Author Topic: SpaceX in the 2030s  (Read 29743 times)

Offline RyanC

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SpaceX in the 2030s
« on: 06/16/2021 11:10 pm »
On a space related Discord, everyone started talking about the Dragonfly mission to Titan, which would arrive around 2036.

At that point:

I will be 55.
Elon Musk will be 65.
Jeff Bezos will be 72.

To put things in perspective, Wernher von Braun was 56 to 60 years old between 1968 and 1972.

You can see why Elon is driving SpaceX so hard; he wants to have put SpaceX into a position where it HAS to keep doing big things or else it dies; because he knows that once he's too old to actually be part of the day-to-day operations of SpaceX (or Tesla), the corporate culture of both companies will start MBAizing and become more and more risk adverse.

Based on Elon's age (49) and the lifecycle of the current Falcon rocket family (16~ years from 2002 and Falcon 1 to 2018 and Falcon 9 Block 5); Starship is likely to be Elon's Last Big Thing (TM); if we assume that it follows the same active life.

If we assume that serious work on Starship began in 2016; a sixteen year lifecycle carries us out to 2032; where Elon will be 61/62 years old.

At that age; Elon only has about five to eight years left for the next iterative cycle in SpaceX history before he's 70 and starts to slow down and lose mental flexibility.

By 2030, Starship will have achieved the initial design goals for a fully reusable launch system, with eight years of ever increasing launch cadence and increasingly complex operations following an initial launch in late 2021 or early 2022.

It's plausible to assume that SpaceX will be launching 100 tonne payloads twice a day from Boca Chica/KSC for 230 days each year; placing 46,000 tonnes in LEO each year with Starship at that point.

Someone on Stack Exchange did the math/scraping/web programming and came up with a total global upmass from the beginning of human spaceflight to December 2019 of 14,466,896 kg (14,466 metric tons)

[https://space.stackexchange.com/questions/88/what-is-the-total-mass-sent-into-orbit-over-all-history]

What does SpaceX do next for the 2030s while Elon can still control the company?

While it's possible for SpaceX to design a UltraHeavy (basically think of UH as a notational DC-4 to Starship/SH's DC-3); I think SpaceX will be focused on fully-space only cycler designs at this point, along with various internal projects supporting commercial outposts in LEO, lunar outposts...and of course, the SpaceX Mars Outpost/Colony.

From looking at SpaceX and Tesla; while Elon moved dominate the market in each (space launch and electric cars) after about a decade's worth of buildup; he also moved to value-added subsidiaries, because he knew that SpaceX/Tesla's early lead would degrade as their core products became commoditized.

For Tesla:

We've got a billion EV startups now, and all of the big car companies now have EV departments.

While Tesla continues to work on newer, hotter vehicles, the long term plan is centered around:

A.) Actually having a charger network that's high reliability

B.) Autonomous vehicle development -- If Tesla cracks this first, they can quickly pivot and create entire new markets owned by them, such as autonomous semi-trucks that drive only from midnight to 5 AM (for safety), or entire taxicab fleets.

For SpaceX:

While they're about to dominate the space launch business with F9 Block 5 and soon Starship, there's nothing "secret sauce" about them. Anyone who's smart and nimble enough can move up through the market chain and develop into a competitor to SpaceX for the launch market -- such as Rocket Lab (and Blue Origin if they can ever get their internal problems sorted).

SpaceX's moves over the last half-decade have positioned them nicely for the era in which space launch becomes commoditized:

A.) The entire HLS contract with NASA over Lunar Starship -- basically, Elon gets the US Government to fund an entire market for SpaceX of vacuum-rated landers/hoppers that can be used all over the solar system.

B.) Starlink -- when it's completed, it'll give SpaceX an independent revenue stream that's not dependent on government or commercial launch contracts; or NASA contract awards. Plus, it has "kickstarted" SpaceX's internal teams into ones capable of delivering large numbers of complex spacecraft on a reliable schedule.

C.) Raptor -- once it's development is completed; SpX has an engine they can scale up or down as needed to support a whole family of spacecraft, from large cyclers to vacuum hoppers all on a common Methalox infrastructure, which can be spread across the solar system -- imagine a lone robot starship being sent to say, Titan to set up a small ISRU facility there, enabling future methalox powered spacecraft to explore that region of the solar system without having to have all their fuel shipped six years in advance, or carried with them.

D.) The development of SpaceX suits for Commercial Crew. They could have contracted out to David Clark or Oceaneering to have suits made; but they did that all in house. Now they have teams capable of designing space suits for whatever needs SpaceX will have in the future; or for others.

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #1 on: 06/16/2021 11:40 pm »
or SpaceX falters and fades away.

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #2 on: 06/17/2021 12:08 am »
or SpaceX falters and fades away.

That's more likely to happen to Blue than SpaceX, Jim.

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #3 on: 06/17/2021 12:40 am »
I think SpaceX has done very, very well. But I know from 'the horses mouth' anecdotes that they have 'burned out' a lot of personnel as much as they have cash to get there. I like the ambitiousness of the 'Starship' project but often feel that SpaceX should have tried an intermediate technological and engineering step halfway between Falcon Heavy and BFR before going the Starship route. Before the big, 2016 reveal of the BFR/Starship program, I was nearly convinced that Elon was going to 'supersize' the Dragon spacecraft and upgrade the Falcon Heavy with a better upper stage - all with the intention to do a somewhat 'Mars Direct' reconnaissance mission(s) to Mars first with 4-to-6 person crews.

They could have demonstrated in space Cryo propellant transfer and propellant ISRU on the Martian surface before moving onto the really big vehicles we are seeing prototyped today. They are, in a sense, biting off almost more than they can chew with the current paradigm they are pursuing. It could all fail and falter; but I sure hope it doesn't.
« Last Edit: 06/17/2021 01:36 am by MATTBLAK »
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Online Vahe231991

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #4 on: 06/17/2021 12:43 am »
I think SpaceX has done very, very well. But I know from 'the horses mouth' anecdotes that they have 'burned out' a lot of personnel as much as they have cash to get there. I like the ambitiousness of the 'Starship' project but often feel that SpaceX should have tried and intermediate technological and engineering step halfway between Falcon Heavy and BFR before going the Starship route. Before the big, 2016 reveal of the BFR/Starship program, I was nearly convinced that Elon was going to 'supersize' the Dragon spacecraft and upgrade the Falcon Heavy with a better upper stage - all with the intention to do a somewhat 'Mars Direct' reconnaissance mission(s) to Mars first with 4-to-6 person crews.

They could have demonstrated in space Cryo propellant transfer and propellant ISRU on the Martian surface before moving onto the really big vehicles we are seeing prototyped today. They are, in a sense, biting off almost more than they can chew with the current paradigm they are pursuing. It could all fail and falter; but I sure hope it doesn't.
If given the chance, SpaceX could develop a version of the Starship measuring 450 feet tall to carry nuclear-powered probes to Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and the Kuiper Belt. All nuclear fuel for the upper stage of this Starship variant (which would only ignite in space) would be mined from the Morrison Formation in the western United States.

Offline joek

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #5 on: 06/17/2021 01:00 am »
It is easy to posit potential negative outcomes for SpaceX (as anyone). So far such predictions have come to naught, but as the old caveat goes, "Past performance is no guarantee of future results".

That said, what are the existential threats to SpaceX? Not seeing them, even if their Mars ambitions end up in a black hole. Too often think SpaceX is viewed solely through the lens of a launch provider. They obviously have credible plans which go well beyond that (e.g., Starlink).
« Last Edit: 06/17/2021 01:01 am by joek »

Offline SweetWater

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #6 on: 06/17/2021 01:13 am »
My bet would be that by 2035 Elon has sold most of his interests in SpaceX, Starlink, and Tesla, assuming they still exist at that point (by no means certain but I think more likely than not) and rolled that capital into a company dedicated to developing and manufacturing the infrastructure necessary to support habitation on Mars. SpaceX will only be the transportation element for human habitation on Mars - a great deal of infrastructure needs to be developed and put in place to support even a small permanent population.

I would also allow a 3% chance that Elon dies in a tragic flying Tesla accident circa 2030 only for his estate to reveal that he uploaded himself to a computer using Neuralink and that he continues running his business interests long after I am gone....

Offline joek

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #7 on: 06/17/2021 01:14 am »
If given the chance, SpaceX could develop a version of the Starship measuring 450 feet tall to carry nuclear-powered probes to Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and the Kuiper Belt. All nuclear fuel for the upper stage of this Starship variant (which would only ignite in space) would be mined from the Morrison Formation in the western United States.

And...? Sure they could (as others), but someone has to pay for it; to be relevant to SpaceX's future, would need to be reasonably sustainable with associated $$$. This is not the thread to discuss such missions; suggest taking it to one of the science or future missions threads.

Offline joek

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #8 on: 06/17/2021 01:21 am »
...
I would also allow a 3% chance that Elon dies in a tragic flying Tesla accident circa 2030 only for his estate to reveal that he uploaded himself to a computer using Neuralink and that he continues running his business interests long after I am gone....
Nah, 1.753% chance max. :P
« Last Edit: 06/17/2021 01:29 am by joek »

Offline tea monster

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #9 on: 06/17/2021 01:27 am »
I'm thinking that by 2030, Space-X will be testing something else to replace starship, possibly some form of SSTO. Several other companies will be flying reusable spacecraft and hopefully, Space-age 2.0 will be in full swing.

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #10 on: 06/17/2021 01:44 am »
Some random thoughts on where the tonnage to support a launch cadence of twice a day for Starship could come from in the mid to late 2020s leading into the 2030s:

The If you can lift it, they will come effect

Right now, it costs a lot for space station modules -- the ISS Cupola and Tranquility module together cost $400M, and they massed 20,800~ kg; for a cost of $19,230/kg.

By comparison, a 747-8I cost $418M in 2019, and weighs 220,128 kg, for $1,898/kg.

If we assume that a future "rugged" space station module is only about three times more costly than a 747-8I at $5,694/kg (never underestimate the cost of paperwork for spaceflight); then a "standard" 25 tonne module would cost $142.3M.

Starship has 1,100 m3 of payload volume to work with; and if we assume our 25-tonne module had the same volume (75 m3) as Tranquility;  you could easily fit four modules, with a total volume of 300 m3 in a single launch. It would only take Starship four flights to place into orbit sixteen modules with 1,200 m3 of habitable volume (present day ISS total volume is 1,000 m3).

Total cost of such a system would be $2.27B for the modules themselves, and likely $100M for all launch services (base cost of a launch may be only $15M, but payload processing would add $$$.)

Crudely put, you could get something the size of the ISS for only $2.5B (versus the $150B for the ISS).

That huge cost reduction would commercialize LEO; given that the cost of said station wouldn't be that much more expensive than other industrial megaprojects:

$9.3B for Fab15 by TSMC in Taiwan
$5B Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada
$4.8B Tesla Gigafactory in Berlin

On the governmental level; the UK Space Agency (UKSA) has an annual budget of about $650M. If we assume 25% of that goes to long lead funding for big projects; a 10 year project would give you $1.6B to play with. The UKSA then would be able to afford a smaller than ISS (but still pretty big) station.

The Once Man Goes Somewhere To Stay, He Becomes A Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone Effect

McMurdo Station in Antartica has about 1,300 residents year round and requires 6,400 tonnes of cargo and 26,500 tonnes of fuel each year for that year's operations (which consumed 15,823 Megawatt-hours in 2002).

I think that if we moved McMurdo to the Moon as Armstrong Station, the tonnage needed to support it would still be the same order of magnitude -- because even if you could use solar fields and small nuclear plants to produce power, you'd still have to ship about 500 metric tonnes a year of LOX to Armstrong Station (assuming 1 kg/day/person and 1,300 personnel and continuous yearly operation) just to support people breathing. If you wanted to have a fleet of reusable landers to ferry personnel from Armstrong to smaller subsidiary outposts near Tycho, etc; you'd need fuel for them.

Offline joek

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #11 on: 06/17/2021 02:05 am »
or SpaceX falters and fades away.
That's more likely to happen to Blue than SpaceX, Jim.

Maybe, although expect both will survive.  If given a choice between the two, my bet would be SpaceX over Blue. Although Blue may reorganize itself into something quite different over the next few years. If this was like most industries, we would see a consolidation. That is bigger players buy up the smaller players, or the smaller players can't compete or don't have sufficient funding to fight their way up and fade to black.

So again, who-what is an existential threat to SpaceX? Not seeing it. Sure, SpaceX could shoot themselves in the head, but not seeing it. While 10 years is a long time in this business (at least based on the last decade), don't see where the existential threat to SpaceX is coming from?

p.s. @Jim -- As a counterweight to the SpaceX fan parade you have demonstrated over the years, the comment that "or SpaceX falters and fades away" adds nothing to the conversation. Same could be said of ULA, Blue, or any other contender.

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #12 on: 06/17/2021 03:57 am »
The OP made a number of extrapolations using analogies, but I'll posit that none of those apply.

In the 2030s, SpaceX will be busy building a colony on Mars.  This is without precedent.

When history looks back on this, Starship will not be "Musk's last big thing" - it will be just a footnote next to the development of Mars.

Starship is a technical achievement. Mars will be a socio-economic one.

I may be just too old to participate, but not too old to see it happen.
« Last Edit: 06/17/2021 03:57 am by meekGee »
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Offline Surfdaddy

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #13 on: 06/17/2021 05:06 am »
I think the biggest risk to SpaceX is the leadership continuum. The vision and drive of Musk together with the maturity and competence of Shotwell have proven to be an outstanding combination. Musk will get old, and something could happen to Shotwell. These are big business risks, perhaps the biggest ones. SpaceX could milk the F9/FH for a decade or two, but to continue expanding, they need both of their leaders. I certainly hope they are working to identify and groom potential replacements for these two.

Apple is perhaps the only company that has been super successful recently in having the main driver pass away yet have put a highly competent leader in his place. Yet even then, Tim Cook is not the visionary that Steve Jobs was. How SpaceX manages it's leadership for the next 20 years, to me, is a bigger risk than the technical risks of SS/SH.
« Last Edit: 06/17/2021 05:07 am by Surfdaddy »

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #14 on: 06/17/2021 05:25 am »
SpaceX with most of the shipping for P2P, LEO, cislunarspace and interplanetary along with ground infrastructure to support the SpaceX fleets. Could become something like the East Indian Company before transiting to beyond a mega multi-national business entity.


Just for laughs. The principle export of a Musk Martian colony could be Pax Barsoom with the Barsoomian navy SpaceX fleet enforcing peace & order across the Solar System.

Offline rakaydos

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #15 on: 06/17/2021 03:28 pm »
Supposedly there's a quote out there, from either elon or qwynn, I forget which, that a breakthrough in free-space antiproton capture is the next revolution (though I've probably mangled what's actually said)

If I've captured the gist of the original statement, that's an antimatter-supplemented drive, with two really efficent endpoints- earth orbit, and saturn orbit.

I would also expect SpaceX to spin up some fusion-related tech expertise, once one of the teams working on fusion succeeds commercially.

Under the mandate of "multiplanetary humanity" I expect continuation of the Mars project, but I dont expect them to stop there. Venus floaters would "only" have a 48 hour day/night cycle, with sub-bahama level temperatures at denser-than-everest atmospheric pressures, making evas only require scuba gear. Titan is a likely 3rd location, if the thermodynamics works out. these locations would be a lower priority than mars, but would certiantly be a back burner project.

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #16 on: 06/17/2021 03:55 pm »
Supposedly there's a quote out there, from either elon or qwynn, I forget which, that a breakthrough in free-space antiproton capture is the next revolution (though I've probably mangled what's actually said)

If I've captured the gist of the original statement, that's an antimatter-supplemented drive, with two really efficent endpoints- earth orbit, and saturn orbit.

I would also expect SpaceX to spin up some fusion-related tech expertise, once one of the teams working on fusion succeeds commercially.

Under the mandate of "multiplanetary humanity" I expect continuation of the Mars project, but I dont expect them to stop there. Venus floaters would "only" have a 48 hour day/night cycle, with sub-bahama level temperatures at denser-than-everest atmospheric pressures, making evas only require scuba gear. Titan is a likely 3rd location, if the thermodynamics works out. these locations would be a lower priority than mars, but would certiantly be a back burner project.

I think a good bet is that after Mars gets started, they'll be looking at Ceres next.
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Offline skater

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #17 on: 06/18/2021 12:19 pm »
All nuclear fuel for the upper stage of this Starship variant (which would only ignite in space) would be mined from the Morrison Formation in the western United States.

Why does the source of the uranium matter?

Offline catiare

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #18 on: 06/19/2021 02:24 am »
Supposedly there's a quote out there, from either elon or qwynn, I forget which, that a breakthrough in free-space antiproton capture is the next revolution (though I've probably mangled what's actually said)

If I've captured the gist of the original statement, that's an antimatter-supplemented drive, with two really efficent endpoints- earth orbit, and saturn orbit.

I would also expect SpaceX to spin up some fusion-related tech expertise, once one of the teams working on fusion succeeds commercially.

Under the mandate of "multiplanetary humanity" I expect continuation of the Mars project, but I dont expect them to stop there. Venus floaters would "only" have a 48 hour day/night cycle, with sub-bahama level temperatures at denser-than-everest atmospheric pressures, making evas only require scuba gear. Titan is a likely 3rd location, if the thermodynamics works out. these locations would be a lower priority than mars, but would certiantly be a back burner project.

