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I About the SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System

  1. Oct 14, 2016 #1
    I know mars colonization is a hot topic these days, and there are a lot of threads on this topic, but I would like to discuss specifically the SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System.

    There's a video on the subject here.

    On a recent thread that I posted here, some people came to the conclusion that mars colonization probably won't be happening within the next 50 years or so, and I agree with most of the arguments. But also, I've found SpaceX's plans of sending humans to mars as early as 2024 quite interesting, especially because the mission ultimate goal is to build a reliable and viable way of travelling to the red planet, so as to enable mars colonization. Also, it's indeed a very ambitious mission, since NASA is planning of sending humans to mars only on the 2030's.

    The 2024 mission consists, basically, of a reusable ITS (for Interplanetary Transport System) Booster whose task is to send both the Interplanetary Spaceship and the ITS Tanker to Earth orbit. The Interplanetary Spaceship will be fueled on orbit by the ITS Tanker, and then the crew and cargo will travel to mars. Looks like SpaceX plans to build a propellant plant on Mars so as to decrease the cost of spaceflight back to Earth. However, I don't know if SpaceX addressed to the problem of the astronauts being exposed to radiation during the flight to mars.

    Do you think SpaceX plans are too ambitious? 2024 is only eight years away, and besides SpaceX having already developed some of the technologies that will be used on the ITS (like the reusable rockets and the vertical controlled landing) it is still a daunting task. And with such a system, could a small mars colony (with a small crew, something like the ISS) be a possibility within the next decades? I know that there are a lot of problems related to a permanent colony like this (food, water, radiation...) but with the costs of transport being reduced, maybe more funding would appear and more research would be done on these areas.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 14, 2016 #2
    Howdy, :smile:To the best of my knowledge the 2024 mission, if it can be pulled off in that time frame consists of landing the red dragon, not sure if the plans are for it being manned. The ITS on the other hand is a little further down the road as the tech is still being worked out, I'll see what I can find out about the time frame but it won't likely be as soon as SpaceX hopes. (I did go into the ITS a bit in post #61 Space and stuff)
  4. Oct 14, 2016 #3
    Looks like the Red Dragon mission is planned for as early as 2018. They intend to make some preparatory missions till 2022, and the first crewed ITS flight would go to mars on 2024.

    Tight schedule, I would say.
  5. Oct 14, 2016 #4
    I'm going to bet the 2024 window will close with testing still underway, If anyone can pull this off it will be Space-X however I think the funding and development of ITS is going to come together behind the "aggressive schedule" mentioned. You have to admit, the Raptor is an impressive piece of engineering though.
    Here is the most complete info I'm able to find at the moment, please post anything more you find, It's a fascinating concept and I'm curious to see it developed.
    From, http://spaceflight101.com/spx/

    The project’s desired timeline - as presented in September 2016 - is inherently aggressive and was likely put together with an optimistic mindset, as has become the standard for SpaceX projects. Of course, the entire plan depends on the availability of the necessary funds to proceed quickly through the development stages and head into flight testing in near-Earth space before setting sail for Mars.

    At IAC 2016, Musk was able to present two assembled pieces of flight hardware: The first development unit of the Raptor engine that was test fired just in the nick of time two days ahead of the conference after a tireless effort by SpaceX engineers. The second, and possibly even more impressive test article assembled by September ’16 was a huge composite tank for use on the Spaceship as an oxidizer storage tank.

    Propulsion development and qualification - one of the cornerstones of the ITS - is expected to be complete by the start of 2019 when the Raptor engine is expected to head into production. With 51 Raptors required per vehicle, SpaceX will have to ramp up production to a large number of engines and will do so by utilizing established technologies from the Merlin engine production line enabled by the fact that Raptor - while a much more powerful design - is of similar size and will make use of innovative manufacturing techniques including 3D printing.

    Structures development with an emphasis on the huge carbon-fiber tank and mechanical assemblies is also foreseen to be complete by 2019. Testing of the Spaceship and Booster is expected to begin with a one-and-a-half-year ground test campaign ahead of up to two and a half years of orbital test flights to iron out problems before taking the vehicles beyond near-Earth space.

