NASA exploring additional cooperation with SpaceX’s Red Dragon mission

WASHINGTON — NASA’s science and house know-how mission directorates are contemplating methods to cooperate with SpaceX on its Pink Dragon mission, together with flying payloads on that Mars lander.

In a June 2 interview throughout the Subsequent-Technology Suborbital Researchers Convention in Broomfield, Colorado, Steve Jurczyk, NASA affiliate administrator for house know-how, mentioned his workplace has a “want listing” of know-how demonstration payloads they wish to fly on Pink Dragon or a future SpaceX Mars mission.

“We’ve had very preliminary talks on payloads for the 2018 mission,” he mentioned. Nonetheless, he added that, with lower than 24 months earlier than the launch window for that mission opens, it was unlikely NASA would have such a payload able to fly in time.

In April, NASA and SpaceX introduced they’d revised an current unfunded House Act Settlement to give attention to a deliberate 2018 Mars lander mission, utilizing a model of the Dragon spacecraft SpaceX is creating to hold crews. Underneath that settlement, NASA will provide technical assist to SpaceX in a lot of areas, whereas SpaceX will present NASA with information from the entry, descent and touchdown (EDL) part of Pink Dragon’s mission to assist NASA’s planning for future Mars missions of its personal.

Entry to that information stays NASA’s main curiosity in Pink Dragon. “The SpaceX collaboration actually is an EDL demonstration for us,” he mentioned, because the spacecraft demonstrates an idea known as supersonic retropropulsion that would allow the touchdown of spacecraft far heavier than attainable with methods demonstrated on earlier missions, together with the Mars Science Laboratory.

If NASA is ready to fly payloads on Pink Dragon, Jurczyk mentioned a selected space of curiosity is in situ useful resource utilization (ISRU), testing applied sciences that may extract water, oxygen, or different sources from the Martian floor or environment. NASA already plans to fly an ISRU experiment on the Mars 2020 mission to transform carbon dioxide within the Martian environment into oxygen, however he mentioned NASA is concerned with different ISRU research.

“One could be in situ useful resource utilization utilizing the water within the soil at Mars to generate potable water and hydrogen and oxygen,” he mentioned. One other experiment could be to create methane, which may very well be used as rocket gasoline.

Jurczyk mentioned different know-how demonstration payloads may embody programs that would generate 10 kilowatts or extra {of electrical} energy on the floor. “We’d wish to exhibit a few of these programs on the floor in an operational setting,” he mentioned. “Earlier than we ship crew, all of these items must work on the floor.”

SpaceX says that Pink Dragon is the primary in a sequence of uncrewed missions that the corporate intends to fly prematurely of eventual human Mars missions. Talking on the Code Convention in California June 1, SpaceX Chief Government Elon Musk mentioned he anticipated SpaceX to ship missions to Mars throughout each launch window, beginning in 2018. These launch home windows open each 26 months.

Jurcyzk mentioned that opened the potential of flying know-how demonstration payloads on later SpaceX missions, assuming Pink Dragon does launch in 2018 as deliberate. “They plan on going each 26 months, so we’ll most likely within the not-too-distant future interact them on extra critical talks for 2020,” he mentioned.

“In the event that they go in 2018, it’s actually going to be an EDL demo for us. We gained’t have any payloads obtainable,” he mentioned. “However 2020 there’s a chance.”

The pinnacle of NASA’s planetary science division can be contemplating potential collaboration with SpaceX on Pink Dragon. Throughout a June 7 assembly of the planetary science subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council, Jim Inexperienced heaped reward on SpaceX’s plans, calling them “tremendously thrilling.”

Inexperienced mentioned his division is a part of the NASA staff supporting Pink Dragon, together with taking part in a few conferences so far. “I’m very concerned with that from a number of elements,” he mentioned of Pink Dragon.

That cooperation contains, at a minimal, coordinating the launch of Pink Dragon with NASA’s subsequent Mars lander, Perception, which can be scheduled for launch within the spring of 2018. Each spacecraft would require entry to the Deep House Community, notably throughout the crucial touchdown part of every mission.

Whereas Inexperienced didn’t elaborate on any extra prospects for cooperation on Pink Dragon, he endorsed potential cooperation with business ventures generally, together with these planning business lunar landers, for flying science payloads.

“We do plan to remain plugged in to these, watch them fastidiously and, on the proper time, enter into the suitable partnerships,” he mentioned.

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