I think a good bet is that after Mars gets started, they'll be looking at Ceres next.
My bet after Mars goes to Callisto
« Last Edit: 06/21/2021 02:06 pm by catiare »

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #19 on: 06/20/2021 03:05 am »
This is actually a thing that worries me. Musk is working himself hard. If something happens to him, then SpaceX will be without the leadership of a visionary that Musk is. Gwynne Shotwell is great. Don't get me wrong, but she does not own SpaceX. Do you think that someone who does not have majority ownership would have the ability to push the "outrageous" ideas of Elon Musk past the owners (I suppose that would be his heirs and the current part owners)?
The danger is that the company will go the way of so many and stop innovating and rather ride on past successes, maximizing profits for shareholders.
That is unless Musk has some sort of plan for succession that gives his share of the ownership to someone who is equally radical, talented and driven. Next problem. I can't think of anyone, other than Gary C. Hudson but he is even older than Musk (and he likely has different ideas)... Not sure what Musk's kids are like, but from what he hinted at, they are not all that interested.
If things goes well and Elon remains in good health, then things will keep going for a very long time. Age is not that big of a deal. My grandfather was in his 80ies when he got a patent for a new wind turbine design. He calculated it all without computers and built a mockup from wood all by himself. Musk might slow down a little, but he will keep pushing past the state of the art. That is my prediction anyway.

Online philw1776

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #20 on: 06/20/2021 04:39 pm »
I see spinoff of Skynet Starlink into a public company this decade. source of funds for Mars.
Lunar flyby & landings under NASA contract this decade using early matured Starcraft
Mars cargo, then first human landing at decade's end
I think Gwynne steps down in a few years; hope to be wrong as she has been essential

Given decent health, a concern, Musk in the 2030s will be consumed with...
1. Mars base establishment, will consume $$$; need a Gwynne type to get other orgs to jump in and participate
2. Next gen transport after Starcraft variants; no idea whatsoever other than bigger diameter higher payload Starcraft
3. Selling NASA et. al. on asteroid & outer planet & moons missions

FULL SEND!!!!

Offline rakaydos

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #21 on: 06/21/2021 12:11 pm »

Supposedly there's a quote out there, from either elon or qwynn, I forget which, that a breakthrough in free-space antiproton capture is the next revolution (though I've probably mangled what's actually said)

If I've captured the gist of the original statement, that's an antimatter-supplemented drive, with two really efficent endpoints- earth orbit, and saturn orbit.

I would also expect SpaceX to spin up some fusion-related tech expertise, once one of the teams working on fusion succeeds commercially.

Under the mandate of "multiplanetary humanity" I expect continuation of the Mars project, but I dont expect them to stop there. Venus floaters would "only" have a 48 hour day/night cycle, with sub-bahama level temperatures at denser-than-everest atmospheric pressures, making evas only require scuba gear. Titan is a likely 3rd location, if the thermodynamics works out. these locations would be a lower priority than mars, but would certiantly be a back burner project.

I think a good bet is that after Mars gets started, they'll be looking at Ceres next.
Problem is the lack of an atmosphere doubling the DV costs.
« Last Edit: 06/21/2021 01:42 pm by rakaydos »

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #22 on: 06/21/2021 01:15 pm »
SpaceX in the 2030’s? Why all the wild speculation? Just go with what Elon has said instead. 1000 Starship launches per year.

That dominates everything else. (And makes everything else possible).

Online wannamoonbase

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #23 on: 06/21/2021 01:16 pm »
My bet after Mars goes to Callisto

May I live so long to see human travel to Mars so established they can look for the next location.

If the 9 meter Starship is proven to work, I think we'll see a larger version, 12 or 15 or 18 meter.

Once they know how to build a successful starship, I think we'll see a consolidated shipyard built, where materials go in one end and the humans, and countless robots produce completed boosters and starships out the other end.

The shipyard will be built to handle the larger starship size.

Not sure that we see other Raptor versions, maybe there needs to be a larger raptor instead of putting 90 engines on 1 booster.

Starlink will be the cash machine that funds most of this.  It will go public and have a market cap upwards of a half trillion.
Superheavy + Starship the final push to launch commit!

Offline WTF

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #24 on: 06/21/2021 03:32 pm »
" ... I think we'll see a larger version, 12 or 15 or 18 meter. ..."

I'm thinking 27 to 30 meter.

Have the consolidated shipyard at the offshore launch site, no more SPMTs, minimal shuffling these ships around ... launch directly after fabrication.

Larger version of raptor ...
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Offline nacnud

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #25 on: 06/21/2021 04:07 pm »
" ... I think we'll see a larger version, 12 or 15 or 18 meter. ..."

I'm thinking 27 to 30 meter.

Have the consolidated shipyard at the offshore launch site, no more SPMTs, minimal shuffling these ships around ... launch directly after fabrication.

Larger version of raptor ...

I'd think wider version of starship too. Starship hight after all is determined by the ISP, thrust and weight of the raptors. Not sure about larger raptors though as didn't they do a study on the optimum size of the raptors and came out with what they have.
« Last Edit: 06/21/2021 04:18 pm by nacnud »

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #26 on: 06/21/2021 07:50 pm »
" ... I think we'll see a larger version, 12 or 15 or 18 meter. ..."

I'm thinking 27 to 30 meter.

Have the consolidated shipyard at the offshore launch site, no more SPMTs, minimal shuffling these ships around ... launch directly after fabrication.

Larger version of raptor ...

I'd think wider version of starship too. Starship hight after all is determined by the ISP, thrust and weight of the raptors. Not sure about larger raptors though as didn't they do a study on the optimum size of the raptors and came out with what they have.
The optimization was associated with the engine bell area percentage in a particular size of LV as in the 9m diameter SH. Larger bells are less packed and have less percentage usage of the available area hence lower total possible thrust even though the bigger engines can be massive.

For a double diameter SH (18m) having a double diameter bell Raptor would yield the same percentage efficient use of space. These Raptors could be 4X the thrust of the current.

So believe that the optimization for current design on Raptor size is unlikely to hold when the diameter of the SH increase greatly as in 2X, 3X, or 4X. (Raptor thrust 4X, 9X, 16X). At some point other problems arise with materials,, handling, etc. So that the Raptor would increase in size but not by the same rates as the SH diameters. An SH increase diameter of 2X with a Raptor thrust increase of 2X would mean 60 raptors would be used for a 18m diameter Starship. Optimization is a group of multiple factors. Usage of available area (the area described by the SH diameter) by the total area of each bell of all the Raptors that would fit. The mass of the total number of Raptors. The thrust possible for a size as a factor of the exit bell area (this is mostly related to TC pressure capabilities and strength of materials). Plus there are others.

Raptors will get larger but likely not as fast or nearly as much as SH's grow in size.

Will have to wait and see when SpaceX announce the design for the next size up Starship.

Now when would this likely happen. I predict that a larger Starship would be started worked on once the current one has met its basic goals. Fully reusable, flights per vehicle SS >5 and SH >10, on orbit refueling, Lunar landing and return, Mars Landing and return, and as well as a reliable and consistent demonstration of <$100/kg payload cost to LEO. To get to that point may take until 2030. But the time between evidence of such a vehicle being worked on (tooling and testing of larger Starship components) and the vehicle doing it's first orbital flight is likely to be measured in as little as 3 years.

Such that 2030 will have the current size of Starship while the larger one takes over more and more of the launch tasks as it works through the "bugs" (you can tell I did a lot of programming work) and get the vehicle to the point where it successfully lowers the cost of payload to LEO to <$20/kg. A NOTE here is that  a ticket price for a person's trip to LEO would be possibly <$5,000. Travel to Space would become as common as International travel between continents and probably cost nearly the same.

Once you get into the fly to space like you would for air travel and SpaceX may get out of much of the transport operations and just build the rockets and sell them to operators. They would only operate a set for higher risk operations such as multi-planetary travel or other solar system exploratory travel. The Mars and especially Lunar travel and cargo transport would eventually be filled with multiple operators offering travel and shipping.

The SpaceX prediction of launching a 1000 Starships in a year with that increasing to what air travel looks like of 1000 Starships a day. You have to realize that the just at the 1000 a year the payload capability of those starships in Mid 2030's is likely to be 500t or 500,000t a year. Every decade the number of launche are likely to increase by a factor of 10 as well as the payload capabilities increase. Such that Mid 2040's 30 Starships a day, Mid 2050's 300 Starships a day, Mid 2060's 3000 Starships a day. If I live that long I will be over a 100 years old and close to a 110. Tonnage estimated going to and from space in the 2060's 6,000,000t each way every day.

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #27 on: 06/22/2021 10:00 pm »
I would think it is likely one or more of his children will be very active in SpaceX by the 2030's to carry on his legacy.

Offline steveleach

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #28 on: 06/22/2021 10:37 pm »
I would think it is likely one or more of his children will be very active in SpaceX by the 2030's to carry on his legacy.
It's really quite unlikely that his ability to deliver on the Mars vision is something that can be inherited or instilled in his children. And children of successful people often (though not always) have a sense of entitlement that can be very counterproductive.

The best that should be expected is handing over a smoothly running operation to a safe pair of hands, with the goal of drawing out the descent into mediocrity over the longest possible time.

Offline Darkseraph

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #29 on: 06/23/2021 12:18 am »
If this whole COVID-19 pandemic era has thought me anything, it's that a colony on Mars is not likely
in the 2030s or even the entire century. A huge amount of people went basically nuts with restrictions
that are a mere fraction of what the restrictions Mars would impose on prospective colonists. The feeling
of isolation with such a large communications delay from Earth would be even more daunting for the vast
majority of the public, who resented being reduced to digital only communications with loved ones. Musk
himself called these relatively minor measures for the pandemic "Fascist " and "House Arrest". You would be always
indoors, not able to go out and breathe fresh air, surrounded by radioactive desert. Everything would be more
expensive than it is on Earth because of the lack of built up supply chains for basic goods. If you like pets as
creature comforts, you're probably not going to like Mars either. They're unlikely to be as adaptive as we are
to changing gravity levels or politely do their business in toilet facilities in zero-G. Even if you could bring those
pets on a long dangerous journey, feeding them would be something of a problem as I presume dogs and cats
are not going to become vegans overnight. On that note, eating meat is big preference for many people in
the industrialized world and making it on Mars is unlikely to be possible in the 2030s if ever. No one knows the long
term effect of Mars gravity and radiation on human health and re-productivity, so not knowing that will be a huge
deal breaker for the vast majority of prospective colonists. That will take as much as decades to find out. And there is a lot of basic exploration of the planet that has yet to be done and probably needs to be done with many many robots
to get a good idea of where even to put a base near the best mix of resources available. That will take years.

Part of the allure of Mars is that its exotic and no one has ever been there. As soon as we get people there, the
fantasy will be gone and reality will sink in. That reality is that Mars is mostly a terrible place to live compared to ANYWHERE on Earth. On Earth we're undergoing a significant period of human migration, and most of those people are going from poorer environments to richer ones, in terms of energy, environment and resources. Those who move the other way, do so
occasionally for holidays to somewhere exotic and then go back to their comfortable lifestyle.


With that said, I think the biggest impact SpaceX will have in the 2030s will be nearer to Earth even if that's not where
they had been initially aiming. Satellite internet, surveillance and even navigation are going to grow and SpaceX has
the capability to be an important player there. Rocket transport, either for military, emergency cargo or even people
is potentially possible and useful. Space tourism is a pretty obvious one, from suborbital hops to trips to the Moon.
Most people will want to have a trip to space for its exotic environment, not actually live there. Mars is basically a terrible location for tourism but low earth orbits and the Moon are reasonable. At a minimum they will be able to support a significant build up of lunar bases with the cargo capacity of Starship. Getting to Mars in the first place is also probably within their capabilities by then, and its imaginable a government base will be supported there at that time, staffed by career astronauts and scientists, akin to bases in Antarctica. The military capabilities enabled by Starship and its enormous cargo capacity are potentially terrifying for world peace but I've no doubt they'll be used and by the 2030s, systems that seem like science fiction now will be operational. That factor alone may force other
nations into developing similar rockets more so than commercial reasons. On the subject of commerce, its very possible that Starship enables the economical mining of propellants and metals in space. Especially rare platinum group metals. Not because these would make a fortune at their current prices, but to collapse the price of them
so that they're useful for a lot more purposes. PGM are vary useful catalysts for fuel cells and electrolysis and these
are made much more expensive because these metals are expensive right now. Collapsing the price of them would
do wonders for electronics and green energy production and storage. Early experiments in Space-Based Solar Power
are a more speculative possibility enabled by both asteroid mining and cheap launch. I'm sure SpaceX would be
happy enough to accept payment for launching those experiments for the government even though he balks at them
himself.

Finally, I think SpaceX's systems will enable a giant leap forward in cheap and highly capable science missions, from high speed visits to the outer planets, to
amazing space telescopes and massed produced robotic systems roving many bodies in the solar system. These systems will be more serviceable, rugged and the old paradigm of perfection and just hoping a billion dollar system
works will be broken.

Long post, but to sum it up, I believe SpaceX in the 2030s will inadvertently end up enabling the Bezos vision of the future but the Mars vision will wither to just being at least flags and footprints, at most, supplying some government bases with people and cargo. The amount of people who will have been in space by the end of that decade will likely
number in the 1000s. That will sound like a depressing vision to some, but I actually think its great and a giant leap
from what we've had for the past 50 years.
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." R.P.Feynman

Offline AC in NC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #30 on: 06/23/2021 01:37 am »
Excellent thoughtful post.  I concur in parts and dissent in others. Several responses to a few of your broad themes. ​

If this whole COVID-19 pandemic era has thought me anything, it's that a colony on Mars is not likely in the 2030s or even the entire century. A huge amount of people went basically nuts with restrictions that are a mere fraction of what the restrictions Mars would impose on prospective colonists. The feeling of isolation with such a large communications delay from Earth would be even more daunting for the vast majority of the public, who resented being reduced to digital only communications with loved ones. Musk himself called these relatively minor measures for the pandemic "Fascist " and "House Arrest". You would be always indoors, not able to go out and breathe fresh air, surrounded by radioactive desert. Everything would be more expensive than it is on Earth because of the lack of built up supply chains for basic goods. If you like pets as creature comforts, you're probably not going to like Mars either. They're unlikely to be as adaptive as we are to changing gravity levels or politely do their business in toilet facilities in zero-G. Even if you could bring those pets on a long dangerous journey, feeding them would be something of a problem as I presume dogs and cats are not going to become vegans overnight. On that note, eating meat is big preference for many people in the industrialized world and making it on Mars is unlikely to be possible in the 2030s if ever. No one knows the long term effect of Mars gravity and radiation on human health and re-productivity, so not knowing that will be a huge deal breaker for the vast majority of prospective colonists.  That will take as much as decades to find out. And there is a lot of basic exploration of the planet that has yet to be done and probably needs to be done with many many robots to get a good idea of where even to put a base near the best mix of resources available. That will take years.

I think this a specious notion as it informs 2030 colony prospects.
1) Covid deprivation reactions (actual) and Mars deprivation reactions (anticipated) are almost completely unrelated.  There was a large number of people that chaffed against Covid restrictions because they were applied to billions of people, by force, arbitrarily and capriciously, with no opt-in, and where there were obvious alternatives.  A Mars colony simply needs a self-selected tiny fraction of the entire population of eligible individuals opting in to a regime where they will have been disclosed on w.r.t. restrictions that are neither arbitrary or capricious, and the unavoidable (ie: non-policy) deprivations will be more bearable than their Covid analogues because there is no alternative.
2) A colony may fail to develop in 2030, but I think that happens only for technical reasons and only if you adopt the particular definition of colony (like #2 instead of 1 here).


Quote
Part of the allure of Mars is that its exotic and no one has ever been there. As soon as we get people there, the fantasy will be gone and reality will sink in. That reality is that Mars is mostly a terrible place to live compared to ANYWHERE on Earth. On Earth we're undergoing a significant period of human migration, and most of those people are going from poorer environments to richer ones, in terms of energy, environment and resources. Those who move the other way, do so occasionally for holidays to somewhere exotic and then go back to their comfortable lifestyle.

This is true.  And irrelevant I think.  Most move to richer resources.  Buy many (colony-relevant numbers) move the other way.  And in the vast course of human history, I would argue that the lion's share (say post-prehistoric to pre-modern) were moving from richer to poorer environments depending on how you characterize poorer (and for that, here, I'm using a rough "where life is easier").  Of course, those "poorer" environments were probably, almost definitionally, richer in the most important resource(s) with that being whatever it was that motivated the emigration.  Mars will be richer in an incredible resource: one of the grandest adventures in human history.


Quote
On the subject of commerce, its very possible that Starship enables the economical mining of propellants and metals in space. Especially rare platinum group metals. Not because these would make a fortune at their current prices, but to collapse the price of them so that they're useful for a lot more purposes. PGM are vary useful catalysts for fuel cells and electrolysis and these are made much more expensive because these metals are expensive right now. Collapsing the price of them would do wonders for electronics and green energy production and storage.

I generally agree but want to mention that I have a longstanding skepticism of people's IMO too-lofty expectations of anything more than base metals mining in space unless it's the case asteroids are have high-quality nuggets just lying around for collection.  Absent that, the means of discovery, extraction, and processing are hard enough on Earth.  On asteroids I find that unimaginable. 


