Author Topic: SpaceX will almost certainly have another failure within the next 3 years.  (Read 85566 times)

Offline Robotbeat

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SpaceX will be flying subcooled, high thrust reusable and reused F9s next year. They're not QUITE done tweaking F9, but they'll probably solidify the design next year.

That's conservative for SpaceX. :)
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Online matthewkantar

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They're not QUITE done tweaking F9, but they'll probably solidify the design next year.

Not sure if "solidify" is the most sensitive vocabulary word these days. "finalize"?

Matthew

Offline Dalhousie

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SpaceX is on a path that departed from 'conservative' long ago, and is distancing itself all the more as Raptor, BFR, and all hit their stride.  There is no turning back, IMO.

Why do you see their future as a single path? Why one or the other? Why not a bifurcation where the company becomes both more conservative (with F9) and equally or more wild-and-crazy with Mars stuff?

Becausing getting crazy with Mars stuff is a guaranteed way to success  ::)  Still it's their money, if they want to show some fireworks for no return they can go right ahead.  8)
Apologies in advance for any lack of civility - it's unintended

Offline Robotbeat

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Who said no return? NASA has expressed interest in putting payloads on later Red Dragon missions. They would for ITS, too, if ITS actually started to materialize (got to build/launch it to get past the giggle factor).

And the technology from ITS gives SpaceX a strong edge in fully, rapid reuse. Assuming they're successful enough to actually deploy it, it would help cement their dominance in launch.

Again, I fail to see how this is "no return."
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline JamesH65

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SpaceX is on a path that departed from 'conservative' long ago, and is distancing itself all the more as Raptor, BFR, and all hit their stride.  There is no turning back, IMO.

Why do you see their future as a single path? Why one or the other? Why not a bifurcation where the company becomes both more conservative (with F9) and equally or more wild-and-crazy with Mars stuff?

Becausing getting crazy with Mars stuff is a guaranteed way to success  ::)  Still it's their money, if they want to show some fireworks for no return they can go right ahead.  8)

The return in PR and data retrieved will be considerable, if it goes OK (Talking of Red Dragon, their preliminary Mars effort)


Offline john smith 19

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There will be a tension within SX about wheather to innovate further on F9.

F9 is the basis of FH, so upgrading F9 leverages upgrading FH. How important upgrading the performance of either is all hinges on the same question that should always be considered with SX.
"Does this help Elon get to Mars faster/safer/better ?"

OTOH by now SX will start to have a middle management group forming whose focus is getting payloads into orbit and not innovation. From their PoV further changes --> further potential for MIB --> RFT events.

So far SX have continued to evolve the F9 and AFAIK the whole management team is OK with the idea of occasional failure.

People wondered wheather SX would have a special "government" F9 version when the were accepted for EELV launches. One that froze the design to enhance "Mission Assurance," whatever that is. AFAIK that has not happened and SX will launch a NSS payload on whatever LV is next off the line.

Personally I think it comes down to how important F9/FH is to the Mars architecture.

If it's a side show (to the Mars goal) then they will freeze the design and re deploy most of their creative talent to the Mars project. If they are on the critical path then they will continue to evolve the design, presumably with more precautions to avoid damaging customer payloads.

A trickier question would be if they can test stuff on F9/FH that will only be used on ITS. That matures the design (for ITS) faster but increases mission failure risks without any benefit to the F9/FH programmes. I'm thinking maybe a LOX/Methane OMS/RCS system for example?

[EDIT Ooops.  :) Forgot about Red Dragon. Now these will probably need upgrading in some ways from the whatever the current cargo Dragon design is but my point about F9/FH stands.  Personally I'd like to see FH move to propellant cross feed but Shotwell said that's off the table. Again I think if it's needed for Mars (either now or later) it will happen. If it's not needed for the rest of the FH programme, it won't. ]
« Last Edit: 12/30/2016 09:28 am by john smith 19 »
MCT ITS BFR SS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFSC engined CFRP SS structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of Earth & Mars atmospheric flight.First flight to Mars by end of 2022 TBC. T&C apply. Trust nothing. Run your own #s "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" R. Simberg."Competitve" means cheaper ¬cheap SCramjet proposed 1956. First +ve thrust 2004. US R&D spend to date > $10Bn. #deployed designs. Zero.

