Author Topic: SpaceX to begin testing on Reusable Falcon 9 technology this year  (Read 541394 times)

Offline mmeijeri

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And without that, without sustainable access to LEO, no space exploration is going to take place.


Not going to happen with chemical propulsion. 

What do you mean by sustainable? Do you think $1,000 / kg is possible with chemical propulsion?
We will be vic-toooooo-ri-ous!!!

Offline dcporter

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I think there are varying definitions of affordability here. Musk has said he wants to send you to Mars for half a million; that's a far cry beyond $1000/kg to LEO.

Offline Patchouli

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What do you mean by sustainable? Do you think $1,000 / kg is possible with chemical propulsion?

It's very possible with chemical propulsion as fuel is a tiny fraction of the cost of getting into space.
Norm: I actually disagree. Blue Origin's plan offers just as much hope for sustainable space access (and thus enabling sustainable exploration) if they are successful. They are well into pursuing the technology needed for their hydrogen powered fully reusable VTVL two-stage orbital rocket with a reusable capsule or whatever it is. They're just going a little slower, but they have an arguably much more secure source of funding as a legacy philanthrocapitalist project of the billionaire Jeff Bezos. They already have significant experience with their reusability mode of VTVL fully reusable rocket vehicles.

XCor is in a similar situation (seeking fully reusable orbital transport using hydrogen and already significant experience with HTHL fully reusable rocket vehicles), though with more short-term focus with real customers via suborbital Lynx but without quite the enormous philanthrocapitalist backing (that we know about).

SpaceX is going a different route, relying on more typical NASA and commercial (and perhaps military) customers to try to grow to become a big aerospace company with significant experience putting stuff into orbit before really tackling the reusability aspect head-on. Musk is more flashy and cocky. It makes the program more interesting in some ways, but it's also a little more risky. It may well pay off (and I hope it does), but it's not the only one out there, not by a long shot. And SpaceX is already well beyond the stage of being able to be sustained indefinitely by money from philanthrocapitalists like Blue Origin is (and Elon Musk isn't that rich). They're playing poker for keeps, here.

As Jim says, SpaceX can't shoulder the whole future of space exploration themselves.

I agree no one company can shoulder the entire future of space exploration by themselves heck not even any single government could.

I think it's good that Spacex,Blue origin,and Xcor all are trying very different approaches to the problem.
As we simply don't know what is the best configuration for a reusable launch system nor the best way to go about developing one at this point.

Take a look at very early airplanes and automobiles as an example.
« Last Edit: 01/12/2012 08:30 pm by Patchouli »

Offline Archer

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Not going to happen with chemical propulsion. 
Why not?

Propellant do not fail.
The future is better than the past. Despite the crepehangers, romanticists, and anti-intellectuals, the world steadily grows better because the human mind, applying itself to environment, makes it better. With hands...with tools...with horse sense and science and engineering. (c) R. A. Heinlein

Offline Robotbeat

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I would definitely be interested in seeing what our resident hard-nosed realist Jim thinks is a reasonable path to sustainable access to LEO.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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

Offline rjholling

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To quote Mike Griffin, "we're[SpaceX] are doing God's work."  Nice article.  Seems maybe a tad unrealistic given that the Dragon capsule came back char-boiled.  Trying is one thing.  Making something actually work and work right is another.

"Try not.  Do, or do not.  There is no try." ;)

Offline dcporter

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I thought the dragon came back in great shape. Heard Musk say they could fly it again if they wanted.

Online Chris Bergin

I thought the dragon came back in great shape. Heard Musk say they could fly it again if they wanted.

I know he said someone could have flown inside that Dragon on Flight 1 and had a nice ride (in other words survivable).

Offline yg1968

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If Elon is Luke:


Well if Bezos is Leia, I would rather not imagine him in a bikini...

Offline stockman

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Well if Bezos is Leia, I would rather not imagine him in a bikini...

oh great... you just ruined star wars for me...  ;)
One Percent for Space!!!

Offline Jason1701

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Seems maybe a tad unrealistic given that the Dragon capsule came back char-boiled.  Trying is one thing.  Making something actually work and work right is another.

The TPS was supposed to get char-broiled. The parts that weren't, didn't. The heat shield itself has enough thickness of PICA-X for several LEO reentries.

Offline Seattle Dave

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It's a long way back to the launch pad at staging. Won't it take a lot of propellent to boost all the way back, because it has to slow down, then gain the downrange back?

