Red Dragon (spacecraft)

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Red Dragon
Dragon to Mars (21424800115).jpg
Concept art of a Dragon V2 landing on Mars
Operator Under evaluation by NASA and SpaceX
Major contractors SpaceX
Mission type Lander, sample return
Launch date 2022 (proposed)[1]
Launch vehicle Falcon Heavy
Current destination Mars
Mass 6.5 tonnes (14,000 lb) plus 1 tonne payload[2]

Red Dragon is a proposed modified unmanned SpaceX Dragon capsule for low-cost Mars lander missions using Falcon Heavy rockets. Proposed uses call for a sample return Mars rover to be delivered to the Martian surface while also testing techniques to enter the Martian atmosphere with equipment a human crew could eventually use.[1][2]

The concept was conceived to be proposed for funding in 2013 and 2015 as the United States NASA Discovery mission #13 for launch in 2022,[3][4][5] but it was not submitted.

Proposal[edit]

NASA's Ames Research Center worked with the private spaceflight firm SpaceX to plan a mission that would search for evidence of life on Mars (biosignatures), past or present.[1][2][6] SpaceX's Dragon capsule is used to ferry cargo and astronauts to and from the International Space Station; the proposition called to modify it so it could transport payload to Mars,[1] and to become a precursor to the ambitious manned mission to Mars.[4][5]

The NASA concept, called Red Dragon, would be 3.6-meter (12 ft) diameter Dragon module with an interior volume of 7 cubic metres (250 cu ft) for up to 1 tonne (2,200 lb) of Mars-landed payload.[6] The instruments would drill about 1.0 metre (3.3 ft) under ground to sample reservoirs of water ice known to exist in the shallow subsurface. The mission cost was projected to be less than US$400 million,[4] plus $150 million to $190 million for a launch vehicle and lander.[2][5] SpaceX is currently planning the first Falcon Heavy rocket launch for early 2016.[7]

Landing system[edit]

Because of its design, a Dragon capsule may perform all the necessary entry, descent and landing (EDL) functions in order to deliver payloads of 1 tonne (2,200 lb) or more to the Martian surface without using a parachute; the use of parachutes is not feasible without significant vehicle modifications.[2] It is calculated that the capsule's own aerodynamic drag may slow it sufficiently for the remainder of descent to be within the capability of the SuperDraco retro-propulsion thrusters.[1] This approach should make it possible to land the capsule at much higher Martian elevations than could be done if a parachute was used, and with 10 km (6.2 mi) landing accuracy.[6] The engineering team continues developing options for payload integration with the Dragon capsule.[5] Potential landing sites would be polar or mid-latitude sites with proven near-surface ice.[2]

Goals[edit]

Scientific goals[2]
  • Search for evidence of life (biosignatures), past or present
  • Assess subsurface habitability
  • Establish the origin, distribution, and composition of ground ice
  • Understand past climate using ground ice record
Human precursor goals[2]
  • Conduct human-relevant entry, descent and landing (EDL) demonstrations
  • Assess potential hazards in dust, regolith, and ground ice
  • Characterize natural resources
  • Demonstrate access to subsurface resources
  • Conduct in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) demonstration

Sample return[edit]

A study of a potential 2021 Red Dragon mission suggested that it could offer a low-cost way for NASA to achieve a Mars sample return for study. The Red Dragon capsule would be equipped with the system needed to return samples gathered on Mars, including a Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), an Earth Return Vehicle (ERV), and hardware to transfer a sample collected in a previously landed rover mission, such as NASA's planned Mars 2020 rover, to the ERV.[1][8] ERV would transfer the samples to high Earth orbit, where a separate future mission would pick up the samples and de-orbit to Earth.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g David, Leonard (7 March 2014). "Project 'Red Dragon': Mars Sample-Return Mission Could Launch in 2022 with SpaceX Capsule". Space.com. Retrieved 8 March 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Red Dragon" (PDF), Feasibility of a Dragon-derived Mars lander for scientific and human-precursor investigations (PDF), 8m.net, October 31, 2011, retrieved 14 May 2012 
  3. ^ Spacex Dragon lander could land on Mars with a mission under the NASA Discovery Program cost cap. 20 June 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Wall, Mike (July 31, 2011). "'Red Dragon' Mission Mulled as Cheap Search for Mars Life". SPACE.com. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d "NASA ADVISORY COUNCIL (NAC) - Science Committee Report" (PDF). Ames Research Center, NASA. 1 November 2011. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c E. Sklyanskiy, M. R. Grover; A. D. Steltzner & Sherwood (February 2012). "RED DRAGON-MSL HYBRID LANDING ARCHITECTURE FOR 2018" (PDF). Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "First Falcon Heavy Launch Scheduled for Spring". Space News. 2015-09-02. Retrieved 2015-09-02. 
  8. ^ Wall, Mike (10 September 2015). "'Red Dragon' Mars Sample-Return Mission Could Launch by 2022". Space.com. Retrieved 2015-09-20. 

Further reading[edit]