Poll

Starship hasn't had another flight since May 2021 because....

It has many problems, none of which flight testing will help with.
28 (27.7%)
They didn't want to steal NASA's thunder over the SLS launch when they make orbit.
0 (0%)
They've had to accummulate enough of the same design of Raptors
4 (4%)
It has no problems. They are just waiting for Stage 0 to mature enough
41 (40.6%)
Something else.
24 (23.8%)
Starship is done but FAA license is extra-tough this time around.
4 (4%)

Total Members Voted: 101

Voting closed: 04/16/2023 11:53 pm


Author Topic: Starship hasn't had another flight since May 2021 because....  (Read 7944 times)

Offline john smith 19

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We all know how keen Musk is to get things moving and to keep them moving. So 21 months in "Elon time" is a long time not to do something.

So I thought of a few reasons why nothing has taken off for quite a while, with the fall back "something else" option in case none of them really covers what some of you think

Votes are open for 30 days, so hopefully by the time it closes they will have flown again.

As usual. No vote. No show of the results.
« Last Edit: 03/17/2023 10:54 pm by john smith 19 »
MCT ITS BFR SS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFSC engined CFRP SS structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of Earth & Mars atmospheric flight.First flight to Mars by end of 2022 TBC. T&C apply. Trust nothing. Run your own #s "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" R. Simberg."Competitve" means cheaper ¬cheap SCramjet proposed 1956. First +ve thrust 2004. US R&D spend to date > $10Bn. #deployed designs. Zero.

Offline Tomness

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Something Else, it's pretty simple, all the testing before that date was to secure Lunar Lander Contract. Now that they have it tentatively, everything after is up actually maturely bring the the program online in an more industry standard way.

Offline freddo411

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Many things.

Stage zero build out

Regulator inertia

Maturing raptors

Offline whitelancer64

Another option needs to be added:

They have been focused on doing an orbital launch of Starship and only want to do that. There's a whole host of things that needed, and some things still need, to be done before they can do that.
"One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree -- make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to." - Elon Musk
"There are lies, damned lies, and launch schedules." - Larry J

Offline butters

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I would say generally that the engines are more mature than the vehicles which are more mature than the ground systems. The late maturation of the ground systems imposed changes on both the engines and the vehicles, which closed the gap somewhat, but far from completely.

Whatever else they're working on, like Starship nose structural testing at Massey's, doesn't seem to be holding up the launch attempt, while it seems they'll be working on getting the ground systems up to a "minimum viable" status (sans deluge) until days before for launch. That's clearly the pacing item, and it's been the clear pacing item since at least the July 2022 kaboom under Booster 7.

The upshot of the delay is that the Raptor program is way farther along than SpaceX probably imagined it would be prior to the first launch attempt, with an impressively prolific test campaign in McGregor. Engine production rate also seems plenty sufficient going into orbital flight testing.

Online chopsticks

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Stage zero.

Offline DeimosDream

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50/40/10 raptors/stage-zero/heat-shield.

Voted raptors to view results. (It was 6-months before the 14-engine static fire, with an all-engine static fire only happening last month). A lot of that was stage-zero, but I'm inclined to think most of that was raptors.

Offline Lee Jay

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Stage zero.

What about stage 1?  It hasn't flown yet and only just recently completed a not-quite-full static fire.

Offline Greg Hullender

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I think they're just being really cautious because an RUD of the fully fueled rocket would be so destructive.

Offline ulm_atms

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I went with something else.

Starship was 100% new.  The facts, at least from the outside perscective, is that the Starship first round of flight testing went better then most thought it would, and they learned just about everything they could without the rest of the stack.  So since that testing, it's been everything else needing to be done to do orbital testing.  That's my take anyways.

I do think that small boom did make them step back and slow down some though.  I think they got lucky on that TBH.

Offline john smith 19

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OK I've added an option for people who think the FAA license is an issue. 

In hindsight I should have added this one when I set it up.

I know a lot of people don't think the FAA is a big problem but where launch is concerned what they say goes.  :(

If they aren't fully happy nothing will be leaving the pad anytime soon.

