Author Topic: When will F9/F9H be retired?  (Read 27845 times)

Offline RoboGoofers

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When will F9/F9H be retired?
« on: 03/28/2017 08:42 PM »
I assume SpaceX has a plan for when it'll retire F9. What kind of timeline can we speculate for F9? does F9 have a use after ITS becomes operational?

Assuming they keep to their current notional timeline, they'll have to convert one of their launch facilities for ITS by ~2020 for their "orbital testing" phase (as shown in the Mars presentation slides). so one less F9 pad.

They'll also need a factory near that pad for the booster around that time. Do they move tooling to the new facility, or build a new f9-class launcher using the ITS tooling? Or does ITS replace F9/H outright?




Offline nacnud

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #1 on: 03/28/2017 08:45 PM »
Who knows? My guess is they will keep F9 operational for as long as it is profitable.

Online RonM

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #2 on: 03/28/2017 08:51 PM »
ITS will be too big for many payloads. My guess is after SpaceX is happy with ITS, they'll start working on a smaller ITS derived system to replace F9/FH. Fully reusable in a more reasonable size for satellites.

Offline Flying Beaver

Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #3 on: 03/28/2017 08:55 PM »
Falcon might evolve into a Methalox rocket somewhere down the line, as that seems to be where the company is going.

It was designed to do the job that it does really well right now (replacing rockets from the 1900s (makes em sound old, eh)). But the future for SpaceX is methane and Raptor.

Personaly. 15 years untill old faithful becomes obsolete.

But not untill after long life of service launching humans and payloads to the Moon and beyond.
Saw OG-2 Booster Land in person 21/12/2015.

Online envy887

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #4 on: 03/28/2017 08:59 PM »
ITS will be too big for many payloads. My guess is after SpaceX is happy with ITS, they'll start working on a smaller ITS derived system to replace F9/FH. Fully reusable in a more reasonable size for satellites.

There's no such thing as "too big". You mean "too expensive". If an ITS launch is cheaper than a Falcon launch, why would anyone buy the Falcon ride?

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #5 on: 03/28/2017 09:26 PM »
I assume SpaceX has a plan for when it'll retire F9.

Why?  Do you think Boeing had a retirement date picked out for the 737 when they first introduced it 49 years ago?

Quote
What kind of timeline can we speculate for F9?

SpaceX is too busy trying to figure out how to launch customer payloads to worry about the day that they won't have any customer payloads left to launch.

Quote
does F9 have a use after ITS becomes operational?

Yes.  As Elon Musk already stated, the ITS does not directly replace the Falcon 9/Heavy.

Quote
Assuming they keep to their current notional timeline, they'll have to convert one of their launch facilities for ITS by ~2020 for their "orbital testing" phase (as shown in the Mars presentation slides). so one less F9 pad.

SLC-40 will stay Falcon 9, and Brownsville with be both Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.  I would not be surprised if they build a new pad for the ITS so they can keep using Pad 39A for Falcon 9/Heavy launches.

Quote
They'll also need a factory near that pad for the booster around that time. Do they move tooling to the new facility, or build a new f9-class launcher using the ITS tooling? Or does ITS replace F9/H outright?

The Falcon 9/Heavy will continue to be built in Hawthorne California.  No need to move that factory, since the Falcon 9 cores are road transportable.

It is the ITS that needs to be built near the launch site or near water transportation.

Bottom line is that it's way too early to be trying to forecast the end of the Falcon 9.  WAY too early.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Online RonM

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #6 on: 03/28/2017 10:08 PM »
ITS will be too big for many payloads. My guess is after SpaceX is happy with ITS, they'll start working on a smaller ITS derived system to replace F9/FH. Fully reusable in a more reasonable size for satellites.

There's no such thing as "too big". You mean "too expensive". If an ITS launch is cheaper than a Falcon launch, why would anyone buy the Falcon ride?

That would be great if an ITS launch was cheaper than a Falcon launch. If SpaceX can pull that off it would still make sense to build a smaller ITS derived vehicle for smaller payloads. When you go pick up groceries, do you take the car or an eighteen-wheeler?

Online Rebel44

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #7 on: 03/28/2017 10:21 PM »
ITS will be too big for many payloads. My guess is after SpaceX is happy with ITS, they'll start working on a smaller ITS derived system to replace F9/FH. Fully reusable in a more reasonable size for satellites.

There's no such thing as "too big". You mean "too expensive". If an ITS launch is cheaper than a Falcon launch, why would anyone buy the Falcon ride?

That would be great if an ITS launch was cheaper than a Falcon launch. If SpaceX can pull that off it would still make sense to build a smaller ITS derived vehicle for smaller payloads. When you go pick up groceries, do you take the car or an eighteen-wheeler?

"Just going to pick some groceries...."


« Last Edit: 03/28/2017 10:22 PM by Rebel44 »

Online envy887

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #8 on: 03/28/2017 10:46 PM »
ITS will be too big for many payloads. My guess is after SpaceX is happy with ITS, they'll start working on a smaller ITS derived system to replace F9/FH. Fully reusable in a more reasonable size for satellites.

There's no such thing as "too big". You mean "too expensive". If an ITS launch is cheaper than a Falcon launch, why would anyone buy the Falcon ride?

That would be great if an ITS launch was cheaper than a Falcon launch. If SpaceX can pull that off it would still make sense to build a smaller ITS derived vehicle for smaller payloads. When you go pick up groceries, do you take the car or an eighteen-wheeler?

Groceries are delivered 95% of the way by large trucks in bulk; I only use a smaller vehicle locally. By the same logic, sats would be delivered in bulk to a nearby orbital plane and use electric propulsion (built-in or tugs) the rest of the way.

Offline Jim

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #9 on: 03/29/2017 01:31 AM »

There's no such thing as "too big". You mean "too expensive". If an ITS launch is cheaper than a Falcon launch,

Because it won't be

Offline Jim

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #10 on: 03/29/2017 01:33 AM »


Personaly. 15 years untill old faithful becomes obsolete.


It will fly much longer.  there isn't going to be something to replace it unless the new thing has wings.

Online envy887

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #11 on: 03/29/2017 01:59 AM »
Wings?

Offline RDoc

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #12 on: 03/29/2017 04:02 AM »
IMHO it's not out of the realm of possibility that by using the Raptor engine and a new vehicle, larger than F9, but smaller than ITS, that SpaceX couldn't launch F9 mass payloads but with full 1st and 2nd stage re-usability more cheaply than F9.

At that point, there wouldn't be a business case for continuing to use F9. The question is how many launches would it take for the R&D of such a system to get paid back. I certainly don't know, but I suspect the with the Raptor engine in hand, it might not be very many.

ITS may be the aspiration, but in the mean time, making some money while getting some experience with Raptor and orbital recovery isn't all that unreasonable.

Offline MattMason

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #13 on: 03/29/2017 05:06 AM »
Wings?

The space-plane concept still has legs. Despite setbacks and its cost, the STS program flew for 30 years.

With companies who have demonstrated reusability by returning rocket cores, imagine what they might do in generating innovations to create a truly affordable, fast-turnaround fully-reusable space-plane.
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Offline john smith 19

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #14 on: 03/29/2017 06:15 AM »
There's no such thing as "too big". You mean "too expensive". If an ITS launch is cheaper than a Falcon launch, why would anyone buy the Falcon ride?
That PoV demonstrates yet again how the ICBM architecture has warped space launch.

In every other transport mode except space launch there is the idea of a "right size" for a vehicle to carry a load and what that vehicle should carry.

This is why long distance coaches don't carry swimming pools  :). This is why you could use a panel truck with a pallet load of seats as an SUV people don't.

Only in space launch (where you're going to throw away the vehicle anyway) is bigger always viewed as better.  As long as throwing away most, if not all, of the vehicle is the norm this will continue.  :(
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Offline john smith 19

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #15 on: 03/29/2017 06:21 AM »
The space-plane concept still has legs. Despite setbacks and its cost, the STS program flew for 30 years.

With companies who have demonstrated reusability by returning rocket cores, imagine what they might do in generating innovations to create a truly affordable, fast-turnaround fully-reusable space-plane.
That's easy.

Nothing. :(

Musk want's to settle Mars and be the goto guy for transport to everywhere else in the solar system.

Those two goals rule out any interest in winged vehicles, despite such a system (with a suitable engine) likely to be able to deliver the cheapest overall cost to orbit.

SX is a company that has been built from the ground up to push what is possible with VTO TSTO. They hope their next vehicle will achieve full reusability in this architecture. They have no interest in winged vehicles and while Musk remains in control I strongly doubt they ever will.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Online Lars-J

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #16 on: 03/29/2017 06:35 AM »
There's no such thing as "too big". You mean "too expensive". If an ITS launch is cheaper than a Falcon launch, why would anyone buy the Falcon ride?
That PoV demonstrates yet again how the ICBM architecture has warped space launch.

In every other transport mode except space launch there is the idea of a "right size" for a vehicle to carry a load and what that vehicle should carry.

This is why long distance coaches don't carry swimming pools  :). This is why you could use a panel truck with a pallet load of seats as an SUV people don't.

Only in space launch (where you're going to throw away the vehicle anyway) is bigger always viewed as better.  As long as throwing away most, if not all, of the vehicle is the norm this will continue.  :(

You are quite wrong... The transportation industry is a perfect example of the opposite. Things get delivered in oversized vehicles all the time. All my mail and boxed deliveries are delivered in large trucks. How is that "right size"?  Most people drive alone in a car that can sit 4-8 people. How is that "right size"? Small items get shipped across the ocean in massive cargo ships. How is that "right size"?

No, bulk freight wins out every time there is a choice. For almost every cargo the "right size" is indeed massively oversized. The only reason that you see various sized transports is due to the sheer VOLUME of cargo that allows lots of niches of vehicles, and sizes of those vehicles.

If there is a sufficient volume of space launches, all sizes of launch vehicles will find a niche to be successful. But bulk will always be the more efficient and lower cost way to go.
« Last Edit: 03/29/2017 06:36 AM by Lars-J »

Online macpacheco

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #17 on: 03/29/2017 07:03 AM »
Lets not forget that with a Mars colony as planned there will be a bunch of full size ITS boosters sitting idle between synods unless they have a job.
Its likely the base booster will be shared and there will be different size/purpose 2nd stages for Mars colony and perhaps smaller ones for LEO/GTO access, but big enough to carry perhaps up to 30 tons to GTO or 50 tons to LEO per launch.

If my memory serves, the plan is ITS booster is to last for at least 1000 launches with something around 100 launches between refurbs. Even if the booster costs US$ 500 million, over 1000 launches that's just half a million per launch in initial costs.

With a massive booster and a fairly light 2nd stage, staging might happen 2000km/h faster while keeping RTLS capabilities, this would give extra DeltaV for the whole stack to perhaps deliver GEO satellites to GEO-500m/s or something similar while keeping full reuse capability.

Its normal to be skeptical, after all SpaceX goals are lofting. But one the eve of the first booster relaunch I would hope most would realize that being a naysayer will look silly if SpaceX achieves their goals, which are hard but are certainly within the realm of possibility.

That or SpaceX will develop a fully reusable raptor 2nd stage, however there's the issue with how many reflights F9/FH boosters will be designed to achieve without refurb, while ITS shoots for something like 10x more flights between refurb, which would easily handle a stack that costs perhaps even 5x as much.
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Online guckyfan

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #18 on: 03/29/2017 07:48 AM »
They would need west coast launch capability. So they either need to build a ITS booster pad there or a smaller first stage. I think they will go the smaller vehicle path after ITS is flying. Or earlier if BO becomes a strong competitor.

Offline MattMason

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #19 on: 03/29/2017 08:07 AM »
The space-plane concept still has legs. Despite setbacks and its cost, the STS program flew for 30 years.

With companies who have demonstrated reusability by returning rocket cores, imagine what they might do in generating innovations to create a truly affordable, fast-turnaround fully-reusable space-plane.
That's easy.

Nothing. :(

Musk want's to settle Mars and be the goto guy for transport to everywhere else in the solar system.

Those two goals rule out any interest in winged vehicles, despite such a system (with a suitable engine) likely to be able to deliver the cheapest overall cost to orbit.

SX is a company that has been built from the ground up to push what is possible with VTO TSTO. They hope their next vehicle will achieve full reusability in this architecture. They have no interest in winged vehicles and while Musk remains in control I strongly doubt they ever will.

That's been the going opinion.

That is, until SpaceX sold seats for space tourism and Blue Origin sold a comsat launch.

I'm well aware why reusing rockets works from Musk's own words (wings won't work for lunar or Martian purposes).

But there's a reason why I didn't mention either company name. Neither SpaceX or Blue Origin own a trademark to reusable spacecraft. There are other players to come.
"Why is the logo on the side of a rocket so important?"
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Offline Bynaus

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #20 on: 03/29/2017 09:02 AM »
Falcon 9 will simply be around until something better comes along. Better as in lower long-term cost per kg delivered to space, as this is the one metric which determines how good SpaceX is doing its main job and how it holds up against competitors.

As the long-term costs for the F9 system are not yet known (e.g., how many times can a core actually be re-used, what is the refurbishment going to cost on average and as a function of past reuses, what price reductions are the customers and insurance companies expecting for reflights, etc), it is impossible to say right now for how long the system will last. It is way too early to speculate if and when F9/FH will be replaced by ITS, in particular since the former is an actual operational rocket in advanced stages of development whereas the other is still (mostly) a paper rocket.

I think it is possible, but by no means certain, that there will be a "Falcon 9 NG" (NG for next generation or, also, natural gas ;) ) vehicle which will incorporate all the lessons learned with the F9 and further improve re-usability (including the upper stage), but it may be just as likely that the F9/FH family will eventually be replaced completely by a system based on the ITS booster. Again, this depends on how the market develops and reacts to the increased capabilities and reduced prices.

So, nothing is set in stone, and the situation will have to be assessed over and over again. Anything Elon says about the future of the F9/FH is based on his current reading of the situation, but I have no doubt that he would change his mind quickly if needed.

Offline Rei

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #21 on: 03/29/2017 09:22 AM »
My two cents: F9 will be around until composite cryogenic stages are reliable. And then it will be gone in about five years.  Regardless of anything concerning ITS.

 * Switching to methane won't give enough of a performance benefit to justify throw away all of their progress toward turning F9 into a workhorse.
 * F9 and F9H justify the overwhelming majority of payloads; if SpaceX wants something bigger than that, they're going to push toward ITS
 * On the other hand, the big strength to weight advantage of advanced composites over aluminum could well justify a new rocket. But composites + cryogens (particularly LOX) is anything but easy.

