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A Very British Mission To Mars

From the folk at Reaction Engines, the team developing the Skylon, a proposal for a Mars mission that's very reminiscent of Werner von Braun's Chesley Bonestell-illustrated 1950's mission proposal.

Welcome to yesterday's tomorrow, today!

(link via Jim Burns on Facebook)

Troy - Mission to Mars from Reaction Engines Ltd on Vimeo.

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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
nmg
Aug. 10th, 2012 11:39 am (UTC)
Initial thoughts: I'm surprised that they're not suggesting a two stage Ferry Vehicle like the MEM from von Braun's 1969 proposal (with separate descent and ascent stages); the choice of an Apollo CM-shaped Earth Return Vehicle thar's not designed for reentry (but only for aerobraking into Earth orbit) is an interesting choice that I don't think I've seen before.
sbisson
Aug. 10th, 2012 12:08 pm (UTC)
Sadly von Braun's two stage winged-MEM is utterly impractical, based on what we know know about the Martian atmosphere.
nmg
Aug. 10th, 2012 08:38 pm (UTC)
The winged MEM is impractical, I agree. The MEM I had in mind was the one featured in this study (amongst others).

Edited at 2012-08-10 08:38 pm (UTC)
murphys_lawyer
Aug. 10th, 2012 01:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks - reminds me a bit of the Not Dead Really retro site http://manconquersspace.com/
nojay
Aug. 10th, 2012 01:44 pm (UTC)
No use of ion propulsion to reduce flight times between Earth and Mars, hmmm. No, I'm not thinking of VASIMR nuclear-powered rockets as there are heat-dissipation problems that no amount of handwavium is going to solve but a big enough array of solar cells would be sufficient to provide the power for a low constant-thrust motor to carve a couple of months off the travel time. As for obtaining the necessary solar cells, why not send an orbital tug up to GEO and "harvest" the panels from the many dead DBS satellites parked in graveyard orbits?

The interesting thing about Troy as conceived in the video is that it doesn't require a heavy-lifter in the Saturn V class or even Falcon Heavy. The mission could be performed by the current generation of 20-tonne-to-LEO boosters, just a lot of them (maybe sixty or eighty).
purplecthulhu
Aug. 10th, 2012 05:44 pm (UTC)
Given that Falcon Heavy is likely to be flying by then and assuming that Skylon is as well, that would give the mission quite a lot more flexibility.

I note the copyright on this film is 2009, so Musk's plans were not as solidified then, and with no actual demonstrated capability.
nojay
Aug. 10th, 2012 05:55 pm (UTC)
What's the commercial market for Falcon Heavy? What are the payloads that need the Heavy and will pay for its development and production? If Falcon Heavy or Constellation is critical-path for such a project and they get canned due to funding cuts then the entire project goes down the tubes. The existing Atlas, Delta, Ariane, Falcon, Soyuz and Proton boosters are already in flight, just rubberstamp them out on a production line.

I've argued this before, that a Mars expedition or even a continuously-manned Moonbase project could be carried out with existing off-the-shelf hardware in 15-20 tonne chunks in just the way the Troy video describes. After all there's a 400-tonne manned spacecraft with between 6 and 12 crewmembers in orbit right now and no part of it was larger than 20 tonnes in one piece at launch. A Mars or Moonbase project done the same way would need a higher launch rate but there are more and more launchpads opening up in French Guinea, Texas and Russia to cope with the increased tempo.
purplecthulhu
Aug. 10th, 2012 06:03 pm (UTC)
Intelsat has already got a Falcon Heavy launch contract - essential very big coms satellites in GEO.

Details

here

So yes - there seems to be commercial interest.

However, given that Falcon 9 was developed to successful launch for less than you can get a design study from Lockheed, and that Musk has lots of money salted away so that he can retire to Mars, there might not be a need a commercial interest.

ETA: links added

Edited at 2012-08-10 06:06 pm (UTC)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )