Author Topic: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started  (Read 110214 times)

Offline Alkan

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So, many people talk about the hurdles that would have to be overcome to launch something from one point on earth to another.

There is one Earth-to-Earth market that would be feasible: trips where the distance is greater than 8000 miles. Someone whose time is worth 500 dollars an hour would benefit greatly. If you cut 15 hours off of a trip, that person saves 7500 bucks. So, modestly wealthy people, essentially. That's the market you break into - wealthy people on a time crunch.

Of course, this is after BFR has safely flown a great many times and has overcome a lot of regulatory hurdles. They may not be as bad as you think: airplanes have a similar destructive potential, except you can't just hijack a rocket. So, exceptional reliability is needed, probably the hardest part.

It's after these two pieces happen that it will expand into the sub-8000 mile market.

The trick to making accurate predictions about the future, I think, is to look at principles and also see if there's actually a gradual point-A to point-B to point-C approach until you hit Z, unlike what other "futuristic" failed technology companies do which is try to go from point A to point Z and just whine about not getting the VC needed to fund these "ambitious" projects.

People criticize SpaceX for being ambitious because they're confusing SpaceX with the people who think you can go from point A to point Z in one leap and fail as a result.

So, here's what I see happening:

Point A: SpaceX's manned mission to the space station with dragon. (2018)
Point B: manned mission to the space station with BFR. (2021)
Point C: manned mission to Mars with BFR. (2024-2028)
Point D: offer trips to space for space tourists after the BFR has shown moderate safety in these other two respects. (2024-2030)
Point E: work on restructuring regulations around rocketry. (2024-2032)
Point F: create a second spaceport deliberately on the other side of planet that offers space tourism. Australia would be great. (2028-2032)
Point G: with two compatible launch pads on opposite ends of the planet, offer trips across the planet. (2030-2036)
Point H: create additional infrastructure to streamline the speed at which you are processed and launched. (2032-2040)
Point I: expand this market across the planet and shorter distances. (2036-2050)

So, over time? Decently likely. Soon? Depends on your definition of soon. I'd never have thought it was a possibility, so 15-30 years isn't that long in comparison.

Offline speedevil

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #1 on: 03/31/2018 10:41 pm »
Point A: SpaceX's manned mission to the space station with dragon. (2018)
Point B: manned mission to the space station with BFR. (2021)
Point C: manned mission to Mars with BFR. (2024-2028)
Point D: offer trips to space for space tourists after the BFR has shown moderate safety in these other two respects. (2024-2030)

Space tourism and Mars/ISS have almost nothing to do with each other.
If you actually get to the point that launch is in fact costing you $5M per launch, it becomes very rapidly economic to do 'ridiculous' levels of testing on specific vehicles - a hundred flights for example - and then recover this cost very rapidly at only say twenty people paying $5M for a week. Mars cycle numbers will always be very, very low compared to tourism or P2P.

Depending on how early BFS testing goes, it is even possible that very high numbers of flights may be gotten on specific BFS,, allowing 'early access' for an orbital tourist or three at high prices.

We'll start to know better once we see the flight rate of initial BFS tests.
Are they cautiously expanding and taking a month between a one and two hundred meter hop. Or does it happen the next day.

I think cases with some sort of passenger service starting not much later than 2020 are very optimistic, but somewhat plausible. (if BFS-Mars sticks to the 2022 schedule)

Offline John Alan

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #2 on: 03/31/2018 11:07 pm »
Your timeline seems reasonable...  :)
In my opinion...
One hurdle that needs overcome in time, is the current requirement to only launch big rockets out over bodies of water...
My long term sense is, future BFS/BFR spaceports will end up inland in the middle of nowhere...
Put them where no one really lives and no real commerce is being conducted within 30 miles...
In other words... Deserts
Spaceports/Airports in the middle of nowhere is where this will go long term I think...
Catch a morning flight from say DEN to SX1 somewhere in the desert southwest...
Ride a quick BFS passenger flight to SX2 somewhere in the central Australia desert...
Catch the flight SX2 to SYD...
Or take a slightly longer flight to Hong Kong or wherever in the general area...

