Author Topic: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?  (Read 5288 times)

Offline Kaputnik

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There's a lot of discussion on the main thread about the ITS develoment, and precious little information to go on.
One thing that stands out is that different commentators have different ideas about how we can expect the development to proceed- particularly whether there will be a 'mini ITS', subscale Raptor, or Raptor-on-Falcon upgrade.

So my question is- what do you think will be the first flight in support of ITS develoment? By this I mean any flight that directly contributes towards the ITS project, be it an engine, materials, aerodynamic profile, a landing manoeuvre, etc etc.
Something like the first flight of FH would not count, but a Raptor upgrade, a switch to composite tanks, a landing cradle, all would.
I don't think Red Dragon would count as that is not really ITS hardware, although it is relevant to the overall project. YMMV.

My own guess: a variant of the BFS, probably with representative aerodynamics, reduced engine count, and higher dry mass. This would be flown suborbital in a grasshopper style program to verify in-atmosphere aero loads and landing software. It would be full size but probably not utilise the full composite construction of the production design.
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Online stcks

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #1 on: 04/14/2017 01:00 PM »
If the big CF lox tank is any indication (probably not) then it would be the ITS first.

Online Robotbeat

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #2 on: 04/14/2017 01:05 PM »
Falcon Heavy demo flight. Whatever method of reuse they try, they will be retiring risk for the ITS spaceship.
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Offline Lar

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #3 on: 04/14/2017 01:26 PM »
Falcon Heavy demo flight. Whatever method of reuse they try, they will be retiring risk for the ITS spaceship.

I agree with this... especially if there is any sort of S2 experiment, whatever form it takes.... but I suspect the way the OP defined it, they would not.
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Offline Kaputnik

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #4 on: 04/14/2017 02:44 PM »
Falcon Heavy demo flight. Whatever method of reuse they try, they will be retiring risk for the ITS spaceship.

Ha! I knew someone would bring this up! Wasn't sure how to categorise it- they might have chosen this route for Falcon regardless of ITS development needs. So I suppose the clincher would be if the predominant driver for the test is for BFS design validation, or if it's mostly about developing a reusable F9 US. And of course you can argue that the two go very much hand in hand.

If that's the first step... then what comes next?
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Offline Xaryen

Technically, the experimental composite tank has already "flown" on its own.

Offline Lar

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #6 on: 04/14/2017 03:25 PM »
Technically, the experimental composite tank has already "flown" on its own.

ha. It wasn't that successful of a test flight though. More of a RUD.  I am still hoping to hear serious ideas on this topic, it is fascinating.
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline jpo234

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #7 on: 04/14/2017 03:27 PM »
The "Next Steps" slide from the IAC presentation lists ship testing followed by booster testing.
« Last Edit: 04/14/2017 03:27 PM by jpo234 »
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Offline philw1776

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #8 on: 04/14/2017 06:45 PM »
The "Next Steps" slide from the IAC presentation lists ship testing followed by booster testing.

My initial reaction was "That's backwards" but upon reflection, building a proto ITS with sea level Raptors, maybe not more than say 4 engines initially, gets flight experience without manufacturing dozens of Raptors for even a depleted booster stage that will get change ordered to death with early flight feedback.
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Offline ncb1397

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #9 on: 04/14/2017 06:56 PM »
The "Next Steps" slide from the IAC presentation lists ship testing followed by booster testing.

It also puts that milestone at 16 months from now. Does SpaceX have a secret volcano lair where all this work is happening?
« Last Edit: 04/14/2017 07:10 PM by ncb1397 »

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #10 on: 04/14/2017 07:18 PM »
The "Next Steps" slide from the IAC presentation lists ship testing followed by booster testing.

It also puts that milestone at 16 months from now. Does SpaceX have a secret volcano layer lair where all this work is happening?

Hasn't Elon Musk shown that he can do more than one thing at a time?  Who knew they were building a composite LOX tank for ITS testing until we saw a picture of it?

Musk has not perfected his space-time dilation techniques, but he has shown that when he says he plans to do something that he's already looked into seeing if it's possible - and he's obviously OK with being derided publicly if they don't make his wish dates.
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 dkovacic

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #11 on: 04/14/2017 08:58 PM »
I think that the first ITS flight variant will be SSTO without BFR. It can fly itself to the orbit, leave some usable payload in LEO and perform reentry. Thus it can earn money AND build flight heritage AND do reentry/reusability/endurance testing.

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Online Robotbeat

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #12 on: 04/14/2017 11:47 PM »
SSTnotquiteO, more likely. Like X-33 kinda. Perfectly acceptable for testing.
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Offline Kaputnik

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #13 on: 04/15/2017 12:36 AM »
I think that the first ITS flight variant will be SSTO without BFR. It can fly itself to the orbit, leave some usable payload in LEO and perform reentry. Thus it can earn money AND build flight heritage AND do reentry/reusability/endurance testing.

