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#1 2014-12-10 16:00:17

RobertDyck
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From: Winnipeg, Canada
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Boeing's plan for Mars

Boeing has a website, with video and pictures.
click here

mars_lander-580x357.jpg

Summary:
- 5 or 6 SLS launches
- 7 or 8 months to get to Mars
- 7 or 8 months to go home
- a deep space tug with a habitat. Tug will use solar electric propulsion. Graphic of habitat looks like TransHAB.
- lander with inflatable heat shield
- ascent stage embedded in lander. Their graphic looks like a 2 stage MAV, with the lower stage embedded within the centre of the descent module.

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#2 2014-12-10 18:12:08

RobS
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

There's also an 84-slide PowerPoint. Very interesting. Looks doable; but how expensive?

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#3 2014-12-10 19:05:55

RobertDyck
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

Ok. I found the slides. It's actually in .PDF format, so you can use Adobe Reader to view it.
click here

I notice a few slides have the Energia logo. Most people on this forum are familiar, but for those who don't know, that's a Russian big aerspace company. They made the Energia rocket (yes, same name), as well as a lot more. I was all for partnership with them after reading Robert Zubrin suggest using their big rocket in his book "The Case For Mars". But the Ukraine thing killed that. How would Energia participate in this plan?
energia_flying.gif

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#4 2014-12-10 19:58:39

louis
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

Some of the best graphics I have seen and obviously a very well thought through mission plan, which I am going to study in more detail.

Is it their attempt to get ahead of Musk or stymie him?


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#5 2014-12-10 20:15:28

Excelsior
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From: Excelsior, USA
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

RobS wrote:

There's also an 84-slide PowerPoint. Very interesting. Looks doable; but how expensive?

How much ya got? wink


The Former Commodore

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#6 2014-12-11 00:01:29

Impaler
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

It sure seems odd in their materials that they are sticking the lander in between the SEP and habitats.  This means the vehicle needs to split in 3 every time time a lander is dropped off and then the habitats need to re-dock to the SEP stages.  Those habitats are obviously BA-300's which have space available at both ends for docking (indeed they do just that in the final configuration for Earth return) so why the heck don't they do it right from the start, it would simplify things a lot.

I don't understand why they are sending two transit habitats and yet only give the crew access to them both for the ride home.  Is that habitat a contingency for the crew if the surface mission is aborted?  Then just keep them in the original habitat which is already able to do Earth Return and add a simple package of additional consumables if were worried about running out of food.  If they feel the habits are so unreliable that two are needed then send the lander ahead unmanned to loiter in orbit and send the crew in a double habitat that stay connected going to AND coming back from Mars so their is zero chance of failing to link-up with the thing.

The SEP 'tugs' seem to get used very little in the Earth environment as a good tug should, several pieces get moved to L2 by SLS and then they move more Krypton propellent to L2 via Orion?  This is just silly, your sending your SEP vehicle away not fully fueled and then using inefficient chemical propulsion to deliver the fuel to top it off, theirs more total Delta-V between LEO and L2 then between L2 and Mars, every scrap of mass that is not the taxi craft should be getting to L2 with efficient Ion propulsion, even if I burn through the life-span of the Ion-thrusters I can just slap a replacement set of thrusters over the first and be way ahead.  Just assemble and fuel the whole stack in LEO and let it spiral out to L2, then your crew can take the Orion Taxi up to it and depart sensibly.  Perhaps they don't dare suggest that Orion be launched on-top of DeltaIV (or worse F9H) and just go alone to L2 as a proper taxi craft, their MUST be an SLS launch for every Orion to line Boeing's pockets.

The at Mars rendezvouses are all done at high Mars orbit.  Again this seems odd, the landers have a harder EDL profile, the assent vehicle has a higher Delta-V to reach rendezvouses too.  All the while the SEP stages that could easily spiral down to drop the lander, wait at that altitude and then after rendezvouses spiral out to begin the departure for Earth, they just need to cut some of the surface stay time off and allocate it to spiraling and theirs no increase in total mission duration, their is a bit more GRC and zero-G health concern for the crew, but they are done with the surface stay and we expect them to be be coming back in BAD shape anyways, the Assent/Decent vehicle is the vehicle the crew is MOST likely to die in so the more that can be done to offload and minimize it's requirements the better.

