Author Topic: NASA Mars mission Conops using Starship, derivatives and other hardware  (Read 9247 times)

Offline Slarty1080

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Much of the talk here has been based around NASA Mars mission proposals or SpaceX Mars mission proposals. But it seems to me that the most likely outcome will be a Congress sponsored NASA led program to send the first humans to Mars that uses Starship.

So what are the most likely add-ons and requirements that NASA might call for in the conops? And yes I know it will appear like heresy to the SpaceX purists, but if NASA is the customer and thereís a lot of money involved I would have thought Musk would bend over backwards to accommodate. And if SpaceX charge a reasonable price they would probably be money to spare for knobs bells and whistles to help improve safety and let the pork flow.

As an example Orion capsule for Earth return? A specific human Landing system, a cargo landing system and a Mars transfer habitat some using Starship some perhaps not? A mandatory nuclear power unit? A requirement that the return vehicle does not rely on ISRU re-tanking?
My optimistic hope is that it will become cool to really think about things... rather than just doing reactive bullsh*t based on no knowledge (Brian Cox)

Online freddo411

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Much of the talk here has been based around NASA Mars mission proposals or SpaceX Mars mission proposals. But it seems to me that the most likely outcome will be a Congress sponsored NASA led program to send the first humans to Mars that uses Starship.

So what are the most likely add-ons and requirements that NASA might call for in the conops? And yes I know it will appear like heresy to the SpaceX purists, but if NASA is the customer and thereís a lot of money involved I would have thought Musk would bend over backwards to accommodate. And if SpaceX charge a reasonable price they would probably be money to spare for knobs bells and whistles to help improve safety and let the pork flow.

As an example Orion capsule for Earth return? A specific human Landing system, a cargo landing system and a Mars transfer habitat some using Starship some perhaps not? A mandatory nuclear power unit? A requirement that the return vehicle does not rely on ISRU re-tanking?


There is a lot of distance between NASAís view of ďsafeĒ conops and the SX vision of starship conops.  That being said thereís a lot *less* distance between those two things then there was, say two years ago.  The nasa HLS contract will go along way to qualify starship

One of the biggest gaps right now is starship performing entry, descent and landing  ó both on Earth and on Mars.  NASA making mostly full use of starship to Mars really needs NASA to qualify starship EDL.  The fastest best way for this to occur is for SX to fly a bunch of successful landings on Mars and Earth.  Until that occurs NASA Mars conops with starship would be really kind of not great

That being said I kind of agree with your premise that NASA funding the very first human landing on Mars is a fairly compelling political concept.   The interesting dynamic here is that SpaceX is probably not interested in being delayed with todayís typical NASA requirements, at least for mars missions, assuming that they can fully fund the effort

If I predict today, I would say that NASA will mostly use SpaceXís conops to get to Mars. 

I really like Zubrinís idea of having two vehicles on the surface at the same point, at the same time.  This redundancy is a necessary element for safer Mars missions.  I think starship can add the ability to wildly increase the margins of extra materials that can be brought to Mars, therefore increasing the chance of a successful mission.  Conops  should be constructed to make use of these very large mass margins



Offline Slarty1080

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Much of the talk here has been based around NASA Mars mission proposals or SpaceX Mars mission proposals. But it seems to me that the most likely outcome will be a Congress sponsored NASA led program to send the first humans to Mars that uses Starship.

So what are the most likely add-ons and requirements that NASA might call for in the conops? And yes I know it will appear like heresy to the SpaceX purists, but if NASA is the customer and thereís a lot of money involved I would have thought Musk would bend over backwards to accommodate. And if SpaceX charge a reasonable price they would probably be money to spare for knobs bells and whistles to help improve safety and let the pork flow.

As an example Orion capsule for Earth return? A specific human Landing system, a cargo landing system and a Mars transfer habitat some using Starship some perhaps not? A mandatory nuclear power unit? A requirement that the return vehicle does not rely on ISRU re-tanking?


There is a lot of distance between NASAís view of ďsafeĒ conops and the SX vision of starship conops.  That being said thereís a lot *less* distance between those two things then there was, say two years ago.  The nasa HLS contract will go along way to qualify starship

One of the biggest gaps right now is starship performing entry, descent and landing  ó both on Earth and on Mars.  NASA making mostly full use of starship to Mars really needs NASA to qualify starship EDL.  The fastest best way for this to occur is for SX to fly a bunch of successful landings on Mars and Earth.  Until that occurs NASA Mars conops with starship would be really kind of not great

That being said I kind of agree with your premise that NASA funding the very first human landing on Mars is a fairly compelling political concept.   The interesting dynamic here is that SpaceX is probably not interested in being delayed with todayís typical NASA requirements, at least for mars missions, assuming that they can fully fund the effort

If I predict today, I would say that NASA will mostly use SpaceXís conops to get to Mars. 