Quote
Long post, but to sum it up, I believe SpaceX in the 2030s will inadvertently end up enabling the Bezos vision of the future but the Mars vision will wither to just being at least flags and footprints, at most, supplying some government bases with people and cargo.

I doubt the Mars vision will wither for anything other than technical reasons.  There's too many people on Earth and there's one guy that's going if it's technically possible.
« Last Edit: 06/23/2021 01:41 am by AC in NC »

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #31 on: 06/23/2021 02:47 am »
Are you saying that colonizing Mars is not for everyone?

I just watched a youTube about saturation diving.  That's not for everyone either, but it is still done.

I have a friend that did 2 or 3 tours at the South Pole.  Not for everyone either. Still done.

There are people that go to the army. Imagine that!  Soooo many limitations. (Been there etc)

I agree mankind in general and a lot of spoiled first worlders are not cut out for it ("I can't eat the same thing two days in a row") but you only need those who self select.. 

It'll get done.
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Offline Eric Hedman

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #32 on: 06/23/2021 05:47 am »
If this whole COVID-19 pandemic era has thought me anything, it's that a colony on Mars is not likely
in the 2030s or even the entire century. A huge amount of people went basically nuts with restrictions
that are a mere fraction of what the restrictions Mars would impose on prospective colonists. The feeling
of isolation with such a large communications delay from Earth would be even more daunting for the vast
majority of the public, who resented being reduced to digital only communications with loved ones. Musk
himself called these relatively minor measures for the pandemic "Fascist " and "House Arrest".
I understand where your thoughts are coming from, but I disagree.  People are not all alike in what they can and cannot handle.  I recently ready that in a survey of Americans that 44 percent of adults consider this past year the low point in their life.  On the other hand 56 percent did not.  There are many things that some people go through that would break most others.  People that want to go to Mars are already a small subset of humans that are more likely the kind of people that will thrive in what Mars will become.  Also kids born there will know no other existence.  The small population and limitations on EVAs will normal to them.  Also, the settlers will be busy building and operating the settlement.  And if Musk is right there will fairly quickly be a growing population of people to get to know and socialize with.  Communications with Earth will have a lag but no where near the lag when my ancestors came to North America and only had a few letters worth of correspondence with relatives in Europe that took months to reach across the Atlantic.  I think you're under estimating how some people are able to adapt and thrive in situations others find abhorrent.

 

Offline guckyfan

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #33 on: 06/23/2021 06:55 am »
If this whole COVID-19 pandemic era has thought me anything, it's that a colony on Mars is not likely
in the 2030s or even the entire century. A huge amount of people went basically nuts with restrictions
that are a mere fraction of what the restrictions Mars would impose on prospective colonists. The feeling
of isolation with such a large communications delay from Earth would be even more daunting for the vast
majority of the public, who resented being reduced to digital only communications with loved ones.

What made COVID-19 restrictions so hard was lack of social interaction with people outside of members of the same household. That would not apply to Mars. To be comfortable for a large number of people Mars will need a few thousand people. That's a wide area of opportunities for social interaction. Isolated social groups of people used to be common with a few hundred people or less.

Offline guckyfan

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #34 on: 06/23/2021 07:20 am »
Long post, but to sum it up, I believe SpaceX in the 2030s will inadvertently end up enabling the Bezos vision of the future but the Mars vision will wither to just being at least flags and footprints, at most, supplying some government bases with people and cargo. The amount of people who will have been in space by the end of that decade will likely
number in the 1000s. That will sound like a depressing vision to some, but I actually think its great and a giant leap
from what we've had for the past 50 years.

Agree that SpaceX will enable the vision of Jeff Bezos. But with Mars as a necessary step on that path. Mars is the easiest place to learn how to live in a closed environment with mostly closed circuit habitats. Once we have mastered Mars, the path to expand outward into the asteroid belt and beyond is open, when nuclear propulsion becomes widely available.

I have said before: If the interplanetary fairy granted me one wish for a planet to settle, it would look very much like Mars. Hard, but not too hard.

Offline Slarty1080

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #35 on: 06/23/2021 07:20 pm »
Long post, but to sum it up, I believe SpaceX in the 2030s will inadvertently end up enabling the Bezos vision of the future but the Mars vision will wither to just being at least flags and footprints, at most, supplying some government bases with people and cargo. The amount of people who will have been in space by the end of that decade will likely
number in the 1000s. That will sound like a depressing vision to some, but I actually think its great and a giant leap
from what we've had for the past 50 years.

Agree that SpaceX will enable the vision of Jeff Bezos. But with Mars as a necessary step on that path. Mars is the easiest place to learn how to live in a closed environment with mostly closed circuit habitats. Once we have mastered Mars, the path to expand outward into the asteroid belt and beyond is open, when nuclear propulsion becomes widely available.

I have said before: If the interplanetary fairy granted me one wish for a planet to settle, it would look very much like Mars. Hard, but not too hard.
At some point there will be a deviation between what the Government want and is prepared to pay for and what SpaceX want and then we will really know what SpaceX is about. I'm convinced that at that point SpaceX will step up to the mark to fill the gap, whatever the cost to the company in order to make humanity a multi-planet species.
My optimistic hope is that it will become cool to really think about things... rather than just doing reactive bullsh*t based on no knowledge (Brian Cox)

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #36 on: 06/23/2021 08:30 pm »
Long post, but to sum it up, I believe SpaceX in the 2030s will inadvertently end up enabling the Bezos vision of the future but the Mars vision will wither to just being at least flags and footprints, at most, supplying some government bases with people and cargo. The amount of people who will have been in space by the end of that decade will likely
number in the 1000s. That will sound like a depressing vision to some, but I actually think its great and a giant leap
from what we've had for the past 50 years.

Agree that SpaceX will enable the vision of Jeff Bezos. But with Mars as a necessary step on that path. Mars is the easiest place to learn how to live in a closed environment with mostly closed circuit habitats. Once we have mastered Mars, the path to expand outward into the asteroid belt and beyond is open, when nuclear propulsion becomes widely available.

I have said before: If the interplanetary fairy granted me one wish for a planet to settle, it would look very much like Mars. Hard, but not too hard.
Very much so.

Even with Starship-like transport, getting out of Earth is very difficult

Once Mars is thriving, going from there to the aseroid belt is a lot easier, SSTOs are super practical (Starships, basically) and things can take off.
« Last Edit: 06/24/2021 04:59 pm by meekGee »
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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #37 on: 06/24/2021 03:56 pm »
I would think it is likely one or more of his children will be very active in SpaceX by the 2030's to carry on his legacy.
It's really quite unlikely that his ability to deliver on the Mars vision is something that can be inherited or instilled in his children. And children of successful people often (though not always) have a sense of entitlement that can be very counterproductive.

The best that should be expected is handing over a smoothly running operation to a safe pair of hands, with the goal of drawing out the descent into mediocrity over the longest possible time.


Not always. Take the J M Smucker company - it highly successful and has been run through four generations of the family now. The key to it working is getting the children involved early and working in different areas of the company. I would think with Elon's vision of making humanity multiplanetary which is going to take multiply generations, he would seek to have some of his children follow in his footsteps. They have been seen at Boca from time to time too.

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #38 on: 06/24/2021 06:14 pm »
If the 9 meter Starship is proven to work, I think we'll see a larger version, 12 or 15 or 18 meter.

If Elon was a decade younger, then yes, you'd probably see a rapid movement to a 12 to 15 meter diameter Starship II following the success of 9m Starship.

But time isn't on Elon's side.

What I think is more likely is a rapid movement to "stretch" Starship in the same way Falcon 9 evolved into F9 Block 5, for specialized tanker/cargo transports, where you can fly them unmanned and don't care if they crash during testing. The current Starship OML can be retained for manned launch, since people aren't that mass intensive, and for manned flights, you want a lot of flight heritage built up.
« Last Edit: 06/24/2021 06:15 pm by RyanC »

Offline freddo411

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #39 on: 06/24/2021 07:57 pm »
Long post, but to sum it up, I believe SpaceX in the 2030s will inadvertently end up enabling the Bezos vision of the future but the Mars vision will wither to just being at least flags and footprints, at most, supplying some government bases with people and cargo. The amount of people who will have been in space by the end of that decade will likely
number in the 1000s. That will sound like a depressing vision to some, but I actually think its great and a giant leap
from what we've had for the past 50 years.

Agree that SpaceX will enable the vision of Jeff Bezos. But with Mars as a necessary step on that path. Mars is the easiest place to learn how to live in a closed environment with mostly closed circuit habitats. Once we have mastered Mars, the path to expand outward into the asteroid belt and beyond is open, when nuclear propulsion becomes widely available.

I have said before: If the interplanetary fairy granted me one wish for a planet to settle, it would look very much like Mars. Hard, but not too hard.

Mars is a reasonably good planet to settle, especially compared to Luna, Mercury, Venus or the moon of the outer planets.   Mars has resources, both in its atmosphere and in its regolith.   Mars gravity will be good for human habitation, but not too difficult for launches.

To come around again to the topic of this thread ->

Prior to the 2030s, SpaceX will have developed cheap reusable launch, and reliable and common orbital refueling.

The big deal for 2030s will be ISRU.   ISRU has been a concept for a while ( ie Zubrin's Case for Mars ).    In 2030, ISRU will happen for the first time off Earth, and it will be SpaceX that makes this happen.   We can expect actual operational ISRU at scale, not just minor experimental / developmental work on both the Moon and Mars.

These are fundamental pillars of common, ubiquitous space travel.   And SpaceX/Elon will have been the fundamental driver of all of it  (and yes, NASA, investors, partners and customers deserve some credit too).

Offline Slarty1080

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #40 on: 06/25/2021 06:59 pm »
I would think it is likely one or more of his children will be very active in SpaceX by the 2030's to carry on his legacy.
It's really quite unlikely that his ability to deliver on the Mars vision is something that can be inherited or instilled in his children. And children of successful people often (though not always) have a sense of entitlement that can be very counterproductive.

The best that should be expected is handing over a smoothly running operation to a safe pair of hands, with the goal of drawing out the descent into mediocrity over the longest possible time.


Not always. Take the J M Smucker company - it highly successful and has been run through four generations of the family now. The key to it working is getting the children involved early and working in different areas of the company. I would think with Elon's vision of making humanity multiplanetary which is going to take multiply generations, he would seek to have some of his children follow in his footsteps. They have been seen at Boca from time to time too.
Unfortunately I doubt any of Elon’s children will be able to step into his shoes at least not easily. They had a very different upbringing from him. Part of Elon was forged in some very nasty conditions. He had an unpleasant home life and had a terrible time at school being an intellectual swat amidst grim and tough minded Afrikaner peers in South Africa.

He was regularly beaten up and bullied for years. And not as in jibes, but as in being pushed down an entire flight of concrete stairs and being beaten around the head until bloody. His brother Kimbal said that on one occasion he looked like he had been in a boxing ring and he had to spend a week in hospital.

Also again according to Kimbal, train trips between Pretoria and Johannesburg during the 80’s were some of their formative experiences. “South Africa was not a happy go lucky place and that has an impact on you. We saw some really rough stuff. It was part of an atypical upbringing – just an insane set of experiences that changes how you very risk”.

Elon himself has said that he worried that his children had not faced enough adversity.
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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #41 on: 06/29/2021 04:44 am »
Mars has very little to offer besides gravity, which can be substituted by sufficiently large spinning things.  At some point, I expect Elon to have a big shift, wherein he abandons Mars and heads for near Earth asteroids.  It'll be like when Starship switched from carbon to stainless steel: everyone will cry for a while but then it'll make sense so they'll carry on.

I think this is where Bezos wants to go now, but he's somehow doing it wrong.

Property rights on Earth generally trace back to agreements made at the end of wars, and squatters' rights.  I think there is going to be a race on, sometime toward the end of Elon's life, where people vie to own near Earth asteroids by virtue of living there.

This seems quite ridiculous now.  At some point, it'll be possible to fabricate solar panels in space using stuff from asteroids.  Yes, that's a big jump from now.  The energy needed to fabricate a solar panel is made back by that solar panel in just a month or two, when the panel sits in full sunlight 24 hours/day.  Once the sorcerer's apprentice gets going in space you'll have absurd growth rates bounded by whatever the limiting resource shipped from Earth is.  And energy in space will be significantly more abundant (i.e. cheaper) than on Earth.

The price of most physical things on Earth is related to how much energy is used to produce it.  Yes, I know, software and services muddy this relationship.  Once energy in space is more abundant than on Earth, people in space, the people who own stuff up there, will be by some measures wealthier than people on Earth.  They will have better living standards.  They will live in bigger houses and have bigger back yards.  Those back yards may be inside large rotating pressure vessels and lit by LEDs, but that's not a huge loss.

Before that happens, lots of people will see it coming and there is going to be a big squabble over who owns the new wealth.

Offline Scintillant

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #42 on: 06/29/2021 05:14 am »
Mars has very little to offer besides gravity, which can be substituted by sufficiently large spinning things.  At some point, I expect Elon to have a big shift, wherein he abandons Mars and heads for near Earth asteroids.  It'll be like when Starship switched from carbon to stainless steel: everyone will cry for a while but then it'll make sense so they'll carry on.

Mars also has an atmosphere, functionally unlimited raw materials, a prebuilt surface, a more forgiving thermal environment, easier rad protection, potential for ISRU, and many other benefits. Settling Mars will almost certainly be far easier than settling an asteroid.

Quote
This seems quite ridiculous now.  At some point, it'll be possible to fabricate solar panels in space using stuff from asteroids.  Yes, that's a big jump from now.  The energy needed to fabricate a solar panel is made back by that solar panel in just a month or two, when the panel sits in full sunlight 24 hours/day.  Once the sorcerer's apprentice gets going in space you'll have absurd growth rates bounded by whatever the limiting resource shipped from Earth is.  And energy in space will be significantly more abundant (i.e. cheaper) than on Earth.

Unlikely. Even in a world where we have asteroid mining, it will almost certainly be far cheaper to build solar on Earth or Mars, and thus have cheaper energy. Space panels will be harder to manufacture and install than Earth panels due to the need for rad hardening, operation in a significantly harsher environment, little opportunity for repair, and other such issues. Plus, using the power is also harder - you either have to beam it somewhere and deal with beam losses and collection inefficiencies, or build a space station attached to the panels, which would definitely be more expensive than building on-planet.

Quote
The price of most physical things on Earth is related to how much energy is used to produce it.  Yes, I know, software and services muddy this relationship.  Once energy in space is more abundant than on Earth, people in space, the people who own stuff up there, will be by some measures wealthier than people on Earth.  They will have better living standards.  They will live in bigger houses and have bigger back yards.  Those back yards may be inside large rotating pressure vessels and lit by LEDs, but that's not a huge loss.

Also unlikely. First, price is dependent on supply AND demand - energy consumption has little to do with it. Something may take a lot of energy but with no demand, its price will be low. As for people living in space, that almost certainly will be more expensive than living on Earth, again due to the ease of building and operations on-planet. Compare the cost of the ISS ($150B for 35,000 cu.ft, 2/3 of which is taken up by equipment) to the cost of the fanciest mansion in the Hamptons ($145M for 42 acres and 20,000 sq.ft). That's 3 orders of magnitude less for infinitely more luxury - and if you're willing to settle for a "regular" $1M mansion in a decent city, that's 5 orders of magnitude less. Station living will not be cheaper than Earth living in the foreseeable future.

Offline spacenut

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #43 on: 06/29/2021 05:39 am »
Mars has water (ice).  NASA discovered a body of water in the northern hemisphere of Mars the size of Lake Superior.  Mars has a built in building material of basalt.  Mars has iron which makes the planet red.  Mars has sand for silicone and glass making.  Mars has a CO2 atmosphere good for plants to grow in greenhouses.  Mars has a 24.5 day similar to earth so acclimation shouldn't be a problem.  It also has gravity at .38% of earth, more than the moon.  Mars may also have other minerals and ores that can be mined and processed for a colony. 

Asteroid mining will be more expensive and with less payback than Mars.  Once a Martian colony is established and fuel manufacturing is running smoothly.  Starships could be refueled to travel to Ceres or the asteroid belt without the need for a nuclear mothership.  A refueling depot could be built at Ceres or another large asteroid, for travels onward to the moons of Jupiter. 

I still think by using a fleet of Starships a very large nuclear mothership with artificial gravity could be built using Starships to take the modules or components to space to assemble it.  Then it could take a couple of Starships to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn for exploration landings with possible future colonies there. 

Mars is only the first step. 

Offline RoadWithoutEnd

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #44 on: 06/29/2021 06:01 am »
What does SpaceX do next for the 2030s while Elon can still control the company?

I'm gonna play the "exponentiate" card here.  I was convinced that Falcon 9 was Elon Musk's platform; that he was going to build on and iterate it indefinitely, until he could no longer function.

Instead he did this other thing.  This bizarre program, utilizing ideas that were both very old and very young.

I say this is a clue into his character, and that he will do it again.  In fact, that he will do it continuously.

I say that the final product of SpaceX has no resemblance to anything we've ever seen from it.  That as much as Starship does not resemble Falcon 9, what follows it will not resemble Starship.

Moreover, that because Elon Musk is basically crazy, it takes no more effort on his part to make such leaps than it takes a normal person to choose chocolate ice cream rather than vanilla.

We are living in interesting times.   
Walk the road without end, and all tomorrows unfold like music.

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #45 on: 06/29/2021 08:43 pm »
Some things to think about:

2002 -SpaceX established.

