Author Topic: When will F9/F9H be retired?  (Read 20236 times)

Online guckyfan

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #40 on: 03/30/2017 10:38 AM »
They give the tanker 100 launches. That seems to be the stress related life time they calculated. The booster is given 1000 flights which must be related to less stress for suborbital flights. ITS number of reuses is age related.

Offline WBY1984

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #41 on: 03/30/2017 11:20 AM »
If you replace every part of a boat, is it still the same boat?

By the same token, when is Falcon 9 no longer a Falcon 9? Only this morning an ex-SpaceX employee was talking on reddit about how all octawebs are now bolted instead of welded together. There have been so many tank stretches, engine upgrades, engine arrangements, recovery addons and a myriad of less visible alterations, one could argue that Falcon 9 has been retired once, possibly twice already.

Granted, Block 5 will hopefully slow the pace of change, but I don't think it'll be the end of the alterations. I wouldn't be surprised if they discover additional problems in making a booster robust enough to fly three, four or more times. That's all uncharted territory and might need yet more alterations.

Bottom line is that from my limited perspective, 'Falcon 9' refers to different launch vehicles, despite the common name. There have already been a subtle sequence of retirements.

Online Bynaus

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #42 on: 03/30/2017 12:52 PM »
There isn't going to be a reusable second stage
No.

But for a few years SX certainly thought they could make it work.

Then they discovered it couldn't be made to work at a price they wanted to pay, although it's still unclear why.

My instinct is F9 is going to be around for some time to come, but will only partly be reusable.

We shouldn't deal too much in certainties when it comes to SpaceX, especially when we are dealing with things that are technically possible - and a methane-fueled upper stage is. Last year, the suggestion that SpaceX is planing a circumlunar mission would have been laughed at, and serious people would have stated clearly and in all their seriousness that SpaceX does not deal with that space tourism crazy, isn't interested in the Moon, and wants to stay laser-focused on Mars. And yet, here we are...

I fully agree that right now, a reusable upper stage is not on the top of their priority list, there are many other things up there. Nevertheless, if the prices come down further with the introduction of the New Glenn, and SpaceX thus needs to make that second stage reusable (perhaps even integrate it with the payload fairing to get a fully reusable "upper stage satellite delivery vehicle") to stay competitive, they will do it (unless it would be cheaper to develop and operate an ITS-derived solution).
« Last Edit: 03/30/2017 12:53 PM by Bynaus »

Offline john smith 19

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #43 on: 03/30/2017 02:52 PM »
We shouldn't deal too much in certainties when it comes to SpaceX, especially when we are dealing with things that are technically possible - and a methane-fueled upper stage is. Last year, the suggestion that SpaceX is planing a circumlunar mission would have been laughed at, and serious people would have stated clearly and in all their seriousness that SpaceX does not deal with that space tourism crazy, isn't interested in the Moon, and wants to stay laser-focused on Mars. And yet, here we are...
SX is in the transport business. People approached SX for this. If they didn't I doubt SX would care.
Quote from: Bynaus

I fully agree that right now, a reusable upper stage is not on the top of their priority list, there are many other things up there. Nevertheless, if the prices come down further with the introduction of the New Glenn, and SpaceX thus needs to make that second stage reusable (perhaps even integrate it with the payload fairing to get a fully reusable "upper stage satellite delivery vehicle") to stay competitive, they will do it (unless it would be cheaper to develop and operate an ITS-derived solution).
When the CEO and Chief Designer says no reusable upper stages based on F9 or F9 derived technology he is a) Telling you SX has no interest in doing this or b)It's a strategic deception to fool competitors into not investing.

Time will tell which one of these statements is correct.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Offline RonM

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #44 on: 03/30/2017 03:09 PM »
We shouldn't deal too much in certainties when it comes to SpaceX, especially when we are dealing with things that are technically possible - and a methane-fueled upper stage is. Last year, the suggestion that SpaceX is planing a circumlunar mission would have been laughed at, and serious people would have stated clearly and in all their seriousness that SpaceX does not deal with that space tourism crazy, isn't interested in the Moon, and wants to stay laser-focused on Mars. And yet, here we are...
SX is in the transport business. People approached SX for this. If they didn't I doubt SX would care.
Quote from: Bynaus

I fully agree that right now, a reusable upper stage is not on the top of their priority list, there are many other things up there. Nevertheless, if the prices come down further with the introduction of the New Glenn, and SpaceX thus needs to make that second stage reusable (perhaps even integrate it with the payload fairing to get a fully reusable "upper stage satellite delivery vehicle") to stay competitive, they will do it (unless it would be cheaper to develop and operate an ITS-derived solution).
When the CEO and Chief Designer says no reusable upper stages based on F9 or F9 derived technology he is a) Telling you SX has no interest in doing this or b)It's a strategic deception to fool competitors into not investing.