If they can mature composite cryogen tanks, and get the budget / justification for a very large rocket, they'll make ITS - or without the budget for ITS, something smaller, ultimately replacing either F9, FH, or both. But until then, I can't see financial justification for them to switch from LOX / RP-1 in aluminum.  Lots of capital cost, lots of time, minimal return on investment.
« Last Edit: 03/29/2017 09:28 AM by Rei »

Offline Rei

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #22 on: 03/29/2017 09:26 AM »
Lets not forget that with a Mars colony as planned there will be a bunch of full size ITS boosters sitting idle between synods unless they have a job.

The bigger issue is what to do with the spaceships between synods, since according to SpaceX's figures, they're the most expensive part of the system - yet would just be sitting idle most of the time.

*Cough* Venus *cough*.  Sorry, clearing my throat.
« Last Edit: 03/29/2017 09:26 AM by Rei »

Offline john smith 19

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #23 on: 03/29/2017 12:25 PM »
You are quite wrong... The transportation industry is a perfect example of the opposite. Things get delivered in oversized vehicles all the time. All my mail and boxed deliveries are delivered in large trucks. How is that "right size"?  Most people drive alone in a car that can sit 4-8 people. How is that "right size"? Small items get shipped across the ocean in massive cargo ships. How is that "right size"?

No, bulk freight wins out every time there is a choice. For almost every cargo the "right size" is indeed massively oversized. The only reason that you see various sized transports is due to the sheer VOLUME of cargo that allows lots of niches of vehicles, and sizes of those vehicles.

If there is a sufficient volume of space launches, all sizes of launch vehicles will find a niche to be successful. But bulk will always be the more efficient and lower cost way to go.
This was the thinking that inspired the Ariane 5.

It turns out that getting comm sats (or any sat) to ride share (without an upper stage that could not relight) proved difficult.  :(

I don't think ITS will have any easier time of it. ITS is great if you want to launch a whole new space station in one go.  But it's massive overkill for anything less.

I think the F9, or an F9 payload sized vehicle, will be in the SX inventory for a very long time to come.
« Last Edit: 03/29/2017 01:07 PM by john smith 19 »
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Offline john smith 19

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #24 on: 03/29/2017 01:13 PM »
Its normal to be skeptical, after all SpaceX goals are lofting. But one the eve of the first booster relaunch I would hope most would realize that being a naysayer will look silly if SpaceX achieves their goals, which are hard but are certainly within the realm of possibility.
Not really. Still waiting for that fully reusable F9 second stage. Still not arrived.

SX have made remarkable progress in some very non trivial areas.  There biggest strength is their willingness to accept when something is not working and try something else.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Offline nacnud

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #25 on: 03/29/2017 01:14 PM »
There isn't going to be a reusable second stage

Online edkyle99

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #26 on: 03/29/2017 03:38 PM »
Falcon 9 would do well to match Delta 2's 28-year run (and counting).  It could dream of matching the 60-year span of the Thor-derived family (721 launches to date).  It could hope to match China's CZ-2, which has been in use for 43 years now (though upgraded over the years), or CZ-3(A), which has flown for 33 years.  Ariane 5 in its various forms has flown for 21 years.  These are the oldest currently-active launch vehicles, since Soyuz-U just ended its 44 year run. 

Balloon-tank Atlas lasted 48 years with 582 flights.  Centaur, upgraded over time, has been at it for 55 years and may fly for another decade yet.

Of course the R-7 family is also at 60 years and counting, with 1,867 launch campaigns to date (if not launches).  Proton M is 16 years old, but the entire Proton family has been at it for 52 years with 412 launches.  Not bad.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 03/29/2017 03:46 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline RoboGoofers

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #27 on: 03/29/2017 03:39 PM »
I assume SpaceX has a plan for when it'll retire F9.

Why?  Do you think Boeing had a retirement date picked out for the 737 when they first introduced it 49 years ago?

I'm no expert, but it seems like the 737 is an outlier. Most other airliners have a production run of ~20-25 years. If that's a useful metric, then I'd expect SpaceX to stop production around 2030.

I'm not sure of the real numbers, but say they're producing 1 core a month until 2030. That's ~150 reusable cores! If they each launch 10 times, 1500 launches. I doubt Heavy launches will put a big dent in that number. In addition there will be the ITS as some point.

Of course it ramps up over time, but there are a lot of implications for that many launches:
-NIMBYism
-Launch locations and infrastructure
-Payloads
-SpaceX resource allocation

Falcon 9 has been a successful experimental testbed but I doubt it's the template they plan on building a generational orbital launch infrastructure around.
« Last Edit: 03/29/2017 04:21 PM by RoboGoofers »

Offline gospacex

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #28 on: 03/29/2017 04:01 PM »
F9 is diameter-limited due to road transport. I bet by now SpaceX would be happy to make it wider.

To build anything wider, SpaceX needs to have a factory near a pad (or at a place where ocean barge transport to the pad is possible). With ITS plans, they are going to build such a factory (and maybe even two, for each coast).

When this factory exists, and is producing ITS cores, only then it would make financial sense to also use it to build a "fatter F9", in addition to ITS.

I expect that, at the absolutely very best, new factory will be able to produce its first ITS core 5 years from now.

Offline Lar

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #29 on: 03/29/2017 04:17 PM »
I expect Methalox engines to continue to be built in Hawthorne... and shipped to where they are needed. Perhaps sans bells in some cases.

But that's off topic :)
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Offline LouScheffer

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #30 on: 03/29/2017 05:52 PM »
Who knows? My guess is they will keep F9 operational for as long as it is profitable.
Makes sense.   But how can some other vendor launch payloads cheaper?  Perhaps:
(a) A design that uses a low cost second stage.  Probably needs a larger first stage, since the second won't be as efficient.  But if the first stage is reliably recovered, it could be lower total cost.
(b) A recoverable second stage.  With this they might undercut the F9 price.  Again probably needs a larger first stage.
(c) Comsats grow to about 7000 kg.  Now SpaceX has to bid a F9 expendable or FH.  A vendor with a 50% bigger single-core rocket might be cheaper.
(d) Some technical shift we can't see working yet.   Laser launch powered from the ground?  Air breathing first stages?

None of these seem likely in the next decade or so, so I'm guessing a long life for the F9.

Offline Jim

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #31 on: 03/29/2017 05:59 PM »

That PoV demonstrates yet again how the ICBM architecture has warped space launch.
 

The PoV that is wrong is the one that there is an "ICBM culture" that permeates space launch.  ICBM culture is just plain wrong.  It is basically a lack of understanding of space launch. 


In every other transport mode except space launch there is the idea of a "right size" for a vehicle to carry a load and what that vehicle should carry.


Wrong,
Pegasus, Delta II, Atlas V, Delta IV Heavy, Taurus, etc.

Then explain why there are payload performance classes of launch vehicles?
« Last Edit: 03/29/2017 06:06 PM by Jim »

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #32 on: 03/29/2017 06:20 PM »
This is related to something I've been pondering about.

At the heart of this is the question: What is the purpose of the Falcon 9? And apart from being a technology demonstrator, its purpose really seems to primarily be to serve as a revenue generator with which to finance ITS development. After all, Musk's stated goal is to develop the technology to get people to Mars, cheaply and in large numbers.

So for that, he needs money. Now, for this purpose Falcon 9 seems inherently limited. The only way to increase revenues derived from Falcon 9, is to increase launch rates, but the only way to do that, is to reduce launch costs. So, even if they are able to retain a $50m launch revenue per Falcon 9, it would still take 100 launches per year to generate $5 billion in revenue.

And at the cost of tying down a large percentage of SpaceX resources in the process.

Which brings me to Musk's own statements at the very conference where he presented the ITS blueprint. Namely that the primary reason he is engaged in all of his businesses, is to generate money to fund his Mars vision. Now, if Tesla for example truly becomes the $500 billion company in a few years time that some analysts predict, then by selling his 20% or so in it at that point, Musk would generate $100 billion dollars for himself. At $50m dollars per F9 launch, that translates into the revenue generated by 2000 F9 launches. And if you are talking profit, well, then it is probably closer to 5000 F9 launches.

Frankly, in that light, the F9 as a revenue generating mechanism to fund Mars colonization makes little to no sense.  In that situation, it might make more sense to go the Bezos route, and divert all of your resources to building ITS, rather than continuing to fly F9. If you have $100bn in the bank, you can fund that quite easily.

The same goes for the satellite constellation. If it starts generating $30bn a year for SpaceX in 5 years time, then they can afford to invest in a more efficient Raptor based rocket and retire F9, or even go straight to ITS variants to cover their launch needs.

To me, it seems, the case for F9 exists in the long term only if Musk does not succeed in generating massive revenues from other sources. Sources which pretty much have to pay off if his Mars dream is to succeed in any case. And once that money becomes available, well, then F9 has little reason for continued existence, it would seem.
« Last Edit: 03/29/2017 06:31 PM by M.E.T. »

Online envy887

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #33 on: 03/29/2017 06:22 PM »
Who knows? My guess is they will keep F9 operational for as long as it is profitable.
Makes sense.   But how can some other vendor launch payloads cheaper?  Perhaps:
(a) A design that uses a low cost second stage.  Probably needs a larger first stage, since the second won't be as efficient.  But if the first stage is reliably recovered, it could be lower total cost.
(b) A recoverable second stage.  With this they might undercut the F9 price.  Again probably needs a larger first stage.
(c) Comsats grow to about 7000 kg.  Now SpaceX has to bid a F9 expendable or FH.  A vendor with a 50% bigger single-core rocket might be cheaper.
(d) Some technical shift we can't see working yet.   Laser launch powered from the ground?  Air breathing first stages?

None of these seem likely in the next decade or so, so I'm guessing a long life for the F9.
Doesn't have to be competitive pressure that leads to Falcon retiring. Falcon has some operational issues that can't really be resolved without a near-complete redesign, like hazardous TEA-TEB ops, Merlin life limitations due to coking, fluids that are an extra pain like nitrogen and especially helium, and the relatively high cost of RP-1 compared to LNG.

If SpaceX can reduce improve profits by reducing operational expenses they might retire Falcon even if it's still competitive with other commercial launchers.

Online guckyfan

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #34 on: 03/29/2017 07:10 PM »
Doesn't have to be competitive pressure that leads to Falcon retiring. Falcon has some operational issues that can't really be resolved without a near-complete redesign, like hazardous TEA-TEB ops, Merlin life limitations due to coking, fluids that are an extra pain like nitrogen and especially helium, and the relatively high cost of RP-1 compared to LNG.

If SpaceX can reduce improve profits by reducing operational expenses they might retire Falcon even if it's still competitive with other commercial launchers.

All of the above. Plus, they will want a reusable upper stage and get rid of Merlin production lines and aluminium for tanks. Switch all production to Raptor plus carbon composite.

Online deruch

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #35 on: 03/29/2017 07:15 PM »
Who knows? My guess is they will keep F9 operational for as long as it is profitable.
Makes sense.   But how can some other vendor launch payloads cheaper?  Perhaps:
(a) A design that uses a low cost second stage.  Probably needs a larger first stage, since the second won't be as efficient.  But if the first stage is reliably recovered, it could be lower total cost.
(b) A recoverable second stage.  With this they might undercut the F9 price.  Again probably needs a larger first stage.
(c) Comsats grow to about 7000 kg.  Now SpaceX has to bid a F9 expendable or FH.  A vendor with a 50% bigger single-core rocket might be cheaper.
(d) Some technical shift we can't see working yet.   Laser launch powered from the ground?  Air breathing first stages?

None of these seem likely in the next decade or so, so I'm guessing a long life for the F9.
e) Falcon 9 continues to  "regularly"experience failures and the market decides that its reliability rate isn't acceptable for the industry leader even given their lower price tag. 

Note: I don't believe this at all likely, but it at least deserves consideration within the discussion context.
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Offline john smith 19

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #36 on: 03/29/2017 09:37 PM »
There isn't going to be a reusable second stage
No.

But for a few years SX certainly thought they could make it work.

Then they discovered it couldn't be made to work at a price they wanted to pay, although it's still unclear why.

My instinct is F9 is going to be around for some time to come, but will only partly be reusable.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Online macpacheco

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #37 on: 03/29/2017 11:25 PM »
Lets not forget that with a Mars colony as planned there will be a bunch of full size ITS boosters sitting idle between synods unless they have a job.

The bigger issue is what to do with the spaceships between synods, since according to SpaceX's figures, they're the most expensive part of the system - yet would just be sitting idle most of the time.

*Cough* Venus *cough*.  Sorry, clearing my throat.
You need to balance their extra cost with the data that the spaceship isn't expected to last 1000 launches. If my memory serves the space ship is expected to last an order of magnitude less, which makes it too special to launch all the time unless there's SpaceX needs to launch it full with people.
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Offline Rei

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #38 on: 03/30/2017 09:08 AM »
Lets not forget that with a Mars colony as planned there will be a bunch of full size ITS boosters sitting idle between synods unless they have a job.

The bigger issue is what to do with the spaceships between synods, since according to SpaceX's figures, they're the most expensive part of the system - yet would just be sitting idle most of the time.

*Cough* Venus *cough*.  Sorry, clearing my throat.
You need to balance their extra cost with the data that the spaceship isn't expected to last 1000 launches. If my memory serves the space ship is expected to last an order of magnitude less, which makes it too special to launch all the time unless there's SpaceX needs to launch it full with people.

A Venus transit doesn't involve a landing, refueling and relaunch on the far side, only an aerocapture (it requires a separate local ascent stage).  So one would expect it to be lower wear on the vehicle. It's hard to say without knowing more of SpaceX's internal data why they're projecting such a huge difference in launches per vehicle between boosters and the spaceship.  I suspect it's just about age - that they're expecting the boosters to be in constant usage, but the spaceships in infrequent usage, so if you assign them both the same age limit, the boosters get far more launches under their belt. If you multiply Mars's synodic period times the number of lifetime launches (12) you get 25,6 years, which seems a reasonable target "lifespan" for a spacecraft in years.  Over the same time period, to achieve their 1000-launch lifespan, the boosters would be launched every 9,4 days, which again sounds like a figure SpaceX would target.

There's also effectively unlimited options for lunar usage between Mars synods.