Last edited by Impaler (2014-12-11 00:11:00)

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#7 2014-12-11 06:50:24

RobertDyck
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

This Boeing plan looks very much like the Energia plan. Solar electric, spiral out of Earth orbit. I posted a link to the Russian plan before, but here it is again:
Overview
Project history
Mission Concept
Groundwork for the Project
Current Project Status
Possible Cooperation
concept-05.jpg
concept-01.gif

Boeing wants to transfer to L2 before going to Mars? Are they nuts? They had previously justified Orion by saying it could service the James Webb Space Telescope, which is schedule to be parked in L2. This is more justification for Orion, not  viable plan for Mars.

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#8 2014-12-11 07:32:36

louis
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

Some initial thoughts:

1. This mission plan appears to ignore the potential of pre-lander missions.  I think there is a lot to be said for pre-landing supplies, inflatable hab, pressurised rover and PV panelling. One of the main advantages is that your lander craft can then be much smaller. You can also pre-land the ascent craft.  You can also check that everything is there and working before you commit to putting humans on the surface.

2.  Suited EVA elements are not necessary if you choose to do your exploring and work (e.g. ice mining) in a pressurised rover. Are we sure we are not being misled here by the glamour of footprints in the dust.

3.  The mission seems light on ISRU. Although Mission 1 won't be self-sufficient, the amount of PV panelling in play seems to be pathetically small.  Again, that's an argument for pre-landing.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#9 2014-12-11 08:14:31

RobertDyck
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

Their chart has the Moon again. And Phobos/Deimos. When Congress saw the $450 billion price tag of the 90-Day Report, they immediately said "no way in Hell!" But corporate executives from the "old space" companies are like a dog with a bone, they just won't let it go. If you apply inflation from 1989 to today, that price tag is $750 billion in today's dollars. That price tag included ISS and development of SLS and Orion (or equivalent), so should be reduced a bit; but that would still leave $500 billion in new money. Good luck convincing corporate executives to reduce the price. And politicians keep making the same mistake; they attempt to placate the Moon as well as Mars advocates by saying "Moon-Mars". But whenever they do that, whenever they put those two words together, the corporate executives hear "90-Day Report" and it's full price tag.

In 1991, NASA's budget office calculated the price for Mars Direct. The price was $20 billion for the first mission, including research, development, construction of infrastructure, and the first mission. Then $2 billion for each mission thereafter. Research, development, and infrastructure included the Ares launch vehicle, and life support. SLS basically is Ares. Ares had 5 SSME, a pair of 4-segment SRBs, and the upper stage had 2 J-2S engines. SSME had 5 SSME when it was first proposed by the Senate, now they're talking of reducing to 4 SSME, a pair of 5-segment SRBs, and the upper stage has 2 J-2X engines. That's just Ares updated. And life support has been developed for, tested and demonstrated on ISS. Yea, it needs a few tweaks, but that can be done on ISS.

Applying inflation for $20 billion to today, you get $38.2 billion. But again, SLS and life support are done. I'm not sure how much to deduct, but I suspect the cost for Boeing's plan will be *MUCH* more than $38.2 billion. It'll be closer to $750 billion.

Last edited by RobertDyck (2014-12-11 08:17:43)

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#10 2014-12-11 16:33:06

Impaler
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

I find that 20 Billion number VERY low, were already spending 3 billion a year on SLS development (over more then 10 years) and Mars Direct would have required that same vehicle, so you've basically already spent the whole Mars Direct budget estimate already on the launch vehicle.  The idea that Mars Direct would have been that cheap is clearly erroneous, it may still be cheaper then the old 90 day report estimates, but it's still likely to be in the 200 Billion range then it is to be in the 20 range.  Your right that once SLS is done (and assuming it's not immediately retired because it has no payloads), then the missions remaining costs will be smaller, maybe half but saying that you have saved money by ignoring the cost of the launch vehicle is not honest accounting.

The Russian/Energia mission looks very interesting.  It makes much more sensible use of SEP by using it for ALL propulsion above the atmosphere, exactly as it should.  The Russian ambition on power generation is amazing, 15MW of thin-film solar in huge square truss frames, it looks like they have some kind of robotic unrolling setup that fills the truss-frame with wide ribbons of film that are brought up in rolled form.  This is a significant departure from the standard self-deploying architecture favored in most American solar-wing designs, I wonder what kind of power-density they expect to get?

