Author Topic: F9 Block 5 Updates and Discussion  (Read 275984 times)

Online Norm38

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #400 on: 12/29/2017 01:09 AM »
Okay, Block 5 it is. But the reason I agreed with the distinction of a new version number is because of SpaceX scrapping the last Iridium booster. If a v1.2 Block 3 could be upgraded into a Block 5, wouldn't they do so? And reuse as much vehicle as possible? Instead it seems there's a clear break between Blocks 3/4 and 5, and no good upgrade path.

But I still had the question as to whether Block 5 had to fly 3 times before NASA would use it.

Offline gongora

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #401 on: 12/29/2017 01:12 AM »
Okay, Block 5 it is. But the reason I agreed with the distinction of a new version number is because of SpaceX scrapping the last Iridium booster. If a v1.2 Block 3 could be upgraded into a Block 5, wouldn't they do so? And reuse as much vehicle as possible? Instead it seems there's a clear break between Blocks 3/4 and 5, and no good upgrade path.

But I still had the question as to whether Block 5 had to fly 3 times before NASA would use it.

Use it for what?  They could use it for a CRS mission right off the bat.  For NASA LSP missions (such as TESS) they'll want to see a few flights and certify the changes before agreeing to use it.  If I recall correctly there was word of an agreement to fly it several (seven?) times before putting crew on it for the DM-2 mission.  It all depends on the risk posture of that particular program within NASA.

Online Norm38

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #402 on: 12/29/2017 02:11 AM »
Do those CRS flights include all cargo?  Would they put the 2nd (3rd really) docking adaptor in the trunk and launch on the first Block 5?  Or prefer to wait? Or use a new/reused Block 3/4 instead?
I doubt it matters very much, was just curious how NASA is treating it.

Offline mme

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #403 on: 12/29/2017 02:16 AM »
Do those CRS flights include all cargo?  Would they put the 2nd (3rd really) docking adaptor in the trunk and launch on the first Block 5?  Or prefer to wait? Or use a new/reused Block 3/4 instead?
I doubt it matters very much, was just curious how NASA is treating it.
My understanding is that NASA does not want to fly on the first Block 5 mission, after that it’s fine for cargo. And as mentioned above they want 7 Block 5 launches before they fly crew.
Space is not Highlander.  There can, and will, be more than one.

Online speedevil

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #404 on: 12/29/2017 02:46 AM »
My understanding is that NASA does not want to fly on the first Block 5 mission, after that it’s fine for cargo. And as mentioned above they want 7 Block 5 launches before they fly crew.

7 new boosters I wonder?

Offline vanoord

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #405 on: 12/29/2017 10:04 AM »
My understanding is that NASA does not want to fly on the first Block 5 mission, after that it’s fine for cargo. And as mentioned above they want 7 Block 5 launches before they fly crew.

7 new boosters I wonder?

That would be at odds with the current thinking for the rate of F9 Block 5 production - albeit at around one new core per month, there could be 7 Block 5 cores built by the summer.

Offline AncientU

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #406 on: 12/29/2017 11:45 AM »
My understanding is that NASA does not want to fly on the first Block 5 mission, after that it’s fine for cargo. And as mentioned above they want 7 Block 5 launches before they fly crew.

7 new boosters I wonder?

That would be at odds with the current thinking for the rate of F9 Block 5 production - albeit at around one new core per month, there could be 7 Block 5 cores built by the summer.

I don't think seven new cores are needed to meet that requirement... just seven flights.  A few new boosters and the right mix of customers make this fairly easy, assuming the year dives into Block 5 early.
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Offline gongora

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #407 on: 12/29/2017 12:19 PM »
The people assuming SpaceX is only going to make two or three Block 5 boosters are likely to be proven wrong really fast.

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #408 on: 12/29/2017 01:08 PM »
The people assuming SpaceX is only going to make two or three Block 5 boosters are likely to be proven wrong really fast.


At least 14 Block 5 by the end of 2018 is an awful lot of launch capacity. They'll need it for Starlink but even so, the mind boggles.

Minus 30 launches for next year (I know this isn't quite how it plays out) then the boosters still have 110 flights to offer customers, prior to refurbishment.

If they build into 2019 they have enough first stage inventory to launch weekly from 3-4 pads?

I wonder if there's anything more they can do to streamline second stage production given reuse is no longer on the cards.


Offline woods170

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #409 on: 12/29/2017 06:25 PM »
The people assuming SpaceX is only going to make two or three Block 5 boosters are likely to be proven wrong really fast.
My sources at SpaceX tell me that SpaceX has (significantly) more than three Block 5 boosters in various stages of construction, with many more to come.

