Mars Colonial Transporter
|Mission type||Interplanetary technology, reconnaissance, settlement|
|Start of mission|
Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) is the name of the privately funded development project by U.S. company SpaceX to design and build a spaceflight system of reusable rocket engines, launch vehicles and space capsules to transport humans to Mars and return to Earth.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has stated at least since 2007 the personal goal of eventually enabling human exploration and settlement of Mars. He stated in a 2011 interview that he hopes to send humans to Mars's surface within 10–20 years. By late-2012, additional information made public included that Musk envisions a Mars colony of multiple tens of thousands with the first colonists arriving no earlier than the middle of the 2020s.
In November 2012, Musk made public company plans to build a second reusable rocket system with capabilities substantially beyond the Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy launch vehicles that SpaceX had then manifested several billion US dollars of launches on. This new vehicle will be "an evolution of SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster ... much bigger [than Falcon 9]", but indicated that SpaceX would not be speaking publicly about it until 2013. In June 2013, Musk stated that he intends to hold off any potential IPO of SpaceX shares on the stock market until after the "Mars Colonial Transporter is flying regularly."
In February 2014, Musk stated that Mars Colonial Transporter will be "100 times the size of an SUV", and capable of taking 100 people at a time to Mars. Also, SpaceX engine development head Tom Mueller said SpaceX would use nine Raptor engines on a single rocket, similar to the use of nine Merlin engines on each Falcon 9 booster core. He said "It's going to put over 100 tons of cargo on Mars." The large rocket core that will be used for the booster to be used with MCT will be 10 meters (33 ft) in diameter, nearly three times the diameter and over seven times the cross-sectional area of the Falcon 9 booster cores.
Mars Colonial Transporter has been notionally described as being a large interplanetary spacecraft capable of taking 100 people at a time to Mars, although early flights are expected to carry fewer people and more equipment. The spacecraft has been notionally described as using a large water store to help shield occupants from space radiation and to possibly having a cabin oxygen content that is up to two times that which is found in Earth's atmosphere.
The Mars colony envisioned by Musk would start small, notionally an initial group of fewer than ten people. With time, Musk sees that such an outpost could grow into something much larger and become self-sustaining, perhaps up to as large as 80,000 people once it is established. Musk has stated that as aspirational price goal for such a trip might be on the order of US$500,000, something that "most people in advanced countries, in their mid-forties or something like that, could put together [to make the trip]."
Before any people are transported to Mars, a number of cargo missions would be undertaken first in order to transport the requisite equipment, habitats and supplies. Equipment that would accompany the early groups would include "machines to produce fertilizer, methane and oxygen from Mars' atmospheric nitrogen and carbon dioxide and the planet's subsurface water ice" as well as construction materials to build transparent domes for crop growth.
Super-heavy lift launch vehicle
The super-heavy lift launch vehicle for MCT will consist of one or three 10-meter (33 ft)-diameter cores and use nine Raptor LOX/methane engines to power each core. The rocket has not yet been named by SpaceX. As of March 2014[update], no launch site has been selected for the super-heavy lift rocket, but SpaceX has indicated that their leased facility in Florida at Launch Pad 39A is not large enough to accommodate the vehicle, and that a new site would be built in order to launch the 10-meter diameter rocket.
The MCT launch vehicle is intended to be reusable—making use of the SpaceX reusable technology that is currently being developed for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy—and producing approximately 62 or 190 MN (6,300 or 19,000 tonnes-force) (formerly roughly sized at greater than 40 or 120 meganewtons (9,000,000 or 27,000,000 lbf)) of thrust at liftoff.
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- Gwynne Shotwell (2014-03-21). Broadcast 2212: Special Edition, interview with Gwynne Shotwell (mp3) (audio file) (in English). The Space Show. Event occurs at 29:45–30:40. 2212. Archived from the original on 2014-03-22. Retrieved 2014-03-22. "would have to throw a bunch of stuff before you start putting people there. ... It is a transportation system between Earth and Mars."
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- Butler, Amy; Svitak, Amy. "AR1 vs. Raptor: New rocket program will likely pit kerosene against methane" (2014-06-09). Aviation Week & Space Technology. "SpaceX is developing the Raptor as a reusable engine for a heavy-lift Mars vehicle, the first stage of which will feature 705 metric tons of thrust, making it 'slightly larger than the Apollo F-1 engine,' Tom Mueller, SpaceX vice president of propulsion development, said during a space propulsion conference last month in Cologne, Germany. The vacuum version is targeting 840 metric tons of thrust with 380 sec. of specific impulse. The company is testing subscale components using the E-2 test stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, says Stennis spokeswoman Rebecca Strecker. ... Mueller said many people ask why the company switch to methane for its Mars rocket. With reusability in mind, SpaceX's cost studies revealed that 'by far the most cost-effective propellant to use is methane,' he said, which would be easier than hydrogen to manufacture on Mars."