Author Topic: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)  (Read 198590 times)


Offline Jim_LAX

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #1 on: 02/16/2015 01:57 PM »
I think we WILL see an FH on the pad in its transporter/erector before the end of this year, at least for purposes of fit and function tests similar to the first F9.  As to weather it lifts off from that pad I give it a 50:50 chance (this year).  As an optimist, yes I would love to see it fly.  SpaceX would certainly earn serious points for quality of design/construction if the first FH flight launched a payload worthy of its published performance specs!
"I don't go along with going to the Moon first in order to build a launch pad to go to Mars.  We should go to Mars from Earth orbit."

Offline symbios

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #2 on: 02/16/2015 02:25 PM »
I know there are a lot of different issues that is causing the delay in FH launch.

I wonder how big an issue recovery is for SpaceX, if their project plans is to have the launch right after they feel recovery is plausible. It would save a lot of cost...?

FH is no use to them if they can not recover. They can not start AF licensing until they have the flight ready version etc., etc.
I'm a fan, not a fanatic...

Offline Bynaus

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #3 on: 02/16/2015 02:50 PM »
I think we will see a FH debut only after SpaceX has landed a F9 booster at the Cape (RTLS). They will attempt to recover all three boosters of the FH Demo flight. There is simply no good reason to speed up the FH Demo flight (except us waiting for it... :) ) if they can wait just a little bit longer and save a lot of money doing so - even gain additional experience in core recovery and the possibility to inspect the Heavy cores after flight.

And I think Elon's MCT announcement will only be made once FH Demo has flown without flaws.

Is there any chance (available DV-wise) we might see a lunar free return flight of a used Dragon in the FH Demo? Perhaps to be unveiled only once the Dragon is safely on its way to the Moon? I see this as a real possibility because it would be quite an inspiring symbol: America is back in business sending human-capable spacecraft beyond LEO!

EDIT: clarification that I meant a lunar free return flight.
« Last Edit: 02/16/2015 04:02 PM by Bynaus »

Offline Billium

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #4 on: 02/16/2015 03:32 PM »
In a perfect world Spacex might want to wait for the FH demo until they could demo everything with it at the same time, ie. improved Merlin thrust, dense fuel, cross feed, landing all 3 cores, reusing a core. The cost of the demonstration will be very high, so might as well get as much bang for your buck.

On the other hand, Spacex has sold FH flights which were already shown in the manifest as 2015. I think they donít really have the option of waiting much longer past Q4, 2015 and need to fly their demo as soon as they are ready for it, even if they can only recover 1 core. Also, if they want to get military certification for FH by the end of the block buy they need to get moving.

As to Dragon on a lunar free return, Gwynne Shotwell answered my question on the Space Show by saying that FH had the deltaV for this, but that Dragon would need improved communications. I donít know if she meant FH would need cross feed, improved Merlin thrust or fuel densification.

I think Spacex has likely been holding off doing anything that is seen as competing with SLS/Orion until they got past commercial crew selection. Sending Dragon around the moon Q4, 2015, would be 3 years before Orion does the same thing, so definitely that is a challenge. But by Q4, 2015 commercial crew should be far enough along that even a challenge to SLS/Orion is unlikely to cause commercial crew cancelation, so maybe this would be a good PR move for Spacex. Elon did announce that they would hopefully unveil their Mars architecture by the end of 2015 so perhaps this is not impossible.

Also, if Spacex refurbishes a used Dragon, it would be a great opportunity to test the heat shield for a higher energy return. Spacex have stated the heat shield is good for Mars return, it would be nice to demonstrate it. If they are paying for 3 cores anyways, might as well use it for something else at the same time.

Online Robotbeat

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #5 on: 02/16/2015 04:09 PM »
I think we will see a FH debut only after SpaceX has landed a F9 booster at the Cape (RTLS). They will attempt to recover all three boosters of the FH Demo flight. There is simply no good reason to speed up the FH Demo flight (except us waiting for it... :) ) ...
That's not true. There's a big portion of the launch market, the part with the most revenue in it (or at least comparable to F9's market), that can't be addressed until Falcon Heavy has flown.

