Author Topic: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?  (Read 42310 times)

Offline Vultur

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Since we are already in the 2022 Mars launch window and no Starship is flying ... what about the late 2024 window?

In my view, it will depend on two major factors:

- Will an accident mean a long pause in testing (either due to destroying necessary ground equipment, or due to a FAA review)?

- Will SpaceX be too busy with HLS unmanned test and its tanker launches, Polaris 3, maybe Dear Moon etc.?

If there are no long pauses in testing, and if the first Starship flight is late this year or early next year, I think they might be ready to at least send an expendable Starship on a Mars trajectory -- though not the full "synod before crew" cargo Starship (I don't think ISRU equipment etc. could possibly be ready in 26 months).

Offline jmt27

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #1 on: 08/27/2022 01:35 am »
I'd say no starship to mars for the 2024 window.

Starship is getting late in development and SpaceX will need to maximise ships (when they become operational) for starlink launches. That and the HLS program. Both of those will keep SpaceX too busy to even think about sending a starship to mars.

Online DanClemmensen

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #2 on: 08/27/2022 01:47 am »
I'd say no starship to mars for the 2024 window.

Starship is getting late in development and SpaceX will need to maximise ships (when they become operational) for starlink launches. That and the HLS program. Both of those will keep SpaceX too busy to even think about sending a starship to mars.
If Starship works as planned, Starlink missions are launch-rate limited, not ship limited. One launch tower can launch up to about three times a day, re-using at most two SH and about five SS. The problem would be getting permission to use the range that frequently, and once a day (one launch + SH RTLS + SS RTLS) or less is all they will get permission for.  More ships will not help.

HLS needs Depot and tankers. After you have them, a Mars trip is only one extra ship. However, I think design of the Mars ship and mission is sufficiently complicated that they will not be able to do it in time to launch in 2024.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #3 on: 08/27/2022 04:15 am »
I'd say no starship to mars for the 2024 window.

Starship is getting late in development and SpaceX will need to maximise ships (when they become operational) for starlink launches. That and the HLS program. Both of those will keep SpaceX too busy to even think about sending a starship to mars.
I think most likely you are right. HOWEVER, 2024 is 2 years away. The 2022 Mars window is still technically open, and they could probably launch for about another month from now, so they have about 26-27 months left.

I think a fully expendable Starship (if properly lightweighted...) could do a flyby to Mars in a single launch. HLS will need long-duration loiter capability for what, 3 months at least? So a flyby of Mars taking 8-9 months is roughly the same order of magnitude. So I'm pretty confident it'll be within their technical capability to do it by then (and almost is now, not counting long-duration capability other than kludging together Dragon and/or Starlink parts). The question is if they'll bother. Accelerating HLS/Starlink will probably be a much bigger priority to them, so I would guess no.

But it's hard to tell exactly what will happen 26 months out. I'm leaning toward "no" at the moment, but it should definitely be possible.
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Offline sdsds

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #4 on: 08/27/2022 04:33 am »
I think the costs, including opportunity costs, will be sufficiently low that they at least take a run at it. That would mean building a Starship bespoke for the purpose of surviving through an interplanetary cruise. They don't need to attempt a Mars landing in 2024 to keep the dream alive. But keeping the Mars dream alive is essential to their overall effort.

2024 presents (according to the ARC trajectory browser) a reasonably low delta-v opportunity for not just fly-by but Mars orbit insertion. Demonstrating the ship and engine have what it takes to restart after a 304 day interplanetary transfer would be both impressive and encouraging.
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Offline meekGee

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #5 on: 08/27/2022 05:20 am »
LOLs, memory fades so quickly...

It's been only 3 years since StarHopper's flight, and this includes the entire build-up of Starbase, the FAA saga, and the major design decisions for SH and SS.

So yeah, of course they'll fly to Mars in 2024.
« Last Edit: 08/27/2022 05:21 am by meekGee »
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Offline geza

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #6 on: 08/27/2022 09:08 am »
LOLs, memory fades so quickly...

It's been only 3 years since StarHopper's flight, and this includes the entire build-up of Starbase, the FAA saga, and the major design decisions for SH and SS.

So yeah, of course they'll fly to Mars in 2024.

This 3 years was perceived very long, because Elon promised much faster progress 3 years ago...

Anyway. SpaceX is committed to launch the half of the planned Starlink constellation by November, 2024 (Wikipedia: Starlink). Probably, this is their most important driver. It means launching cc. 4000 satellite (V2, of course). Maybe, it requires 100, or less, Starship launches. Probably, this is possible from Cape. They had 30 launches from there in this year by now, i.e. in 8 months. The 100 launches with this rate takes 2 years, so a slightly higher rate is sufficient. That is, when Cape and Starship are ready, they launch & launch & launch without much further development in this avenue.

Launching payload is simpler from onshore. Offshore is ideal for propellant launch. SS returns to the offshore platform and can be relaunched immediately after refilling. I suppose that they will develop offshore platform after finishing the launch complex at the Cape, i.e. during 2023. It may be needed even for Starlink in case of a significant delay. As Artemis III is now NET 2025, they will want to have the propellant transfer capability during 2024. It seems relatively easy, if Starlink going well, and the offshore capability is ready.

