Author Topic: Is this really a Age of Reflight?  (Read 4802 times)

Offline SpaceNerdHerder

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Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« on: 05/09/2017 02:44 AM »
Hi! I am currently doing a American history project on anything that happened during America's history. I decided to choose the period 2015- Present (Starting with Space X's landing of 11 Orbcomm-OG2!) because I see it as a monumental achievement for America and shows how far we have come from the Space Race.

Now I am trying to find ways to convince my teacher that "Age of Reflight" (Kudos to the commentator on the webcast!) is a actual thing and how that can be something I can do my project on, because Blue Origin, Space X, China and ULA have been scrambling to launch cheaper and bigger and is going to revolutionize spaceflight.

I was just wondering if anyone had any input if this is truly the "Age of Reflight"  and if anyone thinks this will eventually become a official name for this period (Like the Space Race) that will end up in textbooks.

Thanks!

Online Thorny

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #1 on: 05/09/2017 02:52 AM »
If so, it began on November 12, 1981 when Columbia made her second flight.

Offline QuantumG

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #2 on: 05/09/2017 02:57 AM »
If so, it began on November 12, 1981 when Columbia made her second flight.

False dawn :)
Non-commercial spaceflight and filicide  http://tylervigen.com/view_correlation?id=185

Offline SpaceNerdHerder

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #3 on: 05/09/2017 03:00 AM »
If so, it began on November 12, 1981 when Columbia made her second flight.

The Shuttle ET was left to disintegrate in the atmosphere, the SRBs were basically hollow tubes after the dynamite was set off while being exposed to salt water and the weather, and the Orbiter was almost rebuilt/heavily refurbished that took millions and many months to prepare again. I do see your point and the Shuttle shouldn't be forgotten for being a unique and amazing spaceship.

I'd argue that what Space X and other companies are trying to do is bring down that millions down to thousands and months down to days. With each launch Space X does, we get closer to that idea. That is what I'd define the starting point for the Age of Reflight

Online darkenfast

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #4 on: 05/09/2017 04:25 AM »
If I may suggest: "2015-present" might be too soon to write history on.  You have a good idea here, though, and I think looking at the history of the idea of re-use in rocketry might be a good area.  Ever since the 50's (and probably before), proposals have been made to recover and re-use rockets.  In the 1950's, Von Braun's giant three-stage rockets with the winged third stages were illustrated parachuting into the ocean in books I saw as a child.  We see it talked about repeatedly up to the Shuttle and beyond.  The first Falcon 9 flights tried to do exactly what Von Braun talked about and it didn't work.  As noted above, the Space Shuttle tried and somewhat succeeded, but at a very high cost.  And then there is the X-15 (about which I believe there is information regarding the cost of re-use available).  There's lots of fertile ground here to dig into.  How did prior proposals for re-use work?  To what extent (if any) did they succeed?  How did SpaceX make their way work?  What is the economic case for re-use?

If you go ahead with this project, let us know how it all turns out!

Offline QuantumG

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #5 on: 05/09/2017 04:27 AM »
... and don't forget the hype of the 90s.
Non-commercial spaceflight and filicide  http://tylervigen.com/view_correlation?id=185

Offline tj

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #6 on: 05/09/2017 05:14 AM »
X-37B seems to be a candidate: 1) Orbits for two years +; 2) Reuse- however, not known how much refurbishment (e.g. engines) and of course the large cost of the expendable Atlas V

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #7 on: 05/09/2017 05:53 AM »
... and don't forget the hype of the 90s.

History does repeat itself, or at least echo to a certain degree...   ;)

That said, if we look at the prior failures one common thread is that they ran out of money - that they didn't have a sustaining business model to support the development phase of what they were doing.

SpaceX has found not only a sustaining business model, but has been able to attract substantial outside investment too.  Blue Origin doesn't have to worry about a business model at all since it is self-financed by the 3rd richest person in the world and could consume $1B per year for generations to come without worrying about running out of funding.

I have no idea the technical merit of those 90's startups, but I'm sure they would have made more progress with more money.
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 Coastal Ron

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #8 on: 05/09/2017 06:05 AM »
I don't know how much you need to write about, because the "Age of Reflight" is certainly very recent and new.  So if your teacher asserts there isn't enough facts yet to draw conclusions, you don't have much to use to refute them.

But if you do get the OK to do the project, maybe you should research other transportation examples that show off the benefits of reusability, especially if you can show dramatic cost reductions.

My $0.02
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 TomH

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #9 on: 05/09/2017 06:32 AM »
Congratulations. I applaud your choice of topic. I agree that STS (the Space Shuttle is officially called the Space Transportation System) was a false start and that we are on the cusp of a sea change (that is a metaphor).

