Author Topic: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities  (Read 158317 times)

Offline corrodedNut

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SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« on: 01/08/2015 12:34 PM »
The title of this thread is intentionally "general" to include any changes to this or other additional facilities, as necessary.

Highlights of the proposed vertical landing facility at CCAFS LC-13, taken from the draft environmental assessment:

http://www.patrick.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-141107-004.pdf

"The Proposed Action would include constructing an approximately 200 foot by 200 foot square concrete landing pad at LC-13 as shown in Figure 2-4. [see below]The pad would be designed to support the weight and thrust energy of the Falcon first stage and would comply with all CCAFS and ... it would be surrounded by an approximately 750 foot diameter compressed soil and gravel, flat pervious surface. Four additional, 150 foot diameter concrete “contingency” pads would also be constructed. The contingency pads would only be utilized in order to enable the safe landing of a single vehicle should last-second navigation and landing diversion be required. There are no plans to utilize the contingency pads in order to enable landing multiple stages at LC-13 during a single landing event."

"At the location of the former blockhouse, a steel and concrete “stand” would be built to secure the Falcon stage during post-landing operations. The stand would consist of four Individual pedestal structures which would be transported to site and bolted to a concrete base. Each of the four pedestals, would weigh approximately 15,000 lbs, and would be 107 inches tall and 96.25 inches wide. A mobile crane would lift the stage from the landing pad, and transport and place it on the stand. Activities such as allowing the landing legs to be removed or folded back to the stage (flight position) prior to placing the stage in a horizontal position would occur there."

"The existing concrete pad may be removed as part of the Proposed Action in order to access underlying fill material."

"The existing roadways at the LC-13 pad operations area would be improved to handle mobile crane movement and the first stage transportation vehicle; road corners would be designed to support required turning radius."

"Up to four lattice towers, approximately 20 ft high, would also be positioned on the site; one of those four would be attached to a mobile command trailer. The towers would contain equipment needed to ensure adequate wifi service for the site. Up to two safety related lightening protection towers would also be installed on the western side of the parking area."

"A FireX system would be constructed with three or four remote controlled water cannons mounted on posts above ground to allow for remote firefighting capabilities. An above ground 12,000 gallon water storage tank would be placed on the western site of the LC-13 area and would be pressurized with nitrogen and provide the water for the fire-fighting equipment. Nitrogen would be supplied to the tank using a mobile trailer. The tank would be filled using the existing pad water supply."

"Operations of LC-13 would support preparations for, and the landing of the Falcon stage. It would also support the post-flight landing and safing. Safing activities would begin upon completion of all landing activities and engine shutdown. The LOX oxidizer system would be purged, and any excess fuel would be drained into a suitable truck mounted container or tanker. Any remaining pressurants (i.e., helium or nitrogen) would be vented, and any FTS explosives would also be rendered “inert” prior to declaring the vehicle safe. The vehicle would then be lifted and placed on to the stand; the landing legs would then be removed or folded back into place. The vehicle would then be lowered into a horizontal position, placed on a transport vehicle and taken to a SpaceX facility. A ground crew would perform and supervise all landing operations and would be familiar with the operating protocol including all potential “off nominal” events."

"It is anticipated that no more than 12 landings would take place per year for the initial five year license. SpaceX certainly prefers to conduct all of their launch operations during daylight hours but based on mission needs there is a possibility that some of the fly-back missions could be performed during the night; up to three night landings are assumed for this EA."

Offline cscott

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #1 on: 01/08/2015 01:16 PM »
Can anyone speculate on the possible use of the 'divert' pads?  I can't really see how they would be used.  Unless a rogue alligator wandered on to the primary pad... but even then you'd only need one alternate.

Online guckyfan

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #2 on: 01/08/2015 01:35 PM »
Can anyone speculate on the possible use of the 'divert' pads?  I can't really see how they would be used.  Unless a rogue alligator wandered on to the primary pad... but even then you'd only need one alternate.