The sooner they fly Falcon Heavies, the sooner they can compete for all the defense payloads. F9 can only serve about half of those, and the revenue on that lighter half is significantly less than the heavier half.

There are also a lot of commercial payloads which they can't compete for without Falcon Heavy, the highest revenue commercial payloads.


...lots of very good reasons to speed up the Falcon Heavy Demo (although even more crucial will be ensuring it launches without major failure). They may still do the FH flight after the first RTLS F9s, but that's a different issue. (I personally think FH probably won't launch until 2016.)
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Offline Bynaus

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #6 on: 02/16/2015 04:49 PM »
I think we will see a FH debut only after SpaceX has landed a F9 booster at the Cape (RTLS). They will attempt to recover all three boosters of the FH Demo flight. There is simply no good reason to speed up the FH Demo flight (except us waiting for it... :) ) ...
That's not true. There's a big portion of the launch market, the part with the most revenue in it (or at least comparable to F9's market), that can't be addressed until Falcon Heavy has flown.

The sooner they fly Falcon Heavies, the sooner they can compete for all the defense payloads. F9 can only serve about half of those, and the revenue on that lighter half is significantly less than the heavier half.

There are also a lot of commercial payloads which they can't compete for without Falcon Heavy, the highest revenue commercial payloads.


...lots of very good reasons to speed up the Falcon Heavy Demo (although even more crucial will be ensuring it launches without major failure). They may still do the FH flight after the first RTLS F9s, but that's a different issue. (I personally think FH probably won't launch until 2016.)

Yes, these are good points. But then, competing for defense payloads means going for certification, and this means you need to have a near-final version of the vehicle you want to certify ready, otherwise the clock is reset every time you re-introduce a new feature (e.g., cross-feed, fuel densification, uprated Merlins, RTLS etc.). From this point of view, it might be better to have all that ready for FH Demo, which will take time. On the other hand, if a "basic" version of FH will do for defense payloads (and I assume it will, given the payload mass of even the most basic FH exceeds the Delta IV Heavy), it might pay to go forward quickly with an initial version and certify the "full" FH later.

But I agree that we might have to wait until next year to see it fly. Which, I think, also means no MCT announcement this year. Because this is the way things have always been with SpaceX and Elon Musk: they always achieve a big milestone before they announce the next big thing.

Offline Lobo

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #7 on: 02/16/2015 06:00 PM »
I think we will see a FH debut only after SpaceX has landed a F9 booster at the Cape (RTLS). They will attempt to recover all three boosters of the FH Demo flight. There is simply no good reason to speed up the FH Demo flight (except us waiting for it... :) ) ...
That's not true. There's a big portion of the launch market, the part with the most revenue in it (or at least comparable to F9's market), that can't be addressed until Falcon Heavy has flown.

The sooner they fly Falcon Heavies, the sooner they can compete for all the defense payloads. F9 can only serve about half of those, and the revenue on that lighter half is significantly less than the heavier half.

There are also a lot of commercial payloads which they can't compete for without Falcon Heavy, the highest revenue commercial payloads.


...lots of very good reasons to speed up the Falcon Heavy Demo (although even more crucial will be ensuring it launches without major failure). They may still do the FH flight after the first RTLS F9s, but that's a different issue. (I personally think FH probably won't launch until 2016.)

This.

They have lots of reasons to want to get FH flying as soon as they can.  Their full Falcon business model can't go into effect until that happens.  This summer may be too optimistic but we'll see.  They won't rush it and unnecessarily risk a launch failure, but I think they are busting arse as much as they can to get it flying.  Untill it's flying, Elon can only hammer on ULA so much, because he doens't have comparable capability.  ULA is still the only US launch provider than can launch the heavier defense payloads.

