Author Topic: Blue Origin Speculation Thread  (Read 34578 times)

Offline Danderman

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Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« on: 04/30/2012 06:12 PM »
Since the Blue Origin thread should be preserved for data about the progress of this company, this thread is about speculation about what the heck they are doing, as well as arguments about whether Jeff Bezos will be richer than Elon Musk in five years. Actually, I was just kidding about the last part, you can set up your own Pointless Debates thread for that.

Getting back to Blue Origin, I am going to speculate based on three data points. I would appreciate any data that conflicts with my hypothesis.

1) Blue Origin is apparently going with the biconic design, similar to DC-X.

2) Blue Origin is developing a 100,000 lb LH2/LOX engine.

3) Blue Origin has hired people from the DC-X program.

I am going to assume that the hydrogen engine can be throttled. If so, then a cluster of four or five of them would allow for an SSTO similar to DC-Y, with a small payload of less than 10,000 lbs per flight.  DC-Y was the proposed follow-on to DC-X, an orbital prototype. DC-Y was killed by the program that produced the X-33, evidently they liked a totally new design better than a design that had been tested at the subscale level. Note that arguments about X-33 vs DC-Y go in the Pointless Debates thread that you are setting up.

Offline neilh

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #1 on: 04/30/2012 09:36 PM »
My hypothesis is similar
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Offline Nate_Trost

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #2 on: 04/30/2012 09:39 PM »
There is a CCDev 2 deck which shows a concept drawing of Blue Origin's "Reusable Booster System", the slide is visible here.

Online Robotbeat

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #3 on: 04/30/2012 09:44 PM »
They are doing TSTO, not SSTO. They've mentioned that they're doing TSTO before. And that seems to be wisest, since it gives them significant margin which you can use to get larger structural margins (thus orders of magnitude greater number of flights per airframe).

Seriously, I don't understand this obsession with SSTO. It makes everything too expensive. It's close enough to be enticing, drawing in engineers to spend inordinate amount of time trying to make the equations close. But in the end, you have to do crazy sorts of things to make it work, which kills any operational advantage you might have had. And Skylon, for instance, has such large development costs that if you amortize them per flight, the concept will never be cheap enough to be competitive with TSTO designs like this one (I firmly believe that Skylon's business plan for lowering the cost to orbit relies on bankruptcy to get rid of the debt needed to develop it...). Or perhaps even expendable launch vehicles like Falcon Heavy!


Blue Origin's plan makes far more sense to me. As does SpaceX's. (And presumably XCOR's HTHL TSTO RLV, which we have only heard hints of and which unfortunately doesn't have the financial backing that SpaceX and Blue Origin have.)

If we had spent as much money and effort on designing a TSTO RLV as we have collectively designing efforts at SSTO RLVs (including Shuttle, which was kind of a SSTO and kind of an RLV), we'd wouldn't be having this conversation right now.
« Last Edit: 04/30/2012 10:01 PM by Robotbeat »
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Offline neilh

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #4 on: 04/30/2012 11:31 PM »
This might just be a definitions issue. If there's a biconic capsule sitting on top of a Reusable Booster Stage, is the biconic capsule a second stage? What if the biconic capsule doesn't contribute to the ascent?

Actually, looking at the slides, it's unclear if the RBS is one stage or two...
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Online Robotbeat

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #5 on: 04/30/2012 11:36 PM »
This might just be a definitions issue. If there's a biconic capsule sitting on top of a Reusable Booster Stage, is the biconic capsule a second stage? What if the biconic capsule doesn't contribute to the ascent?

Actually, looking at the slides, it's unclear if the RBS is one stage or two...
It looks pretty obviously like it's two stages. There's a long, skinny cylinder between the top of the first stage and the bottom of the spacecraft. Every indication is that it's TSTO.
« Last Edit: 04/30/2012 11:36 PM by Robotbeat »
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Offline neilh

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #6 on: 04/30/2012 11:45 PM »
This might just be a definitions issue. If there's a biconic capsule sitting on top of a Reusable Booster Stage, is the biconic capsule a second stage? What if the biconic capsule doesn't contribute to the ascent?

Actually, looking at the slides, it's unclear if the RBS is one stage or two...
It looks pretty obviously like it's two stages. There's a long, skinny cylinder between the top of the first stage and the bottom of the spacecraft. Every indication is that it's TSTO.

