Author Topic: Where will BFR be built?  (Read 23246 times)

Offline Dave G

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Where will BFR be built?
« on: 10/01/2017 01:07 PM »
Here's a quote from Elon Musk:

Quote
...the current Falcon 9 rocket is something that can be manufactured in California and road transported.  In fact, I set the design diameter and dimensions of the rocket to be the maximum road transportable object, without requiring the lifting of power lines and that kind of thing. So it's roughly 13 feet in diameter and about 140 feet long for the first stage...

But as we go to future rockets that are bigger than that, we would actually do the manufacturing at the launch site, or near the launch site, because otherwise the road transportation logistics become... Essentially you'd either have to put it on a big ship or build it near the launch site.  The logical thing is to build it near the launch site.  So that is something that would occur where ever this launch site occurs.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=64&v=3_iu75TFgX8

So knowing these issues, there are at least 4 possibilities:
1) Elon has changed his mind and will build BFR at Hawthorne.
2) To keep BFR production relatively close to Hawthorne, they could lease manufacturing space at an L.A. seaport.
3) They could build BFR at some other seaport.
4) They could build BFR very close to the launch site.

For 1) above, the main issue is how to get BFR from Hawthorne to a sea port.  Some have mentioned the Space Shuttle External Tank's journey to the L.A. museum as an example of how this could be done, but that was a one-off, more like a parade, and it required closing L.A. streets for 18 hours.  I doubt the public would support something like that on an ongoing basis.  Also, BFR's diameter is 2 feet larger than the Shuttle External Tank, and the BFR ship's delta wings make it event wider. I welcome any insight on how this option could be made viable.

For option 2), the main issue is cost.  Manufacturing space along any seaport near L.A. would probably be very expensive.  Labor and taxes would also be much higher than other locations.

Option 3) opens things up a lot.  They could use Michoud. Or they could use the Brownsville seaport.

For option 4), the question is: Where will the first launch site be?  And will it be near a sea port?

In any case, my assumption is that any BFR sub-component that can be road transported will continue to be built in Hawthorne.  That includes Raptor engines, avionics, grid fins, basically anything less than 4 meters tall.  And since most of the complicated stuff is less than 4 meters tall, I'd say the majority of BFR manufacturing will be in Hawthorne regardless.

So any other BFR manufacturing site would just build the large structures and do final assembly.

Comments welcome.
« Last Edit: 10/01/2017 01:21 PM by Dave G »

Offline Ludus

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #1 on: 10/01/2017 03:34 PM »
http://spacenews.com/russian-aviation-company-to-acquire-sea-launch/

Make a deal to put up a SpaceX building here? Just space to move manufacturing for tanks and final assembly near enough to Hawthorne that employees can work in both places without relocating, that permits direct loading onto ocean going ships.

It’s not real spacious but may be enough room. Same biz so should be few rules conflicts. Having a Russian landlord would cause some fuss.

The entire sale including the launch platform and ship seems to have been $150M.
« Last Edit: 10/02/2017 07:18 PM by Ludus »

Offline hms hexapuma

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #2 on: 10/02/2017 06:02 AM »
Would it not make sense to consolidate manufacturing of the larger parts, and final assembly, at Boca Chica?
The advantages there are:
- room to grow.
- ease of transport if final assembly co located with launch facilities (by barge if the assembly is done at a nearby location, IE: Brownsville). Michoud is another possibility but until SLS dies NASA has first dibs.
- ability to build assembly building(s) that could accommodate future iterations (BFR 1.0?).
- refits of flown stages done within miles of landing pads, again no transport headaches or delays.

Most of the above would be true if final assembly was at the Cape. However SpaceX will totally control the launch manifest and range at Boca, which is a strong incentive to consolidate there.

Offline Dave G

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #3 on: 10/02/2017 12:15 PM »
Would it not make sense to consolidate manufacturing of the larger parts, and final assembly, at Boca Chica?
The advantages there are:
- room to grow
- ease of transport...
- ... future iterations...
- refits of flown stages...

