Author Topic: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT  (Read 30369 times)

Offline Hyperion5

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Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« on: 09/14/2014 06:40 AM »
We've been debating awhile now just how Spacex's BFR & the MCT will get us to Mars and how best to accomplish colonization with them.  It's an exciting topic, not least because Mars may be a world we can transform eventually into a second home.  But you know what?  There's a whole solar system out there we have barely even begun to talk about with regards to these vehicles.  Spacex may be thinking of using these vehicles solely for Mars.  But I have news for Spacex: even the inventor of the internet did not foresee the watching of cat videos being a major use of his invention.  Something similar may also be true of Spacex's BFR & MCT vehicles (if they aren't one and the same).  "You mean like using them to produce lots of zero-g cat videos?"  Well maybe, though it seems the US Air Force has already beaten everyone to that:

There must be other profitable missions and tasks these vehicles could do for Spacex.  I can think of more than a few.  Spacex's BFR would be capable of lifting entire BA-2100 Olympus modules into orbit and building a mega-sized space station with them.  To resupply and crew the station in a single launch, simply launch an MCT, dock it with the station, and suddenly you can deliver 100 space tourists at a time to a true "space hotel".  Aside from possibly transforming space tourism, such vehicles might also make lunar bases and/or lunar tourism a real possibility.  Or they might enable asteroid mining on a previously unimagined scale.  For purely scientific missions, you might see the BFR enabling things like a Europa orbiter and lander mission, or a Titan orbiter and lander mission, or, my personal favorite, an orbiter and lander mission to Pluto. 

So let's sound off and debate just what we think the MCT and BFR will be used for besides going to Mars. 

« Last Edit: 09/14/2014 07:10 AM by Hyperion5 »

Offline Owlon

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #1 on: 09/14/2014 07:32 AM »
One broad mission type enabled by this is direct-injection/fast trajectories for planetary science missions. You could lift an entire super-ACES 150ish ton sort of third stage to LEO with a hefty 10+ ton spacecraft. The high-isp hydrolox stage boosts the spacecraft in a basic Hohmann trajectory with no gravity assist maneuvers, simplifying mission planning and launch window constraints and cutting flight time to the destination. The large mass budget for the payload would hopefully also save time and costs in development while allowing more space for instruments. Another bonus is the giant fairing you would have available.

You could probably do direct injection to anything within, say, Saturn's orbit, and minimize the gravity assist flybys on missions to Uranus and beyond. Alternatively, you could still use flybys liberally and just have an absurdly huge mass budget for your spacecraft.

I imagine the third stage being more like part of the payload than the rocket, and probably built by someone other than SpaceX--Boeing, Blue Origin, etc.

Online guckyfan

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #2 on: 09/14/2014 08:13 AM »
Why use an ACES? A hydogen upper stage would make integration hugely complex and expensive. An expendable BFR upper stage cannot be that expensive in comparison. But with refuellling in LEO I guess it would be possible to send a spacecraft into a high energy orbit and still return the upper stage. Maybe with a simple storable fuel booster that provides extra kick and/or orbit insertion at the destination.

I wonder how fast the stage could deploy the payload and do a retro burn. The earlier, the more gravity can still help to get the stage back.

Yes, MCT can bring advances in exploration of the outer solar system, I agree.

Plus cat videos.

Offline Owlon

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #3 on: 09/14/2014 08:59 AM »
Why use an ACES? A hydogen upper stage would make integration hugely complex and expensive. An expendable BFR upper stage cannot be that expensive in comparison. But with refuellling in LEO I guess it would be possible to send a spacecraft into a high energy orbit and still return the upper stage. Maybe with a simple storable fuel booster that provides extra kick and/or orbit insertion at the destination.

There I go, optimizing for performance instead of cost. Habits die hard, it seems. A Refueled BFR upper stage would probably be a better option (even if expended), especially since refueling seems to be the logical architecture for MCT anyway.

Offline Darkseraph

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #4 on: 09/14/2014 09:18 AM »
Almost positive it will have closer to home military applications, not because its designed to...but it will come out of it naturally as an unintended consequence. They weren't specific about it, but in George Friedman's book, The Next 100 Years, it was posited that improvements in private rocketry during the 2020's and 2030's would make it feasible to construct massive Geostationary constellations that both monitor all of the Earth in real time, give the crew on them the ability to command air and ground forces and have various weapons and space-denial capabilities of their own. Now some of that sounds a bit like a rehash of Reagan's Star Wars from someone who won't let the 80's Cold War years go....but some of it could pan out, and having massive amounts of cheap lifting power would certainly help construct the "Battlestars"  as they were called. A premise of the book was that part of what will make such rockets cheap is not so much that the technology is improved by reusability and ease of manufacture, but that the massive amount they'll be lifting for these platforms (i can only imagine they meant 1000's of tons+) will give them massive economies of scale and reduce costs for anyone else who wants to use them.


*entirely idle speculation...but i do believe the killer app of "newspace" will be millitary, not space hotels. I don't like that, because I am a peacenik but it seems realistic given the appetite for expensive killing machines the US Government has, and pass precedents. The amount spent by the US military in Space is almost the same as NASA's entire budget and DARPA is funding various programs to improve the tech,
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Online symbios

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #5 on: 09/14/2014 09:21 AM »
I'm not really that excited about Mars, or the Moon. What actually excites me is industry in space.

Think what will happen when you have all the material you need up there and build all you need up there. That is when we have a true space economy.

I think this is what the BFR and maybe MCT in a cargo role will enable.
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Online gosnold

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #6 on: 09/14/2014 10:36 AM »
Putting 4 sats with mirrors as big as the MCT PLF allows in GEO would be an interesting application for the NRO. That is, if the DARPA project on deployable optics does not pan out.

Offline Eer

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #7 on: 09/14/2014 11:24 AM »
My thoughts also drift twords economic exploitation (not, itself, a bad thing).

And I think exploitation will involve finding, recovering, and refining materials for use to create more stuff 'up there'.

At some point, that BA-2100 will provide a base for maintenance and repair of robotic fleets of self configuring drone prospectors finding icy asteroids and near earth candidates for refining in-space manufactured and stored fuels and potable supplies. Tenders will accompany smaller wings of drones to refuel and preprocess this data take, and allow on-site inspection of special opportunities.

But, ultimately, some flavor of long term habitat will emerge. Not quickly, but when in-sutu resources means fuel, oxygen, structural materials are all readily available.

BFR will get us their sooner, as operational cost, not performance, tilts the scale towards reusability.

Now, who wants the kool-aide, next?

Offline CuddlyRocket

Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #8 on: 09/14/2014 11:46 AM »
We've been debating awhile now just how Spacex's BFR & the MCT will get us to Mars and how best to accomplish colonization with them. ... There must be other profitable missions and tasks these vehicles could do for Spacex. ... Aside from possibly transforming space tourism, such vehicles might also make lunar bases and/or lunar tourism a real possibility. Or they might enable asteroid mining on a previously unimagined scale. For purely scientific missions, you might see the BFR enabling things like a Europa orbiter and lander mission, or a Titan orbiter and lander mission, or, my personal favorite, an orbiter and lander mission to Pluto.

Orbiting or other in-space colonies, perhaps. Apart from lunar bases or colonies - and any associated activities such as mining or science - there's Ceres and possibly Mercury, though the delta-V for the latter is much greater (I suspect people will want to see the similar problems of a lunar base or colony solved before even thinking of Mercury).

Perhaps orbital manufacturing? Although people will need to first discover something that's more profitable to manufacture in space! There's the perennial favourite of orbital solar-power; though all studies to date show you get more (even 24-hour) power for the same money with ground-based solar, so far as I know none of these have taken reusable launchers and the concomitant reduction of launch costs into account. One associated possibility is that of orbital data-centres; immune from Earth-based natural disasters such as earthquakes; greater security from sabotage and probably lower power requirements (cooling is the major expense).

Larger orbital telescopes, or constellations of telescopes acting as interferometers.

Propellant depots.

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #9 on: 09/14/2014 02:13 PM »
Depending on the exact EDL method selected, I suppose that MCT could also be used to ferry crew and cargo to a lunar surface facility.

If BFR/Falcon-XX/Condor (my name for it) is in the SLS's 130t IMLEO class, it is also a bog-standard heavy lifter but with a reusable core. It could therefore massively reduce the cost of building ISS- and Skywalker-sized space platforms.
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Offline llanitedave

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #10 on: 09/14/2014 03:58 PM »

So let's sound off and debate just what we think the MCT and BFR will be used for besides going to Mars.

Not so much a "debate" as simply an exchange of views.  "Debate" implies that there is a single answer or position that's worthy than others, and you win or lose by taking it.  There are lots of possible and worthwhile missions for a big enough and cheap enough launcher.

My own preference, and I don't expect it to be widely shared, (in addition to an eventual program of asteroid colonization), would be a solar-system wide constellation of 8m-class optical telescopes networked to form a giant multi-source optical interferometer.  Getting a 6 a.u. or so baseline would allow us to map just about every star and planet in the galaxy down to a gnat's butt.

Why would we want to do that?  That's a different debate.
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Offline Burninate

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #11 on: 09/14/2014 05:04 PM »
A ~300 ton BFR would probably not be used to lift 70-100 ton BA-2100's.  The BA-2100 is a Powerpoint-stage concept based on Bigelow's research into the largest feasible private-sector rocket.  A rocket 4x as large, with a 15m payload fairing, would engender a new design, likely a design with ~10x as much habitable volume.
« Last Edit: 09/14/2014 05:10 PM by Burninate »

Offline Nindalf

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #12 on: 09/14/2014 06:01 PM »
One can imagine a Lagrange Express, which makes regular deliveries to one or more lagrange point stations.  Just a regular schedule of flights to a destination without launch windows to worry about, and which isn't cluttered with high-energy space junk.

