Author Topic: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?  (Read 61543 times)

Offline DanClemmensen

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Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« on: 01/25/2022 04:18 pm »
I think we need a separate thread on this topic since it has popped up in several threads where it does not really belong.

If BC is going to continue to manufacture boosters and Starships, then there must be a cost-effective way for them to leave BC if there are to be any other launch sites.  SpaceX continues to expand the BC production facilites, building out the "wide bay" to add to the "high bay" and roughlty triple the final assembly capacity, so it does not seem likely that they intend to shut down production at BC.

My uneducated wild guess: production capacity will reach one unit (either booster or ship) per week.   Please comment if you can provide a better estimate as this is based on nothing whatsoever.

There are several possible ways for a ship or booster to leave BC. So far, we have only seen physical evidence for one of them: launch from the OLT or the suborbital pad. the problem here is that the FAA ha not granted permission for sufficient launches to meet the production rate.

Possible methods:
   *launch to orbit. Works for ship but not for the booster, and (apparently) to be licensed for only 5 per year
   *suborbital "hop". Works for both ship and booster, but no evidence for a landing site under construction anywhere except BC
       *Phobos and Deimos are candidates but no evidence that they are being built out for this yet.
   *barge. No evidence for any construction of a dock, and the nearest candidate is about 16 miles away.
   *use a hovercraft over the beach. That's a big hovercraft. No evidence that SpaceX is looking for such a craft.

Related issue: can a booster be shipped horizontally? can a ship be shipped horizontally?  My guess: certainly for the ship since it is designed for lateral g forces during re-entry and descent.  Booster is not designed for this, but it might be feasible if the tanks are pressurized.

Offline DreamyPickle

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #1 on: 01/25/2022 04:22 pm »
Roll on an SPMT to the industrial area south of the Brownsville canal and then load on a barge.

They need to close more roads but that should still be easier than anything involving flight.

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #2 on: 01/25/2022 04:30 pm »
Roll on an SPMT to the industrial area south of the Brownsville canal and then load on a barge.

They need to close more roads but that should still be easier than anything involving flight.
Are you assuming a horizontal move or a vertical move?

That is a distance of 16 miles by road. the move would take about 8 hours at 2 mph, which is probably the average speed. 4 mph is a brisk walk and I don't think they usually go that fast.  They would need to do this at least once a week if my production rate guesstimate is correct.

For SpaceX, it's not easier than flight. They need to be very efficient at flight, and they will probably to static fire on each product anyway, so a hop is not a huge increment. The only question is where the hop should go.

Offline philw1776

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #3 on: 01/25/2022 08:30 pm »
Not that I think this will happen at least in next few years but SH has enough delta V to hop to KSC and avoid re-entry overheat by using a large delta V re-entry burn making it less of a re-entry stress than an F9 booster RTLS or barge landing

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« Last Edit: 01/25/2022 08:32 pm by philw1776 »
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Offline Conexion Espacial

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #4 on: 01/25/2022 08:48 pm »
SpaceX seems to have other plans for Roberts Road, almost all of us are sure that inside this big facility they will bring some production stuff for Starship, also, surely SpaceX could be planning full production of the vehicles at KSC and not rely on flights from Boca Chica.


I think the likelihood of SpaceX getting their vehicles from Boca Chica to KSC either by air, land or sea is diminishing as we see more and more construction plans at KSC.
« Last Edit: 01/25/2022 08:49 pm by Conexion Espacial »
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Offline jimvela

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #5 on: 01/25/2022 09:14 pm »
SpaceX seems to have other plans for Roberts Road, almost all of us are sure that inside this big facility they will bring some production stuff for Starship, also, surely SpaceX could be planning full production of the vehicles at KSC and not rely on flights from Boca Chica.


I think the likelihood of SpaceX getting their vehicles from Boca Chica to KSC either by air, land or sea is diminishing as we see more and more construction plans at KSC.

The whole discussion seems to fail on the lack of understanding the full scale of what SpaceX intends to do in terms of SS/SH production.  It's a big step away from single digit per month production. They likely will need multiple facilities going flat out to meet the full number of vehicles that they intend to produce.

Secondarily, the discussion fails on the handling of recovered vehicles as well.  There will be a bunch of them if SpaceX plans succeed.  There will be a need to house/process/maintain the fleet.  A big step towards the airline type model where a limited number of factories keep cranking out vehicles.  The vehicles are then maintained away from the factory and closer to points of use.