Online hamerad

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #39 on: 03/30/2017 10:16 AM »
I would think that the difference in lifetimes would be that the ship goes up once and has a long wait on mars/in transit back to earth while the booster has to launch the ship and 4 or 5 refuel tankers for the ship.
« Last Edit: 03/30/2017 10:33 AM by hamerad »

Online guckyfan

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #40 on: 03/30/2017 10:38 AM »
They give the tanker 100 launches. That seems to be the stress related life time they calculated. The booster is given 1000 flights which must be related to less stress for suborbital flights. ITS number of reuses is age related.

Offline WBY1984

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #41 on: 03/30/2017 11:20 AM »
If you replace every part of a boat, is it still the same boat?

By the same token, when is Falcon 9 no longer a Falcon 9? Only this morning an ex-SpaceX employee was talking on reddit about how all octawebs are now bolted instead of welded together. There have been so many tank stretches, engine upgrades, engine arrangements, recovery addons and a myriad of less visible alterations, one could argue that Falcon 9 has been retired once, possibly twice already.

Granted, Block 5 will hopefully slow the pace of change, but I don't think it'll be the end of the alterations. I wouldn't be surprised if they discover additional problems in making a booster robust enough to fly three, four or more times. That's all uncharted territory and might need yet more alterations.

Bottom line is that from my limited perspective, 'Falcon 9' refers to different launch vehicles, despite the common name. There have already been a subtle sequence of retirements.

Offline Bynaus

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #42 on: 03/30/2017 12:52 PM »
There isn't going to be a reusable second stage
No.

But for a few years SX certainly thought they could make it work.

Then they discovered it couldn't be made to work at a price they wanted to pay, although it's still unclear why.

My instinct is F9 is going to be around for some time to come, but will only partly be reusable.

We shouldn't deal too much in certainties when it comes to SpaceX, especially when we are dealing with things that are technically possible - and a methane-fueled upper stage is. Last year, the suggestion that SpaceX is planing a circumlunar mission would have been laughed at, and serious people would have stated clearly and in all their seriousness that SpaceX does not deal with that space tourism crazy, isn't interested in the Moon, and wants to stay laser-focused on Mars. And yet, here we are...

I fully agree that right now, a reusable upper stage is not on the top of their priority list, there are many other things up there. Nevertheless, if the prices come down further with the introduction of the New Glenn, and SpaceX thus needs to make that second stage reusable (perhaps even integrate it with the payload fairing to get a fully reusable "upper stage satellite delivery vehicle") to stay competitive, they will do it (unless it would be cheaper to develop and operate an ITS-derived solution).
« Last Edit: 03/30/2017 12:53 PM by Bynaus »

Offline john smith 19

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #43 on: 03/30/2017 02:52 PM »
We shouldn't deal too much in certainties when it comes to SpaceX, especially when we are dealing with things that are technically possible - and a methane-fueled upper stage is. Last year, the suggestion that SpaceX is planing a circumlunar mission would have been laughed at, and serious people would have stated clearly and in all their seriousness that SpaceX does not deal with that space tourism crazy, isn't interested in the Moon, and wants to stay laser-focused on Mars. And yet, here we are...
SX is in the transport business. People approached SX for this. If they didn't I doubt SX would care.
Quote from: Bynaus

I fully agree that right now, a reusable upper stage is not on the top of their priority list, there are many other things up there. Nevertheless, if the prices come down further with the introduction of the New Glenn, and SpaceX thus needs to make that second stage reusable (perhaps even integrate it with the payload fairing to get a fully reusable "upper stage satellite delivery vehicle") to stay competitive, they will do it (unless it would be cheaper to develop and operate an ITS-derived solution).
When the CEO and Chief Designer says no reusable upper stages based on F9 or F9 derived technology he is a) Telling you SX has no interest in doing this or b)It's a strategic deception to fool competitors into not investing.

Time will tell which one of these statements is correct.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #44 on: 03/30/2017 03:09 PM »
We shouldn't deal too much in certainties when it comes to SpaceX, especially when we are dealing with things that are technically possible - and a methane-fueled upper stage is. Last year, the suggestion that SpaceX is planing a circumlunar mission would have been laughed at, and serious people would have stated clearly and in all their seriousness that SpaceX does not deal with that space tourism crazy, isn't interested in the Moon, and wants to stay laser-focused on Mars. And yet, here we are...
SX is in the transport business. People approached SX for this. If they didn't I doubt SX would care.
Quote from: Bynaus

I fully agree that right now, a reusable upper stage is not on the top of their priority list, there are many other things up there. Nevertheless, if the prices come down further with the introduction of the New Glenn, and SpaceX thus needs to make that second stage reusable (perhaps even integrate it with the payload fairing to get a fully reusable "upper stage satellite delivery vehicle") to stay competitive, they will do it (unless it would be cheaper to develop and operate an ITS-derived solution).
When the CEO and Chief Designer says no reusable upper stages based on F9 or F9 derived technology he is a) Telling you SX has no interest in doing this or b)It's a strategic deception to fool competitors into not investing.

Time will tell which one of these statements is correct.

No interest in reusable upper stage for F9 probably because they'll do it with ITS derived technology or just use ITS. So the answer is both a and b.

Offline Bynaus

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #45 on: 03/30/2017 05:44 PM »
We shouldn't deal too much in certainties when it comes to SpaceX, especially when we are dealing with things that are technically possible - and a methane-fueled upper stage is. Last year, the suggestion that SpaceX is planing a circumlunar mission would have been laughed at, and serious people would have stated clearly and in all their seriousness that SpaceX does not deal with that space tourism crazy, isn't interested in the Moon, and wants to stay laser-focused on Mars. And yet, here we are...
SX is in the transport business. People approached SX for this. If they didn't I doubt SX would care.

Sure. But we are rationalizing after the fact here. I am sure if Elon came out with saying they will do a methane upper stage now, it will be for a perfectly rational reason, and we will all applaud the decision and act as if we always knew it was part of the plan. I have been following the development at SpaceX since very early on, and I think they just make it up as they go (which is fine by me! Look at where it got them! I wouldn't wish it were otherwise!). There is no grand plan which has been carried out from the first moment right up to the present - they are strong on vision (the city on Mars), but flexible on the details. This will continue to be like that, as it should. As with Science Fiction, I would see most of the things Elon says about the future (beyond the next few months, perhaps) as more of a reflection of where things stand in the present than as a true prediction on where this is all going.

Quote
Quote from: Bynaus

I fully agree that right now, a reusable upper stage is not on the top of their priority list, there are many other things up there. Nevertheless, if the prices come down further with the introduction of the New Glenn, and SpaceX thus needs to make that second stage reusable (perhaps even integrate it with the payload fairing to get a fully reusable "upper stage satellite delivery vehicle") to stay competitive, they will do it (unless it would be cheaper to develop and operate an ITS-derived solution).
When the CEO and Chief Designer says no reusable upper stages based on F9 or F9 derived technology he is a) Telling you SX has no interest in doing this or b)It's a strategic deception to fool competitors into not investing.

Time will tell which one of these statements is correct.

I don't think it is that clear-cut. First, I don't think that there is any fooling involved. And SpaceX might just not be interested in doing this NOW. Why should they, in the current situation, give up forever on the prospect of doing this one day? And if I say "not NOW", I don't mean, "certainly later". It is just one possibility among many. Its very clear that the plan - RIGHT NOW - is to have F9 in one of its next ("final") incarnations as a money cow to finance the development of ITS (and to build up the constellation which serves the same purpose). But if at some point, say, it becomes evident that SpaceX will not be able to finance ITS with that plan (e.g., because they start falling back behind BO), what will happen then? Do you really think that, if a reusable, methane-fueled upper stage could bring them back in business and keep the development of ITS going, Elon is going to say: "no no no, back in 2013, I said that there will be no F9-derived vehicles, so we can't do that...". The goal is the city on Mars. Everything else follows from that. This is why I say we should not speak of certainties. Everything that is techically / phsically possible, makes economic sense under certain conditions and keeps them on track for Mars - is on the table.
« Last Edit: 03/30/2017 05:45 PM by Bynaus »

Offline bbb_rocket

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #46 on: 04/02/2017 03:24 PM »
If the F9 is fully reusable to LEO then I see it as being usable indefinitely, at least until a horizontal takeoff space plane becomes viable in the distant future.

The end game if ITS pans out, the ITS could provide the heavy lifting of creating a LEO fuel depot (a space hub). F9 would send all small cargo (humans, GEO Sats) to the LEO fuel depot for delivery by specialized space tugs like ACES (but SX built of course). Falcon heavy would be retired at this point. This would be the hub and spoke approach to spaceflight, with LEO fuel depot(s) being the hub and all other destinations being the spokes.

For the satellite constellation, a reusable upper stage would make the economics more feasible and create a huge barrier to entry to competitors. The GEO sat market is small compared to the rest of the SpaceX vision for space flight and making a reusable upper stage to service this market is cost prohibitive.

Online RotoSequence

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #47 on: 04/02/2017 03:34 PM »
Caveat Emptor: this is a whole lot of conjecture, and it's possible I'm wildly off base or direly misinformed.

If SpaceX makes $20 million off a Falcon 9, they can recoup the equivalent amount of money they invested towards re-flight (which they achieved with Core 21) in approximately 50 launches. 150 will probably net them enough cash to pay for development of future launch vehicles. If Satellite Communications pays off for SpaceX, they can afford to use their revenue stream to start replacing Falcon 9 with a more desirable vehicle immediately, which will likely result in the discontinuation of the Falcon 9 within ~3 years of starting development work on that vehicle.

Online edkyle99

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #48 on: 04/02/2017 11:59 PM »
If you replace every part of a boat, is it still the same boat?

By the same token, when is Falcon 9 no longer a Falcon 9? Only this morning an ex-SpaceX employee was talking on reddit about how all octawebs are now bolted instead of welded together. There have been so many tank stretches, engine upgrades, engine arrangements, recovery addons and a myriad of less visible alterations, one could argue that Falcon 9 has been retired once, possibly twice already.

Granted, Block 5 will hopefully slow the pace of change, but I don't think it'll be the end of the alterations. I wouldn't be surprised if they discover additional problems in making a booster robust enough to fly three, four or more times. That's all uncharted territory and might need yet more alterations.

Bottom line is that from my limited perspective, 'Falcon 9' refers to different launch vehicles, despite the common name. There have already been a subtle sequence of retirements.
In my mind there have been two substantially different Falcon 9 types to date, with the second type having run through two significant variations so far. 

The first type was the original Falcon 9 (Block 1), the Merlin 1C powered version that was much shorter, lighter, and as it turns out less capable than the subsequent type.  There were only five of these examples. 

The second type has been the Merlin 1D powered versions using Octaweb.  They have been called v1.1 and v1.2 (apparently Blocks 2 and 3).  The Block 3 variant has a stretched second stage compared to the former, now retired Block 2 variant, but both tower over Block 1.  There have been 28 of these Merlin 1D powered types, including the AMOS 6 launch vehicle that never made it to launch day.

Any design that retains the diameter, the Octaweb, and the Merlin 1D engines will as I see it always group together, generally.  They might be considered "Octaweb Falcons" or "Merlin 1D Falcons".

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 04/03/2017 12:27 AM by edkyle99 »

Offline Hotblack Desiato

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #49 on: 04/03/2017 09:06 AM »
Very interesting discussion going on. Now in the light of the new thought of Elon Musk about reusable second stage, I could imagine the following situation occurring:

3 of 4 flights of F9 will be done with used stages. They will continue pumping out new first stages at more or less the same speed as now, maybe more in favor of the second stages. I have just seen some speculations on the mass penalty that second stage reuse might bring, and a fully reusable FH might perform (I think) more or less like a fully expendable F9. That'd be at least nice.

When ITS surfaces, they might be sitting on at least 100 first stages (core boosters and side boosters) + several more second stages, which would allow them to discontinue production of F9/FH and rely solely on the already built rocket parts. There will be the raptor engine production, which should be capable of producing merlin 1D engines aswell, in case they need new engines, but otherwise, I don't think that they will be producing F9/FH rockets after 2022.

For payloads on ITS, I could imagine that the ITS-tanker might be capable of delivering a 10-15t sat to LEO, and it would be then forced to propell itself to the final orbit, or it could have a third stage like the IUS (inertial upper stage) of the space shuttle, which was used on quite a few flights. In theory, a kestrel/F1 derived upper stage might just do it.

Since ITS won't go to polar orbits, and ITS might just go when it is needed for its main task (deliver people, cargo and fuel to Mars), F9/FH will remain in service for 10-20 years.

Offline vanoord

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #50 on: 04/03/2017 10:04 AM »
In my mind there have been two substantially different Falcon 9 types to date, with the second type having run through two significant variations so far. 

The first type was the original Falcon 9 (Block 1), the Merlin 1C powered version that was much shorter, lighter, and as it turns out less capable than the subsequent type.  There were only five of these examples. 

The second type has been the Merlin 1D powered versions using Octaweb.  They have been called v1.1 and v1.2 (apparently Blocks 2 and 3).  The Block 3 variant has a stretched second stage compared to the former, now retired Block 2 variant, but both tower over Block 1.  There have been 28 of these Merlin 1D powered types, including the AMOS 6 launch vehicle that never made it to launch day.

Any design that retains the diameter, the Octaweb, and the Merlin 1D engines will as I see it always group together, generally.  They might be considered "Octaweb Falcons" or "Merlin 1D Falcons".

 - Ed Kyle

Slight point of pedantry, but a query about the numbers of stages...

Stages that have so far made it onto a pad

v1.0 (3x3 engines) - 5 flights
v1.1 (Octaweb) - 15 flights (1 failure)
v1.2 (Octaweb) - 13 'missions' including Amos-6 (thus 1 failure) but only 12 flown cores as B1021 has been reused


Total launches: 32, plus Amos-6 core but less the re-use of B1021 gives 32 cores built - of which 5 were v1.0, so 27 'Octaweb' for missions.


But... the highest serial number core flown so far is B1031 (CRS-10), which *might* suggest the numbering started at B1000 (to give the total 32) - if the sequence has only been used for 'mission' cores *and* includes the v1.0 cores.

If *not* and the sequence started at B1001 with the first v1.1 produced, there have been 31 'octaweb' cores produced (temporarily ignoring the new cores that are at the Cape / McGregor).