With diverse cargo and passengers headed to a variety of destinations, a lagrange point makes a logical place to unload/transfer.  It's reasonably good for the Moon, GEO, BEO, a large variety of clean, quiet Earth orbits suitable for labs and factories (particularly for processing of captured asteroids into useful materials), and with aerobraking, it's not terrible for LEO (you can hit any LEO orbit of your choice at approximately the same cost).

Assuming the LEO satellite market becomes a niche industry, it may make more sense to build aerobraking vehicles to be able to hit all of the target orbits than to fly individual launches.  Based on modified passenger capsule designs, these could even be reusable.

Another windowless regular target could be an equatorial LEO station, for all the things that just need to be in space for whatever reason, or which can get where they're going by ion thruster and patience.

Offline jsgirald

Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #13 on: 09/14/2014 06:08 PM »
The key question, as usual, is how much would cost to operate BFR. It should be easier and cheaper to service and handle a single core 9 engine stage than the three cores/27 engines of FH.

Yes I know, the hardware itself will be more expensive, but with reusability nailed down they could manage to bring costs per launch to a level comparable with today's F9. And if they don't get loads to fill a launch they may use the extra capacity to begin stockpiling fuel and hardware in orbit for their future Mars infrastructure.

IF they can make that, then SpaceX might become Fedex IN SPAAACE!
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Offline geza

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #14 on: 09/14/2014 07:08 PM »
My own preference, and I don't expect it to be widely shared, (in addition to an eventual program of asteroid colonization), would be a solar-system wide constellation of 8m-class optical telescopes networked to form a giant multi-source optical interferometer.  Getting a 6 a.u. or so baseline would allow us to map just about every star and planet in the galaxy down to a gnat's butt.
I like this very much! Of course, I also want a significantly sized submersible to be lowered into the ocean of Europa with sample return. Unfortunately, such projects are prohibitively expensive today even without launch cost. Probably we need an Elon v. 2 to revolutionize production methods for space probes and space telescopes!
« Last Edit: 09/14/2014 07:12 PM by geza »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #15 on: 09/14/2014 07:37 PM »
Without a big enough actual collecting area, a huge aperture size only helps for extremely bright sources, like blackhole accretion disks, etc. Ain't no such thing as a free lunch...
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Offline Vultur

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #16 on: 09/14/2014 10:56 PM »

Maybe propellant shipments for moving asteroids around for Planetary Resources type operations.

There's the perennial favourite of orbital solar-power; though all studies to date show you get more (even 24-hour) power for the same money with ground-based solar, so far as I know none of these have taken reusable launchers and the concomitant reduction of launch costs into account.

Also, the lack of winds etc. may allow thinner solar panels to be used. Has anybody done a solar power satellite study assuming 25 um thick panels (that's what IKAROS uses)? 

Assuming the density is about 2 g/cm^3 that's about 20,000 square meters per metric ton (for the panels alone, not the power wires/cables or the transmitter...) At 10% efficiency and Earth's distance from the sun that 20,000 square meters would produce about 2.7 megawatts* (though I don't know how efficient the transmission to Earth would be).

And you might be able to go even thinner than that.


Probably we need an Elon v. 2 to revolutionize production methods for space probes and space telescopes!

I think that will be a result of cheaper launch costs - right now the launch is a significant part of the cost of a "cheap" science mission (especially since they aren't launching them on Falcon 9).  If you could make it $10 million in exchange for much less reliability, that may not be worth it if the launch is $100 million plus.

But if the launches were much cheaper... you might be able to make 3 cheaper spacecraft  instead of 1 more reliable one, and make up for lack of reliability with redundancy (send 3 copies of the same probe).

As launches get cheaper the "cubesat"/smartphone electronics 'cheap' satellite mentality will be applied to bigger and more capable spacecraft, at some point overlapping with at least the lower end of 'official' science spacecraft (Discovery class etc.)

Offline TrueBlueWitt

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #17 on: 09/14/2014 11:07 PM »

Maybe propellant shipments for moving asteroids around for Planetary Resources type operations.

There's the perennial favourite of orbital solar-power; though all studies to date show you get more (even 24-hour) power for the same money with ground-based solar, so far as I know none of these have taken reusable launchers and the concomitant reduction of launch costs into account.

Also, the lack of winds etc. may allow thinner solar panels to be used. Has anybody done a solar power satellite study assuming 25 um thick panels (that's what IKAROS uses)? 

Assuming the density is about 2 g/cm^3 that's about 20,000 square meters per metric ton (for the panels alone, not the power wires/cables or the transmitter...) At 10% efficiency and Earth's distance from the sun that 20,000 square meters would produce about 2.7 megawatts* (though I don't know how efficient the transmission to Earth would be).

And you might be able to go even thinner than that.


I can't believe DoD hasn't jumped on Space based Beamed solar power.. Seems like perfect way to get power to remote 3rd world outposts in places like Afghanistan and greatly reduce need for dangerous and expensive deliveries of Diesel Fuel.  Also could be helpful for disaster relief efforts around the globe.
« Last Edit: 09/14/2014 11:13 PM by TrueBlueWitt »

Offline llanitedave

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #18 on: 09/14/2014 11:23 PM »
Without a big enough actual collecting area, a huge aperture size only helps for extremely bright sources, like blackhole accretion disks, etc. Ain't no such thing as a free lunch...

True enough.  However, an added advantage of deep-space viewing is the ability to collect photons for hours or days on end without interruption.  An 8 meter mirror could probably be launched monolithically within a BFR fairing.  The technology for spincasting lightweight 8 meter mirrors is mature and reliable.  A single 8 meter mirror has over 11 times the collecting area of the Hubble Space Telescope.  A hexagon of six such mirrors would have over 66 times the light-gathering power.  With an interferometer network, the number of these mirrors could be increased as desired.

The distance between the mirrors can be as great as  technology allows.  I know that optical interferometry is difficult, and whether it will ever scale to a.u. distances I don't know.  But the larger you go, the greater the resolving power will be.  The viewing possibilities are mind-boggling.

A similar thing could be done with radio telescopes, which are easier to adapt to long-distance interferometry.  And having much more forgiving mechanical tolerances, the size of individual units would not be limited to 8 meters.  Rolled mesh parabolas hundreds of meters in diameter are most likely possible.
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Offline Jim

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #19 on: 09/15/2014 12:09 AM »
Probably we need an Elon v. 2 to revolutionize production methods for space probes and space telescopes!


We can stop with this type of nonsense

Offline Jim

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #20 on: 09/15/2014 12:12 AM »

1.  I think that will be a result of cheaper launch costs - right now the launch is a significant part of the cost of a "cheap" science mission (especially since they aren't launching them on Falcon 9).  If you could make it $10 million in exchange for much less reliability, that may not be worth it if the launch is $100 million plus.

2.  But if the launches were much cheaper... you might be able to make 3 cheaper spacecraft  instead of 1 more reliable one, and make up for lack of reliability with redundancy (send 3 copies of the same probe).

3.  As launches get cheaper the "cubesat"/smartphone electronics 'cheap' satellite mentality will be applied to bigger and more capable spacecraft, at some point overlapping with at least the lower end of 'official' science spacecraft (Discovery class etc.)

1.  That is only for a small portion of the missions.

2.  Nonsense.  Saving a few million isn't enough for more spacecraft.

3.  that mentality doesn't hold water. 

Offline Vultur

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #21 on: 09/15/2014 12:35 AM »
1.  That is only for a small portion of the missions.

Yes, that's true - right now.

EDIT: But if missions become radically cheaper, to the point that people can crowdfund smallsats to the Moon or whatever, and far more agencies can afford to build and launch science spacecraft, the cheap missions will come to vastly outnumber the big missions.


Quote
2.  Nonsense.  Saving a few million isn't enough for more spacecraft.

I'm not talking about "a few million", I'm talking about at least order of magnitude lower launch costs.

And possibly more -- if they can get fully reusable F9 down to $5-$7 million long term as they've suggested, that's more than an order of magnitude (relative to preFalcon9), and fully reusable BFR should be cheaper per kg than fully reusable F9 due to economies of scale. Plus, on the BFR timescale you may have Skylon flying, too, and other companies attempting SpaceX-style reusability (or other types, who knows).

Quote
3.  that mentality doesn't hold water.

Why not? CubeSats are well established, and several satellites with smartphone electronics have flown. Obviously beyond the magnetosphere the radiation environment is harsher (although LEO is already significantly harsher than Earth's surface) so it won't be as cheap, but... And if it gets cheap enough you can accept lower reliability through launching multiple identical spacecraft.

I see no reason to think current costs are anywhere near the minimum, or even within an order of magnitude.
« Last Edit: 09/15/2014 12:42 AM by Vultur »

Offline Hyperion5

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #22 on: 09/15/2014 03:32 AM »
Probably we need an Elon v. 2 to revolutionize production methods for space probes and space telescopes!


We can stop with this type of nonsense

So let's say this BFR gets flying in 2025, which coincidentally is right around the time that China is supposed to surpass the US economy in size.  What sort of missions involving this giant LV do you think would interest either the US Air Force or NASA?  I can imagine a few science missions for NASA, but what of the Air Force?  Would such a capability ever tempt them to do something new in your opinion? 

Offline dror

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #23 on: 09/15/2014 05:20 AM »
Probably we need an Elon v. 2 to revolutionize production methods for space probes and space telescopes!