The number of re-flights of cores will be increased gradually. People seem to overlook this and think that Block 5 cores will immediately jump to 10 (or more) re-flights.
That won't happen. The stated goal of getting 10 (or more) flights from a single F9 core is an END goal. Block 5 entering service is just the first major step towards that goal. But it will likely take multiple Block 5 cores to reach that end goal.

Offline AncientU

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #410 on: 12/29/2017 07:05 PM »
The people assuming SpaceX is only going to make two or three Block 5 boosters are likely to be proven wrong really fast.
My sources at SpaceX tell me that SpaceX has (significantly) more than three Block 5 boosters in various stages of construction, with many more to come.

The number of re-flights of cores will be increased gradually. People seem to overlook this and think that Block 5 cores will immediately jump to 10 (or more) re-flights.
That won't happen. The stated goal of getting 10 (or more) flights from a single F9 core is an END goal. Block 5 entering service is just the first major step towards that goal. But it will likely take multiple Block 5 cores to reach that end goal.

Not sure I agree with the bolded statement.  Block 5 is being built for ten flights between major refurbishments from everything we've seen written.  Previous blocks were the first/many first steps toward that goal.  No doubt that there will be new insights as the number of re-flights on a core climbs, but it wouldn't be surprising if some of this year's batch of Block 5s make it to and well beyond ten total flights.
« Last Edit: 12/29/2017 07:53 PM by AncientU »
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Offline cscott

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #411 on: 12/29/2017 08:59 PM »
Block 5 has new components which are *supposed* to improve reusability/reduce refurb.  The proof is in the pudding, though: they'll need to get a few back to validate theory against practice, and then tweak, fly, repeat.  Worst case they need a block 6 (we hope that's unlikely), best case the first block 5 will be good for ten flights (I think we all agree that's unlikely as well).

If the tweaks are minor enough, maybe the first block 5 cores can be retrofitted to "block 5.1", but I bet some of these first block 5s will get the destructive "test until failure" treatment at McGregor after they return.
« Last Edit: 12/29/2017 09:01 PM by cscott »

Online macpacheco

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #412 on: 12/30/2017 07:54 AM »
All it takes is NASA demanding ALL crew launches on a brand new Block V, as well as all DoD payloads deemed hard to replace. A few hard nosed customers.
I bet SpaceX will be forced to make at least 1 or 2 new Block Vs per quarter for 2018 and 2019.

Those that can't differentiate end goal with what will take place at first are way, way, way too deep in fanboyism daydreaming.
Even if everything goes perfect with Block V, not a single Block V is launched expendably, there will still be a gradual trust issue. Many customers will be reluctant to be the first third, fourth, fifth, sixth, ... Reflight.

I heard the argument from several people here that once SpaceX did the first 2 or 3 reflights then most customers would sign at the dotted line. But last I heard, barely half of planned launches are reflights.

If a customer signs a launch contract for a new booster, they have the right to demand it stays that way.
Newer contracts might have different language.

Booster reuse should really be the overwhelming majority in 2019. I say this, because I assume those launches will be on contracts that force customers to accept reflight. But even then, I bet SpaceX will be forced to make more new boosters than the optimists are predicting.
« Last Edit: 12/30/2017 07:55 AM by macpacheco »
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Offline meekGee

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #413 on: 12/30/2017 08:57 AM »


All it takes is NASA demanding ALL crew launches on a brand new Block V, as well as all DoD payloads deemed hard to replace. A few hard nosed customers.
I bet SpaceX will be forced to make at least 1 or 2 new Block Vs per quarter for 2018 and 2019.

Those that can't differentiate end goal with what will take place at first are way, way, way too deep in fanboyism daydreaming.
Even if everything goes perfect with Block V, not a single Block V is launched expendably, there will still be a gradual trust issue. Many customers will be reluctant to be the first third, fourth, fifth, sixth, ... Reflight.

I heard the argument from several people here that once SpaceX did the first 2 or 3 reflights then most customers would sign at the dotted line. But last I heard, barely half of planned launches are reflights.

If a customer signs a launch contract for a new booster, they have the right to demand it stays that way.
Newer contracts might have different language.

Booster reuse should really be the overwhelming majority in 2019. I say this, because I assume those launches will be on contracts that force customers to accept reflight. But even then, I bet SpaceX will be forced to make more new boosters than the optimists are predicting.

I think that's the prevailing view.

I'd say that with "Booster reuse should really be the overwhelming majority in 2019" you are at no risk of being called pessimistic, even by fanboys.