I really like Zubrinís idea of having two vehicles on the surface at the same point, at the same time.  This redundancy is a necessary element for safer Mars missions.  I think starship can add the ability to wildly increase the margins of extra materials that can be brought to Mars, therefore increasing the chance of a successful mission.  Conops  should be constructed to make use of these very large mass margins
Good point, the key is NASA certifying Starship for EDL on Earth and Mars. With Starship certified there is probably less scope for bolt on extras like human landers and so on. But assuming NASA does eventually certify Starship for human EDL, I'm not sure how well a SpaceX dominated program would go down with Congress.

At that point it would be hard to argue that anything other than Starship was the best solution, but the pork would not flow properly. I suppose a lot could be made out of ISRU, surface suits, ECLSS, rovers and outfitting the interior of Starship. That might make things a little more politically acceptable, I'm not sure, perhaps I'm making too much out of the political angle.

Another possibility perhaps would be to go with SpaceX Starship initially letting the jack of all trades Starship do what it does best, but put out contracts for more advanced craft like dedicated Mars transfer cargo ships, crew Mars transfer ships and Mars entry and return craft. Perhaps this is looking too far ahead to see clearly.

My optimistic hope is that it will become cool to really think about things... rather than just doing reactive bullsh*t based on no knowledge (Brian Cox)

Offline DistantTemple

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Considering Elon's companies employ maybe 60K Americans, which is likely to grow sharply as Giga Texas comes online, and he is poised to benefit in the EV, Power, Space, internet provider, and AI arenas and more, there comes a point where politicians should be considering the benefit in their states of pork flowing TO MUSK INDUSTRIES! They should remember his "Message Received" tweet to the "F... o.." tweet from a California politician! Texas, Florida, California.... should already be campaigning for contracts and benefits for SpaceX and Tesla... OK this is a space forum... EM is a massive national icon, success story, wealth generator, and overall a massive generator of taxation revenue and US balance of payments for exports - including launch services.
There is plenty of room for senior retirements as the US space program pivots to capitalize on affordable reusable commercial space launch. Once SS flies to orbit... once it lands from orbit, once it refuels... and before it flies humans, politicians should realize they need to get on the right side of history quickly.
« Last Edit: 11/13/2021 10:40 pm by DistantTemple »
We can always grow new new dendrites. Reach out and make connections and your world will burst with new insights. Then repose in consciousness.

Offline su27k

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Conops changes I think that is likely for a NASA Mars mission using Starship:
1. Return doesn't rely on ISRU: I think this is pretty much a certainty. But it's fairly easy to accommodate using Starship, just need to add LMO refueling.
2. Nuclear surface power: This would be in addition to SpaceX's own solar surface power, mainly as redundant backup for life support.
3. Separate surface habitat: This would be in addition to SpaceX's own habitat that is built as part of Starship, also used as redundant backup.
4. Launch/Landing on Earth: May use Commercial Crew vehicle for this in order to get around certifying Starship for human launch/landing on Earth.

Conops changes I don't see happening at all:
1. Use of SLS/Orion in any shape or form: There's just no way to bring Orion along to Mars.
2. Separate transit habitat or Mars lander: Doesn't add to safety, just add huge costs which is not affordable given the likely budget profile.
3. Nuclear propulsion in any shape or form: Again, doesn't add anything useful, just add huge costs.

Offline guckyfan

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Conops changes I think that is likely for a NASA Mars mission using Starship:

1. Return doesn't rely on ISRU: I think this is pretty much a certainty. But it's fairly easy to accommodate using Starship, just need to add LMO refueling.

I think at least LOX ISRU is very likely. That's almost 80% by mass and can be produced from the atmosphere. They can bring methane, so large amounts of water are not needed.

2. Nuclear surface power: This would be in addition to SpaceX's own solar surface power, mainly as redundant backup for life support.

Would love that. The one worry I have is that they have the first landing in a dust storm, before they have deployed the large solar arrays. Not likely, but a contingency to plan for, if the first landing happens during dust storm season.

3. Separate surface habitat: This would be in addition to SpaceX's own habitat that is built as part of Starship, also used as redundant backup.

Don't see the need for the first mission, but possible

4. Launch/Landing on Earth: May use Commercial Crew vehicle for this in order to get around certifying Starship for human launch/landing on Earth.