We can stop with this type of nonsense
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Offline dror

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #24 on: 09/15/2014 05:52 AM »
Before the Mars Colonial Transport vehicle can make its first crewed mission to mars, it will have to be well tested and proven for at least the same duration as a full two way trip. That means it will have to be fully crewed in LEO for more than a year, with multiple lunches and landings on earth to prove that its systems are space worthy.
This research and development will have to be self funded because launch revenues wont suffice.
The more I think of it, theres just no way around it -
If MCT is pursued, SpaceX will maintain their own private space station in LEO based on a precorsur MCT design and BFR.
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Offline Ludus

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #25 on: 09/15/2014 06:27 AM »

1.  I think that will be a result of cheaper launch costs - right now the launch is a significant part of the cost of a "cheap" science mission (especially since they aren't launching them on Falcon 9).  If you could make it $10 million in exchange for much less reliability, that may not be worth it if the launch is $100 million plus.

2.  But if the launches were much cheaper... you might be able to make 3 cheaper spacecraft  instead of 1 more reliable one, and make up for lack of reliability with redundancy (send 3 copies of the same probe).

3.  As launches get cheaper the "cubesat"/smartphone electronics 'cheap' satellite mentality will be applied to bigger and more capable spacecraft, at some point overlapping with at least the lower end of 'official' science spacecraft (Discovery class etc.)

1.  That is only for a small portion of the missions.

2.  Nonsense.  Saving a few million isn't enough for more spacecraft.

3.  that mentality doesn't hold water.

1.  What sorts of missions would be unaffected by an order of magnitude drop in launch costs?

2.  It's nonsense because you disagree that the savings can ever be  2/3 or 9/10 of the budget or because the demand is so inelastic that any savings would never be applied to more spacecraft?

3.  The mentality of trying to repurpose off the shelf tech from other uses or the mentality of economies of scale and iterative improvement?

Offline mmeijeri

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #26 on: 09/15/2014 11:03 AM »
But if the launches were much cheaper... you might be able to make 3 cheaper spacecraft  instead of 1 more reliable one, and make up for lack of reliability with redundancy (send 3 copies of the same probe).

I think the most promising use of much lower launch costs would be to equip the spacecraft with larger propellant tanks and / or use a separate transfer stage. You could do this with bigger launchers, but since propellant is almost infinitely divisible, you could also use propellant transfer. No great need for a BFR.
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Offline sheltonjr

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #27 on: 09/15/2014 04:12 PM »
Hyperion and I have similar specs for our notional MCT, so I think we are in the ballpark of what the MCT may be capable. I like to put numbers to my speculations to see if they pass the common sense test.

The idea being if you design an aircraft that can fly across the pacific (or Mars), It should be able to fly all the other possible missions. The difference being in space there is not always fuel at your destination.

My notional MCT is a upscale Dragon with a base diameter of 15 m, 20 m high with a 17.5 Degree side angle.
Its empty weight is 35 MT, can carry 65 MT of cargo/equipment in 940 m3 of volume and has tanks for 319 MT of CH4 & LOX Fuel.

It has 80 KW of solar power at 1 AU.

My MCT has 1 to many high thrust engines for about 150 MT of thrust for TMI, Mars Entry, Mars Launch and Earth Landing. It also has many low thrust simple engines for 12-55 MT of thrust for Mars Final Landing (may not be required) plus redundant RCS systems.

For Mars mission, the MCT launches 100 MT dry weight and 150 MT partial load of fuel based on using the fully reusable 250 MT BFR launch vehicle. It meets up with a second refueling BFR to top off its fuel before its TMI burn.
It has 5.3 Km/s DV to Mars and after refueling on Mars with 10 MT of return cargo, It has 7.8 Km/s return DV to Earth.


So I ran two sets of numbers of the available DV with different cargo masses.

The first is a single BFR launch with partial fuel. So the fuel would be 250 MT-(35MT+Cargo). example. 30 MT cargo flight would launch with 250-(35+30) = 185 MT of fuel.

The second estimate is fully fueling the MCT with the refueling BFR after a partial burn to a higher orbit to maximize DV. This can add approximately .75 km/s of additional DV.

All calculations are based on no refueling after leaving LEO.

MissionDV Req (km/s)Partial Fuel Cargo (MT)Full Fuel Cargo (MT)Notes
LEO->EML1->Earth4.145115Round Trip Cargo
LEO->EML2->Earth3.7655115Round Trip Cargo
LEO->EML4/5->Earth4.833085Round Trip Cargo
LEO->GEO->Earth3.93095Drop Cargo at GEO
LEO->LLO->Earth4.042590Drop Cargo at LLO
LEO->EML2->EML1->Earth4.8830115Round Trip Cargo
LEO->Moon->Earth8.67N/A8Return Cargo 2 MT
LEO->SEL1->Earth5.52065DV Correct??
LEO->SEL2->Earth5.52065DV Correct??

Base on the above, my conclusion is that the MCT can serve some very useful missions in cis-lunar space.

Cargo MCT would be unmanned, while Crew/cargo MCT could perform the mission with crew.

Landing on the Moon cargo capability was a disappointing 8 MT, and other Moon specific requirements may not be worth it.

The MCT could be a very powerful and capable for cis-lunar space and the local solar system.

Here is a link to my spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1e7uz5Tt8Y_duvBvFXkPxhj0IuNQD-as6bZqghScQM2E/edit?usp=sharing

I hope you find this interesting and if I have made any obvious mistakes.

Online guckyfan

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #28 on: 09/15/2014 04:52 PM »
@sheltonjr

Very interesting.

Quote
landing on the Moon cargo capability was a disappointing 8 MT, and other Moon specific requirements may not be worth it.

Not disappointing to me at all. It would be enough to do both crew and supply transport to a base.

If necessary for station building a tanker could be sent along to refuel after TLI. The tanker needs little fuel for direct earth return after a loop around the moon. That should enable landing of large habitats and other big equipment.

What are those other moon specific requirements? Engine throttling for landing in lunar gravity may be a problem. Environmental problems may be mitigated by landing early in the moon day and departing before night.

Edit typo.
« Last Edit: 09/15/2014 04:54 PM by guckyfan »

Offline sheltonjr

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #29 on: 09/15/2014 07:05 PM »
@sheltonjr

Very interesting.

Quote
landing on the Moon cargo capability was a disappointing 8 MT, and other Moon specific requirements may not be worth it.

Not disappointing to me at all. It would be enough to do both crew and supply transport to a base.

If necessary for station building a tanker could be sent along to refuel after TLI. The tanker needs little fuel for direct earth return after a loop around the moon. That should enable landing of large habitats and other big equipment.

What are those other moon specific requirements? Engine throttling for landing in lunar gravity may be a problem. Environmental problems may be mitigated by landing early in the moon day and departing before night.


guckyfan, Yeah, once you start adding refueling tankers and depots at other cis-lunar locations it really opens a lot of exciting HSF possibilities even though the base MCT will be able to do quite a lot.

Before the Mars Colonial Transport vehicle can make its first crewed mission to mars, it will have to be well tested and proven for at least the same duration as a full two way trip. That means it will have to be fully crewed in LEO for more than a year, with multiple lunches and landings on earth to prove that its systems are space worthy.
This research and development will have to be self funded because launch revenues wont suffice.
The more I think of it, theres just no way around it -
If MCT is pursued, SpaceX will maintain their own private space station in LEO based on a precorsur MCT design and BFR.

Based on my post above with MCT capabilities in cis-lunar space I would imagine the BFR/MCT build up as follows.

1) Launch BFR with integrated second stage refueling depot with fuel. repeat as required
2) Launch BFR with unmanned MCT and attempt refueling from depot. Either way conduct 6 month checkout from LEO-EML1-EML2 with 30MT of revenue paying payload to deploy. EDL back to Earth. repeat as required
3) Launch BFR with manned MCT for 9 month checkout in cis-lunar space with up to 85MT of cargo. Visit space stations ect...
4) Launch BFR with ISRU MCT to Mars. Verify Mars EDL and robotic ISRU for CH4 & LOX. repeat as required
5) Launch BFR with cargo MCT to Mars. Verify EDL, refueling and Earth return. repeat as required.
6) Launch BFR with manned MCT to Mars. 30 Day Stay, MCT returns to earth. Explorers remain.

Notes.
1) ISRU MCT has MCT form factor but contains ISRU equipment to extract water out of the air/ground and fill tanks. Cargo includes robotic rovers, forklifts, bulldozer/excavator.
2) Cargo MCT has MCT form factor that only carries cargo that can be removed by robotic equipment
3) Manned MCT support 8-10 colonist, 65 MT pressurized and unpressurized cargo.

The "Repeat as Required" could get really expensive if they have failures. But I think without too many failures and selling large payload capability as they go could possibly finance their vision.

Having a capability to have a manned presence in cis-lunar space with a large payload capability opens up a lot of exploration and servicing missions.

Offline Dudely

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #30 on: 09/16/2014 11:52 AM »
I have imagined what the future could look like. . .

2020 - Property rights in space are developed

2030 - in-situ asteroid fuel production is developed. Significant scale is reached by end-of-decade.

2040 - price of hydrogen fuel in LEO plummets as tankers arrive back from NEO asteroids. Used to float industry production platforms in roughly the same sort of orbit as the ISS. Platforms, tooling, and many of the production materials are lofted by reusable BFR which should be cheap by now. Nanotechnology production moves onto these platforms first, followed by other high-tech industries like chip manufacturers.

2050 - Workers begin to move off-world onto rotating industrial platforms developed by former asteroid fuel mining companies possibly in conjunction with mining companies or other high-tech companies. Major governments could view these as proxy wars of industrial might. Each platform is moved into an orbit a few hundred km from a metal-rich asteroid in the asteroid belt or in a NEO. The platforms would be used to oversee the robotic mining operations, to do science, and to create "value added" products from the raw materials mined. Key here will be the ability for someone to invest in space without the need for the investment to produce a product for Earth- the promise of continued business in space means that a mining company in space could avoid the troublesome problem of returning material to Earth and focus on building out more infrastructure.


That's what I think could happen excluding the Moon and Mars.

