The proposed plan of SpaceX to send a robotic mission to Mars in 2018 has been changed to a new schedule. Now, the rover mission will be deferred for two years.
Dubbed Red Dragon mission, the mission will take off in 2020 with due preparations, according to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell.
"We were focused on 2018, but we felt like we needed to put more resources and focus more heavily on our crew program and our Falcon Heavy program, so we're looking more in the 2020 time frame for that," Shotwell clarified.
Highlights Of Mars Mission
The Space X will use a modified Dragon V2 capsule for the mission. There is also a plan to launch a rocket every 26 months to Mars when it is aligned with Earth. The company's first manned mission to Mars will be in 2024 or 2026.
According to Shotwell, the Red Dragon mission will be very exciting as SpaceX will facilitate many science experiments and payloads to the Martian surface. Red Dragon will carry equipment useful for future Mars mission crew.
The NASA will spend close to $30 million in helping SpaceX launch the capsule to Mars.
It will have all the functions of entry, descent, and landing (EDL). The capsule will deliver payloads of one ton (2,200 pounds) to the surface of the Red Planet without a parachute, as the use of one requires significant vehicle modifications.
The aerodynamic drag will also assist the capsule to land at higher elevations with 6.2 miles of landing accuracy compared to using a parachute.
Potential landing sites would be polar or mid-latitude sites with near-surface ice.
Being cost effective, the Red Dragon mission will do good for NASA in obtaining Mars samples for study. It has the required systems to bring samples from Mars such as Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), hardware, and the Earth Return Vehicle (ERV).
The Falcon Heavy rocket to be used for Red Dragon mission will be the largest ever launcher and can carry heavy payloads to distant parts of the solar system.
Meanwhile, Space X has to gear up for transporting NASA astronauts to the International Space Station by 2018. NASA had awarded contracts to two private companies for such missions-Space X and United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
A report by the Government Accountability Office that runs investigations for congress gave an update in January about the SpaceX's progress on building a crew vehicle for NASA for the ISS missions. It said both companies are lagging behind their deadlines.
The launch systems were to be certified by end of this year, but both companies are delaying the launches to 2018.
SpaceX and ULA were supposed to have their launch systems ready for certification review but have delayed their launches until 2018.
There is pressure on SpaceX as ISS retirement is in sight by 2024.
"The longer the delay is on these commercial launch systems, the less time these companies will have to demonstrate repeated flights to the station," said Christina Chaplain, director for the GAO review.