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What is the landed payload mass of the 2018 Space X Red Dragon Mission?

asked 2016-08-26 08:54:32 -0600

Pascal Le Dramont gravatar image

How much payload mass can Red Dragon land on Mars and how much extra propellant does it take to do the retro-propulsion?

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answered 2016-08-26 17:00:16 -0600

Rob Mueller gravatar image

updated 2016-08-26 17:05:58 -0600

Red Dragon is a proposed mission by SpaceX inc. to modify its existing Dragon capsule spacecraft, which is capable of retro-propulsion, in order to land on Mars. The proposed payload mass capability would be approximately 1,000 kg and since it would use retro-propulsion thrusters and not parachutes, it could be capable of landing at higher altitudes than the current NASA JPL Skycrane system. It has also been reported that SpaceX wishes to land at mid-latitude or even polar sites in order to look for water ice that is suspected of being there, as shown by hydrogen signatures and white spots after fresh meteorite impacts on buried glaciers. The NASA Phoenix mission also showed there was a sheet of white water ice directly below the lander only a few centimeters below the regolith.

The Red Dragon is due to launch in the 2018 Mars launch opportunity, but a Falcon Heavy rocket will have to be developed and proven first. Since the Red Dragon will use retro-propulsion, more mass (in the form of propellant) will have to be launched. 1900 kg of hypergolic propellant (NTO/MMH) will be required to provide the Delta V for a soft landing on Mars.

Using a typical gear ratio of about 4:1 for transported mass from Low Earth Obit (LEO), this amounts to about 7,600 kg extra mass that needs to be launched to LEO to account for the retro-propulsive burns. The mass of the current Dragon is about 6,400 kg and at a gear ratio of 4:1 then 25,600 kg would have to be launched to LEO just to transport the spacecraft itself to Mars. with a 1,000 kg payload, an extra 4,000 kg would be added to that as well.The Mars Science Lab (MSL skycrane) was launched on an Atlas V 541 with a capacity of 17,443 to LEO and the current Falcon 9 can launch 22,800 kg to LEO so that shows why a new, bigger rocket is needed to launch a Red Dragon to Mars. Although Red Dragon may be more flexible than MSL (if it is successful), it comes at the cost of extra propellant mass launched.

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Asked: 2016-08-26 08:54:32 -0600

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Last updated: Aug 26 '16