Elon Musk Ponders Renaming Mars Colonial Transporter as Crew Dragon Slips

Elon Musk has began to tease a talk he is set to give on Sept. 27 in which he is to reveal his plans for sending people to Mars. Musk will deliver his talk, titled “Making Humans a Multi-planetary Species,” during the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. According to the program

Elon Musk will discuss the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for colonizing the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.

While Musk toys with what to rename the Mars Colonial Transporter, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program celebrated a somewhat less than joyful anniversary on Friday. It was two years ago that the space agency awarded contracts to Boeing and Musk’s SpaceX to build and flight test vehicles to transport astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

Under SpaceX’s original schedule, the first Crew Dragon flight test without astronauts aboard was scheduled for March 2016. A flight with a crew on board would have been flown in October 2016.

SpaceX has not announced a new schedule. However, SpaceflightNow.com launch schedule page has the first flight without a crew occurring in July 2017. If that is accurate, it means SpaceX’s Crew Dragon schedule has slipped 16 months in the 24 months since the contract was awarded.

A successful flight to ISS with a crew would follow several months later after the automated flight. Crew Dragon would then undergo certification review before beginning commercial crew flights to the space station.

Meanwhile, Boeing has experienced schedule slips as well. The company’s Flight Test Readiness Review, which would precede an automated orbital flight by the CST-100 Starliner, has slipped seven months from January to August 2017, according to a NASA Office of Inspector General (IG) report released earlier this month. The readiness review for the crew flight has slipped from April to November 2017.

The IG report said Boeing and SpaceX are experiencing technical challenges in building their crew vehicles. The audit concluded that the first commercial flight to the space station was unlikely to take place before the end of 2018.

Editor’s Note: I was remiss in not explaining that the IG also found significant delays on the NASA side in  reviewing commercial crew hazard reports from the two companies.


  • Tether and spin up to a full gee. The mass budget to spin up the tangential velocity of the system is minuscule — something like 0.04 km/sec. I think that a Hohmann back would also be 1.29 years which is about what Polyakov spent in zero gee.

  • Polyakov spent 1.20 years in zero gee on a single mission.

  • mlc449

    Really?! There are more important and pressing issues to be getting angry over.

  • mlc449

    Meh. Bland. Boring. Something Congress would come up with.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    So this would be a minimum of 2.6 years?, assuming they didn’t loiter a Ceres – although a stop to land a refuel would be useful.

  • Hug Doug

    If the fairing hasn’t been lit up yet, then how did the light travel the ~3 miles from the rocket to the camera, but somehow neglected the ~20 feet from the middle of the 2nd stage to the fairing?

  • The Deplorable Malatrope

    Anger and disgust are not the same emotions.

  • No, you can’t look at it from a 1.3 X 2 perspective any more than you can look at a Mars mission as a 8.5 month X 2 perspective. Transit time has to do with the Hohmann transfer time but overall mission time has more to do with the conjunction of the two planetary bodies. That’s why a typical Mars mission lasts for 2.5 years. Not sure how the conjunction period of Earth and Ceres affects the overall mission duration. But another point is that Musk’s vision is one of people purchasing tickets in order to move to Mars. So mission duration is irrelevant. It’s not a mission it’s a move and the colonists are more likely to stay than return. It’s neither a science mission but a vacation. Same thing with Ceres. But for Ceres, one would probably have to, at a minimum, complete at least a full Mars mission and so be confident of one’s ability to maintain life support systems for at least that duration and also one would probably want to over-provision the first Ceres settlers so that they could survive long enough to return to Earth if they needed to. It’s something that could happen down the line but probably not until after confidence at Mars is built up.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    So, much longer than two and a half years (out and back) travel time to a destination with effectively no gravity. At 0.029g there will be no settlers on Ceres (Phobos and Deimos are even worse for crewed bases). Further out is Ganymede 0.146g (mag field, but no atmosphere and very cold) and Titan 0.14g (atmosphere but also very cold). The Moon at 0.16g seems like a better bet only cos its so much easier to get to.
    All in all, beyond Earth, Mars or artificial grav space stations, seem like the only options for settlers. Scientific exploration is a different story, but using 2 tethered MCTs (or the like) is probably the only feasible, if expensive, way to go.

  • That sounds very like the Monty Python “It’s….” intro to me… 🙂

  • patb2009

    RBFR that should be the name

  • ReSpaceAge

    All Musks talk about using ITS to fly BEYOND Mars is crap. He is pointing out that ITS is a moon vehicle which can take crew to the moon before SLS/Orion. This is a clever way of saying ITS makes SLS obsolete. Recall when Musk said he could build a Super Heavy lifter for a Billion and they all laughed?? Well wouldn’t Musk just love to have congress/Nasa cancel SLS Orion and create a Cots program to help SpaceX pay to build this Monster. This is a play for customers/NASA without pissing off Congress to badly. Isn’t that the reason Musk s is going ahead with ITS reveal now?? Because it is the right time BEFORE the election. Hasn’t NASA been afraid if SLS/Orion is canceled the 3 billion a year will just disappear? Imagine what Nasa could do with if they gave SpaceX a Billion a year to build ITS and used two billion a year to build all the support s@#$ They could have a REAL journey to Mars! Not just a make believe one.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    In this equation SLS equates to BFR, leaving Orion to take on MCT/ITS…but I know what you mean and agree.

  • ReSpaceAge

    Your are correct

    I was thinking MCT is whole system which us made up of BFR and BFS

    Musk just said that BFR may be named millennium and MCT the BFS will be called ITS.

  • It’s settled then. It’s its. The meme has spoken.

  • ReSpaceAge