Online Zed_Noir

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #8 on: 02/16/2015 06:06 PM »
@Blackstar posted some interesting tidbits about the Falcon Heavy in the "Proposed Europa Missions" thread.

Quote
...
Falcon Heavy is not using cross-feed. They're not developing it. I was at SpaceX several months ago and asked about cross-feed and was told by one of the people working on the rocket that they are not developing it.
...
link

Online Lars-J

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #9 on: 02/16/2015 06:12 PM »
@Blackstar posted some interesting tidbits about the Falcon Heavy in the "Proposed Europa Missions" thread.

Quote
...
Falcon Heavy is not using cross-feed. They're not developing it. I was at SpaceX several months ago and asked about cross-feed and was told by one of the people working on the rocket that they are not developing it.
...
link

Interesting indeed. We should know by the end of this year whether or not it was accurate or a misunderstanding.

Offline Lobo

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #10 on: 02/16/2015 06:14 PM »
Hopefully this is the right thread for this question.

Has SpaceX said anything for sure about if they plan to upgrade LC-40 to handle FH?

I'd assume they would, perhaps after 39A is up and fully functional becuase an upgrade to LC-40 like that will mean it'll be out of commission for awhile, and their manifest is packed right now.

But I don't recall anything for sure about it, other than an old comment by Elon saying they might build a FH HIB at a 90 degree angle to the F9 HIB.  I think that was before 39A was in the mix, so they could keep flying F9 while upgrading to FH.  With 39A operational, I think they can just fly from there and tear down the F9 HIB and build the FH HIB there

Or will they just leave LC-40 launching F9 only?

Offline deltaV

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #11 on: 02/16/2015 06:18 PM »
From the Europa science thread Blackstar posted some juicy Falcon Heavy info:

Back in October I had lunch sitting next to a guy from Aerojet who was working on an upper stage for (I think) Falcon Heavy to enable SpaceX to compete for the Solar Probe Plus mission. Dunno if that's gone public anywhere, but it may be mentioned elsewhere on this site. Anyway, they're locked out of a number of missions unless they upgrade their hardware.

I wonder what sort of fuel that upper stage would use. Aerojet Rocketdyne has a suitable hydrogen engine (RL-10), various hypergolic engines (e.g. Shuttle OMS) and solids experience (e.g. Orion FTS jettison motor) so there are a lot of plausible options.

If that guy's project is official it sounds like Aerojet Rocketdyne is trying to build a future for itself that doesn't rely on ULA. I was going to write that this was surprising back-stabbing of its close business partner ULA but then I remembered that ULA has already cheated on that marriage with their funding of XCOR's RL-10 competitor.

Quote
One other thing: Falcon Heavy is not using cross-feed. They're not developing it. I was at SpaceX several months ago and asked about cross-feed and was told by one of the people working on the rocket that they are not developing it. It's a potential upgrade if somebody pays for it, but they're not doing the development. So you shouldn't use it in your calculations.

Without cross feed Falcon Heavy can send 45 tonnes to LEO according to http://www.spacex.com/falcon-heavy. I suppose that's the best estimate of Falcon Heavy performance to LEO we have currently?

SpaceX's plans for the heaviest payloads involve the BFR so it makes sense that they don't see a need to optimize FH's capacity.

Online Lars-J

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #12 on: 02/16/2015 06:19 PM »
Hopefully this is the right thread for this question.

Has SpaceX said anything for sure about if they plan to upgrade LC-40 to handle FH?

I'd assume they would, perhaps after 39A is up and fully functional becuase an upgrade to LC-40 like that will mean it'll be out of commission for awhile, and their manifest is packed right now.

But I don't recall anything for sure about it, other than an old comment by Elon saying they might build a FH HIB at a 90 degree angle to the F9 HIB.  I think that was before 39A was in the mix, so they could keep flying F9 while upgrading to FH.  With 39A operational, I think they can just fly from there and tear down the F9 HIB and build the FH HIB there

Or will they just leave LC-40 launching F9 only?

