Author Topic: Put a water tank atop the tower?  (Read 8067 times)

DanClemmensen

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Put a water tank atop the tower?
« on: 05/21/2023 08:15 pm »
I started a new topic because this discussion is cluttering up the base discussion.  Moderators, feel free to move the earlier posts here.

The deluge system will apparently be pressurized by high-pressure gas to a pressure of about 12 bar at the orifices. This is a "head" of about 400 feet. To get the equivalent using a water tower, you need a tower about 400 feet high positioned near the OLM.

But wait! SpaceX already has a 400-ft tower near the OLM. Why not just just put a big water tank at the top? It should be cheaper to operate and probably cheaper to build than the gas pressurization system. You need the same amount of energy to pump the water as you need to compress the gas, but pumping water up to load the tank is almost certainly much cheaper and is logistically simpler. You probably need a pipe less than 1 m in diameter to do the deluge, and the bottom sections of that pipe must handle the entire 12 bar. A smaller pipe can be used to pump the water up, and pumping water up 400 feet is routine.

How would you get said water tank up there?
With a crane. That's how they got all the other stuff up there. If you don't want to rent the super-big Leibart, then erect a small hoist on the top of the tower. Use multiple smaller tanks as they are doing on the ground now. You can also build it in place. For future towers, plan a single larger tank as part of the initial build. Note that big water tanks are a well-understood technology. The bottom of a 33-foot tall tank on top of the tower is only at 2 bar, not at the 12 bar of the pressurized tanks on the ground.
I'd bet that just the cost of the crane mob/de-mob to place the equipment that far up the tower far exceeds the cost of the air pressurization system that they are building.
I suspect that adding a water tank to the existing tower would have been cheaper. You only use a huge crane if you happen to have it on site already. Building a big 2 bar water tank is a well-understood task and happens in towns and cities all over the country all the time. Build it in place, don't build it on the ground and then lift it.

However, I was thinking more about new installation and less about retrofits at BC or KSC. If you are already building the tower, then the tank is just another part of the job and uses the same crew and equipment. In addition to being cheaper and simpler to build and operate, it also has a much smaller incremental footprint (nearly zero). It consumes only water (which can be piped in) and electricity, so much simpler logistics.

alugobi

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #1 on: 05/21/2023 08:52 pm »
Why didn't SX do this?

joek

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #2 on: 05/21/2023 08:53 pm »
Do we know pressure and modulation requirements? That should help inform the solution. Certainly a tall enough water tower can address the pressure issue. Whether that is an optimal solution is another question, also given potential for multiple pads in relatively close proximity. Will leave the rest to our civil-hydraulic experts.

DanClemmensen

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #3 on: 05/21/2023 09:22 pm »
Why didn't SX do this?
We don't know when they decided they needed the deluge (or whatever you call it). Retrofitting a water tank may in fact be more hassle than adding the pressurized tanks. In particular the water tank (if feasible at all) may simply take longer to construct, so it may be a cost versus time tradeoff.

There is also the possibility that I have overlooked some major show-stopper. I was paid exactly zero for this idea, and that may be exactly what it's worth.

InterestedEngineer

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #4 on: 05/22/2023 02:59 am »
I'm confused.

Why are pressurized tanks a worse solution than some sort of water tower?

chopsticks

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #5 on: 05/22/2023 03:19 am »
Why didn't SX do this?
Or for that matter, why has no one else done this on any launchpads?

(Or if it has in fact been done, by all means let me know!)
« Last Edit: 05/22/2023 03:21 am by chopsticks »

Lee Jay

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #6 on: 05/22/2023 05:24 am »
Why would the tower have been designed to carry an exceptionally heavy tank if they didn't know they were going to need one when it was being designed?

I'm not sure how much water they need but I'm guessing it's measured in hundreds of tons at least.

Pressurized tanks are commonplace. We have five of them where I work.

DanClemmensen

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #7 on: 05/22/2023 01:42 pm »
Why didn't SX do this?
Or for that matter, why has no one else done this on any launchpads?