I do expect vehicles to be produced, flown and then recovered to a location other than build site.  SS in particular will have a lot of flexibility in this regard.  Getting produced vehicles-particularly boosters-  out to offshore platforms does seem to imply that an initial hop for a new booster might go from build site to offshore platform as a standard practice.

At the build cost they are shooting for it's hard to imagine that the other transit options don't introduce a major cost penalty to the operational system.  Perhaps build, checkout, static fire, hop, recovery, and only then an operational (stacked) launch for a new booster- one that is then flight proven via an initial hop.
« Last Edit: 01/25/2022 09:20 pm by jimvela »

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #6 on: 01/25/2022 09:41 pm »
SpaceX seems to have other plans for Roberts Road, almost all of us are sure that inside this big facility they will bring some production stuff for Starship, also, surely SpaceX could be planning full production of the vehicles at KSC and not rely on flights from Boca Chica.


I think the likelihood of SpaceX getting their vehicles from Boca Chica to KSC either by air, land or sea is diminishing as we see more and more construction plans at KSC.
The whole discussion seems to fail on the lack of understanding the full scale of what SpaceX intends to do in terms of SS/SH production.  It's a big step away from single digit per month production. They likely will need multiple facilities going flat out to meet the full number of vehicles that they intend to produce.

Secondarily, the discussion fails on the handling of recovered vehicles as well.  There will be a bunch of them if SpaceX plans succeed.  There will be a need to house/process/maintain the fleet.  A big step towards the airline type model where a limited number of factories keep cranking out vehicles.  The vehicles are then maintained away from the factory and closer to points of use.

I do expect vehicles to be produced, flown and then recovered to a location other than build site.  SS in particular will have a lot of flexibility in this regard.  Getting produced vehicles-particularly boosters-  out to offshore platforms does seem to imply that an initial hop for a new booster might go from build site to offshore platform as a standard practice.

At the build cost they are shooting for it's hard to imagine that the other transit options don't introduce a major cost penalty to the operational system.  Perhaps build, checkout, static fire, hop, recovery, and only then an operational (stacked) launch for a new booster- one that is then flight proven via an initial hop.

Exactly.   Build at the factory, "ship" them by hopping, use them at multiple launch/landing sites, just like airliners.

Note that once in full production each SH and SS will hop out of the factory and will never come back except possibly for refurbishment. There will be relatively few SH compared to SS. An SH can be reused several times a day, so probably each Mechazilla in the world needs perhaps a total of three SH to keep that Mechazilla fully occupied. More precisely, Each Mechazilla needs two SH, and a site with one or more Mechazillas needs one spare for the site as a whole. By contrast, SSs have longer missions, so SS production is driven by the mission mix. Suborbital SSs need no SH support, tankers to LEO probably need at least two orbits (3 hours?), crew shuttles to LEO need several orbits, cargo SS need to be loaded, etc. And of course not all SS return to Earth at all.  This means that improving efficiency of SS delivery has higher ROI than improving efficiency of SH delivery.

Online TomH

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #7 on: 01/26/2022 06:20 am »
The skin of the SLS core stage is so thin that the boosters cannot lift it from the bottom at launch. The booster thrust is transferred into an upper thrust beam at the top of the core stage. Nevertheless, the pressurized SLS core is transported horizontally via the Pegasus barge.

I do not understand why a pressurized SH or SS could not also be transported in like manner. Many here claim that they cannot, but I have not yet read an explanation that fully explains why.

Offline robot_enthusiast

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #8 on: 01/26/2022 10:14 am »
The skin of the SLS core stage is so thin that the boosters cannot lift it from the bottom at launch. The booster thrust is transferred into an upper thrust beam at the top of the core stage. Nevertheless, the pressurized SLS core is transported horizontally via the Pegasus barge.

I do not understand why a pressurized SH or SS could not also be transported in like manner. Many here claim that they cannot, but I have not yet read an explanation that fully explains why.
It would rely on constant pressurization, but more importantly it would require a massive crane at both ends of the trip and enormous specialty jigs for safely rotating it. It would also make otherwise accessible routes impossible due to the massive turning radius it would have. What problem is transporting it horizontal even trying to solve? It won't fit under powerlines or overpasses vertical or horizontal, so it doesn't make any otherwise inaccessible routes possible.