 If that's the case,  up to the most recent flight there are in theory 4 'Octaweb' cores 'unaccounted for' (31 minus 27 'mission' cores). Those 4?
- there's at least one which is an FH centre core (B1027?)
- v1.1 Dev 1 (FTS RUD at McGregor)
- v1.1 Dev 2 (three engines, once thought to be for in-flight abort, now apparently abandoned at VAFB)
- which leaves one: possibly an early structural test article / a second FH core / or a test side-booster for FH (although apparently the first 4 will be converted 'flight-proven' cores)

In addition, the core for NROL-76 is at the Cape and there's at least one more at McGregor (Inmarsat-5E or CRS-11?) - which gives 33 using the above numbering sequence, BUT there are suggestions that B1034 is the one at the Cape and B1035 (theoretically) is at McGregor - which means B1032 and B0133 are also unaccounted for.

Confused yet? I certainly am!

In short: based on serial numbers, up to 35 'Octaweb' cores may have been built (best defined as leading the factory, although one may have remained there).

In terms of what's provable: 26 cores have been launched; 1 exploded on the pad; 1 test item exploded at McGregor; 1 test article is at VAFB; 1 unflown core is at the Cape; 1 unflown core is at McGregor. Total: 31



Offline Chris Bergin

Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #51 on: 04/03/2017 03:34 PM »
I think you all have, but threads with specific titles don't require someone to barge through the door and say "Hi, I see you're all talking about this. Can I just raise a completely different point and discuss that in this room with you all?"

People would tend to say "No, go into the other room where they are talking about that!"

Same rules on the interweb ;)

Offline RoboGoofers

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #52 on: 04/03/2017 03:55 PM »
This slide from the presentation clearly lays out their prospective timeline. I'm not saying that they can't change anything shown, but the takeaway is that F9 derived development ends with Red Dragon around 2022, and it's ITS development from then on for the foreseeable future.

F9 in 2022 might be drastically different from F9 Block 5. Maybe it'll be F9 Block 5 v2.0 Penultimate Final RTM, but I doubt it'll have a larger tank or Raptor-derived engines or methane.

I think 2030's looks like a good time to retire F9 (and it's right off their timeline). They'll have learned a lot from ITS that they can backport to a larger F9H/NG class launcher and they'll have funds from CommX they can use to upgrade all their launch facilities.



« Last Edit: 04/03/2017 04:16 PM by RoboGoofers »

Offline gospacex

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #53 on: 04/03/2017 03:55 PM »
If you replace every part of a boat, is it still the same boat?

By the same token, when is Falcon 9 no longer a Falcon 9? Only this morning an ex-SpaceX employee was talking on reddit about how all octawebs are now bolted instead of welded together. There have been so many tank stretches, engine upgrades, engine arrangements, recovery addons and a myriad of less visible alterations, one could argue that Falcon 9 has been retired once, possibly twice already.

Granted, Block 5 will hopefully slow the pace of change, but I don't think it'll be the end of the alterations. I wouldn't be surprised if they discover additional problems in making a booster robust enough to fly three, four or more times. That's all uncharted territory and might need yet more alterations.

Bottom line is that from my limited perspective, 'Falcon 9' refers to different launch vehicles, despite the common name. There have already been a subtle sequence of retirements.

There is no clear, 100% objective criteria what should be called a planet... er... (I'm not in the Pluto thread!)... the same vehicle model, or a new one. Any complex piece of machinery in production inevitably gets changed. Which change is "big enough" so that this is not the same vehicle?

As long as stage diameter, type of fuel, and number of engines are not changed, I personally would still call it "F9 first stage". YMMV.

Offline RoboGoofers

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #54 on: 04/03/2017 04:25 PM »
I agree, but ultimately it's a F9 until SpaceX stops calling it a F9.

Offline Steve G

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #55 on: 04/08/2017 05:39 PM »
Put your business hats on. SpaceX is just about to introduce Version 5 of the Falcon 9. They will freeze the design at this point. They now need to recoup their investment, and as long as there is a demand for the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, there would be no economic driver to end the production run. They need revenue for ITS, and you won't get that by diverting your cash and limited intellectual resources by spending billions on a clean sheet design with little economic return.

This would only happen if they won a government sponsored job for a new class of LV.

If they did do anything to the current Falcon series (and I can't see this happening) it would be to revert to the  Falcon 5 design for the smaller satellite market. Same core just fewer engines. They'd likely just partially fill the current core fitted with 5 engines to keep the current launch facilities compatible. But if they did shorten the lengths of the 1st and 2nd stages around a 5 engine configuration, (and justify the cost for modified launch facilities) they could also use them as strap on boosters for a less capable Falcon Heavy to fill the gap between F9 and F Heavy.

Another unlikely scenario is to develop a more capable second (and possibly a 3rd stage) for the Falcon Heavy and have the core stage burn faster and harder. Again, you'd need to have significant changes to the launch facilities to accommodate the new configuration and the all important business case and ROI.

With operating costs dropping as reusable technology matures, we'll be seeing Falcon rockets for many years to come. Only a strong business case would have the Falcon 9 phased out, and that won't be for the foreseeable future.
« Last Edit: 04/08/2017 05:44 PM by Steve G »

Offline docmordrid

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #56 on: 04/09/2017 02:50 AM »
My $0.02,

Large fairings look to be a need, both for CommX deployment & maintenance and a possible cis-lunar ops COTS program for that station and beyond. Cheaper to fly/refurb heavy methane launchers make most medium-heavy kerolox launchers moot.

New Glenn has a 7 meter core and large fairing, which also makes an 8 meter fairing low hanging fruit. SpaceX will need to have a competitor vehicle in place when New Glenn appears or soon after.

A mini-ITS with a flyback upper stage/clamshell fairing based on a scaled BFS/(Dragon 3?).




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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #57 on: 04/09/2017 03:42 AM »
7 meter New Glenn fairing will only be developed when there is a market need, according to Blue Origin.

Of course, the same could've been said about Atlas V's 7.2m fairing option.

In other words, just like Atlas V, it doesn't make sense to talk about the 7 meter fairing as an actual feature of New Glenn until Blue Origin actually develops it. Until then, it's just a possibility. Same with SLS, by the way, and its 8.4meter fairing, which has zero funding approved for it, as far as I can tell.
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #58 on: 04/09/2017 04:48 AM »
To me, it seems, the case for F9 exists in the long term only if Musk does not succeed in generating massive revenues from other sources. Sources which pretty much have to pay off if his Mars dream is to succeed in any case. And once that money becomes available, well, then F9 has little reason for continued existence, it would seem.

That's like saying, "I had $5 in my wallet, but I just got $100 more, so I'm going to throw away the original $5 I had."

No.  It doesn't matter how much more Musk personally or SpaceX makes from other sources, they won't just shut down Falcon 9 as long as it is generating profit unless it's to replace it with something else that serves the same market and makes more profit.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #59 on: 04/09/2017 04:53 AM »
I assume SpaceX has a plan for when it'll retire F9.

Why?  Do you think Boeing had a retirement date picked out for the 737 when they first introduced it 49 years ago?

I'm no expert, but it seems like the 737 is an outlier. Most other airliners have a production run of ~20-25 years. If that's a useful metric, then I'd expect SpaceX to stop production around 2030.

The point isn't that the 737 is still in production 49 years later.  The point is that when Boeing introduced the 737, they didn't have a plan to shut down production some pre-set number of years later.  And those other airliners with production runs of ~20-25 years also did not have pre-set plans to shut down production.

With airliners, the manufacturers don't know when they start producing them how long they'll be in production.  The keep producing them until there's a reason not to produce them any more.

So, I agree with Coastal Ron that the assumption by the original poster that SpaceX currently has a plan for when it will retire Falcon 9 is not a good assumption.  Maybe SpaceX has secret plans to launch a replacement Raptor-driven satellite launcher at a particular date and retire Falcon 9, but there's also a good chance they don't.


Offline M.E.T.

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #60 on: 04/09/2017 12:01 PM »
To me, it seems, the case for F9 exists in the long term only if Musk does not succeed in generating massive revenues from other sources. Sources which pretty much have to pay off if his Mars dream is to succeed in any case. And once that money becomes available, well, then F9 has little reason for continued existence, it would seem.

That's like saying, "I had $5 in my wallet, but I just got $100 more, so I'm going to throw away the original $5 I had."

No.  It doesn't matter how much more Musk personally or SpaceX makes from other sources, they won't just shut down Falcon 9 as long as it is generating profit unless it's to replace it with something else that serves the same market and makes more profit.

I agree. My point was that with sufficient funds available to invest in better (read Raptor based) rockets than F9, that replacement vehicle you refer to above will be available much sooner. Without such additional funds, SpaceX is forced to continue relying on F9's revenue generating capability until they have paid off existing development costs, and then to start building a pile of cash with which to fund the development of said replacement vehicle.

With alternative funds available, they can immediately start building that replacement vehicle, which they are ready to do, if they just had the money for it. Hence, F9 would then be retired sooner.

Online macpacheco

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #61 on: 04/09/2017 01:49 PM »
F9 and FH will be retired, after the first 3 ITS stacks are built.
The reason is simple, ITS can launch at a cost lower than a FH 2nd stage + FH propellant.
The other caveat is ITS booster/spaceship/tanker must be able to fly at least 100x between refurbs.
If that's achievable, ITS becomes SpaceX cash cow.
There's ZERO reason to give customers anything over a 90% discount from current brand new F9/FH launch contract prices, unless there's competition that can beat that price.
Giving customers a 90% launch contract discount makes satellites/deep exploration missions 95% of the total mission cost (launch + payload). Making payload 99.9% will make ZERO different in economics.
ITS can deliver 100 tons to GEO-500m/s or better (using the tanker), aka about a dozen satellites to GEO on a single launch.
If ISS is still flying, a single ITS launch can deliver all the cargo and crew that ISS needs for a whole year, perhaps at the current cost of a SpaceX Cargo+Crew launch.
ITS can deliver an entire CommX orbit worth of satellites in a single launch with room to spare.
Even assuming an average 1/3 occupation, i estimate it will cost SX around US$ 10 million in costs to get US$ 100 million in revenues.
In 2 years, SpaceX has the cash to build at least a dozen of ITS space ships and enough boosters/tankers to keep those space ships busy.
The only alternative that might be better is a mini ITS or a Raptor F9 on steroids that is fully reusable with even better economics than ITS.

The key is to realize that ITS isn't just about Mars. ITS is first about making SpaceX very rich, so it can afford to make Mars a reality, perhaps paying for all the bootstrap cargo required to make the Mars industrial base a reality.
Looking for companies doing great things for much more than money

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #62 on: 04/09/2017 02:10 PM »
The key is to realize that ITS isn't just about Mars. ITS is first about making SpaceX very rich, so it can afford to make Mars a reality

That is not what SpaceX has ever said.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #63 on: 04/09/2017 02:13 PM »
My point was that with sufficient funds available to invest in better (read Raptor based) rockets than F9, that replacement vehicle you refer to above will be available much sooner. Without such additional funds, SpaceX is forced to continue relying on F9's revenue generating capability until they have paid off existing development costs, and then to start building a pile of cash with which to fund the development of said replacement vehicle.

I disagree.  SpaceX has enough cash, and enough interest from investors, that if a replacement for Falcon 9 would bring in more money than it would cost, they could fund that replacement.

Online AncientU

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #64 on: 04/09/2017 02:17 PM »
I assume SpaceX has a plan for when it'll retire F9.

Why?  Do you think Boeing had a retirement date picked out for the 737 when they first introduced it 49 years ago?

I'm no expert, but it seems like the 737 is an outlier. Most other airliners have a production run of ~20-25 years. If that's a useful metric, then I'd expect SpaceX to stop production around 2030.

The point isn't that the 737 is still in production 49 years later.  The point is that when Boeing introduced the 737, they didn't have a plan to shut down production some pre-set number of years later.  And those other airliners with production runs of ~20-25 years also did not have pre-set plans to shut down production.

With airliners, the manufacturers don't know when they start producing them how long they'll be in production.  The keep producing them until there's a reason not to produce them any more.

So, I agree with Coastal Ron that the assumption by the original poster that SpaceX currently has a plan for when it will retire Falcon 9 is not a good assumption.  Maybe SpaceX has secret plans to launch a replacement Raptor-driven satellite launcher at a particular date and retire Falcon 9, but there's also a good chance they don't.

Reusable Falcon 9 is being established as a marker (or forcing function in EM's words) for the rest of the world's launch providers, and as a reliable/predictable standard for future launch costs for space businesses.  As such, it will stand as the goal and standard for new ventures to plan around until the market expands, dictating a new standard.  The chatter seems to indicate it will be at least five years (maybe ten) before significant pressure is put on F9/FH, assuming that the in-the-pipeline efficiencies (like refurbishment in days, not weeks or months) are realized.

If the space launch market does not expand, Falcon 9(and FH) will be around a long time.
If expansion begins and accelerates, new vehicle(s) will be built to satisfy emergent demand; SpaceX may again lead this effort with something Raptor based.  Launching constellations could be the first major expansion -- it depends upon revenue growth from operating these constellations in the first few years.  What's next is anyone's guess.
« Last Edit: 04/09/2017 02:19 PM by AncientU »
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Online guckyfan

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #65 on: 04/09/2017 02:24 PM »

Reusable Falcon 9 is being established as a marker (or forcing function in EM's words) for the rest of the world's launch providers, and as a reliable/predictable standard for future launch costs for space businesses.  As such, it will stand as the goal and standard for new ventures to plan around until the market expands, dictating a new standard.  The chatter seems to indicate it will be at least five years (maybe ten) before significant pressure is put on F9/FH, assuming that the in-the-pipeline efficiencies (like refurbishment in days, not weeks or months) are realized.

Pressure will be internal. There is no reason to continue building and/or maintaining 2 completely different architectures. A number of years after the first ITS booster flight Falcon will be gone. How many, is everyones guess. Mine is 5 years max.

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #66 on: 04/09/2017 02:48 PM »
The key is to realize that ITS isn't just about Mars. ITS is first about making SpaceX very rich, so it can afford to make Mars a reality
That is not what SpaceX has ever said.
Elon never talks about profit or cash flow unless he has to.
SpaceX is a private company, remember that...
ITS is intended to be more profitable than F9/FH, its a mere consequence of lowering costs of access to space ridiculously.
Its entirely possible that EM/GS haven't even thought about this yet.
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Offline M.E.T.

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #67 on: 04/09/2017 02:56 PM »
My point was that with sufficient funds available to invest in better (read Raptor based) rockets than F9, that replacement vehicle you refer to above will be available much sooner. Without such additional funds, SpaceX is forced to continue relying on F9's revenue generating capability until they have paid off existing development costs, and then to start building a pile of cash with which to fund the development of said replacement vehicle.