(Or if it has in fact been done, by all means let me know!)
We a see tall water tower at LC-39A, so gravity-fed deluge systems are in use, apparently for Shuttle and for SLS. Integrating it into the launch tower would save cost and footprint, but only when a fixed launch tower is present. Shuttle and SLS used MLPs.

The SpaceX launch tower is already designed for "hundreds of tons" of load. If you don't fill the tank until after you have stacked SS, then the incremental max load may not be too large for an existing tower. The incremental cost of adding it for a new tower is lower than a retrofit.

Coastal Ron

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #8 on: 05/22/2023 01:49 pm »
I suspect that adding a water tank to the existing tower would have been cheaper.

However now you are putting even more launch equipment at risk in case there is a launch or capture failure, and it is in a location that is hard to get to, and hard to repair.

The alternative, which is what they are doing today, looks to be far more risk averse, and far more simple to maintain - and it may also cost less overall.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

edzieba

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #9 on: 05/22/2023 01:55 pm »
Pressure discharge systems also have the advantage of being ground-level (ease of maintenance), and of having controllable and variable discharge pressure. A gravity head system has a minimum discharge pressure, and raising the discharge pressure means you'd still need all the pressurised discharge equipment, but it now all needs to be hoisted and worked on at height too.

Since there is no cheap pressurised water supply available on site, and if you'd need to expend energy pumping any water trucked to site up to the top of a water tower, you might as well skip doing that and keep the delivered water at ground level and spend energy pressurising the discharge gas instead (which you can also do with on-site LN2 and a small heater).

aero

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #10 on: 05/22/2023 02:45 pm »
What would the pressure head be for a tank on top of the tower? How high is the location for the water tank above the discharge, and would such a tank be a reasonable size for the volume of water needed?
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DanClemmensen

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #11 on: 05/22/2023 02:50 pm »
What would the pressure head be for a tank on top of the tower? How high is the location for the water tank above the discharge, and would such a tank be a reasonable size for the volume of water needed?
The estimate made by others on the forum is 12 bar at the nozzles. That requires a 400 foot head at the bottom of the tank on top of the tower. I do not know the required amount of water. You can estimate it by the size of the four pressurized tanks at the BC launch site.

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #12 on: 05/22/2023 03:01 pm »
Pressure discharge systems also have the advantage of being ground-level (ease of maintenance)
This shouldn't be overlooked; imagine the fun every time you have to inspect the tank and instead of a nice ground-level tank you have to go on one of the tallest launch towers in the world that has no built-in infrastructure to get you up there, so you need a massive and expensive crane every time...

IF there is a benefit, it seems very marginal compared with the hassle of getting up there to inspect/repair it.

meekGee

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #13 on: 05/22/2023 03:14 pm »
Pressure discharge systems also have the advantage of being ground-level (ease of maintenance)
This shouldn't be overlooked; imagine the fun every time you have to inspect the tank and instead of a nice ground-level tank you have to go on one of the tallest launch towers in the world that has no built-in infrastructure to get you up there, so you need a massive and expensive crane every time...

IF there is a benefit, it seems very marginal compared with the hassle of getting up there to inspect/repair it.
A pressurized gas system will have high pressure initially, and it will drop with time, which is actually what you want as the rocket ascends.

You can get the same effect by fashioning your gravity system as a largish diameter vertical tube-tank, presumably on the back side or just inside the tower.

I'd still favor the gas pressure system though as a minimal-headache solution just because you don't have to invent anything and it works just as well.

If you want to be cool, you could use a Merlin gas generator and turbine set to pump the water in real-time...
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KilroySmith

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #14 on: 05/22/2023 03:35 pm »
Pressure discharge systems also have the advantage ... of having controllable and variable discharge pressure.

Step controllable pressure is easily achieved in a gravity-fed system.   Multiple valves of varying sizes will change the effective pressure at the showerhead by moving the pressure restriction to the valve.  So, perhaps a pair of 0.1m valves, a pair of 0.25m valves, a pair of 0.5mm valves, a pair of 1.0m valves.  Turn them on in a binary sequence to change the pressure at the showerhead.  Also provides a lot of redundancy for little cost.