Offline DreamyPickle

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #9 on: 01/26/2022 11:39 am »
It would rely on constant pressurization, but more importantly it would require a massive crane at both ends of the trip and enormous specialty jigs for safely rotating it. It would also make otherwise accessible routes impossible due to the massive turning radius it would have. What problem is transporting it horizontal even trying to solve? It won't fit under powerlines or overpasses vertical or horizontal, so it doesn't make any otherwise inaccessible routes possible.
This might never become relevant but horizontal transportation would make it possible to send boosters through the Panama Canal.

Based on statement from SpaceX they agree with you that there is no reason to support anything other than upright transport.

Offline edzieba

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #10 on: 01/26/2022 02:35 pm »
Roll on an SPMT to the industrial area south of the Brownsville canal and then load on a barge.

They need to close more roads but that should still be easier than anything involving flight.
No road closures needed at all, just as there are no road closures for SPMT moves to/from the launch site. Heck of a potential traffic backup behind a slow moving wide load (port traffic would need to divert to the north access), but no road closures. SpaceX already contract Roll-Lift, whose bread and butter is moving over land and over ocean objects far larger and FAR heavier than super heavy or Starship. Even if you added the constraint of upright transportation they could get vehicles from Brownsville port to LC-39A via the Turning Basin without any major difficulty.

That makes transport of vehicles from BC to LC-39A a COTS service that can be purchased rather than some new capability to develop. That puts it far ahead of "just fly the vehicles suborbitally" as if that didn't require an entire new legislative regime to handle, which is just as likely to have the same requirements to meet as orbital launches. Or in other words: if you can get a license for X suborbital BC-to-cape transport flights per year, and X>5, you are equally placed to get a license for X orbital launches from BC per year and eliminate the whole vehicle transport step altogether. Turning that one suborbital flights into multiple ones (BC to platform, platform to destination, possibly with more than one platform in between) makes the process even more complex and expensive in terms of administrative overhead and adds the costs of building and operating one or more platforms - and requires said platforms to be ready to catch, re-load propellants, and launch vehicles, while they are instead currently in mothballs without even the demo work completed yet.

Remember that the '5 launches per year' figure is not some immutable hard limit chiselled into a stone tablet and cast into the base of launch mount. If you're thinking "But that would require a WR to the current EA!" when it comes to applying for a license for additional launches, so would ferry flights, as those are not mentioned in the EA either.

Offline spacenut

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #11 on: 01/26/2022 02:51 pm »
The Saturn V was transported horizontally via barge to the Cape.  There is no reason why Superheavy and Starship can't be barged.  If it takes pressurization, and special holders to keep it in tack, then why not.  They could then take them to the west coast through the Panama Canal for west coast launches.  East coast launches, and the offshore launches.  Special clamps or rings could be bolted to the rockets to lift with one crane and lower onto a carrier, then laid on its side.  Horizontal is not impossible, and may be much cheaper in the long run.  Liquid Methane and Oxygen, I believe would be more expensive than hopping from Boca Chica to offshore. 

A new road to the beach via the canal might also be necessary, as well as putting all powerlines underground.  Some of this may be paid for by Brownsville or Texas to keep the production rates up and jobs for Brownsville and south Texas. 

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #12 on: 01/26/2022 03:43 pm »
Roll on an SPMT to the industrial area south of the Brownsville canal and then load on a barge.

They need to close more roads but that should still be easier than anything involving flight.
No road closures needed at all, just as there are no road closures for SPMT moves to/from the launch site. Heck of a potential traffic backup behind a slow moving wide load (port traffic would need to divert to the north access), but no road closures. SpaceX already contract Roll-Lift, whose bread and butter is moving over land and over ocean objects far larger and FAR heavier than super heavy or Starship. Even if you added the constraint of upright transportation they could get vehicles from Brownsville port to LC-39A via the Turning Basin without any major difficulty.

That makes transport of vehicles from BC to LC-39A a COTS service that can be purchased rather than some new capability to develop. That puts it far ahead of "just fly the vehicles suborbitally" as if that didn't require an entire new legislative regime to handle, which is just as likely to have the same requirements to meet as orbital launches. Or in other words: if you can get a license for X suborbital BC-to-cape transport flights per year, and X>5, you are equally placed to get a license for X orbital launches from BC per year and eliminate the whole vehicle transport step altogether. Turning that one suborbital flights into multiple ones (BC to platform, platform to destination, possibly with more than one platform in between) makes the process even more complex and expensive in terms of administrative overhead and adds the costs of building and operating one or more platforms - and requires said platforms to be ready to catch, re-load propellants, and launch vehicles, while they are instead currently in mothballs without even the demo work completed yet.

