Author Topic: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?  (Read 11446 times)

Offline RyanC

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Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« on: 05/15/2014 05:41 pm »
This has probably been beat to death before, but it came to me that if Musk and Company play their cards right with the F9R and the later Dragon Mark II they'll unveil on the 29th; they could beat Virgin Galactic to the prize of commercial paying customers past the von Kármán line.

Basically use only a F9R first stage to loft a Dragon Mark II into a suborbital arc (ala Mercury-Redstone); then fly back the F9R while Dragon Mk II either lands at sea or on land (we don't know if Mk II will have superdraco yet).

It wouldn't be a fairly high flight rate operation, due to the need to refurbish the F9R and Dragon Mk II after each launch and then re-integrate them; but it could be a way to quickly build up flight experience with both systems before an orbital launch.

Offline sublimemarsupial

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #1 on: 05/15/2014 05:58 pm »
we don't know if Mk II will have superdraco yet
Yes, we do. It will.

Offline billh

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #2 on: 05/15/2014 11:17 pm »
That's a pretty interesting idea. Presumably the Dragon could do an abort at the last moment if the landing was failing for some reason. If it goes ok, the stack is ready for another flight.

I wonder if F9R could land with that big of a payload on top?

Offline AncientU

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #3 on: 05/16/2014 12:46 am »
Since the power is available, why stop at sub-orbital.  Fly a few low orbits and soft land at the Cape or Boca Chica or where ever you launched from.  Stage would be back a few hours already... Reload, repeat.  Not much competition for orbital,  launched-on-a-rocket tourism, where there could be plenty for the ten minute sub-orbital rides.
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Offline adrianwyard

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #4 on: 05/16/2014 01:18 am »
Hmmm, there are some wild options here. (But first you have to live in a world where SpaceX believes F9R is reliable enough that no LAS is needed, i.e. not this one. If LAS is needed, then you're in a Dragon 2, and all you get is extended weightlessness in a cramped capsule. The Virgin Galactic option is superior.)

BUT, if we're in fantasyland, delete the Dragon and change the second stage into a very large passenger module with large windows, and take a fully loaded F9R straight up (well, match Earth's rotation). How high would that go? How long would you be weightless? It's guaranteed to be much better than what VG is offering.

Offline cleonard

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #5 on: 05/16/2014 02:15 am »
Trying to land with the capsule still attached is likely to not be an option.  The first stage is only stable because the mass is concentrated at the bottom end.  A dragon is heavy and at the top.  This will not help stability at all.   

Online yg1968

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #6 on: 05/16/2014 02:43 am »
It's still be very pricey though if the F9 booster is only expected to have 10 flights of reusability.

It's only expected to have 10 flights of reusability? When was that stated?

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #7 on: 05/16/2014 05:57 am »
Interesting thread. Can the F9-R without the upper stage be capable of boosting a simplified Dragon 2 into a low Earth orbit with 2 or 3 passengers and no trunk for several orbits?

Simplified as in no docking, rendezvous & long duration life support systems. Since there is no trunk or PV panels, will run on internal batteries. Of course they have to install a few windows for the picture taking.

Offline sublimemarsupial

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #8 on: 05/16/2014 06:02 am »
Can the F9-R without the upper stage be capable of boosting a simplified Dragon 2 into a low Earth orbit with 2 or 3 passengers and no trunk for several orbits?

No, not even close. The first stage may just barely be capable of SSTO without any payload, but it certainly can't lift a Dragon up there with it.

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #9 on: 05/16/2014 06:15 am »
Can the F9-R without the upper stage be capable of boosting a simplified Dragon 2 into a low Earth orbit with 2 or 3 passengers and no trunk for several orbits?

No, not even close. The first stage may just barely be capable of SSTO without any payload, but it certainly can't lift a Dragon up there with it.

I am thinking about 5 tonnes for the simplified Dragon 2. Is that too heavy for 115 km orbit?

Online Jarnis

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #10 on: 05/16/2014 07:18 am »
Can the F9-R without the upper stage be capable of boosting a simplified Dragon 2 into a low Earth orbit with 2 or 3 passengers and no trunk for several orbits?

No, not even close. The first stage may just barely be capable of SSTO without any payload, but it certainly can't lift a Dragon up there with it.

I am thinking about 5 tonnes for the simplified Dragon 2. Is that too heavy for 115 km orbit?

You grossly underestimate how much Delta-V the second stage gives to the payload.

You could say that first stage gets everything up to altitude and second stage adds the orbital velocity. It is a gross oversimplification but gives you a rough idea...