During '23-'24 they will have to work on the internal systems of HLS. Still, if propellant transfer is ready during the first half of '24, it would be silly not to use it for a Mars flight. Launching a stripped down SS to Mars w/o propellant transfer has little point. Maybe, it can test long-range communication, but launching a Starlink satellite into interplanetary trajectory would do the same. Keeping the dream alive is better served by real progress. In an optimistic, but not overly so, scenario they can send a true Starship via propellant transfer to a landing attempt on Mars. I very much hope that this will happen.

Certainly, it will not be the "synod before the crew". Developing the surface systems, which are supposed to work reliably when the first crew arrive, is a huge task. They will not have free hands for this in '23-'24. Crew in '26/27 is no longer in the cards. Elon himself predicted '29 for crew, when he was asked last time.

If they attempt to land a Staship in '25, they will want to use it for preliminary reconnaissance. Most importantly, they will want ground truth on presence of ice. How accessible is it? How pure is it?. For this purpose they need a rudimentary rover developed minimalistically from a Tesla chassis and equipped with excavating and drilling tools. Relatively low amount of local information will have a huge benefit for surface system development. Or, they may learn that the chosen location is not good enough for the purpose.

Note that early reconnaissance with Red Dragons was in the plans. Once upon a time. While RD has gone, the need for local information has remained. This is why sending a Starship to the Martian surface is important for boots in '29.

Offline Valerij

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #7 on: 08/27/2022 09:55 am »
During '23-'24 they will have to work on the internal systems of HLS. Still, if propellant transfer is ready during the first half of '24, it would be silly not to use it for a Mars flight. Launching a stripped down SS to Mars w/o propellant transfer has little point. Maybe, it can test long-range communication, but launching a Starlink satellite into interplanetary trajectory would do the same. Keeping the dream alive is better served by real progress. In an optimistic, but not overly so, scenario they can send a true Starship via propellant transfer to a landing attempt on Mars. I very much hope that this will happen.

Certainly, it will not be the "synod before the crew". Developing the surface systems, which are supposed to work reliably when the first crew arrive, is a huge task. They will not have free hands for this in '23-'24. Crew in '26/27 is no longer in the cards. Elon himself predicted '29 for crew, when he was asked last time.

If they attempt to land a Staship in '25, they will want to use it for preliminary reconnaissance. Most importantly, they will want ground truth on presence of ice. How accessible is it? How pure is it?. For this purpose they need a rudimentary rover developed minimalistically from a Tesla chassis and equipped with excavating and drilling tools. Relatively low amount of local information will have a huge benefit for surface system development. Or, they may learn that the chosen location is not good enough for the purpose.

Note that early reconnaissance with Red Dragons was in the plans. Once upon a time. While RD has gone, the need for local information has remained. This is why sending a Starship to the Martian surface is important for boots in '29.
I wouldn't be surprised either if SpaceX sends the first Starship prototype to Mars at the end of 2024. During 2024, Musk must demonstrate the landing of his lander on the moon, and this requires almost all the same infrastructure as for the Martian ship. And, yes, I also agree that this will not be a "Synod before the first astronaut." I expect astronauts on Mars in 2029.

Offline TomH

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #8 on: 08/27/2022 10:05 am »
I'm starting to think the long pole is a launch license. (Half joking......but half not.)

Offline DreamyPickle

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #9 on: 08/27/2022 11:14 am »
No. Maybe they could somehow scramble a flyby but the bar for an "useful" mission to Mars is much higher and it should at least try to demonstrate intact landing on the surface.

All other testing can be done in LEO and maybe around the moon, it is only actual descent and landing that benefits from being at Mars. The benefit is real - if you demonstrate successful landing one synod then you can confidently send multiple ships during the next synod and not have them crash in the same way.

Fans keep inventing new ways to perform cool demos but that's not how SpaceX operates - all of their flights have technical and business goals as opposed to just PR.

Offline MickQ

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #10 on: 08/27/2022 11:43 am »
But the PR value of a Starship standing upright and intact on Mars would be immense.

Offline SweetWater

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #11 on: 08/27/2022 12:20 pm »
But the PR value of a Starship standing upright and intact on Mars would be immense.

Likewise, the PR damage caused by a Starship unexpectedly lithobraking into Mars would also be immense. Taking their time to maximize the odds of a successful landing - or even a flyby - in a subsequent synod would probably be more beneficial for SpaceX's long-term plans and reputation than a crash in 2024.

Offline AmigaClone

LOLs, memory fades so quickly...

It's been only 3 years since StarHopper's flight, and this includes the entire build-up of Starbase, the FAA saga, and the major design decisions for SH and SS.

So yeah, of course they'll fly to Mars in 2024.

This 3 years was perceived very long, because Elon promised much faster progress 3 years ago...