I disagree.  SpaceX has enough cash, and enough interest from investors, that if a replacement for Falcon 9 would bring in more money than it would cost, they could fund that replacement.

I don't believe that is the case. ITS would make more money than it would cost. We don't see that being developed as fast as it could be. SpaceX has limited resources, else it would do what Bezos is doing, without the need to generate ongoing revenues at the same time.

If Musk could bring in large amounts of money from elsewhere, he could invest in the development of "New Glenn killing" rockets now, rather than delaying that until F9 has paid for itself.
« Last Edit: 04/09/2017 02:56 PM by M.E.T. »

Offline jcliving

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #68 on: 04/09/2017 04:23 PM »
I agree with @Steve G.  The F9 is transitioning to a pure operations focus.  Design work ends.  Milk the platform for 15-30 years of profits.

Design staff will be reassigned to other projects including F9H and ITS.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #69 on: 04/09/2017 09:51 PM »
The key is to realize that ITS isn't just about Mars. ITS is first about making SpaceX very rich, so it can afford to make Mars a reality

That is not what SpaceX has ever said.
The only way it'd be true is if the constellation is launched on ITS. Musk did say the constellation is a huge part of getting enough money to build a city on Mars.

It's possible that Musk's hints on Twitter recently about finding a more economic way to develop ITS may be a hint that it will be used for commercial space launch, including their constellation. But that doesn't seem to have been the original plan at the IAC.
« Last Edit: 04/09/2017 10:07 PM by Robotbeat »
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #70 on: 04/09/2017 10:16 PM »
I can't see SpaceX still operating primarily a gas generator kerolox engine if they successfully develop and fly Raptor and ITS.

ITS may be a family of rockets just like Falcon. IF ITS IS SUCCESSFULLY DEVELOPED: My guess is Falcon heavy would be the first vehicle to be replaced by ITS, followed eventually by Falcon 9. Musk can't help himself to improve something if there's some significant advantage to doing so. Maybe 5-10 years for Falcon Heavy and 10-15 years for Falcon 9. Maybe less, we shall see. But I see no way Falcon 9 lasts another 20 years while Musk maintains control over a non-bankrupt SpaceX.

I bet Falcon 9 will do about 300 launches before being replaced.
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Offline docmordrid

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #71 on: 04/09/2017 11:16 PM »
I can't see SpaceX still operating primarily a gas generator kerolox engine if they successfully develop and fly Raptor and ITS.

Ditto.

Quote
My guess is Falcon heavy would be the first vehicle to be replaced by ITS, followed eventually by Falcon 9.

I think a mini-ITS based on the ITS core cluster could cover  both bases by being adaptable; fly 3(?), 5 or 7 engines depending on the mission. I'd really like to see numbers on those.
« Last Edit: 04/09/2017 11:17 PM by docmordrid »
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #72 on: 04/10/2017 12:04 AM »
I bet the number of variants would be limited and on the larger side so there's plenty of margin for full reuse and RTLS for all missions, including RTLS of payload adapter and fairing. Maybe two booster variants, with the smallest being maybe ~9 Raptors. But too early to really speculate.
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Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #73 on: 04/10/2017 12:50 AM »
I bet the number of variants would be limited and on the larger side so there's plenty of margin for full reuse and RTLS for all missions, including RTLS of payload adapter and fairing. Maybe two booster variants, with the smallest being maybe ~9 Raptors. But too early to really speculate.

A variant with 7 Raptors would look a lot like the New Glenn...
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #74 on: 04/10/2017 02:46 AM »
I bet the number of variants would be limited and on the larger side so there's plenty of margin for full reuse and RTLS for all missions, including RTLS of payload adapter and fairing. Maybe two booster variants, with the smallest being maybe ~9 Raptors. But too early to really speculate.

A variant with 7 Raptors would look a lot like the New Glenn...
Well New Glenn looks a heck of a lot like a Falcon 9, landing on a barge and everything.
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Online Lars-J

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #75 on: 04/10/2017 02:59 AM »
I think a mini-ITS based on the ITS core cluster could cover  both bases by being adaptable; fly 3(?), 5 or 7 engines depending on the mission. I'd really like to see numbers on those.

I bet the number of variants would be limited and on the larger side so there's plenty of margin for full reuse and RTLS for all missions, including RTLS of payload adapter and fairing. Maybe two booster variants, with the smallest being maybe ~9 Raptors. But too early to really speculate.

No, IMO they aren't going to make multiple launch vehicles (or configurations) to replace F9/FH. *IF* they make a Raptor-based followup vehicle to replace F9/FH, I'd expect it to be sized (as far as payload capacity) between the F9 and FH. ITS would be their "big" delivery truck. They would just need a "small" truck for the other work.

And no heavy variant. Just a single stick.
« Last Edit: 04/10/2017 03:03 AM by Lars-J »

Offline OneSpeed

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #76 on: 04/10/2017 03:52 AM »
I think a mini-ITS based on the ITS core cluster could cover  both bases by being adaptable; fly 3(?), 5 or 7 engines depending on the mission. I'd really like to see numbers on those.

I've simulated a 7 engine Mini ITS here: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=36508.msg1633577#msg1633577

It gets 70-80mT of payload to LEO including RTLS of the booster and recovery of the second stage. i.e. about double the capability of Falcon Heavy.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #77 on: 04/10/2017 04:32 AM »
I think a mini-ITS based on the ITS core cluster could cover  both bases by being adaptable; fly 3(?), 5 or 7 engines depending on the mission. I'd really like to see numbers on those.

I bet the number of variants would be limited and on the larger side so there's plenty of margin for full reuse and RTLS for all missions, including RTLS of payload adapter and fairing. Maybe two booster variants, with the smallest being maybe ~9 Raptors. But too early to really speculate.

No, IMO they aren't going to make multiple launch vehicles (or configurations) to replace F9/FH. *IF* they make a Raptor-based followup vehicle to replace F9/FH, I'd expect it to be sized (as far as payload capacity) between the F9 and FH. ITS would be their "big" delivery truck. They would just need a "small" truck for the other work.

And no heavy variant. Just a single stick.
We're in violent agreement.
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Offline docmordrid

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #78 on: 04/10/2017 05:42 AM »
I think a mini-ITS based on the ITS core cluster could cover  both bases by being adaptable; fly 3(?), 5 or 7 engines depending on the mission. I'd really like to see numbers on those.

I've simulated a 7 engine Mini ITS here: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=36508.msg1633577#msg1633577

It gets 70-80mT of payload to LEO including RTLS of the booster and recovery of the second stage. i.e. about double the capability of Falcon Heavy.

Thank you!, and that sounds like a compelling replacement vehicle for FH at least given propellant is such a low cost factor.
DM

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #79 on: 04/10/2017 10:26 AM »
The key is to realize that ITS isn't just about Mars. ITS is first about making SpaceX very rich, so it can afford to make Mars a reality
That is not what SpaceX has ever said.
Elon never talks about profit or cash flow unless he has to.
SpaceX is a private company, remember that...
ITS is intended to be more profitable than F9/FH, its a mere consequence of lowering costs of access to space ridiculously.
Its entirely possible that EM/GS haven't even thought about this yet.

If you've noticed, EM has been mentioning financial matters (like not going bankrupt or $1B for reusability development) quite a bit lately.  GS also mentioned 'hundreds of millions' in development costs.  What I think happened is that the AMOS failure and price tag for rebuild of LC-40 precipitated a 'chat' between GS and EM where a few lines were drawn (by GS).  EM is not chipping in a billion per year, so the business (it IS a business) needs to become viable. 

Lots of F9/FH launches, including getting the ConnX up and producing major revenue, is required for that business to pay for the next big thing which is ITS... there isn't money for ITS first.
« Last Edit: 04/10/2017 10:29 AM by AncientU »
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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #80 on: 04/10/2017 10:43 AM »
A lot of merit in the idea that Gwynne helps keep Elon grounded from time to time...

My own guess is that F9/FH retire 5-10 years after ITS first flies. Will there be a mini ITS? I don't think so. I think we see a change to a more hub and spoke model. Lots of in-space tugs, but launches are done with heavy lift only.
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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #81 on: 04/10/2017 11:22 AM »
A lot of merit in the idea that Gwynne helps keep Elon grounded from time to time...

My own guess is that F9/FH retire 5-10 years after ITS first flies. Will there be a mini ITS? I don't think so. I think we see a change to a more hub and spoke model. Lots of in-space tugs, but launches are done with heavy lift only.

Everyone knows that EM is easily distracted by shinny objects -- add to that the DNA of a Silicon Valley start-up...  and the tendency to get bought out and move on to the next thing.  This all has to give GS a headache, since she needs make payroll for 6,000.  Playing the adult in the room has to fall to someone if the start-up is to successfully transition to a going concern. 
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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #82 on: 04/10/2017 12:15 PM »

Everyone knows that EM is easily distracted by shinny objects -- add to that the DNA of a Silicon Valley start-up...  and the tendency to get bought out and move on to the next thing.  This all has to give GS a headache, since she needs make payroll for 6,000.  Playing the adult in the room has to fall to someone if the start-up is to successfully transition to a going concern.

Ah, Gwynne Shotwell as the adult in the room. I like that. That's probably why she keeps mentioning that Mars is Elons hobby. She is more interested in interstellar travel.  :)

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #83 on: 04/10/2017 12:54 PM »
I'm sorry, but ITS makes no sense as a satellite launcher.

It would be like using the Maersk Alabama to haul a single box across the Atlantic.  Large ships may be the single most efficient means for moving cargo, but that is predicated on that being LOTS of cargo per trip.

Sure, there could be sats as secondary cargo, but first and foremost, ITS is a People Hauler going to orbits that satellites would have to expend serious delta-v to acquire their intended inclinations.

Until gravity is no longer an issue or satellites are built on-orbit, there will always be a place for an F-9 class launcher.
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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #84 on: 04/10/2017 01:21 PM »
F9 replacement makes sense *after* Bezos spends all the time and effort building his rocket, factory, pad(s), etc.

It would be useful for SpaceX to know exact parameters of the competition... and to know competition can't easily change them now.
« Last Edit: 04/10/2017 01:21 PM by gospacex »

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #85 on: 04/10/2017 01:22 PM »
I'm sorry, but ITS makes no sense as a satellite launcher.

It would be like using the Maersk Alabama to haul a single box across the Atlantic.  Large ships may be the single most efficient means for moving cargo, but that is predicated on that being LOTS of cargo per trip.

Sure, there could be sats as secondary cargo, but first and foremost, ITS is a People Hauler going to orbits that satellites would have to expend serious delta-v to acquire their intended inclinations.

Until gravity is no longer an issue or satellites are built on-orbit, there will always be a place for an F-9 class launcher.
If ITS hits its cost performance goals (pretty big "if"), it'll be cheaper per cargo launch than even Falcon 9.

To keep the analogy alive: it's still MUCH cheaper to use the reusable Emma Maersk to send a single shipping container across the ocean than an expendable 737.

But if ITS /is/ used for satellite launches, the main thing it'll be launching is SpaceX's constellation, and at 3000 satellites PER YEAR, you would put like 300 in a single ITS launch. That's still a respectable 10 launches per year, plus you can recovery the payload deployer and fairing and everything intact at the launch site. Sure beats like 50 Falcon Heavy launches with the complicated recovery operations that requires. And gives SpaceX plenty of room to grow the mass of the satellites.

Also, "I'm sorry" as a rhetorical device? We're all adults, here. That's not necessary.
« Last Edit: 04/10/2017 01:29 PM by Robotbeat »
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Offline JamesH65

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #86 on: 04/10/2017 02:18 PM »
I'm sorry, but ITS makes no sense as a satellite launcher.

It would be like using the Maersk Alabama to haul a single box across the Atlantic.  Large ships may be the single most efficient means for moving cargo, but that is predicated on that being LOTS of cargo per trip.

Sure, there could be sats as secondary cargo, but first and foremost, ITS is a People Hauler going to orbits that satellites would have to expend serious delta-v to acquire their intended inclinations.

Until gravity is no longer an issue or satellites are built on-orbit, there will always be a place for an F-9 class launcher.

Inclined to agree. I think there is more mileage in a custom reusable 2nd stage dispenser specifically for CommX satellites, launched from a F9H, than using BFB.

But since BFB isn't flying in the next 5-10 years or so at least (from what I see, could be wrong), SpaceX are going to need F9 for their satellite constellation for quite some time.

Sorry.

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #87 on: 04/10/2017 03:10 PM »
The key is to realize that ITS isn't just about Mars. ITS is first about making SpaceX very rich, so it can afford to make Mars a reality
That is not what SpaceX has ever said.
Elon never talks about profit or cash flow unless he has to.
SpaceX is a private company, remember that...
ITS is intended to be more profitable than F9/FH, its a mere consequence of lowering costs of access to space ridiculously.
Its entirely possible that EM/GS haven't even thought about this yet.

If you've noticed, EM has been mentioning financial matters (like not going bankrupt or $1B for reusability development) quite a bit lately.  GS also mentioned 'hundreds of millions' in development costs.  What I think happened is that the AMOS failure and price tag for rebuild of LC-40 precipitated a 'chat' between GS and EM where a few lines were drawn (by GS).  EM is not chipping in a billion per year, so the business (it IS a business) needs to become viable. 

Lots of F9/FH launches, including getting the ConnX up and producing major revenue, is required for that business to pay for the next big thing which is ITS... there isn't money for ITS first.

It's been apparent for a while (see AMOS) to financially oriented R&D engineering development types that SpaceX with its 5,000 mostly skilled employees and relatively expensive materials couldn't generate enough cash to fund a rapid full scale ITS R&D program.  Launch hiatus (twice in 2 years) had to eat up designated for R&D cash.
Fortunately, Elon is innovative in these business situations and had already developed a nascent strategy to become a unique comsat launcher & service provider (or service partner with Google) for a non-NASA dependent and potentially very large cash stream. But since this comsat R&D eats up more short term funds, there's little left for technology adventures like pushing composite structure technology into unprecedented applications at rational manufacturing costs.
So, R&D sources & uses of income and cash reality forced a change in short term (next couple years) strategy.  Also, as the comsat opportunity becomes more real, re-assessment of F9/FH launchers and re-useability made a 2nd look at upper stage re-use possibilities more urgent. Eliminate your money falling from the sky.
I think that this results in a 2+ year right shift of ITS first flight times with an increase in the probability that SpaceX and its partners to be can actually fund it and make it happen.  It won't hurt that many Mars related technologies advance a couple years more before ITS Block One design gets frozen.
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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #88 on: 04/10/2017 03:27 PM »
Lots of F9/FH launches, including getting the ConnX up and producing major revenue, is required for that business to pay for the next big thing which is ITS... there isn't money for ITS first.

