In response to journalist Jeff Foust of SpaceNews, Elon Musk replied on Twitter that SpaceX chose to cut development of propulsive landing for Dragon 2, and thus Red Dragon, in order to jump directly into exploration of propulsively landing “a vastly bigger ship” on Mars.
Plan is to do powered landings on Mars for sure, but with a vastly bigger ship
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 19, 2017
This matches closely with a handful of rumors that have been fermenting in SpaceX forums. While unspoken during his talk, Musk’s comment on Twitter now officially confirms that Red Dragon is no more.
SpaceX had previously delayed Red Dragon to 2020, which happens to be the same year a tentative schedule from the Guadalajara presentation pegged SpaceX’s first attempt at testing the Big Falcon Spaceship in orbit. With approximately 30 months between now and 2020, there is almost no chance SpaceX could mature Raptor and develop an entirely new, massive launch vehicle and spacecraft in time for the 2020 testing, but it is not impossible.
Musk currently expects to present more details on the many significant updates to SpaceX’s Mars architecture at the 2017 International Astronautical Congress. With this tweet, the company’s updated schedules for developing the now-smaller Mars vehicles will be on the minds of many SpaceX followers.