They need 3 for a returning Heavy. The central core will not always land downrange.

Plus maybe 1 spare.

Offline rpapo

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #3 on: 01/08/2015 01:57 PM »
They need 3 for a returning Heavy. The central core will not always land downrange.

Plus maybe 1 spare.
While I agree there, I see a similarity in the proposals between here and Texas.  SpaceX is only asking for what they need for the here and now.  They never overbuild, as much as in 20/20 hindsight we might wish they had (like with the HIF at KSC).
An Apollo fanboy . . . fifty years ago.

Online speedevil

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #4 on: 01/08/2015 02:04 PM »
They need 3 for a returning Heavy. The central core will not always land downrange.

Plus maybe 1 spare.

Quote
The contingency pads would only be utilized in order to enable the safe landing of a single vehicle should last-second navigation and landing diversion be required. There are no plans to utilize the contingency pads in order to enable landing multiple stages at LC-13 during a single landing event."

I don't see how the above phrasing allows that.

Online Bargemanos

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #5 on: 01/08/2015 02:05 PM »
Can anyone speculate on the possible use of the 'divert' pads?  I can't really see how they would be used.  Unless a rogue alligator wandered on to the primary pad... but even then you'd only need one alternate.

They need 3 for a returning Heavy. The central core will not always land downrange.

Plus maybe 1 spare.

As i read it, the four "additional" pads are for emergencies. Navigational errors, wind guts. Not for additional core's to return.

from the pdf:

Quote
The scope for this EA is limited to the landing of the first stage of a Falcon 9 vehicle, or a Falcon Heavy single first
stage, at LC-13, and the activities to support redeveloping LC-13 into a landing location. This EA does not include a
multiple booster landing scenario since only one booster will be landing at this facility during a landing event. This
EA assumes a normal launch mission of a Falcon vehicle continues forward with the successful separation of the
second stage and payload, while the first stage begins its landing sequence. Therefore specific details of only the
returning Falcon 9 first stage will be discussed; details of the full vehicle launch/takeoff and potential environmental
impacts can be found in the 2007 EA and 2013 SEA (USAF 2007, 2013). Launches/takeoffs of the Falcon Heavy
vehicle would be addressed in a separate NEPA document.
« Last Edit: 01/08/2015 02:07 PM by Bargemanos »

Offline Dudely

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #6 on: 01/08/2015 02:24 PM »
Bottom of 2-4:

Quote
propellants would be burned to depletion during flight

Does this mean the stage can hover until it burns through the rest of the fuel? Or is the whole sequence so exact that they land at the exact moment they run out of fuel?

Offline VulcanCafe

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #7 on: 01/08/2015 02:25 PM »
This makes me wonder if these 4 additional landing pads are, in fact, the actual landing targets used during certain phases of the booster return, dependent on wind conditions or phase of booster return. (Similar to the maritime exclusion areas that depend on what phase of launch/failure/stage fall the stage is in)

For example, depending on wind direction, the booster targets one of the 'emergency' pads and diverts sometime during the boostback/landing phase, or simply allows the wind to push the booster towards the primary pad while it falls. (E wind rocket selects W emergency pad to aim at). In the event of an emergency, or changes in the wind, either the primary pad or the secondary emergency pad would be used.

Other than this, I am having a hard time imagining a scenario where 4 emergency pads and one primary are needed for a single booster. Any ideas?
« Last Edit: 01/08/2015 02:36 PM by VulcanCafe »

Offline Dudely

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #8 on: 01/08/2015 02:29 PM »
Another gem:

Quote
Complexes at KSC were considered; however, no sites were readily available or within reasonable distances from
the launch and stage refurbishment location.

So this means they already have a site planned where they will refurbish the stages! Does anyone know where exactly? That is the only reference to refurbishment in the doc.

