Poll

Which upcoming new 25+MT launcher puts cargo in LEO or beyond first and Why?

SLS
9 (7.3%)
Super Heavy+Starship
84 (68.3%)
New Glenn
10 (8.1%)
Vulcan
9 (7.3%)
Nothing Anytime Soon (before Jan 1 2022)
10 (8.1%)
Other vehicle (describe in comments)
1 (0.8%)

Total Members Voted: 123

Voting closed: 03/31/2019 06:29 pm


Author Topic: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?  (Read 4110 times)

Offline dlapine

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At think point, I'm truly happy that I can ask this question with a straight face- We have multiple heavy lift rockets in development right now and there is the possibility that one of them will reach orbit in the next 12-24 months.

What becomes operational and puts cargo into orbit first from the current generation of heavy lift (25MT+) rockets?

The payload could be governmental, commercial, heck, I'd take a successful first checkflight like EM-1 as an acceptable first. You can argue about whether Starship to orbit without a payload counts. Demonstration of operational capability by the launch vehicle is the underlying goal here.

Call the acceptable "soon" deadline Dec 21 2021. If you don't think any vehicle/payload will be on orbit by then, select the "Nothing Anytime Soon" option.

Falcon Heavy is already operational, and Ariane 6, Long March 5 are just below the cargo weights to LEO, so let's not include them in this.

Offline IanO

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #1 on: 03/19/2019 09:17 pm »
I'll be the contrarian and suggest the Long March 9.  Superheavy launch capability is a statement about the health of the country's economy, how much excess they have to spend on vanity projects, and China's economy is the one trending upwards.
psas.pdx.edu - to orbit with stone knives and bearskins

Online ncb1397

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #2 on: 03/19/2019 10:03 pm »
...and China's economy is the one trending upwards.

The economy isn't the only thing on an upwards trend. Using data from tradingeconomics.com and the last 2 years of data to generate a trend line gives the linked chart for national government debt burden:

sources:
https://tradingeconomics.com/china/government-debt-to-gdp
https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/government-debt-to-gdp



Offline whitelancer64

I almost voted for New Glenn, but went with BFR / Starship instead. I think that Blue Origin will be very hot on SpaceX's heels. Probably within single digit months.
"One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree -- make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to." - Elon Musk
"There are lies, damned lies, and launch schedules." - Larry J

Offline dlapine

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #4 on: 03/19/2019 11:08 pm »
I'll be the contrarian and suggest the Long March 9.  Superheavy launch capability is a statement about the health of the country's economy, how much excess they have to spend on vanity projects, and China's economy is the one trending upwards.

The most recent info I see on the Long March 9 program notes- "The Long March 9 is slated to be ready for a test flight around 2030" from an article here: https://spacenews.com/china-reveals-details-for-super-heavy-lift-long-march-9-and-reusable-long-march-8-rockets/. Did you have some updated info on the development effort?

Offline dlapine

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #5 on: 03/19/2019 11:10 pm »
I almost voted for New Glenn, but went with BFR / Starship instead. I think that Blue Origin will be very hot on SpaceX's heels. Probably within single digit months.

I'd be thrilled to see bent metal on a New Glen prototype and a testing program with it that's pushes SpaceX within the next 12 months.

Offline rockets4life97

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #6 on: 03/19/2019 11:16 pm »
What is the latest timeline for Vulcan?

Offline dlapine

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #7 on: 03/20/2019 12:26 am »
From the Vulcan thread-

https://twitter.com/stephenclark1/status/1100165131101720579

Quote
Just finished a nice interview with @torybruno. The first flight hardware for Vulcan is now being produced at ULA’s factory in Alabama. First launch remains set for Spring 2021.

https://twitter.com/stephenclark1/status/1100167165578235905

Quote
Critical design review for Vulcan should be completed soon, says @torybruno. Waiting on some final data from BE-4 engine tests. He says Blue Origin has completed dozens of hotfire tests to date on the BE-4, the most powerful methane rocket engine ever built.

Presumably waiting to get higher than 70% power?

