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back to article NASA probecraft to FLY the SKIES of MARS - IF it can make its launch window

MAVEN, NASA's latest mission to Mars, is sitting on the launchpad in Florida's Cape Canaveral all ready to go – although there's just a 60 per cent chance of good weather for liftoff today. MAVEN sits on the launch pad the night before blastoff MAVEN waits patiently for the go. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls The Mars Atmosphere …

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Bronze badge
Joke

Maven.. ummm

Buid automation in Mars? I guess this is the IT angle ;)

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Hope

Hope it doesn't bump into that little Indian rocket on the way there!

It's getting quite busy up there at the moment.

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Bronze badge
Facepalm

Outsourcing?

NASA technology and Indian prices, surely there's a message here.

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Happy

Let SpaceX launch it!

First of all, well done NASA for (not quite yet as I type this) getting their orbiter away! Bravo, we need more such from NASA but let's consider...

The wikipedia page for MAVEN has its cost at 'less than US$485 million' with another 'approximately $187 million' for launch on an Atlas V 401.

Given the financial pressures NASA is under, I'd think that it won't be too much longer before SpaceX is doing all of NASA's launches. 55 million to launch 2,454kg works out MUCH better than ULA's 'approximately $187 million'.

Heck, launch it as a secondary payload - it's less than half the approximately 6,500kg payload of an F9R - or paired with a commercial payload going to LEO and NASA might get an even better price...

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Re: Let SpaceX launch it!

It's just inside the capability of a Falcon 9 v1.1. Not sure where you're getting the 6,500kg figure from but the SpaceX site gives around 4,850 to GTO for a non-R and you generally get two thirds of that to Mars, and two thirds again for the F9R.

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Silver badge

The MAVEN mission is cool, no doubt, but I think the Indian project is the most exciting thing to happen in space exploration in a long time.

The biggest Earth side challenge of space exploration is the lack of standardization in probe design. Nearly every part of each (non-ISS) mission is 100% bespoke, and it's insanely expensive and risky to do that. If the Indian project goes well there's hope their model will will serve as a pilot of standardization.

Instrumentation will obviously be bespoke for a very long time, but if was all built to suit an OTS 'Class 1' probe it would eliminate the enormously expensive process of designing the vehicle from scratch every time. The already low price of the Indian mission could be reduced even further and more missions could be flown as a result.

Cramming everything feasible into every mission simply isn't an effecient way to go about things. Too many eggs in a very expensive basket. A greater number of cheaper, more specialized missions would move everything along at a much quicker pace.

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Silver badge

"The biggest Earth side challenge of space exploration is the lack of standardization in probe design. Nearly every part of each (non-ISS) mission is 100% bespoke, and it's insanely expensive and risky to do that. "

Not quite. There are standardised busses and a lot of the instruments launched are standard devices (eg, particle detectors) There are also standard chassis in use, which helps a bit. - but the real cost is in making 20 prototypes and flight test units + flight spares. All their cost is part of the launch figure (it effectively makes a second launch "free + price of rocket").

Not having enough prototyping risks making a Beagle - where the airbag used for testing was patched, strengthened and recycled for the actual flight - a very very bad idea.

I'd be very interested ot know how much prototyping the Indians did. One of the main areas of bloat in NASA/ESA projects revolves around the number of test articles produced for what are essentailly standardised and well-known parameters.

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One of the problems with standardization and reusing a design is the 'tards in Congress then go "we already did that" and cancel the project. Plus you have the uncertainty engendered by the constant Congressional funding waffling, so everybody goes "better pack my experiment into this next mission, while we have one".

Hence "battlestar" class probes like Curiosity.

Edit: I'm wondering if the Indians snuck the project in under the political radar, or it's simply the novelty of the project that got it funded/supported.

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Happy

Yes, the everyone would be better off if Congressmen stayed away from NASA. Without going on a rant, I'll just say that Congressional meddling to get associated space program work into their own States costs the taxpayer at least as much as the actual programs, maybe more. They really suck at efficient design. We've got clients who are working on programs that will never leave the ground, but pet Congressmen have kept the project going simply for the money it brings constituents.

