This is cool: the test firing of SpaceX's SuperDraco engine, which will be used in case of an emergency during launch to propel the Dragon space capsule to safety. Basically, if there's a problem that happens during launch, 8 of these engines will fire, and the capsule will be shot away from the rocket at high speed. Apollo had a system like this, but the Shuttle did not (in fact, being on top of a rocket stack is far safer, and this is one of the reasons; it's easier to get away if needed). SpaceX needs to have this system in place to pass NASA's requirements for human safety during launches.
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- The video of the whole thing (as envisioned for an ISS supply trip) is here: http://www.spacex.com/assets/video/spacex-rtls-green.mp4Feb 2, 2012
- 9 shock cones in the rocket exhaust - that must have been loud.Feb 3, 2012
- In addition to LAS and propulsive landing, Superdraco has one other interesting potential application: if the axial thrust is the cited 120 klbf with 8 thrusters on the capsule at about a 45 degree angle from the axis of the capsule, the engine has comparable thrust to the Apollo CSM, which suggests some interesting potential for a lunar Dragon once this can be treated as "off-the-shelf." Stick an extra superdraco and some more tanks in the trunk, send it through TLI on a Heavy, and then you can use the trunk engine for LOI and TEI. I don't know if SpaceX is planning on doing this or even considering it, but I'd imagine the possibility sticks out to them as well.Feb 3, 2012
- As I sit here at my desk putting together Jet Engine CFD simulations, the images of the engine tests with such beautiful shocks really got my....motor running?Feb 3, 2012
- Yes, they are explicitly planning on making it a lander for other planets. As you say it will take a bit of modification, but the engine would work.
The plan they seem to have laid out is: Pass ISS docking test (maybe this month?) -> start ISS resupply missions -> get human rated -> get entire system reusable (since 80-90% of the cost of a launch is the hardware) - > develop develop Falcon Heavy -> send sample return mission to Mars (first modified use of Dragon as lander, no people of course) -> prepare Dragon for landing people on the moon or asteroids.
Which is a lot to do, but if anyone can I'd think SpaceX could do it.Feb 3, 2012
- I'm not really talking about using Dragon as a lander (because honestly it's really poorly suited to the moon, and I'm not sure how the aero of taking a lander designed for Earth's atmosphere and dumping it into the much-thinner Martian atmosphere would work), but rather usingg the current Dragon, with only one major modification as a crew taxi to lunar orbit not far in the future but within, oh, five or six years. Take a superdraco, weld it to a cluster of tanks with about 5 tons of fuel, stick that package inside a standard or only slightly modified trunk and attatch to a stock Dragon. This could be done relatively easily, and would give Dragon the capability to get into and out of lunar orbit with the minimum of new hardware, cost, and time. I think it's concievable this could be done to put people into lunar orbit well before NASA will even have SLS at the pad.Feb 3, 2012