving. Just get starship there and everything will work out with that hardware that doesn't exist.

Explain what this "payload" is. Who paid for it? What does it do? How many elves and pixies were involved? What gathers the samples? What puts them in space? What gets them from mars to earth? Spacex had a paper lander called red mars lander which never left the paper stage.  That will totally work, even though it wasn't capable of taking off from mars and powering itself back to earth. It'll just teleport?

Starship hasn't solved any problems, only added complications and a metric ton of pixie dust.
This is the problem. Starship isn't a solution to MSR. Getting to mars is the EASIEST part of sample return (though very much not easy or cheap).
« Last Edit: 02/20/2024 06:37 pm by deadman1204 »

Offline Vultur

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MSR (the NASA program) can't depend on Starship right now, due to planetary protection and so on. Even if someone involved were very convinced that those requirements will be relaxed before the mission actually launches, they have to plan around what exists.

I don't think it's at all fair to call Starship magic and pixie dust, though. It is a real program with real development hardware, real test flights, and real contracts. And Starship's design from its early stages has been to send people to Mars and back; if it can return people, it can return samples. (And Starship doesn't need to refuel in Mars orbit; it would have enough delta v to single stage from Mars' surface to Earth reentry. There's also nothing magical about making CH4 and O2 from CO2 + H2O ice.)

If everything goes right for the Starship program*, and the MSR program hits too many delays, it's entirely possible - if not the way I'd bet - that a Starship might return from Mars before the NASA MSR gets its sample back.

But that doesn't mean the program can bet on it.

*say:
- IFT-3 happens in the next two months and is successful
- the propellant transfer demo is successful this year, - they can start catching boosters end of this year or early next
- they get the launch rate for tankers up over next year and early 2026 enough to do the HLS demo in 2026
- they get the heat shield for atmospheric return worked out during all those test & tanker flights.
- Artemis 3 HLS in 2027 maybe? very optimistically even very late 2026?

If that happens, then it's possible they could do the cargo flights to Mars in the 2029 window and the first human flight to Mars in the 2031 one.

I don't think it's likely - partly because I think HLS, Dear Moon, and Polaris will focus the development more on the Moon, and partly because they'll probably need an extra synod for a test landing that might not work- but I don't think it's ridiculous either.
« Last Edit: 02/20/2024 07:25 pm by Vultur »

Offline deadman1204

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MSR (the NASA program) can't depend on Starship right now, due to planetary protection and so on. Even if someone involved were very convinced that those requirements will be relaxed before the mission actually launches, they have to plan around what exists.

I don't think it's at all fair to call Starship magic and pixie dust, though. It is a real program with real development hardware, real test flights, and real contracts. And Starship's design from its early stages has been to send people to Mars and back; if it can return people, it can return samples. (And Starship doesn't need to refuel in Mars orbit; it would have enough delta v to single stage from Mars' surface to Earth reentry. There's also nothing magical about making CH4 and O2 from CO2 + H2O ice.)

If everything goes right for the Starship program*, and the MSR program hits too many delays, it's entirely possible - if not the way I'd bet - that a Starship might return from Mars before the NASA MSR gets its sample back.

But that doesn't mean the program can bet on it.

*say:
- IFT-3 happens in the next two months and is successful
- the propellant transfer demo is successful this year, - they can start catching boosters end of this year or early next
- they get the launch rate for tankers up over next year and early 2026 enough to do the HLS demo in 2026
- they get the heat shield for atmospheric return worked out during all those test & tanker flights.
- Artemis 3 HLS in 2027 maybe? very optimistically even very late 2026?

If that happens, then it's possible they could do the cargo flights to Mars in the 2029 window and the first human flight to Mars in the 2031 one.