Point is... I think the notion of offshore launch pads near major cities has too many regulatory hurdles to happen.
Just the NIMBY cry will stop many in their tracks ("it's too loud, blah, blah")

BUT regional spaceports worldwide collocated with an airport/train/highway/other access does seem doable to me.
Bear in mind, these spaceports are also launching tankers daily and payloads as needed along with the passenger trade... So it's a multi use facility as far as SpaceX is concerned...

Just my thoughts on this long term outlook discussion...  ;)
« Last Edit: 03/31/2018 11:24 pm by John Alan »

Offline GWH

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #3 on: 03/31/2018 11:15 pm »
I think the appeal of BFR for point to point will more likely come in the form of slower travel, not faster.

The cruise ship industry in 2015 was $23.3B, people pay a huge amount of money to take a slow form of transportation for the sake of the experience. Offer people a luxury travel package, New York to Hong Kong via an 8 hour orbit or multi day trip and you offer people an unforgettable experience that justifies a higher, and slower travel time.


Offline Alkan

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #4 on: 03/31/2018 11:20 pm »
Quote
Space tourism and Mars/ISS have almost nothing to do with each other.

There's actually really nothing fundamentally different about space tourism, so your comment is really confusing. Also, the point I was making was pretty basic: both Mars and ISS require a human rated launch vehicle.

Space tourism requires the same thing, but Mars/ISS have a higher risk allowance for failure, which is why they can be done first.

Quote
My long term sense is, future BFS/BFR spaceports will end up inland in the middle of nowhere...

The largest cities are on the ocean. You'd by flying these things offshore a good 20 miles. New York (20 million in metro) to Tokyo (37 million in metro) to London (14 million in metro with 12 million nearby in Paris).

I think the appeal of BFR for point to point will more likely come in the form of slower travel, not faster.

The cruise ship industry in 2015 was $23.3B, people pay a huge amount of money to take a slow form of transportation for the sake of the experience. Offer people a luxury travel package, New York to Hong Kong via an 8 hour orbit or multi day trip and you offer people an unforgettable experience that justifies a higher, and slower travel time.

This is simply space tourism, which I listed as one of the things that will make *fast* point to point a reality. The starting point could be one or two space ports in Asia, one or two in The United States and one or two in Europe. That's actually what I alluded to in my post when I said set up two space tourism spots, say one near Tokyo and one near New York city.

Offline Bob Shaw

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #5 on: 03/31/2018 11:40 pm »
Has anyone considered the link between BFS-class vehicles and space elevators? Beanstalks are likely to be limited to equatorial locations in the near-term, and if possible at all - but BFS 'feeders' to/from the ground level beanstalk hubs might make a certain amount of sense, or even high altitude BFS-class dropoffs from the beanstalk.

Online Robotbeat

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #6 on: 03/31/2018 11:43 pm »
BFR is cheaper than a space elevator.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline Bob Shaw

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #7 on: 03/31/2018 11:46 pm »
BFR is cheaper than a space elevator.

Certainly.

My suggestion related to classic hub and spoke airliner methodology; I wonder if there is some natural fit between BFS-class vehicles and elevators, and ask if it has been previously considered.

Offline Alkan

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #8 on: 03/31/2018 11:58 pm »
BFR is cheaper than a space elevator.

BFR also has zero "unobtainiums." Right now it's unclear that a space elevator is even feasible. Furthermore, you have a large area of cable to expose to micrometeorites.

BFR is cheaper and simpler, by a lot.


My suggestion related to classic hub and spoke airliner methodology; I wonder if there is some natural fit between BFS-class vehicles and elevators, and ask if it has been previously considered.


No, because space elevators don't exist and might remain the realm of science fiction forever. Also, launching the thing is terribly difficult, and if it falls out of orbit and gets "wrapped up" you have a giant rope that could wrap around the earth and cause a lot of destruction.

I was an elevator proponent when I was in high school, before I knew how science really went.

Offline speedevil

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #9 on: 04/01/2018 12:17 am »
Quote
Space tourism and Mars/ISS have almost nothing to do with each other.