The total mission duration of 2 years and the use of what looks to be opposition class trajectory with it's short surface stay says a lot.  The Russians are THE long-duration mission champions, if they don't think 3 year missions are within their grasp that should give us pause.  I like their uber-Zvenda crew module, at 70 tons it is a Beast, but that Russian equipment is indestructible, it will last a generation and see more then a dozen flights to and from Mars when part of a fully reusable vehicle.  Pairing it with an inflatable might be a good match, the inflatables have yet to show that they can hold the ECLSS systems to really do the job, but they have potential to hold lots of consumables and could make good radiation shelters, that big Zvenda even looks to have a couple spare docking ports on it.  The whole Russian approach is to build a space-station that MOVES, rather then the to think of the Mission as a series of disposable stages that do a propulsive maneuver and then get thrown away, that's a fundamentally more reusable approach that mission planners here in the US should adopt.

Energia is also realistic on international partners and says right upfront to let the Americans develop the landing crafts, they are the only ones to ever do it for the Moon and have virtually ALL the experience on Martian EDL.  This is a viable frame-work (at least on a technical basis) for Russian/American partnership, the Russians could command and pilot the space transit phase of the mission and the Americans would command and pilot the surface stay.

The history of Russian Mars Mission designs (the equivalent of our NASA DRM's) was also very interesting, comparing Russian and American design evolution you can see the Russians were firmly on the Electric Propulsion route from the 60's.  This is hardly very surprising when you remember that the Russians invented Electric Propulsion, so of course they were going to use it.  While they were looking at Nuclear electric power for a long time they switched to thin-film solar in 1988.  This is all very prescient of them, after 20 years of talking about Nuclear Thermal but not developing it, NASA and American Ario-space has finally realized the Russian propulsion choice was the right one all along, as with many things this only happens after we catch up with Russian tech.  Ion thrusters and thin-film solar are now common techs that most space-faring nations can utilize, the challenge is just scaling it up to a large vehicle.

Last edited by Impaler (2014-12-11 16:53:59)

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#11 2014-12-11 21:35:24

SpaceNut
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

Thank you, RobertDyck for posting "This Boeing and the Energia plans" links and information....I truely have some homework...

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#12 2014-12-11 21:45:23

RobertDyck
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

Yea, SLS has cost way too much. It's based on existing technology, and existing components. Yet they still haven't finished it. NASA announced they would build Saturn V, design C-5, in January 1962. Apollo 4 was the first test launch, November 1967. That included brand new stages, and brand new engines. SLS is based on Ares V, which is based on Shuttle technology. SLS was authorized in September 2011. It's already been 3 years. If SLS was starting over from scratch, including development of new engines, then we could expect the first launch about this time next year. But it's based on existing engines; and the core stage tank is based on the Shuttle's External Tank. And it's a re-dux of Ares V, which formally began with the "Space Authorization Act of 2005", signed in December 2005, and ended with the authorization act of 2010, signed by president Obama in October 2010. With all that work, we should have seen the first launch of SLS within a year or two, definitely within 2 years of authorization. That means the first test launch by no later than September 2013. I consider it overdue already.

Ares V had a major problem. NASA administration selected RS-68 engines because they didn't require development. But NASA engine guys wanted to develop the engines. So they used the excuse of "man rating" RS-68, then proceeded to add all the features from SSME that Rocketdyne had deliberately removed. RS-68 was optimized as an expendable engine; so cost of additional fuel and tank was balanced against cost to manufacture the engine. But NASA engine guys wanted SSME, just enlarged 50%. But NASA administration selected RS-68 to avoid cost of them doing so. So the engine guys proceeded to convert RS-68 into the enlarged SSME that they wanted anyway. This demonstrates management did not have control. Ares V should have been cancelled for exactly this reason. Now there's SLS. It's based on what Ares V should have been. No new engine.

But then they want to redesign the solids, to be 5-segment instead of 4-segment. And they're having oscillation harmonic problems because of it. They're even talking of developing a radical new SRB with advanced fuel, using high explosive as oxidizer instead of what they have now. GW Johnson reported this fuel combination has already been used by military solid rockets. Ok, but if it's expensive, or causes delay, then it's a problem.

Last edited by RobertDyck (2014-12-11 22:04:43)

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#13 2014-12-12 13:16:57

GW Johnson
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

I think you're referring to the use of RDX and/or HMX in the solid propellant formulation.  This is normally used in small quantities in place of some AP,  usually in an attempt to get into a higher class of burn rates (and Isp),  within which you can "tailor" burn rate with your AP particle size distribution.  It's a trade-off:  too much and your explosive sensitivity gets too high,  especially friction,  which is a serious hazard during processing.  Too little,  and you cannot change burn rate.  But usually it's tolerable in processing,  and has little impact on final product handling safety.  Sometimes,  it does feed extra energy into any pre-existing acoustic instabilities,  though.

