Author Topic: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence  (Read 14036 times)

Offline Jim

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SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« on: 10/18/2023 06:51 pm »
These are the items that helped SpaceX achieve a higher launch cadence wrt outside organizations.
AFTS - this requires no range assets.
They have their own launch area telemetry sites.  No need to use TEL-IV.  And they shipped the vehicle state vector and health to the range.
They have their own long range imaging equipment
They have their own meteorologist for long range forecasting
Encapsulation to launch is 24hr ops
They have their own ocean surveillance radars and charter a clearance helicopter.  The Coast Guard works with them on certifying a clear range.
They minimize comm nodes with the range and use direct fiber or NASA  (and only certain NASA organizations) when possible.
They are consolidating sites to the Roberts road area.  Shutting down outlying facilities like Spacehab SPPF, LCC at CCSFS entrance, Hangar AO, LC39 LCC FR4, etc.  Moving  Starlink and some Dragon ops to Roberts road. 

basically minimize interfaces when possible.

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #1 on: 10/18/2023 09:44 pm »
These are the items that helped SpaceX achieve a higher launch cadence wrt outside organizations.
AFTS - this requires no range assets.
They have their own launch area telemetry sites.  No need to use TEL-IV.  And they shipped the vehicle state vector and health to the range.
They have their own long range imaging equipment
They have their own meteorologist for long range forecasting
Encapsulation to launch is 24hr ops
They have their own ocean surveillance radars and charter a clearance helicopter.  The Coast Guard works with them on certifying a clear range.
They minimize comm nodes with the range and use direct fiber or NASA  (and only certain NASA organizations) when possible.
They are consolidating sites to the Roberts road area.  Shutting down outlying facilities like Spacehab SPPF, LCC at CCSFS entrance, Hangar AO, LC39 LCC FR4, etc.  Moving  Starlink and some Dragon ops to Roberts road. 

basically minimize interfaces when possible.
Is there any possibility that ULA, or BO, or both, might do some of these things?

Could several launch companies do some of this collectively through commercial third parties?

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #2 on: 10/18/2023 11:22 pm »
These are the items that helped SpaceX achieve a higher launch cadence wrt outside organizations.
AFTS - this requires no range assets.
They have their own launch area telemetry sites.  No need to use TEL-IV.  And they shipped the vehicle state vector and health to the range.
They have their own long range imaging equipment
They have their own meteorologist for long range forecasting
Encapsulation to launch is 24hr ops
They have their own ocean surveillance radars and charter a clearance helicopter.  The Coast Guard works with them on certifying a clear range.
They minimize comm nodes with the range and use direct fiber or NASA  (and only certain NASA organizations) when possible.
They are consolidating sites to the Roberts road area.  Shutting down outlying facilities like Spacehab SPPF, LCC at CCSFS entrance, Hangar AO, LC39 LCC FR4, etc.  Moving  Starlink and some Dragon ops to Roberts road. 

basically minimize interfaces when possible.
Is there any possibility that ULA, or BO, or both, might do some of these things?

Could several launch companies do some of this collectively through commercial third parties?

No reason too.  Others let the range do it because they didn't have the flight rate to support it.

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #3 on: 10/18/2023 11:35 pm »
These are the items that helped SpaceX achieve a higher launch cadence wrt outside organizations.
AFTS - this requires no range assets.
They have their own launch area telemetry sites.  No need to use TEL-IV.  And they shipped the vehicle state vector and health to the range.
They have their own long range imaging equipment
They have their own meteorologist for long range forecasting
Encapsulation to launch is 24hr ops
They have their own ocean surveillance radars and charter a clearance helicopter.  The Coast Guard works with them on certifying a clear range.
They minimize comm nodes with the range and use direct fiber or NASA  (and only certain NASA organizations) when possible.
They are consolidating sites to the Roberts road area.  Shutting down outlying facilities like Spacehab SPPF, LCC at CCSFS entrance, Hangar AO, LC39 LCC FR4, etc.  Moving  Starlink and some Dragon ops to Roberts road. 

basically minimize interfaces when possible.
Is there any possibility that ULA, or BO, or both, might do some of these things?

Could several launch companies do some of this collectively through commercial third parties?

No reason too.  Others let the range do it because they didn't have the flight rate to support it.
Understood: that's why they have not yet done this. I was thinking about the aspirations of these companies and their claims that their rates would be increasing.

If at some point the range personnel become overburdened by the total load (mostly SpaceX) even though SpaceX is trying to reduce the per-flight burden on the range, it seems the other users should step up.

Offline AmigaClone

Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #4 on: 10/19/2023 12:08 am »
It's my understanding that AFTS is mandatory for all current and future orbital launch vehicles launched from the ER with the possible exception of the Atlas V and the Delta IV Heavy.

I also suspect that both ULA and BO have long range imaging equipment.


Offline LouScheffer

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #5 on: 10/19/2023 01:49 am »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers.  We are a long way from having simultaneous launches.  One facility with redundant trackers would seem able to support all users.  For telemetry, one set of redundant antennas would be similarly sufficient, but only if the data formats are sufficiently standardized.  This is currently the case for deep space probes (standards allow any facility to receive any probe's telemetry) but I don't know about rockets.