Online Jet Black

Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #31 on: 09/16/2014 01:29 PM »
You could probably do direct injection to anything within, say, Saturn's orbit, and minimize the gravity assist flybys on missions to Uranus and beyond. Alternatively, you could still use flybys liberally and just have an absurdly huge mass budget for your spacecraft.

I'd go for the absurdly huge mass budget to get more varied and better sensors and tools up there. One of the really nice things about having (a) cheap rockets and (b) a giant mass budget is the ability to have many more disposable components i.e. something that you drop into atmospheres which sends data on the way in, or ground penetrators which can smash into surfaces, revealing the underlying materials and structure.
« Last Edit: 09/16/2014 01:32 PM by Jet Black »
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. -- Richard Feynman

Online Jet Black

Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #32 on: 09/16/2014 01:33 PM »
I have imagined what the future could look like. . .

2020 - Property rights in space are developed


This is going to  be a really odd one; rights are only as useful as your ability to defend and enforce them. It's also rather off topic so I won't go into it.

Edit/CR: Yes, developing property rights is hardly a mission for the BFR or MCT! Others to note.
« Last Edit: 09/17/2014 07:07 AM by CuddlyRocket »
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. -- Richard Feynman

Offline simonbp

Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #33 on: 09/16/2014 02:54 PM »
On the science side, you could just look at people (i.e. Boeing) have proposed using SLS for. So, very large space telescopes, orbiter missions to the Ice Giants, flotilla missions to Jupiter or Saturn, sample return from locations on the Moon or Mars that are inaccessible to any human missions.

One fun case study would be a Mercury sample return. The spacecraft itself would have to advanced to survive on Mercury's surface (probably land on the the night side; cold is easier than heat), and then need massive amounts of delta v to to get back from Mercury.

Offline Dudely

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #34 on: 09/17/2014 12:00 PM »
I have imagined what the future could look like. . .

2020 - Property rights in space are developed


This is going to  be a really odd one; rights are only as useful as your ability to defend and enforce them. It's also rather off topic so I won't go into it.

Edit/CR: Yes, developing property rights is hardly a mission for the BFR or MCT! Others to note.

No, I'm serious.

If you had no BFR or if everyone had a BFR then you would have a point. But the BFR is exactly what will enable property rights for the same reason sturdy wooden ships enabled north american property rights. If a BFR delivered a mining operation to an asteroid in NEO who is going to physically stop them from claiming it as their own? There would be no one willing to spend the money.

Of course, the colonization of the Americas didn't exactly go smoothly so maybe that's not saying much :D.

Offline Darkseraph

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #35 on: 09/17/2014 12:33 PM »
I have imagined what the future could look like. . .

2020 - Property rights in space are developed


This is going to  be a really odd one; rights are only as useful as your ability to defend and enforce them. It's also rather off topic so I won't go into it.

Edit/CR: Yes, developing property rights is hardly a mission for the BFR or MCT! Others to note.

No, I'm serious.

If you had no BFR or if everyone had a BFR then you would have a point. But the BFR is exactly what will enable property rights for the same reason sturdy wooden ships enabled north american property rights. If a BFR delivered a mining operation to an asteroid in NEO who is going to physically stop them from claiming it as their own? There would be no one willing to spend the money.

Of course, the colonization of the Americas didn't exactly go smoothly so maybe that's not saying much :D.
If what is on asteroid is worth recovering for the price of BFR development, actually plenty of people would willing to spend the money. :/
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." R.P.Feynman

Offline Dudely

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #36 on: 09/17/2014 01:14 PM »
I have imagined what the future could look like. . .

2020 - Property rights in space are developed


This is going to  be a really odd one; rights are only as useful as your ability to defend and enforce them. It's also rather off topic so I won't go into it.

Edit/CR: Yes, developing property rights is hardly a mission for the BFR or MCT! Others to note.

No, I'm serious.

If you had no BFR or if everyone had a BFR then you would have a point. But the BFR is exactly what will enable property rights for the same reason sturdy wooden ships enabled north american property rights. If a BFR delivered a mining operation to an asteroid in NEO who is going to physically stop them from claiming it as their own? There would be no one willing to spend the money.

Of course, the colonization of the Americas didn't exactly go smoothly so maybe that's not saying much :D.
If what is on asteroid is worth recovering for the price of BFR development, actually plenty of people would willing to spend the money. :/

No, they wouldn't, because here is how the actual real-life conversation would go:

Engineer1: "Hey there is an asteroid with some valuable stuff on it, want to give me money to go get it?"
Investor: "Sure, what's your plan?"
Engineer1: *shows nice plan*
Investor: "Ok, here is some money"
*Mining operation is launched*

Engineer2: "Hey there is an asteroid with some cool stuff on it, want to give me money to go get it? Only problem is there is already someone there mining it."
Investor: "Why don't you just pick a different asteroid? I won't give you any of my money to bicker over space dirt. Get out of my office."

Offline RanulfC

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #37 on: 09/17/2014 01:18 PM »
I have imagined what the future could look like. . .

2020 - Property rights in space are developed


This is going to  be a really odd one; rights are only as useful as your ability to defend and enforce them. It's also rather off topic so I won't go into it.

Edit/CR: Yes, developing property rights is hardly a mission for the BFR or MCT! Others to note.

No, I'm serious.

If you had no BFR or if everyone had a BFR then you would have a point. But the BFR is exactly what will enable property rights for the same reason sturdy wooden ships enabled north american property rights. If a BFR delivered a mining operation to an asteroid in NEO who is going to physically stop them from claiming it as their own? There would be no one willing to spend the money.

Of course, the colonization of the Americas didn't exactly go smoothly so maybe that's not saying much :D.

Not to turn this into to another "space property rights" debate but you've got the same misconception that most do:
1) "Property" rights are not and have never been required for resource exploitation in space. If as you example someone mined a NEO asteroid the resources would belong to them.

2) ALL "property" rights develolve from prior government claim to ownership. To develop, aquire and distribute "property rights" require dividing the solar system and all its possible resources and allocating them to some "government" nation-state or supra-nation-state. Since about 2/3rds of the worlds governments don't actually RECOGNIZE personal property "rights" in the first place and the numerous legal and moral issues of only allowing certain nations to "own" the Solar System I'd have thought by now the property-rights-are-required advocates would have begun to realize how silly the "plan" sounds.

3) Currently if you extract resources in space they are YOURS to do with what you will. If you build/land/whatever a pressurized space on a solar body be it asteroid, Moon, Mars, etc it and a "buffer-zone" around it are YOURS to do with as you please under the guidance and laws/regulations of the nation-state government under which you launched. The "land" on a body has no inherient value, what gives it "value" is the built-up infrastructure and resources available no the "land" itself. "Property rights" don't make any sense in the context and never have.

Randy
From The Amazing Catstronaut on the Black Arrow LV:
British physics, old chap. It's undignified to belch flames and effluvia all over the pad, what. A true gentlemen's orbital conveyance lifts itself into the air unostentatiously, with the minimum of spectacle and a modicum of grace. Not like our American cousins' launch vehicles, eh?

Offline Darkseraph

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #38 on: 09/17/2014 01:22 PM »
I have imagined what the future could look like. . .

2020 - Property rights in space are developed


This is going to  be a really odd one; rights are only as useful as your ability to defend and enforce them. It's also rather off topic so I won't go into it.

Edit/CR: Yes, developing property rights is hardly a mission for the BFR or MCT! Others to note.

No, I'm serious.

If you had no BFR or if everyone had a BFR then you would have a point. But the BFR is exactly what will enable property rights for the same reason sturdy wooden ships enabled north american property rights. If a BFR delivered a mining operation to an asteroid in NEO who is going to physically stop them from claiming it as their own? There would be no one willing to spend the money.

Of course, the colonization of the Americas didn't exactly go smoothly so maybe that's not saying much :D.
If what is on asteroid is worth recovering for the price of BFR development, actually plenty of people would willing to spend the money. :/

No, they wouldn't, because here is how the actual real-life conversation would go:

Engineer1: "Hey there is an asteroid with some valuable stuff on it, want to give me money to go get it?"
Investor: "Sure, what's your plan?"
Engineer1: *shows nice plan*
Investor: "Ok, here is some money"
*Mining operation is launched*

Engineer2: "Hey there is an asteroid with some cool stuff on it, want to give me money to go get it? Only problem is there is already someone there mining it."
Investor: "Why don't you just pick a different asteroid? I won't give you any of my money to bicker over space dirt. Get out of my office."

Yeah...and piracy and conflict diamonds are just a myth and never happened in history!! Fairy tales like the flood and gorgons!!

*seriously, if your plan for an investor is - if i just go into an undefended territory that has no space army or space police or clear laws and take some stuff... and no one is going to stop me! - you'll get kicked out of his office faster. Places that are without an effective formal state, do form a sort of property rights, or turf defended at the the point of a gun. See the Mexican Cartels for reference.
« Last Edit: 09/17/2014 01:29 PM by Darkseraph »
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." R.P.Feynman

Offline RanulfC

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #39 on: 09/17/2014 01:29 PM »
No, they wouldn't, because here is how the actual real-life conversation would go:

Engineer1: "Hey there is an asteroid with some valuable stuff on it, want to give me money to go get it?"
Investor: "Sure, what's your plan?"
Engineer1: *shows nice plan*
Investor: "Ok, here is some money"
*Mining operation is launched*

Engineer2: "Hey there is an asteroid with some cool stuff on it, want to give me money to go get it? Only problem is there is already someone there mining it."
Investor: "Why don't you just pick a different asteroid? I won't give you any of my money to bicker over space dirt. Get out of my office."

Dudley you realize your scenerio here pretty much proves why "property-rights" would have no effect under the given circumstances? In the example "Company-A" got to the asteroid first and began extracting resources and does not now or will ever "own" the asteroid just the resources they mine.