That seems reasonable.
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Online Robotbeat

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #7 on: 04/30/2012 11:49 PM »
This might just be a definitions issue. If there's a biconic capsule sitting on top of a Reusable Booster Stage, is the biconic capsule a second stage? What if the biconic capsule doesn't contribute to the ascent?

Actually, looking at the slides, it's unclear if the RBS is one stage or two...
It looks pretty obviously like it's two stages. There's a long, skinny cylinder between the top of the first stage and the bottom of the spacecraft. Every indication is that it's TSTO.

That seems reasonable.
I bet initially that will be a disposable upper stage.

Things are going to start seeming really funny when Blue Origin starts full-scale testing of their first stage and SpaceX does their Grasshopper (and whatever the more full-scale version is called) flights. Same concept of VTVL, RTLS (maybe, maybe not for Blue Origin), and partial RLV, just different propellants... May the best billionaire win!
« Last Edit: 04/30/2012 11:51 PM by Robotbeat »
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Offline neilh

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #8 on: 04/30/2012 11:53 PM »
This might just be a definitions issue. If there's a biconic capsule sitting on top of a Reusable Booster Stage, is the biconic capsule a second stage? What if the biconic capsule doesn't contribute to the ascent?

Actually, looking at the slides, it's unclear if the RBS is one stage or two...
It looks pretty obviously like it's two stages. There's a long, skinny cylinder between the top of the first stage and the bottom of the spacecraft. Every indication is that it's TSTO.

That seems reasonable.

Also, it looks like this BO patent explicitly mentions a reusable booster(s) mated with an expendable upper stage:

http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PG01&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=%2220110017872%22.PGNR.&OS=DN/20110017872&RS=DN/20110017872
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Offline Danderman

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #9 on: 05/01/2012 02:07 AM »
Yep, its pretty clear that the biconic capsule is not some sort of derivative of DC-X with integral rocket engines and propellant. Too bad.

Online Robotbeat

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #10 on: 05/01/2012 02:10 AM »
Yep, its pretty clear that the biconic capsule is not some sort of derivative of DC-X with integral rocket engines and propellant. Too bad.

I don't think the landing mode for the Blue Origin spacecraft has been established, yet. They may yet go with vertical landing ala the new version of Dragon.


(BTW, does anyone else get the feeling that Elon Musk saw what Blue Origin was doing and thought it was awesome and so copied it for next-gen Dragon and Falcon 9?)
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Offline kkattula

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #11 on: 05/01/2012 03:40 AM »
There's a lot to be said for:

 - Reusable VTVL first stage
 - Cheap expendable second stage
 - Reusable VL spacecraft with a significant contribution to final ascent

Allows most of the most expensive parts to be re-used, while keeping the technical challenge modest.


Online Jorge

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #12 on: 05/01/2012 03:48 AM »
If we had spent as much money and effort on designing a TSTO RLV as we have collectively designing efforts at SSTO RLVs (including Shuttle, which was kind of a SSTO and kind of an RLV), we'd wouldn't be having this conversation right now.

Shuttle was kind of an SSTO only if you're allowed to stretch the definition until it's meaningless. NASA defined the SRBs as first stage.
JRF

Online Robotbeat

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #13 on: 05/01/2012 05:45 AM »
If we had spent as much money and effort on designing a TSTO RLV as we have collectively designing efforts at SSTO RLVs (including Shuttle, which was kind of a SSTO and kind of an RLV), we'd wouldn't be having this conversation right now.

Shuttle was kind of an SSTO only if you're allowed to stretch the definition until it's meaningless. NASA defined the SRBs as first stage.
The core is ground-launched and reaches essentially all the way to orbit. Sure, it's not technically SSTO, but the SRBs don't contribute that much to delta-v, just initial thrust (like the Atlas classic outer engines... and Atlas was a pseudo-SSTO). Anyway, it was still a pretty aggressive design concept, which is my point.