Offline AncientU

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There's a tonne of stuff already tested on F9 that is directly incorporated in the Mars architecture... super-sonic retro-propulsion, accurate RTLS, efficient engine production, landing legs, grid fins, avionics, human rating, etc.  In fact, the ITS design couldn't exist without the proof-of-concept provided by F9.  For the greatest part, that work is done. 

Now, F9's role is to produce revenue without another failure which in large part, is a revenue interruption; FH's role is similar, but probably with a support role in the Mars preps and maybe refueling technology demonstrations. Reused cores will inform the reuse/wear-and-tear/engineering data.

Pushing the envelope will continue with FH early flights, Red Dragon, propulsive landings of Dragon 2 (cargo first in CRS-2), multiple reflights of same core, ITS introduction, etc.  There will be failures, but hopefully only on the envelope pushing end and not 'routine' operations.
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Offline JasonAW3

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      The question of whether or not SpaceX will have another failure in the next 3 years is pretty much irrelevant.  They will have some sort of failure.

      The real question is the severity of the failure and whether it will be contained and manageable.  As we have seen in the past, SpaceX had a mid flight engine failure shortly after launch, resulting in the loss of on engine, a minor payload, but overall, the mission successfully placed the primary payload into the orbit in which it was supposed to be.  They failed numerous times to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9, due to lack of experience and software issues. They had lost three of the 5 flights of their Falcon 1's, and yes, they've had two catastrophic losses of vehicle and payloads of the Falcon 9's.

      In this case, failure is not only an option, but needed in order to improve the safety of their rockets.  The trick is, managing those failures to make certain that there is no loss of lives and that they can still achieve the missions that they are launching.
My God!  It's full of universes!

Offline Robotbeat

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I mean a major failure.

And the only way they won't is if they get very lucky or if they keep to a "mere" ULA flight rate of no more than a dozen or so per year.

Again, this has nothing to do with SpaceX being "incompetent" and everything to do with the statistics of flying a bunch of times on relatively new launch vehicles.

Even if you assume a 99% reliability, which is as high as ULA (the current reliability leader) can reasonably claim, the odds of getting the next 75 launches in a row are still slightly worse than 50:50. But SpaceX is flying a much newer design, and they still haven't flown Falcon Heavy.

We need to be realistic about the odds, here, not pretend it won't happen.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline jpo234

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I think the development will follow a path similar to commercial jets. When the jet age started, even passenger planes were very unreliable (think Comet). These turned out to be teething problems. Modern jets, that are properly serviced, rarely crash for technical reasons and there are airlines that have not lost a plane in decades.
Is there a fundamental reason, that would prevent a similar development for space launchers?
« Last Edit: 12/30/2016 03:34 pm by jpo234 »
You want to be inspired by things. You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great. That's what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and believing the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than being out there among the stars.

Offline Lee Jay

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I think the development will follow a path similar to commercial jets. When the jet age started, even passenger planes were very unreliable (think Comet). These turned out to be teething problems. Modern jets, that are properly serviced, rarely crash for technical reasons and there are airlines that have not lost a plane in decades.
Is there a fundamental reason, that would prevent a similar development for space launchers?

Yes - structural margins have to be much lower because otherwise mass fraction to orbit would be even lower than the already terribly low values we have now.  Engine power is drastically higher in way smaller spaces and aerodynamics are way different because these vehicles go supersonic in the lower atmosphere.  G-loading is way higher and the shapes are longer and more slender.  And they are made in way lower quantities and testing is necessarily way less because of expense (airliners often undergo thousands of flight hours before certification while a rocket design will never see that many flight hours during its entire lifetime).
« Last Edit: 12/30/2016 03:41 pm by Lee Jay »

Offline john smith 19

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I think the development will follow a path similar to commercial jets. When the jet age started, even passenger planes were very unreliable (think Comet).
There was a lot of commercial aviation with piston engines. Most people date the start of serious commercial aviation with the Douglas DC-3.

BTW The Comet crashes were the result of a series of management decisions essentially driven by the belief that Boeing were close to the 707 than they were. They were keen to capture the first mover advantage. The crashes caused untold reputational damage to De Havilland.
Quote

These turned out to be teething problems. Modern jets, that are properly serviced, rarely crash for technical reasons and there are airlines that have not lost a plane in decades.
Is there a fundamental reason, that would prevent a similar development for space launchers?
That depends on the launch architecture.