Remember that the '5 launches per year' figure is not some immutable hard limit chiselled into a stone tablet and cast into the base of launch mount. If you're thinking "But that would require a WR to the current EA!" when it comes to applying for a license for additional launches, so would ferry flights, as those are not mentioned in the EA either.
My question was restricted to just getting out of BC. One way to do this is to hop to a close-by offshore platform, maybe 50 km offshore. This is a low-energy hop with nearly empty propellant tanks, so only a few Raptors lit and therefore less noise. Should be easy to get approvals. The unsolved problem here is the lack of any evidence for a deployment of the platform in 2022.

How you get from the offshore platform to other destinations is a follow-on problem, but if the platform is in place there are several feasible solutions. I favor a longer hop, series of hops,  or flight to LEO. These only require additional approvals that had better be straightforward, because if you cannot get approvals for this form an offshore platform you will have trouble launching from anywhere at all. However, If you prefer a barge from the platform, there are no obvious logistical issues (i.e., no roads or docks to build).

Barge economics: (most coats are made up. Please feel free to improve them. wild guess: barge trip is $1 million including rigging and drayage) The Saturn V and SLS were/are extremely expensive vehicles, and there were so few of them that each move was effectively a unique economic and logistical problem to solve. A total of 13 Saturn Vs were launched in a span of seven years: about 2 per year.  SLS will launch less than one per year. The cost of a barge trip was a minor increment on the huge cost of manufacture and launch. By contrast, SH and SS are inexpensive and will be in series production at (wild guess) rate of one per week. The cost of a barge trip will be an appreciable percentage of the cost of manufacture and delivery. An SLS costs $2 billion, so a $1 million barge trip is 0.05% of the cost of manufacturing and delivery. An SH or SS costs maybe $50 million so the barge trip is 2% of the cost.  On a yearly basis,  the SLS trips cost $1 million/yr, while SpaceX would be spending $50 million/yr.

Hop economics: If you assume SpaceX wants to static fire each new SS and SH, then the incremental cost of the first hop is near zero at BC and might be cheaper than de-mounting the SS or SH to put it on an SPMT to begin the move to a barge. The cost of each additional hop along a chain of platforms to a destination will be higher, and delivery of an SS via LEO will cost $2 million.

Offline CameronD

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #13 on: 01/26/2022 09:09 pm »
Roll on an SPMT to the industrial area south of the Brownsville canal and then load on a barge.

They need to close more roads but that should still be easier than anything involving flight.
Are you assuming a horizontal move or a vertical move?

That is a distance of 16 miles by road. the move would take about 8 hours at 2 mph, which is probably the average speed. 4 mph is a brisk walk and I don't think they usually go that fast.  They would need to do this at least once a week if my production rate guesstimate is correct.

Don't discount using rail for something like this.

If they could get permission to build a narrow-gauge rail line from their manufacturing facility to the canal (along the road verge typically) they could easily achieve horizontal relocation to a barge without any interruption to major roads and population at their own pace (certainly more than 2mph).  Electric engines are a thing too, so it could be as green as they want it to be.
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline EL_DIABLO

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #14 on: 01/26/2022 09:31 pm »
Roll on an SPMT to the industrial area south of the Brownsville canal and then load on a barge.

They need to close more roads but that should still be easier than anything involving flight.
No road closures needed at all, just as there are no road closures for SPMT moves to/from the launch site. Heck of a potential traffic backup behind a slow moving wide load (port traffic would need to divert to the north access), but no road closures. SpaceX already contract Roll-Lift, whose bread and butter is moving over land and over ocean objects far larger and FAR heavier than super heavy or Starship. Even if you added the constraint of upright transportation they could get vehicles from Brownsville port to LC-39A via the Turning Basin without any major difficulty.

That makes transport of vehicles from BC to LC-39A a COTS service that can be purchased rather than some new capability to develop. That puts it far ahead of "just fly the vehicles suborbitally" as if that didn't require an entire new legislative regime to handle, which is just as likely to have the same requirements to meet as orbital launches. Or in other words: if you can get a license for X suborbital BC-to-cape transport flights per year, and X>5, you are equally placed to get a license for X orbital launches from BC per year and eliminate the whole vehicle transport step altogether. Turning that one suborbital flights into multiple ones (BC to platform, platform to destination, possibly with more than one platform in between) makes the process even more complex and expensive in terms of administrative overhead and adds the costs of building and operating one or more platforms - and requires said platforms to be ready to catch, re-load propellants, and launch vehicles, while they are instead currently in mothballs without even the demo work completed yet.