I hope no one thinking "So what. Launch anyway. They're only bureaucrats." If they are they should realise that can happen only once

After that you are done. No more launches in the US. Ever.  And ITAR will prevent Musk moving offshore and setting up again. BTW that would go for anyone else as well.
MCT ITS BFR SS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFSC engined CFRP SS structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of Earth & Mars atmospheric flight.First flight to Mars by end of 2022 TBC. T&C apply. Trust nothing. Run your own #s "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" R. Simberg."Competitve" means cheaper ¬cheap SCramjet proposed 1956. First +ve thrust 2004. US R&D spend to date > $10Bn. #deployed designs. Zero.

Offline john smith 19

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50/40/10 raptors/stage-zero/heat-shield.

Voted raptors to view results. (It was 6-months before the 14-engine static fire, with an all-engine static fire only happening last month). A lot of that was stage-zero, but I'm inclined to think most of that was raptors.

The thing is I think that when you're breaking records for things like Pch and Isp every week (day?)  it's kind of addictive.

The temptation to just push things just a smidgeon more and get that extra few secs of Isp could be quite overwhelming. Has Raptor II got to Mark 37 yet?  :)

It's tough to tell people "OK folks, you've done great. Youve smashed all records, but development is now complete. Now we start making lots of them. Save any new ideas you get for preliminary planning on Raptor III" (does anyone doubt there will be a Raptor III?)
« Last Edit: 03/18/2023 01:47 pm by john smith 19 »
MCT ITS BFR SS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFSC engined CFRP SS structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of Earth & Mars atmospheric flight.First flight to Mars by end of 2022 TBC. T&C apply. Trust nothing. Run your own #s "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" R. Simberg."Competitve" means cheaper ¬cheap SCramjet proposed 1956. First +ve thrust 2004. US R&D spend to date > $10Bn. #deployed designs. Zero.

Online chopsticks

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Stage zero.

What about stage 1?  It hasn't flown yet and only just recently completed a not-quite-full static fire.
Stage zero has to work before stage one. They haven't even been able to test stage 1 because the GSE stuff hasn't been ready for it.

Online chopsticks

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I would also suggest that the wording "It has no problems. They are just waiting for Stage 0 to mature enough" is somewhat problematic, since that implies that if the pacing item is stage zero, there are no issues with the vehicle(s). That is obviously not true, as evidenced by some of the recent structural issues with the ships, and also with B4 (could likely not have flown due to a design flaw). Assuming that stage zero would have been completed earlier, the pacing item likely would have been the vehicles.

Offline whitelancer64

OK I've added an option for people who think the FAA license is an issue. 

In hindsight I should have added this one when I set it up.

I know a lot of people don't think the FAA is a big problem but where launch is concerned what they say goes.  :(

If they aren't fully happy nothing will be leaving the pad anytime soon.

I hope no one thinking "So what. Launch anyway. They're only bureaucrats." If they are they should realise that can happen only once

After that you are done. No more launches in the US. Ever.  And ITAR will prevent Musk moving offshore and setting up again. BTW that would go for anyone else as well.

The FAA launch license is not and never has been the main holdup.
"One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree -- make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to." - Elon Musk
"There are lies, damned lies, and launch schedules." - Larry J

Offline john smith 19

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The FAA launch license is not and never has been the main holdup.
I'd agree. SX have engaged with the FAA and they in turn seem fairly understanding. I'd argue that anything with big SRB's attached is much more problematic.  :( Great weapon systems though. :)

OTOH this will be the biggest LV ever built (was the N1 bigger?) and the first of that size fueled by methane.  Fully loaded that gives the potential for a very big bang. FOAK situations are inclined to make regulators nervous,  :( although that could just be my impression of reading through stuff on nuclear reactor licensing.

However this is an opinion poll so it's trying to get a sense of what people think is the long pole in the tent (and maybe sort the list of "long poles"  :)  )
« Last Edit: 03/19/2023 07:37 am by john smith 19 »
MCT ITS BFR SS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFSC engined CFRP SS structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of Earth & Mars atmospheric flight.First flight to Mars by end of 2022 TBC. T&C apply. Trust nothing. Run your own #s "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" R. Simberg."Competitve" means cheaper ¬cheap SCramjet proposed 1956. First +ve thrust 2004. US R&D spend to date > $10Bn. #deployed designs. Zero.