Also, as flight rates increase it might make sense to change the range from "clear on launch dates", to a more airport-like model, where the airspace (and sea space) are by default closed, but you can ask for permission to cross it.   Keeping it clear, and granting permission to cross, would be the responsibility of the range (as it is for airports today).

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #6 on: 10/19/2023 02:07 am »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers. 
[. . .]
Me either, but Jim called it out. My guess is that it works as a way to augment the Range's capabilities and reduce their workload without increasing the budget. That's why I asked about sharing the cost of some single separate commercially-operated faciltities.

Offline steveleach

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #7 on: 10/19/2023 07:29 am »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers. 
[. . .]
Me either, but Jim called it out. My guess is that it works as a way to augment the Range's capabilities and reduce their workload without increasing the budget. That's why I asked about sharing the cost of some single separate commercially-operated faciltities.
I suspect it is all about removing external dependencies, and being in control of their own destiny. When I'm planning work with a team, I'll often spend more to have the team do it themselves than it would cost to have someone outside the team do it, purely because that way I know it will be done when it is needed.

Offline woods170

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #8 on: 10/19/2023 08:27 am »
These are the items that helped SpaceX achieve a higher launch cadence wrt outside organizations.
AFTS - this requires no range assets.
They have their own launch area telemetry sites.  No need to use TEL-IV.  And they shipped the vehicle state vector and health to the range.
They have their own long range imaging equipment
They have their own meteorologist for long range forecasting
Encapsulation to launch is 24hr ops
They have their own ocean surveillance radars and charter a clearance helicopter.  The Coast Guard works with them on certifying a clear range.
They minimize comm nodes with the range and use direct fiber or NASA  (and only certain NASA organizations) when possible.
They are consolidating sites to the Roberts road area.  Shutting down outlying facilities like Spacehab SPPF, LCC at CCSFS entrance, Hangar AO, LC39 LCC FR4, etc.  Moving  Starlink and some Dragon ops to Roberts road. 

basically minimize interfaces when possible.


All smart things to do. Minimize whatever involvement there needs to be from government organizations and do as much as possible yourself. SpaceX knows that they can do things many times more efficient AND cheaper AND faster than government organizations can. Consolidating multiple facilities and sites into one super site fits their MO as well. Vertical integration at its finest.
« Last Edit: 10/19/2023 08:31 am by woods170 »

Offline woods170

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #9 on: 10/19/2023 08:34 am »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers.  We are a long way from having simultaneous launches.  One facility with redundant trackers would seem able to support all users. <snip>

Not as long as that facility is basically run by US government organizations, which are notorious for being slow to adapt to change.

I can very much understand why SpaceX chose to have its own set of long range trackers.

Offline edzieba

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #10 on: 10/19/2023 10:10 am »
These are the items that helped SpaceX achieve a higher launch cadence wrt outside organizations.
AFTS - this requires no range assets.
They have their own launch area telemetry sites.  No need to use TEL-IV.  And they shipped the vehicle state vector and health to the range.
They have their own long range imaging equipment
They have their own meteorologist for long range forecasting
Encapsulation to launch is 24hr ops
They have their own ocean surveillance radars and charter a clearance helicopter.  The Coast Guard works with them on certifying a clear range.
They minimize comm nodes with the range and use direct fiber or NASA  (and only certain NASA organizations) when possible.
They are consolidating sites to the Roberts road area.  Shutting down outlying facilities like Spacehab SPPF, LCC at CCSFS entrance, Hangar AO, LC39 LCC FR4, etc.  Moving  Starlink and some Dragon ops to Roberts road. 

basically minimize interfaces when possible.
I wonder if there is a (public) timeline of when these insourcing decisions were made/implemented. AFTS, own camera heads, own telemetry links, own meteorology gear, own RADAR and range chopper, were all definitely implemented well after the first F9 launch. Encapsulation scheduling I'd be pretty confidant was also not 24h from day one, interfacing with other agencies is constantly changing, and site consolidation is still ongoing.
AFTS at least we can pin a date on: CRS-10 in 2017

Offline niwax

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #11 on: 10/19/2023 11:03 am »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers.  We are a long way from having simultaneous launches.  One facility with redundant trackers would seem able to support all users.  For telemetry, one set of redundant antennas would be similarly sufficient, but only if the data formats are sufficiently standardized.  This is currently the case for deep space probes (standards allow any facility to receive any probe's telemetry) but I don't know about rockets.

IIRC it could take very long to reconfigure those assets, with manually shuffling tapes of data, certainly before the latest upgrades. Combine that with a high priority national security Delta sitting on the pad next door requesting a launch opportunity every evening for the next month, you just have to sit it out since they can't quickly reconfigure the system to give you a morning slot inbetween.
Which booster has the most soot? SpaceX booster launch history! (discussion)

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #12 on: 10/19/2023 11:45 am »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers. 
[. . .]
Me either, but Jim called it out. My guess is that it works as a way to augment the Range's capabilities and reduce their workload without increasing the budget. That's why I asked about sharing the cost of some single separate commercially-operated faciltities.
However the logical outcome of your queries in using a single shared launch support service is to pay SpaceX. Since they already have established the support service. Which Blue Origin will have issues with due to their no SpaceX policy. The other launch providers will probably be willing to pay SpaceX for the support service.