Anyway. SpaceX is committed to launch the half of the planned Starlink constellation by November, 2024 (Wikipedia: Starlink). Probably, this is their most important driver. It means launching cc. 4000 satellite (V2, of course). Maybe, it requires 100, or less, Starship launches. Probably, this is possible from Cape. They had 30 launches from there in this year by now, i.e. in 8 months. The 100 launches with this rate takes 2 years, so a slightly higher rate is sufficient. That is, when Cape and Starship are ready, they launch & launch & launch without much further development in this avenue.

The 'Phase two' part of the Starlink constellation chart in the Wikipedia article refers to a VLEO V-band Starlink constellation of ~7500 satellites. It would take about 70 F9 launches to reach the halfway point for that phase. SpaceX also would need about 35 F9 to complete what is called Phase 1 in the article. No Starships would be required.

The Gen2 Constellation is a proposed ~30000 satellite constellation that has not been approved yet. That will primarily use Starship as a launch vehicle, with F9 as a contingency plan.

Offline AmigaClone

Personally, at this point I can see about a 50% chance of SpaceX launching some sort of Starship mission to Mars.

Something that would increase that likelihood of a Mars mission would be a successful test of the orbital refueling system nominally done as part of the SpaceX HLS program by early 2024. The mission choice might be one that would allow a flyby if the engines don't restart after six months in space although the plan would call for either an orbital insertion or even a landing attempt.

Offline Skyrunner

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #14 on: 08/27/2022 01:19 pm »
.... Most importantly, they will want ground truth on presence of ice. How accessible is it? How pure is it?. For this purpose they need a rudimentary rover developed minimalistically from a Tesla chassis and equipped with excavating and drilling tools. Relatively low amount of local information will have a huge benefit for surface system development. Or, they may learn that the chosen location is not good enough for the purpose.

Note that early reconnaissance with Red Dragons was in the plans. Once upon a time. While RD has gone, the need for local information has remained. This is why sending a Starship to the Martian surface is important for boots in '29.

Obviously SpaceX is well know for vertical integration. But it is also known for sticking to the mantra: "we are in the space transportation business"

I would not be surprised at all if SpaceX were to provide rides to commercial/university landers, rovers and instruments at bottom prices (or even for free for universities) for the first opportunity. SpaceX gets the exposure and science return. And focus remains on their core mission.

The increase in planetary protection needs once Starship comes "online" could be an interesting topic in itself.

Offline ulm_atms

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #15 on: 08/27/2022 01:49 pm »
This questions really only has one answer in the grand scheme of things....

Yes, if they are ready.

Better discussion IMO, what do they have left to do before they try?  Now currently, there is a whole lot to do, but the closer to time, the more nitty gritty the details.  The last two years have been a ride watching SpaceX.  I expect the next two years to be even better.

My personal opinion, successful tanker flights are the longest pole.  Once that is working....there isn't much more needed to head to Mars(as a test, not with cargo/people).  So that is the specific action item I am using to gauge which Mars window year will be used first.  Now landing on Mars, I would say the very next synod after a successful test, but there is still so much in the air with Starship and it's PPT issues.  IMO, landing will happen after we have a better understanding of how Starship and PPT will work together.  It's an older discussion here...but a required one to get lined out beforehand:

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=52643.0


Online Zed_Noir

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #16 on: 08/27/2022 01:59 pm »
<snip>
The increase in planetary protection needs once Starship comes "online" could be an interesting topic in itself.
A crewed Starship landing on Mars and current planetary protection protocols are incompatible.

IMO, planetary protection will take a distant second place to the survival of a crew on Mars. Especially when it involved ISRU to produce water.

Offline meekGee

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #17 on: 08/27/2022 02:26 pm »
But the PR value of a Starship standing upright and intact on Mars would be immense.

Likewise, the PR damage caused by a Starship unexpectedly lithobraking into Mars would also be immense. Taking their time to maximize the odds of a successful landing - or even a flyby - in a subsequent synod would probably be more beneficial for SpaceX's long-term plans and reputation than a crash in 2024.
When have you seen SpaceX be bad PR shy?  Look at how aggressively they're pushing Starship testing...

They have Mars on the brain, and the minute they can, they'll send something. With some more luck they would have been able to do so this year, but it would have been a "bad form" trip, with stripped down ships and/or expended boosters.

They'll do something in 2024, the only question us how "by the book" it will be.
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Offline Bob Shaw

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #18 on: 08/27/2022 02:58 pm »
I think that a demo of LEO refueling will almost at once lead to a Starship going to the orbit of Mars, though perhaps not when Mars is actually there. Simply demonstrating longevity of the vehicle systems will be enough of a win on top of the refueling, no actual landing is required - after all, once replenished it makes sense to use the propellants to go *somewhere* without simply creating LEO junk. Entering high Mars orbit would be a triumph on top of a mere win!

Offline woods170

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Re: Will a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window?
« Reply #19 on: 08/27/2022 03:09 pm »
Despite SpaceX being on a roll I do NOT see a Starship head to Mars in the 2024 launch window.
Too much still needs to be accomplished, before it can happen. And it is not just technical developments that need to be tackled...

Perhaps in the 2026 launch window, but certainly not before.

 

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