Time will tell which one of these statements is correct.

No interest in reusable upper stage for F9 probably because they'll do it with ITS derived technology or just use ITS. So the answer is both a and b.

Online Bynaus

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #45 on: 03/30/2017 05:44 PM »
We shouldn't deal too much in certainties when it comes to SpaceX, especially when we are dealing with things that are technically possible - and a methane-fueled upper stage is. Last year, the suggestion that SpaceX is planing a circumlunar mission would have been laughed at, and serious people would have stated clearly and in all their seriousness that SpaceX does not deal with that space tourism crazy, isn't interested in the Moon, and wants to stay laser-focused on Mars. And yet, here we are...
SX is in the transport business. People approached SX for this. If they didn't I doubt SX would care.

Sure. But we are rationalizing after the fact here. I am sure if Elon came out with saying they will do a methane upper stage now, it will be for a perfectly rational reason, and we will all applaud the decision and act as if we always knew it was part of the plan. I have been following the development at SpaceX since very early on, and I think they just make it up as they go (which is fine by me! Look at where it got them! I wouldn't wish it were otherwise!). There is no grand plan which has been carried out from the first moment right up to the present - they are strong on vision (the city on Mars), but flexible on the details. This will continue to be like that, as it should. As with Science Fiction, I would see most of the things Elon says about the future (beyond the next few months, perhaps) as more of a reflection of where things stand in the present than as a true prediction on where this is all going.

Quote
Quote from: Bynaus

I fully agree that right now, a reusable upper stage is not on the top of their priority list, there are many other things up there. Nevertheless, if the prices come down further with the introduction of the New Glenn, and SpaceX thus needs to make that second stage reusable (perhaps even integrate it with the payload fairing to get a fully reusable "upper stage satellite delivery vehicle") to stay competitive, they will do it (unless it would be cheaper to develop and operate an ITS-derived solution).
When the CEO and Chief Designer says no reusable upper stages based on F9 or F9 derived technology he is a) Telling you SX has no interest in doing this or b)It's a strategic deception to fool competitors into not investing.

Time will tell which one of these statements is correct.

I don't think it is that clear-cut. First, I don't think that there is any fooling involved. And SpaceX might just not be interested in doing this NOW. Why should they, in the current situation, give up forever on the prospect of doing this one day? And if I say "not NOW", I don't mean, "certainly later". It is just one possibility among many. Its very clear that the plan - RIGHT NOW - is to have F9 in one of its next ("final") incarnations as a money cow to finance the development of ITS (and to build up the constellation which serves the same purpose). But if at some point, say, it becomes evident that SpaceX will not be able to finance ITS with that plan (e.g., because they start falling back behind BO), what will happen then? Do you really think that, if a reusable, methane-fueled upper stage could bring them back in business and keep the development of ITS going, Elon is going to say: "no no no, back in 2013, I said that there will be no F9-derived vehicles, so we can't do that...". The goal is the city on Mars. Everything else follows from that. This is why I say we should not speak of certainties. Everything that is techically / phsically possible, makes economic sense under certain conditions and keeps them on track for Mars - is on the table.
« Last Edit: 03/30/2017 05:45 PM by Bynaus »

Offline bbb_rocket

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #46 on: 04/02/2017 03:24 PM »
If the F9 is fully reusable to LEO then I see it as being usable indefinitely, at least until a horizontal takeoff space plane becomes viable in the distant future.

The end game if ITS pans out, the ITS could provide the heavy lifting of creating a LEO fuel depot (a space hub). F9 would send all small cargo (humans, GEO Sats) to the LEO fuel depot for delivery by specialized space tugs like ACES (but SX built of course). Falcon heavy would be retired at this point. This would be the hub and spoke approach to spaceflight, with LEO fuel depot(s) being the hub and all other destinations being the spokes.

For the satellite constellation, a reusable upper stage would make the economics more feasible and create a huge barrier to entry to competitors. The GEO sat market is small compared to the rest of the SpaceX vision for space flight and making a reusable upper stage to service this market is cost prohibitive.

Online RotoSequence

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #47 on: 04/02/2017 03:34 PM »
Caveat Emptor: this is a whole lot of conjecture, and it's possible I'm wildly off base or direly misinformed.