In the case of F9 throwing away the upper stage means every one is a new stage with (possibly) undetected mfg defects. Without the ability to examine returned hardware to see what really happens in flight you have the telemetry data to give a partial picture whenever something fails.
MCT ITS BFR SS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFSC engined CFRP SS structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of Earth & Mars atmospheric flight.First flight to Mars by end of 2022 TBC. T&C apply. Trust nothing. Run your own #s "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" R. Simberg."Competitve" means cheaper ¬cheap SCramjet proposed 1956. First +ve thrust 2004. US R&D spend to date > $10Bn. #deployed designs. Zero.

Offline RedLineTrain

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I expect a major failure in the next three years simply for the fact that SpaceX's manifest dictates a launch rate not seen since Soviet times.

Offline Robotbeat

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I expect a major failure in the next three years simply for the fact that SpaceX's manifest dictates a launch rate not seen since Soviet times.
Exactly. And my point is that this is true even WITHOUT negative effects of "go fever."
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline meekGee

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I expect a major failure in the next three years simply for the fact that SpaceX's manifest dictates a launch rate not seen since Soviet times.
Exactly. And my point is that this is true even WITHOUT negative effects of "go fever."
But customers (and insurance companies) care about probability of failure.

And with larger sample sizes you also have higher confidence.

Notice that neither of SpaceXs failures was caused by such things as foreign object left in manifold, failure to follow procedure, backward installation of hardware, etc.


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Offline Robotbeat

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Right. Customers care about probability of failure, but naysayers would still point to a failure rate of once every 3 years as pathetic, even if SpaceX does like 50 launches per year and has lower probability of launch failure than anyone else.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline meekGee

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Right. Customers care about probability of failure, but naysayers would still point to a failure rate of once every 3 years as pathetic, even if SpaceX does like 50 launches per year and has lower probability of launch failure than anyone else.
Naysayers gotta nay.  Been doing so every since F1.  Part of the scenery...
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Offline Exastro

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I've been thinking about this for a while now: if SX or any other launch provider plans to get to launch rates several times higher than the ~10/year of Arianespace and ULA, without massively improved reliability, they will have to greatly shorten or completely abandon the traditional stand-down that follows a launch failure.

In the spirit of Robotbeat's calculation, a flight rate of 40/yr with an above-average true reliability of 0.98 means a launch failure every year or so on average.  If each failure leads to a 6-month stand-down, then half the time they're standing down.  That means their customers get forced off onto other, probably less reliable launchers.  It's hard to see that as a sensible outcome.

It seems to me that the time is coming soon when it'll make sense to react to a launch failure by continuing to launch while the failure investigation proceeds. 

You'd still want to stand down if there were a string of failures that points to a systematic loss of reliability below the industry average.


Offline meekGee

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I've been thinking about this for a while now: if SX or any other launch provider plans to get to launch rates several times higher than the ~10/year of Arianespace and ULA, without massively improved reliability, they will have to greatly shorten or completely abandon the traditional stand-down that follows a launch failure.

In the spirit of Robotbeat's calculation, a flight rate of 40/yr with an above-average true reliability of 0.98 means a launch failure every year or so on average.  If each failure leads to a 6-month stand-down, then half the time they're standing down.  That means their customers get forced off onto other, probably less reliable launchers.  It's hard to see that as a sensible outcome.

It seems to me that the time is coming soon when it'll make sense to react to a launch failure by continuing to launch while the failure investigation proceeds. 

You'd still want to stand down if there were a string of failures that points to a systematic loss of reliability below the industry average.
True.

Here's a thought.  With launch record comes reliability.

Launch more, get more reliable faster.

Add post flight inspections, and SpaceX might become unprecedentedly reliable within a short amount of time.

ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Offline llanitedave

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SpaceX is on a path that departed from 'conservative' long ago, and is distancing itself all the more as Raptor, BFR, and all hit their stride.  There is no turning back, IMO.

Why do you see their future as a single path? Why one or the other? Why not a bifurcation where the company becomes both more conservative (with F9) and equally or more wild-and-crazy with Mars stuff?

Good point.  To me, F9 flying 'conservative' would mean expendable, no pushing Merlin, no sub-cooled fuel, no landing legs, grid fins, etc... just fly payloads and splash the hardware like every other conservative entity.  All the envelop pushing is for reuse and high tempo operations... all for the future.  Maybe an option is (was) to branch the launch business into a 'conservative' launch services department, but it seems that ship has sailed.

Some day, a reuasable booster with subcooled propellants will be the conservative choice.
"I've just abducted an alien -- now what?"

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