They have mentioned doing it, but plans change, and most of those comments were pre-39A acquisition. Now that they have 39A I don't see them being in a hurry do it. Perhaps never. But it also depends on two additional factors:
 - What will be the ratio of F9 to FH launches going forward?
 - How quickly will the Texas launch pad come online (presumably built to support FH from the beginning)

Offline LastStarFighter

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #13 on: 02/16/2015 06:25 PM »
Hopefully this is the right thread for this question.

Has SpaceX said anything for sure about if they plan to upgrade LC-40 to handle FH?

I'd assume they would, perhaps after 39A is up and fully functional becuase an upgrade to LC-40 like that will mean it'll be out of commission for awhile, and their manifest is packed right now.

But I don't recall anything for sure about it, other than an old comment by Elon saying they might build a FH HIB at a 90 degree angle to the F9 HIB.  I think that was before 39A was in the mix, so they could keep flying F9 while upgrading to FH.  With 39A operational, I think they can just fly from there and tear down the F9 HIB and build the FH HIB there

Or will they just leave LC-40 launching F9 only?

They did originally have a plan for it like you said... My guess is that once they got LC39A that plan got put on hold for now. The question becomes will the have a need for two heavy launch pads in Florida? If they do I'm sure they can have some down time on LC40 since they'd have LC39A to take up the slack.

Offline deltaV

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #14 on: 02/16/2015 07:04 PM »
I wonder if the Aerojet guy that Blackstar ate lunch next to was working on the NASA project to build a common upper stage discussed in this thread: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=35144 . Or maybe this Falcon Heavy upper stage project evolved out of that NASA-funded project?

Online Robotbeat

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #15 on: 02/16/2015 07:23 PM »
I think we will see a FH debut only after SpaceX has landed a F9 booster at the Cape (RTLS). They will attempt to recover all three boosters of the FH Demo flight. There is simply no good reason to speed up the FH Demo flight (except us waiting for it... :) ) ...
That's not true. There's a big portion of the launch market, the part with the most revenue in it (or at least comparable to F9's market), that can't be addressed until Falcon Heavy has flown.

The sooner they fly Falcon Heavies, the sooner they can compete for all the defense payloads. F9 can only serve about half of those, and the revenue on that lighter half is significantly less than the heavier half.

There are also a lot of commercial payloads which they can't compete for without Falcon Heavy, the highest revenue commercial payloads.


...lots of very good reasons to speed up the Falcon Heavy Demo (although even more crucial will be ensuring it launches without major failure). They may still do the FH flight after the first RTLS F9s, but that's a different issue. (I personally think FH probably won't launch until 2016.)

Yes, these are good points. But then, competing for defense payloads means going for certification, and this means you need to have a near-final version of the vehicle you want to certify ready, otherwise the clock is reset every time you re-introduce a new feature (e.g., cross-feed, fuel densification, uprated Merlins, RTLS etc.). From this point of view, it might be better to have all that ready for FH Demo, which will take time.  ...
You know, people keep saying that, neglecting the fact that both Atlas V and Delta IV have flown MANY variants:

First, there are many different numbers of SRBs that are flown (and with Delta IV Heavy, two more cores!). Each one has slightly different flight characteristics, aero-acoustic loads, etc. Then, there are the several different fairing types that are flown, on Atlas V one that covers the upper stage and another that doesn't and is much bigger. On Delta IV, you even have two different upper stages! Not to mention the new, upgraded R-68A.

I just don't buy that SpaceX somehow has a lot more vehicle variants than ULA does. Adding fins and legs is a much smaller change for the main mission's flight characteristics than, say, adding a few SRBs.