I say the following only because I am a retired teacher and you are doing this as an academic project. Work on your use of articles when you write. Use a before a noun that begins with a consonant sound, e.g. a uniform, a house (uniform begins with a y sound). Use an before a noun that begins with a vowel sound, e.g. an umbrella, an hour (the h in hour is silent).

Content matters. So do composition, style, and form. In this paper, so shall your approach to historical methodology and argument. Your teacher we will grade you on all of those. Please feel free to ask me to critique your work via PM. I will not do it for you, nor will I correct it for you. I will, however, point you in the direction of things you need to work on, just as I did here.

While I have much respect for Coastal Ron's opinions and his very effective use of logic in persuasive writing, I must partially agree and partially disagree with him regarding there being a lack of historical track record. There are a number of historical analogues, some of which brought technological revolution and some of which were dead ends. Reference to historical analogues should be part of your argument. I believe you can highlight certain parallels in history which offer precedent and make it more likely that this revolution will succeed rather than fail.
« Last Edit: 05/09/2017 07:35 AM by TomH »

Offline Jimmy Murdok

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #10 on: 05/09/2017 07:27 AM »
If so, it began on November 12, 1981 when Columbia made her second flight.

Thatīs not about the first in history but about the one that drives change at large scale. Neither James Watt steam engine, Ford T or DC3 were the first on their class but the ones that drive the change of paradigm.

While the Concorde or the STS are marvels of their time, they disappeared without a proper handover of their amazing capabilities.

I would call your work: the potential "Age of Reflight" . You have all the elements for the change of paradigm, but it still has to demonstrate it happens. You have good material, good luck!

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #11 on: 05/09/2017 08:10 AM »
I too think 2015 is too recent a place to start. But as others have noted there have been various attempts in the past at re-use, which ultimately (even including the shuttle) had no impact on reducing launch costs.

I think comparing and contrasting some of those attempts with today would be a rich and interesting topic. What are the lessons we can learn from the history of past attempts? What clues do they give to the possible outcome of what SpaceX and Blue Origin are doing now?  Good luck!

Offline Bynaus

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #12 on: 05/09/2017 09:02 AM »
Well, technically, reflight only took place this year. But perhaps one could claim that what started in 2015 (both SpaceX and Blue) was the "Age of Rocket Landings" (or perhaps: the "Age of Returning Rockets").

Offline Eerie

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #13 on: 05/09/2017 11:49 AM »
If so, it began on November 12, 1981 when Columbia made her second flight.

The Shuttle ET was left to disintegrate in the atmosphere, the SRBs were basically hollow tubes after the dynamite was set off while being exposed to salt water and the weather, and the Orbiter was almost rebuilt/heavily refurbished that took millions and many months to prepare again. I do see your point and the Shuttle shouldn't be forgotten for being a unique and amazing spaceship.

I'd argue that what Space X and other companies are trying to do is bring down that millions down to thousands and months down to days. With each launch Space X does, we get closer to that idea. That is what I'd define the starting point for the Age of Reflight

The money it took to refurbish the system should not be taken into account, if we are just talking about the "Age of Reflight", as opposed to "The Age of Cheaper Reflight".

Instead, let's compare returned mass vs discarded mass, ignoring fuel:

Falcon 9:
First Stage dry mass: 23,100 kg
Second Stage dry mass: 3,900 kg
Percent of reused mass out of total dry mass:  23100 / (23100 + 3900) * 100% = 85.556%

Space Shuttle:
Orbiter dry mass: 68,585 kg
External tank (Super Lightweight): 26,500 kg
Solid Rocket Booster: 91,000 kg
Percent of reused mass out of total dry mass:  (68585 + 91000*2)/(68585 + 91000*2 + 26500) * 100% = 90.436%

Yeah, I think Shuttle wins so far. Falcon Heavy is going to trash it, though. ;D
« Last Edit: 05/09/2017 11:50 AM by Eerie »
Quote from: Jim
Wrong.

Offline SpaceNerdHerder

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #14 on: 05/09/2017 02:09 PM »
If I may suggest: "2015-present" might be too soon to write history on.  You have a good idea here, though, and I think looking at the history of the idea of re-use in rocketry might be a good area.  Ever since the 50's (and probably before), proposals have been made to recover and re-use rockets.  In the 1950's, Von Braun's giant three-stage rockets with the winged third stages were illustrated parachuting into the ocean in books I saw as a child.  We see it talked about repeatedly up to the Shuttle and beyond.  The first Falcon 9 flights tried to do exactly what Von Braun talked about and it didn't work.  As noted above, the Space Shuttle tried and somewhat succeeded, but at a very high cost.  And then there is the X-15 (about which I believe there is information regarding the cost of re-use available).  There's lots of fertile ground here to dig into.  How did prior proposals for re-use work?  To what extent (if any) did they succeed?  How did SpaceX make their way work?  What is the economic case for re-use?