Offline mandrewa

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I'm hoping that after this first launch attempt that SpaceX will be able to return to the develop, test, fail, develop,... cycle.   

As to why it has been nearly two years since the last launch attempt, well, I believe the main constraint has been the fear of an explosion on the launch pad.  I'm not sure whether this has been primarily driven by fears from outside of SpaceX or fears within SpaceX, but SpaceX has obviously shifted from launching Starship prototypes that they knew were quite likely to fail to trying to do everything they can to anticipate what might possibly go wrong and to push the odds as far as practical away from an explosion at the pad.

Part of the virtue of testing is that it shows you where the issues are.  Right now they are chasing every problem that they can speculate about without knowing whether all of these things are actually really the issue.

Offline Robotbeat

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I voted “something else” because it’s a combination of some of those things. Getting Starlink launched is another thing that has been a priority for SpaceX.
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Offline crandles57

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Something else.
Being a combination of: Stage 0 pad/OLM/tower/GSE, Stage 1, Stage 2.

When these are ready, hopefully launch licence won't cause much of a holdup, but hasn't so far as the rest isn't ready.

There was also a communication licence that was rejected. Not sure what is happening with that, hopefully a workable compromise can be reached. 

Offline lightleviathan

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Starship just hasn't been ready to launch. They have stacked the ship and booster numerous times, but the launch mount and general GSE is only starting to get ready now, and that was especially not true in 2021.

Offline john smith 19

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The polls closed and the people have spoken.  :)

Thanks for everyone who took part. TBH I figured by the time the poll closed we'd already be talking about Starships first orbital flight.

Obviously that's proved a bit premature.  :(  Hopefully by less than a week, if everything goes to plan.

[EDIT Well 50% right.  :(
Not the ideal outcome but Musk is a pragmatist. I'm sure he had the provisional staff for an MIB already selected before flight. This is not his (or SpaceX's) first rodeo.

On the upside the pad is intact. There's a rich crop of telemetry and imagery to be analysed. I'm sure the MIB will do a thorough job as quickly as they can, wheather it's results are ever made public is another matter.  :(
 I'll note the loss of so many engines on the booster so early in the flight once again shows that even "simple" things (like delivering low pressure propellant down some pipe to some engines) gets much trickier at scale.  :( I expect there will be some relatively obvious "low hanging fruit" (obvious in hindsight that is) that can feed straight into their next vehicles and then the deep study will begin.

I'll wish SX a speedy RTF  and full success with their next attempt.]

Intersting results

So the majority go along with the the view that it's all about stage 0 and once that's working everything wil run smoothly

However substantial minorities also thought a)It's got other problems flight testing won't help with (but not stage 0) and others reckon "Something else." Which could be said to argue that simulation and ground testing have advanced to such a level of fidelity that only at the extreme edge of performance is an actual flight test going to be needed.

Somehow I don't quite buy it.  :(

I was one of the 4 who thought producing that number of identical Raptor 2s might take a while.

Interestingly despite the legions of Musk's adulants none reckoned this six month delay after SLS finally made orbit was SX giving NASA a lap of honour moment before they got the launch licence, gassed up and went to orbit on the first go.

Intersting results, soon, I hope to be followed by some very interesting results IRL.

I'll certainly be crossing all my digits on a terrific spectacle.  :)
« Last Edit: 04/21/2023 06:51 am by john smith 19 »
MCT ITS BFR SS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFSC engined CFRP SS structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of Earth & Mars atmospheric flight.First flight to Mars by end of 2022 TBC. T&C apply. Trust nothing. Run your own #s "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" R. Simberg."Competitve" means cheaper ¬cheap SCramjet proposed 1956. First +ve thrust 2004. US R&D spend to date > $10Bn. #deployed designs. Zero.

Offline Lee Jay

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My thought was, there were problems with all of the above - stage 0, stage 1, some probably with stage 2, with the engines, they all needed work, and that's why it took so long.  That's why I voted "something else".