Offline edzieba

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #13 on: 10/19/2023 12:38 pm »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers. 
[. . .]
Me either, but Jim called it out. My guess is that it works as a way to augment the Range's capabilities and reduce their workload without increasing the budget. That's why I asked about sharing the cost of some single separate commercially-operated faciltities.
However the logical outcome of your queries in using a single shared launch support service is to pay SpaceX. Since they already have established the support service. Which Blue Origin will have issues with due to their no SpaceX policy. The other launch providers will probably be willing to pay SpaceX for the support service.
That assumes:
1) That SpaceX is literally capable of providing any service (i.e. the 'support services' department is sufficiently divorced from the rest of SpaceX operations to operate independently of the rest of SpaceX's operations)
2) That SpaceX is capable of providing the services other launch providers need (there is no guarantee the requirement of Falcon 9 are a superset of the requirements of all other launchers, and that is really rather unlikely to be the case)
3) That even if SpaceX is - or could change themselves to be - capable of offering a service, that they would be interested in offering a commercial service

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #14 on: 10/19/2023 12:57 pm »

I also suspect that both ULA and BO have long range imaging equipment.



Not ULA

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #15 on: 10/19/2023 12:59 pm »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers.  We are a long way from having simultaneous launches.  One facility with redundant trackers would seem able to support all users.  For telemetry, one set of redundant antennas would be similarly sufficient, but only if the data formats are sufficiently standardized.  This is currently the case for deep space probes (standards allow any facility to receive any probe's telemetry) but I don't know about rockets.


To avoid having a range interface and a dependency

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #16 on: 10/19/2023 01:02 pm »
]I wonder if there is a (public) timeline of when these insourcing decisions were made/implemented. AFTS, own camera heads, own telemetry links

This was early on in the program, years ago


own meteorology gear, own RADAR and range chopper, were all definitely implemented well after the first F9 launch. 


Likely after the cruise ship incident.   Also they broadcast warnings on marine channels and AIS.


Encapsulation scheduling I'd be pretty confidant was also not 24h from day one,


within the first 20 missions.  It causes some of the smaller payload organizations issues because they have small teams and have issues staffing around the clock.
« Last Edit: 10/19/2023 01:05 pm by Jim »

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #17 on: 10/19/2023 01:07 pm »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers. 
[. . .]
Me either, but Jim called it out. My guess is that it works as a way to augment the Range's capabilities and reduce their workload without increasing the budget. That's why I asked about sharing the cost of some single separate commercially-operated faciltities.
However the logical outcome of your queries in using a single shared launch support service is to pay SpaceX. Since they already have established the support service. Which Blue Origin will have issues with due to their no SpaceX policy. The other launch providers will probably be willing to pay SpaceX for the support service.


Doubt SpaceX will offer them up.  They need the flexibility.

also, SpaceX is reducing their comm footprint to only their facilities and trying to reducing outside interfaces, like having only one gov't interface and then let the gov't do the sharing amongst itself.
« Last Edit: 10/19/2023 01:09 pm by Jim »

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #18 on: 10/19/2023 02:50 pm »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers.  We are a long way from having simultaneous launches.  One facility with redundant trackers would seem able to support all users.  For telemetry, one set of redundant antennas would be similarly sufficient, but only if the data formats are sufficiently standardized.  This is currently the case for deep space probes (standards allow any facility to receive any probe's telemetry) but I don't know about rockets.

IIRC it could take very long to reconfigure those assets, with manually shuffling tapes of data, certainly before the latest upgrades. Combine that with a high priority national security Delta sitting on the pad next door requesting a launch opportunity every evening for the next month, you just have to sit it out since they can't quickly reconfigure the system to give you a morning slot inbetween.
Ouch. That would have been state-of-the-art in 1970. Up until recently, there was no particular reason to change this, but if is now actually delaying launches and reducing the yearly launch rate, it is costing the launch companies real money, and the launch companies have incentive to upgrade the system or use a commercial system if the range does not have the budget to do it. I have no idea how this would work, but Jim says that SpaceX did it, there must be an administrative mechanism they can use.

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #19 on: 10/19/2023 03:13 pm »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers. 
[. . .]
Me either, but Jim called it out. My guess is that it works as a way to augment the Range's capabilities and reduce their workload without increasing the budget. That's why I asked about sharing the cost of some single separate commercially-operated faciltities.
However the logical outcome of your queries in using a single shared launch support service is to pay SpaceX. Since they already have established the support service. Which Blue Origin will have issues with due to their no SpaceX policy. The other launch providers will probably be willing to pay SpaceX for the support service.


Doubt SpaceX will offer them up.  They need the flexibility.

also, SpaceX is reducing their comm footprint to only their facilities and trying to reducing outside interfaces, like having only one gov't interface and then let the gov't do the sharing amongst itself.
Think SpaceX should offer launch support service to other launch providers to help them launch on schedule. Since a scrub by another launch provider due to range infrastructure deficiencies will delay SpaceX's own launches.