There's actually really nothing fundamentally different about space tourism, so your comment is really confusing. Also, the point I was making was pretty basic: both Mars and ISS require a human rated launch vehicle.

Space tourism requires the same thing, but Mars/ISS have a higher risk allowance for failure, which is why they can be done first.

Mars can never meaningfully help with most aspects of reducing the risks for P2P.
Life support is completely doable at zero risk for LEO for a day or two, and P2P by either venting, or not leaking - for example, as the absolute worst case life support failure other than wholesale instant pressure loss can be dealt with by deorbiting at a suitable landing site, or just logging it as something to be repaired on normal landing.

All you care about with P2P and tourism is launch/landing safety - anything else is recoverable by just getting back to earth.

Mars doesn't help as it's not doing that very often, and for an amount of money significantly less than constructing a BFS, you can likely fly more than the total number of Mars and Earth reentries till 2030 or so, and do it in several months.


Online Robotbeat

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #10 on: 04/01/2018 12:24 am »
Mars will likely use P2P for covering large distances.

Any kind of launch demand improves the case for P2P as it allows reduction in launch costs & increase in reliability through practice.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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

Offline Alkan

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #11 on: 04/01/2018 12:34 am »
Quote
Space tourism and Mars/ISS have almost nothing to do with each other.

There's actually really nothing fundamentally different about space tourism, so your comment is really confusing. Also, the point I was making was pretty basic: both Mars and ISS require a human rated launch vehicle.

Space tourism requires the same thing, but Mars/ISS have a higher risk allowance for failure, which is why they can be done first.

Mars can never meaningfully help with most aspects of reducing the risks for P2P.

The point isn't that Mars is going to help with point to point directly, but it will provide a large volume of launches to test the BFR to rack up a good safety record.

Mars will likely use P2P for covering large distances.

Any kind of launch demand improves the case for P2P as it allows reduction in launch costs & increase in reliability through practice.

Much, much later on. You'll want to keep everything confined to one area if possible. If resources are found elsewhere that could open up a supply route, but I doubt you'd use the BFR just for that, since the supply route would be best done with robotic cargo vehicles.
« Last Edit: 04/01/2018 12:45 am by Alkan »

Offline speedevil

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #12 on: 04/01/2018 12:40 am »
The point isn't that Mars is going to help with point to point directly, but it will provide a large volume of launches to test the BFR to rack up a good safety record.
But it won't.
Mars will provide in 2022 at most, 12 or so representative BFR launches, with none until 2024.

Between 2021, and 2024, even in the absence of other demand, Starlink is going to want around 50 launches.
The whole point of BFR is rapid recyclability. If it can't do 50 launches a year, the architecture as designed has fundamentally failed, and P2P isn't happening on a meaningful scale.
If it can be rapidly recycled, you can do more launches than are likely out to 2028 or so on the whole fleet, on one vehicle, in one year.

Offline Alkan

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #13 on: 04/01/2018 12:54 am »
The point isn't that Mars is going to help with point to point directly, but it will provide a large volume of launches to test the BFR to rack up a good safety record.
But it won't.
Mars will provide in 2022 at most, 12 or so representative BFR launches, with none until 2024.

Between 2021, and 2024, even in the absence of other demand, Starlink is going to want around 50 launches.
The whole point of BFR is rapid recyclability. If it can't do 50 launches a year, the architecture as designed has fundamentally failed, and P2P isn't happening on a meaningful scale.
If it can be rapidly recycled, you can do more launches than are likely out to 2028 or so on the whole fleet, on one vehicle, in one year.

I'm not expecting the BFR to meet passenger-level safety requirements for a decade after it starts flying. So, the Mars flights of 2026, 2028, 2030, etc. will be useful.

Online Robotbeat

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #14 on: 04/01/2018 01:05 am »
Bingo. Point to point for passengers is gonna be really hard to get to close safety-wise. Gonna need a really long flight history, like thousands or tens of thousands of launches.

