Author Topic: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities  (Read 75895 times)

Offline Lars-J

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #80 on: 11/14/2018 05:14 pm »
I'm having a hard time understanding how SpaceX is being prohibited from doing an RTLS on the upcoming SSO-A flight.  Looking at the map, Launch Complexes 4 and 6 are 3.7 miles apart while Landing Zone 4 is 0.3 miles from Complex 4.

The following have to be true
1)  If a nearly empty 1st stage crashing at LZ-4 can cause damage at LC-6, it will obliterate LC-4.  But SpaceX put it there, and crashing 1st stages didn't destroy drone ships.

2)  If a crash at LZ-4 can damage LC-6, then a fully fueled F9 explosion (AMOS-6) will cause orders of magnitude more damage. 

3)  The 1st Stage flies directly back to the landing site.  With LZ-4 and LC-4 being so close, if the returning stage has to overfly LC-6, then so does the fully fueled F9 only seconds after launch where it could drop directly onto LC-6 if any failure occurred.

4)  If the launch doesn't have to overfly LC-6, the landing doesn't have to either.

5)  If a crash at LZ-4 will cause brush fires that destroy the base, so will a failure at LC-4, or LC-6 for that matter.


Therefore, if SpaceX is allowed to fuel and launch F9 with Delta IV-H at LC-6, they should be allowed to land there.  How does this make any sense?

The primary issue is probably the very expensive payload at SLC-6. If there was an equivalent payload being mated to a F9 insice the LC-4 hangar, they would not allow a landing just outside.

As far as the difference during launch vs landing, they perceive that a launch as more active control and can be terminated more effectively... versus a landing stage that can malfunction fall dead "anywhere". Is it a valid concern? Maybe, maybe not. But it will take many landings for them to feel more confident about it.

Offline eriblo

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #81 on: 11/14/2018 09:32 pm »
I'm having a hard time understanding how SpaceX is being prohibited from doing an RTLS on the upcoming SSO-A flight.  Looking at the map, Launch Complexes 4 and 6 are 3.7 miles apart while Landing Zone 4 is 0.3 miles from Complex 4.

The following have to be true
1)  If a nearly empty 1st stage crashing at LZ-4 can cause damage at LC-6, it will obliterate LC-4.  But SpaceX put it there, and crashing 1st stages didn't destroy drone ships.

2)  If a crash at LZ-4 can damage LC-6, then a fully fueled F9 explosion (AMOS-6) will cause orders of magnitude more damage. 

3)  The 1st Stage flies directly back to the landing site.  With LZ-4 and LC-4 being so close, if the returning stage has to overfly LC-6, then so does the fully fueled F9 only seconds after launch where it could drop directly onto LC-6 if any failure occurred.

4)  If the launch doesn't have to overfly LC-6, the landing doesn't have to either.

5)  If a crash at LZ-4 will cause brush fires that destroy the base, so will a failure at LC-4, or LC-6 for that matter.


Therefore, if SpaceX is allowed to fuel and launch F9 with Delta IV-H at LC-6, they should be allowed to land there.  How does this make any sense?

The primary issue is probably the very expensive payload at SLC-6. If there was an equivalent payload being mated to a F9 insice the LC-4 hangar, they would not allow a landing just outside.

As far as the difference during launch vs landing, they perceive that a launch as more active control and can be terminated more effectively... versus a landing stage that can malfunction fall dead "anywhere". Is it a valid concern? Maybe, maybe not. But it will take many landings for them to feel more confident about it.
As Lars says, the problem is not a crash at LZ-4 (which would be much less dangerous than a F9 launch failure) but the unknown risk of a crash at LC-6. This could conceivably happen if something were to go wrong right at the end of the boost back burn or if the grid fins failed on the way down. You could be comfortable standing right next to a shooter at the range but if you are 5 m beside the 500 m target you might ask them not to take the shot - even if they haven't missed by that much in the last 30-40 shots ;)

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #82 on: 11/14/2018 10:34 pm »
I'm having a hard time understanding how SpaceX is being prohibited from doing an RTLS on the upcoming SSO-A flight.  Looking at the map, Launch Complexes 4 and 6 are 3.7 miles apart while Landing Zone 4 is 0.3 miles from Complex 4.

The following have to be true
1)  If a nearly empty 1st stage crashing at LZ-4 can cause damage at LC-6, it will obliterate LC-4.  But SpaceX put it there, and crashing 1st stages didn't destroy drone ships.

2)  If a crash at LZ-4 can damage LC-6, then a fully fueled F9 explosion (AMOS-6) will cause orders of magnitude more damage. 