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #20 on: 10/19/2023 03:23 pm »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers. 
[. . .]
Me either, but Jim called it out. My guess is that it works as a way to augment the Range's capabilities and reduce their workload without increasing the budget. That's why I asked about sharing the cost of some single separate commercially-operated faciltities.
However the logical outcome of your queries in using a single shared launch support service is to pay SpaceX. Since they already have established the support service. Which Blue Origin will have issues with due to their no SpaceX policy. The other launch providers will probably be willing to pay SpaceX for the support service.


Doubt SpaceX will offer them up.  They need the flexibility.

also, SpaceX is reducing their comm footprint to only their facilities and trying to reducing outside interfaces, like having only one gov't interface and then let the gov't do the sharing amongst itself.
Think SpaceX should offer launch support service to other launch providers to help them launch on schedule. Since a scrub by another launch provider due to range infrastructure deficiencies will delay SpaceX's own launches.
SpaceX is the first entity that's treating this as a real world business.  Instead of looking to use as much government infrastructure as possible (which makes sense when you're on a fixed-volume government launch schedule) they asked themselves what's impeding growth and addresses it, since they were in the business of actually creating markets and increasing volume.

But given that, why would they remove such barriers from others?  Believing in competition doesn't mean you don't go full tilt towards winning it.


« Last Edit: 10/19/2023 03:48 pm by zubenelgenubi »
ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Offline woods170

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #21 on: 10/19/2023 03:38 pm »
I also suspect that both ULA and BO have long range imaging equipment.

Not ULA

Exactly. Because...
...they didn't have the flight rate to support it.
« Last Edit: 10/19/2023 03:38 pm by woods170 »

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #22 on: 10/19/2023 03:44 pm »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers. 
[. . .]
Me either, but Jim called it out. My guess is that it works as a way to augment the Range's capabilities and reduce their workload without increasing the budget. That's why I asked about sharing the cost of some single separate commercially-operated faciltities.
However the logical outcome of your queries in using a single shared launch support service is to pay SpaceX. Since they already have established the support service. Which Blue Origin will have issues with due to their no SpaceX policy. The other launch providers will probably be willing to pay SpaceX for the support service.


Doubt SpaceX will offer them up.  They need the flexibility.

also, SpaceX is reducing their comm footprint to only their facilities and trying to reducing outside interfaces, like having only one gov't interface and then let the gov't do the sharing amongst itself.
Think SpaceX should offer launch support service to other launch providers to help them launch on schedule. Since a scrub by another launch provider due to range infrastructure deficiencies will delay SpaceX's own launches.
SpaceX is the first entity that's treating this as a real world business.  Instead of looking to use as much government infrastructure as possible (which makes sense when you're on a fixed-volume government launch schedule) they asked themselves what's impeding growth and addresses it, since they were in the business of actually creating markets and increasing volume.

But given that, why would they remove such barriers from others?  Believing in competition doesn't mean you don't go full tilt towards winning it.
SpaceX is a for-profit company. They would not offer this for free. The price would be reasonable and provide a profit. They are already crushing the competition, so no need to not do this, and it helps clear the range for SpaceX launches.
« Last Edit: 10/19/2023 03:49 pm by zubenelgenubi »

Offline steveleach

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #23 on: 10/19/2023 03:59 pm »
I also suspect that both ULA and BO have long range imaging equipment.

Not ULA

Exactly. Because...
...they didn't have the flight rate to support it.
Jim's list addresses the supply-side of the launch cadence question, giving the SpaceX the ability to maintain a high launch cadence.

But that ability is wasted unless the demand-side matches it.

SpaceX has, in Starlink, a "customer" that is willing to take as many launches as it can get, as well as being totally flexible about when those launches happen.

Offline abaddon

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #24 on: 10/19/2023 04:32 pm »
SpaceX is a for-profit company. They would not offer this for free. The price would be reasonable and provide a profit. They are already crushing the competition, so no need to not do this, and it helps clear the range for SpaceX launches.
It's still a government range, it doesn't really make sense for SpaceX to do any of this stuff.  When you make something an externally commercially offered product, everything gets WAY harder.  If they were letting other folks fly out of their range, that would be different.  But they've shown no indication they're interested in that, either.

Offline DanClemmensen

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #25 on: 10/19/2023 04:41 pm »
SpaceX is a for-profit company. They would not offer this for free. The price would be reasonable and provide a profit. They are already crushing the competition, so no need to not do this, and it helps clear the range for SpaceX launches.
It's still a government range, it doesn't really make sense for SpaceX to do any of this stuff.  When you make something an externally commercially offered product, everything gets WAY harder.  If they were letting other folks fly out of their range, that would be different.  But they've shown no indication they're interested in that, either.
Jim says that SpaceX is already performing these functions for themselves, so presumably it does make economic sense. I'm not talking about a new activity within SpaceX. I'm talking about making some extra money by selling this existing activity as a service. How hard is WAY harder will depend on lots of factors. SpaceX already has the entire business infrastructure in place to sell complex services to sophisticated customers in the space business.