I mean going from first reuse in 2017 to that - people here used to talk in terms of "it'll take decades"... 
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Offline loki

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #414 on: 12/30/2017 10:12 AM »
Block 5 has new components which are *supposed* to improve reusability/reduce refurb.  The proof is in the pudding, though: they'll need to get a few back to validate theory against practice, and then tweak, fly, repeat.  Worst case they need a block 6 (we hope that's unlikely), best case the first block 5 will be good for ten flights (I think we all agree that's unlikely as well).

If the tweaks are minor enough, maybe the first block 5 cores can be retrofitted to "block 5.1", but I bet some of these first block 5s will get the destructive "test until failure" treatment at McGregor after they return.

I agree. It seems as the best possible way.
Future tweaking of design will be probably applied once per year and a half or two years (Block X), unless some hidden possible failure mode appeared.
Additionally, I guess one Block 5 will be pushed ASAP to three flights by generous discount for customers and “will get the destructive "test until failure" treatment at McGregor”. Only after that, other Block 5 cores will be allowed to fly three times. Again it will be repeated to five flights, with generous discount, and that core will also get McGregor “treatment”, and so on to the reusable limit.
Even if only 5-6 flight could be achieved with minimum inspection and with no possibility of overhaul, it would be great achievement and would push launch service affordability to unprecedented level for space industry.
When we could see reaching maximum real launching rate of about forty per year at Cape? 2019?

« Last Edit: 12/30/2017 11:51 AM by loki »

Offline AncientU

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #415 on: 12/30/2017 12:51 PM »
Block 5 has new components which are *supposed* to improve reusability/reduce refurb.  The proof is in the pudding, though: they'll need to get a few back to validate theory against practice, and then tweak, fly, repeat.  Worst case they need a block 6 (we hope that's unlikely), best case the first block 5 will be good for ten flights (I think we all agree that's unlikely as well).

If the tweaks are minor enough, maybe the first block 5 cores can be retrofitted to "block 5.1", but I bet some of these first block 5s will get the destructive "test until failure" treatment at McGregor after they return.

I agree. It seems as the best possible way.
Future tweaking of design will be probably applied once per year and a half or two years (Block X), unless some hidden possible failure mode appeared.
Additionally, I guess one Block 5 will be pushed ASAP to three flights by generous discount for customers and “will get the destructive "test until failure" treatment at McGregor”. Only after that, other Block 5 cores will be allowed to fly three times. Again it will be repeated to five flights, with generous discount, and that core will also get McGregor “treatment”, and so on to the reusable limit.
Even if only 5-6 flight could be achieved with minimum inspection and with no possibility of overhaul, it would be great achievement and would push launch service affordability to unprecedented level for space industry.
When we could see reaching maximum real launching rate of about forty per year at Cape? 2019?

These are versions of the same argument that was made before cores began landings and reuses... the conclusion using this logic was that it would take decades to build a reusable rocket... and then it was uncertain if it would be economically viable.

The iterating process and chopping up cores to examine every detail are done.  EM has stated, based on cores that have been examined post-flight that the cores are capable of an 'indefinite' number of reflights.  The Block 1 through 5 iteration was the process that you are describing -- it happened very fast and behind closed doors -- but it surely happened.

We've seen no evidence that iteration is ahead of us instead of behind us; we've been told that a stock of Block 5s would be built and stockpiled for the future launches of those customers that remain hesitant about reused cores, and production would turn to BFR.  We've been told that Block 5 is designed for a 24 hour turn-around, essentially no refurbishment. 

Where does the number of 5 or 6 flights without major refurbishment come from? Thin air? Other? While I agree that this in itself would be a huge step forward, it also implies that each increment of a few reflights will be accompanied/followed by redesign and iteration... not the design intent of Block 5 based on any evidence we have seen.
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Offline cscott

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #416 on: 12/30/2017 01:36 PM »
You're confusing "plan" with "reality".  Plan is for block 5 to be the final revision.  But no one (not even SpaceX) knows if that will be "reality" yet.  Wait and see.  Perhaps the first block 5 will live up to expectations in every possible way.

Offline woods170

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #417 on: 12/30/2017 01:38 PM »
The people assuming SpaceX is only going to make two or three Block 5 boosters are likely to be proven wrong really fast.
My sources at SpaceX tell me that SpaceX has (significantly) more than three Block 5 boosters in various stages of construction, with many more to come.

The number of re-flights of cores will be increased gradually. People seem to overlook this and think that Block 5 cores will immediately jump to 10 (or more) re-flights.
That won't happen. The stated goal of getting 10 (or more) flights from a single F9 core is an END goal. Block 5 entering service is just the first major step towards that goal. But it will likely take multiple Block 5 cores to reach that end goal.

Not sure I agree with the bolded statement.  Block 5 is being built for ten flights between major refurbishments from everything we've seen written.