Oh, and it is possible to send cargo to Mars in between the planetary windows, and certainly possible to stage cargo or propellant in high Earth orbit in between planetary windows.
« Last Edit: 04/01/2018 01:06 am by Robotbeat »
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Offline speedevil

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #15 on: 04/01/2018 01:50 am »
I'm not expecting the BFR to meet passenger-level safety requirements for a decade after it starts flying. So, the Mars flights of 2026, 2028, 2030, etc. will be useful.

Twenty manned (or so) launches that are not relevant in many ways to earth operations are utterly irrelevant compared to hundreds of launches on earth, with directly earth-relevant entries and landings, from the perspective of safety in that timeline.

If BFS actually hits the intended launch cost and rate for P2P - regardless of if it can in fact launch passengers, you can do a thousand test flights a year for under a billion dollars cost to SpaceX (with some incidental moon missions and launches thrown in free).

Passenger rating does not require airliner like safety for space tourism.
It requires you to inform your passengers of the risk. (in the USA).
If you in fact do a hundred tests of your vehicle that you are planning to orbit tourists in, that gets a very good and obvious safety record.

Offline freddo411

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #16 on: 04/01/2018 02:40 am »
Here's my out of the box ideas for using the BFR non-traditionally:

* P2P landing in Kenya.   High end tourists would be interested in visiting Africa, but it take literally days to get there currently.
* P2P landing in Australia.   Same.
* P2P landing in Antarctica.   Very hard to visit there currently.

* Tourist flights into orbit.   These could be price differentiated between 2 hours ... 2 days .. 2 weeks.

* Tourist flights to the moon, via transfer to an appropriate craft

Offline speedevil

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #17 on: 04/01/2018 04:25 am »
Here's my out of the box ideas for using the BFR non-traditionally:

* P2P landing in Kenya.   High end tourists would be interested in visiting Africa, but it take literally days to get there currently.<snip>
* Tourist flights to the moon, via transfer to an appropriate craft

Kenya is 'out' - you want a very politically stable area, with no security concerns as far as you can make it, or the legal problems around security on your rockets and 'exporting' the technology goes up.

Once you get over perhaps 80 tons of passengers/equipment - perhaps a couple of hundred to the moon - BFS looks very close to an optimal moon lander, the 'parasitic' weight of it gets to be less important, especially set against the operational simplicity of lack of transfers of passengers.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #18 on: 04/01/2018 05:24 am »
Here's my out of the box ideas for using the BFR non-traditionally:

* P2P landing in Kenya.   High end tourists would be interested in visiting Africa, but it take literally days to get there currently.

Wrong.  I just picked a random date and asked Kayak for flights from San Francisco (near where I live) to Nairobi.  It found me one that takes 19 hours, 20 minutes.

* P2P landing in Australia.   Same.

Again, wrong.  14 hours, 40 minutes San Francisco to Sydney on Kayak.

* P2P landing in Antarctica.   Very hard to visit there currently.

That's because it's extremely expensive to maintain infrastructure in Antarctica.  That means the prices for regular flights would be very high, and there wouldn't be enough demand at those high prices.

Exactly the same would be true of point-to-point BFR flights to Antarctica -- they would be much more expensive that flights to other places because it would be much more expensive to maintain the infrastructure there.
« Last Edit: 04/01/2018 05:25 am by ChrisWilson68 »

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: How BFR Earth-to-Earth Might Actually Get Started
« Reply #19 on: 04/01/2018 05:28 am »
I think the appeal of BFR for point to point will more likely come in the form of slower travel, not faster.

The cruise ship industry in 2015 was $23.3B, people pay a huge amount of money to take a slow form of transportation for the sake of the experience. Offer people a luxury travel package, New York to Hong Kong via an 8 hour orbit or multi day trip and you offer people an unforgettable experience that justifies a higher, and slower travel time.

Cruise ships end at their starting points.  That's the whole point of a cruise ship as opposed to an ocean liner.  Ocean liners died out.

The equivalent of a cruise ship for BFR would be to go into orbit for a while, then come back to land where the flight took off.  In other words, space tourism, not point-to-point.


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