Online matthewkantar

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #26 on: 10/19/2023 04:51 pm »
I suppose if SpaceX can expedite the process for others, and makes some money while doing it, it might make sense.

Avoiding situations where one pending launch holds up others is critical to SpaceX’s launch cadence aspirations.

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #27 on: 10/19/2023 05:29 pm »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers. 
[. . .]
Me either, but Jim called it out. My guess is that it works as a way to augment the Range's capabilities and reduce their workload without increasing the budget. That's why I asked about sharing the cost of some single separate commercially-operated faciltities.
However the logical outcome of your queries in using a single shared launch support service is to pay SpaceX. Since they already have established the support service. Which Blue Origin will have issues with due to their no SpaceX policy. The other launch providers will probably be willing to pay SpaceX for the support service.


Doubt SpaceX will offer them up.  They need the flexibility.

also, SpaceX is reducing their comm footprint to only their facilities and trying to reducing outside interfaces, like having only one gov't interface and then let the gov't do the sharing amongst itself.
Think SpaceX should offer launch support service to other launch providers to help them launch on schedule. Since a scrub by another launch provider due to range infrastructure deficiencies will delay SpaceX's own launches.
SpaceX is the first entity that's treating this as a real world business.  Instead of looking to use as much government infrastructure as possible (which makes sense when you're on a fixed-volume government launch schedule) they asked themselves what's impeding growth and addresses it, since they were in the business of actually creating markets and increasing volume.

But given that, why would they remove such barriers from others?  Believing in competition doesn't mean you don't go full tilt towards winning it.
SpaceX is a for-profit company. They would not offer this for free. The price would be reasonable and provide a profit. They are already crushing the competition, so no need to not do this, and it helps clear the range for SpaceX launches.
That last bit, yes, that would be a real motivator.
« Last Edit: 10/19/2023 07:24 pm by zubenelgenubi »
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Offline abaddon

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #28 on: 10/19/2023 07:44 pm »
SpaceX is a for-profit company. They would not offer this for free. The price would be reasonable and provide a profit. They are already crushing the competition, so no need to not do this, and it helps clear the range for SpaceX launches.
It's still a government range, it doesn't really make sense for SpaceX to do any of this stuff.  When you make something an externally commercially offered product, everything gets WAY harder.  If they were letting other folks fly out of their range, that would be different.  But they've shown no indication they're interested in that, either.
Jim says that SpaceX is already performing these functions for themselves, so presumably it does make economic sense. I'm not talking about a new activity within SpaceX. I'm talking about making some extra money by selling this existing activity as a service. How hard is WAY harder will depend on lots of factors. SpaceX already has the entire business infrastructure in place to sell complex services to sophisticated customers in the space business.
Sorry, I wasn't clear, I was saying it doesn't make sense for SpaceX to do any of that stuff for anyone else.
« Last Edit: 10/19/2023 07:44 pm by abaddon »

Offline joek

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #29 on: 10/19/2023 08:13 pm »
Sorry, I wasn't clear, I was saying it doesn't make sense for SpaceX to do any of that stuff for anyone else.

Agree. Why would they? If there is a market for such, then another third party could step up and provide those capabilities-services, or contract through SpaceX. Seriously doubt the incremental revenue to SpaceX is worth the hassle. See the same pattern with ride shares. Everyone could go direct to SpaceX, but not everyone does--some go through an aggregator.

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #30 on: 10/19/2023 11:17 pm »
This is where an airport (spaceport) authority would help.  Get the Space Force out running the Eastern Range and base.
« Last Edit: 10/19/2023 11:17 pm by Jim »

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #31 on: 10/20/2023 12:19 am »
This is where an airport (spaceport) authority would help.  Get the Space Force out running the Eastern Range and base.

Wait, the Space Force can get out of running the range, by divesting it to some agency/operator?

Base ops converting to a civil facility with military tenants I can understand, but the range itself?

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #32 on: 10/20/2023 12:51 am »
This is where an airport (spaceport) authority would help.  Get the Space Force out running the Eastern Range and base.
What about national security payloads. How would a spaceport authority handle those type of payloads?

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #33 on: 10/20/2023 12:23 pm »

Base ops converting to a civil facility with military tenants I can understand, but the range itself?

The range and base is much like operating air space and an airport.  The authority would collect fees for services it provides. The FAA would be more involved.
« Last Edit: 10/20/2023 12:25 pm by Jim »

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #34 on: 10/20/2023 12:24 pm »
This is where an airport (spaceport) authority would help.  Get the Space Force out running the Eastern Range and base.
What about national security payloads. How would a spaceport authority handle those type of payloads?

They don't.  The military would just be another user on the base.

Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #35 on: 10/21/2023 05:35 am »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers. 
[. . .]
Me either, but Jim called it out. My guess is that it works as a way to augment the Range's capabilities and reduce their workload without increasing the budget. That's why I asked about sharing the cost of some single separate commercially-operated faciltities.
However the logical outcome of your queries in using a single shared launch support service is to pay SpaceX. Since they already have established the support service. Which Blue Origin will have issues with due to their no SpaceX policy. The other launch providers will probably be willing to pay SpaceX for the support service.