DanClemmensen

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #15 on: 05/22/2023 03:45 pm »
Pressure discharge systems also have the advantage of being ground-level (ease of maintenance)
This shouldn't be overlooked; imagine the fun every time you have to inspect the tank and instead of a nice ground-level tank you have to go on one of the tallest launch towers in the world that has no built-in infrastructure to get you up there, so you need a massive and expensive crane every time...

IF there is a benefit, it seems very marginal compared with the hassle of getting up there to inspect/repair it.
typical municipal water towers are like this, and inspectors just make a long weary climb up the steps. Not the launch tower. The launch tower has an elevator (i.e., "built-in infrastructure"). The top of the hoist for the chopsticks needs inspection more frequently than the water tank would need it.

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #16 on: 05/22/2023 03:52 pm »
Pressure discharge systems also have the advantage of being ground-level (ease of maintenance)
This shouldn't be overlooked; imagine the fun every time you have to inspect the tank and instead of a nice ground-level tank you have to go on one of the tallest launch towers in the world that has no built-in infrastructure to get you up there, so you need a massive and expensive crane every time...

IF there is a benefit, it seems very marginal compared with the hassle of getting up there to inspect/repair it.
typical municipal water towers are like this, and inspectors just make a long weary climb up the steps. Not the launch tower. The launch tower has an elevator (i.e., "built-in infrastructure"). The top of the hoist for the chopsticks needs inspection more frequently than the water tank would need it.
Or, you could not have to do any of that.  I suppose we'll have to wait for SpaceX to build their next tower to know for sure, but if this works out well for them, I imagine they are going to stick with it.

DanClemmensen

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #17 on: 05/22/2023 04:01 pm »
Pressure discharge systems also have the advantage of being ground-level (ease of maintenance)
This shouldn't be overlooked; imagine the fun every time you have to inspect the tank and instead of a nice ground-level tank you have to go on one of the tallest launch towers in the world that has no built-in infrastructure to get you up there, so you need a massive and expensive crane every time...

IF there is a benefit, it seems very marginal compared with the hassle of getting up there to inspect/repair it.
typical municipal water towers are like this, and inspectors just make a long weary climb up the steps. Not the launch tower. The launch tower has an elevator (i.e., "built-in infrastructure"). The top of the hoist for the chopsticks needs inspection more frequently than the water tank would need it.
Or, you could not have to do any of that.  I suppose we'll have to wait for SpaceX to build their next tower to know for sure, but if this works out well for them, I imagine they are going to stick with it.
I think so too. However, the whole "stage 0" mantra at SpaceX is about operations costs, and the gravity system would be cheaper, I think.

alexterrell

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #18 on: 05/22/2023 04:11 pm »
Rather than a water tank at an altitude of 120m, you could just take a standard wind turbine tower, which is about 5m diameter and 140m high, and seal it.

Very strong, off the shelf solution, and readily available in Texas. Place it just behind the launch tower.

Fill it with water prior to launch and you have a 12 bar solution.

As the water level lowers, the pressure drops. But then the requirements should also drop as the rocket gets a bit further from the pad. Probably the lower half of the tower could be empty, assuming a strong enough bulkhead can be installed.

edzieba

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #19 on: 05/22/2023 04:18 pm »
Pressure discharge systems also have the advantage of being ground-level (ease of maintenance)
This shouldn't be overlooked; imagine the fun every time you have to inspect the tank and instead of a nice ground-level tank you have to go on one of the tallest launch towers in the world that has no built-in infrastructure to get you up there, so you need a massive and expensive crane every time...

IF there is a benefit, it seems very marginal compared with the hassle of getting up there to inspect/repair it.
typical municipal water towers are like this, and inspectors just make a long weary climb up the steps. Not the launch tower. The launch tower has an elevator (i.e., "built-in infrastructure"). The top of the hoist for the chopsticks needs inspection more frequently than the water tank would need it.
Or, you could not have to do any of that.  I suppose we'll have to wait for SpaceX to build their next tower to know for sure, but if this works out well for them, I imagine they are going to stick with it.
I think so too. However, the whole "stage 0" mantra at SpaceX is about operations costs, and the gravity system would be cheaper, I think.
It might be cheaper in isolation. But when the launch site already has the hardware for producing and handling high pressure gasses (for the COPVs) any marginal cost advantage probably goes away in favour of commonality.

