SpaceX will be launching two Red Dragons in 2020, one at the beginning of the launch window (July) and one at the end (September).

For a CubeSat mission that would have to piggyback on one of the two Red Dragon spacecraft in order to get to Mars orbit, what are the likely pros and cons for the earlier and later launch?

  • $\begingroup$ What kind of orbit would the piggybacking leave the cubesat in? A nice, low planetary orbit, a high orbit, or a flyby? I'm just curious how this might be implemented. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jun 12 '17 at 5:03
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think there is any chance a cubesat piggy-backing on a Red Dragon will make orbit, I think Dragon is on a direct intercept course for Mars. $\endgroup$ – Jake Blocker Jun 12 '17 at 5:18
  • $\begingroup$ @JakeBlocker don't forget the (at)uhoh when replying! (I didn't get a notification for some reason) I'm looking for some clarification on the envisioned piggy-backing mechanism. Since Mars' atmosphere has such a low density, there will need to be substantial propulsive deceleration. Do you think they will do all of it at the end, after Dragon has entered the atmosphere? There is no opportunity for a piggy-back handler to jump off and propulsively slow a few cubesats down to orbital velocity? I wish there were something written up we could refer to! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jun 12 '17 at 8:41
  • $\begingroup$ @JakeBlocker It does take a fair amount of delta-V, but it's doable. About a month of thrust at 1 mm/s^2. $\endgroup$ – Deimophobia Jun 12 '17 at 12:24
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Red Dragon? Yes, it appears to just be slamming into atmo at 6 km/s, which seems to match not doing anything until the last moment (lpi.usra.edu/meetings/marsconcepts2012/pdf/4216.pdf). The piggybacking craft ejects about a month beforehand and captures into a flat, circular orbit above Deimos (numbers in HopDavid's answer, above your linked comment). $\endgroup$ – Deimophobia Jun 12 '17 at 13:51

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