So unless someone can point to me where ULA has had to recertify when they make a change (which is a possibility, though I'm not aware of it), then I don't buy that SpaceX has to start from scratch if they upgrade Merlin 1D or add some propellant densification. And certainly, RTLS happens AFTER the main mission is over for the boosters, so it wouldn't affect certification (particularly if they fly with legs/fins regardless, which seems reasonably likely).
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Online Coastal Ron

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #16 on: 02/16/2015 07:45 PM »
If that guy's project is official it sounds like Aerojet Rocketdyne is trying to build a future for itself that doesn't rely on ULA. I was going to write that this was surprising back-stabbing of its close business partner ULA but then I remembered that ULA has already cheated on that marriage with their funding of XCOR's RL-10 competitor.

Not only the RL-10 competitor, but ULA partnered with Blue Origin for the RD-180 replacement instead of going with Aerojet.

No exclusivity between Aerojet and ULA...
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #17 on: 02/16/2015 08:45 PM »
From the Europa science thread Blackstar posted some juicy Falcon Heavy info:

Back in October I had lunch sitting next to a guy from Aerojet who was working on an upper stage for (I think) Falcon Heavy to enable SpaceX to compete for the Solar Probe Plus mission. Dunno if that's gone public anywhere, but it may be mentioned elsewhere on this site. Anyway, they're locked out of a number of missions unless they upgrade their hardware.

I wonder what sort of fuel that upper stage would use. Aerojet Rocketdyne has a suitable hydrogen engine (RL-10), various hypergolic engines (e.g. Shuttle OMS) and solids experience (e.g. Orion FTS jettison motor) so there are a lot of plausible options.

If that guy's project is official it sounds like Aerojet Rocketdyne is trying to build a future for itself that doesn't rely on ULA. I was going to write that this was surprising back-stabbing of its close business partner ULA but then I remembered that ULA has already cheated on that marriage with their funding of XCOR's RL-10 competitor.

Quote
One other thing: Falcon Heavy is not using cross-feed. They're not developing it. I was at SpaceX several months ago and asked about cross-feed and was told by one of the people working on the rocket that they are not developing it. It's a potential upgrade if somebody pays for it, but they're not doing the development. So you shouldn't use it in your calculations.

Without cross feed Falcon Heavy can send 45 tonnes to LEO according to http://www.spacex.com/falcon-heavy. I suppose that's the best estimate of Falcon Heavy performance to LEO we have currently?

SpaceX's plans for the heaviest payloads involve the BFR so it makes sense that they don't see a need to optimize FH's capacity.
A RL10 upper stage would make all the difference on BLEO missions. It is not just RL10 that makes Centuar expensive but also the design. SpaceX should be able to make a considerable cheaper  equivalent and maybe IVF in the process. At of the technology would be directly applicable to a methane stage.

Online Robotbeat

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #18 on: 02/16/2015 08:55 PM »
I wrote this in the other thread, but an RL-10 doesn't make sense. In all reality, they probably were just talking about a solid kick stage.

Falcon Heavy even without cross-feed has a LOT of performance. It surely beats both Delta IV Heavy and Atlas 551 to GTO and LEO. But Solar Probe Plus is a VERY high delta-v mission, like C3 = 150+ (km/s)^2. Only New Horizons I think has higher delta-v. So I don't think the idea that SpaceX might want a kick stage for a super-high-delta-v mission necessarily means Falcon Heavy is incapable of any more than one or two missions a decade by itself, and those being NASA missions, not DoD.

And actually, a small kick-stage may be cheaper than expending three cores, so it's even possible they were looking at the kick stage as a way of allowing them to recover the boosters.

So yeah, I'd take Blackstar's rumor with a grain of salt.
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Online Robotbeat

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Re: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Discussion (Thread 3)
« Reply #19 on: 02/16/2015 08:58 PM »
Note that Solar Probe Plus has a launch mass of just 610kg. I believe that's less than the dry mass of the Falcon Heavy upper stage, so it's a good candidate for a small solid kick stage.

It's not about lifting capability, it's about the extremely high energy of the trajectory.
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To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

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