You also miss the point that in fact the second scenerio could just as easily have Company B land on the opposite side of the afore mentioned asteroid and begin extraction operations there. Since Company A has "proven" there are extractable resources present the incentive to invest in Company B is higher, not lower as you suggest.

Even more "specific" to the case of BFR/MCT if SpaceX is operating them as they plan too then they would in fact encourage both Company A and Company B to set up operations as they would then have two sources of income for transportation of equipment, personnel, and resources to and from the asteroid.

You are however correct, no one is going to "pay" for the privilage of arguing who "owns" space dirt...

Randy
From The Amazing Catstronaut on the Black Arrow LV:
British physics, old chap. It's undignified to belch flames and effluvia all over the pad, what. A true gentlemen's orbital conveyance lifts itself into the air unostentatiously, with the minimum of spectacle and a modicum of grace. Not like our American cousins' launch vehicles, eh?

Offline RanulfC

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #40 on: 09/17/2014 01:42 PM »
Yeah...and piracy and conflict diamonds are just a myth and never happened in history!! Fairy tales like the flood and gorgons!!

*seriously, if your plan for an investor is - if i just go into an undefended territory that has no space army or space police or clear laws and take some stuff... and no one is going to stop me! - you'll get kicked out of his office faster. Places that are without an effective formal state, do form a sort of property rights, or turf defended at the the point of a gun. See the Mexican Cartels for reference.

Seriously you're really overthinking the issue at hand there Darkseraph :) It's not going to be the "wild-west" up there no matter how much some people want it to be. The simple act of suviving and extracting resources is going to be challenge enough. There won't be any battles between wild-cat miners over a platinuim asteroid for a very long time if ever because the "resources" matter and not the "Land" itself. About the only conflict the BFR/MCT is going to enable is dueling lawers over points of space law. Property "rights" are a chimera and myth that people keep grabbing onto in the hopes that "real-estate" speculation could boot-strap a space economy while never leaving Earth. It's a dead end better off forgotten to deal with the reality of the situation and left to history and on Earth. Out in space you own what you build, what you mine, and what you harvest under the current law. I never understand why people think its required you make someone "pay" for the privilages they already have by requireing they also "own" some abstract of "property" rather than the reality they already own...

Randy
From The Amazing Catstronaut on the Black Arrow LV:
British physics, old chap. It's undignified to belch flames and effluvia all over the pad, what. A true gentlemen's orbital conveyance lifts itself into the air unostentatiously, with the minimum of spectacle and a modicum of grace. Not like our American cousins' launch vehicles, eh?

Offline Dudely

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #41 on: 09/17/2014 02:01 PM »
Yes, I wish I had never said "property rights". A more accurate term would be "the ability to generate wealth from physical objects in space".

Mark my words: The MOMENT someone proves that they can generate wealth using far-flung space-based resources "property rights" will be developed for them, however unnecessary and useless we think they may be.

The fact I said the words "property rights are developed" is less important than the meaning behind it- exploitation of objects in space, starting with NEOs.

Offline Darkseraph

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #42 on: 09/17/2014 02:02 PM »
Yeah...and piracy and conflict diamonds are just a myth and never happened in history!! Fairy tales like the flood and gorgons!!

*seriously, if your plan for an investor is - if i just go into an undefended territory that has no space army or space police or clear laws and take some stuff... and no one is going to stop me! - you'll get kicked out of his office faster. Places that are without an effective formal state, do form a sort of property rights, or turf defended at the the point of a gun. See the Mexican Cartels for reference.

Seriously you're really overthinking the issue at hand there Darkseraph :) It's not going to be the "wild-west" up there no matter how much some people want it to be. The simple act of suviving and extracting resources is going to be challenge enough. There won't be any battles between wild-cat miners over a platinuim asteroid for a very long time if ever because the "resources" matter and not the "Land" itself. About the only conflict the BFR/MCT is going to enable is dueling lawers over points of space law. Property "rights" are a chimera and myth that people keep grabbing onto in the hopes that "real-estate" speculation could boot-strap a space economy while never leaving Earth. It's a dead end better off forgotten to deal with the reality of the situation and left to history and on Earth. Out in space you own what you build, what you mine, and what you harvest under the current law. I never understand why people think its required you make someone "pay" for the privilages they already have by requireing they also "own" some abstract of "property" rather than the reality they already own...

Randy
Oh I know it won't be a wild west nor would i desire it to be. I just think Dudley example is absurd, that a company will go up there just to take stuff, and its plan is...eh no one will stop it (nation states, other companies, the US congress) That's not a good plan. Bob Bigelow doesn't think that's a great idea, and wants a regime enacted that would provide clarity and protection of the property rights of companies in space. By the time it becomes relevant (ie they find something profitable to do in space with energy and material there), a regime will be put in place to make sure countries or companies don't steal from each other or create other sorts of problems. Human history until very recently was just various armed groups stealing from each other with very little growth.


There are precedents for it already though in things that aren't even material, but need to be coordinated to avoid chaos. For example electromagnetic spectrum allocation, as well as orbital slots in GSO.

But I suppose this conversation is drifting a bit...
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." R.P.Feynman

Offline RanulfC

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #43 on: 09/17/2014 02:11 PM »
Oh I know it won't be a wild west nor would i desire it to be. I just think Dudley example is absurd, that a company will go up there just to take stuff, and its plan is...eh no one will stop it (nation states, other companies, the US congress) That's not a good plan. Bob Bigelow doesn't think that's a great idea, and wants a regime enacted that would provide clarity and protection of the property rights of companies in space. By the time it becomes relevant (ie they find something profitable to do in space with energy and material there), a regime will be put in place to make sure countries or companies don't steal from each other or create other sorts of problems. Human history until very recently was just various armed groups stealing from each other with very little growth.


There are precedents for it already though in things that aren't even material, but need to be coordinated to avoid chaos. For example electromagnetic spectrum allocation, as well as orbital slots in GSO.

But I suppose this conversation is drifting a bit...

A "bit"? On NSF? Threads NEVER drift here! What are you implying? :)

Randy
« Last Edit: 09/17/2014 02:12 PM by RanulfC »
From The Amazing Catstronaut on the Black Arrow LV:
British physics, old chap. It's undignified to belch flames and effluvia all over the pad, what. A true gentlemen's orbital conveyance lifts itself into the air unostentatiously, with the minimum of spectacle and a modicum of grace. Not like our American cousins' launch vehicles, eh?

Offline Hyperion5

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #44 on: 09/17/2014 03:27 PM »
...
But I suppose this conversation is drifting a bit...

A "bit"? On NSF? Threads NEVER drift here! What are you implying? :)

Randy

He could be implying that two nice blokes in NSF just went and ran over my thread's nice front lawn with a tank and left a big, muddy dirt track behind them.  ;)  Also tragically, it seems that I must always assume someone I don't know on NSF is a guy, as we have a serious issue with having enough female members.  Apologies if you are not a male, Darkseraph, but this site is far too overrun by guys right now. 
---

Now back on topic!  Out of curiosity, does anyone know if a ~300 t to LEO methalox monster would have the capacity to put an orbiter around Pluto?  I've always wondered if that was within the realm of possibility. 

Offline simonbp

Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #45 on: 09/17/2014 03:45 PM »
Now back on topic!  Out of curiosity, does anyone know if a ~300 t to LEO methalox monster would have the capacity to put an orbiter around Pluto?  I've always wondered if that was within the realm of possibility. 

Yes.

But the question you should ask is "How long would it take to get there?" The problem with taking a New Horizons-like trajectory to Pluto is that the spacecraft's velocity vector is almost perpendicular to Pluto's heliocentric velocity vector. So, the magnitude of the delta v to stop is enormous (from memory, it's close to 10 km/s for NH). To get around that with standard rockets, you really need to approach Pluto on a non-escape trajectory, bound heliocentric orbit with an aphelion at Pluto. That's great, but it would take around 70 years to reach Pluto. Not so great.

Non-chemical rockets are the real answer, and a nuclear reactor-ion engine system is the most plausible Pluto orbiter that could reach the destination before everyone on the mission team dies of old age. But nuclear-electric is a whole different can of worms to a super-large rocket.

Online Norm38

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #46 on: 09/17/2014 04:27 PM »
A ~300 ton BFR would probably not be used to lift 70-100 ton BA-2100's.  The BA-2100 is a Powerpoint-stage concept based on Bigelow's research into the largest feasible private-sector rocket.  A rocket 4x as large, with a 15m payload fairing, would engender a new design, likely a design with ~10x as much habitable volume.

That's engineering for performance instead of cost.  If the 70-100 ton station is what the mission requires, and the reusable BFR gets it into orbit cheaply, who cares?  If you decide to ship a product cross country by FedEx, do you redesign it so that you use up every spare cubic inch inside the truck?

No.  It'll be SpaceX's problem to try and pack the BFR full.  But the customer should design to the mission, not the launcher.  And what will bring down launch costs, especially for a reusable launcher, is using the same design to handle a large range of payloads.

Offline Hyperion5

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #47 on: 09/21/2014 05:15 AM »
A ~300 ton BFR would probably not be used to lift 70-100 ton BA-2100's.  The BA-2100 is a Powerpoint-stage concept based on Bigelow's research into the largest feasible private-sector rocket.  A rocket 4x as large, with a 15m payload fairing, would engender a new design, likely a design with ~10x as much habitable volume.

That's engineering for performance instead of cost.  If the 70-100 ton station is what the mission requires, and the reusable BFR gets it into orbit cheaply, who cares?  If you decide to ship a product cross country by FedEx, do you redesign it so that you use up every spare cubic inch inside the truck?

No.  It'll be SpaceX's problem to try and pack the BFR full.  But the customer should design to the mission, not the launcher.  And what will bring down launch costs, especially for a reusable launcher, is using the same design to handle a large range of payloads.