3)  The 1st Stage flies directly back to the landing site.  With LZ-4 and LC-4 being so close, if the returning stage has to overfly LC-6, then so does the fully fueled F9 only seconds after launch where it could drop directly onto LC-6 if any failure occurred.

4)  If the launch doesn't have to overfly LC-6, the landing doesn't have to either.

5)  If a crash at LZ-4 will cause brush fires that destroy the base, so will a failure at LC-4, or LC-6 for that matter.


Therefore, if SpaceX is allowed to fuel and launch F9 with Delta IV-H at LC-6, they should be allowed to land there.  How does this make any sense?
I'll rephrase if ok..

During launch, the IIP lingers a lot longer, the vehicle is 100x as dangerous, and an abort buys you relatively little.

During return, the IIP is on the landing site or beyond, the vehicle is empty, and not only is an abort really effective, but by default the vehicle can be made to overshoot or otherwise miss by a large margin.

I don't think it's a rational decision.  I think it's an "any risk" plus "we own the range" kind of a decision.

Not worth the consternation though.

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Offline Lars-J

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #83 on: 11/14/2018 11:47 pm »
During launch, the IIP lingers a lot longer, the vehicle is 100x as dangerous, and an abort buys you relatively little.
No. During the launch the IIP moves quickly across LC-6. Not so during boost-back, as the IIP is fairly wide and lingers after the boost-back burn is complete. (see below for more detail)

During return, the IIP is on the landing site or beyond, the vehicle is empty, and not only is an abort really effective, but by default the vehicle can be made to overshoot or otherwise miss by a large margin.
No. At least for CCAFS, the boost-back burn puts the IIP short of the landing site (ocean), and the grid fins steer it past the landing site, and the final landing burn targets the landing spot. This was pretty conclusively shown during the FH booster landing discussions on this forum.  So the IIP keeps moving back and forth.

And your "can be made to" phrase assumes a vehicle that you do not lose control of.

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #84 on: 11/14/2018 11:54 pm »
During launch, the IIP lingers a lot longer, the vehicle is 100x as dangerous, and an abort buys you relatively little.
No. During the launch the IIP moves quickly across LC-6. Not so during boost-back, as the IIP is fairly wide and lingers after the boost-back burn is complete. (see below for more detail)

During return, the IIP is on the landing site or beyond, the vehicle is empty, and not only is an abort really effective, but by default the vehicle can be made to overshoot or otherwise miss by a large margin.
No. At least for CCAFS, the boost-back burn puts the IIP short of the landing site (ocean), and the grid fins steer it past the landing site, and the final landing burn targets the landing spot. This was pretty conclusively shown during the FH booster landing discussions on this forum.  So the IIP keeps moving back and forth.

And your "can be made to" phrase assumes a vehicle that you do not lose control of.
Remember the Antares failure?  If you count seconds, not to mention risk-seconds, not to mention risk-damage-seconds - launch is worse.

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Offline Lars-J

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #85 on: 11/15/2018 12:49 am »
During launch, the IIP lingers a lot longer, the vehicle is 100x as dangerous, and an abort buys you relatively little.
No. During the launch the IIP moves quickly across LC-6. Not so during boost-back, as the IIP is fairly wide and lingers after the boost-back burn is complete. (see below for more detail)

During return, the IIP is on the landing site or beyond, the vehicle is empty, and not only is an abort really effective, but by default the vehicle can be made to overshoot or otherwise miss by a large margin.
No. At least for CCAFS, the boost-back burn puts the IIP short of the landing site (ocean), and the grid fins steer it past the landing site, and the final landing burn targets the landing spot. This was pretty conclusively shown during the FH booster landing discussions on this forum.  So the IIP keeps moving back and forth.

And your "can be made to" phrase assumes a vehicle that you do not lose control of.
Remember the Antares failure?  If you count seconds, not to mention risk-seconds, not to mention risk-damage-seconds - launch is worse.

For the launch pad where the rocket is launched, yes. But not for LC-6 from an LC-4 launch. Once the IIP reaches LC-6 it passes quickly.

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #86 on: 11/15/2018 12:58 am »
During launch, the IIP lingers a lot longer, the vehicle is 100x as dangerous, and an abort buys you relatively little.
No. During the launch the IIP moves quickly across LC-6. Not so during boost-back, as the IIP is fairly wide and lingers after the boost-back burn is complete. (see below for more detail)

During return, the IIP is on the landing site or beyond, the vehicle is empty, and not only is an abort really effective, but by default the vehicle can be made to overshoot or otherwise miss by a large margin.
No. At least for CCAFS, the boost-back burn puts the IIP short of the landing site (ocean), and the grid fins steer it past the landing site, and the final landing burn targets the landing spot. This was pretty conclusively shown during the FH booster landing discussions on this forum.  So the IIP keeps moving back and forth.