Doubt SpaceX will offer them up.  They need the flexibility.

also, SpaceX is reducing their comm footprint to only their facilities and trying to reducing outside interfaces, like having only one gov't interface and then let the gov't do the sharing amongst itself.
Think SpaceX should offer launch support service to other launch providers to help them launch on schedule. Since a scrub by another launch provider due to range infrastructure deficiencies will delay SpaceX's own launches.
Doesn't the rocket and pad have to be designed for high cadence?
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal - Animal Farm by George Orwell

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #36 on: 10/21/2023 11:15 am »
It's not clear to me why each company needs its own long-range trackers. 
[. . .]
Me either, but Jim called it out. My guess is that it works as a way to augment the Range's capabilities and reduce their workload without increasing the budget. That's why I asked about sharing the cost of some single separate commercially-operated faciltities.
However the logical outcome of your queries in using a single shared launch support service is to pay SpaceX. Since they already have established the support service. Which Blue Origin will have issues with due to their no SpaceX policy. The other launch providers will probably be willing to pay SpaceX for the support service.


Doubt SpaceX will offer them up.  They need the flexibility.

also, SpaceX is reducing their comm footprint to only their facilities and trying to reducing outside interfaces, like having only one gov't interface and then let the gov't do the sharing amongst itself.
Think SpaceX should offer launch support service to other launch providers to help them launch on schedule. Since a scrub by another launch provider due to range infrastructure deficiencies will delay SpaceX's own launches.
Doesn't the rocket and pad have to be designed for high cadence?
If you are asking me. What does that have to do with my point about offering launch support service to other launch providers so that they launch on schedule?

Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #37 on: 10/21/2023 11:26 am »
This is where an airport (spaceport) authority would help.  Get the Space Force out running the Eastern Range and base.
What would you think of Space Florida taking it over, and contracting out to a commercial company to operate it?

Offline woods170

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #38 on: 10/21/2023 01:10 pm »

Base ops converting to a civil facility with military tenants I can understand, but the range itself?

The range and base is much like operating air space and an airport.  The authority would collect fees for services it provides. The FAA would be more involved.

Emphasis mine.

That's about the last thing the Eastern Range needs right now. The FAA are already stretched to the limit and becoming an inpediment to higher launch cadences. Getting them more involved will only serve to slow things further down. That is, they will slow things down until the FAA finally pivots away from seeing space launches as something completely different than commercial air travel.

Offline joek

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #39 on: 10/21/2023 03:05 pm »
What would you think of Space Florida taking it over, and contracting out to a commercial company to operate it?

Maybe, but likely will take quite a bit more time-demand-$ before that happens. But would be a good move to get it out of Federal hands regardless of who operates (more on that below).  Last substantial statement from Space Florida on that subject was 2018...
Quote from: Florida Spaceport System Plan 2018
Space Florida is developing approaches to support and facilitate the emergence of commercial range safety and flight monitoring instrumentation that can lessen or perhaps even eliminate the reliance on traditional federal ground-based tracking and control systems. Additionally, Space Florida is seeking to develop independent, commercially operated services for safety analysis and operational support of launch, reentry, and test operations. These may include capabilities such as tailored weather forecasting and real-time information; flight safety hazards analysis and real-time monitoring; and required public clear zone verification monitor
...
Almost nothing more about it (other than a couple bullet points) in the last Florida Spaceport Improvement Program 2023–2024.

This has been an issue going back decades due to Federal facility funding rules. From a 2015 NSF thread...
Quote
... Federal funds cannot by law be used for improvements which are not directly tied to a federal need.  It was only recently that non-federal contributions could be used for such modernization.  However, the authority to enter into such agreements rests with SecDef and requires congressional authorization to use such funds.

So let's say you are a private federal range user (such as SpaceX) looking at this antiquated equipment and you say "Gee, we're willing to kick in 50% [pick a number] of the cost to upgrade/replace that equipment."  Sound like a win-win?  Not so fast.  First you have to ink an agreement with SecDef.  Then you hand over the money to the government.  Then you have to get Congress to authorize use of those funds for the intended purpose.

It sucks.  It's been a problem for a long time, and people have been trying to find solutions for a long time.  (Since back in the late 90's when range capacity and modernization was the boogeyman haunting the industry.)  That is one reason why entities such as Space Florida exist, and why some customers are taking their business elsewhere.

Expect SpaceX gave up waiting and did what they needed to do to support their own ops.


edit: p.s. As far as I am aware, the Federal funding-use rules still apply. If anyone has additional info, please chime in. Thanks.
« Last Edit: 10/21/2023 03:16 pm by joek »

Offline joek

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #40 on: 10/21/2023 03:18 pm »
... The FAA would be more involved.
Would you expand on that please? Not seeing how FAA would be more involved that it already is.

Offline seb21051

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #41 on: 10/21/2023 04:20 pm »
This question has probably been asked and replied to in the past, but:

With SX getting ready to launch, on average, every 2.5 days in 2024, does that not mean that they have to build a second stage every 2.5 days too? Whereas they have to be building a new second stage roughly every four days or so at present? How do you build such a device in 2.5 days, or do you build them in multiple places at the same time?