    SpaceX aims for the first uncrewed Mars flight for the interplanetary launch window opening in August of 2022 - a very optimistic goal that assumes plenty of funding will be available and no major setbacks are encountered in the technical development. Pending the success of the first pathfinder mission, the first crew could embark on a high-risk shakedown mission to Mars in the late September 2024 launch window.

    While the $10 billion sum for the development of the Mars Architecture is an astronomical amount of money, SpaceX plans to ultimately offer trips to Mars at an affordable cost equivalent to the median price of a house in the United States.

    A few more articles on the project...
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2016
  6. Oct 15, 2016 #5
    It's a fascinating concept, indeed. Do you think if this mission, if it happens successfully, would make room for a permanent mars base within the next 50 years or so?
  7. Oct 15, 2016 #6
    If the program goes according to plan, yes most definitely. In one of the articles Elon mentions a time frame of 50 to 100 years to really get the show on the road. I'm curious about the obvious tech hurdles and how they will be addressed, (regarding the actual long term habitation) radiation, perchlorate contamination, (That stuff makes great rocket fuel but its hell on your thyroid and health in general) etc.
    Relevant reading. http://www.planetary.org/blogs/jason-davis/2016/20160927-spacex-unveils-mars-plans.html
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2016
  8. Oct 17, 2016 #7


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    Human mission in the next 10 years, possibly. More like 20. A 10 year clock should have already been started on too many preparatory projects. Selection and training of Mars astronauts for example: prelim training flights, 12 mos round trip in space, 12 mos Mars survival.

    Permanent base in 500 years, maybe.

    Colonizing Mars would require a widespread motivation to migrate to a very inhospitable environment. Historically, most of the motivation to abandon home is negative, that is, intolerable conditions where you are. We don't see a desire for large numbers of people to migrate to Antarctica, or to create a deep undersea base. Mars is orders of magnitude more difficult.

    In the ancient world the Greeks and Romans managed what Pliny called a fast and regular crossing of the Mediterranean, e.g. Rhodes to Alexandria, in three days. Yet another 1600 years were required before the Atlantic Ocean was crossed on a journey 11x longer, though the Old World peoples had extreme motivations to get out from under Old World despots. The manned Apollo missions required 3 days to reach the moon, and while many might now call Apollo trivial, only one country has managed it 46 years on. Mars is 140x further away than the moon, with 60x the travel time.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
  9. Jan 20, 2017 #8


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    Yes, you will not find on Mars those too fearful of the cold, or those requiring a radiation free and oxygen rich environment. My views are that with the current crises facing the whole world at present it will be a miracle if any of this dream becomes a reality. People do not realise just how bad things are becoming on every front. But it i nice to dream.
  10. Jan 20, 2017 #9
    What crises?
  11. Jan 21, 2017 #10
    Even if all of the world's supposed problems were to be solved, people like you would think up new ones in order to argue against space exploration.
  12. Jan 24, 2017 #11


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    Meanwhile the some people will be colonising the Moon much faster and much more profitably ... :smile:
  13. Jan 24, 2017 #12


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    The Moon has several resources that, if located on the Earth, would likely attract industry. But these resources are not on the Earth. For what exactly is there good evidence of a profitable activity on the Moon?
  14. Jan 25, 2017 #13


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    That is exactly what is happening already. Living standards improve nearly everywhere, for nearly everyone. Just 100 years ago, 80% of the world population lived in absolute poverty. In 2000, it was 30%. Today the number is down to 10%, and still falling rapidly.
    Malnutrition reduced a lot, access to clean water improved massively, life expectancy doubled, air pollution got better, armed conflicts got less frequent, illiteracy rate went from 70% to 14%, ... basically every quantity measuring the quality of life improved.
    The news are just more (and with more images and videos) reporting about bad things that happen around the world. And they report about first world problems...

    SpaceX is a private company, and Musk has the majority - they can develop ITS if they want, as long as they have the money. If they can offer a manned mission to Mars for a reasonable price, I'm sure governments are interested. If NASA doesn't take the opportunity, China would, and I don't think NASA would be happy with that.
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