I don't think it's likely - partly because I think HLS, Dear Moon, and Polaris will focus the development more on the Moon, and partly because they'll probably need an extra synod for a test landing that might not work- but I don't think it's ridiculous either.
I dont mean to say starship doens't exist. Obviously it does. However, its not a solution for MSR. Nothing about it solves any of the big problems (gather samples, put them in space, bring back to earth). Its very common on this board to just assert starship will solve X space problem - hence pixie dust. Its not a solution here, and even just using starship as the lander adds soo many complications and problems that its more trouble than its worth. There has never been a single well reasoned argument about how anything starship makes MSR easier. They all involve massive amounts of pixie dust, because they assume starship will magically solve EVERY problem easily with all that free money musk is known to throw around (he has never done this). Including all of msr, which has literally nothing to do with landing a rocket on the surface of mars. Just magic and pixie dust. Starship is a religion on this forum.
« Last Edit: 02/21/2024 02:40 pm by deadman1204 »

Offline RedLineTrain

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Starship facilitates the solutions by relaxing mass constraints dramatically.  But using Starship to land on Mars requires that you accept its own constraints, like the fact that the Starship tech stack will be under development for the next 10 years and could have twists and turns meanwhile.  MSR as currently conceived is too early for Starship and has a problem with planetary protection.

The saving grace for Starship is that it is being used for Starlink, which is starting to pay the bills at a higher rate than MSR's annual budget.  I believe that MSR should accept Starship's constraints rather than being canceled outright, just as Artemis has done.
« Last Edit: 02/21/2024 03:26 pm by RedLineTrain »

Offline mandrewa

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And we already have ECLSS that keeps people alive for over 20 years, it's called ISS. Also if you want to qualify something to last x years, you do NOT need to test it for x or more than x years, that should be obvious.

not relevant.  Logistics support is only weeks away.

The annual resupply of spare parts to ISS is only around 10 metric tons, you can bring 10 years worth of spare parts to Mars in a single Starship. This makes the timeliness of ISS resupply irrelevant in this discussion.

It's really more like several hundred metric tons to Mars on a single Starship, or something derived from a Starship.

Now this statement could easily be misunderstood.  (And I probably shouldn't say anything because I haven't read the whole thread.  But whatever.)

When I'm talking about a single Starship it takes many Starship launches to set that up.  In the architecture I'm thinking of you start from NRHO and you're going to LMO (low Martian orbit). (So note, that's not even all the way down to the surface.  That's a separate problem.) And that means you have to get the cargo up to NRHO.  You have to get the propellant up to NRHO.  It turns into quite a few launches.

But given that context, it's entirely possible to deliver a cargo of almost arbitrary size and massing several hundred metric tons in one flight from NRHO to LMO.

Offline Blackstar

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Starship facilitates the solutions by relaxing mass constraints dramatically. 

Can you describe the specific challenges with MSR that drive up the cost? Can you then describe how relaxing mass constraints solves those specific challenges?

Offline deadman1204

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The saving grace for Starship is that it is being used for Starlink, which is starting to pay the bills at a higher rate than MSR's annual budget.  I believe that MSR should accept Starship's constraints rather than being canceled outright, just as Artemis has done.
Elon Musk is one of the richest people to ever exist in history. He could fully fund MSR today and it wouldn't be a burden to him.  Guess how much money he has put into mars? A bunch  twitter posts, and a few cgi videos. He talks about mars because he likes to make splashy claims to draw attention to his companies. For spacex that means talking about mars. "Mars colonies" is no different than "self driving cars". Which very much do not exist, and are not about to. However it gets attention to his companies, which is the actual goal. Starlink is folded into this. Starlink is more exciting because he has also linked it with "mars colonies". Internet that is exciting!

He could lose 99% of his wealth and he will still have 100x more money than you or I will ever see in our life. Yet everyone says he still needs MOAR money before he will start doing anything about mars. If he was serious about mars, he would've done something about it in the last.... 15 years? Pretty sure he could've scrapped together a few million to do some trial habitats in deserts or antarctica or something significant. Funded other groups to build/test things. If he was serious, where is any of the progress? He would very much brag about any work/progress.

I've heard the conspiracy like ideas that its all hush hush in secret labs until the big reveal. However, this is the guy who gets himself in serious legal trouble due to his inability to keep secrets. There is no mars progress, and its not due to lack of money.

This silly idea that the richest person alive needs more money before he will start doing something is ..... well lets say its just really silly.
« Last Edit: 02/21/2024 04:22 pm by deadman1204 »

Offline Emmettvonbrown

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One thing (among many many many others) that should bother people about using Starship for MSR: the looooong elevator ride needed to bring the samples "inside". More generally: how tall that thing is, and how far from the ground the "cargo door" will be. Lots of things could go wrong during that ride.
« Last Edit: 02/21/2024 05:07 pm by Emmettvonbrown »

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