[Edit] Vulcan would seem to be limited by the availability of the BE4, but at least that engine is in test firing mode now.
« Last Edit: 03/20/2019 12:27 am by dlapine »

Offline su27k

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #8 on: 03/20/2019 02:01 am »
Voted for SpaceX out of habit, but really SHS (first test flight) and Vulcan are basically neck to neck from where I'm sitting.

As for the rest: SLS schedule is a bit uncertain given recent events. I think New Glenn will be delayed, since it's Blue's first orbital class booster with fairly unique features (gliding, propulsive landing on moving ship), they'll need time to work everything out. Nobody else has anything even close to this timeline.
« Last Edit: 03/20/2019 04:36 am by su27k »

Offline Joseph Peterson

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #9 on: 03/20/2019 03:10 am »
My vote was based on available payloads, not the launch vehicle's rated capacity.  I also considered only the payload mass of deep space missions, not any kick stages.  Similarly payload adapter mass is not included.

As far as I know the only payloads that fit the bill are LEO constellations and Orion.  I have zero faith that SLS will ever launch so barring shifting Orion to a more realistic launcher, something that won't happen quickly, I am removing Orion from that list.  This takes the choices down to SS/SH and New Glenn.

My personal belief is Blue Origin is over-funded removing the mother of invention, necessity.  Therefore the only options left are SpaceX or no one.  Since I prefer to be optimistic I wasn't going to vote for no one.  The only remaining choice is SS/SH, so SpaceX got my vote.

TBH I have my doubts about SpaceX being able to build 25+ tonnes of Starlink satellites before SS/SH is ready to launch the next load.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #10 on: 03/20/2019 01:41 pm »
I voted SS+SH because of two things. When Erick Berger of NASA gives Starship even odds of beating SLS to space and the real pace observed in the test and flight hardware build, Starship schedules are likely to shift to the right not left as long as problems SpaceX encounters are not significant and can be quickly corrected. Unlike most LV development programs most of the gremlins will have been discovered before any hardware actually reaches orbit because as others have mentioned a vehicle that allows for incrementing challenges vs testing all at once has tremendous advantages for real schedule and costs. In modern LVs it is mostly the integration of the software to the hardware and then doing tests with the hardware in the loop to determine if the combination will actually work in the real world. I trust SpaceX software development team to deliver and update software very fast with high quality. In the end to get such software fully functional you can incrementally test in the real world and possibly loose a vehicle or several when the cost of hardware is low (estimate of hopper and other prototypes looks to be not much more than $10M). Else you can produce endless and expensive computer simulation models at high costs (each of these software models cost as much as the software) which takes time and multiplies the time to deliver working software. Note SLS is having this exact problem with ballooning costs and schedules in its software development.
« Last Edit: 03/20/2019 01:44 pm by oldAtlas_Eguy »

Offline whitelancer64

I almost voted for New Glenn, but went with BFR / Starship instead. I think that Blue Origin will be very hot on SpaceX's heels. Probably within single digit months.

I'd be thrilled to see bent metal on a New Glen prototype and a testing program with it that's pushes SpaceX within the next 12 months.

I don't think we're going to see much of New Glenn until it's on the launch pad. That's just how Blue Origin is. It will look like they came out of nowhere.
"One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree -- make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to." - Elon Musk
"There are lies, damned lies, and launch schedules." - Larry J

Offline mme

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #12 on: 03/20/2019 02:44 pm »
I don't think any of them fly an actual mission before 2022. In order I would guess:

1. Vulcan
2. New Glenn
3. SH/SS

But all pretty close. This is no ding on SpaceX, I just think Vulcan and New Glenn have too much of a head start, SS flying any time close to them would be one heck of an accomplishment. I put New Glenn after Vulcan because Blue is so meticulous I don't see them "rushing."

I'm starting to think SLS won't fly. I'm torn on this as I think politically it has to fly at least once or twice but I guess I'm starting to buy into all the negativity.
Space is not Highlander.  There can, and will, be more than one.