A tiny minority of companies out there addressed burn rate and Isp performance differently:  we went to higher solids (mostly AP) content,  and just bit the bullet and learned how to process very thixotropic,  non-Newtonian propellants.  It's a completely different style of propellant mix and cast (and very different cast hardware),  very different than any of the big motor boys know.  But it works.  And performance really is better.  And usually we didn't need any RDX or HMX at all,  so processing safety was better,  too.  Plus,  we almost never had acoustic stability problems with 10+% aluminized formulations. 

The trouble with the 5 segment SRB design is simply neglect of the necessary acoustic stability analysis before they committed to the design.  Now it's too late,  they're screwed without a complete redesign.  The big motor guys often do that to save money up front,  it's the same sort of thing "they" did with RMS Titanic a century ago.  It's just too often simply a bad bet.  The tactical motor guys run acoustic stability all the time.  The big motor boys shouldn't be so arrogant,  they should talk more often to the tactical guys. 

GW


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#14 2014-12-12 19:35:10

SpaceNut
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

I agree RobertDyck that the expect design to hardware flight has been off as well as that huge sucking sound of cash just being wasted it would seem. Other than Orion we have had just engine developement from the vintage J2 all the way to making the Rs68B and it would seem even the RS-25 engine upgrade is no 80s techno flashback

rs-25-engine-controller-unit-lg.jpg

The engine controller unit allows communication between the vehicle and the engine, relaying commands to the engine and transmitting data back to the vehicle. Engineering model controllers are being tested at the Marshall Center and Stennis Space Center. The core stage, towering more than 200 feet tall with a diameter of 27.6 feet, will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the vehicle's RS-25 engines.

The first flight test of the SLS will be configured for a 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capacity and carry an uncrewed Orion spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit to test the performance of the integrated system. As the SLS evolves, it will be the most powerful rocket ever built and provide an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons (143 tons) to enable missions even farther into our solar system.

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#15 2014-12-13 19:03:09

RobS
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

I was just looking over the Boeing plan again.

Energia: Robert, I think that's mentioned because slide 80 talks about international partnerships. So "Energia" refers to the Russian company, not the rocket. Possibly they consulted with the company in some way; as you all noted, the Russians are the ones favoring solar electric propulsion.

The later slides are there to discuss other uses of the system. The moon is mentioned several times because the system Boeing advocates can be used to go to the moon as well. The Deimos Precursor mission would be a way to test the Mars ascent vehicle and the interplanetary transit hab, and the additional mass available could be used to complete a robotic sample return mission, so the Deimos precursor mission would bring back Martian samples as well. Then the Mars landing would only be testing the descent aspect of the system.

Impaler: The Solar Electric Vehicle appears to be sized so that two SLS launches can get it, its fuel, the transit vehicle, and the Mars descent/ascent elements to EM2. Apparently there isn't enough mass left over to get the krypton fuel for trans-Mars injection to EM2 as well. But a third SLS launch has more than enough lift capacity to transport the crew and Orion quickly to EM2 (thus not lingering in the Van Allen Radiation belts) AND get the extra krypton for trans-Mars injection to EM2. The idea is to use just one ion tug to get everything to EM2, so you don't have to launch and build an extra ion tug.

Louis: There is a pre-landing of supplies. Two years before the humans are launched, two SLS are launched with ion tug and a cargo lander. The cargo lander takes almost two years to get to Mars; it uses a higher ISP krypton system, which saves fuel but takes a lot more time because the thrust is much lower. Several slides show the cargo lander, which appears to have a transit hab on top, so it provides the astronauts their home after they land on Mars. Another slide shows a sort of garage near the cargo lander and several surface vehicles. The crew ascent vehicle is indeed very small and light. That's why it can get to a high Mars orbit. Presumably, spiraling the entire interplanetary transit system from a low Mars orbit takes a long time and a lot of krypton (the solar panels and ion engines are heavy because of their size).

The first human mission takes 5 SLS launches; 2 to get the cargo lander on its way to Mars, then 3 (2 years later) to get the humans on their way. Presumably subsequent missions could reuse the solar electric tug and transit hab, so perhaps subsequent missions would require only 4 launches.

I do wonder about the cost. The Orion and SLS together will be what?: 25 billion? The interplanetary transit vehicle is the cheapest addition; probably a billion or less to develop, because Bigelow has done a lot of the work and will be launching inflatable hotels long before this mission flies. How much will the solar electric tug cost to develop? Ten billion? Theoretically, it's a massive upscaling of existing, very reliable technology (well, maybe not, since the existing technology doesn't use krypton). The Mars lander/ascent vehicle should be in the vicinity of 25 billion because it's smaller than the SLS. If we have 2 of the 6 necessary elements and the other 2 pairs also cost 25 billion, the total is 75 billion. Of course, the launch costs are pretty steep; how much will an SLS launch cost, 1 or 2 billion each?