All true, but I think the biggest advantage would be lower cost.

When I first considered Brownsville as a possible site to build BFR, I sort of dismissed it.  But after looking more, it may be a perfect fit.

If they build BFR along the Brownsville shipping channel, they could also ship it to any other launch site in the world. The Port of Brownsville is world class, and regularly hosts aircraft carriers, oil drilling rigs, and huge container ships, so shipping something the size of BFR would be no issue.

There's plenty of undeveloped dirt-cheap land along the shipping channel, and taxes are also dirt-cheap.

And Brownsville isn't the middle of nowhere.  With a population of nearly 200,000, a state university, and an international airport, Brownsville is a reasonably sized city.  If you want night-life, South Padre Island is a hugely popular resort area just 25 minutes from Brownsville.

But the main thing - cost of living in Brownsville is one of the lowest in the nation. To really understand what this means, I'll repeat part of an earlier post from Nomadd.

Here's what you can get for $230K in Brownsville:


and here's what you can get for $700K in Hawthorne:

Offline geza

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #4 on: 10/02/2017 12:51 PM »
Elon Tweeted in July, that "A 9m diameter vehicle fits in our existing factories ...".
https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/888813713800785923

Then, he anounced the 9 m diameter, as decision. Any more queston?

Well, immediately after that tweet, somebody asked about the transport and Elon didn't answer, as far as I know.
« Last Edit: 10/02/2017 12:52 PM by geza »

Offline Ludus

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #5 on: 10/02/2017 02:25 PM »
Setting up an annex at a port within commuting distance of Hawthorne is a very different thing from trying to pivot to production of an entirely new rocket at the same time as moving a big chunk of the production process out of state.

Offline Dave G

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #6 on: 10/02/2017 03:55 PM »
Setting up an annex at a port within commuting distance of Hawthorne is a very different thing from trying to pivot to production of an entirely new rocket at the same time as moving a big chunk of the production process out of state.

Agreed.  That's definitely an issue.

But leasing an annex at a port within commuting distance of Hawthorne is also a costly solution long-term.

So maybe they'll start building BFR at a port near Hawthorne, and then after the they get BFR working, they could move it somewhere else.

Again, I'm assuming that any BFR sub-component that can be road transported will continue to be built in Hawthorne, so any other BFR manufacturing site would just build the large structures and do final assembly.

It'll be interesting to see how this all works out.

Offline philw1776

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #7 on: 10/02/2017 04:18 PM »
Elon Tweeted in July, that "A 9m diameter vehicle fits in our existing factories ...".
https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/888813713800785923

Then, he anounced the 9 m diameter, as decision. Any more queston?

Well, immediately after that tweet, somebody asked about the transport and Elon didn't answer, as far as I know.

Exactly!

folks need to remember that a key SpaceX culture is co-location of R&D with manufacturing.  As someone who ran R&D and put products into manufacturing I have experienced the benefits of co-location and the inefficiencies and developer disconnect with remote manufacturing..  Co-location offers efficient, quick problem resolution, and design in level appreciation of mfg issues by otherwise potentially ivory towerish new product developers.  I don't see CA developers moving to Boca or Michoud, no matter how much less expensive the Real Estate.

I do remain open to the possibility of SpaceX leasing expensive harbor proximate facilities within easy commute distance of present Hawthorne facilities where the engines, electronics, etc. are finally mated and integrated with the airframe/tankage before shipment to Boca and Canaveral.
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Offline geza

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #8 on: 10/03/2017 06:05 AM »
Remember also the main point of Elon's lecture: the canibalism thing. They wil convert the whole company to a BFR factory. Then? Will the Hawthorne floors remain empty? Will they produce only the engines and other subsytems there?