But what are those thousands of design engineers going to work on in the meantime?  Your team is assembled, so you use them.  It's the same dynamic as with Musk's rock star engine designers.

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #89 on: 04/10/2017 03:43 PM »
Lots of F9/FH launches, including getting the ConnX up and producing major revenue, is required for that business to pay for the next big thing which is ITS... there isn't money for ITS first.

But what are those thousands of design engineers going to work on in the meantime?  Your team is assembled, so you use them.  It's the same dynamic as with Musk's rock star engine designers.

They sure can continue working on Raptor. They sure can continue working on tank design, including the hot oxygen coating. No need to do it full size for full efficiency. A year may get them to a better solution than they could find under more time pressure.

They can work on ISRU equipment. Solar panels, water mining and cleaning, tanks for Mars, habitats. There is plenty of work cut out to keep the workforce busy and motivated with not too much money needed beyond paying their salaries.

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #90 on: 04/10/2017 08:07 PM »
I'm sorry, but ITS makes no sense as a satellite launcher.

It would be like using the Maersk Alabama to haul a single box across the Atlantic.  Large ships may be the single most efficient means for moving cargo, but that is predicated on that being LOTS of cargo per trip.

Sure, there could be sats as secondary cargo, but first and foremost, ITS is a People Hauler going to orbits that satellites would have to expend serious delta-v to acquire their intended inclinations.

Until gravity is no longer an issue or satellites are built on-orbit, there will always be a place for an F-9 class launcher.

Inclined to agree. I think there is more mileage in a custom reusable 2nd stage dispenser specifically for CommX satellites, launched from a F9H, than using BFB.

But since BFB isn't flying in the next 5-10 years or so at least (from what I see, could be wrong), SpaceX are going to need F9 for their satellite constellation for quite some time.

Sorry.
CommX does NOT need 4096 satellites in orbit to begin operations.
Please stop with this fixation.
CommX likely will start with 5-10% as many satellites, which can be easily launched on Falcon Heavy with expendable 2nd stage if needed.
By the simple virtue that SX is its own launch supplier, by then with its own range in Boca Chica, makes them uniquely capable of increasing CommX on orbit population as needed.
The first generation of CommX businesses will be laser focused on mobile and middle of nowhere Gbps internet that are willing to pay premium to have landline like internet links.
Imagine every cruise ship in the world with ultra high speed broadband. Every cargo ship with a basic 100Mbps connectivity at the cost it currently pays for ultra slow connectivity with the ground. Oh and every large airliner in the world has low latency broadband too.
There are at LEAST tens of thousands of businesses in the middle of nowhere paying 200x the cost of a regular land line link for connectivity using GTO.
There are another tens of thousands of ISPs that are hundreds of miles from the nearest fiber optic backbone. With unreliable connectivity to the internet.
That's worth at least a billion/yr with very little constellation numbers 2x or 3x that of Iridium or Orbcomm.
All it takes is one satellite in view 24x7 between 60N and 60S latitude.
4096 satellites is like dozens of satellites in view, with CPEs dynamically switching towards the satellite with the lowest load/best signal.
Either CommX will be producing a boatload of cash or ITS will be flying by the time it needs thousands of satellites in orbit.
The other very significant reason for delaying full constellation density is the predictable CommX satellite design iterations every 18-24 months. Better to wait until Block III is ready for launch until rolling out the complete thing.
« Last Edit: 04/10/2017 09:27 PM by macpacheco »
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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #91 on: 04/10/2017 11:51 PM »
I'm sorry, but ITS makes no sense as a satellite launcher.

It would be like using the Maersk Alabama to haul a single box across the Atlantic.  Large ships may be the single most efficient means for moving cargo, but that is predicated on that being LOTS of cargo per trip.

Sure, there could be sats as secondary cargo, but first and foremost, ITS is a People Hauler going to orbits that satellites would have to expend serious delta-v to acquire their intended inclinations.

Until gravity is no longer an issue or satellites are built on-orbit, there will always be a place for an F-9 class launcher.

Inclined to agree. I think there is more mileage in a custom reusable 2nd stage dispenser specifically for CommX satellites, launched from a F9H, than using BFB.

But since BFB isn't flying in the next 5-10 years or so at least (from what I see, could be wrong), SpaceX are going to need F9 for their satellite constellation for quite some time.

Sorry.
CommX does NOT need 4096 satellites in orbit to begin operations.
Please stop with this fixation.
CommX likely will start with 5-10% as many satellites, which can be easily launched on Falcon Heavy with expendable 2nd stage if needed.
By the simple virtue that SX is its own launch supplier, by then with its own range in Boca Chica, makes them uniquely capable of increasing CommX on orbit population as needed.
...
The other very significant reason for delaying full constellation density is the predictable CommX satellite design iterations every 18-24 months. Better to wait until Block III is ready for launch until rolling out the complete thing.

The FCC filing outlines exactly what their LEO constellation (4425 sats) deployment plan will be.  First is to get 800 sats -- roughly 20% or 40 launches worth* -- to orbit and tested, then go 'live' or begin commercial service providing while deploying the second 800 with 40 more launches.  This is the 'initial deployment' as laid out in their application.  Coverage is short of global... it misses the high latitudes (above 60 degrees IIRC) and a band at the equator.  Full constellation deployment follows (probably after some design revision of initial deployment sats) and brings them to full global service with all orbital planes populated.

* Assuming F9 with 20 sats per trip.  YMMV
« Last Edit: 04/10/2017 11:52 PM by AncientU »
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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #92 on: 04/11/2017 12:04 AM »
Lots of F9/FH launches, including getting the ConnX up and producing major revenue, is required for that business to pay for the next big thing which is ITS... there isn't money for ITS first.

But what are those thousands of design engineers going to work on in the meantime?  Your team is assembled, so you use them.  It's the same dynamic as with Musk's rock star engine designers.

I suspect SpaceX has well shy of a thousand total engineers(my guess would be 500), including those who are designing satellites and ConnX software (who will be very busy indeed).  Designing rockets is a very small piece of what the engineering team does.

The rest of the six thousand strong workforce is building hundreds of engines(Merlins, Dracos, SuperDracos, Raptors), tankage, avionics, landing legs, interstages, payload adaptors, fairings, Dragons, etc. and a major part of their workforce is testing and delivering vehicles via McGregor to the pads for launch -- or building/rebuilding those pads.
« Last Edit: 04/11/2017 12:06 AM by AncientU »
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #93 on: 04/11/2017 01:04 AM »
I bet that way more than 500 or 1000 have "engineer" in their title.
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Offline JamesH65

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #94 on: 04/11/2017 11:09 AM »
I'm sorry, but ITS makes no sense as a satellite launcher.

It would be like using the Maersk Alabama to haul a single box across the Atlantic.  Large ships may be the single most efficient means for moving cargo, but that is predicated on that being LOTS of cargo per trip.

Sure, there could be sats as secondary cargo, but first and foremost, ITS is a People Hauler going to orbits that satellites would have to expend serious delta-v to acquire their intended inclinations.

Until gravity is no longer an issue or satellites are built on-orbit, there will always be a place for an F-9 class launcher.

Inclined to agree. I think there is more mileage in a custom reusable 2nd stage dispenser specifically for CommX satellites, launched from a F9H, than using BFB.

But since BFB isn't flying in the next 5-10 years or so at least (from what I see, could be wrong), SpaceX are going to need F9 for their satellite constellation for quite some time.

Sorry.
CommX does NOT need 4096 satellites in orbit to begin operations.
Please stop with this fixation.
CommX likely will start with 5-10% as many satellites, which can be easily launched on Falcon Heavy with expendable 2nd stage if needed.
By the simple virtue that SX is its own launch supplier, by then with its own range in Boca Chica, makes them uniquely capable of increasing CommX on orbit population as needed.
The first generation of CommX businesses will be laser focused on mobile and middle of nowhere Gbps internet that are willing to pay premium to have landline like internet links.
Imagine every cruise ship in the world with ultra high speed broadband. Every cargo ship with a basic 100Mbps connectivity at the cost it currently pays for ultra slow connectivity with the ground. Oh and every large airliner in the world has low latency broadband too.
There are at LEAST tens of thousands of businesses in the middle of nowhere paying 200x the cost of a regular land line link for connectivity using GTO.
There are another tens of thousands of ISPs that are hundreds of miles from the nearest fiber optic backbone. With unreliable connectivity to the internet.
That's worth at least a billion/yr with very little constellation numbers 2x or 3x that of Iridium or Orbcomm.
All it takes is one satellite in view 24x7 between 60N and 60S latitude.
4096 satellites is like dozens of satellites in view, with CPEs dynamically switching towards the satellite with the lowest load/best signal.
Either CommX will be producing a boatload of cash or ITS will be flying by the time it needs thousands of satellites in orbit.
The other very significant reason for delaying full constellation density is the predictable CommX satellite design iterations every 18-24 months. Better to wait until Block III is ready for launch until rolling out the complete thing.

Why are you referencing my post? I said nothing about the quantities need to start operating. I was writing about a dedicated reusable US specifically for launching CommX satellites.

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #95 on: 04/11/2017 02:55 PM »
Why are you referencing my post? I said nothing about the quantities need to start operating. I was writing about a dedicated reusable US specifically for launching CommX satellites.
yep, if CommX can operate for 2-3 years with a much smaller number of satellites your point is mute, unless Raptor is a complete bust.
4400 satellites requirement is a product of requirements to operate with high masking angles (urban canyons), huge throughput with CPE equipment hopping to the least loaded satellite in view. Not the type of requirements for the first few years.
Masking angle is the key. If customers are required to install only with the tallest obstruction at 30 degrees from the horizon, a few hundred satellites is all that's required for worldwide coverage. The 4400 number means CommX ultimately wants seamless coverage something around 70 degrees masking angle.

Iridium operates with just 66 satellites active plus spares. Don't they have worldwide coverage ? Whats the logic in needing 4400 satellites instead.
Obviously the orbits are designed differently, a little lower. Different inclination too. But that doesn't justify a requirement for 70x as many satellites.
The fact is like I said you and many other fixate on that big great number and those understand what that means, and just repeat that blindly.
I once thought E=mc² was everything. I then found that was a simplification for a much more complex equation. Same thing here.

SpaceX isn't going to spoon feed you the nuances in their constellation design as its proprietary information but those that understand details know what that likely means. The true final details will be explained in small trickles of information once it starts early operations.

Like I said, by the time SpaceX needs to launch thousands of CommX birds, new boosters should be available.

F9/FH will be retired a few years after SpaceX has any fully raptor based full reuse rocket. Be it a massive ITS rocket, a mini ITS rocket or a Falcon 9 style rocket on steroids with Raptor first and second stage.

With a fully reusable rocket, once it makes the first flight, its a matter of a few months to accomplish perhaps 20 launches to show everybody the rocket is just about as safe as F9/FH. Avoiding the complexity of side boosters. 13 successful launches and you're automatically certified with USAF. The fact its a bigger rocket that consumes more fuel is offset by using methane as fuel (far cheaper than RP1), using engines that can refly at least 100x between refurbs, and the much higher ISP, the huge performance means re-entry burns can provide much better protection from heating to the first stage and the 2nd stage can have some limited aerodynamic lift capacity so it can stay as high as possible for as long as possible to limit peak heating.
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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #96 on: 04/11/2017 04:01 PM »
Lots of F9/FH launches, including getting the ConnX up and producing major revenue, is required for that business to pay for the next big thing which is ITS... there isn't money for ITS first.

But what are those thousands of design engineers going to work on in the meantime?  Your team is assembled, so you use them.  It's the same dynamic as with Musk's rock star engine designers.

I suspect SpaceX has well shy of a thousand total engineers(my guess would be 500), including those who are designing satellites and ConnX software (who will be very busy indeed).  Designing rockets is a very small piece of what the engineering team does.

Bad guess.  Of the 3,297 employees listed on LinkedIn, 1,709 have "engineer" in their titles.  Given that there are 6,000 employees at SpaceX, I stand by my "thousands of engineers" question.
« Last Edit: 04/11/2017 04:05 PM by RedLineTrain »

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #97 on: 04/11/2017 05:48 PM »
EM stated that about 5% of the design team was working on Raptor/ITS, but that would rise to 95% (or the vast majority -- don't have the quote) once Falcon work is finished.  The numbers mentioned, I think, was $5M now, implying the design team costs about $100M/year... which is 400-500 engineers.

By your numbers, half of the 6.000 strong organization will be working on 'designing' Raptor/ITS next year.
I still don't think so.

Having engineer in your title doesn't mean you are idle if nothing new is being designed.  I didn't make the distinction clearly, that's certain.
« Last Edit: 04/11/2017 05:50 PM by AncientU »
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Offline JamesH65

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #98 on: 04/11/2017 06:51 PM »
Why are you referencing my post? I said nothing about the quantities need to start operating. I was writing about a dedicated reusable US specifically for launching CommX satellites.
yep, if CommX can operate for 2-3 years with a much smaller number of satellites your point is mute, unless Raptor is a complete bust.
4400 satellites requirement is a product of requirements to operate with high masking angles (urban canyons), huge throughput with CPE equipment hopping to the least loaded satellite in view. Not the type of requirements for the first few years.
Masking angle is the key. If customers are required to install only with the tallest obstruction at 30 degrees from the horizon, a few hundred satellites is all that's required for worldwide coverage. The 4400 number means CommX ultimately wants seamless coverage something around 70 degrees masking angle.

Iridium operates with just 66 satellites active plus spares. Don't they have worldwide coverage ? Whats the logic in needing 4400 satellites instead.
Obviously the orbits are designed differently, a little lower. Different inclination too. But that doesn't justify a requirement for 70x as many satellites.
The fact is like I said you and many other fixate on that big great number and those understand what that means, and just repeat that blindly.
I once thought E=mc² was everything. I then found that was a simplification for a much more complex equation. Same thing here.

SpaceX isn't going to spoon feed you the nuances in their constellation design as its proprietary information but those that understand details know what that likely means. The true final details will be explained in small trickles of information once it starts early operations.

Like I said, by the time SpaceX needs to launch thousands of CommX birds, new boosters should be available.