One such payload among many could be a Neptune orbiter.  However it occurs to me that this would be a low priority for NASA.  If NASA did have access to such an LV, what would be the top priorities?  I'm going to take a guess it would be Mars, Europa and Titan.  But you can do some of those missions without such a large LV.  So what missions, specifically, would require this monster?  A big Titan orbiter/lander mission? 

Offline Lourens

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #48 on: 09/21/2014 04:33 PM »
Exploring the solar system is great, but there's not nearly as much money in it as in launching communications satellites. And it would be really nice if BFR could pay back its own development costs even without some entity other than SpaceX deciding to go to Mars, or being dependent on NASA's robotic exploration program.

So I'm wondering, how much would the fully reusable BFR be able to lift to GEO? I'm thinking that going only to GTO like Ariane 5 won't work too well with more than two satellites to drop off. So instead, I'd think that BFR would launch its second stage including the payloads into an orbit just below GEO, and then just drop off the satellites one by one as it passes the correct orbital slot. After dropping off all payloads, the second stage would deorbit and be reused. Provided of course that it has a useful amount of payload for such a mission...

Has that been modelled yet? If not, would it be possible to do that, Hyperion5 and Dmitri? I think it would help us assess how feasible BFR is financially.

Offline Darkseraph

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #49 on: 09/21/2014 04:46 PM »
Exploring the solar system is great, but there's not nearly as much money in it as in launching communications satellites. And it would be really nice if BFR could pay back its own development costs even without some entity other than SpaceX deciding to go to Mars, or being dependent on NASA's robotic exploration program.

So I'm wondering, how much would the fully reusable BFR be able to lift to GEO? I'm thinking that going only to GTO like Ariane 5 won't work too well with more than two satellites to drop off. So instead, I'd think that BFR would launch its second stage including the payloads into an orbit just below GEO, and then just drop off the satellites one by one as it passes the correct orbital slot. After dropping off all payloads, the second stage would deorbit and be reused. Provided of course that it has a useful amount of payload for such a mission...

Has that been modelled yet? If not, would it be possible to do that, Hyperion5 and Dmitri? I think it would help us assess how feasible BFR is financially.
Not technically true. I mean exploration by SpaceX itself wouldn't pay, but launching exploration missions is lucrative, even more so than launching commercial commsats. Operators of commsats make a lot of money, but not SpaceX doing the launches. And it has to price itself at the moment lower than competition because it has less of a track record. SpaceX going to the point of suing the Airforce over the block buy shows just how important government missions are to it.
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." R.P.Feynman

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #50 on: 09/21/2014 05:00 PM »
I think lifting and returning materials for space based industry could be a good alternative mission for BFR.
http://www.spaceislandgroup.com/manufacturing.html


There's the protein crystals and impossible alloys but also some existing processes could be made more efficient such as growing the silicon ingots in microgravity might improve semiconductor yields.

Before saying it'll still be too expensive Intel spent over five billion on their latest fab a couple of BFR flights a year would be a drop in the bucket for them.
« Last Edit: 09/21/2014 05:08 PM by Patchouli »

Offline Nindalf

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #51 on: 09/21/2014 06:07 PM »
exploration by SpaceX itself wouldn't pay
Not necessarily true.  Entertainment is big business.  Successful feature films, for instance, routinely produce over $1 billion in revenue.  And once people find a franchise they like, they keep coming back to it.  Game of Thrones somehow makes money spending upwards of $50 million to film each episode.

Where NASA has fallen flat in generating widespread public interest since Apollo is that the public wants to watch exploration, not science or practice.

Take the moon, for instance.  It's not just a place, it's a whole planet full of places to explore, but you've got to travel over the planet to explore them.  A duplication of the Apollo program might meet with public yawns, but a reality show about prospecting on the moon could be the hit of the century.

Even unmanned probes can provide quality entertainment if they're doing something genuinely new (the first lander on Mars to take pictures of the landing area and scoop dust samples was big news to the public, the first rover on Mars to take pictures around the landing area and scoop dust samples was small news, a somewhat larger rover on Mars to take pictures near the landing area and scoop dust samples was non-news), if you have good cameras on them, and if you dig up enough human drama with clips from the control room and the people who built the thing, and good editing.  When something dramatic happens, you need to capture it on camera.  It's not enough to just know that it happened from instrument readings.  And you need to seek out the most visually impressive vistas, not just get a good enough picture to be able to analyse what's in it.

For exploration as entertainment, it's much better to aim for amazing things and fail dramatically sometimes than it is to progress by conservative little steps.  A dramatic failure is still drama.

Context matters, too.  People sitting in a room in space is a lot less interesting if that room isn't hurtling toward Mars for the first time.

Offline Darkseraph

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #52 on: 09/21/2014 06:50 PM »
exploration by SpaceX itself wouldn't pay
Not necessarily true.  Entertainment is big business.  Successful feature films, for instance, routinely produce over $1 billion in revenue.  And once people find a franchise they like, they keep coming back to it.  Game of Thrones somehow makes money spending upwards of $50 million to film each episode.

Where NASA has fallen flat in generating widespread public interest since Apollo is that the public wants to watch exploration, not science or practice.

Take the moon, for instance.  It's not just a place, it's a whole planet full of places to explore, but you've got to travel over the planet to explore them.  A duplication of the Apollo program might meet with public yawns, but a reality show about prospecting on the moon could be the hit of the century.

Even unmanned probes can provide quality entertainment if they're doing something genuinely new (the first lander on Mars to take pictures of the landing area and scoop dust samples was big news to the public, the first rover on Mars to take pictures around the landing area and scoop dust samples was small news, a somewhat larger rover on Mars to take pictures near the landing area and scoop dust samples was non-news), if you have good cameras on them, and if you dig up enough human drama with clips from the control room and the people who built the thing, and good editing.  When something dramatic happens, you need to capture it on camera.  It's not enough to just know that it happened from instrument readings.  And you need to seek out the most visually impressive vistas, not just get a good enough picture to be able to analyse what's in it.

For exploration as entertainment, it's much better to aim for amazing things and fail dramatically sometimes than it is to progress by conservative little steps.  A dramatic failure is still drama.

Context matters, too.  People sitting in a room in space is a lot less interesting if that room isn't hurtling toward Mars for the first time.

Oh Keith Cowing was on that band wagon a while back, that Avatar pulled in over a billion, therefore the public are interested in Space Exploration....total b.s. If Pandora was a real planet-moon, that was accessible to our technology full of real breathing blue people and killer animals, maybe it would be interesting for viewers. But the Moon is not interesting to most people. It's lifeless rock, that looks very similar in every location to the average non-paul spudis person. The amount of people that would be entertained by that is very small. People would rather see astronauts fake go to the Moon with killer robots, as in Transformers 3...than watch an actual documentary about people going to the Moon. No documentary has pulled in as much as a Transformers movie, even two of the highest grossing documentaries of all time, that were about space didn't go anywhere near a 5th of that revenue. Gravity did well at the box office, but it's because it has a human drama element and is exciting. I loved it. But its total fiction, and with $100 million budget, a lot cheaper to do than even the cheapest commericial crew mission possible in this decade. If they filmed a mission to Mars or the Moon or wherever, I'd watch it. Most other people would yawn though, and that's the reality.
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." R.P.Feynman

Offline Lobo

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #53 on: 09/22/2014 09:47 PM »
A few Alternative missions I could think of:

1)  Planetary probes with large stores of propellant so they can brake into orbits of far away planets and do various orbital maneuvers during extended missions.  With enough LV capability at an affordable enough cost, New Horizons could have had enough propellant on board to brake in orbit around Pluto do a much more thorough and extended mission there rather than a brief fly by.

2)  Planetary probes with more direct trajectories and shorter transit times.

3)  Manned lunar missions.

4)  Large diameter space telescopes. 

5)  Upper end payloads to GTO.   Assuming a reusable upper stage, it could afford the mass penalty of deliverying a payload to GTO and then coming back to Earth and landing for reuse.  While it would seem like overkill to to send a D4H class payload to GTO with such a large LV, if both stages can be quickly and feasibly reused, then there is very little cost to doing it other than fuel vs. a smaller LV.  These could be payloads that would require an FH to expend the central core and upper stage to loft (current larger NRO payloads), or all three cores and upper stage (possible future larger birds).  Dual payloads would be obviously easily done as well, if there were two playloads going to similar enough trajectories.

6)  Manned Venus flyby.

7)  Large expendable space stations like BA-2100.  They'd go up with a finite life, serve their duration, and be dorbited and replaced rather than doing more elaborate in-space repairs like the ISS.  This would also allow a sort of production line to make them, rather than being complete 1-off special builds like Skylab or ISS.  Something more like a large version of the Soviet Salyut program, where there was a comming module that would have a finite life and then be replaced.  With something like the ISS, it's so complex and expensive, if it were to have a major failure and need to be abandon, it cannot be replaced.  This would be a far lower cost program with periodic replacement, and full or near full surface integration and little or no in-space assembly. 
For example, let's say a BA-2100 cost $1.5B each.  And let's say conservatively, that BFR cost NASA (or whomever) $500M to launch.  And let's say that BA2100 would last 5 years and then need to be replaced.
Assuming the ISS cost $100B to construct including the launches to get all the components in space (I've heard that number, unsure if it's completely accurate or not), the ISS would need to stay up and functional for 250 years to break even vs. sending a new BA-2100 up every 5 years...assuming those prices.
If you assume the ISS was half that, $50B to finish, then it would only need to be up for 125 years to break even. 
Even if a BA-2100 cost $2B or $3B each, were still talking a much lower cost over time than the ISS.

Anyway, those are some speculative possible BFR missions, if it's price turned out to actually be "relatively" low cost.