Lee Jay

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #20 on: 05/22/2023 04:47 pm »
Rather than a water tank at an altitude of 120m, you could just take a standard wind turbine tower, which is about 5m diameter and 140m high, and seal it.

Very strong, off the shelf solution, and readily available in Texas. Place it just behind the launch tower.

Fill it with water prior to launch and you have a 12 bar solution.

As the water level lowers, the pressure drops. But then the requirements should also drop as the rocket gets a bit further from the pad. Probably the lower half of the tower could be empty, assuming a strong enough bulkhead can be installed.

Wind turbine towers are not off the shelf.  They are custom designed for each application and they are a lot more complex than it appears on the outside, containing a lot of pre-attached equipment.

DanClemmensen

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #21 on: 05/22/2023 05:07 pm »
Pressure discharge systems also have the advantage of being ground-level (ease of maintenance)
This shouldn't be overlooked; imagine the fun every time you have to inspect the tank and instead of a nice ground-level tank you have to go on one of the tallest launch towers in the world that has no built-in infrastructure to get you up there, so you need a massive and expensive crane every time...

IF there is a benefit, it seems very marginal compared with the hassle of getting up there to inspect/repair it.
typical municipal water towers are like this, and inspectors just make a long weary climb up the steps. Not the launch tower. The launch tower has an elevator (i.e., "built-in infrastructure"). The top of the hoist for the chopsticks needs inspection more frequently than the water tank would need it.
Or, you could not have to do any of that.  I suppose we'll have to wait for SpaceX to build their next tower to know for sure, but if this works out well for them, I imagine they are going to stick with it.
I think so too. However, the whole "stage 0" mantra at SpaceX is about operations costs, and the gravity system would be cheaper, I think.
It might be cheaper in isolation. But when the launch site already has the hardware for producing and handling high pressure gasses (for the COPVs) any marginal cost advantage probably goes away in favour of commonality.
But SpaceX also already builds low-pressure water tanks. Those high-pressure water tanks are more expensive. If they integrate a water system into their tower-building process, the commonality may shift in favor of the gravity system.

However, I have no background in any of this, so I'm just guessing about cost and complexity for both alternatives. I'm trying to explore the alternatives, not advocate for the gravity system.

Amount of water guesstimate: Assume the existing pressure tanks hold about the amount of water needed here. I'm not a good pixel counter, but each of the four tanks seems to be 20 m long and 2 m dia. That's about 60 m3/tank or 240 m3 total, which is 240 tonne of water at the top. A 9 meter dia stainless steel tank that is 4 meters tall will hold about 250 m3. You also need maybe 120 tonne for the water in the big vertical pipe.

darkenfast

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #22 on: 05/22/2023 09:22 pm »
Pressure discharge systems also have the advantage of being ground-level (ease of maintenance)
This shouldn't be overlooked; imagine the fun every time you have to inspect the tank and instead of a nice ground-level tank you have to go on one of the tallest launch towers in the world that has no built-in infrastructure to get you up there, so you need a massive and expensive crane every time...

IF there is a benefit, it seems very marginal compared with the hassle of getting up there to inspect/repair it.
typical municipal water towers are like this, and inspectors just make a long weary climb up the steps. Not the launch tower. The launch tower has an elevator (i.e., "built-in infrastructure"). The top of the hoist for the chopsticks needs inspection more frequently than the water tank would need it.

Just to point out: The elevator track has been removed as far down as around the chopsticks level and the elevator cage and other equipment are no longer in the tower. We have no idea what the plan is, at this point.
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catdlr

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #23 on: 05/22/2023 11:01 pm »
Quote
Just to point out: The elevator track has been removed as far down as around the chopsticks level and the elevator cage and other equipment are no longer in the tower. We have no idea what the plan is, at this point.

Water Slide?
« Last Edit: 05/22/2023 11:04 pm by catdlr »
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CameronD

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #24 on: 05/24/2023 12:16 am »
If you want to be cool, you could use a Merlin gas generator and turbine set to pump the water in real-time...

But then you'd need a sound suppression system to suppress your suppression system..
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.