Offline john smith 19

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My thought was, there were problems with all of the above - stage 0, stage 1, some probably with stage 2, with the engines, they all needed work, and that's why it took so long.  That's why I voted "something else".
And it looks like you may be right.

Wiith the first stage having engine issues from takeoff and stage 2 not separating, so no idea if that was going to have any ignition issues.

TBH for some time now I've thought Musk has just kept pushing for higher performance from Raptor 2 because he could. Now I'm now starting to wonder if there's some reason why they don't just like higher performance, but they actually need it just to get throught the whole flight trajectory.  :(

Most disappointing they didn't even get to the interesting stuff, with SS re-entry from near-orbital velocity.

Still, every failure is a dress rehearsal for success.
MCT ITS BFR SS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFSC engined CFRP SS structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of Earth & Mars atmospheric flight.First flight to Mars by end of 2022 TBC. T&C apply. Trust nothing. Run your own #s "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" R. Simberg."Competitve" means cheaper ¬cheap SCramjet proposed 1956. First +ve thrust 2004. US R&D spend to date > $10Bn. #deployed designs. Zero.

Offline TrevorMonty

My thought was, there were problems with all of the above - stage 0, stage 1, some probably with stage 2, with the engines, they all needed work, and that's why it took so long.  That's why I voted "something else".
And it looks like you may be right.

Wiith the first stage having engine issues from takeoff and stage 2 not separating, so no idea if that was going to have any ignition issues.

TBH for some time now I've thought Musk has just kept pushing for higher performance from Raptor 2 because he could. Now I'm now starting to wonder if there's some reason why they don't just like higher performance, but they actually need it just to get throught the whole flight trajectory.  :(

Most disappointing they didn't even get to the interesting stuff, with SS re-entry from near-orbital velocity.

Still, every failure is a dress rehearsal for success.
With so many engine failures it never managed to fly correct flight profile to allow 2nd stage separation. Question is what caused engine failures?. Debris from pad is looking to be the likely cause.

Offline john smith 19

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With so many engine failures it never managed to fly correct flight profile to allow 2nd stage separation. Question is what caused engine failures?. Debris from pad is looking to be the likely cause.
Well that sort  of sounds reasonable. But rockets aren't like cookers. They bring their own oxygen. So you can't "snuff out" the flame.

Since SH doesn't use vision during takeoff it won't care less if it took off in a huge cloud of cement dust.

OTOH if some of those chunks hit something sensitive, or a propellant line....

I've never quite got my head around why they went with flame trenches anyway. When concrete is subjected to a temperature rise rate of > 5c/minute it starts to exhibit something called "thermal spalling" and the surface peels off.  :(

Using concretes for high velocity hot jets seemed to be playing to its weaknesses, not its stregths

A thick water cooled metal plate was IIRC viewed as quite adequate up to the Saturn 1.

However it is is the pad construction that's the root cause of all of the trouble rebuilding it better makes all the problems go away.   :)

Keep in mind the previous test didn't get all the first stage engines firing either.

SS is the first operational vehicle to use a centralised source of ignition (Rocketdyne did this on some of their experimental linear plug nozzles). The theory seems simple enough. Replace chunks of valves, ignitors etc on each engine with a single set on a single combustion chamber and run pipes to each CC for hot gases to fire the mix.

The fact SH (at 50% thrust apparently) did not achieve all booster engine ignition suggests this might be a bit trickier to get right than it seems.

That said I do like the whole KISS ethos. A 21st century FFSC engine without an EMU?  Keep in  mind that (AFAIK) the UUSR built the NK 33 and 43 without one, and they were the benchmark for Kerolox engines for decades.
« Last Edit: 04/29/2023 06:39 am by john smith 19 »
MCT ITS BFR SS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFSC engined CFRP SS structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of Earth & Mars atmospheric flight.First flight to Mars by end of 2022 TBC. T&C apply. Trust nothing. Run your own #s "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" R. Simberg."Competitve" means cheaper ¬cheap SCramjet proposed 1956. First +ve thrust 2004. US R&D spend to date > $10Bn. #deployed designs. Zero.

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