I am sure that BFR will be produced in the existing facility at Hawthorne initially. The initial rate of production will not be higher that a few SCs per year. Maybe 2? This is 10 in 5 years, e.g. between 2020-24. Elon want to send 6 of them to Mars by '24, 4 are for testing and satellite launching purposes. Later, when they have to produce more, they have to relocate production, of course. Maybe, it will be a BFR v. 2.0, which will be constrained by the 9 m no longer.

Is it physically possible to transport a 9 m wide vechicle from the company headquarters to the nearest port? If it is so, then it is necessary to close the segments of the route for a few minutes, few times a year. Probably during night.
« Last Edit: 10/03/2017 06:06 AM by geza »

Offline philw1776

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #9 on: 10/03/2017 11:36 AM »
Remember also the main point of Elon's lecture: the canibalism thing. They wil convert the whole company to a BFR factory. Then? Will the Hawthorne floors remain empty? Will they produce only the engines and other subsytems there?

I am sure that BFR will be produced in the existing facility at Hawthorne initially. The initial rate of production will not be higher that a few SCs per year. Maybe 2? This is 10 in 5 years, e.g. between 2020-24. Elon want to send 6 of them to Mars by '24, 4 are for testing and satellite launching purposes. Later, when they have to produce more, they have to relocate production, of course. Maybe, it will be a BFR v. 2.0, which will be constrained by the 9 m no longer.

Is it physically possible to transport a 9 m wide vechicle from the company headquarters to the nearest port? If it is so, then it is necessary to close the segments of the route for a few minutes, few times a year. Probably during night.

Posters here have cited the Shuttle precedent for such a route. If/when SpaceX does this, I agree with those who speculate that SpaceX will pay for permanent relocation of overhead power lines, etc. along the route to facilitate late night traverses to the harbor.
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Offline Dave G

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #10 on: 10/03/2017 12:53 PM »
Posters here have cited the Shuttle precedent for such a route. If/when SpaceX does this, I agree with those who speculate that SpaceX will pay for permanent relocation of overhead power lines, etc. along the route to facilitate late night traverses to the harbor.

Shuttle External Tank and BFR/BFS shown approximately to scale below.

By the way, to transport the shuttle itself, they also had to cut down some trees to make room for the shuttle's wings.  The delta wings on BFS may have the same issue.

And again, they had to close streets in L.A. for 18 hours to transport the shuttle external tank.

More info on what it took for the shuttle and external tank here.
« Last Edit: 10/03/2017 01:22 PM by Dave G »

Offline DanielW

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #11 on: 10/03/2017 02:11 PM »
Co-locating production and engineering is huge, but mostly during the development phase. SpaceX has two options to maintain that relationship.

1) Move Falcon9 production to a nearby facility to free up the main building for development of of BFR.
2) Move Engineering to a new facility.

I have no personal experience in how difficult either of these operations are. But I would go with #1 and slowly move mature F9 processes to another facility in or near Hawthorne. I would think that tank welding would be the low hanging fruit to gain floor space and should be, by now the most mature process.

Offline Dave G

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #12 on: 10/03/2017 02:35 PM »
1) Move Falcon9 production to a nearby facility to free up the main building for development of of BFR.

Again, how does it get to the launch pad?

The picture below is an info graphic showing how difficult it was to move the shuttle external tank.

Now imagine how difficult it would be for BFR, which is 50 feet longer and 2 feet wider than the shuttle external tank. 

Or for BFS, which is about the same length as the shuttle external tank, but 2 feet larger in diameter, plus the added width of the delta wings.

I just don't see how it will work.

2) Move Engineering to a new facility.

Presumably located on a sea port.
« Last Edit: 10/03/2017 02:36 PM by Dave G »

Offline Darkseraph

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #13 on: 10/03/2017 02:45 PM »
Perhaps subcomponents of the new system will begin being built and tested at Hawthorne while production of Falcon 9 components is slowed down. The final ships and boosters will then be assembled somewhere close to a port. For example, the goal of beginning the first booster by next spring could be met simply by beginning the production of Raptor engines alongside lowering the production of Merlin Engines.