Remember that the '5 launches per year' figure is not some immutable hard limit chiselled into a stone tablet and cast into the base of launch mount. If you're thinking "But that would require a WR to the current EA!" when it comes to applying for a license for additional launches, so would ferry flights, as those are not mentioned in the EA either.

What is the point of shipping them from BC to KSC? It seems quite clear to me they'll manufacture locally in KSC.

Roll on an SPMT to the industrial area south of the Brownsville canal and then load on a barge.

They need to close more roads but that should still be easier than anything involving flight.
Are you assuming a horizontal move or a vertical move?

That is a distance of 16 miles by road. the move would take about 8 hours at 2 mph, which is probably the average speed. 4 mph is a brisk walk and I don't think they usually go that fast.  They would need to do this at least once a week if my production rate guesstimate is correct.

Don't discount using rail for something like this.

If they could get permission to build a narrow-gauge rail line from their manufacturing facility to the canal (along the road verge typically) they could easily achieve horizontal relocation to a barge without any interruption to major roads and population at their own pace (certainly more than 2mph).  Electric engines are a thing too, so it could be as green as they want it to be.

Not going to happen, it would have to go through the NWR and is costly.

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #15 on: 01/26/2022 09:52 pm »

What is the point of shipping them from BC to KSC? It seems quite clear to me they'll manufacture locally in KSC.


My question is about shipping from BC. If there is no way to ship from BC, then why are they building a factory in BC? Do you think the BC factory will be abandoned? If the BC factory is merely a prototype to be abandoned, then why are they expanding it?

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #16 on: 01/26/2022 09:57 pm »
Roll on an SPMT to the industrial area south of the Brownsville canal and then load on a barge.

They need to close more roads but that should still be easier than anything involving flight.
Are you assuming a horizontal move or a vertical move?

That is a distance of 16 miles by road. the move would take about 8 hours at 2 mph, which is probably the average speed. 4 mph is a brisk walk and I don't think they usually go that fast.  They would need to do this at least once a week if my production rate guesstimate is correct.

Don't discount using rail for something like this.

If they could get permission to build a narrow-gauge rail line from their manufacturing facility to the canal (along the road verge typically) they could easily achieve horizontal relocation to a barge without any interruption to major roads and population at their own pace (certainly more than 2mph).  Electric engines are a thing too, so it could be as green as they want it to be.

They apparently intend to be in series production of SS and SH within about six months. I was hoping we would see evidence of their plans for shipping the factory output. Have you seen any evidence (permitting, rights-of-way,etc.) for a narrow-gauge railway? Any evidence for a system to  lay an SH or SS down on its side?

Offline ninjaneer

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #17 on: 01/26/2022 09:57 pm »
Why not use a hoverbarge to get it out of the estuary?  It's not new technology and doesn't need a channel.  The oil industry is familiar with them.

http://www.hovertranssolutions.com/

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #18 on: 01/26/2022 10:00 pm »
Why not use a hoverbarge to get it out of the estuary?  It's not new technology and doesn't need a channel.  The oil industry is familiar with them.

http://www.hovertranssolutions.com/
Very interesting. Where would this vehicle come onshore and how would it get to a location where an SS or SH be loaded?

Offline EL_DIABLO

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Re: Shipping Starships from Boca Chica?
« Reply #19 on: 01/26/2022 10:03 pm »

What is the point of shipping them from BC to KSC? It seems quite clear to me they'll manufacture locally in KSC.


My question is about shipping from BC. If there is no way to ship from BC, then why are they building a factory in BC? Do you think the BC factory will be abandoned? If the BC factory is merely a prototype to be abandoned, then why are they expanding it?

I get your point, I was replying to edzieba who was specifically referring to BC-KSC shipping.

Sub orbital hops to Phobos and Deimos would be my answer. I think you're not seeing work on them because the need to launch that often is still far out, short to mid term BC and KSC should be enough.

EDIT: I also like ninjaneer's idea. I did ventilate the opinion of dredging a channel in the south bay previously as that is not part of the NWR. However they are still wetlands so not sure how feasible that is.
« Last Edit: 01/26/2022 10:06 pm by EL_DIABLO »

 

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