2012 - F9 fully operational with a private Earth return capsule. A 5X drop in cost $/kg from $20,000/kg to $4,000/kg (eventual to $2,000/kg by 2017).

2022 - Starship operational. A 5X drop in cost $/kg from $2,000/kg to $400100/kg (eventual to $20050/kg by 2027).

2032 - Second generation Starship (Starship2) operational. A 5X drop in cost $/kg from $200100/kg to $4010/kg (eventual to $205/kg by 2037). NOTES: SS2 would be a LV capable of 5X the payload capability of SS1 (possibly as much as 750 tons) for the same operational costs. Cost of a trip per person to the Moon or Mars from Earth <$400100K/person. A trip to LEO <$20,0005,000/person.

The basic note is that if such trends continue the Earth of the mid/late 2030's will be almost unrecognizable to us.

EDIT: OOPS!!  some of my numbers are off. FIXED. Math problems, math problems!!!!!


« Last Edit: 06/29/2021 11:36 pm by oldAtlas_Eguy »

Offline alugobi

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #46 on: 06/29/2021 11:08 pm »
Moore's Musk's Law.

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #47 on: 06/29/2021 11:30 pm »
Moore's Musk's Law.
If trends hold (maybe). SpaceX may be able to lower cost to space by a factor of 2X with in system improvements and then another 5X with an architecture change over the course of a 10 year period. Such that every 10 years the cost to space drops a total of a factor of 10.

MUSK'S LAW.  ;D

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #48 on: 06/30/2021 01:02 am »
I think the biggest risk to SpaceX is the leadership continuum. The vision and drive of Musk together with the maturity and competence of Shotwell have proven to be an outstanding combination. Musk will get old, and something could happen to Shotwell. These are big business risks, perhaps the biggest ones. SpaceX could milk the F9/FH for a decade or two, but to continue expanding, they need both of their leaders. I certainly hope they are working to identify and groom potential replacements for these two.

This is also a good point.

If Elon had lost control of SpaceX in the early 2010s and SpaceX under new ownership had coasted on the Falcon 9 v1.0 with minor upgrades (slight stretching); they'd be facing serious problems in the 2020s as established launch providers improved their own offerings and did cost reduction measures.

For example, F9v1.0 is a good LEO delivery vehicle, but it comes way short in the GTO market segment (1,400~ kg against 4,300~ kg for Atlas V 401 and 4,500 kg for Proton-M; much less 6,350 kg for Proton-M Phase IV).

The huge bet that Elon did on propulsive boost-back first stage recovery, and the massive performance increases that Falcon 9 required to make it work paid off in spades:

1.) Falcon 9 FT's performance in reusable ASDS landing mode has basically killed Proton from the commercial market and given ULA a serious run for their money in launching government payloads.

2.) Because of reusability, SpaceX can rack up the profit margin on reusable Falcon 9 launches, and then offer a cheap expendable mission to cut into the pricey and prestigious GTO / Beyond LEO market for Vulcan VC2. (Yes, I know VC2 has about 1 metric tonne more payload to GTO than F9 FT expendable, but because SpaceX can seriously compete in that weight class segment, they force the market to respond, rather than ceding it entirely).

3.) Because of the impressive launch rate brought by boost-back reuse; SpaceX can brute force their way to valuable planetary mission/nuclear certification from NASA through simply launching over and over, as opposed to launching infrequently and producing 100 metric tonnes of analyses for certification.

All this gives SpaceX a nice steady cash flow for the first half of the 2020s; despite the emergence of Blue Origin's New Glenn and ULA's Vulcan, as well as foreign "Falcon 9" clones in China and Russia that are on the drawing boards.

It also hasn't hurt that SpaceX's likely competitors have:

1.) Imploded. The entire Russian Space Sector is a chaotic mass. How long have we been waiting for Angara?

2.) Played it conservatively. ULA's Vulcan from looking at the specs is a nice "Falcon 9 v1.1 killer", bringing costs down to be competitive, despite the costs of the "Dial a Rocket" strategy with add on solids. Unfortunately for ULA, SpaceX's intense drive for self-improvement has turned Vulcan from a serious threat on the marketplace to one that can be managed.

3.) Gradatim Ferociter. Bezos and Blue have wasted an enormous opportunity. There was potential here for a kill shot -- so to speak on both ULA and SpaceX -- with the performance of New Glenn; but by taking so long to bring New Glenn to market, Starship has become viable; lessening the impact of New Glenn.

Offline IainMcClatchie

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #49 on: 07/01/2021 07:36 am »
Scintillant, thanks for the reply.  Mine is a radical idea, so although I'm unlikely to convince you of anything, I'll answer some of your criticisms on the chance you'd enjoy fleshing them out a bit.

Mars has very little to offer besides gravity, which can be substituted by sufficiently large spinning things.

Mars also has an atmosphere, functionally unlimited raw materials, a prebuilt surface, a more forgiving thermal environment, easier rad protection, potential for ISRU, and many other benefits. Settling Mars will almost certainly be far easier than settling an asteroid.

Mars' atmosphere is useful for aerobraking, which saves thousands of m/s of delta-V per incoming transit.  That's a big deal, as Earth-Mars transits cost less delta-V than Earth-NEO transits.  But aerobraking puts severe structural constraints on anything.  A shuttle going back and forth between LEO and an asteroid using solar electric propulsion and oxygen propellant has minimal structural constraints.

That's a big deal because the single biggest problem with a Mars colony is that there is no obvious product you can make on Mars and ship to Earth for profit.  Tourism isn't going to be big enough.

The atmosphere doesn't shield radiation sufficiently, so you have to build shielding, which isolates you from the surface.  It is a handy supply of CO2, and C is hard to come by on basalt rubble asteroids, so that's good.

Asteroids are also functionally unlimited in size.  A 1 km diameter basalt asteroid would yield sufficient metal to put 1 terawatt of SPS into GEO... that's 1 TW on the ground after beam losses.

Mars' surface is essentially useless.  To grow or inhabit anything requires a radiation shielded pressure vessel, just as you'd need in space.

Mars' gravity is probably worse than useless.  If 37% of Earth normal turns out to be okay, then it's temporarily useful, but dooms people who spend more than a few years on Mars to stay there forever, which means you can't ethically have kids on Mars.  If 37% turns out to be too small, it makes building livable km-diameter centrifuges far more difficult than building centrifuges in space.

Mars' thermal environment is worse than space.  In space, we have continuous solar radiation on one side and a 4 K radiative heat sink on the other.  No shading problems for a habitat built around and from the material of an asteroid.  No structural problems extending radiators hundreds of km into space.  On Mars there is night, which means thermal cycling.  The atmosphere is not dense enough to use as a heat sink and brings dust to screw up solar panels.  Radiators do not work as well in the Martian daytime as they do facing away from the Sun in space (shaded by solar panels).

Quote
Quote
This seems quite ridiculous now.  At some point, it'll be possible to fabricate solar panels in space using stuff from asteroids.  Yes, that's a big jump from now.  The energy needed to fabricate a solar panel is made back by that solar panel in just a month or two, when the panel sits in full sunlight 24 hours/day.  Once the sorcerer's apprentice gets going in space you'll have absurd growth rates bounded by whatever the limiting resource shipped from Earth is.  And energy in space will be significantly more abundant (i.e. cheaper) than on Earth.

Unlikely. Even in a world where we have asteroid mining, it will almost certainly be far cheaper to build solar on Earth or Mars, and thus have cheaper energy. Space panels will be harder to manufacture and install than Earth panels due to the need for rad hardening, operation in a significantly harsher environment, little opportunity for repair, and other such issues. Plus, using the power is also harder - you either have to beam it somewhere and deal with beam losses and collection inefficiencies, or build a space station attached to the panels, which would definitely be more expensive than building on-planet.

To my mind the big comparison is Space solar +beaming + utilities vs 3x as much Earth solar + batteries.  The biggest problem I see with space-based solar is actually the utility component on the ground.  Most of the cost of electricity isn't generation, transmission, or distribution, but rather utility overhead.  I suspect that in places with clear enough skies (Hawaii, Florida to Texas to California), a substantial fraction of consumers are going to cut off the utility entirely, maybe within ten years from now.

But for most of Europe and Asia and the northern half of the US, on-orbit concentrating solar power fabbed mostly at asteroids with cells from Earth will be cheaper than solar panels on Earth.  The energy returned from energy invested is just so good in space.

And, I think Elon will eventually come to that conclusion also.  And within a week he'll have turned SpaceX towards that new goal.

Offline 2megs

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #50 on: 07/01/2021 10:45 am »
2002 -SpaceX established.

2012 - F9 fully operational with a private Earth return capsule. A 5X drop in cost $/kg...

2022 - Starship operational. A 5X drop in cost $/kg...

2032 - Second generation Starship (Starship2) operational. A 5X drop in cost $/kg...

I have trouble seeing that trend continue for a "Starship 2". If Starship fully succeeds (I'm an optimist) then they've got an upper stage capable of indefinite load-and-go reuse. At that point the marginal cost of launches converges on fuel cost plus operating overhead. Beyond that point, a cheaper rocket doesn't make things meaningfully cheaper. The rocket amortizes to near zero, and further big wins mostly come from areas besides the rocket itself, like...

* Radical rethinking of how much infrastructure and workforce is required for a launch or landing site.

* A new way of building and operating offshore platforms for far less money than the oil and gas industry does today.

* Breakthroughs in power/fuel production, so consumables can be produced cheaper than we currently get methane out of the ground or oxygen out of the air.

The only other alternative to improve $/kg is moving beyond chemical rockets entirely (build a space elevator or a giant railgun or some other sci-fi thing), but that's not a "Starship 2" -- or a serious topic for the next decade.

I'm sure there'll be a Starship 2, but if Starship hits all its goals, the gains are more likely to be incremental than exponential.

Offline Bynaus

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #51 on: 07/01/2021 01:49 pm »
Also in the light of today's comments by Elon Musk, Starship might indeed just be "peak chemical rocket". Sure, it will be further refined, it will get competition (*ahem*a copy*ahem*) from China and perhaps elsewhere, but I don't think it will be followed by an even larger system.

The goal of starship is to have rapid and cheap reusability. Any larger rocket needs a larger launchpad, a larger security zone, more heat-resistant engines, etc, and would cost billions to develop. It would have to compete with an already established, rapidly reusable Starship / Super Heavy system that can just launch a couple of times more to achieve the same mass to orbit as the envisioned larger rocket. The point of (current) Starship is to have a ship that is large enough to start a base on Mars with a single flight. If it can do that (and I think it can), there's no point in building a larger system - just send more of them to further expand the base.

Therefore, I don't think SpaceX in the 2030s will be building an even larger Starship system. There will be Starlink, commercial satellite launches (and satellite servicing missions), military launches (perhaps point-to-point cargo - at this point, I don't believe in regular point-to-point passenger flights, except perhaps for "joyrides"), NASA launches, and an ecosystem of technology to support bases on the Moon and Mars, funded by both NASA and all the sources of income mentioned above. But the whole point of SpaceX is to have an independent civilization on Mars. That will take decades to accomplish, but its also SpaceX's "final" big project that will have the center of attention once Starship works (i.e., after ca. 2025). I think its realistic to expect Elon Musk to move to Mars at some point in the late 2030s, when there is a working base that needs his "hands on tinkering" to succeed. He's always where the action is, and at that time, it will be on Mars. And of course, he will eventually die on Mars.

I think its possible that SpaceX will at some point think about building some large, nuclear-powered interplanetary transport ship, which is serviced and refueled on both ends by Starships, to further increase the "useful tons to Mars" metric (i.e., such a transport ship could increase useful payload to Mars for the same amount of fuel launched by an existing Starship / Super Heavy fleet, because an NTR makes more efficient use of fuel compared to a Raptor-powered starship).
More of my thoughts: www.final-frontier.ch (in German)

Online Vahe231991

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #52 on: 07/01/2021 03:26 pm »
All nuclear fuel for the upper stage of this Starship variant (which would only ignite in space) would be mined from the Morrison Formation in the western United States.

Why does the source of the uranium matter?
The Morrison Formation is best known for dinosaur fossils, but also yielded uranium ore. I noticed that there are uranium deposits in the Gulf Coast region of Texas (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_US_uranium_reserves.gif), so if Elon Musk cared about the environment, he could ask local officials in the Texas Gulf Coast region to grant permission for uranium to be mined from this region so that uranium ore from the Gulf Coast region of Texas could be used to make nuclear fuel for a nuclear-powered Starship variant. I mean, the Starship rocket is so heavy and big that it could carry to weight of a spacecraft with a nuclear reactor. 

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #53 on: 07/01/2021 07:45 pm »
The only other alternative to improve $/kg is moving beyond chemical rockets entirely (build a space elevator or a giant railgun or some other sci-fi thing), but that's not a "Starship 2" -- or a serious topic for the next decade.

I would bet you $100 that right now, Space X has a private "Raiders of the Lost Ark" Division set up to evaluate all sorts of crazy stuff for "breakthrough technologies", ranging from "can we commercialise VASMIR" to "EM Drive".

I would also bet you $25 that SpaceX has actually flown some of these potential technologies in orbit, either on Starlink satellites themselves, or on Starlink-only Falcon 9 Upper Stages (the advantages of having your own internal payloads is that you can do risks with them that no paying customer would dare allow).

Online philw1776

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #54 on: 07/01/2021 08:18 pm »
The only other alternative to improve $/kg is moving beyond chemical rockets entirely (build a space elevator or a giant railgun or some other sci-fi thing), but that's not a "Starship 2" -- or a serious topic for the next decade.

I would bet you $100 that right now, Space X has a private "Raiders of the Lost Ark" Division set up to evaluate all sorts of crazy stuff for "breakthrough technologies", ranging from "can we commercialise VASMIR" to "EM Drive".

I would also bet you $25 that SpaceX has actually flown some of these potential technologies in orbit, either on Starlink satellites themselves, or on Starlink-only Falcon 9 Upper Stages (the advantages of having your own internal payloads is that you can do risks with them that no paying customer would dare allow).

Were it verifiable, I'd take that $25 bet literally as stated (VASIMR or EM drive flown is your win) and even give you 2x payout.
FULL SEND!!!!

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #55 on: 07/01/2021 08:27 pm »
Some things to think about:

2022 - Starship operational. A 5X drop in cost $/kg from $2,000/kg to $400100/kg (eventual to $20050/kg by 2027).

2032 - Second generation Starship (Starship2) operational. A 5X drop in cost $/kg from $200100/kg to $4010/kg (eventual to $205/kg by 2037). NOTES: SS2 would be a LV capable of 5X the payload capability of SS1 (possibly as much as 750 tons) for the same operational costs. Cost of a trip per person to the Moon or Mars from Earth <$400100K/person. A trip to LEO <$20,0005,000/person.

Let's look at this from a historic standpoint:

Fuselage Diameters and Volumetric Area per 1 meter length:

DC-3/C-47 Skytrain: 2m diameter, 3.14 m3 per meter of length
DC-4/C-54 Skymaster: 3m diameter, 7.06 m3 per meter of length
DC-8 Narrowbody Jet: 3.73m diameter, 10.92m3 per meter of length
737 Narrowbody Jet: 3.8m diameter, 11.34m3 per meter of length
777 Semi-Widebody Jet: 5.86m diameter, 26.97m3 per meter of length
DC-10 Widebody Jet: 6.02m diameter, 28.46m3 per meter of length
Boeing 747 Widebody: 6.08m diameter, 29.03m3 per meter of length
A380 Super Widebody: 7.14m diameter, 40.04m3 per meter of length

Extrapolation to Starship

Vulcan Centaur: 5.4m diameter, 22.9 m3 per meter of length
New Glenn: 7m diameter, 38.48 m3 per meter of length
Starship: 9m diameter, 63.62 m3 per meter of length
Saturn V: 10.1m diameter, 80.12 m3 per meter of length

Right from the start, Starship offers more potential cargo space per length than the A380; and the only thing that beats it in rockets is the now-defunct Saturn V.

If we assume that Starship is basically the DC-3 that takes us to space, then scaling up the difference between the DC-3 and DC-8 (1.865 times the fuselage diameter); gives us a "Super Starship" diameter of 16.7~ meters.

This is bigger than Nova C-8's first stage diameter -- only Sea Dragon at 23m diameter would be bigger.

Going to

https://launchercalculator.com

Selecting Starship and then modifying the specifications to be:

16.7m diameter
32,902,516 kg lift-off mass (scaled up from 9m starship LOM to 16.7m)
Setting 1st Stage Dry/Wet to 10%
Setting 2nd Stage Dry/Wet to 7%
Setting 1st Stage Unused Propellant to 20%
Setting 2nd Stage Unused Propellant to 5%

I get:
652,538 kg to LEO
526,356 kg to ISS

If we assume launch costs remain constant at around $65 million for the first run of Super Starship; then this is $99/kg to LEO.

If launch costs drop to $25M per launch for later Super Starships, this results in $38/kg to LEO.

But the biggest problem with jumping into a scaled up next generation Super Starship is this:

The full Starship stack is about 5,000+ long tons.

Against this, the present "State of art" in big launchers is:

Space Shuttle: 2,000~ long tons
Energia: 2,300+ long tons.
N-1: 2,700+ long tons.
Saturn V: 2,900+ long tons.

Starship is only about a 1.7x scale up in launch mass from the Saturn V.