And your "can be made to" phrase assumes a vehicle that you do not lose control of.
Remember the Antares failure?  If you count seconds, not to mention risk-seconds, not to mention risk-damage-seconds - launch is worse.

For the launch pad where the rocket is launched, yes. But not for LC-6 from an LC-4 launch. Once the IIP reaches LC-6 it passes quickly.

During launch, the IIP lingers a lot longer, the vehicle is 100x as dangerous, and an abort buys you relatively little.
No. During the launch the IIP moves quickly across LC-6. Not so during boost-back, as the IIP is fairly wide and lingers after the boost-back burn is complete. (see below for more detail)

During return, the IIP is on the landing site or beyond, the vehicle is empty, and not only is an abort really effective, but by default the vehicle can be made to overshoot or otherwise miss by a large margin.
No. At least for CCAFS, the boost-back burn puts the IIP short of the landing site (ocean), and the grid fins steer it past the landing site, and the final landing burn targets the landing spot. This was pretty conclusively shown during the FH booster landing discussions on this forum.  So the IIP keeps moving back and forth.

And your "can be made to" phrase assumes a vehicle that you do not lose control of.
Remember the Antares failure?  If you count seconds, not to mention risk-seconds, not to mention risk-damage-seconds - launch is worse.

For the launch pad where the rocket is launched, yes. But not for LC-6 from an LC-4 launch. Once the IIP reaches LC-6 it passes quickly.

It's the IIP plus the uncertainty added on by some off nominal thrusting.

I'd feel much safer at LC-6 during the return leg, where there's a passive divert safeguard, plus am effective FTS option.  Neither of these is effectively available during launch, the fuel load is much higher, and so is the risk of failure (higher energies, higher stresses).


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Offline Lars-J

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #87 on: 11/15/2018 01:14 am »
I'd feel much safer at LC-6 during the return leg, where there's a passive divert safeguard, plus am effective FTS option.  Neither of these is effectively available during launch, the fuel load is much higher, and so is the risk of failure (higher energies, higher stresses).

What? Are you not familiar with all the trouble SpaceX (and all other launch provider) go through to create a fool proof FTS system for the launch??

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #88 on: 11/15/2018 01:24 am »
I'd feel much safer at LC-6 during the return leg, where there's a passive divert safeguard, plus am effective FTS option.  Neither of these is effectively available during launch, the fuel load is much higher, and so is the risk of failure (higher energies, higher stresses).

What? Are you not familiar with all the trouble SpaceX (and all other launch provider) go through to create a fool proof FTS system for the launch??
I have never heard of a fool proof FTS system... Not even close.  Failure near launch will always result in a fiery shit storm on the ground below, the FTS can only try to diminish it.

Maybe you mean a fool proof LAS?  That at least is a worthy goal, even if not achieved 100%

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Offline Lars-J

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #89 on: 11/15/2018 01:37 am »
I'd feel much safer at LC-6 during the return leg, where there's a passive divert safeguard, plus am effective FTS option.  Neither of these is effectively available during launch, the fuel load is much higher, and so is the risk of failure (higher energies, higher stresses).

What? Are you not familiar with all the trouble SpaceX (and all other launch provider) go through to create a fool proof FTS system for the launch??
I have never heard of a fool proof FTS system... Not even close. 

How many FTS systems (for US launch providers) have accidentally been triggered? How many FTS systems have failed to work when they needed to? I can't think of any... But feel free to correct me. That's pretty impressive statistics for a set of bombs strapped to rockets controlled by radio signals.

Failure near launch will always result in a fiery shit storm on the ground below, the FTS can only try to diminish it.