A true TSTO means you don't need to design an engine which gets high performance on the ground AND in space, thus you don't have to be high pressure. And not every extra pound counts directly against your payload like it does on the vast majority by volume of STS (everything but the SRBs). You can put a big expansion bell on your upper stage engine as well, which brings your Isp up much further for not much extra work. And with Shuttle, all the most expensive reusability-related stuff had to go all the way to orbit and back (except for the SRBs, again). With a true TSTO partial RLV, the majority of the reusable stuff only has to go through a relatively small fraction of orbital velocity and much more benign reentry, so the weight penalty of reusability is dramatically reduced.
« Last Edit: 05/01/2012 05:59 AM by Robotbeat »
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Online Jorge

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #14 on: 05/01/2012 06:08 AM »
If we had spent as much money and effort on designing a TSTO RLV as we have collectively designing efforts at SSTO RLVs (including Shuttle, which was kind of a SSTO and kind of an RLV), we'd wouldn't be having this conversation right now.

Shuttle was kind of an SSTO only if you're allowed to stretch the definition until it's meaningless. NASA defined the SRBs as first stage.
The core is ground-launched and reaches essentially all the way to orbit. Sure, it's not technically SSTO

Not just technically. It's a parallel-staged TSTO, by any reasonable definition.

Quote
, but the SRBs don't contribute that much to delta-v, just initial thrust (like the Atlas classic outer engines... and Atlas was a pseudo-SSTO).

Velocity at SRB burnout was about 20% of orbital velocity (SSME contribution during first stage was minimal, all three combined were about a third of an SSME). And that understates the contribution of the SRBs to delta-v, since first stage absorbed most of the gravity losses.

Your other points about the SSME needing aggressive performance are valid, and this would be a characteristic of any parallel-staged TSTO, but it's not nearly as aggressive as an SSTO would require. Don't call it an SSTO.
JRF

Online QuantumG

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #15 on: 05/01/2012 11:53 AM »
Not just technically. It's a parallel-staged TSTO, by any reasonable definition.

Forget the SRBs, a drop tank counts as a "stage".

Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Online Robotbeat

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #16 on: 05/01/2012 05:13 PM »
If we had spent as much money and effort on designing a TSTO RLV as we have collectively designing efforts at SSTO RLVs (including Shuttle, which was kind of a SSTO and kind of an RLV), we'd wouldn't be having this conversation right now.

Shuttle was kind of an SSTO only if you're allowed to stretch the definition until it's meaningless. NASA defined the SRBs as first stage.
The core is ground-launched and reaches essentially all the way to orbit. Sure, it's not technically SSTO

Not just technically. It's a parallel-staged TSTO, by any reasonable definition.

Quote
, but the SRBs don't contribute that much to delta-v, just initial thrust (like the Atlas classic outer engines... and Atlas was a pseudo-SSTO).

Velocity at SRB burnout was about 20% of orbital velocity (SSME contribution during first stage was minimal, all three combined were about a third of an SSME). And that understates the contribution of the SRBs to delta-v, since first stage absorbed most of the gravity losses.

Your other points about the SSME needing aggressive performance are valid, and this would be a characteristic of any parallel-staged TSTO, but it's not nearly as aggressive as an SSTO would require. Don't call it an SSTO.
Okay, fair enough.
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Offline mmeijeri

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #17 on: 05/01/2012 05:16 PM »
There's a lot to be said for:

 - Reusable VTVL first stage
 - Cheap expendable second stage
 - Reusable VL spacecraft with a significant contribution to final ascent

Agreed, or perhaps an expendable drop tank instead of an expendable second stage.
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Offline Danderman

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #18 on: 05/01/2012 07:50 PM »
Oh, dear, the nice people on the NK Forum are discussing where that biconic design came from.

Offline zaitcev

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Re: Blue Origin Speculation Thread
« Reply #19 on: 05/02/2012 01:52 AM »
They tend to go a bit overboard with seeking priority. DreamChaser is BOR, Gary Hudson's "rivet" is their ICBM re-entry vehicle, Dragon lands like Zarya, and so on. They way they copied Shuttle is a pretty big fly in that honey though.

When I kicked off the current round in the Kliper thread, I meant to go on and rant how involving Sukhoi was the dumbest idea ever and how Blue is going to build the "right" Kliper that they temselves knew would be right. But it's a bit too early. When Blue actually build and fly this, then they are going to bite elbows for reals. Not before.
« Last Edit: 05/02/2012 01:53 AM by zaitcev »

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