By contrast, Super Starship at 32,300+ long tons is a 6.46x scale up from Starship.

(NOTE: I'm using long tons deliberately, since it lets you make direct comparisons to floating ships, the only other things this heavy that move)

Given that SpaceX has to develop a lot of other stuff to make Mars colonization happen, there's not going to be enough engineering manpower going around to develop Super Starship.

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #56 on: 07/01/2021 08:34 pm »
I think its possible that SpaceX will at some point think about building some large, nuclear-powered interplanetary transport ship, which is serviced and refueled on both ends by Starships, to further increase the "useful tons to Mars" metric (i.e., such a transport ship could increase useful payload to Mars for the same amount of fuel launched by an existing Starship / Super Heavy fleet, because an NTR makes more efficient use of fuel compared to a Raptor-powered starship).

I think you are also right; and that we will see further specialization in Mars Orbit-only Starships for that end of the "transport route"; because Mars Orbit-only starships could have much cheaper/lighter/efficient heat shields due to Mars' thinner atmosphere.

Offline Bynaus

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #57 on: 07/02/2021 05:44 am »
I think its possible that SpaceX will at some point think about building some large, nuclear-powered interplanetary transport ship, which is serviced and refueled on both ends by Starships, to further increase the "useful tons to Mars" metric (i.e., such a transport ship could increase useful payload to Mars for the same amount of fuel launched by an existing Starship / Super Heavy fleet, because an NTR makes more efficient use of fuel compared to a Raptor-powered starship).

I think you are also right; and that we will see further specialization in Mars Orbit-only Starships for that end of the "transport route"; because Mars Orbit-only starships could have much cheaper/lighter/efficient heat shields due to Mars' thinner atmosphere.

And significantly lower entry speeds... They could even have smaller tanks (i.e., higher payload fraction) and would still be SSTOs on Mars. Although this would have to be balanced against the need to partly decelerate the payload propulsively, because of the thin atmosphere - not sure which effect would "win" here.
More of my thoughts: www.final-frontier.ch (in German)

Offline Scintillant

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #58 on: 07/02/2021 07:17 am »
Mars' atmosphere is useful for aerobraking, which saves thousands of m/s of delta-V per incoming transit.  That's a big deal, as Earth-Mars transits cost less delta-V than Earth-NEO transits.  But aerobraking puts severe structural constraints on anything.  A shuttle going back and forth between LEO and an asteroid using solar electric propulsion and oxygen propellant has minimal structural constraints.

Structural constraints pale compared to the huge delta-V benefits of aerobraking. Plus, we're going to have an aerobraking-capable vehicle in the 2030s (Starship) - we're nowhere near having an SEP shuttle.

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The atmosphere doesn't shield radiation sufficiently, so you have to build shielding, which isolates you from the surface.  It is a handy supply of CO2, and C is hard to come by on basalt rubble asteroids, so that's good.

Without getting into the whole Mars radiation kerfuffle, building shielding on Mars is as easy as piling dirt over your habitat, which is significantly easier than trying to do the same in micro-g on an asteroid with no atmosphere.

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Mars' gravity is probably worse than useless.  If 37% of Earth normal turns out to be okay, then it's temporarily useful, but dooms people who spend more than a few years on Mars to stay there forever, which means you can't ethically have kids on Mars.  If 37% turns out to be too small, it makes building livable km-diameter centrifuges far more difficult than building centrifuges in space.

This doesn't make sense. First, if Mars gravity is ok, why does it doom people to anything? That's contradictory. Also, people manage year-long stints in microgravity and recover fine, so it's likely that Mars gravity will be tolerable for at least that long, and probably longer.

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Mars' thermal environment is worse than space.

Not true. On Mars, you can get about 30% of your heat management through convection in the atmosphere, whereas in space you're stuck with 100% radiative, and an asteroid is a significantly smaller heatsink than the entirety of Mars.

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But for most of Europe and Asia and the northern half of the US, on-orbit concentrating solar power fabbed mostly at asteroids with cells from Earth will be cheaper than solar panels on Earth.  The energy returned from energy invested is just so good in space.

Energy returned per energy invested is not the relevant metric - cost/kW is. At today's utility-scale prices ($1/W), given $100 million I could either get 100MW of on-planet solar panels, or one set of iROSA panels for 120kW in space. That's 3 orders of magnitude difference, and on-planet panels will only get cheaper. Sure, you could argue about capacity factors and exact transmission losses and whatnot, but consider this: an on-planet installation requires exactly $0 of R&D, whereas your space-based solar plan requires the development of asteroid mining, space manufacturing of panels, a transport system for the panels, power transmission/receiving hardware, etc, AND all that has to be 3+ orders of magnitude cheaper than current space solar hardware. Nobody looking to invest money in solar would pick space-based over on-planet.

Casey Handmer has a good piece on why space-based solar isn't viable, and I'd recommend you read it (some of the numbers are mildly out of date, but the argument is still solid).

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And, I think Elon will eventually come to that conclusion also.  And within a week he'll have turned SpaceX towards that new goal.

Besides the issue of space-based solar being impractical, IMO this is a fundamental misunderstanding of Elon and SpaceX. Elon's goal is not "do stuff in space, whatever looks most appealing". Elon's goal is to colonize Mars. Everything that SpaceX does is in service of that goal - and asteroid mining / dubiously useful space-based solar does not help Mars colonization.

Offline rakaydos

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #59 on: 07/02/2021 03:21 pm »
In light of the recent tweet about optimum launcher sizes (after figuring in logistics), I'd say that the next advancement isnt a "starship 2", but a cycler capable of taking standard point to point starships (with a thousand passangers packed in like sardines) and cover the life support, gravity and legroom requirements for a 4 month trip to mars.

It then replenishes it's reserves and does science for the 4 year off season in interplantary space, waiting for the next tourist season.

Offline steveleach

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #60 on: 07/02/2021 04:18 pm »
In light of the recent tweet about optimum launcher sizes (after figuring in logistics), I'd say that the next advancement isnt a "starship 2", but a cycler capable of taking standard point to point starships (with a thousand passangers packed in like sardines) and cover the life support, gravity and legroom requirements for a 4 month trip to mars.

It then replenishes it's reserves and does science for the 4 year off season in interplantary space, waiting for the next tourist season.
AIUI, you'd need a bunch of cyclers as they'd spend most of their time coasting through empty space out past Mars.

That's really not a problem though, as you need a huge fleet for the Mars flotillas and that fleet doesn't have anything to do between opportunities. Might as well use it to shuttle materials around for cycler construction.

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #61 on: 07/02/2021 06:24 pm »
I was merely trying to point out that SpaceX has been doing an architectural change that then did a 5X drop in cost 4/kg after the previous system level design had been out for 10 years. And that after the it had been out for 5 years that a significant performance upgrade ending up with a 2x drop in cost $/kg also occurred. Such that in early 2030's as in 2021 or 2022 a new system would emerge. My take was a simple 2X diameter increase from 9m to 18m. A 4 to 5X performance increase. Such an increase would probably contribute tremendously to that 5X cost drop since about the same amount of manpower and infrastructure costs would be involved even though the vehicle is effectively 5X larger in mass and volume. Such that cost per launch would practically be close to the same as that of the 9m Starship version.

There may be other innovations that occur at that time as well regarding BEO travel improvements that greatly reduce the costs of travel to the Moon or Mars. At least in the standpoint of cost per m3 or volume per passenger. Making travel more comfortable and luxurious like that of a cruise ship vs a packed widebody aircraft for BEO travel.

SpaceX involvement in the cycler or something similar may or may not occur. But SpaceX involvement in getting from surface to orbit and back again is still likely to be the premiere service.

In a period of 10 years SpaceX has gone from in 2011 a total of just 2 launches of F9 (2010 and 2011). To in 2021 what looks to be 40 launches this year.

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #62 on: 07/02/2021 08:21 pm »
Casey Handmer has a good piece on why space-based solar isn't viable, and I'd recommend you read it (some of the numbers are mildly out of date, but the argument is still solid).

The Department of Defense is once again looking into portable nuclear reactors as an option for supplying remote places, after a 50+ year interruption. That's rather significant since for a long time, nuclear anything was verboten.

Link to article in 2009

Basically, in 2009, DOD was paying $400/gallon to get fuel into Afghanistan.

From searching around, a small generator at full load would generate about 12.5 KWH of electricity from a gallon of diesel, while a big generator would generate about 14 KWH of electricity from a gallon.

So basically, at an average of 13.25 kWh/gallon and $400/gallon transport costs; it was costing DOD about $30+ dollars a kWh to generate electricity in Afghanistan.

Bagram Airbase, basically the hub for all air movement in and out of Afghanistan, with 40,000~ troops at it's peak, had a 56 MW gas turbine powerplant system.

A typical Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan had a 30 kW generator running 24/7, but with an average load of 5 kW, for 54 gallons of fuel burned per day.

So it basically cost DOD $21,600 per day to run the lights at a FOB in Afghanistan.

Back in 1994, the Japanese came up with the SPS 2000 space based solar system concept.

http://www.spacefuture.com/archive/conceptual_study_of_a_solar_power_satellite_sps_2000.shtml
http://www.spacefuture.com/archive/sps_2000_and_its_internationalisation.shtml
https://www.esa.int/gsp/ACT/doc/POW/GSP-RPT-SPS-0503%20LBST%20Final%20Report%20Space%20Earth%20Solar%20Comparison%20Study%20050318%20s.pdf

It was to be a 250,000 kg satellite with 9 hectares (90,000 m2) of solar panels in an equilateral triangular prism generating 10 MW with a specific weight of 25 grams per watt. Actual deliverable power was to be about 100 kW continuous, and multiple satellites would have been needed to keep power going.

If we scaled that down to a 50 kW (deliverable) satellite to power a FOB, we'd end up with a 125-tonne satellite.

Simply placing that much mass in orbit would cost:

$5,590.875 Million with STS ($44,727/kg)
$2,074.875 Million with Atlas V 421 ($16,599/kg)
$693.25 Million with Vulcan VC2 ($5,546/kg)
$478 Million with Falcon 9 FT (ASDS) ($3,824/kg)
$293.875 Million with Falcon 9 Heavy (Exp) ($2,351/kg)
$209 Million with New Glenn ($1,672/kg)
$50.625 Million with Starship (ASDS) ($405/kg)
$5 Million with Hypothetical Future ($40/kg)

To put all these costs into perspective; recently the LRIP FY2021 Lot 5 contract was awarded to Sikorsky for nine CH-53K King Stallion helicopters at $878.7M total ($97.6M each).

Elon's opposition to Space Based Solar is more of a "I don't have enough time in the world" thing -- because to bring SBS to fruition would take a lot of engineering manhours to bring the entire appartus to a TRL high enough for launch -- and he's got so much other things that need to be done with SpaceX that he's not going to waste engineering manpower on a SpaceX/Tesla/SolarCity power satellite.

If, however, someone signed a contract with SpaceX to place a power satellite in orbit, he'd be more than happy to do it for them.

Offline freddo411

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #63 on: 07/02/2021 08:41 pm »
Casey Handmer has a good piece on why space-based solar isn't viable, and I'd recommend you read it (some of the numbers are mildly out of date, but the argument is still solid).

The Department of Defense is once again looking into portable nuclear reactors as an option for supplying remote places, after a 50+ year interruption. That's rather significant since for a long time, nuclear anything was verboten.

Link to article in 2009

Basically, in 2009, DOD was paying $400/gallon to get fuel into Afghanistan.

From searching around, a small generator at full load would generate about 12.5 KWH of electricity from a gallon of diesel, while a big generator would generate about 14 KWH of electricity from a gallon.

So basically, at an average of 13.25 kWh/gallon and $400/gallon transport costs; it was costing DOD about $30+ dollars a kWh to generate electricity in Afghanistan.

Bagram Airbase, basically the hub for all air movement in and out of Afghanistan, with 40,000~ troops at it's peak, had a 56 MW gas turbine powerplant system.

A typical Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan had a 30 kW generator running 24/7, but with an average load of 5 kW, for 54 gallons of fuel burned per day.

So it basically cost DOD $21,600 per day to run the lights at a FOB in Afghanistan.

Back in 1994, the Japanese came up with the SPS 2000 space based solar system concept.

http://www.spacefuture.com/archive/conceptual_study_of_a_solar_power_satellite_sps_2000.shtml
http://www.spacefuture.com/archive/sps_2000_and_its_internationalisation.shtml
https://www.esa.int/gsp/ACT/doc/POW/GSP-RPT-SPS-0503%20LBST%20Final%20Report%20Space%20Earth%20Solar%20Comparison%20Study%20050318%20s.pdf

It was to be a 250,000 kg satellite with 9 hectares (90,000 m2) of solar panels in an equilateral triangular prism generating 10 MW with a specific weight of 25 grams per watt. Actual deliverable power was to be about 100 kW continuous, and multiple satellites would have been needed to keep power going.

If we scaled that down to a 50 kW (deliverable) satellite to power a FOB, we'd end up with a 125-tonne satellite.

Simply placing that much mass in orbit would cost:

$5,590.875 Million with STS ($44,727/kg)
$2,074.875 Million with Atlas V 421 ($16,599/kg)
$693.25 Million with Vulcan VC2 ($5,546/kg)
$478 Million with Falcon 9 FT (ASDS) ($3,824/kg)
$293.875 Million with Falcon 9 Heavy (Exp) ($2,351/kg)
$209 Million with New Glenn ($1,672/kg)
$50.625 Million with Starship (ASDS) ($405/kg)
$5 Million with Hypothetical Future ($40/kg)

To put all these costs into perspective; recently the LRIP FY2021 Lot 5 contract was awarded to Sikorsky for nine CH-53K King Stallion helicopters at $878.7M total ($97.6M each).

Elon's opposition to Space Based Solar is more of a "I don't have enough time in the world" thing -- because to bring SBS to fruition would take a lot of engineering manhours to bring the entire appartus to a TRL high enough for launch -- and he's got so much other things that need to be done with SpaceX that he's not going to waste engineering manpower on a SpaceX/Tesla/SolarCity power satellite.

If, however, someone signed a contract with SpaceX to place a power satellite in orbit, he'd be more than happy to do it for them.

Great use of real numbers in this post, but you didn't do the math to come to the final conclusion.

 $21k * 365 * 10 years = $77 million for 10 years of electricity at a FOB in Afghanistan
Launch cost would be roughly $300 million on FH.   (and if I understand things correctly, more than one instance of these would be needed).

So it looks like the business case for space based solar doesn't beat the price of diesel in afghanistan.
« Last Edit: 07/02/2021 08:42 pm by freddo411 »

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #64 on: 07/02/2021 09:02 pm »
Casey Handmer has a good piece on why space-based solar isn't viable, and I'd recommend you read it (some of the numbers are mildly out of date, but the argument is still solid).

The Department of Defense is once again looking into portable nuclear reactors as an option for supplying remote places, after a 50+ year interruption. That's rather significant since for a long time, nuclear anything was verboten.

Link to article in 2009

Basically, in 2009, DOD was paying $400/gallon to get fuel into Afghanistan.

From searching around, a small generator at full load would generate about 12.5 KWH of electricity from a gallon of diesel, while a big generator would generate about 14 KWH of electricity from a gallon.

So basically, at an average of 13.25 kWh/gallon and $400/gallon transport costs; it was costing DOD about $30+ dollars a kWh to generate electricity in Afghanistan.

Bagram Airbase, basically the hub for all air movement in and out of Afghanistan, with 40,000~ troops at it's peak, had a 56 MW gas turbine powerplant system.

A typical Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan had a 30 kW generator running 24/7, but with an average load of 5 kW, for 54 gallons of fuel burned per day.

So it basically cost DOD $21,600 per day to run the lights at a FOB in Afghanistan.

Back in 1994, the Japanese came up with the SPS 2000 space based solar system concept.

http://www.spacefuture.com/archive/conceptual_study_of_a_solar_power_satellite_sps_2000.shtml
http://www.spacefuture.com/archive/sps_2000_and_its_internationalisation.shtml
https://www.esa.int/gsp/ACT/doc/POW/GSP-RPT-SPS-0503%20LBST%20Final%20Report%20Space%20Earth%20Solar%20Comparison%20Study%20050318%20s.pdf

It was to be a 250,000 kg satellite with 9 hectares (90,000 m2) of solar panels in an equilateral triangular prism generating 10 MW with a specific weight of 25 grams per watt. Actual deliverable power was to be about 100 kW continuous, and multiple satellites would have been needed to keep power going.

If we scaled that down to a 50 kW (deliverable) satellite to power a FOB, we'd end up with a 125-tonne satellite.

Simply placing that much mass in orbit would cost:

$5,590.875 Million with STS ($44,727/kg)
$2,074.875 Million with Atlas V 421 ($16,599/kg)
$693.25 Million with Vulcan VC2 ($5,546/kg)
$478 Million with Falcon 9 FT (ASDS) ($3,824/kg)
$293.875 Million with Falcon 9 Heavy (Exp) ($2,351/kg)
$209 Million with New Glenn ($1,672/kg)
$50.625 Million with Starship (ASDS) ($405/kg)
$5 Million with Hypothetical Future ($40/kg)

To put all these costs into perspective; recently the LRIP FY2021 Lot 5 contract was awarded to Sikorsky for nine CH-53K King Stallion helicopters at $878.7M total ($97.6M each).