Someone asked whether this was part of Boeing's defense against Space X. I think there's an entire "plot" of that sort going on right now. NASA has been hitting the social media hard about Orion. There's Nicele Nichol's little public service announcement about Orion, there's the "It's All about that Space" video, and a lot more. Note that the NASA budget that was JUST approved by the House of Representatives gave a bunch MORE money to SLS to keep its development on track, while giving LESS money than requested to the Space X/Boeing capsules that will carry astronauts to ISS. The Congress sees that their pork barrel/gravy train is in danger, so they are hastening the expensive system while trying to slow down the cheap ones. I can't blame them. Falcon Heavy will launch from Kennedy this summer. Next week, Space X may successfully land a first stage on a floating barge. They will certainly succeed by next July. By 2016, space transportation will have undergone a vast revolution: Falcon Heavies can launch 30 tonnes or so to low Earth orbit with reuse of the 2 outer first stages, if not the central first stage as well. If a Heavy can launch 30 tonnes to LEO for $30 million, or $500 per pound, who will want to launch 130 tonnes to LEO for 1 billion? Business will flood to Space X, they will be able to keep all three of their launch pads busy (at Canaveral Air Force Station, Kennedy Space Center, and Brownsville, TX; not to mention their pad at Vandenberg!), and their launch rate will climb from 10 per year (in 2014) to 12 (in 2015) and probably almost 20 in 2016 and maybe 30 or 40 by 2020. They just completed their 100th Merlin 1-D engine, so they are getting good at making them. At some point they will lose a launch and that will slow them down. But they'll figure out what happened and keep accelerating.

THAT'S the big problem the Boeing Plan has. Why develop a solar electric tug when Space X can launch kerosene or methane fuel cheaply and push everything to Mars the old fashioned way? They're already developing technology for a Mars lander; I just saw the other day that someone else (Boeing?) wants to develop a launch escape system built into their capsule. The Boeing Mars Plan is very attractive, but it has ignored (it had to ignore!) the revolution that is coming.

Last edited by RobS (2014-12-13 19:03:54)

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#16 2014-12-14 05:42:28

louis
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

RobS wrote:

I was just looking over the Boeing plan again.


Louis: There is a pre-landing of supplies. Two years before the humans are launched, two SLS are launched with ion tug and a cargo lander. The cargo lander takes almost two years to get to Mars; it uses a higher ISP krypton system, which saves fuel but takes a lot more time because the thrust is much lower. Several slides show the cargo lander, which appears to have a transit hab on top, so it provides the astronauts their home after they land on Mars. Another slide shows a sort of garage near the cargo lander and several surface vehicles. The crew ascent vehicle is indeed very small and light. That's why it can get to a high Mars orbit. Presumably, spiraling the entire interplanetary transit system from a low Mars orbit takes a long time and a lot of krypton (the solar panels and ion engines are heavy because of their size).

The first human mission takes 5 SLS launches; 2 to get the cargo lander on its way to Mars, then 3 (2 years later) to get the humans on their way. Presumably subsequent missions could reuse the solar electric tug and transit hab, so perhaps subsequent missions would require only 4 launches.

THAT'S the big problem the Boeing Plan has. Why develop a solar electric tug when Space X can launch kerosene or methane fuel cheaply and push everything to Mars the old fashioned way? They're already developing technology for a Mars lander; I just saw the other day that someone else (Boeing?) wants to develop a launch escape system built into their capsule. The Boeing Mars Plan is very attractive, but it has ignored (it had to ignore!) the revolution that is coming.

Thanks for pointing out the pre-landing element. I'll take a closer look at that. 

I agree with your conclusion about Space X.  There is clearly a lot of "politics" here.   We may be getting into the area of "pork barrel" politics with this project really being more motivated by the need to maintain work at Boeing factories rather than a rational assessment of how best to proceed with a Mars mission on a cost-benefit analysis.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#17 2014-12-14 05:47:22

louis
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

RobertDyck wrote:

Ok. I found the slides. It's actually in .PDF format, so you can use Adobe Reader to view it.
click here

I notice a few slides have the Energia logo. Most people on this forum are familiar, but for those who don't know, that's a Russian big aerspace company. They made the Energia rocket (yes, same name), as well as a lot more. I was all for partnership with them after reading Robert Zubrin suggest using their big rocket in his book "The Case For Mars". But the Ukraine thing killed that. How would Energia participate in this plan?
http://www.energia.ru/ru/images/energia_flying.gif

This link no longer seems to be working...odd. 