I suppose if you can have a new Tesla drive out of the factory door every 40 seconds or so (as seen from videos shot at Shanghai), you could do about the same with Falcon second stages. Assuming that a second stage is more or less the same complexity as an electric vehicle. The machine that builds the machine. Incredible.

Offline rpapo

Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #42 on: 10/21/2023 08:46 pm »
With SX getting ready to launch, on average, every 2.5 days in 2024, does that not mean that they have to build a second stage every 2.5 days too? Whereas they have to be building a new second stage roughly every four days or so at present? How do you build such a device in 2.5 days, or do you build them in multiple places at the same time?

I suppose if you can have a new Tesla drive out of the factory door every 40 seconds or so (as seen from videos shot at Shanghai), you could do about the same with Falcon second stages. Assuming that a second stage is more or less the same complexity as an electric vehicle. The machine that builds the machine. Incredible.
You can build a second stage every few days the same way you build a car every 40 seconds.  That is, you have an assembly line.  If it takes a month to actually build a second stage, then you have fifteen or more stages in the pipeline at the same time, each at a different point in the assembly process.

However, the assembly process must include the steps of transporting the stages to McGregor for testing, the testing itself, transport to either Kennedy, Cape Canaveral or Vandenberg.  I have no idea exactly how long the entire build process takes, though I suspect it is well over a single month.  But the solution is the same: build as many as you need staggered in sequence or in parallel.
« Last Edit: 10/21/2023 08:52 pm by rpapo »
Following the space program since before Apollo 8.

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #43 on: 10/21/2023 09:34 pm »

Base ops converting to a civil facility with military tenants I can understand, but the range itself?

The range and base is much like operating air space and an airport.  The authority would collect fees for services it provides. The FAA would be more involved.

Emphasis mine.

That's about the last thing the Eastern Range needs right now. The FAA are already stretched to the limit and becoming an inpediment to higher launch cadences. Getting them more involved will only serve to slow things further down. That is, they will slow things down until the FAA finally pivots away from seeing space launches as something completely different than commercial air travel.

No.  Not the same.  Talking operational FAA and not licensing FAA. Like the FAA that operates at airports and not the FAA that certifies airliners or airlines.

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #44 on: 10/21/2023 09:36 pm »

Maybe, but likely will take quite a bit more time-demand-$ before that happens. But would be a good move to get it out of Federal hands regardless of who operates (more on that below).

Still would be a federal range and have FAA involvement.

Offline bstrong

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #45 on: 10/24/2023 11:33 pm »
Interesting tidbit in the SN article on spaceport modernization:

Quote
Under a separate initiative, the Defense Department has submitted a legislative proposal to create a “port authority” model for launch operations on the Eastern and Western Ranges, allowing the Space Force to charge commercial users fees to recoup its costs.

https://spacenews.com/space-force-identifying-priorities-for-modernizing-spaceports/

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #46 on: 11/04/2023 12:18 pm »
Also, they are no longer using the LC-40 hangar for launcher integration.   The first and second stages are integrated at Robert Rd and trucked to the hangar.   The rocket is lifted off and suspended while the "delivery vehicle" leaves the hangar and the TEL is rolled in.  The vehicle is placed on the TEL and then the faring is mated.
This is how they can do a 4 day pad turnaround.

Offline seb21051

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #47 on: 11/05/2023 03:43 pm »
|"You can build a second stage every few days the same way you build a car every 40 seconds.  That is, you have an assembly line.  If it takes a month to actually build a second stage, then you have fifteen or more stages in the pipeline at the same time, each at a different point in the assembly process."

So, the follow on question would be, how long does it actually take to build a single 2nd Stage, which would then allow one to calculate how many they would have to have in construction at any one time to be able to turn one out every 2.5 days, right?

Offline mn

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #48 on: 11/06/2023 02:02 am »
....
and it helps clear the range for SpaceX launches.

With SpaceX managing so much by themselves, is a pending launch on another pad still blocking for SpaceX?

Can SpaceX have a vehicle ready to go, and as soon as another launch is delayed they can pull out their vehicle and get it launched before the other vehicle is ready for their next attempt?

What are the limitations on that? Considering that it seems they almost don't need range assets, just a 'permission' to go ahead and do your thing?

What are the blocking factors?

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #49 on: 11/06/2023 02:53 am »
....
and it helps clear the range for SpaceX launches.

With SpaceX managing so much by themselves, is a pending launch on another pad still blocking for SpaceX?

Can SpaceX have a vehicle ready to go, and as soon as another launch is delayed they can pull out their vehicle and get it launched before the other vehicle is ready for their next attempt?

What are the limitations on that? Considering that it seems they almost don't need range assets, just a 'permission' to go ahead and do your thing?

What are the blocking factors?

I imagine ULA will be unhappy with LC-40 firing up while they have a vehicle over at LC-41 in a somewhat exposed state.

Offline mn

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #50 on: 11/06/2023 02:58 am »
....
and it helps clear the range for SpaceX launches.