Obviously. But the discussion is about dangers for LC-6, not the launch pad itself. That's how this discussion got started. For LC-6, launch has a high damage potential for a short time (as the IIP passes over/near), for landing it is lower damage potential for an extended time (all the way from end of boost-back to landing). Danger that they do not have sufficient experience with to quantify accurately. As confidence in SpaceX's booster landings grow they will worry less and less.
« Last Edit: 11/15/2018 01:38 am by Lars-J »

Offline deruch

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #90 on: 11/15/2018 01:39 am »
The added risk from a SpaceX launch's overflight, while critical assets are on the pad at the south base, is an accepted "cost of doing business" so long as those risks are considered "reasonable".  Added risk from RTLS isn't an accepted cost because, unlike those from launching, which are in furtherance of "the mission", it provides no necessary benefits (i.e. it isn't required to achieve mission success).  And, further, what benefits it does provide can almost entirely be captured by the contingency action of landing on the ASDS and thereby avoid incurring added risks to the assets in question.  Even if you want to argue that the added risk is minuscule, no matter how small the added amount of risk, when you divide by the 0 benefits*, you get infinity.  This is the same as in medicine.  For a treatment that provides 0 benefit, ANY risk whatsoever is unwarranted.
Shouldn't reality posts be in "Advanced concepts"?  --Nomadd

Online envy887

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #91 on: 11/15/2018 01:42 am »
I'm having a hard time understanding how SpaceX is being prohibited from doing an RTLS on the upcoming SSO-A flight.  Looking at the map, Launch Complexes 4 and 6 are 3.7 miles apart while Landing Zone 4 is 0.3 miles from Complex 4.

The following have to be true
1)  If a nearly empty 1st stage crashing at LZ-4 can cause damage at LC-6, it will obliterate LC-4.  But SpaceX put it there, and crashing 1st stages didn't destroy drone ships.

2)  If a crash at LZ-4 can damage LC-6, then a fully fueled F9 explosion (AMOS-6) will cause orders of magnitude more damage. 

3)  The 1st Stage flies directly back to the landing site.  With LZ-4 and LC-4 being so close, if the returning stage has to overfly LC-6, then so does the fully fueled F9 only seconds after launch where it could drop directly onto LC-6 if any failure occurred.

4)  If the launch doesn't have to overfly LC-6, the landing doesn't have to either.

5)  If a crash at LZ-4 will cause brush fires that destroy the base, so will a failure at LC-4, or LC-6 for that matter.


Therefore, if SpaceX is allowed to fuel and launch F9 with Delta IV-H at LC-6, they should be allowed to land there.  How does this make any sense?

The risks are cumulative. Just because a launch presents more risk does not mean the additional risk incurred my the landing is acceptable. The landing could push the whole mission over some fixed risk limit, or it could fail to meet other risk analysis criteria such as ALARP (as low as reasonably practicable), since there is a practicable way to avoid the landing.

In other words, there is no other way for SpaceX to launch this mission. But they have a perfectly easy way to land (on JRTI) that presents no risk at all to the every expensive bird across the base. So the risk/benefit is very different for the launch compared to the landing.

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #92 on: 11/15/2018 01:47 am »
I'd feel much safer at LC-6 during the return leg, where there's a passive divert safeguard, plus am effective FTS option.  Neither of these is effectively available during launch, the fuel load is much higher, and so is the risk of failure (higher energies, higher stresses).

What? Are you not familiar with all the trouble SpaceX (and all other launch provider) go through to create a fool proof FTS system for the launch??
I have never heard of a fool proof FTS system... Not even close. 

How many FTS systems (for US launch providers) have accidentally been triggered? How many FTS systems have failed to work when they needed to? I can't think of any... But feel free to correct me. That's pretty impressive statistics for a set of bombs strapped to rockets controlled by radio signals.

Failure near launch will always result in a fiery shit storm on the ground below, the FTS can only try to diminish it.

Obviously. But the discussion is about dangers for LC-6, not the launch pad itself. That's how this discussion got started. For LC-6, launch has a high damage potential for a short time (as the IIP passes over/near), for landing it is lower damage potential for an extended time (all the way from end of boost-back to landing). Danger that they do not have sufficient experience with to quantify accurately. As confidence in SpaceX's booster landings grow they will worry less and less.
It makes little difference if it works or not when the rocket is 10 seconds above the pad and still moving slowly...  Either way something nearby the pad will get showered with hundreds of tons of LOX and fuel.  Depending on the breaks, there might also be a mid-air explosion.

I said the FTS is not effective, not that it doesn't work.

OTOH on the return leg, even on top of the safety afforded by the divert strategy, if the FTS is triggered, the stage won't make it to shore.

So in practically every aspect, being on LC-6 during the return leg is safer, by a lot, then during the outbound leg.





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Offline joek

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #93 on: 11/15/2018 02:33 am »
So in practically every aspect, being on LC-6 during the return leg is safer, by a lot, then during the outbound leg.

Sez you.  I have $xxxxM mission on the pad and you want to add $xxxM risk to my mission that will benefit you $xxM and that will cost you $xM for risk avoidance and benefit me how?  You want to go for it, fine, but be prepared to pay the insurance premiums (likely unavailable at any price); if you can't get any takers, then go fish, which is likely what they did.