Has anyone saved the slideshow?


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#18 2014-12-14 13:09:02

SpaceNut
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

Mars bound cargo, unmanned vehicles there is not problem with using ION drive but man is a different story not to meantion artificial gravity would be out as any wobble in axail spin would be the cause for huge course corrections.

The cheaper version of ares V ( RS68 engine) for cargo I would hope to be closer to 500 million versus a 1 billion for a manned flight.

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#19 2014-12-14 13:19:36

RobertDyck
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

louis wrote:

This link no longer seems to be working...odd. 

Has anyone saved the slideshow?

Found it in my internet cache. click here

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#20 2014-12-14 14:56:13

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,089

Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

RobertDyck wrote:
louis wrote:

This link no longer seems to be working...odd. 

Has anyone saved the slideshow?

Found it in my internet cache. click here

Thanks Robert.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#21 2015-01-23 14:32:58

JCO
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Registered: 2015-01-22
Posts: 35

Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

I think the idea that this is a 'plot' against SpaceX is seeing this backwards. I think NASA would like nothing more than to see Elon Musk succeed. The reason for this is once people "believe" space is someplace you can go their funding will grow exponentially. This is what happened with Apollo, everyone believed in it so the funding was there. Musk is already having this effect and that is what this plan is about. Boeing is not trying to beat SpaceX. Boeing will not begin this plan on their own dime. This is just a request to NASA to have them pay Boeing to do this. SpaceX is planning a private venture. Its goal has little to do with a few exploration mission but is designed to establish a viable colony on Mars. Boeing is not looking to derail SpaceX, they just want to get on the bandwagon so they can get their share of the gravy.

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#22 2015-01-24 19:23:02

kbd512
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Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

JCO,

Boeing isn't planning anything for Mars that doesn't involve expenditure of inordinate amounts of funding with little or no result so as to keep the gravy train rolling along.

You only have to listen to their leadership for five minutes to realize that they're not interested in doing anything more than using existing technology to maximize profits.  You'll not see anything new from them as long as that kind of thinking permeates management.

Sadly, Mr. Musk is one of only a handful of corporate executives who seems to have a genuine personal interest in a manned Mars exploration program and a willingness to direct the resources of his company towards that goal.

The Asteroid Retrieval Mission that NASA is currently wasting tax money on is the inevitable result of not having a goal oriented program focus, no manned space exploration capability, and no money to fund development of systems that would provide that capability.

You can think of SLS and Orion as being akin to stimulus and shovel-ready jobs, which is to say that both programs blow mad money (SLS and Orion on much smaller scale, thankfully), have not produced any result other than what we already knew they would produce (lots of money up in smoke and plenty of hot air), and then the hard vacuum that follows the inevitable failure where there is neither the funding to continue manned space exploration nor the availability of mission hardware.

Let's talk about where the rubber meets the roads for a minute.

NASA has had a period of more than four decades where no manned space exploration of any kind has taken place, unless one considers watching the health of astronauts and other lab animals slowly deteriorate in microgravity aboard various space stations to be space exploration.  While the effects of microgravity is a useful data point, there's virtually no chance of that information ever being pertinent to any manned space exploration because any real effort at manned space exploration would include artificial gravity, a technology that has received virtually no funding up to this point.

The period of time where something like SLS would have been useful would have been the thirty years that STS was in operation.  No Space Shuttle has flown in the past four years and it's unlikely that the Space Shuttle will ever fly again.  The major problems with STS were entirely within management of the program and not overwhelming deficiencies in the flight hardware.  In other words, the crushing cost of STS and SLS has everything to do with having facilities scattered across the United States, man-power intensive ways of correcting simple problems that machines could correct for far less money, and layer upon layer of bureaucratic management that has a lot of nothing to do with execution of operations.

Once upon a time, there was absolutely nothing about Mars exploration, apart from the landers, that had to be created from scratch.  However, after the lunar landings were completed the space nuclear power and propulsion program was immediately defunded and so no flight hardware was created.  Chemical, NEP, and SEP are all quaint ideas for manned space exploration, but all of them require technology that no longer exists (NEP), was never developed (NEP), or is impractical (Chemical, SEP).