Elon's opposition to Space Based Solar is more of a "I don't have enough time in the world" thing -- because to bring SBS to fruition would take a lot of engineering manhours to bring the entire appartus to a TRL high enough for launch -- and he's got so much other things that need to be done with SpaceX that he's not going to waste engineering manpower on a SpaceX/Tesla/SolarCity power satellite.

If, however, someone signed a contract with SpaceX to place a power satellite in orbit, he'd be more than happy to do it for them.

Great use of real numbers in this post, but you didn't do the math to come to the final conclusion.

 $21k * 365 * 10 years = $77 million for 10 years of electricity at a FOB in Afghanistan
Launch cost would be roughly $300 million on FH.   (and if I understand things correctly, more than one instance of these would be needed).

So it looks like the business case for space based solar doesn't beat the price of diesel in afghanistan.
Or $50M on Starship. So for this case Starship makes it possible barely. But again Musk is unlikely to spend his money on it with such a narrow margin for better than current.

Offline Scintillant

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #65 on: 07/03/2021 03:21 am »
Casey Handmer has a good piece on why space-based solar isn't viable, and I'd recommend you read it (some of the numbers are mildly out of date, but the argument is still solid).

The Department of Defense is once again looking into portable nuclear reactors as an option for supplying remote places, after a 50+ year interruption. That's rather significant since for a long time, nuclear anything was verboten.

Link to article in 2009

Basically, in 2009, DOD was paying $400/gallon to get fuel into Afghanistan.

From searching around, a small generator at full load would generate about 12.5 KWH of electricity from a gallon of diesel, while a big generator would generate about 14 KWH of electricity from a gallon.

So basically, at an average of 13.25 kWh/gallon and $400/gallon transport costs; it was costing DOD about $30+ dollars a kWh to generate electricity in Afghanistan.

Bagram Airbase, basically the hub for all air movement in and out of Afghanistan, with 40,000~ troops at it's peak, had a 56 MW gas turbine powerplant system.

A typical Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan had a 30 kW generator running 24/7, but with an average load of 5 kW, for 54 gallons of fuel burned per day.

So it basically cost DOD $21,600 per day to run the lights at a FOB in Afghanistan.

Back in 1994, the Japanese came up with the SPS 2000 space based solar system concept.

http://www.spacefuture.com/archive/conceptual_study_of_a_solar_power_satellite_sps_2000.shtml
http://www.spacefuture.com/archive/sps_2000_and_its_internationalisation.shtml
https://www.esa.int/gsp/ACT/doc/POW/GSP-RPT-SPS-0503%20LBST%20Final%20Report%20Space%20Earth%20Solar%20Comparison%20Study%20050318%20s.pdf

It was to be a 250,000 kg satellite with 9 hectares (90,000 m2) of solar panels in an equilateral triangular prism generating 10 MW with a specific weight of 25 grams per watt. Actual deliverable power was to be about 100 kW continuous, and multiple satellites would have been needed to keep power going.

If we scaled that down to a 50 kW (deliverable) satellite to power a FOB, we'd end up with a 125-tonne satellite.

Simply placing that much mass in orbit would cost:

$5,590.875 Million with STS ($44,727/kg)
$2,074.875 Million with Atlas V 421 ($16,599/kg)
$693.25 Million with Vulcan VC2 ($5,546/kg)
$478 Million with Falcon 9 FT (ASDS) ($3,824/kg)
$293.875 Million with Falcon 9 Heavy (Exp) ($2,351/kg)
$209 Million with New Glenn ($1,672/kg)
$50.625 Million with Starship (ASDS) ($405/kg)
$5 Million with Hypothetical Future ($40/kg)

To put all these costs into perspective; recently the LRIP FY2021 Lot 5 contract was awarded to Sikorsky for nine CH-53K King Stallion helicopters at $878.7M total ($97.6M each).

Elon's opposition to Space Based Solar is more of a "I don't have enough time in the world" thing -- because to bring SBS to fruition would take a lot of engineering manhours to bring the entire appartus to a TRL high enough for launch -- and he's got so much other things that need to be done with SpaceX that he's not going to waste engineering manpower on a SpaceX/Tesla/SolarCity power satellite.

If, however, someone signed a contract with SpaceX to place a power satellite in orbit, he'd be more than happy to do it for them.

Great use of real numbers in this post, but you didn't do the math to come to the final conclusion.

 $21k * 365 * 10 years = $77 million for 10 years of electricity at a FOB in Afghanistan
Launch cost would be roughly $300 million on FH.   (and if I understand things correctly, more than one instance of these would be needed).

So it looks like the business case for space based solar doesn't beat the price of diesel in afghanistan.
Or $50M on Starship. So for this case Starship makes it possible barely. But again Musk is unlikely to spend his money on it with such a narrow margin for better than current.

Starship still doesn't make the numbers work out because the military could just buy regular solar panels. Need 125kW at a FOB? Just buy 10 of these solar power containers, ship them via regular methods, and install them, for a total cost of about $1 million. Worried about capacity factors and nighttime energy supply? Just buy another 10 containers and a container or two of batteries, or just keep your current generators as backup (the attached USMC study is a good example, 56% fuel savings from installing a 5kW PV+batteries system).

The point is, even if my cost estimate is off by a factor of 50, it's still cheaper than space-based solar. On-planet solar is just that cheap, and getting cheaper every year. Space-based solar is unlikely to work out.

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #66 on: 07/05/2021 03:15 am »
Great use of real numbers in this post, but you didn't do the math to come to the final conclusion.

 $21k * 365 * 10 years = $77 million for 10 years of electricity at a FOB in Afghanistan

Thanks for using the numbers I provided to provide a "minimum cost closing" case for Space-Based Solar Power in a military context. So effectively, a satellite has to be built AND delivered to an operational orbit for around that cost.

The military might fund it if it was 25-30% more expensive than that baseline cost (96M to 100M) because that's still within the range of cost for a single CH-53K heavy lift helo ($97.6M); and justifiable within DOD budget for "experimental" work; because while there's a monetary cost to providing fuel, there's also a human cost -- people need to escort fuel convoys, and they get attacked/killed on fuel convoys.

Offline IainMcClatchie

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #67 on: 07/05/2021 06:08 am »
I don't see how SPS installations with less than a gigawatt or so can be made to work.

The SPS pretty much has to be in geosynchronous orbit.  The transmission frequency has some flexibility, but it's probably either 2.4 or 5.0 GHz: anything higher leads to fairly significant losses piling up in the RF amplifier, the atmosphere, and the rectenna diode.

So that says that the diameter of the ground and SPS antennas have to be something like 2.4 km across.  It's diffraction limited, and has nothing to do with power.  One antenna can get smaller if the other gets bigger.  The PV area will be close to the transmitting antenna area, and at 30% conversion efficiency that's 1.8 GW.  If the DC->RF->DC beam transmission is 50% efficient, you end up with about a gigawatt on the ground.

A gigawatt is quite a bit for a military base, even a big one, unless you are synthesizing fuel on site for jets, in which case it's quite reasonable (and wow you have a big chemical plant / target on base).
« Last Edit: 07/05/2021 08:37 pm by IainMcClatchie »

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #68 on: 07/05/2021 08:03 pm »
SPS power generation for use on Earth may never reach an economic business case. But will reach it for use in space as a source for various usages where the use of beamed power rectennas over that of solar cells result in a lower mass for electric propulsion tugs, etc. In space the ERP at the Rectenna can be much higher per m^2 than for a solar array. Or even the use of laser beamed power to up the incidence level on a solar array to increase it's power output per kg of mass. For tugs it is all about the dry weight.

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #69 on: 07/05/2021 08:07 pm »

Thanks for using the numbers I provided to provide a "minimum cost closing" case for Space-Based Solar Power in a military context.

It never closes.  The ground infrastructure is too big and vulnerable.

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #70 on: 07/05/2021 08:09 pm »

I would bet you $100 that right now, Space X has a private "Raiders of the Lost Ark" Division set up to evaluate all sorts of crazy stuff for "breakthrough technologies", ranging from "can we commercialise VASMIR" to "EM Drive".

I would also bet you $25 that SpaceX has actually flown some of these potential technologies in orbit, either on Starlink satellites themselves, or on Starlink-only Falcon 9 Upper Stages (the advantages of having your own internal payloads is that you can do risks with them that no paying customer would dare allow).

You lose on both

Offline IainMcClatchie

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #71 on: 07/05/2021 08:48 pm »
SPS power generation for use on Earth may never reach an economic business case. But will reach it for use in space as a source for various usages where the use of beamed power rectennas over that of solar cells result in a lower mass for electric propulsion tugs, etc. In space the ERP at the Rectenna can be much higher per m^2 than for a solar array. Or even the use of laser beamed power to up the incidence level on a solar array to increase it's power output per kg of mass. For tugs it is all about the dry weight.

The diffraction problem is pretty bad using RF.  You aren't limited by watts/m^2.  If the tug's distance to the solar array is any significant fraction of an orbital diameter, you'll need km-scale antennas.  Atmospheric absorption isn't a problem in orbit-to-orbit beamed power, but you still can't go much above 5 GHz or you'll lose too much efficiency in the rectenna diode.

The alternative is lasers.  These have bad efficiency and truly awful power to weight and price to power ratios, but they can operate in the IR or visible band and so don't have significant diffraction in space.  Laser illumination of PV cells optimized to convert the laser's wavelength can deliver amazing efficiency -- better than 90% at the receive end.

The trouble with ground-based lasers for powering things in space (or even high flying aircraft) is scattering by the atmosphere and that terrible cost per watt.

I'm enthusiastic about the prospect of space-based PV power beamed to the ground, but it's definitely got a nasty minimum size problem.

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #72 on: 07/05/2021 09:19 pm »
SPS power generation for use on Earth may never reach an economic business case. But will reach it for use in space as a source for various usages where the use of beamed power rectennas over that of solar cells result in a lower mass for electric propulsion tugs, etc. In space the ERP at the Rectenna can be much higher per m^2 than for a solar array. Or even the use of laser beamed power to up the incidence level on a solar array to increase it's power output per kg of mass. For tugs it is all about the dry weight.

The diffraction problem is pretty bad using RF.  You aren't limited by watts/m^2.  If the tug's distance to the solar array is any significant fraction of an orbital diameter, you'll need km-scale antennas.  Atmospheric absorption isn't a problem in orbit-to-orbit beamed power, but you still can't go much above 5 GHz or you'll lose too much efficiency in the rectenna diode.

The alternative is lasers.  These have bad efficiency and truly awful power to weight and price to power ratios, but they can operate in the IR or visible band and so don't have significant diffraction in space.  Laser illumination of PV cells optimized to convert the laser's wavelength can deliver amazing efficiency -- better than 90% at the receive end.

The trouble with ground-based lasers for powering things in space (or even high flying aircraft) is scattering by the atmosphere and that terrible cost per watt.

I'm enthusiastic about the prospect of space-based PV power beamed to the ground, but it's definitely got a nasty minimum size problem.
As I mentioned and Jim has as well the business cases even for laser to ground PV is likely to not close. Back at the advent of the SPS idea. The business case closed because there was not a more easier and competitive solution that used the same land area with about the same daily power output. It is primarily the efficiencies and very low cost of the PV cells that has caused this. Which was not the case in the 1980's. Where the low efficiencies and high cost of PV cells required some method to increase the overall efficiency of the system for same land area usage.

Now the beamed power concept may have some usage in the electric tug market that has yet to emerge. But it too may be surpassed by other solutions that will be cheaper system wise for same capability that are as yet not possible.

A NOTE here is that Starship itself may be both an enabler and the ultimate killer of the SPS idea.

Offline RedLineTrain

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #73 on: 07/06/2021 10:22 pm »
The only other alternative to improve $/kg is moving beyond chemical rockets entirely (build a space elevator or a giant railgun or some other sci-fi thing), but that's not a "Starship 2" -- or a serious topic for the next decade.

I would bet you $100 that right now, Space X has a private "Raiders of the Lost Ark" Division set up to evaluate all sorts of crazy stuff for "breakthrough technologies", ranging from "can we commercialise VASMIR" to "EM Drive".

I would also bet you $25 that SpaceX has actually flown some of these potential technologies in orbit, either on Starlink satellites themselves, or on Starlink-only Falcon 9 Upper Stages (the advantages of having your own internal payloads is that you can do risks with them that no paying customer would dare allow).

Musk's marginal propensity to spend money unnecessarily is approximately zero.

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #74 on: 07/07/2021 08:43 pm »
I don't see how SPS installations with less than a gigawatt or so can be made to work.

The SPS pretty much has to be in geosynchronous orbit.

The Japanese SPS-2000 study I've been citing uses a 1,100 km orbit.

This cuts down the time of power a single satellite can deliver to 200 seconds (3.33 minutes) during an orbital period of 100~ minutes for a single specific location along it's orbital plane. It does however, reduce the size of the rectenna from 2.4 km to about 1~ km.

It's basically SPS-Starlink -- meaning if you want to deliver continuous power to a specific location on earth, you need about 34~ satellites in an orbital train, one after another.

Also, while doing "shower thoughts", I had a thought and checked it up on the documentation available for me on SPS-2000:

http://www.spacefuture.com/archive/sps_2000_and_its_internationalisation.shtml

The intensity at the center of the SPS 2000 microwave beam is only 10 W/sqm, which is the internationally accepted safety level for continuous wave radiation at 2.45 GHz, as used in microwave ovens.[/b]

...

By contrast, it is proposed that future commercial Systems should have intensities as high as several hundred W/sqm.

Since the downlink of SPS-2000 is 100 kW, that 10 W/m2 requirement mandates an antenna size of 10,000 m2; or roughly a 113~ m diameter antenna.

I assume the other 887~ m of diameter in the SPS-2000 antenna (a safety factor of 7.84x) is for safety margin reasons for people/livestock which may inadvertently wander under an operating rectenna; and also to make a cheap rectenna that can be easily maintained, being a wire mesh some 2 to 3 meters above the ground on poles.

Some quick calculations on the AN/SPY-1A for AEGIS ships (3 to 4 GHz, 12 m2 antenna area, peak power of 5 MW) gives me an intensity of 416.6 kW/m2.

This is in line with a 2004 DOD report (Defense Science Board Task Force on Contributions of Space Based Radar to Missile Defense) (https://dsb.cto.mil/reports/2000s/ADA428771.pdf)

"For reference, the average radiated power aperture for the Aegis radar system is 485 kW/m2"

If we assume the downlink station can handle 300 kW/m2; that means you'd only need an antenna of 0.33 m2 which would be 0.64 m in diameter.

If we applied the same "safety" factor of 7.84x, we'd end up with a 5m diameter antenna, -- bigger than an AN-SPY-1B/D antenna (which is 3.7m diameter).

Issues With This

1.) The Receiving Station would be expensive -- I think the big reason everyone goes with low power rectennas is that they can be cheaply built; and acquiring more land is not a big deal, allowing you to reduce the accuracy margins of the orbital SPS elements. Also, a certain percentage of the downlinked power would have to be spent in actively cooling the receiving station's RF elements.

2.) AESA-type systems would have to be commercialized in order to deal with the continuous stream of satellites coming in overhead every 3 minutes and switching the beam from one satellite to the next. This is something that Starlink has solved on a small, communications scale system.

Biggest Issue of All

Is that it would run afoul of space weaponisation agreements. Being able to direct 100 kW of RF energy precisely onto a 5m2 area from orbit would be a literal "death ray" from space -- you could probably knock out the electrical systems of vehicles; among other things.

Implications Elsewhere

This was a rabbit hole that was interesting to run into; even if it wasn't totally related to Space X in the 2030s.

Given that the 92 millinewton ion engine on Deep Space 1 needed 2.1 kW of power to operate, one might wonder about designing a "dual thrust" electrical engine that could operate in beamed power "high thrust" mode close to Earth, before switching to self-powered (onboard solar) "cruise thrust" beyond Earth's influence.
« Last Edit: 07/07/2021 08:46 pm by RyanC »

Offline high road

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #75 on: 07/07/2021 10:06 pm »
I think SpaceX has done very, very well. But I know from 'the horses mouth' anecdotes that they have 'burned out' a lot of personnel as much as they have cash to get there. I like the ambitiousness of the 'Starship' project but often feel that SpaceX should have tried an intermediate technological and engineering step halfway between Falcon Heavy and BFR before going the Starship route. Before the big, 2016 reveal of the BFR/Starship program, I was nearly convinced that Elon was going to 'supersize' the Dragon spacecraft and upgrade the Falcon Heavy with a better upper stage - all with the intention to do a somewhat 'Mars Direct' reconnaissance mission(s) to Mars first with 4-to-6 person crews.

They could have demonstrated in space Cryo propellant transfer and propellant ISRU on the Martian surface before moving onto the really big vehicles we are seeing prototyped today. They are, in a sense, biting off almost more than they can chew with the current paradigm they are pursuing. It could all fail and falter; but I sure hope it doesn't.

If such an approach does not reduce the cost of access to space/Mars significantly, that would be a guarantee for things to falter. If access to space is reduced by a ship capable of launching 100 tons for the price of an F9, others can continue where SpaceX stops. And 'stop making progress' would be the worst case scenario, as even a bankrupt SpaceX would find investors to keep launching those rockets.

Offline high road

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #76 on: 07/07/2021 10:11 pm »
SpaceX in the 2030’s? Why all the wild speculation? Just go with what Elon has said instead. 1000 Starship launches per year.

That dominates everything else. (And makes everything else possible).