Online guckyfan

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #11 on: 05/16/2014 08:11 am »
Interesting thread. Can the F9-R without the upper stage be capable of boosting a simplified Dragon 2 into a low Earth orbit with 2 or 3 passengers and no trunk for several orbits?

Even if it were possible the stage would not be recoverable from orbit.

If and when the second stage will be reusable like the first stage and Dragon the price for an orbit launch of Dragon may come way down. I recall that Gwynne Shotwell once talked about the possibility to add an inflatable extension instead of the docking adapter. But it was no more than a thought, not much if any work in it yet.

Offline dror

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #12 on: 05/16/2014 08:47 am »

Basically use only a F9R first stage to loft a Dragon Mark II into a suborbital arc (ala Mercury-Redstone); then fly back the F9R while Dragon Mk II either lands at sea or on land (we don't know if Mk II will have superdraco yet).


can a sealevel-seconed-stage (basically Falcon1) lift the capsule without the first stage?
How high?
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Offline adrianwyard

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #13 on: 05/16/2014 11:21 pm »
If we restrict speculation to that involving existing hardware, we can't get anything useful to orbit on an F9R and then recover it. You can however get a very saleable trip up into orbital altitudes, assuming you go straight up and then down to the launch site. (i.e. spend no performance at all on gaining horizontal velocity). I'm still trying to find the relevant numbers to do the math. (Help welcome.)

As cleonard pointed out upthread, the F9R is not designed to re-enter or land with a heavy Dragon on top. There are a couple of responses to this: first, the Dragon has its own RCS, so that's available for attitude control, but likely underpowered for landing. And secondly, the Dragon could separate at altitude and propulsively land separately alongside the F9R.

But as I mentioned before, the tourist experience inside a Dragon won't be that great.

So... forget the Dragon, and bolt SpaceShipTwo on top of the F9R and release it at altitude.  There is zero ground speed, but vertical speed will pick up quickly on the way down. Once again there might be numbers out there that would allow us to calculate if this is realistic (i.e. ballistic coefficient and drag of an SS2 when featured, terminal velocity at sea level, etc).

You might argue for keeping SpaceShipTwo's motor for abort scenarios.

Offline adrianwyard

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #14 on: 05/16/2014 11:30 pm »
...and if we can magic up new hardware:

At altitude the F9R releases a large pressurized gondola with generous windows. When atmospheric pressure has built to an appropriate level, release a large parafoil and enjoy the view on the lengthy descent.

Some RCS would be needed to hold attitude before the parachute opens. With a big enough chute I don't think thermal protection would be an issue (you are at near zero ground speed the whole flight.)

Unfortunately it would have to be a steerable parafoil or you'd land way, way far away from the launch site. And I'm not sure how you touch down gently. Airbags?

Offline neilh

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #15 on: 05/16/2014 11:31 pm »
Technical issues aside, I'm not sure if the relatively low revenue-per-launch would be worth the increased legal and publicity liability, at least not at this point in time.
« Last Edit: 05/16/2014 11:40 pm by neilh »
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #16 on: 05/16/2014 11:46 pm »
Technical issues aside, I'm not sure if the relatively low revenue-per-launch would be worth the increased legal and publicity liability, at least not at this point in time.

Yeah.

The SpaceX hardware design trade-offs weren't made to favor a suborbital tourism business.  They'd be competing against Virgin Galactic, who designed hardware specifically for that business.  It would be a really bad business for SpaceX to enter.

Offline adrianwyard

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #17 on: 05/16/2014 11:52 pm »
I don't think anyone's really serious about this. It is, however a fun thought experiment that throws up some interesting questions on rocket performance, TPS, safety issues, etc.

One day in far the future I could see up-and-down rocket tourism being tried; the experience would be far superior to what VG has planned, i.e. higher (more Earth viewed/curvature) and longer weightlessness.

Offline sublimemarsupial

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #18 on: 05/17/2014 12:00 am »
I don't think anyone's really serious about this. It is, however a fun thought experiment that throws up some interesting questions on rocket performance, TPS, safety issues, etc.

One day in far the future I could see up-and-down rocket tourism being tried; the experience would be far superior to what VG has planned, i.e. higher (more Earth viewed/curvature) and longer weightlessness.

Its not too far off, that's exactly what Blue Origin is planning.

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Falcon 9R and Dragon Mk II Suborbital Tourism?
« Reply #19 on: 05/17/2014 12:13 am »
can a sealevel-seconed-stage (basically Falcon1) lift the capsule without the first stage?
How high?
I have not done the math, but IIRC, Blue Origins suborbital launch vehicle will have their capsule on top and it will later serve as the second stage for the orbital vehicle. So while it might not work with the F9 second stage in particular, it is not completely outrageous.

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