You are correct and thank you for adding the "between major refurbishments"-part. I was silly enough to leave that crucial detail out of my post.

So, to make it clear: to get ten flights out of a booster, between refurbisments, is an END goal. It won't immediately happen with the first few Block 5 boosters.

Offline meekGee

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #418 on: 12/30/2017 01:48 PM »
The people assuming SpaceX is only going to make two or three Block 5 boosters are likely to be proven wrong really fast.
My sources at SpaceX tell me that SpaceX has (significantly) more than three Block 5 boosters in various stages of construction, with many more to come.

The number of re-flights of cores will be increased gradually. People seem to overlook this and think that Block 5 cores will immediately jump to 10 (or more) re-flights.
That won't happen. The stated goal of getting 10 (or more) flights from a single F9 core is an END goal. Block 5 entering service is just the first major step towards that goal. But it will likely take multiple Block 5 cores to reach that end goal.

Not sure I agree with the bolded statement.  Block 5 is being built for ten flights between major refurbishments from everything we've seen written.

You are correct and thank you for adding the "between major refurbishments"-part. I was silly enough to leave that crucial detail out of my post.

So, to make it clear: to get ten flights out of a booster, between refurbisments, is an END goal. It won't immediately happen with the first few Block 5 boosters.
True, but let's quantify it.

By end of year, after ~30 flights, will there be a booster that flew 4 times?

I'm fairly confident that SpaceX's internal goal is to have F9/H rapidly reusable with a high reuse count JIT for StarLink.

There's no real need for it before that, but SpaceX can use the existing market to get there while still making a profit... It's been their MO so far, right?

So my guess is that they'll start  flying "perpetual boosters" in 2019.
« Last Edit: 12/30/2017 01:48 PM by meekGee »
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Offline loki

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Re: F9 Block 5 Updates, Discussions, and Speculations
« Reply #419 on: 12/30/2017 04:08 PM »
Block 5 has new components which are *supposed* to improve reusability/reduce refurb.  The proof is in the pudding, though: they'll need to get a few back to validate theory against practice, and then tweak, fly, repeat.  Worst case they need a block 6 (we hope that's unlikely), best case the first block 5 will be good for ten flights (I think we all agree that's unlikely as well).

If the tweaks are minor enough, maybe the first block 5 cores can be retrofitted to "block 5.1", but I bet some of these first block 5s will get the destructive "test until failure" treatment at McGregor after they return.

I agree. It seems as the best possible way.
Future tweaking of design will be probably applied once per year and a half or two years (Block X), unless some hidden possible failure mode appeared.
Additionally, I guess one Block 5 will be pushed ASAP to three flights by generous discount for customers and “will get the destructive "test until failure" treatment at McGregor”. Only after that, other Block 5 cores will be allowed to fly three times. Again it will be repeated to five flights, with generous discount, and that core will also get McGregor “treatment”, and so on to the reusable limit.
Even if only 5-6 flight could be achieved with minimum inspection and with no possibility of overhaul, it would be great achievement and would push launch service affordability to unprecedented level for space industry.
When we could see reaching maximum real launching rate of about forty per year at Cape? 2019?

These are versions of the same argument that was made before cores began landings and reuses... the conclusion using this logic was that it would take decades to build a reusable rocket... and then it was uncertain if it would be economically viable.

The iterating process and chopping up cores to examine every detail are done.  EM has stated, based on cores that have been examined post-flight that the cores are capable of an 'indefinite' number of reflights.  The Block 1 through 5 iteration was the process that you are describing -- it happened very fast and behind closed doors -- but it surely happened.

We've seen no evidence that iteration is ahead of us instead of behind us; we've been told that a stock of Block 5s would be built and stockpiled for the future launches of those customers that remain hesitant about reused cores, and production would turn to BFR.  We've been told that Block 5 is designed for a 24 hour turn-around, essentially no refurbishment. 

Where does the number of 5 or 6 flights without major refurbishment come from? Thin air? Other? While I agree that this in itself would be a huge step forward, it also implies that each increment of a few reflights will be accompanied/followed by redesign and iteration... not the design intent of Block 5 based on any evidence we have seen.

My reply relates to the third paragraph of your post.
I am afraid that you have not read my post carefully. My statement was:
“Even if only 5-6 flight could be achieved with minimum inspection and with no possibility of overhaul, it would be great achievement and would push launch service affordability to unprecedented level for space industry.”

Falcon 9 Block 5 must to be certified by NASA for Commercial Crew Program and after that possibility of design changes will be significantly reduced, accordingly to that, my statement was:
“Future tweaking of design will be probably applied once per year and a half or two years (Block X), unless some hidden possible failure mode appeared.”

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