SpaceX will help NASA study and test the supersonic retropropulsion landing technology on Mars through the company’s Red Dragon unmanned spacecraft concept under the modified Space Act Agreement, Space News magazine reported Monday.
Jeff Foust writes supersonic retropropulsion works to decelerate a rocket engine in the direction of travel.
Rob Manning, Mars program engineering manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the space agency plans to acquire more information on supersonic retropropulsion through SpaceX’s space vehicle in support of its goal to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.
NASA also expects to gather entry, descent and landing information through Red Dragon’s planned missions to Mars, Foust reports.
Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA headquarters, said NASA expects to spend approximately $30 million to provide technical support to SpaceX under the agreement, according to Space News.
McAlister added that NASA might offer staff support on deep space communications and implementation of protocols for planetary protection, among other topics.