Online speedevil

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #9 on: 01/08/2015 02:46 PM »
Bottom of 2-4:

Quote
propellants would be burned to depletion during flight

Does this mean the stage can hover until it burns through the rest of the fuel? Or is the whole sequence so exact that they land at the exact moment they run out of fuel?

It can't hover - for several reasons.

Thrust - unless the engine is able to be throttled below 40% or so maximum throttle - is too high and exceeds weight.
Hovering at ~1M so you can drop onto the pad when the engine cuts out would throw up all sorts of debris, and greatly heat the rocket and legs due to the blowback flames licking over the structure.
Hovering for an extended period leaves it more vulnerable to any upset - for example, wind.

That said - elsewhere the residual fuel is mentioned at 15! gallons RP1 and 150 gallons LOX.
Which seems really rather optimistic.
I also note in the document no mention of BargeX.
Though that was announced a month later.

Offline cscott

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #10 on: 01/08/2015 02:46 PM »
Now I'm wondering if their landing software is actually "designed for Mars" landing.  ALHAT for example might have several possible landing spots 'in mind' and be able to select one or the other of them based on hazards, flight conditions, etc in real time.

Perhaps they are planning/hoping to use this same software for landings at the Cape, even though strictly speaking it won't be necessary.  A nominal landing will always target the primary site, but technically the software will have all five landing sites loaded up as options.  "Test what you fly, fly what you test".

I'd think this sort of testing would be more appropriate over at Spaceport America, but maybe they just saw the opportunity to do a sort of continuous integration test at low cost here.

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #11 on: 01/08/2015 02:51 PM »

So this means they already have a site planned where they will refurbish the stages! Does anyone know where exactly? That is the only reference to refurbishment in the doc.

Why would it be any different than the places they are using now?

Offline sghill

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #12 on: 01/08/2015 03:09 PM »

So this means they already have a site planned where they will refurbish the stages! Does anyone know where exactly? That is the only reference to refurbishment in the doc.

Why would it be any different than the places they are using now?

Because until now, we couldn't answer whether or not they were going to truck each stage back to Hawthorne for a tear down and refurbishment.  Now we can drive a stake in the ground because we've got something official stating they they are planning on doing the refurbishment in FL-even if it's in the same two HIF buildings they've got or if they have to build or lease a separate refurbishment facility.

The statement also implies that they think refurbishment will not be a complete tear down process that has to be handled at the CA factory.  That is another huge question mark that's been hanging over the economics debates around reusability, and we now have some insight into answering it.

With any luck, they'll be able to use the pad by July 24, 2015.  65 years to the day after the first rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral, one came back.



Oh, and this tidbit from the .pdf:

Quote
The Falcon Heavy first stage center core and boosters each carry landing legs, which would have the capability to
land each core safely on earth after takeoff at some point in the future. After the side boosters separate, the center
engine in each would burn to control the booster’s trajectory safely away from the rocket. The legs would then
deploy as the boosters turn back to Earth, landing each softly on the ground. The center core would continue to fire
until stage separation, after which its legs would deploy and land on Earth. This document assumes that only one of the two boosters (or one center core) would return to LC-13. A multiple booster landing scenario would require additional infrastructure and study not included as part of this Proposed Action. Figures 2-2 and 2-3 below show the engine arrangement for the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, respectively. ...
...It is anticipated that no more than 12 landings would take place per year for the initial five year license.

So they are sniffing around for additional landing sites to support FH.
« Last Edit: 01/08/2015 03:40 PM by sghill »
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Offline Dudely

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #13 on: 01/08/2015 04:10 PM »
Bottom of 2-4:

Quote
propellants would be burned to depletion during flight

Does this mean the stage can hover until it burns through the rest of the fuel? Or is the whole sequence so exact that they land at the exact moment they run out of fuel?

It can't hover - for several reasons.