At least atmospheric braking on Mars return is needed. Is landing really an added risk?

Offline DanClemmensen

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Conops changes I think that is likely for a NASA Mars mission using Starship:
1. Return doesn't rely on ISRU: I think this is pretty much a certainty. But it's fairly easy to accommodate using Starship, just need to add LMO refueling.
3. Separate surface habitat: This would be in addition to SpaceX's own habitat that is built as part of Starship, also used as redundant backup.

My guess: anything they think they need on the surface will be landed on an uncrewed early misson. They will not send the crewed mission until this stuff in already in place and known to be functioning. This can include one or more landed Starships for use as backup habitat.  It can also include a LOX plant that will already be storing LOX.

Offline Slarty1080

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Conops changes I think that is likely for a NASA Mars mission using Starship:
1. Return doesn't rely on ISRU: I think this is pretty much a certainty. But it's fairly easy to accommodate using Starship, just need to add LMO refueling.
3. Separate surface habitat: This would be in addition to SpaceX's own habitat that is built as part of Starship, also used as redundant backup.

My guess: anything they think they need on the surface will be landed on an uncrewed early misson. They will not send the crewed mission until this stuff in already in place and known to be functioning. This can include one or more landed Starships for use as backup habitat.  It can also include a LOX plant that will already be storing LOX.
I would tend to agree, although I assume NASA would want one of those items that is "already in place and known to be functioning", to be a fully tanked Starship? The reason I ask is that I can see a lot of complications if there is any thought of any conops involving propellant transfer between vehicles on Mars given how far appart they would probably need to land initially. So ISTM the LOX plant would need to be on the returning Starship together with imported methane. But maybe the solar power could be landed separately and a cable run across?
« Last Edit: 11/14/2021 10:12 am by Slarty1080 »
My optimistic hope is that it will become cool to really think about things... rather than just doing reactive bullsh*t based on no knowledge (Brian Cox)

Offline DanClemmensen

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Conops changes I think that is likely for a NASA Mars mission using Starship:
1. Return doesn't rely on ISRU: I think this is pretty much a certainty. But it's fairly easy to accommodate using Starship, just need to add LMO refueling.
3. Separate surface habitat: This would be in addition to SpaceX's own habitat that is built as part of Starship, also used as redundant backup.

My guess: anything they think they need on the surface will be landed on an uncrewed early misson. They will not send the crewed mission until this stuff in already in place and known to be functioning. This can include one or more landed Starships for use as backup habitat.  It can also include a LOX plant that will already be storing LOX.
I would tend to agree, although I assume NASA would want one of those items that is "already in place and known to be functioning", to be a fully tanked Starship? The reason I ask is that I can see a lot of complications if there is any thought of any conops involving propellant transfer between vehicles on Mars given how far appart they would probably need to land initially. So ISTM the LOX plant would need to be on the returning Starship together with imported methane. But maybe the solar power could be landed separately and a cable run across?
Landing far apart: Maybe the ship with the LOX factory should have six articulated landing legs. After it fills itself up it can walk very slowly over to a newly-landed SS and fill it. Walking on six legs is much simpler than on four.

Offline Jim

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There isnít going to be NASA Mars Mission

Offline Eer

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There isnít going to be NASA Mars Mission

Well, not a NASA bought and paid for crewed mission. Do I expect NASA astronauts will be part of the SpaceX crew - yes, probably so, as paying passengers and researchers.

But it will be a transportation and logistics commercial service.

IMO.
From "The Rhetoric of Interstellar Flight", by Paul Gilster, March 10, 2011: Weíll build a future in space one dogged step at a time, and when asked how long humanity will struggle before reaching the stars, weíll respond, ďAs long as it takes.Ē

Online freddo411

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There isnít going to be NASA Mars Mission

I guess #JourneyToMars has always been fluffy propaganda.  Is that what you are implying Jim?

Online freddo411

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Conops changes I think that is likely for a NASA Mars mission using Starship:
1. Return doesn't rely on ISRU: I think this is pretty much a certainty. But it's fairly easy to accommodate using Starship, just need to add LMO refueling.
3. Separate surface habitat: This would be in addition to SpaceX's own habitat that is built as part of Starship, also used as redundant backup.

My guess: anything they think they need on the surface will be landed on an uncrewed early misson. They will not send the crewed mission until this stuff in already in place and known to be functioning. This can include one or more landed Starships for use as backup habitat.  It can also include a LOX plant that will already be storing LOX.

This type of thinking is one of the best parts of Zubrinís mission architecture.  It deserves to be built in to the planning for any Mars efforts.   The Starship efforts both support sending an abundance of material as well as having an abundance of affordable vehicles to get crew and cargo there and back.   