With SpaceX managing so much by themselves, is a pending launch on another pad still blocking for SpaceX?

Can SpaceX have a vehicle ready to go, and as soon as another launch is delayed they can pull out their vehicle and get it launched before the other vehicle is ready for their next attempt?

What are the limitations on that? Considering that it seems they almost don't need range assets, just a 'permission' to go ahead and do your thing?

What are the blocking factors?

I imagine ULA will be unhappy with LC-40 firing up while they have a vehicle over at LC-41 in a somewhat exposed state.

Ok that's understandable, just curious how the range feels about that, will they automatically accept ULA's objection?

Offline AmigaClone

Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #51 on: 11/06/2023 05:18 am »
....
and it helps clear the range for SpaceX launches.

With SpaceX managing so much by themselves, is a pending launch on another pad still blocking for SpaceX?

Can SpaceX have a vehicle ready to go, and as soon as another launch is delayed they can pull out their vehicle and get it launched before the other vehicle is ready for their next attempt?

What are the limitations on that? Considering that it seems they almost don't need range assets, just a 'permission' to go ahead and do your thing?

What are the blocking factors?

I imagine ULA will be unhappy with LC-40 firing up while they have a vehicle over at LC-41 in a somewhat exposed state.

Ok that's understandable, just curious how the range feels about that, will they automatically accept ULA's objection?

My personal opinion - which might have no basis on reality - is that the range's response might in part depend on the payloads being launched.

IF ULA is launching a national security satellite or an interplanetary mission then the range might be more likely to not allow SpaceX to launch - especially if it's a case of Starlink satellites.

On the other extreme, if SpaceX's launch was supporting an interplanetary mission or placing a national security satellite in orbit, then the range's reaction might be to tell ULA they have until the opening of SpaceX's launch window to secure their launch vehicle the best they can.

Something else that would be a factor would be the launch trajectory. If the closest the ground path of a Falcon 9 launching from SLC40 were to come to SLC41 was at launch itself then the range might be more open to allowing SpaceX to proceed with the launch than if the F9 launch was heading NE.

Offline Jim

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #52 on: 11/06/2023 11:47 am »
....
and it helps clear the range for SpaceX launches.

With SpaceX managing so much by themselves, is a pending launch on another pad still blocking for SpaceX?

Can SpaceX have a vehicle ready to go, and as soon as another launch is delayed they can pull out their vehicle and get it launched before the other vehicle is ready for their next attempt?

What are the limitations on that? Considering that it seems they almost don't need range assets, just a 'permission' to go ahead and do your thing?

What are the blocking factors?

They still use some range assets.

Offline mn

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #53 on: 11/06/2023 01:13 pm »
....
and it helps clear the range for SpaceX launches.

With SpaceX managing so much by themselves, is a pending launch on another pad still blocking for SpaceX?

Can SpaceX have a vehicle ready to go, and as soon as another launch is delayed they can pull out their vehicle and get it launched before the other vehicle is ready for their next attempt?

What are the limitations on that? Considering that it seems they almost don't need range assets, just a 'permission' to go ahead and do your thing?

What are the blocking factors?

They still use some range assets.

Are those assets things that take a lot of time to reconfigure for different launches? Can they be upgraded to be able to switch easily? (For the right price)

Offline raptorx2

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Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #54 on: 11/07/2023 12:13 am »
....
and it helps clear the range for SpaceX launches.

With SpaceX managing so much by themselves, is a pending launch on another pad still blocking for SpaceX?

Can SpaceX have a vehicle ready to go, and as soon as another launch is delayed they can pull out their vehicle and get it launched before the other vehicle is ready for their next attempt?

What are the limitations on that? Considering that it seems they almost don't need range assets, just a 'permission' to go ahead and do your thing?

What are the blocking factors?

I imagine ULA will be unhappy with LC-40 firing up while they have a vehicle over at LC-41 in a somewhat exposed state.

With 3 other pads.  LC-39A, SLC-4E, SLC-6, will it really matter?  12 launches per month divided by 4 pads is only 3 launches per pad per month.  SLC-40 is currently hosting 5 per month. Falcon Heavy's at LC-39A are the cadence losers.

Offline AmigaClone

Re: SpaceX ER "Improvements" and Launch Cadence
« Reply #55 on: 11/07/2023 06:28 am »
....
and it helps clear the range for SpaceX launches.

With SpaceX managing so much by themselves, is a pending launch on another pad still blocking for SpaceX?

Can SpaceX have a vehicle ready to go, and as soon as another launch is delayed they can pull out their vehicle and get it launched before the other vehicle is ready for their next attempt?

What are the limitations on that? Considering that it seems they almost don't need range assets, just a 'permission' to go ahead and do your thing?

What are the blocking factors?

They still use some range assets.

Are those assets things that take a lot of time to reconfigure for different launches? Can they be upgraded to be able to switch easily? (For the right price)

I believe using both SpaceX's and the range's assets it's currently possible to launch a Falcon 9 and another LV in around two hours no matter the respective launch inclination or LV itseld. There might be situations when the time between two launches can be a lot less even with current LV, but that would depend on several factors such as the intended orbit of the payloads being launched.

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