Thrust - unless the engine is able to be throttled below 40% or so maximum throttle - is too high and exceeds weight.
Hovering at ~1M so you can drop onto the pad when the engine cuts out would throw up all sorts of debris, and greatly heat the rocket and legs due to the blowback flames licking over the structure.
Hovering for an extended period leaves it more vulnerable to any upset - for example, wind.

That said - elsewhere the residual fuel is mentioned at 15! gallons RP1 and 150 gallons LOX.
Which seems really rather optimistic.
I also note in the document no mention of BargeX.
Though that was announced a month later.

I am aware of the technical problems with hovering that you listed. I was thinking about the last couple Grasshopper tests, which seemed to "hang" close to the ground for much longer than necessary. Why did they do that? Why does this document say they will burn to depletion? Isn't it kind of dangerous to not have ANY margin? Could these two be related?

It's just wild speculation that I had hoped could be explained away with a more mundane reason.

And just to be a pedant, the residual fuel is listed as being 15 gal LOX and up to 150 gal RP-1. 15 gal of LOX is not very much.

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #14 on: 01/08/2015 05:05 PM »

So this means they already have a site planned where they will refurbish the stages! Does anyone know where exactly? That is the only reference to refurbishment in the doc.

Why would it be any different than the places they are using now?

Because until now, we couldn't answer whether or not they were going to truck each stage back to Hawthorne for a tear down and refurbishment.  Now we can drive a stake in the ground because we've got something official stating they they are planning on doing the refurbishment in FL-even if it's in the same two HIF buildings they've got or if they have to build or lease a separate refurbishment facility.

The statement also implies that they think refurbishment will not be a complete tear down process that has to be handled at the CA factory.  That is another huge question mark that's been hanging over the economics debates around reusability, and we now have some insight into answering it.


Question marks for who?  Flight refurb shouldn't be much different than McGegor static fire refurb.   Also, it still doesn't mean that first/early recovered stages*are not send back to McGregor (a likely place for returned stages returned Dragons went to there vs Hawthrone)

*If they get enough stages from ASDS recoveries then they may bypass this for the shore landed stages.

Offline sghill

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #15 on: 01/08/2015 05:25 PM »

So this means they already have a site planned where they will refurbish the stages! Does anyone know where exactly? That is the only reference to refurbishment in the doc.

Why would it be any different than the places they are using now?

Because until now, we couldn't answer whether or not they were going to truck each stage back to Hawthorne for a tear down and refurbishment.  Now we can drive a stake in the ground because we've got something official stating they they are planning on doing the refurbishment in FL-even if it's in the same two HIF buildings they've got or if they have to build or lease a separate refurbishment facility.

The statement also implies that they think refurbishment will not be a complete tear down process that has to be handled at the CA factory.  That is another huge question mark that's been hanging over the economics debates around reusability, and we now have some insight into answering it.


Question marks for who?  Flight refurb shouldn't be much different than McGegor static fire refurb.   Also, it still doesn't mean that first/early recovered stages*are not send back to McGregor (a likely place for returned stages returned Dragons went to there vs Hawthrone)

*If they get enough stages from ASDS recoveries then they may bypass this for the shore landed stages.

"Should" is a word that means "I wish."  Very out of character for you. :)

I seem to recall you being vociferously in the "refurbishment-costs-may-make-reusability-unfeasible"  camp when we were discussing all this last summer and now you're in the "it'll-be-ok" camp?  The McGregor boosters never flew backwards at hypersonic speeds.  We don't know what the returning stage is going to look like beyond the grainy video of that charred booster landing in the ocean the airplane took during the last landing.

The point is that the booster may either need a complete tear down (and component replacements) requiring the abilities they have back at the CA factory- and I expect they will do this for the first few returns, or the booster may be good to go after an inspection, air in the tires, and fluid top-off, which allows them to use their existing HIF facilities, or get a new one (build or lease) for refurbishment in FL instead of CA.  The EA for LC-13 indicates that SpaceX believes the latter is true- which is what Dudely pointed out in his post.  I also pointed out that if the latter is indeed true, then we can also begin to put boundaries on questions about the economics of reusability because the refurbishment costs will likely be small.