Occam's razor: They did the math and crunched the financials and no one is willing to take that bet.  So they went with the $xM risk avoidance option (droneship landing).
« Last Edit: 11/15/2018 02:35 am by joek »

Offline meekGee

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #94 on: 11/15/2018 04:16 am »
So in practically every aspect, being on LC-6 during the return leg is safer, by a lot, then during the outbound leg.

Sez you.  I have $xxxxM mission on the pad and you want to add $xxxM risk to my mission that will benefit you $xxM and that will cost you $xM for risk avoidance and benefit me how?  You want to go for it, fine, but be prepared to pay the insurance premiums (likely unavailable at any price); if you can't get any takers, then go fish, which is likely what they did.

Occam's razor: They did the math and crunched the financials and no one is willing to take that bet.  So they went with the $xM risk avoidance option (droneship landing).
There was never a claim that the risk on the return leg is mathematically zero.

Occam's razor:  They get to dictate the terms, and  it was a no-brainer for them. Nobody crunched anything, it's simply not their dollars.  Luckily, a barge trip is not that expensive, so really it's academic.

Now back to the more interesting discussion...  If you had to be at the LC-6 for one leg OR the other, from a safety perspective, which would you choose.

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Online LouScheffer

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #95 on: 11/15/2018 06:38 am »
Even if you want to argue that the added risk is minuscule, no matter how small the added amount of risk, when you divide by the 0 benefits*, you get infinity. 
Everyone here keeps arguing the benefit of a land landing to the Air Force is zero, but it's not.  There is a definite benefit to making things easier for your suppliers.  It builds good will, and makes it more likely you can get something you want next time.

These human interactions will not show up on a formal risk analysis, but can be extremely important.  As a potential example, remember when ULA launched a satellite into a not-quite-correct orbit?  The air force could have said, "The rocket launched us into the wrong orbit, but fortunately our reserves were enough to cover."  And they could have pointed out that their maneuvering and/or lifetime will be reduced, and sought compensation for that (as is common in comsats that get inserted into wrong but useable orbits.)  But instead they classified it as a mission success.  This was super helpful to their supplier, ULA, and I'd certainly imagine it gets brought up whenever the Air Force asks ULA for a favor.
« Last Edit: 11/15/2018 06:39 am by LouScheffer »

Offline deruch

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #96 on: 11/15/2018 06:44 am »
If you had to be at the LC-6 for one leg OR the other, from a safety perspective, which would you choose.

Definitely inbound.  Vehicle has already demonstrated significant run-time with good avionics control as well as, theoretically, correct guidance/positioning (else FTS activation).  Vehicle can use both propulsive and aerodynamic authority.  Likely more time allowed for FTS activation in the event of detected anomaly.  A near-by crash presents a shrapnel risk in either scenario, but inbound reduces the likelihood of being caught in a massive fire.  Payload has already departed with the upper stage, so less risk of toxic propellants/fumes exposure.  etc.
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Online abaddon

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #97 on: 11/15/2018 03:14 pm »
There's an easy out here with the drone ship capability, but I wonder if the same decision would be made if a company was launching a rocket that could RTLS and had no drone ship.  I suspect they'd allow the RTLS as the additional risk should be small (not zero).  The alternative in that case (assuming said company wasn't willing to just splash the rocket) would be to re-arrange the launch schedule i.e. delay the RTLS flight until the other rocket had launched.

Since SpaceX has the drone ship fleet, moving the landing to the drone ship and eliminating the small additional risk is a reasonable choice, so not surprising.  Let's also not forget this site has seen a grand total of one RTLS so far, so this isn't quite as ho-hum as RTLS at the Cape which has doubled that on a single mission.

Offline Norm38

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #98 on: 11/15/2018 03:58 pm »
Not to start a whole side argument, but does the computer really care what coordinates are selected for the landing site, whether land or sea?  Isn't landing experience cumulative and not site specific?

Online abaddon

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Re: SpaceX VAFB landing facilities
« Reply #99 on: 11/15/2018 04:04 pm »
Not to start a whole side argument, but does the computer really care what coordinates are selected for the landing site, whether land or sea?  Isn't landing experience cumulative and not site specific?
The computer may not care, but the biological units under the computer do.  Landing sites are unique with their own regulations and complications depending on trajectories and overflight.

I mean, we can land the F9 on the White House lawn right now, right?  Does it really matter what's underneath?

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