DanClemmensen

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #25 on: 05/24/2023 03:41 pm »
Just looking at Google Maps:
the deluge system at LC-39A is fed from a really tall water tower. Based on the shadows, the tower is about the same height as the F9 tower, so maybe 250 ft. Just looking at videos of shuttle and SLS launches, the system uses a lot higher flow and lower pressure than the proposed SpaceX system at BC. This is consistent with a 250 ft head.

Jim

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #26 on: 05/25/2023 05:41 pm »
If you want to be cool, you could use a Merlin gas generator and turbine set to pump the water in real-time...

But then you'd need a sound suppression system to suppress your suppression system..

What sound suppression system?  There isn't one at BC.  water is only for pad cooling.  The payloads are far enough from the sound where it is an issue.

Jim

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #27 on: 05/25/2023 05:44 pm »
I suspect that adding a water tank to the existing tower would have been cheaper.

I wouldn't suspect that.  The tower would have to change drastically to support the weight.   The tank would have to be slim and not overhang the tower.

Hog

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #28 on: 05/25/2023 05:45 pm »
The LC 39A and B water towers are 290 feet tall and hold 300,000 gallons/1,100,000 liters or approx. 1,100 tonnes of water.
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DanClemmensen

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #29 on: 05/25/2023 06:27 pm »
I suspect that adding a water tank to the existing tower would have been cheaper.

I wouldn't suspect that.  The tower would have to change drastically to support the weight.   The tank would have to be slim and not overhang the tower.
I could very easily be wrong. However, I tried to guesstimate the required volume and mass of water based on the sizes of the pressure tanks that SpaceX installed at BC (see below). my guesstimate was:
240 m3 total, which is 240 tonne of water at the top. A 9 meter dia stainless steel tank that is 4 meters tall will hold about 250 m3. You also need maybe 120 tonne for the water in the big vertical pipe." It might be too heavy, but it's not large compared to the top of the tower.

alugobi

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #30 on: 05/25/2023 06:29 pm »
You should start new, catch-all thread for all the things SX coulda/shoulda done because reasons.

DanClemmensen

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #31 on: 05/25/2023 06:36 pm »
The LC 39A and B water towers are 290 feet tall and hold 300,000 gallons/1,100,000 liters or approx. 1,100 tonnes of water.
Thanks! That tanks is roughly spherical. a sphere with a volume of 1100 m3 is about 13 m in diameter.

The function and operation of the SLS deluge system is apparently very different from SpaceX's "upward-facing showerhead", and the SpaceX pressurized tanks appear to be about 250 m3 total but probably operate at a higher pressure (a 400-foot head instead of a 290-foot head).

DanClemmensen

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #32 on: 05/25/2023 06:44 pm »
You should start new, catch-all thread for all the things SX coulda/shoulda done because reasons.
Please feel free to do so. The SpaceX facilities thread tends to degenerate into something like that, which is why I split this discussion out to a separate thread.

I do not think SpaceX coulda/shoulda put a water tank atop the tower. I think they coulda/shoulda done exactly what they did, which is to build a stage 0 that they thought would work and then test it. I also think that given the state of Stage 0 early this year, that adding a pressure-driven system instead of a gravity-driven system was the right choice. I'm thinking more about what they may choose to do for new towers.

DanClemmensen

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #33 on: 05/25/2023 06:46 pm »
Does anyone have an estimate (or a way to estimate) the mass of a Starship launch tower? This number would let us guess how much harder it is to engineer for the extra mass of a full water tank.

CameronD

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Re: Put a water tank atop the tower?
« Reply #34 on: 05/26/2023 01:01 am »
I do not think SpaceX coulda/shoulda put a water tank atop the tower. I think they coulda/shoulda done exactly what they did, which is to build a stage 0 that they thought would work and then test it. I also think that given the state of Stage 0 early this year, that adding a pressure-driven system instead of a gravity-driven system was the right choice. I'm thinking more about what they may choose to do for new towers.

Valve actuator technology, materials and reliability has come a long way in the last 60 years or so.  Certainly far enough that gravity-driven deluge is unlikely to be the cheapest or best solution for a new installation.  We simply don't need to do that any more.
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.

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