Offline ArbitraryConstant

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It's a long way back to the launch pad at staging. Won't it take a lot of propellent to boost all the way back, because it has to slow down, then gain the downrange back?
Speculation is that they'll optimize for that. The first stage would be closer to straight up. Less efficient, but addresses exactly the issue you've described.

Offline TomH

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It's a long way back to the launch pad at staging. Won't it take a lot of propellent to boost all the way back, because it has to slow down, then gain the downrange back?

And that fuel to fly the thing back requires extra boost fuel to heave the flyback fuel. That requires a bigger tank/more thrust, which in turn requires more fuel. On top of that, this first stage has to loft an even heavier second stage with its heat shield and landing fuel. It just seems this gets into a cyclical and hugely exponential increase of size/fuel/mass. It really seems that a lifting body/glider design for the first stage would be more feasible than this retrorocket landing. Rather than fighting the kinetic energy of inertia and potential energy in the altitude, a glider utilizes and dissipates that energy through aerodynamic lift and drag as it glides back to the KSC runway. A reusable Falcon second stage has reentry heat to deal with, but at least it could be given a trajectory that brings it right back to the launch site after 1 circuit. Otherwise, you might land it elsewhere and pay to fly it back inside an An-124.

All that being said, I wonder if there is any chance Musk will submit a proposal for a retrorocket landable flyback booster in the SLS advanced booster competition. Reusable advanced liquid boosters on SLS would save a lot of money, but here again, I think glide back would be better than Musk's retrorocket lander. A glide back liquid SLS booster would not need to be highly cylindrical and have a blunt nose. I wonder if someone will submit plans similar to the early STS proposals for glideback boosters.
« Last Edit: 01/13/2012 03:45 am by TomH »

Online oiorionsbelt

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Chris, you've mentioned before on the forum, that the use of 'Uprising' was controversial to some. I can't understand why it would be. Can you give anymore details on that.

Wishing your competitors would "have a heart attack" is hardly civil. Listen to the song.
I did. You're making a lot of assumptions. What if the "they" and the "fat cats" are the laws of Physics as we currently understand them.

Offline Comga

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It's a long way back to the launch pad at staging. Won't it take a lot of propellent to boost all the way back, because it has to slow down, then gain the downrange back?
Speculation is that they'll optimize for that. The first stage would be closer to straight up. Less efficient, but addresses exactly the issue you've described.

"Speculation"?

Come on, guys!  If by nothing else than orbiting and retrieving their own capsule with their own rocket, it should be obvious that Musk and his team know this pretty well. He admits that it is really, really, hard, but they are on this.  What value can be added by saying "I think this is hard and complex and the laws of physics are tough."? 

There are people on here who know of issues that are not obvious.  Let's wait for them to weigh in before we go off questioning the obvious and drawing unfounded conclusions.
What kind of wastrels would dump a perfectly good booster in the ocean after just one use?

Offline FinalFrontier

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And without that, without sustainable access to LEO, no space exploration is going to take place.


Not going to happen with chemical propulsion. 


So we do what then? Realize that all current designs on the table save for antimatter based propulsion use some form of chemical propellant, be it vasimir, nter, nuclear thermal, cold fusion, ect, you name it it uses some gas or liquid chemical propellant as the prime reactant.


If your hoping for a squeezer drive you have a long time to wait I'm afraid. Antimatter? Maybe, but its a long way off.
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Offline FinalFrontier

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Well anyway, pardon my melancholy post.


I am just not around that much anymore, but when I saw that Spacex had finally officially decided to commit to an advanced reusable systems program I was interested.

Great article as always Chris, and I can't wait to see what Spacex comes up with. I certainly hope this program works out for them and is truly worth the cost, because I am honestly not sure it will be.

I am also more than a bit concerned as to how they plan to deal with base heating of the actual landing legs (IE how do you keep them from melting during engine firings?). Should be a interesting problem to tackle.
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Offline Confusador

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Ed Fishel said it better than I can, so I'll just reiterate that this was an excellent article.  Wish we could get more details about the schedule for Grasshopper, tentative as I'm sure it is, but I'm glad for what we got.
Mostly I'm just excited to see that SpaceX was willing to work with you on it  With NASA I kind of take for granted that you'll have a lot of information, but with private companies it can be a lot more work to get.  Thanks to both you and them for doing it!

Offline hyper_snyper

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@FinalFrontier   chemical propulsion I thought meant chemical combustion. NTR, Vasimr, etc isn't chemical propulsion

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