If SpaceX makes $20 million off a Falcon 9, they can recoup the equivalent amount of money they invested towards re-flight (which they achieved with Core 21) in approximately 50 launches. 150 will probably net them enough cash to pay for development of future launch vehicles. If Satellite Communications pays off for SpaceX, they can afford to use their revenue stream to start replacing Falcon 9 with a more desirable vehicle immediately, which will likely result in the discontinuation of the Falcon 9 within ~3 years of starting development work on that vehicle.

Online edkyle99

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #48 on: 04/02/2017 11:59 PM »
If you replace every part of a boat, is it still the same boat?

By the same token, when is Falcon 9 no longer a Falcon 9? Only this morning an ex-SpaceX employee was talking on reddit about how all octawebs are now bolted instead of welded together. There have been so many tank stretches, engine upgrades, engine arrangements, recovery addons and a myriad of less visible alterations, one could argue that Falcon 9 has been retired once, possibly twice already.

Granted, Block 5 will hopefully slow the pace of change, but I don't think it'll be the end of the alterations. I wouldn't be surprised if they discover additional problems in making a booster robust enough to fly three, four or more times. That's all uncharted territory and might need yet more alterations.

Bottom line is that from my limited perspective, 'Falcon 9' refers to different launch vehicles, despite the common name. There have already been a subtle sequence of retirements.
In my mind there have been two substantially different Falcon 9 types to date, with the second type having run through two significant variations so far. 

The first type was the original Falcon 9 (Block 1), the Merlin 1C powered version that was much shorter, lighter, and as it turns out less capable than the subsequent type.  There were only five of these examples. 

The second type has been the Merlin 1D powered versions using Octaweb.  They have been called v1.1 and v1.2 (apparently Blocks 2 and 3).  The Block 3 variant has a stretched second stage compared to the former, now retired Block 2 variant, but both tower over Block 1.  There have been 28 of these Merlin 1D powered types, including the AMOS 6 launch vehicle that never made it to launch day.

Any design that retains the diameter, the Octaweb, and the Merlin 1D engines will as I see it always group together, generally.  They might be considered "Octaweb Falcons" or "Merlin 1D Falcons".

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 04/03/2017 12:27 AM by edkyle99 »

Offline Hotblack Desiato

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #49 on: 04/03/2017 09:06 AM »
Very interesting discussion going on. Now in the light of the new thought of Elon Musk about reusable second stage, I could imagine the following situation occurring:

3 of 4 flights of F9 will be done with used stages. They will continue pumping out new first stages at more or less the same speed as now, maybe more in favor of the second stages. I have just seen some speculations on the mass penalty that second stage reuse might bring, and a fully reusable FH might perform (I think) more or less like a fully expendable F9. That'd be at least nice.

When ITS surfaces, they might be sitting on at least 100 first stages (core boosters and side boosters) + several more second stages, which would allow them to discontinue production of F9/FH and rely solely on the already built rocket parts. There will be the raptor engine production, which should be capable of producing merlin 1D engines aswell, in case they need new engines, but otherwise, I don't think that they will be producing F9/FH rockets after 2022.

For payloads on ITS, I could imagine that the ITS-tanker might be capable of delivering a 10-15t sat to LEO, and it would be then forced to propell itself to the final orbit, or it could have a third stage like the IUS (inertial upper stage) of the space shuttle, which was used on quite a few flights. In theory, a kestrel/F1 derived upper stage might just do it.

Since ITS won't go to polar orbits, and ITS might just go when it is needed for its main task (deliver people, cargo and fuel to Mars), F9/FH will remain in service for 10-20 years.

Offline vanoord

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #50 on: 04/03/2017 10:04 AM »
In my mind there have been two substantially different Falcon 9 types to date, with the second type having run through two significant variations so far. 

The first type was the original Falcon 9 (Block 1), the Merlin 1C powered version that was much shorter, lighter, and as it turns out less capable than the subsequent type.  There were only five of these examples. 

The second type has been the Merlin 1D powered versions using Octaweb.  They have been called v1.1 and v1.2 (apparently Blocks 2 and 3).  The Block 3 variant has a stretched second stage compared to the former, now retired Block 2 variant, but both tower over Block 1.  There have been 28 of these Merlin 1D powered types, including the AMOS 6 launch vehicle that never made it to launch day.

Any design that retains the diameter, the Octaweb, and the Merlin 1D engines will as I see it always group together, generally.  They might be considered "Octaweb Falcons" or "Merlin 1D Falcons".

