Author Topic: NASA Studies Scaled-Up Falcon, Merlin  (Read 157547 times)

Online docmordrid

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NASA Studies Scaled-Up Falcon, Merlin
« on: 12/03/2010 03:21 am »
Aviation Week article....

Quote
NASA Studies Scaled-Up Falcon, Merlin

SpaceX will respond to NASA’s heavy-lift launch vehicle study with concepts that can carry 150 tons to orbit and cost no more than $300 million per launch.

Outlining SpaceX’s approach to the contract—one of 13 trade-study awards made by NASA in early November to look at innovative launch vehicle concepts and propulsion technologies—CEO Elon Musk says only plans that embrace economic, political and technical solutions will work.
>

« Last Edit: 12/03/2010 01:16 pm by Chris Bergin »
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Offline zaitcev

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #1 on: 12/03/2010 03:58 am »
One thing is clear: Elon is not an ally of commercial spaceflight.

Offline SpacexULA

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #2 on: 12/03/2010 04:04 am »
One thing is clear: Elon is not an ally of commercial spaceflight.

Just out of curiosity, how would you come to that conclusion?

As has been said before commercial is not the company you buy from, it's the method with which the product is bought.

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Offline Lars_J

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #3 on: 12/03/2010 04:07 am »
Exactly. Simply offering a product to NASA does not make you an enemy of commercial spaceflight. And merely offering a HLV type product to the only possible customer (NASA at the moment) does not mean that they would cease their current efforts.

Still, this is of course quite the long shot. But suggesting that MSFC could oversee development is an interesting carrot. ;)

From reading the article it sounds like a Musk wants to offer a FalconX-type vehicle. (Three Merlin 2 per core), with either 2 FalconX core boosters or 2-4 Falcon (single Merlin 2) boosters.
« Last Edit: 12/03/2010 04:13 am by Lars_J »

Offline butters

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #4 on: 12/03/2010 04:45 am »
I find this article extremely difficult to parse, but I think they're talking about Falcon X Heavy: three Merlin 2 on each of three 6m cores and a 10m PLF, previously listed by SpaceX at 125mT to LEO.

Elon describes the vehicle as having propellant crossfeed, which might account for the greater performance claim of 150mT. That could also assume Raptor, to which Elon also alludes as a possibility.

The single-core Falcon X is listed at 38mT to LEO, which is nearly within reason for the very largest military and commercial payloads of the foreseeable future. I feel this architecture is a bit on the heavy side, but if costs are reasonable enough...

Actually, the considerable extra margin that Falcon X would have with the kinds of payload masses we see today could allow SpaceX to try out some ideas for upper stage recovery. Then may be able to cover the base of the upper stage with PICA-X and still have enough performance to inject large comsats into GTO.

Offline sdsds

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #5 on: 12/03/2010 05:14 am »
It's a sad day in New Orleans when Michoud is described as being, "the current external tank facility in Huntsville, Ala."
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Offline butters

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #6 on: 12/03/2010 05:19 am »
It's a sad day in New Orleans when Michoud is described as being, "the current external tank facility in Huntsville, Ala."

Well, NASA does stand for Northern Alabama Space Administration, right?  ;)

Offline FinalFrontier

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #7 on: 12/03/2010 06:20 am »
This is fascinating. If he can really hit those cost numbers this would be a great solution!! I would personally be in favor of this over SLS, if that is he can hit those cost numbers. Big if at this point, and since we can't wait until this vehicle is built, best to go forward with what have, SLS (being sts derived ofc hardware already exists) and change over later if the opportunity presents itself.
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Offline Lars_J

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #8 on: 12/03/2010 06:28 am »
SLS is a technological lower risk (and probably schedule-wise as well), yes, but it is quite a stretch to write that "we have" SLS. Especially since the final configuration for SLS has not yet been decided. Nor is it a 100% certainty at this point.
« Last Edit: 12/03/2010 06:29 am by Lars_J »

Offline Halidon

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #9 on: 12/03/2010 06:58 am »
Wow, not holding anything back is he? $2.5 Billion and 5 years, $300 million per Heavy launch. Those numbers will get some play.

Agree with him or not, like his proposal or not, you gotta love having this guy in the picture.

Offline pathfinder_01

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #10 on: 12/03/2010 06:59 am »
One thing is clear: Elon is not an ally of commercial spaceflight.


If anything offering his product like this would be the best of both worlds for NASA and for Space X. ULA might be able to do something similar.

The big problem with an HLV, any HLV is that there is no commercial demand for them atm. No one needs to be able to lift more than about 30 tons to LEO at once accept NASA and even then NASA would only need such ability for exploration not the ISS.

This is one of the big drivers of HLV cost. If you could keep the HLV in a more useful form(i.e. cores and/or use as many parts in other rockets as possible) then you can drive down the cost of the HLV.  So instead of expensive SSME that no one else uses. You use something else off the shelf. 

Basically it more efficiently uses the fix costs associated with HLV construction. I don’t know if he could meet hit goal of $300 a launch but I do agree with his quote: “that whatever components are in use for super-heavy lift must be in use for launching other satellites for say, geostationary commercial and government customers. If not, then the likelihood of success in my opinion is zero.”
« Last Edit: 12/03/2010 07:00 am by pathfinder_01 »

Offline moose103

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #11 on: 12/03/2010 08:32 am »
A fiscally responsible new large rocket is one that can serve as many customers as possible, filling as many roles as possible, (+utility) all while still being a large rocket for as little money as possible (-cost). 