Offline StealerofSuns

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #54 on: 09/22/2014 11:17 PM »
Our remote descendants, safely arrayed on many worlds throughout the Solar System and beyond, will be unified by their common heritage, by their regard for their home planet, and by the knowledge that, whatever other life may be, the only humans in all the Universe come from Earth. -Sagan

Offline GregA

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #55 on: 09/22/2014 11:21 PM »
If the power-that-be wanted to cancel the SLS, but save face, is there any aspect of the SLS they could argue was money well spent for use by the BFR? I believe the answer is "not at all! Different propellant, different sizes, different stage breakdowns".... trying to get multiple different part sources to work cohesively together would be unnecessary and painful.

Nevertheless, they found a way of keeping the shuttle boosters in the SLS program.

Of course, even if NASA tried to adjust their SLS program to build an alternative second stage for the BFR (instead of MCT), SpaceX might have some major issues with it! Better for NASA to follow their principle of using commercial options when available and not building their own...

Offline Lourens

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #56 on: 09/22/2014 11:22 PM »
Exploring the solar system is great, but there's not nearly as much money in it as in launching communications satellites. And it would be really nice if BFR could pay back its own development costs even without some entity other than SpaceX deciding to go to Mars, or being dependent on NASA's robotic exploration program.

So I'm wondering, how much would the fully reusable BFR be able to lift to GEO? I'm thinking that going only to GTO like Ariane 5 won't work too well with more than two satellites to drop off. So instead, I'd think that BFR would launch its second stage including the payloads into an orbit just below GEO, and then just drop off the satellites one by one as it passes the correct orbital slot. After dropping off all payloads, the second stage would deorbit and be reused. Provided of course that it has a useful amount of payload for such a mission...
Not technically true. I mean exploration by SpaceX itself wouldn't pay, but launching exploration missions is lucrative, even more so than launching commercial commsats. Operators of commsats make a lot of money, but not SpaceX doing the launches. And it has to price itself at the moment lower than competition because it has less of a track record. SpaceX going to the point of suing the Airforce over the block buy shows just how important government missions are to it.

Why would exploration missions be more lucrative than comsats? They'd pay the same price for the same rocket. But there are many more comsats than exploration missions, so total revenue would be higher for comsats.

The Air Force block buy doesn't include exploration missions, those are GPS satellites, spy satellites and military comsats. Maybe BFR could deploy a bunch of spy satellites into polar SSO in one mission in the same way as I suggested above. And the spy satellites could include much bigger optics.

Offline RanulfC

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #57 on: 09/23/2014 06:57 PM »
Why would exploration missions be more lucrative than comsats? They'd pay the same price for the same rocket. But there are many more comsats than exploration missions, so total revenue would be higher for comsats.

Your basic assumptions miss a major point though: The BFR/MCT system in and of itself allows a MUCH higher flight rate avialable for such "exploration" missions at a much lower price. Note also that "industry" thinking along these lines has indicated that IF such a high payload to LEO/GTO/GEO was available that the "standard" comm-sat would become obsolete and that larger, modular platforms in GEO would be much more cost and operationally effective. Meaning there would be far fewer "comm-sat" launches but more "component" launches and maintenance and operations launchs as well. And that in and of itself is "supposed" to lead to more space industrialization AND the R&D and explortation required to support that. In the end (as the "plan" goes at any rate :) ) we're supposed to see the "comm-satellite" market disappear into a general "infratructural" industry base and expansion, exploration, exploitation hugely increase to "keep up" with that expansion.

Quote
The Air Force block buy doesn't include exploration missions, those are GPS satellites, spy satellites and military comsats. Maybe BFR could deploy a bunch of spy satellites into polar SSO in one mission in the same way as I suggested above. And the spy satellites could include much bigger optics.

Ahh but you're "assuming" that nothing really changes given the much greater access granted by the BFR and the like :)

Randy
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British physics, old chap. It's undignified to belch flames and effluvia all over the pad, what. A true gentlemen's orbital conveyance lifts itself into the air unostentatiously, with the minimum of spectacle and a modicum of grace. Not like our American cousins' launch vehicles, eh?

Offline Vultur

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #58 on: 09/24/2014 04:24 AM »
So, the magnitude of the delta v to stop is enormous (from memory, it's close to 10 km/s for NH).

Well, that's about like Earth launch to orbit. And we can do that with chemical rockets. So maybe it could be done with a very large initial mass & a small orbiter. Or am I missing something?

Offline Vultur

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #59 on: 09/24/2014 04:27 AM »
Not necessarily true.  Entertainment is big business.  Successful feature films, for instance, routinely produce over $1 billion in revenue.  And once people find a franchise they like, they keep coming back to it.  Game of Thrones somehow makes money spending upwards of $50 million to film each episode.

Where NASA has fallen flat in generating widespread public interest since Apollo is that the public wants to watch exploration, not science or practice.

Quote
Take the moon, for instance.  It's not just a place, it's a whole planet full of places to explore, but you've got to travel over the planet to explore them.  A duplication of the Apollo program might meet with public yawns, but a reality show about prospecting on the moon could be the hit of the century.

I think this makes a lot of sense. Maybe not as a sole source of funding - might not be enough for that (but with lower launch costs maybe...) but it could make back a significant proportion, if handled right (IE not like the NASA TV channel!)

EDIT:
But the Moon is not interesting to most people.

Possibly not, but you don't need "most" people. The population with TVs, computers etc. is huge - even a small proportion is a lot. (Does any TV show/movie/etc in this age of many entertainment options actually get watched by most people?)


Quote
No documentary has pulled in as much as a Transformers movie, even two of the highest grossing documentaries of all time, that were about space didn't go anywhere near a 5th of that revenue.

Yeah, but is that because of content, or presentation? And was the distribution/advertising/etc as big?

If you're going to make this work it needs to be multimedia, heavily advertised, lots of spinoffs (apps, games, merchandise, books).. everyone needs to know it's out there.
« Last Edit: 09/24/2014 04:32 AM by Vultur »

Offline mickeydj80

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #60 on: 09/24/2014 09:39 AM »
Quote
No documentary has pulled in as much as a Transformers movie, even two of the highest grossing documentaries of all time, that were about space didn't go anywhere near a 5th of that revenue. This is why I was looking here and checking out all the revenues to compare.

Yeah, but is that because of content, or presentation? And was the distribution/advertising/etc as big?

If you're going to make this work it needs to be multimedia, heavily advertised, lots of spinoffs (apps, games, merchandise, books).. everyone needs to know it's out there.

I agree.  It would definitely need lots of advertising and not just that but people really need to care about it. 
« Last Edit: 01/14/2015 08:48 PM by mickeydj80 »

Offline Lourens

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #61 on: 09/24/2014 08:21 PM »
Why would exploration missions be more lucrative than comsats? They'd pay the same price for the same rocket. But there are many more comsats than exploration missions, so total revenue would be higher for comsats.

Your basic assumptions miss a major point though: The BFR/MCT system in and of itself allows a MUCH higher flight rate avialable for such "exploration" missions at a much lower price.

That doesn't increase NASA's budget though. They may be able to do more science for the same amount of money, but that doesn't make it more lucrative to SpaceX.

Note also that "industry" thinking along these lines has indicated that IF such a high payload to LEO/GTO/GEO was available that the "standard" comm-sat would become obsolete and that larger, modular platforms in GEO would be much more cost and operationally effective. Meaning there would be far fewer "comm-sat" launches but more "component" launches and maintenance and operations launchs as well. And that in and of itself is "supposed" to lead to more space industrialization AND the R&D and explortation required to support that. In the end (as the "plan" goes at any rate :) ) we're supposed to see the "comm-satellite" market disappear into a general "infratructural" industry base and expansion, exploration, exploitation hugely increase to "keep up" with that expansion.

Quote
The Air Force block buy doesn't include exploration missions, those are GPS satellites, spy satellites and military comsats. Maybe BFR could deploy a bunch of spy satellites into polar SSO in one mission in the same way as I suggested above. And the spy satellites could include much bigger optics.

Ahh but you're "assuming" that nothing really changes given the much greater access granted by the BFR and the like :)

Your argument that the comsat market will morph into a more general space infrastructure actually supports my point that comsats are (and/or will be) more lucrative than exploration missions. And I know that Mars is the Roman god of war, but I don't think that that's enough for the USAF to start launching exploration missions to it, even if they become much cheaper.

So I'm wondering, how much would the fully reusable BFR be able to lift to GEO? I'm thinking that going only to GTO like Ariane 5 won't work too well with more than two satellites to drop off. So instead, I'd think that BFR would launch its second stage including the payloads into an orbit just below GEO, and then just drop off the satellites one by one as it passes the correct orbital slot. After dropping off all payloads, the second stage would deorbit and be reused. Provided of course that it has a useful amount of payload for such a mission...

So, it turns out that this was modelled, I just didn't see it. According to sheltonjr's calculations, it can do about 30 tonnes to GEO fully reusably, if I understand correctly. That's a nice chunk of that space infrastructure, or if the market doesn't develop at the same speed as SpaceX, about 6 current size comsats.

With a projected global market of around 100 comsats per year (270kB PDF), that'd give more than a flight per month, assuming they capture most of the market, and that's without any disruptive changes or price elasticity.

SpaceX would of course also want to have the military market, and the exploration missions. I can see them earning back the development costs and then make a nice profit for Elon to retire to Mars :).

Offline RanulfC

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #62 on: 09/24/2014 09:06 PM »
That doesn't increase NASA's budget though. They may be able to do more science for the same amount of money, but that doesn't make it more lucrative to SpaceX.

NASA is far from the only exploration/science customer out there though and IF prices come down and accessabilty goes up its pretty clear there WILL be other customers. That's part (a large part) of what the attraction to lowered cost/higher access in the first place.