 - Ed Kyle

Slight point of pedantry, but a query about the numbers of stages...

Stages that have so far made it onto a pad

v1.0 (3x3 engines) - 5 flights
v1.1 (Octaweb) - 15 flights (1 failure)
v1.2 (Octaweb) - 13 'missions' including Amos-6 (thus 1 failure) but only 12 flown cores as B1021 has been reused


Total launches: 32, plus Amos-6 core but less the re-use of B1021 gives 32 cores built - of which 5 were v1.0, so 27 'Octaweb' for missions.


But... the highest serial number core flown so far is B1031 (CRS-10), which *might* suggest the numbering started at B1000 (to give the total 32) - if the sequence has only been used for 'mission' cores *and* includes the v1.0 cores.

If *not* and the sequence started at B1001 with the first v1.1 produced, there have been 31 'octaweb' cores produced (temporarily ignoring the new cores that are at the Cape / McGregor).

 If that's the case,  up to the most recent flight there are in theory 4 'Octaweb' cores 'unaccounted for' (31 minus 27 'mission' cores). Those 4?
- there's at least one which is an FH centre core (B1027?)
- v1.1 Dev 1 (FTS RUD at McGregor)
- v1.1 Dev 2 (three engines, once thought to be for in-flight abort, now apparently abandoned at VAFB)
- which leaves one: possibly an early structural test article / a second FH core / or a test side-booster for FH (although apparently the first 4 will be converted 'flight-proven' cores)

In addition, the core for NROL-76 is at the Cape and there's at least one more at McGregor (Inmarsat-5E or CRS-11?) - which gives 33 using the above numbering sequence, BUT there are suggestions that B1034 is the one at the Cape and B1035 (theoretically) is at McGregor - which means B1032 and B0133 are also unaccounted for.

Confused yet? I certainly am!

In short: based on serial numbers, up to 35 'Octaweb' cores may have been built (best defined as leading the factory, although one may have remained there).

In terms of what's provable: 26 cores have been launched; 1 exploded on the pad; 1 test item exploded at McGregor; 1 test article is at VAFB; 1 unflown core is at the Cape; 1 unflown core is at McGregor. Total: 31



Online Chris Bergin

Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #51 on: 04/03/2017 03:34 PM »
I think you all have, but threads with specific titles don't require someone to barge through the door and say "Hi, I see you're all talking about this. Can I just raise a completely different point and discuss that in this room with you all?"

People would tend to say "No, go into the other room where they are talking about that!"

Same rules on the interweb ;)

Offline RoboGoofers

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #52 on: 04/03/2017 03:55 PM »
This slide from the presentation clearly lays out their prospective timeline. I'm not saying that they can't change anything shown, but the takeaway is that F9 derived development ends with Red Dragon around 2022, and it's ITS development from then on for the foreseeable future.

F9 in 2022 might be drastically different from F9 Block 5. Maybe it'll be F9 Block 5 v2.0 Penultimate Final RTM, but I doubt it'll have a larger tank or Raptor-derived engines or methane.

I think 2030's looks like a good time to retire F9 (and it's right off their timeline). They'll have learned a lot from ITS that they can backport to a larger F9H/NG class launcher and they'll have funds from CommX they can use to upgrade all their launch facilities.



« Last Edit: 04/03/2017 04:16 PM by RoboGoofers »

Offline gospacex

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #53 on: 04/03/2017 03:55 PM »
If you replace every part of a boat, is it still the same boat?

By the same token, when is Falcon 9 no longer a Falcon 9? Only this morning an ex-SpaceX employee was talking on reddit about how all octawebs are now bolted instead of welded together. There have been so many tank stretches, engine upgrades, engine arrangements, recovery addons and a myriad of less visible alterations, one could argue that Falcon 9 has been retired once, possibly twice already.

Granted, Block 5 will hopefully slow the pace of change, but I don't think it'll be the end of the alterations. I wouldn't be surprised if they discover additional problems in making a booster robust enough to fly three, four or more times. That's all uncharted territory and might need yet more alterations.

Bottom line is that from my limited perspective, 'Falcon 9' refers to different launch vehicles, despite the common name. There have already been a subtle sequence of retirements.

There is no clear, 100% objective criteria what should be called a planet... er... (I'm not in the Pluto thread!)... the same vehicle model, or a new one. Any complex piece of machinery in production inevitably gets changed. Which change is "big enough" so that this is not the same vehicle?

As long as stage diameter, type of fuel, and number of engines are not changed, I personally would still call it "F9 first stage". YMMV.