If you go ahead with this project, let us know how it all turns out!

Well he did say we can choose a topic that happened recently (I.e the 2016 election). I mean there's a lot of info that I can use starting from 2015. There's the attempts at fairings, ULA trying this out, China trying this out. Possibly Space Race 2.0 but for reused rockets instead.
I have my class in the next few periods, I'll be sure to update back.

Offline SpaceNerdHerder

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #15 on: 05/09/2017 02:14 PM »
I don't know how much you need to write about, because the "Age of Reflight" is certainly very recent and new.  So if your teacher asserts there isn't enough facts yet to draw conclusions, you don't have much to use to refute them.

But if you do get the OK to do the project, maybe you should research other transportation examples that show off the benefits of reusability, especially if you can show dramatic cost reductions.

My $0.02

Even though its recent and new, I think there's sufficient information to go by with this project. All I really need to do is bring a model of something relating to this period  and explain my topic, what I created and how it relates to my project (and obviously how it relates to history).

Offline SpaceNerdHerder

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #16 on: 05/09/2017 02:21 PM »
Congratulations. I applaud your choice of topic. I agree that STS (the Space Shuttle is officially called the Space Transportation System) was a false start and that we are on the cusp of a sea change (that is a metaphor).

I say the following only because I am a retired teacher and you are doing this as an academic project. Work on your use of articles when you write. Use a before a noun that begins with a consonant sound, e.g. a uniform, a house (uniform begins with a y sound). Use an before a noun that begins with a vowel sound, e.g. an umbrella, an hour (the h in hour is silent).

Content matters. So do composition, style, and form. In this paper, so shall your approach to historical methodology and argument. Your teacher we will grade you on all of those. Please feel free to ask me to critique your work via PM. I will not do it for you, nor will I correct it for you. I will, however, point you in the direction of things you need to work on, just as I did here.

While I have much respect for Coastal Ron's opinions and his very effective use of logic in persuasive writing, I must partially agree and partially disagree with him regarding there being a lack of historical track record. There are a number of historical analogues, some of which brought technological revolution and some of which were dead ends. Reference to historical analogues should be part of your argument. I believe you can highlight certain parallels in history which offer precedent and make it more likely that this revolution will succeed rather than fail.

Thanks for your input! I am always learning on how to improve what needs work. Although English isn't really my power house if you ask me. Math and science is what I excel at.

I can always refer to the tech that was created by SPACEX/Blue Origin and how that can benefit Americans (Such as being one of the leaders in spaceflight,  providing space tourism for Americans, and expanding the space program) and potentially the world.

Offline SpaceNerdHerder

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #17 on: 05/09/2017 02:33 PM »
Well, technically, reflight only took place this year. But perhaps one could claim that what started in 2015 (both SpaceX and Blue) was the "Age of Rocket Landings" (or perhaps: the "Age of Returning Rockets").

Oh of course! But I'd say that with Space x historic landing in 2015, it actually opened the grand doors for the real potential energy of reusable boosters.

Offline Kansan52

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #18 on: 05/09/2017 02:53 PM »
My opinion.

Space Exploration (Space X) is in the 'Kitty Hawk' stage. The Wright brothers had successful controlled flight. Many others had tried.

Hopefully Space X will not be the Wright brothers of reuse since the company they formed is still part of an aerospace company but that company does not produce aircraft.

Online edkyle99

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Re: Is this really a Age of Reflight?
« Reply #19 on: 05/09/2017 06:16 PM »
If so, it began on November 12, 1981 when Columbia made her second flight.

The Shuttle ET was left to disintegrate in the atmosphere, the SRBs were basically hollow tubes after the dynamite was set off while being exposed to salt water and the weather, and the Orbiter was almost rebuilt/heavily refurbished that took millions and many months to prepare again.
The SRBs brought back costly avionics in addition to their structures.  Even the parachutes were recovered and reused.  The orbiter brought back all of the really costly pieces - the SSMEs, the OMEs, and the redundant flight avionics.

SpaceX throws away half of its rocket even when it does recover its first stage.  The Falcon 9 second stage carries the guidance system and most of the vehicle's other avionics, all of which are thrown away. 

SpaceX throws away its entire rocket on some flights.  In the future, as more customers want more mass lifted to orbit for those low, low SpaceX prices, the company will likely have to perform an increasing number of expendable flights.

This is not meant to minimize the achievements.  First stage VTVL achieved by SpaceX (and Blue Origin suborbital) is a big deal.  Shuttle was also a big achievement.  Its relatively rapid reuse allowed NASA to maintain a robust human space program for three decades - something the Agency is having a hard time trying to replicate today.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 05/09/2017 06:20 PM by edkyle99 »

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