It seems like shear folly to contemplate exploration missions that rely on a sole vehicle. This demonstrates too much imitation of Apollo and other early space missions

Offline Bananas_on_Mars

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One of the benefits of having so much landed mass available is that they can plan for not making their first return window.
 
It will not be like the moon mission where they would have run out of oxygen or CO2 scrubbers quite fast in case there had been an issue with their ascent stage.

They‘re relatively safe on or under ground, with life support systems that will need to run 3 years or so anyhow. Adding 2 more years isn‘t that much.

If everything goes to plan, the redundancy from the first expedition would be available to other expeditions landing at the same spot or nearby.

So IMO they might be ok if they don’t have redundancy for their ascent vehicle.

And even for the first expedition, the landscape might already be littered with cargo starships that can be scavenged for parts. SpaceX replacing engines in the open with just a forklift within hours makes me confident even changing an engine on mars might be in the cards.

Conops might also include some serious loiter time in mars orbit before the transfer window, to have a buffer for unforeseen problems on ascent.

Offline Kiwi53

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There isnít going to be NASA Mars Mission

Not with SpaceX, anyway
Elon Musk has made it clear that the initial model for his Mars Colonisation effort will be settlers, not visitors. A quick (less than three years, say) or indeed any return to Earth is not a necessary part of the deal.
Elon's conceptual model seems to me to be more like 16th/early 17th century pioneers going to North America, or early 19th century colonists going to New Zealand, not that of early 20th century expeditions to Antarctica.
"I hope to die on Mars, just not on arrival"

This is the complete opposite of NASA's way of doing things

Online freddo411

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There isnít going to be NASA Mars Mission

Not with SpaceX, anyway
Elon Musk has made it clear that the initial model for his Mars Colonisation effort will be settlers, not visitors. A quick (less than three years, say) or indeed any return to Earth is not a necessary part of the deal.
Elon's conceptual model seems to me to be more like 16th/early 17th century pioneers going to North America, or early 19th century colonists going to New Zealand, not that of early 20th century expeditions to Antarctica.
"I hope to die on Mars, just not on arrival"

This is the complete opposite of NASA's way of doing things

I take your point ... SpaceX goals are not very aligned with NASA goals for Mars.

On the other hand, if you look back 2 or 3 years and asked the question:  Will SpaceX work with NASA on Artemis to build a lander?    I would have said "No, no at all likely as SpaceX's goals don't involve a landing on the Moon".   99% of the folks here probably would have agreed with that line of reasoning at the time.

Consequently, maybe it's possible that NASA and/or SpaceX will bend a bit so that their different Mars goals can be partially satisfied by working together.   

Offline StormtrooperJoe

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There isnít going to be NASA Mars Mission

Not with SpaceX, anyway
Elon Musk has made it clear that the initial model for his Mars Colonisation effort will be settlers, not visitors. A quick (less than three years, say) or indeed any return to Earth is not a necessary part of the deal.
Elon's conceptual model seems to me to be more like 16th/early 17th century pioneers going to North America, or early 19th century colonists going to New Zealand, not that of early 20th century expeditions to Antarctica.
"I hope to die on Mars, just not on arrival"

This is the complete opposite of NASA's way of doing things

I am not so sure this is 100% true. After all, a big part of the marketing for Artemis is that it isn't just flags and footsteps. However, I highly doubt that the very first individuals Nasa sends to Mars will be sent there permanently, but interest in long-term habitation will follow. This actually does mirror how the settlement has actually worked, usually, the first ones to go are not permanent settlers(If only because they had to return to give a report on what they found) and are government-backed(Think Columbus). However, as an organization that is part of the United States government, I think there will be legal issues with trying to setup a government-backed Mars colony, as that is tantamount to claiming portions of Mars. Then again, I don't remember much of the specifics of the Artemis accords so maybe there are provisions in there for settlements

Offline Jim

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However, as an organization that is part of the United States government, I think there will be legal issues with trying to setup a government-backed Mars colony,

NASA has no role in colonization.

Offline Jim

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A quick (less than three years, say) or indeed any return to Earth is not a necessary part of the deal.


That isn't true either.  They are not going to be able to put the infrastructure in place for long term stays without short term stays.

Offline su27k

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There isnít going to be NASA Mars Mission

Huh? https://www.nasa.gov/specials/artemis/

Quote
With Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. We will collaborate with commercial and international partners and establish the first long-term presence on the Moon. Then, we will use what we learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars.

Tags: Starship Mars NASA 
 

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