Tell me that is not what Elon Musk just described.  No fancy upper stage: -cost.  Optional boosters: -cost +utility.  Throttles down to carry Delta IV heavy-size payloads, providing a backup and market competition: +utility -cost.  Engines useful on other rockets: incidental +utility and -cost.

It makes sense to me.  But I'd like to read what the rocket scientists have to say.

One thing is clear: Elon is not an ally of commercial spaceflight.

That doesn't make sense to me.

Offline butters

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #12 on: 12/03/2010 08:36 am »
The big problem with an HLV, any HLV is that there is no commercial demand for them atm. No one needs to be able to lift more than about 30 tons to LEO at once accept NASA and even then NASA would only need such ability for exploration not the ISS.

According to SpaceX, Falcon X Heavy would lift 125mT to LEO and Falcon X would lift 38mT. That's pretty close to SHLV and HLV in one modular launch system.

There could be commercial and military demand for Falcon X. I suspect that a 38mT HLV with a 10m PLF would be attractive to the military and perhaps for commercial comsats. Huge antennas and mirrors just got a little bit easier.

And as I speculated above, extra margin could be used to implement upper stage recovery.
« Last Edit: 12/03/2010 08:46 am by butters »

Offline Jim

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #13 on: 12/03/2010 11:07 am »

There could be commercial and military demand for Falcon X.


no, there isn't. 

10m fairing?  There hasn't been a push for 6.5 much less a 7 or 8 meter

Offline Nomadd

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #14 on: 12/03/2010 11:31 am »
From reading the article it sounds like a Musk wants to offer a FalconX-type vehicle. (Three Merlin 2 per core), with either 2 FalconX core boosters or 2-4 Falcon (single Merlin 2) boosters.
Why not just offer a rocket with..uh...135 Merlin 1 engines?
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Offline alexw

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #15 on: 12/03/2010 11:39 am »
There could be commercial and military demand for Falcon X. I suspect that a 38mT HLV with a 10m PLF would be attractive to the military and perhaps for commercial comsats. Huge antennas and mirrors just got a little bit easier.
    How often does Delta IV Heavy fly, and how many of them have been commercial flights? How many commercial flights were there of Titan IV? Farcical question, of course, but here's a genuine one: How many STS flights were dedicated to a single, massive commercial payload?

edit: not that I want to rain on the parade, and I'm very glad to hear Musk's proposals, but we've been sitting for years on Centaur V2 and Atlas V Heavy and 6.5m to 7.2m payload fairing capabilities ready for order at any time --- and no takers, commercial or military. It's discouraging, I know.
    -Alex
« Last Edit: 12/03/2010 11:46 am by alexw »

Offline ChefPat

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #16 on: 12/03/2010 11:54 am »

There could be commercial and military demand for Falcon X.


no, there isn't. 

10m fairing?  There hasn't been a push for 6.5 much less a 7 or 8 meter
How big of a faring would a BA-2100 need? Or the the other Big Bertha design at 3240 CU?
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Offline gospacex

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #17 on: 12/03/2010 11:55 am »
There could be commercial and military demand for Falcon X. I suspect that a 38mT HLV with a 10m PLF would be attractive to the military and perhaps for commercial comsats. Huge antennas and mirrors just got a little bit easier.
    How often does Delta IV Heavy fly, and how many of them have been commercial flights? How many commercial flights were there of Titan IV? Farcical question, of course, but here's a genuine one: How many STS flights were dedicated to a single, massive commercial payload?

Considering outrageous prices of said launchers (DIVH: $400m, STS: $1000m), the answer "none" is not surprising.
« Last Edit: 12/03/2010 11:56 am by gospacex »

Offline marsavian

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #18 on: 12/03/2010 12:14 pm »
Aviation Week article....


Based on a roughly evenly split $10 billion budget for heavy lift, with half for the boost stage and half for the upper stage, “we’re confident we could get a fully operational vehicle to the pad for $2.5 billion—and not only that, I will personally guarantee it,” Musk says. In addition, the final product would be a fully accounted cost per flight of $300 million, he asserts. “I’ll also guarantee that,” he adds, though he cautions this does not include a potential upper-stage upgrade.

His guarantees ain't worth a bag of beans considering how late and more expensive both Falcon 1 and 9 were from his original estimates.

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: Aviation Week: SpaceX & HLV
« Reply #19 on: 12/03/2010 12:21 pm »
Quote
“We’re leaning at around 1.7 million lb. thrust, although at one point we looked at what if we went to 3.5 million lb. thrust. ... <snip> ... With the baseline Merlin, which is throttle-able to 60%, SpaceX believes a version that could throttle down to around 1 million lb. (I would assume Elon means throttle 3.5 million lb. engine to 1 million lb.) could potentially equip vehicles such as the Atlas V as well as replace engines on Falcon 9.

So we now have two possible sizes for the Merlin 2, and the fact that he's willing to sell engines to other launch providers.

I am curious, could a baseline 1.7 million lb. engine with TAN added be a 3.5 million lb. engine? Would it make sense, or would the ISP just suck?
« Last Edit: 12/03/2010 12:24 pm by kevin-rf »
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