F9/FH will be retired a few years after SpaceX has any fully raptor based full reuse rocket. Be it a massive ITS rocket, a mini ITS rocket or a Falcon 9 style rocket on steroids with Raptor first and second stage.

With a fully reusable rocket, once it makes the first flight, its a matter of a few months to accomplish perhaps 20 launches to show everybody the rocket is just about as safe as F9/FH. Avoiding the complexity of side boosters. 13 successful launches and you're automatically certified with USAF. The fact its a bigger rocket that consumes more fuel is offset by using methane as fuel (far cheaper than RP1), using engines that can refly at least 100x between refurbs, and the much higher ISP, the huge performance means re-entry burns can provide much better protection from heating to the first stage and the 2nd stage can have some limited aerodynamic lift capacity so it can stay as high as possible for as long as possible to limit peak heating.

As someone posted above, it appears the FCC document says 800 to start with. 800. Over ten times as many as Iridium. This is a LEO constellation, very fast satellites, which means you need more of them.

So lets say 20 per launch, that's 40 launches to get up and running. Lets assume the 2nd stage is $10M. So $400M expendable. That would pay for development of a custom stage, ready for the rest of the constellation.

That's going to take a lot of launches.

Offline MikeAtkinson

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #99 on: 04/11/2017 06:52 PM »
Judging from the SpaceX jobs adverts about 40% of recruits are engineers, 10% manager/supervisor, 40% technician /specialist and 10% other.

Of the engineers about half are designing the rockets, engines, Dragons and satellites, with the other half doing production, test, GSE, etc. engineering.

I'm reasonably sure the proportions have not changed a lot in the last few years, so perhaps 1,200 design engineers at SpaceX, of which maybe 800 could be moved to work on ITS at some stage.

Offline Semmel

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #100 on: 04/11/2017 09:12 PM »
If you've noticed, EM has been mentioning financial matters (like not going bankrupt or $1B for reusability development) quite a bit lately.  GS also mentioned 'hundreds of millions' in development costs.  What I think happened is that the AMOS failure and price tag for rebuild of LC-40 precipitated a 'chat' between GS and EM where a few lines were drawn (by GS).  EM is not chipping in a billion per year, so the business (it IS a business) needs to become viable. 

Lots of F9/FH launches, including getting the ConnX up and producing major revenue, is required for that business to pay for the next big thing which is ITS... there isn't money for ITS first.

Thats a quite well observed point. Thank you for the perspective. SpaceX is not yet close to emergency mode but the AMOS failure shifted the short term priorities around a lot. Unless they get donated a ton of money, SpaceX will not be able to fast-roll ITS.

Offline bad_astra

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #101 on: 08/02/2017 03:05 PM »
barring being forced out of the market by better competitors or some breakthrough propulsion technology, I could imagine evolved F9 variants being built well into the latter part of the century. Honda still makes SuperCubs. If Bezos succeeds (and Musk) and society has developed to the point that it is cheaper to build satellites in orbit, than launch them from earth, then there probably won't be much use for them anymore.
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Offline Jim

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #102 on: 08/02/2017 04:57 PM »
If you've noticed, EM has been mentioning financial matters (like not going bankrupt or $1B for reusability development) quite a bit lately.  GS also mentioned 'hundreds of millions' in development costs.  What I think happened is that the AMOS failure and price tag for rebuild of LC-40 precipitated a 'chat' between GS and EM where a few lines were drawn (by GS).  EM is not chipping in a billion per year, so the business (it IS a business) needs to become viable. 

Lots of F9/FH launches, including getting the ConnX up and producing major revenue, is required for that business to pay for the next big thing which is ITS... there isn't money for ITS first.

Thats a quite well observed point. Thank you for the perspective. SpaceX is not yet close to emergency mode but the AMOS failure shifted the short term priorities around a lot. Unless they get donated a ton of money, SpaceX will not be able to fast-roll ITS.

And so will the next one

Offline RyanC

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #103 on: 08/13/2017 12:29 PM »
I'm sorry, but ITS makes no sense as a satellite launcher.

Sure it does.

Put satellites into ITS in containers/fixtures to hold them steady during launch.

ITS sails into orbit and meets up with several space tugs and transfers the satellites to them.

It's how you use container ships/railroads/tractor trailers/26 foot straight trucks to deliver anywhere anytime in the US.

Offline Mader Levap

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #104 on: 08/15/2017 01:18 PM »
What does not make sense for me is saying "ITS will make all other rockets obsolete".

It is silly. As silly as saying "18-wheelers will make all other cars obsolete".
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Offline tdperk

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #105 on: 08/15/2017 01:38 PM »
What does not make sense for me is saying "ITS will make all other rockets obsolete".

It is silly. As silly as saying "18-wheelers will make all other cars obsolete".

As ICE engine vehicles made the others obsolete, the ITS may make non-refuel-to-refly launchers obsolete.

That is not to say the successful competitors with the ITS will have two-stages and be fueled by MethaLOx.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #106 on: 08/15/2017 04:37 PM »
This hearkens back to the point I have made many times about the difference between a bulk carrier and a custom carrier. A transfer truck is a bulk carrier where as a UPS delivery truck is a custom carrier. In the case for large constellations the "transfer truck" makes a great deal of sense. But for the large up to 7mt GEO sats the transfer truck does not make much sense unless there has been an infrastructure build up in LEO to process containerized sats (unpack, checkout, and mate to a reusable tug). While a fully reusable ITSy could cost as low as an F9 partial reusable it would be quite an overkill when used in the per sat custom launch scenario.

F9 is a custom carrier. Single large sats up to 6mt to GTO (F9/F9R). Single large sats >6mt to GTO (FH/FHR).

ITSy is a bulk carrier. 6.25X the payload capacity as a fully reusable over that of F9R (partial reusable). Five  6mt GTO or three 9mt GTO sats.

Their roles are very different. They are optimized very differently for very different types of payloads.

So the overlap between F9/FH and ITSy will exists for a significant amount of time until that LEO infrastructure build up occurs. Meanwhile those sats needing some other orbit not reachable by the tugs from those LEO centers would launch on specialized custom LV orbit serving (something similar to the F9) once F9 has been retired. This portion of the Market will never be large but may have grown to be as larger or larger than the current total sat market. While the bulk transport market will be many times larger and represent a much more steady state market. All of this makes the estimation of when F9/FH would be retired very blurred. ITSy would have to be launching very regularly while F9 rates start to drop significantly. Once they get to under 10 per year I would imagine that SpaceX would then stop selling flights. But that point would be after several years of ITSy in operation. With the ITSy development schedule being NET 6 years from now the retirement of F9 would not be expected until NET 10 years from now or 2027.
« Last Edit: 08/15/2017 05:43 PM by oldAtlas_Eguy »

Offline ZachF

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #107 on: 08/15/2017 04:38 PM »
What does not make sense for me is saying "ITS will make all other rockets obsolete".

It is silly. As silly as saying "18-wheelers will make all other cars obsolete".

Not really.

Full rapid re-usability changes the economics landscape completely. It's an order-of-magnitude (or greater) cost disruption.

Whether it can be accomplished, how hard it is to do, or how long it will take to achieve, are the questions here. If it is accomplished, then yes, all other rockets rapidly become obsolete.

Offline Jim

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #108 on: 08/15/2017 04:39 PM »
If it is accomplished, then yes, all other rockets rapidly become obsolete.

wrong.  There are still horse drawn buggies, biplanes, propeller driven aircraft, calculators, answering machines, etc
« Last Edit: 08/15/2017 04:40 PM by Jim »

Offline ZachF

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #109 on: 08/15/2017 04:48 PM »
If it is accomplished, then yes, all other rockets rapidly become obsolete.

wrong.  There are still horse drawn buggies, biplanes, propeller driven aircraft, calculators, answering machines, etc

::)

Show me a graph of the share of passenger miles for horse drawn carriages, vs cars and other personal transportation. Is Horse-drawn buggies' share even large enough to be seen without a microscope?

Whats the production of horse drawn carriages vs 150-200 years ago?

How about Biplanes vs. Commercial jet aircraft (passenger miles)?

The iPhone came out ten years ago, I'm sure there are still some people who use their wall-mounted corded-rotary dial phone too, but how many are sold and what's their market share? What's the total sales vs 30 years ago?

« Last Edit: 08/15/2017 04:48 PM by ZachF »

Offline Jim

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #110 on: 08/15/2017 04:55 PM »

Whether it can be accomplished, how hard it is to do, or how long it will take to achieve, are the questions here. If it is accomplished, then yes, all other rockets rapidly become obsolete.

Same nonsense as this:

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39688.msg1709987#msg1709987

You have a habit of making over reaching statements unsupported by fact.
« Last Edit: 08/15/2017 04:58 PM by Jim »

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #111 on: 08/15/2017 05:09 PM »
If it is accomplished, then yes, all other rockets rapidly become obsolete.

wrong.  There are still horse drawn buggies, biplanes, propeller driven aircraft, calculators, answering machines, etc
Yes Jim I agree. See the above post as to why I believe so also. Large expendable LVs have not obsoleted the small sat launchers. A large reusable LV will not obsolete small reusable launchers or even small expendable launchers. Just force them to be less expensive.

Offline rpapo

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #112 on: 08/15/2017 05:16 PM »
If it is accomplished, then yes, all other rockets rapidly become obsolete.

wrong.  There are still horse drawn buggies, biplanes, propeller driven aircraft, calculators, answering machines, etc
Yes Jim I agree. See the above post as to why I believe so also. Large expendable LVs have not obsoleted the small sat launchers. A large reusable LV will not obsolete small reusable launchers or even small expendable launchers. Just force them to be less expensive.
And just as much to the point, it is very unlikely that SpaceX will obsolete national space programs.  They have their own reasons for existence, which reasons do not require competitiveness.  So I suspect that in the very unlikely chance that every last commercial launch were to go to SpaceX, you would still see NASA, Europe, Russia, China, India and a variety of other, smaller players continue to exist.  They may even borrow a page or two from SpaceX's script and rewrite it better.

But discussing the fate of other rockets and rocketry programs isn't on topic here.  See the opening question.
« Last Edit: 08/15/2017 05:20 PM by rpapo »
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Offline docmordrid

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #113 on: 08/15/2017 05:40 PM »
If it is accomplished, then yes, all other rockets rapidly become obsolete.

wrong.  There are still horse drawn buggies, biplanes, propeller driven aircraft, calculators, answering machines, etc

/sigh

But they have been relegated to small, niche roles save for the calculator, which for 95%+  of people is now a phone/tablet app.
DM

Offline Jim

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #114 on: 08/15/2017 05:54 PM »
If it is accomplished, then yes, all other rockets rapidly become obsolete.

wrong.  There are still horse drawn buggies, biplanes, propeller driven aircraft, calculators, answering machines, etc

/sigh

But they have been relegated to small, niche roles save for the calculator, which for 95%+  of people is now a phone/tablet app.

/sigh  Does everything have to explicit?   

The point is that other rockets are not going to be obsolete

Propeller driven aircraft are not niche
« Last Edit: 08/15/2017 05:57 PM by Jim »

Offline llanitedave

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #115 on: 08/15/2017 06:27 PM »
If it is accomplished, then yes, all other rockets rapidly become obsolete.

wrong.  There are still horse drawn buggies, biplanes, propeller driven aircraft, calculators, answering machines, etc


Obsolescence doesn't mean nonexistence.
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Offline RoboGoofers

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #116 on: 08/15/2017 07:08 PM »
If it is accomplished, then yes, all other rockets rapidly become obsolete.

wrong.  There are still horse drawn buggies, biplanes, propeller driven aircraft, calculators, answering machines, etc
Obsolescence doesn't mean nonexistence.

yeah, 2010 computers are obsolete yet there are many still in use. They're used until they break and then replaced with modern equivalents because replacement parts are often more expensive than faster, smaller, more power efficient new parts. Some companies will pay exorbitant prices to keep the old hardware running, but they're not really operating in the same 'market' at that point.

When F9 becomes obsolete, that doesn't necessitate that the form/size is obsolete, but that: A) the market changes and it is less relevant in the new market (it might still have customers but likely in a smaller secondary/tertiary market), or B) it's superseded by a better, similar version and is discontinued.

I cut my grass with a scythe and I think it does some things better than modern tools, but i'm under no illusion that it's not obsolete.
« Last Edit: 08/15/2017 07:17 PM by RoboGoofers »

Offline AC in NC

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #117 on: 08/15/2017 08:37 PM »
If it is accomplished, then yes, all other rockets rapidly become obsolete.

wrong.  There are still horse drawn buggies, biplanes, propeller driven aircraft, calculators, answering machines, etc

/sigh

But they have been relegated to small, niche roles save for the calculator, which for 95%+  of people is now a phone/tablet app.

/sigh  Does everything have to explicit?   

The point is that other rockets are not going to be obsolete

Propeller driven aircraft are not niche

I think I actually agree with you but this argument (obsolete products still having uses or fans) for all other rockets not becoming [effectively] obsolete is not a very good one.

The question (in the hypothetical) is:  What market would they serve?

Offline Mader Levap

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #118 on: 08/15/2017 10:49 PM »
Full rapid re-usability changes the economics landscape completely. It's an order-of-magnitude (or greater) cost disruption.

I will remind you we are talking in context of ITS supposedly destroying all other rockets due to its sheer awesomeness.

So, nope. "Expendable rockets become obsolete" is not same thing as "ITS will make any other rocket obsolete".

Again, this kind of claim is very silly and out of touch with reality. ITS is cost-effective only for appropriate payload. People do not drive in 18-wheelers. 18-wheelers do not drive to every pops&mom grocery store. People generally have small (relatively) cars on their parking lots, not school buses. Etc, etc, etc.
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Online envy887

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #119 on: 08/15/2017 11:00 PM »
Full rapid re-usability changes the economics landscape completely. It's an order-of-magnitude (or greater) cost disruption.

I will remind you we are talking in context of ITS supposedly destroying all other rockets due to its sheer awesomeness.

So, nope. "Expendable rockets become obsolete" is not same thing as "ITS will make any other rocket obsolete".

Again, this kind of claim is very silly and out of touch with reality. ITS is cost-effective only for appropriate payload. People do not drive in 18-wheelers. 18-wheelers do not drive to every pops&mom grocery store. People generally have small (relatively) cars on their parking lots, not school buses. Etc, etc, etc.

We don't know how much ITS is going to cost to operate. We don't even know how much most current rockets cost to operate. There's no way to say definitively if it will be competitive or not, at this point.