Nuclear power is a virtual requirement for any meaningful manned space exploration, but there's no money for that because of SLS and Orion and all the billions wasted on cancelled programs designed to develop the capability that SLS is supposed to provide.

SEP is an extremely useful technology that is practical for smaller unmanned spacecraft.  NASA is actively funding the program in a meaningful way, as it should.  However, the technology doesn't scale.

NEP could be useful for larger unmanned spacecraft, but use in manned spacecraft requires GCNR's to achieve the power density required for viability.

NTR is presently the only technology reasonably capable of providing propulsion for manned space exploration missions but there's little more than feel good funding being provided to this program.

Now let's relate all of this to Boeing's master Mars technology plan.

In a nutshell, all of the current proposals rely on technologies that either cost an inordinate amount for the capability provided, don't exist, or don't scale to the levels required for a manned Mars exploration program.

I like the capability that SLS provides, but there's nothing about Boeing's heavy lift rocket that should take 10 years to develop or require tens of billions of dollars.  Simply put, the rocket costs too much, has an inferior payload capacity in comparison to Saturn V, and has taken too long to develop.  Saturn V was designed, built, and flown in less time using entirely new hardware by men who had nothing but slide rules, pencils, and paper.

If we gave one year's worth of Orion/SLS funding to Mr. Musk, we'd have both a heavy lift rocket of comparable or better capability to Saturn V and a capsule system capable of landing on another planet in about two or three years.

I like SEP and I think we should continue to develop the technology, but it's not an enabler for a manned Mars mission.  The SEP solution requires the same number of SLS flights or perhaps 1 less, dependent upon the specifics of the solution.  The trade-off is a couple hundred extra days in space and NASA is already whining about how long it takes to go to Mars because of radiation and the entirely avoidable effects of microgravity that it has never tried to counteract with artificial gravity.

So, all-in-all, it's more pie-in-the-sky from a company that's busy riding the gravy train.

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#23 2015-01-24 19:50:53

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 16,510

Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

Sure Boeing is a contractor that is in it for profit and will not expend any profit to make a smaller portion but that is how Space x is different as its not a contractor. Also true that shuttle not flying should have been a savings but all that money was poured into SLS. Of course we do know that Nuclear power is a vital part for any manned space exploration as we have seen the numbers for a solar powered mission amass beyond even sls capability for a surface useage without adding in more launchers, that are very expensive to begin with. Then you have the proliferation of nuclear in space as a fear factor and unless its a cooperation mission then it would be fore shadowed as a military platforms use.

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#24 2015-01-24 21:04:34

kbd512
Moderator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 2,986

Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

SpaceNut wrote:

Sure Boeing is a contractor that is in it for profit and will not expend any profit to make a smaller portion but that is how Space x is different as its not a contractor. Also true that shuttle not flying should have been a savings but all that money was poured into SLS. Of course we do know that Nuclear power is a vital part for any manned space exploration as we have seen the numbers for a solar powered mission amass beyond even sls capability for a surface useage without adding in more launchers, that are very expensive to begin with. Then you have the proliferation of nuclear in space as a fear factor and unless its a cooperation mission then it would be fore shadowed as a military platforms use.

SpaceX is a current NASA contractor that provides supplies to ISS and launch services.

I think retirement of the Space Shuttle was a mistake and the creation of the Orion capsule was certainly a mistake.  The lack of meaningful development of the launch hardware over the STS program's thirty year history was a more profound mistake.  If SLS actually becomes flight capable, each flight will dump many hundreds of millions of dollars of hardware into the ocean after a few minutes of use.

If the orbiters retrieved the SLS RS-25's for future flights, an orbital manufacturing module at ISS repurposed the alloys and foam in the ET's into spacecraft shells, and SEP tugs trucked ET's and other discarded rocket parts back to ISS, then we'd have a sustainable space exploration program.  The entire point of STS was to have a space truck capable of delivering/retrieving cargo and execution of complex orbital assembly and repair operations.  Now that STS finally has a mission that justifies its cost, it has been retired.  How else could defense contractors bilk many more billions out of NASA by providing an even more expensive and unsustainable solution?

There's nothing wrong with using STS and SLS hardware in conjunction with each other, but using either system on its own doesn't make a lot of sense.  A consolidation of facilities and better program oversight are required if NASA wants a sustainable space exploration solution.  There's no reasonable explanation as to why STS and SLS have to cost so much.  It's an entirely contrived situation that NASA could correct at any time.

Your last supposition is why I so desperately want a gas core reactor developed.  It has little military utility apart from providing power and propulsion, but it's utility for manned space exploration as both an energy dense power source and an integral part of an efficient propulsion system can't be understated.  So far, it's the most efficient method of power production we've come up with that actually works for the intended purpose.