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My understanding is that the BFS can get to orbit but would be stuck there. You'd have to concoct some hairbrained scheme partially refuelling it using Falcon launches if you wanted it back. Hardly likely to be an economical launch vehicle in its own right.
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Offline OneSpeed

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #14 on: 04/15/2017 12:53 AM »
My understanding is that the BFS can get to orbit but would be stuck there. You'd have to concoct some hairbrained scheme partially refuelling it using Falcon launches if you wanted it back. Hardly likely to be an economical launch vehicle in its own right.

A BFS tanker with all sea level engines has a theoretical ΔV of about 11km/s. It could get to orbit and land. There is a summary of some options that have been simulated here: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=42003.msg1635249#msg1635249
« Last Edit: 05/04/2017 01:24 PM by OneSpeed »

Offline brickmack

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #15 on: 04/15/2017 01:18 AM »
My guess at the testing path:

1. Falcon-Raptor, in-flight demonstration of Raptor and testing of something approximating the Spaceship landing profile

2. ITS-Spaceship-Dev1. 3 engine Spaceship semi-boilerplate,  flies partially filled for short hops (<1 km), validates final landing targeting on unprepared terrain, leg design, large-scale flight-qualified composite tanks

3. ITS-Spaceship-Dev2. Nearly-complete copy of a tanker-variant ship, but with 9 SL Raptors to allow it to take off fully fueled. Flies first on a New Shepard style trajectory, then expanding to a near-orbital trajectory (with downrange landing). Tests aerodynamics on reentry, heat shielding, landing from high velocity, attitude control during coasts, propellant dynamics, near-complete propulsion system.

4. ITS-Booster-Dev. Shortened booster, same diameter, fewer engines. Flies with non-retracting legs (like the original Grasshopper) at first to validate landing control, then moves on to a landing cradle. Short hops only

5. ITS Booster, final design but with nose cap mass simulator. Just 1 flight, validates entire booster mission profile

6. ITS Tanker to orbit. Likely dozens of flights, some carrying paying payloads. Proves full launch and reentry profile, medium-term LEO coast (days-weeks), orbital maneuvering, rendezvous/docking, propellant transfer, rapid reuse, overall reliability

7. Spaceship to orbit, unmanned to prove equipment not tested on tanker.

8. Spaceship to lunar orbit and back. Proves full refueling campaign, high velocity reentry

9. Manned spaceship to orbit, routine crew flights within the Earth-moon system begin

10. First ITS to Mars, proves full cargo mission profile and carries critical hardware for the base

Offline Kaputnik

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #16 on: 04/18/2017 07:18 AM »
Another thought:
What would be the largest payload that could be placed on top of a FH core+boosters stack?
Using their existing heavy launcher, SpaceX could fly a subscale ITS stage as a reusable combined US/payload, and validate the OML. If adding CH4 to thr pad was possible, then it could also test fly the Raptor- otherwise it would use Merlins.
This would get flight experience on a large lifting body, without needing to build the BFR and its pad first.
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Offline OneSpeed

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #17 on: 04/18/2017 12:16 PM »
Another thought:
What would be the largest payload that could be placed on top of a FH core+boosters stack?
Using their existing heavy launcher, SpaceX could fly a subscale ITS stage as a reusable combined US/payload, and validate the OML. If adding CH4 to thr pad was possible, then it could also test fly the Raptor- otherwise it would use Merlins.
This would get flight experience on a large lifting body, without needing to build the BFR and its pad first.

Yes, and there is a simulation of it here: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=42336.msg1646574#msg1646574
With the latest FH specifications, it should get a 100% reusable 40mT+ payload to LEO, and if the half scale BFS used 6 or 7 half scale Raptors, the centre one could be throttled low enough to land it.

Offline DreamyPickle

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #18 on: 04/18/2017 12:44 PM »
I think the first flight will be a full-size ITS tanker doing suborbital hops (Grasshopper-style).

Offline Kaputnik

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Re: Speculation: what will be the first ITS hardware to fly?
« Reply #19 on: 04/18/2017 12:47 PM »
Another thought:
What would be the largest payload that could be placed on top of a FH core+boosters stack?
Using their existing heavy launcher, SpaceX could fly a subscale ITS stage as a reusable combined US/payload, and validate the OML. If adding CH4 to thr pad was possible, then it could also test fly the Raptor- otherwise it would use Merlins.
This would get flight experience on a large lifting body, without needing to build the BFR and its pad first.

Yes, and there is a simulation of it here: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=42336.msg1646574#msg1646574
With the latest FH specifications, it should get a 100% reusable 40mT+ payload to LEO, and if the half scale BFS used 6 or 7 half scale Raptors, the centre one could be throttled low enough to land it.

Thanks, I had forgotten about that. Neat, but the argument against is that it's a huge development project in its own right. Perhaps a Merlin powered version would be more likely? Serving a similar role that Enterprise did for STS. But perhaps we have good enough computer modelling now that such a thing is not needed.

Another thought is that the FH US/payload should total around 175t, and the dry mass of the BFS is supposed to be 150t- and the tanker presumably a bit less than that. So in fact it would be, in theory, possible to launch a short-fuelled full size BFS onto a suborbital trajectory. The aero loads for the poor little Falcon would perhaps be too much, and operating the BFS as a single stage suborbital (or even orbital) vehicle is probably more likely- but it's fun to run through the different options.
Waiting for joy and raptor

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