Or SpaceX might "cannibalize" its internal products by simply laying off workers on the Falcon 9/Dragon production lines as production of those vehicles slows with frequent reuse. Also the transition to composites will mean they need less employees skilled in the manufacturing techniques associated with metals.
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Offline Lar

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #14 on: 10/03/2017 02:47 PM »
The flow if tanks are moved becomes a rather complex ballet that has to be choreographed carefully. This is not rocket science, all the big carmakers do this with the myriad parts that comprise a vehicle... body stamping and painting and final assembly may  be three different places. But it has to be thought through.

The problem I see with building in Brownsville is how do you get the vehicle to the other side of the channel to Boca Chica. You can't barge it as you can't build barge docks, it's wetlands. So you have to road transport it. Meaning you may have clearance problems you need to work through. But everything's bigger in Texas so it may be less of a problem.

We have had other threads that discussed this.
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Offline envy887

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #15 on: 10/03/2017 02:56 PM »
The BFS as shown has a wingspan of about 13.5 meters, compared to the Shuttle at 23.8 meters.

Offline Dave G

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #16 on: 10/03/2017 03:10 PM »
The problem I see with building in Brownsville is how do you get the vehicle to the other side of the channel to Boca Chica. You can't barge it as you can't build barge docks, it's wetlands. So you have to road transport it. Meaning you may have clearance problems you need to work through. But everything's bigger in Texas so it may be less of a problem.

We have had other threads that discussed this.

Right.  SpaceX could build a new ~1-mile stretch of road that connects the frontage road along the Brownsville seaport to Hwy 4. The picture below shows a possible route.  The good news is that this is all undeveloped, wide open land.  No telephone poles or traffic lights along the route.

But again, the main issue is that the development engineers in Hawthorne would be physically separated from the people who build the large structures and do the final assembly.  In other words, it would require a lot of travel for the development engineers.
« Last Edit: 10/03/2017 03:19 PM by Dave G »

Offline Dave G

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #17 on: 10/03/2017 03:39 PM »
The BFS as shown has a wingspan of about 13.5 meters, compared to the Shuttle at 23.8 meters.

Yes, but the shuttle itself was crazy difficult to move.  They had to cut down trees and do a lot of other radical things to make it possible, as shown in the video screen-shot below.  I seriously doubt there would be public support for SpaceX to do this on an ongoing basis.

There's a big difference between possible and practical.

The shuttle external tank move was less radical, so some have proposed this as a precedent for moving BFR/BFS, but BFR and BFS are both significantly larger than the shuttle external tank.

« Last Edit: 10/03/2017 03:44 PM by Dave G »

Offline dlapine

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #18 on: 10/03/2017 03:52 PM »
Isn't the transport of the BFR only a concern until it reaches the first pad? After that, it appears that the plan is to fly it to any remote launching/landing site, much like a 747. Perhaps the question of where it gets built simply depends on where the first launch site will be. There's little reason to think that these would be built at more than one location any time soon.

I'm not ignoring that first move, but if it's really a one time thing per vehicle, it may not prove to be traumatic.

Offline Lar

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Re: Where will BFR be built?
« Reply #19 on: 10/03/2017 04:03 PM »
I suspect the first N (small integer) are built in Hawthorne. Someone posted a pic on some thread of a doorway showing that the BFS fits, with wings intact, through that particular Hawthorne door.

Elon may have to use his charm (ha!) to get approval for N one time moves... but this means the development engineers are close to their new babies.

Over time a new factory gets built in Brownsville, along with roadway improvements the way Dave G outlines. And starts cranking out 1000 copies (-N) ... as things ramp up. By the time this happens, engineering may not need to be QUITE so personally involved. And some engineers may have been hired to be in TX as well...

That's my current best guess based on the thinking in this thread and elsewhere.
"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

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