So that's not a wild fantasy? 😁

I mean, do we really trust the predictions of a guy who in the same interview says he will send a 100 people to Mars for 500k a person, on a vehicle that can land a 100 tons on Mars, and the return trip is 'essentially free' because they need the rockets back, but prepackaged crack can't be braught back at a profit?

Either his predictions don't have a good grasp of the scale of what he's talking about (which does not detract from SpaceX' amazing achievements or chance of success, it's just like experts saying people will never need more than an x kilobyte computer), or he has a crack supplier who sells at 0.5 to 5 dollars per gram, depending how you calculate it. That's bound to impede on your ability to calculate :p
« Last Edit: 07/08/2021 01:46 pm by high road »

Offline IainMcClatchie

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #77 on: 07/08/2021 08:15 am »
Ryan, thanks for the interesting link to the SPS 2000 study.  I have not before read about a design for a LEO SPS.  The usual problem there is that, like LEO comsats, the satellites don't get very high utilization, which drives up cost.

Here is a 2007 study by the Union Radio Scientifique Internationale that I've found useful: https://www.ursi.org/files/WhitePapers/WPSPS-ReportMin.pdf

The 10 W/m^2 limit applies to 5.8 GHz radiation.  2.45 GHz radiation has a 50 W/m^2 human safety limit.  Most gigawatt-class designs are well over this limit, but the report seems optimistic that the beam can be designed to be Gaussian, falling off in intensity so that outside of the rectenna it is always under the human safety limit, even assuming various beam control failures.

For a gigawatt-class SPS system which keeps beam flux less than solar insolation, the rectenna has to be large enough that diffraction from geosynchronous orbit is not a problem.  It can actually be a benefit, since it passively limits beam intensity to something less than a death ray.

Quote
I assume the other 887~ m of diameter in the SPS-2000 antenna (a safety factor of 7.84x) is for safety margin reasons for people/livestock which may inadvertently wander under an operating rectenna

I suspect that 1 km diameter is to catch a beam which is broadening through diffraction.  For a 1100 km orbit, I'd assume a max slant range of 2000 km.  Getting the beam into a 1 km aperture at 2.45 GHz would require a transmit aperture 300 m across.  I think that's the proposed size of the satellite.

Offline high road

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #78 on: 07/08/2021 01:36 pm »

Based on Elon's age (49) and the lifecycle of the current Falcon rocket family (16~ years from 2002 and Falcon 1 to 2018 and Falcon 9 Block 5); Starship is likely to be Elon's Last Big Thing (TM); if we assume that it follows the same active life.

If we assume that serious work on Starship began in 2016; a sixteen year lifecycle carries us out to 2032; where Elon will be 61/62 years old.

Thats 2002-2008 for F1 and 2008/2009 to 2018 for F9/FH/Crew Dragon if we count the latter three as F9 reaching its complete application. So 6 years, then 10 years. Given that SpaceX could not divert massive resources to Starship prior to 2018, a ten year life cycle would put you at 2028. So the 'last big thing' for Musk will be Mars development.

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At that age; Elon only has about five to eight years left for the next iterative cycle in SpaceX history before he's 70 and starts to slow down and lose mental flexibility.

Hardly. He'll be an ever more insufferable person, no doubt. But once Starlink is generating money and Starship is launching cargo, age and mental flexibility will not be such important factors anymore. Setting up shop on Mars takes time. The biggest risk might be that his demand for continued progress eventually kills people on Mars or burns through Starlink revenues too fast, but even that is harldly inevitable.

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It's plausible to assume that SpaceX will be launching 100 tonne payloads twice a day from Boca Chica/KSC for 230 days each year; placing 46,000 tonnes in LEO each year with Starship at that point.

for which paying customers?

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While it's possible for SpaceX to design a UltraHeavy (basically think of UH as a notational DC-4 to Starship/SH's DC-3); I think SpaceX will be focused on fully-space only cycler designs at this point, along with various internal projects supporting commercial outposts in LEO, lunar outposts...and of course, the SpaceX Mars Outpost/Colony.

Musk's city-on-Mars plans are not enough for you, huh? But I agree SpaceX might dabble in all those things, if they have partners or paying customers.

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While they're about to dominate the space launch business with F9 Block 5 and soon Starship, there's nothing "secret sauce" about them. Anyone who's smart and nimble enough can move up through the market chain and develop into a competitor to SpaceX for the launch market -- such as Rocket Lab (and Blue Origin if they can ever get their internal problems sorted).

Elon calls it 'the moat': continuous improvement. SpaceX churns out improvements to their launch vehicle designs faster than their competitors. That's the secret sauce. Until others successfully reuse their rockets, they have quite the secret sauce at the moment. And why the future tense with 'dominate'? They launch twice as often as the next most proliferous launcher, Starlink not included. And disregarding Chinese and Russian launchers, because those launches will continue to exist even if Starship launches for pennies per kg.

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D.) The development of SpaceX suits for Commercial Crew. They could have contracted out to David Clark or Oceaneering to have suits made; but they did that all in house. Now they have teams capable of designing space suits for whatever needs SpaceX will have in the future; or for others.

A flight suit =/= an EVA suit. An EVA suit =/= a Mars suit. And a Mars suit =/= a Lunar suit. All different things with completely different requirements. Of the four, the flight suit has the least commonalities.

Offline high road

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #79 on: 07/08/2021 01:55 pm »
Long post, but to sum it up, I believe SpaceX in the 2030s will inadvertently end up enabling the Bezos vision of the future but the Mars vision will wither to just being at least flags and footprints, at most, supplying some government bases with people and cargo. The amount of people who will have been in space by the end of that decade will likely
number in the 1000s. That will sound like a depressing vision to some, but I actually think its great and a giant leap
from what we've had for the past 50 years.

Agree that SpaceX will enable the vision of Jeff Bezos. But with Mars as a necessary step on that path. Mars is the easiest place to learn how to live in a closed environment with mostly closed circuit habitats. Once we have mastered Mars, the path to expand outward into the asteroid belt and beyond is open, when nuclear propulsion becomes widely available.

I have said before: If the interplanetary fairy granted me one wish for a planet to settle, it would look very much like Mars. Hard, but not too hard.
At some point there will be a deviation between what the Government want and is prepared to pay for and what SpaceX want and then we will really know what SpaceX is about. I'm convinced that at that point SpaceX will step up to the mark to fill the gap, whatever the cost to the company in order to make humanity a multi-planet species.

The ever widening gap between what the government is willing to pay and what SpaceX is willing to do to fill the gap, can be seen in the Commercial Cargo, Commercial Crew, and HLS programmes. No need for future tenses, although much more will indeed be needed, which is why SpaceX is willing to fill up that gap with Starlink revenue. Expect those trends to continue.

The only other alternative to improve $/kg is moving beyond chemical rockets entirely (build a space elevator or a giant railgun or some other sci-fi thing), but that's not a "Starship 2" -- or a serious topic for the next decade.

I would bet you $100 that right now, Space X has a private "Raiders of the Lost Ark" Division set up to evaluate all sorts of crazy stuff for "breakthrough technologies", ranging from "can we commercialise VASMIR" to "EM Drive".

I would also bet you $25 that SpaceX has actually flown some of these potential technologies in orbit, either on Starlink satellites themselves, or on Starlink-only Falcon 9 Upper Stages (the advantages of having your own internal payloads is that you can do risks with them that no paying customer would dare allow).

I wouldn't be suprised that an ever growing number of such side projects is what is slowing Blue Origin down, whereas SpaceX tends to kill projects that don't fit in the roadmap anymore, or that can't be proven viable by fast prototyping.
« Last Edit: 07/08/2021 02:05 pm by high road »

Online Vahe231991

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #80 on: 07/08/2021 02:09 pm »
Long post, but to sum it up, I believe SpaceX in the 2030s will inadvertently end up enabling the Bezos vision of the future but the Mars vision will wither to just being at least flags and footprints, at most, supplying some government bases with people and cargo. The amount of people who will have been in space by the end of that decade will likely
number in the 1000s. That will sound like a depressing vision to some, but I actually think its great and a giant leap
from what we've had for the past 50 years.
Agree that SpaceX will enable the vision of Jeff Bezos. But with Mars as a necessary step on that path. Mars is the easiest place to learn how to live in a closed environment with mostly closed circuit habitats. Once we have mastered Mars, the path to expand outward into the asteroid belt and beyond is open, when nuclear propulsion becomes widely available.

I have said before: If the interplanetary fairy granted me one wish for a planet to settle, it would look very much like Mars. Hard, but not too hard.
At some point there will be a deviation between what the Government want and is prepared to pay for and what SpaceX want and then we will really know what SpaceX is about. I'm convinced that at that point SpaceX will step up to the mark to fill the gap, whatever the cost to the company in order to make humanity a multi-planet species.

The ever widening gap between what the government is willing to pay and what SpaceX is willing to do to fill the gap, can be seen in the Commercial Cargo, Commercial Crew, and HLS programmes. No need for future tenses, although much more will indeed be needed, which is why SpaceX is willing to fill up that gap with Starlink revenue. Expect those trends to continue.
If Warren Buffett has the chance, he could use some of his fortune to financially bolster SpaceX's capability to use some of its resources to keep the Commercial Cargo, Commercial Crew, and HLS programs running.

Offline Nadir

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #81 on: 07/08/2021 02:56 pm »
My 2 pence worth - Probably wrong but fits in with Space X being a transportation company and where I think Musk and Shotwell are aiming (Also as SpaceX tradition thinking really big).

Starship 2 pure cargo/passenger or research/exploration versions designed to remain in orbit/space permently - containerised cargo and passengers in the 1000's per trip - modularly built on earth and launched and assembled in orbit.
 - Will carry 2 or more Starship 1 to act as cargo/research landers (improved as per SpaceX updates)
 - Powered by solar/nuclear power engines
 - Initial versions Mars optimised - but long term aim to be fully self sufficient in space

The main downside as I see it at the moment is the development of power/engines to drive these ships.

Modular sections can be built in container size elements and assembled/tested on earth in sections before launch. The assembly of the modular units can be practised underwater and push fit then welded/bolted together. (Lego?  ::))

As a side note which has been suggested elsewhere, I expect Starship 1 to be developed as full probes, telescopes etc. as one single packaged unit using the cargo section of the rocket.

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #82 on: 07/08/2021 06:20 pm »
Because the cost of a new SS may eventually fall to as low as $50M or even less than that (without flaps and several other reuse features left off). The idea that an SS as a customized deep space probe is not that far fetched. The propulsion half of the SS is likely to be common to all other SS with some parts just left off. But the payload section could be significantly customized then added to a common propulsion (bus). There could be a lot of customized payload sections for deep space. Various telescopes (Optical and RF) without much space activity to interfere with the cosmos observation being a likely popular one. Also a version that implements a significant comm node using both RF and Laser links as an Interplanetarynet version of the Internet that is on Earth. Data throughput rates in the Petabytes levels.

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #83 on: 07/10/2021 12:36 am »
All this gives SpaceX a nice steady cash flow for the first half of the 2020s; despite the emergence of Blue Origin's New Glenn and ULA's Vulcan, as well as foreign "Falcon 9" clones in China and Russia that are on the drawing boards.

This slide posted by Jeff Foust on Twitter from a recent NASA LSP briefing shows nicely how the Falcon family can cover almost all projected near future use cases -- as I mentioned before; this coverage means that the early to mid 2020's are a "safe" period for SpaceX, rather than a "threatened" period.

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #84 on: 07/10/2021 01:18 am »
Musk's marginal propensity to spend money unnecessarily is approximately zero.

Contrasting point -- Musk's propensity to not waste time is above unity. Elon's actions over the last five to six years have shown that he views time as being as important as money.

SpaceX is now in the unusual position of where for $750K or less of internal funds ($500K per sat launch cost + $250K satellite cost), they can launch a 260 kg satellite into LEO; with rides uphill leaving every two weeks.

Spending almost a million dollars to prove/disprove something your Advanced Projects Division came up with may sound like a lot, but it's quicker than taking 5 to 6 years in precise ground testing (TU Dresden and the EM Drive) to validate it.

The ability + capability of cheaply testing concepts in space on SpaceX internally funded flights (allowing higher risk than normal) is going to be an increasingly important factor in SpaceX's R&D programs going into the 2020s.

EDIT: Starlink may mature into a "common family" of satellites, with a variety of roles including debris removal; providing even more income for SpaceX.
« Last Edit: 07/10/2021 01:25 am by RyanC »

Offline joek

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #85 on: 07/10/2021 03:05 am »
EDIT: Starlink may mature into a "common family" of satellites, with a variety of roles including debris removal; providing even more income for SpaceX.

Yes, with the first casualties being LEO Earth observation and related competitors--at least from a LV market perspective. Expect we will see more of this with additional constellations. At what point Starlink becomes interested in such hosted or co-manifested payloads remains to be seen. Expect it will be some time, but when you have LEO constellations with power, comms, frequent overflights for areas of interest... going to be more difficult to justify cost of your own constellation.

Offline 2megs

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #86 on: 07/11/2021 01:16 pm »
The ability + capability of cheaply testing concepts in space on SpaceX internally funded flights (allowing higher risk than normal) is going to be an increasingly important factor in SpaceX's R&D programs going into the 2020s.

I think there's a larger point here. Most of the individual parts of F9, Dragon, and Starlink had been demonstrated at a decent technology readiness level before SpaceX did them. Kerolox gas generators, DC-X landings, capsule reentry, etc. Where SpaceX succeeded was in implementing them all in integrated systems to execute a sustainable business plan.

Now they've "caught up" to the engineering frontier, so to speak. The advancements in Starship are based on solid science, and they all theoretically work on paper, but nobody had made such a serious attempt at the engineering before SpaceX. FFSC methalox, skydiver reentry, orbital refueling, catching boosters out of the air. Executing at that lower TRL requires additional skills and longer development, and faces more uncertainty.

What happens beyond Starship, when their engineering frontier starts to catch up to the scientific frontier? Either SpaceX starts trying to do more basic science internally to chase after things with even lower TRLs, or their pace of advancement slows while they wait on others to advance the science, or else they refocus their efforts laterally to areas like Martian civil engineering.
« Last Edit: 07/11/2021 01:28 pm by 2megs »

Online wannamoonbase

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #87 on: 07/11/2021 01:38 pm »
The ability + capability of cheaply testing concepts in space on SpaceX internally funded flights (allowing higher risk than normal) is going to be an increasingly important factor in SpaceX's R&D programs going into the 2020s.

I think there's a larger point here. Most of the individual parts of F9, Dragon, and Starlink had been demonstrated at a decent technology readiness level before SpaceX did them. Kerolox gas generators, DC-X landings, capsule reentry, etc. Where SpaceX succeeded was in implementing them all in integrated systems to execute a sustainable business plan.

Now they've "caught up" to the engineering frontier, so to speak. The advancements in Starship are based on solid science, and they all theoretically work on paper, but nobody had made such a serious attempt at the engineering before SpaceX. FFSC methalox, skydiver reentry, orbital refueling, catching boosters out of the air. Executing at that lower TRL requires additional skills and longer development, and faces more uncertainty.

What happens beyond Starship, when their engineering frontier starts to catch up to the scientific frontier? Either SpaceX starts trying to do more basic science internally to chase after things with even lower TRLs, or their pace of advancement slows while they wait on others to advance the science, or else they refocus their efforts laterally to areas like Martian civil engineering.

There are 2 big items that I think help SpaceX if/when Starship reaches operational status.
1) Starlink will provide funding at a level SpaceX has never had before
2) Starship’s size, it’s so big and so capable, that they can be less mass efficient to start and get better over time with the development of different versions of Starship.  Tanker, cargo, lunar, throw mass at the problem, so you only land on the moon with 5, 10 or 20 tons of less cargo, it’s still a lot more than anyone could have dreamed off with the other landers.

I guess a few other items that work in their favor, Starship’s planned from the get go to have a high flight cadence.  Minimal cost and time to be ready for the next flight will speed up the pace of development.

We are entering a new era, the convergence of technologies are going to take us places in the next 10 years that we can’t predict and my gosh, by 2039, who knows.
Superheavy + Starship the final push to launch commit!

Offline DistantTemple

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #88 on: 07/12/2021 12:27 am »
Many people here seem to think that there is not much of an external market for Starship (or for that matter the whole Mars project), and maybe that industry has not had the vision and belief in SX's SS to plan to exploit the new capabilities.

However there may well be SpaceX staff ready to branch out on their own, with fortunes mad in Tesla stock etc. ust like at Tesla where Straubel has set up a large battery recycling project.

These may be small enterprises, but with inside information, and the momentum of working for Elon, key innovations may be exploited. Who will design a system for collecting space debris? who will build a conversion of an SS to a telescope (like Elon mentioned) etc.... Things like this are not on the main SX trajectory, and distract SX from its goals....

Not much... but a start!
We can always grow new new dendrites. Reach out and make connections and your world will burst with new insights. Then repose in consciousness.

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #89 on: 07/12/2021 01:52 am »
Many people here seem to think that there is not much of an external market for Starship (or for that matter the whole Mars project), and maybe that industry has not had the vision and belief in SX's SS to plan to exploit the new capabilities.

However there may well be SpaceX staff ready to branch out on their own, with fortunes mad in Tesla stock etc. ust like at Tesla where Straubel has set up a large battery recycling project.