Also, after the EA all the way through this morning and looking at all the construction, support, and available locations they are going to need to have three operational return pads, I strongly think the barge solution is going to be long term, with at least one barge supporting each FH launch, and perhaps two.
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Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #16 on: 01/08/2015 05:37 PM »
I seem to recall you being vociferously in the "refurbishment-costs-may-make-reusability-unfeasible"  camp when we were discussing all this last summer and now you're in the "it'll-be-ok" camp?  The McGregor boosters never flew backwards at hypersonic speeds.  We don't know what the returning stage is going to look like beyond the grainy video of that charred booster landing in the ocean the airplane took during the last landing.

The point is that the booster may either need a complete tear down (and component replacements) requiring the abilities they have back at the CA factory- and I expect they will do this for the first few returns, or the booster may be good to go after an inspection, air in the tires, and fluid top-off, which allows them to use their existing HIF facilities, or get a new one (build or lease) for refurbishment in FL instead of CA.  The EA for LC-13 indicates that SpaceX believes the latter is true- which is what Dudely pointed out in his post.  I also pointed out that if the latter is indeed true, then we can also begin to put boundaries on questions about the economics of reusability because the refurbishment costs will likely be small.


My point is McGregor would be the likely site for any tear down vs Hawthorne.  They have replaced engines, attached engine structure to tanks before and fixed up stages from static fire.  Also, component replacements can be done at the launch site, since this happens prelaunch when failures are found.   If "teardown" doesn't include thrust structure or tank demates, any facility that can hold the stage on the access stands with roll rings can be used.

Online meekGee

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #17 on: 01/08/2015 06:07 PM »

So this means they already have a site planned where they will refurbish the stages! Does anyone know where exactly? That is the only reference to refurbishment in the doc.

Why would it be any different than the places they are using now?

Because until now, we couldn't answer whether or not they were going to truck each stage back to Hawthorne for a tear down and refurbishment.  Now we can drive a stake in the ground because we've got something official stating they they are planning on doing the refurbishment in FL-even if it's in the same two HIF buildings they've got or if they have to build or lease a separate refurbishment facility.

The statement also implies that they think refurbishment will not be a complete tear down process that has to be handled at the CA factory.  That is another huge question mark that's been hanging over the economics debates around reusability, and we now have some insight into answering it.


Question marks for who?  Flight refurb shouldn't be much different than McGegor static fire refurb.

This was a very long-running argument - about how GH reusability is "unapplicable" to a real F9 because the flight profile is all different.

So are we in agreement now, (especially taking into account Musk's comment at the AMA) that first stage refurb is a minimal task?

As for where it's going to happen, given that it's a recurring task, wouldn't it make more sense (in the medium term at least) to replicate McGregor's capabilities at the cape than it is to ship stages back to TX? 
« Last Edit: 01/08/2015 06:08 PM by meekGee »
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Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #18 on: 01/08/2015 06:24 PM »

So are we in agreement now, (especially taking into account Musk's comment at the AMA) that first stage refurb is a minimal task?
 

No, that is why I said McGregor and that "They have replaced engines, attached engine structure to tanks before and fixed up stages from static fire."  I didn't said anything about GH.

Just pointing out that McGregor is more like a logistics depot and a better site than the factory in Hawthrone for tear downs.
« Last Edit: 01/08/2015 06:28 PM by Jim »

Offline pericynthion

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Re: SpaceX Eastern Range Landing Facilities
« Reply #19 on: 01/08/2015 06:50 PM »
And just to be a pedant, the residual fuel is listed as being 15 gal LOX and up to 150 gal RP-1. 15 gal of LOX is not very much.

That really is a tiny amount.  At full thrust a single Merlin 1D uses something like 200 kg/s of propellant.

Perhaps they plan to vent the lox tank just before touchdown? idk, it doesn't make much sense to me.

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