I think SEP is fabulous and there's every reason to continue development of the technology for satellite propulsion.  The technology miniaturizes well and it's an enabler for unmanned space exploration and lower cost commercial satellites for research purposes.  It's simply not realistic for manned space exploration.

Until such time as fusion reactors, anti-matter, and/or so-called anti-gravity devices are available, GCNR's provide the most realistic solution to the problems of power and propulsion for manned space exploration.

Similarly, any manned space exploration program needs to include hardware to generate an artificial 1G environment for astronauts to live in during transit and no other alternative is a suitable substitute.

There's only three enabling technologies required for deep space exploration that we don't already have:

- gas core nuclear reactor
- rotating artificial gravity habitat module
- effective passive radiation shielding

We need to seriously push the TRL on all of those technologies and the only way to do it is to cut funding to programs that don't enable deep space exploration.  Ending the Orion program and ARM is a good start.

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#25 2015-01-24 22:50:23

Impaler
Member
From: South Hill, Virginia
Registered: 2012-05-14
Posts: 286

Re: Boeing's plan for Mars

kbd512:  Your critique of SEP is completely baseless.  You seem to think that the technology can only work at small scale.  That is where it is currently being used because that is the size of our unmanned systems like satellites and probes, the performance of the SEP is currently being used to reduce the size of the launch rocket and add multiple destinations/lifespan to satellites because this is most cost effective first utilization.  But that has nothing to do with what scale it CAN operate at, it's like saying in 1945 that Rockets would never scale to bigger then a V2 because that's all that had been done so far.

The only limiting factor to SEP scaling is the Solar, and we have a 40 year history of higher and higher power availability on every type of space vehicle.  Electric propulsion systems and Solar arrays gain higher power-to-weight ratios as they scale up.  This scaling up is not a simple as just making a bigger tank of fuel and a bigger rocket engine, we have to do significant redesign and optimization of lots of hardware but the direction has always consistently been towards a higher performance system that has positive scaling factors.  It is just a matter of time and clustering of large numbers of solar arrays and electric thrusters into a single vehicle to create something that reach the size and pushing-capacity to move human spaceflight level masses.



I'm all for Technology development, and NASA badly needs to be allowed to redirect all that 'launch vehicle' boondoggle money into tech as the Obama administration tried to do.  But I disagree on all of the things you've point at as worthy of development, the current crop of tech that NASA is looking at such as Mars EDL, and mitigating propellent boil-off are the best choices, they just don't have the budget to do more then the top few choices, and slowly at that.  All of the technologies your asking for are on the other hand dead-ends or unnecessary and wouldn't in my opinion be deserving of any development funding.

Nuclear rockets have always been pie-in-the-sky, they are impossible to develop incrementally on the ground due to radiation release, the ISP they offer is no longer remotely attractive compared to what a SEP system can offer right now, their is zero reason to invest in this technology and that's exactly what is being invested in it a big zero.  I don't know why this forum is full of people who feel in love with Nuclear propulsion 20 years ago and never reconsidered that the mighty N might not be the ultimate solution to everything in space (I know the Hollywood movies certainly give this impression), but your ALL chasing a phantom that will never see the light of day.

Artificial gravity sounds nice, but we have enough ISS experience to send people up for 6 months and have them come down into Earth gravity and be good to go in a few days, they are not cripples as some people like to exaggerate.  In other words we can get to Mars in ISS derived habs and just recuperate for a tiny fraction of the surface stay time upon landing in lander/habitat, a trivial operational constraint that allows us to dispense with all the engineering of spinning stuff.

Radiation shielding against Solar Flares is basically a solved problem, we use a modest water tank 'storm shelter', every proposed Mars transit vehicle has included this for decades now and no one expects it to be a problem to built it or do it and it hardly adds any mass to the vehicle given crew water needs, this radiation presents NO barrier to NASA.  Cosmic Rays are the radiation that is currently the show stopper and which NASA has no solution for because their is NO passive shielding solution short hundreds of g/cm^3 which is far beyond our mass budgets.  Either we will find some kind of active shielding in space, discover that the dosages are less damaging then previously thought based on animal studies, focus on getting underground on Mars so the crew only gets the in-Space dosage, or just raise the chance of death threshold for astronauts.  Radiation deserves study but we should absolutely NOT be down-selecting to 'passive shielding' at this time.

Last edited by Impaler (2015-01-24 22:59:29)

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