Quote
Your argument that the comsat market will morph into a more general space infrastructure actually supports my point that comsats are (and/or will be) more lucrative than exploration missions.

Actually not as the "market" itself will move more towards "parts" and possibly people to install and maintain than actual "comm-sats" once things get rolling. And once you begin to have such "infrastructure" in place, (as long as you don't do something silly like try to bypass using such an infrastructure which is pretty much what people assume Musk is aiming to do with BFR/MCT in the first place) it becomes a lot easier to get into position to launch exploration and science missions. And hopefully a lot cheaper which increases the usage and flight rates of the RLVs involved.

Quote
And I know that Mars is the Roman god of war, but I don't think that that's enough for the USAF to start launching exploration missions to it, even if they become much cheaper.

Actually I highly doubt the Air Force or any military branch will "engage" in exploration at all, however "access" means they HAVE to increase their portion and presence as a consequence of civil presence and the possible "pressence" of others that require monitoring and possible interaction :)

People may recall the concept of "Hot Eagle?" and being able to drop Marines anywhere on the globe in a few hours? Station them in orbit and you're response time drops dramatically and a "specially modified" MCT can problably put quite a bit more than a single platoon on the ground as well :)
Quote
So I'm wondering, how much would the fully reusable BFR be able to lift to GEO? I'm thinking that going only to GTO like Ariane 5 won't work too well with more than two satellites to drop off. So instead, I'd think that BFR would launch its second stage including the payloads into an orbit just below GEO, and then just drop off the satellites one by one as it passes the correct orbital slot. After dropping off all payloads, the second stage would deorbit and be reused. Provided of course that it has a useful amount of payload for such a mission...

So, it turns out that this was modelled, I just didn't see it. According to sheltonjr's calculations, it can do about 30 tonnes to GEO fully reusably, if I understand correctly. That's a nice chunk of that space infrastructure, or if the market doesn't develop at the same speed as SpaceX, about 6 current size comsats.

Probably a bit less than half that if they have to deliver them to different "slots" which they will. Still very nice :)

Quote
With a projected global market of around 100 comsats per year (270kB PDF), that'd give more than a flight per month, assuming they capture most of the market, and that's without any disruptive changes or price elasticity.

SpaceX would of course also want to have the military market, and the exploration missions. I can see them earning back the development costs and then make a nice profit for Elon to retire to Mars :).

Well that IS the plan after all :)

Randy
From The Amazing Catstronaut on the Black Arrow LV:
British physics, old chap. It's undignified to belch flames and effluvia all over the pad, what. A true gentlemen's orbital conveyance lifts itself into the air unostentatiously, with the minimum of spectacle and a modicum of grace. Not like our American cousins' launch vehicles, eh?

Offline GregA

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #63 on: 09/25/2014 01:03 AM »
I imagine that as they learn the sweet spots of reusability and RTLS, the best points to separate stages etc, that the BFR will be the first design to adjust its staging points (is that the right term?) to be more effective.

For example, we speculate that the centre core of the Falcon Heavy will be too far downrange to RTLS but can't do an orbit - so you need to determine if the best answer is to stage it earlier, land it downrange, or design it to do an orbit and re-enter (all leading to other questions and issues to resolve). If you stage it earlier then you may need a bigger 2nd stage to get the payloads to orbit, and the 2nd stage needs to orbit and re-enter too. The BFR design will be considering some different setups.

So all that said - and with the MCT in the back of my mind - it starts to sound like a 2nd stage could be a more significant "space tugboat", in contrast to what appears to be one of the less important pieces in the launch puzzle.

Probably a bit less than half that [mass] if they have to deliver [multiple payloads] to different "slots" which they will. Still very nice :)

I started to envisage 3 types of 2nd stages - with the MCT version used extensively during launch windows.
1) an MCT integrated version
2) a tugboat version that re-enters when it's done its job.
3) an multi-headed version

I remember as a teenager watching the videos of multi headed ICBMs. One rocket to get into a low orbit, then 20 different mini-rockets heading their own way. Could the BFR launch multiple different payloads in some similar manner?... 9 second stage rockets configured in the same shape as the engines?

(Of course the off-season BFR use may simply be to send slow payloads to Mars and general maintenance and refurb after 10 launches)

Offline ArbitraryConstant

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #64 on: 09/25/2014 02:43 AM »
No.  It'll be SpaceX's problem to try and pack the BFR full.  But the customer should design to the mission, not the launcher.  And what will bring down launch costs, especially for a reusable launcher, is using the same design to handle a large range of payloads.
Yeah.

The reality is that there's a lot of nations interested in space activities, as we can see from robotic missions and ISS participation. If the budget for a significant manned mission can be brought close to current budgets for robotic missions or other stuff like national Antarctica programs, I think it would be completely reasonable to expect to see manned Moon missions or bases, for example.

Offline Hyperion5

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #65 on: 10/05/2014 01:49 AM »
No.  It'll be SpaceX's problem to try and pack the BFR full.  But the customer should design to the mission, not the launcher.  And what will bring down launch costs, especially for a reusable launcher, is using the same design to handle a large range of payloads.
Yeah.

The reality is that there's a lot of nations interested in space activities, as we can see from robotic missions and ISS participation. If the budget for a significant manned mission can be brought close to current budgets for robotic missions or other stuff like national Antarctica programs, I think it would be completely reasonable to expect to see manned Moon missions or bases, for example.

Only problem I see with that is the MCT lander's design really won't be optimized for the Moon, AC.  I believe Sheltonjr calculated that a possible MCT lander would only be able to put 8 mt of payload down on our lunar neighbor.  Perhaps a better role for it would be to fly people over to the reusable landers in Polar orbit?  The MCT after all will be designed much better for landing and ascending from Mars compared to the Moon. 

Online guckyfan

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #66 on: 10/05/2014 08:38 AM »
Only problem I see with that is the MCT lander's design really won't be optimized for the Moon, AC.  I believe Sheltonjr calculated that a possible MCT lander would only be able to put 8 mt of payload down on our lunar neighbor.  Perhaps a better role for it would be to fly people over to the reusable landers in Polar orbit?  The MCT after all will be designed much better for landing and ascending from Mars compared to the Moon.

Correct, but why would you think 8 t to the moon and 2 t back is bad? It is a perfect amount for station resupply and crew exchange runs, better than anything presently for the ISS.

For initial station building that capacity can be increased. I have suggested to refuel the MCT plus a tanker in LEO and send them both on the same trajectory to the moon. After TLI the tanker transfers its remaining fuel to the MCT and returns to earth on a free or almost free return trajectory and lands back on earth. The MCT continues to the moon with a much larger cargo capacity. I cannot calculate by how much such a maneuver will increase the payload capacity but it will be a lot, I am sure. Enough to transport large station modules to lunar surface.

Note that I don't suggest any infrastructure in lunar orbit or L-points which greatly complicate any mission and increases cost IMO.

Offline Nilof

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #67 on: 10/05/2014 10:04 AM »
Quote
So I'm wondering, how much would the fully reusable BFR be able to lift to GEO? I'm thinking that going only to GTO like Ariane 5 won't work too well with more than two satellites to drop off. So instead, I'd think that BFR would launch its second stage including the payloads into an orbit just below GEO, and then just drop off the satellites one by one as it passes the correct orbital slot. After dropping off all payloads, the second stage would deorbit and be reused. Provided of course that it has a useful amount of payload for such a mission...

So, it turns out that this was modelled, I just didn't see it. According to sheltonjr's calculations, it can do about 30 tonnes to GEO fully reusably, if I understand correctly. That's a nice chunk of that space infrastructure, or if the market doesn't develop at the same speed as SpaceX, about 6 current size comsats.

Probably a bit less than half that if they have to deliver them to different "slots" which they will. Still very nice :)

Different slots doesn't affect payload to GTO though. If the satellites still do the circularization themselves they can perform phasing maneuvers essentially for free, by splitting up the circularization into several burns.
« Last Edit: 10/05/2014 10:06 AM by Nilof »
For a variable Isp spacecraft running at constant power and constant acceleration, the mass ratio is linear in delta-v.   Δv = ve0(MR-1). Or equivalently: Δv = vef PMF. Also, this is energy-optimal for a fixed delta-v and mass ratio.

Offline enkarha

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Re: Alternative missions for BFR & MCT
« Reply #68 on: 10/06/2014 06:07 PM »
Now back on topic!  Out of curiosity, does anyone know if a ~300 t to LEO methalox monster would have the capacity to put an orbiter around Pluto?  I've always wondered if that was within the realm of possibility. 

Yes.

But the question you should ask is "How long would it take to get there?" The problem with taking a New Horizons-like trajectory to Pluto is that the spacecraft's velocity vector is almost perpendicular to Pluto's heliocentric velocity vector. So, the magnitude of the delta v to stop is enormous (from memory, it's close to 10 km/s for NH). To get around that with standard rockets, you really need to approach Pluto on a non-escape trajectory, bound heliocentric orbit with an aphelion at Pluto. That's great, but it would take around 70 years to reach Pluto. Not so great.

Non-chemical rockets are the real answer, and a nuclear reactor-ion engine system is the most plausible Pluto orbiter that could reach the destination before everyone on the mission team dies of old age. But nuclear-electric is a whole different can of worms to a super-large rocket.

Actually, it's probably more like 35 years to Pluto,( the period is 70 years, but we're only doing half the orbit to transfer). If we are going the Hohmann route, at Pluto it would need around 4 km/s to match pluto's orbit. So with 300 tons in orbit, with a stage that was 96% prop, 2 tons could conceivably be brought to Pluto transfer, which would leave ~500 kg of dry mass in Pluto orbit. It really shows how bad even 380s is for those really high delta-v maneuvers. This is all first order approximations, without gravity assist. With gravity assist you could put a lot more at Pluto, and I'll try those calculations later.
Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars ♪

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