But as far as reuse and standardization goes, there really isn't that much going on, and it's not nearly enough. We do a fair amount of customization to the OTS parts that are out there. We provide custom rehousing for sensor assemblies on a regular basis as well as actuator and motor mounts. While I'm not unhappy about doing the work, it's also not a great way to spend tax money or design effective programs.

A lot of the custom work is directly related to the fact there aren't really a lot of constraints on design parameters (smaller than an SUV, less than $(x) expense). It's all kind of 'blue sky' design because it is approached with the idea that they can build the craft around the experiments. I believe the introduction of some constraints (like standardized probes) would actually drive innovation as well as reducing mission costs.

Designing experiments would be more accessible as well. Right now the resources required to design a functional experiment are so extensive it's impossible for smaller organizations to pull off.

Kind of like building a house, soooo much work has already been done for you, but it's still a big undertaking. Soil and water analysis, surveys, standardized building materials, common electrical requirements and connectors, common plumbing and HVAC, its all been done and all you've got to do is design and build it with those materials in mind. Right now too much space exploration is equivalent to hiring everybody from a geologist to do soil analysis and an arborist to identify which trees to send to the sawmill and the foundry to make custom size screws and nails all the way to electrical and design engineers to make a toaster that works on the crazed mains power system you had custom designed.

I realize space exploration is complex and is a long way from being comprehensively standardized, but right now there's so little commonality that it almost doesn't exist.

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Silver badge

no clouds!

The recent nasty Florida weather has cleared up, and I may get to see the launch!

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Trollface

$671 million?

How many commentards will be questioning how a first world country with a debt mountain and a portion of citizens who cannot afford basic healthcare can justify splurging $671 million on a mission to further human knowledge of another planet.

None.

Cue the down votes.

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Gold badge

Re: $671 million?

The US doesn't receive hundreds millions of dollars in foreign aid, they choose as a nation to be backwards-ass barbarians without proper healthcare, education, etc. They actively vote for such lunacy.

I'd expect any nation that was at the point of requiring foreign aid simply to meet basic necessities of it's people to be deprioritising militarily spending, government handouts to megacorporations and exploration until they were back on their feet, financially speaking.

If you are just so fucked up that you collectively don't care about your poor - and thus don't seek foreign aid do help remediate the problem - then by all means, carry on. That's a social choice you make together: you build your nation, and you have to live in it.

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Re: $671 million?

I'm certainly not going to defend the US for our callous disregard for many of our citizens, but, seriously, walking and chewing gum at the same time is possible.

$671 million makes no dent in the problems of healthcare/food security/housing/etc. The US is an extremely wealthy country. If it wanted to address those problems then it would need to make hard choices about defense and subsidizing the already wealthy; that's where the money is.

The MAVEN mission actually accomplishes something useful in extending our knowledge. Another tax break so someone can buy another Lamborghini really doesn't.

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Re: $671 million?

The citizenry is fighting decent healthcare literally as hard as it possibly can. You can't *GIVE* them free health care! Trevor is right on the mark.

Americans are totally completely clueless about how their insurance (if they have it) and healthcare system "works"

Back on the space topic:

I went to KSC visitor's center where they had an Orion capsule display with a bunch of info posters.

Did they have technical data on the design of the capsule and how it was going to be used?

No, they displayed the map of where the Orion capsule money & jobs had been farmed out, and how much. I think that tells it all right there.

Edit: and of course 5 minutes before launch, a solid cloud deck rolled in. Nice.

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Gold badge

$671 million makes no dent in the problems of healthcare/food security/housing/etc.

$671 million is a fuck of a lot of food stamps; something I hear you've recently been screwing your citizenry on.

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"Mars is a complicated system, just as complicated as the Earth in its own way"

Bollocks. Without an evaporation-precipitation cycle the Martian weather is nowhere near as complex as ours.

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Bronze badge
Mushroom

Don't worry,

The tax and spend Americans will be going down the same road as the failing European Union model of spending more that is taken in by revenue, and if any revenue is found, spend even more. Soon the health crisis will reach world wide proportions, tax money to buy votes will dry up, and the entire world economy will crash, and almost did already. There are just a few "nuts" who see this insanity, and can only put their finger in the dike - Just as in Rome, it will all fail, and a great dark age will become evident before us. God help us all!

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The cost

To the person asking "How much will this cost the taxpayer?" The answer is between 4 and 5 dollars.

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