These may be small enterprises, but with inside information, and the momentum of working for Elon, key innovations may be exploited. Who will design a system for collecting space debris? who will build a conversion of an SS to a telescope (like Elon mentioned) etc.... Things like this are not on the main SX trajectory, and distract SX from its goals....

Not much... but a start!
At some point an F9 and definitely an FH will no longer be available. So with Starship launch prices per launch at or less even than an F9 those current approximate annual number of sat customers ~12 launches of F9/FH per year would go over likely to using Starship. So at that point there is a demand of 11 for a single Lunar mission per year + 15 to 20 for Starlink per year + the 12 other sat customers. That is 37 to 42 paying customers per year. Even though Starlink is at the moment part of SpaceX it still would pay for the cost of launch from it's revenue stream and possibly more (launch profit margins just like any other customer) if Starlink became a separate company.

I postulate that this inflection point is likely to be at or around 2026. After which because of the massive drop in $/kg from $2500/kg to $500/kg. The number of launches demand from paying customers will increase rapidly. By 2030 4 Lunar missions/yr 44 + 4 Mars missions/synod 44/2=22/yr average + 25 Starlink launches + 30 other customer launches = 101 launches.

Offline colbourne

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #90 on: 10/10/2021 08:41 am »
Once Elon and SpaceX have achieved a Mars base, they might let  a manned mission to the clouds of Venus and even a manned landing on Mercury be attempted.

On Venus high in the clouds  it would be 1 bar, atmosphere with a comfortable temperature. It might be possible to go outside without a spacesuit, just wearing an oxygen mask.

Mercury would allow a landing on the border between night and day where the temperature would be not too extreme. This might take a more advanced rocket to achieve a return mission within a reasonable time frame.

Manned missions to Europe and Titan could be next but with current rockets would take a very long time. Return might not be feasible.

Online jstrotha0975

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #91 on: 10/10/2021 04:28 pm »
I  believe the Mars moons are after Mars, and then the Jovian moons, but Venus' atmosphere is good too.

Offline groundbound

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #92 on: 10/10/2021 08:07 pm »
I  believe the Mars moons are after Mars, and then the Jovian moons, but Venus' atmosphere is good too.

You might add Ceres in there too. A few things make it more practical than the Jovian moons, a much lower radiation environment being first and foremost.

Offline guckyfan

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #93 on: 10/11/2021 04:31 am »
A floating base in the atmosphere of Venus may be possible. But the gravity of Venus is equal to Earth gravity. It is exceedingly difficult to get out of there. For science I can imagine an orbital vehicle with crew. But the floating base would be robotic. Venus has no potential for settling for lack of available resources high up in the atmosphere.

Offline colbourne

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #94 on: 10/12/2021 11:37 am »
You can extract chemicals from the Venus atmosphere, including apparently metals. Plastics would be the way to go for most items.
It would be much easier to have a one way human mission. I am sure there would be volunteers especially amongst the  very old or people with serious life critical illness, to be able to say they have lived on two (or three) planets.

The gravity well, and difficulty of taking off from a cloud base means unfortunately there is not currently much alternative.

Offline Eric Hedman

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #95 on: 10/15/2021 05:01 pm »
It would be much easier to have a one way human mission. I am sure there would be volunteers especially amongst the  very old or people with serious life critical illness, to be able to say they have lived on two (or three) planets.
I can't imagine too many people in their final days wanting to be away from family and friends.  And if you're very old or critically ill, would you want to go on a trip you're are likely to die on before you get there with no care available?  I don't see the point.

Offline rakaydos

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #96 on: 10/15/2021 06:33 pm »
You can extract chemicals from the Venus atmosphere, including apparently metals. Plastics would be the way to go for most items.
It would be much easier to have a one way human mission. I am sure there would be volunteers especially amongst the  very old or people with serious life critical illness, to be able to say they have lived on two (or three) planets.

The gravity well, and difficulty of taking off from a cloud base means unfortunately there is not currently much alternative.
I see a potential venus base more like space-austraila. Skilled technical people who have committed sever crimes might have their sentances reduced to Transportation- effectively a life sentance doing valuable work.

Online butters

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #97 on: 10/15/2021 09:10 pm »
Establishing a human presence on Mars will occupy SpaceX through the 2030s at least. It's over two years between Mars sorties, so it will take some time to build up to the point where SpaceX would considering peeling off resources to pursue any other internally-motivated interplanetary endeavor. The Mars colony is *the* flagship project for Elon and SpaceX. That's going to be their focus for the long term, hopefully in partnership with NASA to some extent. And if NASA is doing crewed Mars missions with SpaceX, that's going to be NASA's flagship project, too. Anything else that NASA contracts with SpaceX would be less ambitious "low-cost" programs.

Offline geza

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #98 on: 10/16/2021 10:03 am »
If Starship development, as advertised, will be successful, then the space transportation problem to LEO, Moon & Mars will have been essentially solved. Elon hopes 1 million dollar marginal launch cost to LEO. Assume 10 million to Mars for 100 tons, i.e. 100 $/kg. This is so cheap that transportation technology will not be the main issue for developing a Mars base, or colony.

Of course, it is possible at this point that Starship development will fail. For instance, the foam shredding problem of the Shuttle turned out to be unsolvable. It is a possibility that the Starhip heat shild will have similar difficulties. Or, did they solved the sloshing problem during the flip manuever, or they were just lucky with SN 15? Failure of Starship would end SpaceX, as we know it.

Assume Starship sucess. Then Mars colony is a societal issue, instead of technological, see a large fraction of the comments above. Will have enough people wanting to move to Mars permanently? (Probably, yes.) Will have enough rich people wanting to finance it without serious hope for Earthly return? (Less sure in this, but maybe. Maybe, it will be a good image for Tesla to be a Martian supplier, etc.) Most importantly: assume existence of a Martian base of the size of a large Antarctic one. These people expect to be either resuplied, or evacuated. What will happen with them, if SpaceX goes bankrupt? Today Starlink is hoped for becoming the main income source for SpaceX. What will happen, if another technology outcompetes Starlink?

So, future of SpaceX is its transformation from a company owned by an single colonisation enthusiast to a wide movement for colonisation of Mars. Part of this transition would be to establish a foundation with the responsibility to resuply-or-evacuate the existing Martian Base. Maybe another foundation will be responsible for future development towards a self-sustaining colony. Certainly, enthusiasm by a single rich person should be replaced by a societal commitment - government-related, or not.

The fallback option is a government-financed Martian base, like the Antarctic ones, with a roughly constant size. Then SpaceX, as the transportation company, becomes a simple government contractor, which does not need to be especially transformative.

Offline laszlo

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #99 on: 10/16/2021 12:10 pm »
You can extract chemicals from the Venus atmosphere, including apparently metals. Plastics would be the way to go for most items.
It would be much easier to have a one way human mission. I am sure there would be volunteers especially amongst the  very old or people with serious life critical illness, to be able to say they have lived on two (or three) planets.

The gravity well, and difficulty of taking off from a cloud base means unfortunately there is not currently much alternative.
I see a potential venus base more like space-austraila. Skilled technical people who have committed sever[e] crimes might have their sentances[sic] reduced to Transportation- effectively a life sentance[sic] doing valuable work.
Australia is a place where naked humans can thrive using just the resources and tech that are available for the picking up as they walk by. The Venusian atmosphere is a lethal gas chamber.

Skilled technical people who have committed severe crimes are the one who can afford a good lawyer and get a plea-bargain. The disadvantaged and uneducated are the ones who are incarcerated.

Then there's the cost of a penal colony. How much does society want to spend per prisoner when it's so cheap to lock someone in a cage on Earth?

Finally, how are you going to get guards and support staff to sign up for permanent exile?

It's a silly fantasy.

Offline Eric Hedman

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #100 on: 10/16/2021 06:03 pm »
In the early 2030s is when I think the first human will land on Mars.  I think that unmanned Starships will land on Mars in the second half of this decade.  If the first ones I think it will take several cycles of landings to have the confidence to put humans on them and in the automated insitu propellant production systems sent ahead.  I think the 2030s will be focused on improving Starship and establishing the first small settlement.  I would not expect moving on to other potential places with humans until the 2040s or 2050s at the earliest.  It will take a lot of effort to establish a settlement and then trying to make it less dependent on Earth.  I may not live to see it.  But that would be a pretty good pace of accomplishments.

During this time, the increase in unmanned exploration of everywhere else in the solar system will hopefully continue to grow with more international players public and private getting involved building the groundwork for eventual human missions.

Offline rakaydos

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #101 on: 10/18/2021 12:39 pm »
You can extract chemicals from the Venus atmosphere, including apparently metals. Plastics would be the way to go for most items.
It would be much easier to have a one way human mission. I am sure there would be volunteers especially amongst the  very old or people with serious life critical illness, to be able to say they have lived on two (or three) planets.

The gravity well, and difficulty of taking off from a cloud base means unfortunately there is not currently much alternative.
I see a potential venus base more like space-austraila. Skilled technical people who have committed sever[e] crimes might have their sentances[sic] reduced to Transportation- effectively a life sentance[sic] doing valuable work.
Australia is a place where naked humans can thrive using just the resources and tech that are available for the picking up as they walk by. The Venusian atmosphere is a lethal gas chamber.

Skilled technical people who have committed severe crimes are the one who can afford a good lawyer and get a plea-bargain. The disadvantaged and uneducated are the ones who are incarcerated.

Then there's the cost of a penal colony. How much does society want to spend per prisoner when it's so cheap to lock someone in a cage on Earth?

Finally, how are you going to get guards and support staff to sign up for permanent exile?

It's a silly fantasy.
At the altitudes where a venus base is being contemplated, one could get by with nothing more than a rebreather and a decontamination shower, and breathable air is a lifting gas.

The plea bargan would BE to transportation. No guards, but any attempt to "escape" would be similar to The Cold Equations, where there is literally no way to survive long enough to reach another biosphere.

As for the cost of maintaining the "prison", it comes out of the colony-building budget. This isnt "build a supermax in a hellhole for the worst of the worst," this is "Staff the colony that's extremely difficult to leave with people we dont want leaving."

Offline gin455res

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #102 on: 10/18/2021 03:52 pm »
Tesla will have branched out from the single-building power and storage market. They will supply all elements of off-grid community development. This will include sewerage, construction, farming, textiles,  wood and local manufacturing.


With the onward march of AI technology, the de-urbanisation* of cities, more remote working, increased self-sufficiency, and the propensity for human communities to optimise at 150 person settlements; there will be a new golden age of colonisation of previously under utilised land on the earth with high tech clusters of eco-villages.


* driven to some degree by the emergence of an economy dominated by the largely non-local information sector.


The neo-settlement of the earth (and non-centralised technological development of rural areas in poorer nations); and the reawakening of the pioneering spirit coupled with the start of off-world colonisation will be synergistic, both culturally and technologically*.
 
* mainly a trend to more decentralised manufacture.


We will see a consequent increase in the market for satellite broadband. There will be much larger revenues for Starlink than originally envisioned and they will provide the financial resources to accelerate the colonisation of Mars and the Solar System by SpaceX. This trend will continue on into the 2040s and beyond.


(I hope)

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #103 on: 10/21/2021 03:38 pm »
Of course, it is possible at this point that Starship development will fail. For instance, the foam shredding problem of the Shuttle turned out to be unsolvable. It is a possibility that the Starhip heat shild will have similar difficulties. Or, did they solved the sloshing problem during the flip manuever, or they were just lucky with SN 15? Failure of Starship would end SpaceX, as we know it.

Not really.

Consider:

If they fail at the rapid reuse goal for Starship, they can just descope the entire project to Super Heavy Lift (Semi-Reusable); in effect a giant version of Falcon 9 with a reusable booster and expendable upper; capable of pushing >200 tonnes to LEO for a marginal cost of maybe $150 million.

That alone kills SLS and opens up entire economic opportunities -- for example, if 200 tonnes are going to orbit each flight at a cost of $750/kg; it only costs someone $375,000 to put a 500 kg satellite into orbit if they sign onto a Superheavy Expendable rideshare.

EDIT: This is another example of SpaceX's forward thinking securing their economic future. Yes; they're spending a lot of money on Starship/Superheavy -- and yes, some concepts such as the heat shield they have in mind may not work; but the entire system is cheap enough that they can descope to get an immediate minimum viable product (MVP) that's a massive improvement over their current top of the line product; Falcon Heavy.
« Last Edit: 10/21/2021 03:43 pm by RyanC »

Online wannamoonbase

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #104 on: 10/21/2021 10:19 pm »
Of course, it is possible at this point that Starship development will fail. For instance, the foam shredding problem of the Shuttle turned out to be unsolvable. It is a possibility that the Starhip heat shild will have similar difficulties. Or, did they solved the sloshing problem during the flip manuever, or they were just lucky with SN 15? Failure of Starship would end SpaceX, as we know it.

Not really.

Consider:

If they fail at the rapid reuse goal for Starship, they can just descope the entire project to Super Heavy Lift (Semi-Reusable); in effect a giant version of Falcon 9 with a reusable booster and expendable upper; capable of pushing >200 tonnes to LEO for a marginal cost of maybe $150 million.

That alone kills SLS and opens up entire economic opportunities -- for example, if 200 tonnes are going to orbit each flight at a cost of $750/kg; it only costs someone $375,000 to put a 500 kg satellite into orbit if they sign onto a Superheavy Expendable rideshare.

EDIT: This is another example of SpaceX's forward thinking securing their economic future. Yes; they're spending a lot of money on Starship/Superheavy -- and yes, some concepts such as the heat shield they have in mind may not work; but the entire system is cheap enough that they can descope to get an immediate minimum viable product (MVP) that's a massive improvement over their current top of the line product; Falcon Heavy.

I've thought for awhile that at a minimum the Superheavy will work and be viable.  If you have an oversized F9 that lands back on the chopsticks and avoids ASDS and land processing that part will be much cheaper.

I don't think Starship is likely to fail completely.  It's big enough and capable enough that they can sacrifice payload to accommodate any heatshield and other changes to make it work.  Its a matter of how long that takes.

Can they start carrying and deploying Starlinks as a benefit while they figure it out?  Is there a market for a disposable starship upper stage if you can get 200 tons to orbit?    Yeah you can get 1000 tons into orbit for the cost of one SLS.  1000 tons!
Superheavy + Starship the final push to launch commit!

Offline jketch

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #105 on: 10/23/2021 04:25 pm »
Also the foam shedding problem wasn't unsolvable, not really. It destroyed one shuttle in 135 launches and didn't even occur once during the first 100. If Starship has a 1 in 100 failure rate on landing it would preclude landing crew on the vehicle but the cost savings for reuse would still be immense.

Offline laszlo

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #106 on: 10/24/2021 12:39 pm »
Also the foam shedding problem wasn't unsolvable, not really. It destroyed one shuttle in 135 launches and didn't even occur once during the first 100. If Starship has a 1 in 100 failure rate on landing it would preclude landing crew on the vehicle but the cost savings for reuse would still be immense.
It occurred constantly, starting in the 80's, just not to the extent that it killed a shuttle and crew until STS-107. There were at least 7 bipod foam losses, as well foam shedding off the rest of the tank on numerous flights.

Offline JackWhite

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #107 on: 10/25/2021 09:52 am »
I hope to the 2030s we will see at least two mars expeditions. So much hype and things were done for these missions and that would be satisfying to finally see. Fingers crossed.

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #108 on: 10/25/2021 12:47 pm »
I hope to the 2030s we will see at least two mars expeditions. So much hype and things were done for these missions and that would be satisfying to finally see. Fingers crossed.
Low bar...
ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Offline Asteroza

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #109 on: 10/29/2021 05:41 am »
I hope to the 2030s we will see at least two mars expeditions. So much hype and things were done for these missions and that would be satisfying to finally see. Fingers crossed.
Low bar...

Well it is a martian atmosphere...

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #110 on: 10/29/2021 01:02 pm »
I hope to the 2030s we will see at least two mars expeditions. So much hype and things were done for these missions and that would be satisfying to finally see. Fingers crossed.
Low bar...

Well it is a martian atmosphere...
Wow.  I mean, wow.
ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #111 on: 10/29/2021 04:18 pm »
A highly likely item is that SpaceX is building up a significant prowess in high throughput digital RF and Optical communications technology. Such that they will turn that towards a system that is based in the Starlink on-orbit Satellite network. And using RF frequencies or Optical colors that are highly attenuated by Earths atmosphere. To have a very capable system that can track and communicate with thousands of BEO terminals to supply Gbps data rate communications. For a Lunar Station, Lunar Surface Base, Mars Base or other similar non moving (as in traveling from one planetary body to another) multi Gbps throughput communications. For communicating with each Starship out traveling in BEO in cis-lunar or between Earth and Mars or even Earth and somewhere else capable of Gbps communication to each of those Starships.

Everyone else would be customers/subscribers of such a BEO comm network until some other company deploys a competitive system. NASA would still be using their DSN for the older probes but even that network could end being replaced by exo-Earth assets that are tied into the SpaceX BEO network. Such as on or around the Moon or out at Mars.

In the beginning of the 2030's (~mid 2032) Starlink Gen 4 sats would have started their deployment around Earth. Likely the BEO network first hardware could have been deployed 2.5 years earlier (~early 2030) as part of a Gen 3.5 upgrade when all of the 70 degree and SSO orbit sats are started being replaced replaced. It is always possible that scalled down implementation of such a BEO network could end being deployed with Gen 2.5 and Gen 3 sats ~5 years earlier (~late 2025 and ~early 2028).

 

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