Offline dlapine

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #13 on: 03/20/2019 02:59 pm »
My vote was based on available payloads, not the launch vehicle's rated capacity.  I also considered only the payload mass of deep space missions, not any kick stages.  Similarly payload adapter mass is not included.

TBH I have my doubts about SpaceX being able to build 25+ tonnes of Starlink satellites before SS/SH is ready to launch the next load.

The vehicle should be capable of doing 25MT or more, but the first flight to orbit might not carry that much mass.

It would be possible to launch a smaller payload and demonstrate an operational capability of the vehicle itself. A mass simulator in some circumstances would be appropriate where as a commercial 7MT GTO comm sat mission might be just as valid as a demonstration, depending on other factors.

Offline skybum

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #14 on: 03/20/2019 08:19 pm »
SH + Starship is really the wildcard here. Improbably, it's schedule seems to have been sliding to the... left??? ... over the past year or so. If that keeps happening, then it'll handily beat the competition. On the other hand, that still seems really improbable. And on the third hand they've got a flightworthy engine mounted on a vehicle that'll be flying (a few inches) tomorrow, which is further than anyone else has gone. So, who knows?

In any event, it's a really close race, and I suspect that all of these (barring, possibly, SLS if it's cancelled) will fly within a year of each other.

Offline dlapine

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #15 on: 03/20/2019 08:37 pm »
In any event, it's a really close race, and I suspect that all of these (barring, possibly, SLS if it's cancelled) will fly within a year of each other.

I agree, and that's why it was so exciting to put up a poll at this time.  8)

At the moment, less than 7% of the responses think that we won't see any new heavy in orbit- that's really cool.

Offline Billium

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #16 on: 03/20/2019 08:57 pm »
I voted that none will fly before Jan 1, 2022, although I hope I'm wrong. It is possible that any might have an orbital launch prior to that date, and I think it is likely that some or all will by Jan 1, 2023, but I think schedules are going to slip so we won't see it in the time allowed in the poll.

SLS will slip... because it's SLS. Vulcan will slip because it doesn't need to slip that much, Blue takes things slow and this will be their first orbital vehicle, I think the SpaceX vehicle has extra technology that has to be proved out, ie. tranpirational cooling, and this is not a given and I don't think they will launch without it. Also I'm not sure if Spacex will have sufficient internal or external funding for this project within the time available.

Offline spacenut

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #17 on: 03/20/2019 09:01 pm »
Vulcan is dependent on BE-4 as well as New Glenn.  Even if everything else is ready, when is BE-4 going to be ready?  Seems like SpaceX has gone with Raptor as is and will push it to higher thrust after it gets going like they did with Merlin. 

Offline envy887

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #18 on: 03/26/2019 05:37 pm »
I almost voted for New Glenn, but went with BFR / Starship instead. I think that Blue Origin will be very hot on SpaceX's heels. Probably within single digit months.

I'd be thrilled to see bent metal on a New Glen prototype and a testing program with it that's pushes SpaceX within the next 12 months.

I don't think we're going to see much of New Glenn until it's on the launch pad. That's just how Blue Origin is. It will look like they came out of nowhere.

Shouldn't engine and/or full stage tests on the test stand they are building at LC-36 be noticeable? I'd think we will see those for a good year before they roll out for a WDR.

Also, if Blue going to build and test a STA for New Glenn, that should show up sometime well before a flight.

Offline jongoff

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Re: Which new heavy/superheavy LV is first to reach orbit?
« Reply #19 on: 03/28/2019 02:21 am »
I was more contrarian than I thought by voting for Vulcan, with SLS being a close second. I doubt SLS is going to fly in 2020, in spite of their new promises, and I wouldn't be surprised if it slipped enough that Vulcan wins. I'm positive Vulcan is going to fly before New Glenn -- it's just a lot further along the design process and not as ambitious or big or complicated. As far as Starship goes, I'm skeptical it will be flying before summer of 2021 either. They're doing a crude, simplified hopper right now, but there's a ton of work from here to an operating Starship/SuperHeavy. I just don't see it flying before Vulcan.

~Jon

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