Offline RoboGoofers

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #54 on: 04/03/2017 04:25 PM »
I agree, but ultimately it's a F9 until SpaceX stops calling it a F9.

Offline Steve G

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #55 on: 04/08/2017 05:39 PM »
Put your business hats on. SpaceX is just about to introduce Version 5 of the Falcon 9. They will freeze the design at this point. They now need to recoup their investment, and as long as there is a demand for the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, there would be no economic driver to end the production run. They need revenue for ITS, and you won't get that by diverting your cash and limited intellectual resources by spending billions on a clean sheet design with little economic return.

This would only happen if they won a government sponsored job for a new class of LV.

If they did do anything to the current Falcon series (and I can't see this happening) it would be to revert to the  Falcon 5 design for the smaller satellite market. Same core just fewer engines. They'd likely just partially fill the current core fitted with 5 engines to keep the current launch facilities compatible. But if they did shorten the lengths of the 1st and 2nd stages around a 5 engine configuration, (and justify the cost for modified launch facilities) they could also use them as strap on boosters for a less capable Falcon Heavy to fill the gap between F9 and F Heavy.

Another unlikely scenario is to develop a more capable second (and possibly a 3rd stage) for the Falcon Heavy and have the core stage burn faster and harder. Again, you'd need to have significant changes to the launch facilities to accommodate the new configuration and the all important business case and ROI.

With operating costs dropping as reusable technology matures, we'll be seeing Falcon rockets for many years to come. Only a strong business case would have the Falcon 9 phased out, and that won't be for the foreseeable future.
« Last Edit: 04/08/2017 05:44 PM by Steve G »

Offline docmordrid

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #56 on: 04/09/2017 02:50 AM »
My $0.02,

Large fairings look to be a need, both for CommX deployment & maintenance and a possible cis-lunar ops COTS program for that station and beyond. Cheaper to fly/refurb heavy methane launchers make most medium-heavy kerolox launchers moot.

New Glenn has a 7 meter core and large fairing, which also makes an 8 meter fairing low hanging fruit. SpaceX will need to have a competitor vehicle in place when New Glenn appears or soon after.

A mini-ITS with a flyback upper stage/clamshell fairing based on a scaled BFS/(Dragon 3?).




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Online Robotbeat

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #57 on: 04/09/2017 03:42 AM »
7 meter New Glenn fairing will only be developed when there is a market need, according to Blue Origin.

Of course, the same could've been said about Atlas V's 7.2m fairing option.

In other words, just like Atlas V, it doesn't make sense to talk about the 7 meter fairing as an actual feature of New Glenn until Blue Origin actually develops it. Until then, it's just a possibility. Same with SLS, by the way, and its 8.4meter fairing, which has zero funding approved for it, as far as I can tell.
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Online ChrisWilson68

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #58 on: 04/09/2017 04:48 AM »
To me, it seems, the case for F9 exists in the long term only if Musk does not succeed in generating massive revenues from other sources. Sources which pretty much have to pay off if his Mars dream is to succeed in any case. And once that money becomes available, well, then F9 has little reason for continued existence, it would seem.

That's like saying, "I had $5 in my wallet, but I just got $100 more, so I'm going to throw away the original $5 I had."

No.  It doesn't matter how much more Musk personally or SpaceX makes from other sources, they won't just shut down Falcon 9 as long as it is generating profit unless it's to replace it with something else that serves the same market and makes more profit.

Online ChrisWilson68

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #59 on: 04/09/2017 04:53 AM »
I assume SpaceX has a plan for when it'll retire F9.

Why?  Do you think Boeing had a retirement date picked out for the 737 when they first introduced it 49 years ago?

I'm no expert, but it seems like the 737 is an outlier. Most other airliners have a production run of ~20-25 years. If that's a useful metric, then I'd expect SpaceX to stop production around 2030.

The point isn't that the 737 is still in production 49 years later.  The point is that when Boeing introduced the 737, they didn't have a plan to shut down production some pre-set number of years later.  And those other airliners with production runs of ~20-25 years also did not have pre-set plans to shut down production.

With airliners, the manufacturers don't know when they start producing them how long they'll be in production.  The keep producing them until there's a reason not to produce them any more.

So, I agree with Coastal Ron that the assumption by the original poster that SpaceX currently has a plan for when it will retire Falcon 9 is not a good assumption.  Maybe SpaceX has secret plans to launch a replacement Raptor-driven satellite launcher at a particular date and retire Falcon 9, but there's also a good chance they don't.


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