The standard Cargo Starship needs to been successfully tested lifting 100 tons to LEO, the re-entering Earth atmosphere and landing upright on simulated Mars terrain
The Super Heavy booster is needed to both place Cargo Starship into LEO, and place at least one more Cargo Starship with fuel for the Mars trip
Even a bare shell of an empty Cargo Starship payload bay will need 1 refuel in LEO. With 2 refuels 10 - 40 tons of payload can be carried to Mars surface
Starships use to communicate with Earth during voyage and then from surface.
NASA's MRO will watch Cargo Starship Mars aero-braking and landing. It will also be used for Starship to communicate with Earth. Also helps scout best landing sites before landing.
Mars2022 Cargo Starship (small bay doors) ... getting ready to de-depoy the solar arrays and high gain antenna
September 2022 is the next window to perform a minimal energy trip Earth to Mars. In this window the needed DV is only 3.6 km/s from LEO. The Cargo Starship will need to leave from LEO since it needs at least 1 orbital refuel in LEO to make the trip. More likely two refuels will be needed as a safety margin and to allow 10 - 40 tons of cargo in the Cargo Bay.
A minimal cargo set will likely include:
1) Extensive set of internal and ship surface sensors (pressures, temperatures, radiation ...)
2) Earth facing MRO style high gain antenna
3) Solar array
An additional refuel cargo set will likely include:
1) Radiation shielding experiments (including water based concepts - heavy)
2) Produce Methane from Mars atmosphere experiment (uses water as well)
3) 4G like local communications network
4) Small rovers of various types (see below)
Hopefully several Starships will use this window ... spaced perhaps a week apart. This will allow an aerobreaking and landing to be watched by MRO and if not successful, adjustments can be made for the next Starship.
NASA Mars Helicopter - Dozens could be deployed, image credit: NASA
The value of a Mars flyby includes:
1) Validation of the Thermal Protection System for higher DV of a Mars return
2) Validation of header tanks to retain fuel over a 500 day period
3) Validation of control surfaces effectiveness at higher re-entry velocities
4) Validation of Raptor restart after 500 days
5) Longer term monitoring of ship systems and radiation doses
This is a low cost experiment ... requiring potentially only one LEO refuel and 1 ton of test equipment
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