But... if SpaceX hits their cost goals for ITS (a big if), it will be cheaper per launch than ANY other currently operational orbital rocket. The point isn't that it could obsolete every rocket that could ever exist, only that it will obsolete every currently operational rocket (and all the ones that are likely to be operational in the next 5-10 years).


Offline alang

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #120 on: 08/15/2017 11:14 PM »
If you've noticed, EM has been mentioning financial matters (like not going bankrupt or $1B for reusability development) quite a bit lately.  GS also mentioned 'hundreds of millions' in development costs.  What I think happened is that the AMOS failure and price tag for rebuild of LC-40 precipitated a 'chat' between GS and EM where a few lines were drawn (by GS).  EM is not chipping in a billion per year, so the business (it IS a business) needs to become viable. 

Lots of F9/FH launches, including getting the ConnX up and producing major revenue, is required for that business to pay for the next big thing which is ITS... there isn't money for ITS first.

Thats a quite well observed point. Thank you for the perspective. SpaceX is not yet close to emergency mode but the AMOS failure shifted the short term priorities around a lot. Unless they get donated a ton of money, SpaceX will not be able to fast-roll ITS.

And so will the next one

Not being so great at parsing your cryptic observations it took me a while to realise that you meant the next failure.

It occurs to me that this is a real barrier to new entrants: you've started flying payloads after a an expensive start, you've now got a large payroll but you lose occasional payloads which cause a six month gap before the next launch. The trouble is you can't do more launches to get more data because you have to go through a fault analysis on the ground to satisfy the regulator during which time money is fleeing the company at a pace even faster than when you first started.
My question is:does it have to be six months for a vehicle that just carries cargo? Would it many any sense to launch a more instrumented vehicle earlier to gather more data? Would the FAA ever give a permit for such a purpose?
It occurs to me that it wouldn't take many failures to put SpaceX out of business and that's not just about insurance risks, it's also about what a regulator allows.
Would it be any different if they didn't plan to launch people on the falcon 9 ?

Offline Mader Levap

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #121 on: 08/15/2017 11:53 PM »
We don't know how much ITS is going to cost to operate. We don't even know how much most current rockets cost to operate. There's no way to say definitively if it will be competitive or not, at this point.

But... if SpaceX hits their cost goals for ITS (a big if), it will be cheaper per launch than ANY other currently operational orbital rocket. The point isn't that it could obsolete every rocket that could ever exist, only that it will obsolete every currently operational rocket (and all the ones that are likely to be operational in the next 5-10 years).

Uh, you actually mean "cheapest per kg", not "per launch", right? Surely you do not seriously claim single launch of ITS will be cheaper than few milion $ (cheapest orbital rocket avaliable)?
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Online RotoSequence

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #122 on: 08/16/2017 12:26 AM »
We don't know how much ITS is going to cost to operate. We don't even know how much most current rockets cost to operate. There's no way to say definitively if it will be competitive or not, at this point.

But... if SpaceX hits their cost goals for ITS (a big if), it will be cheaper per launch than ANY other currently operational orbital rocket. The point isn't that it could obsolete every rocket that could ever exist, only that it will obsolete every currently operational rocket (and all the ones that are likely to be operational in the next 5-10 years).

Uh, you actually mean "cheapest per kg", not "per launch", right? Surely you do not seriously claim single launch of ITS will be cheaper than few milion $ (cheapest orbital rocket avaliable)?

It's not impossible. If a rocket is fully reusable for ten flights and costs 300 million dollars, it has an amortized cost of $30 million per launch. If it flies twenty times, the amortized cost is $15 million per launch. For sufficiently high flight numbers and sufficiently low refurbishment costs (a lofty and very difficult goal, to be sure), a big and expensive but fully reusable rocket could have a lower cost of operation than a small, inexpensive, and expendable or semi-expendable booster.
« Last Edit: 08/16/2017 12:30 AM by RotoSequence »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #123 on: 08/16/2017 12:31 AM »
We don't know how much ITS is going to cost to operate. We don't even know how much most current rockets cost to operate. There's no way to say definitively if it will be competitive or not, at this point.

But... if SpaceX hits their cost goals for ITS (a big if), it will be cheaper per launch than ANY other currently operational orbital rocket. The point isn't that it could obsolete every rocket that could ever exist, only that it will obsolete every currently operational rocket (and all the ones that are likely to be operational in the next 5-10 years).

Uh, you actually mean "cheapest per kg", not "per launch", right? Surely you do not seriously claim single launch of ITS will be cheaper than few milion $ (cheapest orbital rocket avaliable)?
sure, why not? Throwing away aerospace hardware is expensive. Fuel is cheap.
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Online envy887

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #124 on: 08/16/2017 01:17 AM »
We don't know how much ITS is going to cost to operate. We don't even know how much most current rockets cost to operate. There's no way to say definitively if it will be competitive or not, at this point.

But... if SpaceX hits their cost goals for ITS (a big if), it will be cheaper per launch than ANY other currently operational orbital rocket. The point isn't that it could obsolete every rocket that could ever exist, only that it will obsolete every currently operational rocket (and all the ones that are likely to be operational in the next 5-10 years).

Uh, you actually mean "cheapest per kg", not "per launch", right? Surely you do not seriously claim single launch of ITS will be cheaper than few milion $ (cheapest orbital rocket avaliable)?

The cheapest operational orbital commercial launch is the PSLV at about $20M a pop. None of the smallsat launchers are operational yet.

Offline RoboGoofers

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #125 on: 08/16/2017 03:33 PM »
just some rough estimate on launch price:
the original ITS presentation listed 6700 t for propellant mass for the booster. assuming 1000 l per ton and combined O2/methane cost somewhere between $1-3/liter it'd be $~6.7-20 million to fuel the booster. 1950 t propellant for the ship, so another $~2-6 million for the ship.

so somewhere between $8-26 million for the original ITS. ITSy is ~75% the size of ITS, so $6-20 million for one orbital launch.

Original was 300 t to LEO, so $20k-66k/t. Using same simple scaling factor is $15-50k/t on ITSy

Of course that's not including manufacture, development, profit, overhead, etc. As a rough estimate equivalent for that, a Boeing 777 is approx. $320 million (what google told me). Boeing has a lot of potential customers though, so i'd double that number for SpaceX, at least (say, $700 million).

Now, they have no way of knowing how many launches ITSy will be able to make, but for accounting purposes maybe they'll want to pay off the rocket in 10 launches, so $70 million/launch

so ~$80-100 million per launch? maybe they'd charge 150% to customers, so $120-150 million? $530-666k/t LEO (~225 tonnes for ITSy)

So 4x the mass of FH at maybe double the price. I would think that's cheapest per mass price, but i don't know. definitely not cheapest per launch.

All of this was back of envelope so let me know if you get different results.

Offline hkultala

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #126 on: 08/16/2017 03:40 PM »
ITSy is ~75% the size of ITS, so $6-20 million for one orbital launch.

Where do you base this your "75% the size" number?

Offline RoboGoofers

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #127 on: 08/16/2017 03:53 PM »
ITSy is ~75% the size of ITS, so $6-20 million for one orbital launch.

Where do you base this your "75% the size" number?

The only number we have is 9 meter diameter tank, so 75%.

also, i should have looked a couple slides further in the ITS presentation:
« Last Edit: 08/16/2017 03:58 PM by RoboGoofers »

Online guckyfan

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #128 on: 08/16/2017 04:11 PM »
All of this was back of envelope so let me know if you get different results.

The numbers you used are for 5-6 orbital launches. I get cost ~$3,5 million/launch. That's for the full size ITS. The subscale may not be much lower.

Offline RedLineTrain

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #129 on: 08/16/2017 04:39 PM »
also, i should have looked a couple slides further in the ITS presentation:

To quote the figure of merit from the presentation:  propellant costs are assumed to be $168/mt, or almost an order of magnitude less than the lower bound of your assumption.

That said, The Space Review quotes methane costs of $1.35 per kg, or $1,350/mt.  Of course, would have to do the calculations for a blended LOX/methane price.  For the sake of argument, let's assume LOX is free, and with a 4:1 mixture ratio, we would divide the $1,350 by 5, for a blended rate of $270/mt.

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2893/1

Long story short, with LOX/methane, your propellant costs per flight are minimal, even with big rockets.
« Last Edit: 08/16/2017 04:58 PM by RedLineTrain »

Offline RoboGoofers

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #130 on: 08/16/2017 05:09 PM »
also, i should have looked a couple slides further in the ITS presentation:

To quote the figure of merit from the presentation:  propellant costs are assumed to be $168/mt, or almost an order of magnitude less than the lower bound of your assumption.

That said, The Space Review quotes methane costs of $1.35 per kg, or $1,350/mt.  Of course, would have to do the calculations for a blended LOX/methane price.  For the sake of argument, let's assume LOX is free, and with a 4:1 mixture ratio, we would divide the $1,350 by 5, for a blended rate of $270/mt.

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2893/1

Long story short, with LOX/methane, your propellant costs per flight are minimal, even with big rockets.

yeah that's the conclusion i come to. Amortization and profit will be a much higher percentage of the launch cost. Amortization over 1000 launches is a great aspirational number but would have to be proven out by a lot of much more expensive launches amortized over fewer launches.
 
I didn't want to pull this thread off topic, but just wanted to have some estimates for ITS/ITSy launch prices to compare to.

Now i'm starting to think, in a future where everything goes the way spaceX hopes, that the launch cost savings to develop a F9 replacement may not be enough to justify the effort. That would push the F9 retirement date out a lot further.
« Last Edit: 08/16/2017 05:12 PM by RoboGoofers »

Offline hkultala

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #131 on: 08/16/2017 05:45 PM »
ITSy is ~75% the size of ITS, so $6-20 million for one orbital launch.

Where do you base this your "75% the size" number?

The only number we have is 9 meter diameter tank, so 75%.


75% diameter does not mean 75% volume, or 75% mass. It means much less.



« Last Edit: 08/16/2017 05:46 PM by hkultala »

Offline ZachF

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #132 on: 08/16/2017 05:56 PM »
also, i should have looked a couple slides further in the ITS presentation:

To quote the figure of merit from the presentation:  propellant costs are assumed to be $168/mt, or almost an order of magnitude less than the lower bound of your assumption.

That said, The Space Review quotes methane costs of $1.35 per kg, or $1,350/mt.  Of course, would have to do the calculations for a blended LOX/methane price.  For the sake of argument, let's assume LOX is free, and with a 4:1 mixture ratio, we would divide the $1,350 by 5, for a blended rate of $270/mt.

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2893/1

Long story short, with LOX/methane, your propellant costs per flight are minimal, even with big rockets.

That Methane price is way high...

I remember researching prices and the findings were (roughly) this:

Spot Natural Gas prices are only $3 per million BTU, which works out to around $150/tonne. (50,000 BTU per KG for NG)
LNG spot price is around $4.50 per TCF, which works out to around $220/tonne
Natural gas is mostly methane, but methane costs a bit more.
LOX is only around $100/tonne
Kerosene is around $2/gallon, which works out to around $660/tonne, RP1 costs a bit more.
Most sources seemed to put Hydrogen at around $5-10 per Kg, or $5,000-$10,000 per tonne.

Ratios are 5-7:1 for Hydrolox, 3.2-3.8:1 for Methalox, and 2.2-2.8:1 for Kerolox.

>$1,000/tonne for Hydrolox
~$500/tonne for Kerolox
~$200/tonne for Methalox (similar to quoted $168/tonne SX price)

Methalox is dirt cheap, fueling an ITSy should be in the ~$700,000 dollar range if it is a ~4,000 tonne rocket.
Fueling a falcon 9 Is around $250,000 per Elon for 500 tonnes ($500 per ton)

Offline ZachF

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #133 on: 08/16/2017 05:58 PM »
ITSy is ~75% the size of ITS, so $6-20 million for one orbital launch.

Where do you base this your "75% the size" number?

The only number we have is 9 meter diameter tank, so 75%.


75% diameter does not mean 75% volume, or 75% mass. It means much less.

Yeah, If it's scaled down 75% in all dimensions, then 0.75 x 0.75 x 0.75 = 0.422

The final ITSy will probably be somewhere between 1/2 and 1/3rd the original size depending upon how long the decide to make it.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #134 on: 08/16/2017 06:56 PM »
ITSy is ~75% the size of ITS, so $6-20 million for one orbital launch.

Where do you base this your "75% the size" number?

The only number we have is 9 meter diameter tank, so 75%.


75% diameter does not mean 75% volume, or 75% mass. It means much less.

Yeah, If it's scaled down 75% in all dimensions, then 0.75 x 0.75 x 0.75 = 0.422

The final ITSy will probably be somewhere between 1/2 and 1/3rd the original size depending upon how long the decide to make it.
Yes 40% of capability but only 60% of price such that $/kg is higher on ITSy than ITS. In fact 50% greater than ITS.

Offline RoboGoofers

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #135 on: 08/16/2017 07:10 PM »

Yes 40% of capability but only 60% of price such that $/kg is higher on ITSy than ITS. In fact 50% greater than ITS.

yeah i know, the 75% is a bad scaling factor. Might as well use the full ITS numbers since spaceX provided them. ITSy might only be a one-off testbed, after all.

« Last Edit: 08/16/2017 07:19 PM by RoboGoofers »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #136 on: 08/16/2017 10:42 PM »

Yes 40% of capability but only 60% of price such that $/kg is higher on ITSy than ITS. In fact 50% greater than ITS.

yeah i know, the 75% is a bad scaling factor. Might as well use the full ITS numbers since spaceX provided them. ITSy might only be a one-off testbed, after all.
Nah. "One-off" fits too poorly with what Musk has said.
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Offline Mader Levap

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #137 on: 08/17/2017 05:40 PM »
Uh, you actually mean "cheapest per kg", not "per launch", right? Surely you do not seriously claim single launch of ITS will be cheaper than few milion $ (cheapest orbital rocket avaliable)?
It's not impossible. If a rocket is fully reusable for ten flights and costs 300 million dollars, it has an amortized cost of $30 million per launch.
You are ignoring other costs. Ground ops during launch, processing between launches, fuel and the like. If rockets became very cheap, those costs start to be significant.

If it flies twenty times, the amortized cost is $15 million per launch. For sufficiently high flight numbers and sufficiently low refurbishment costs (a lofty and very difficult goal, to be sure), a big and expensive but fully reusable rocket could have a lower cost of operation than a small, inexpensive, and expendable or semi-expendable booster.
But I DO agree expendables will be dead in water (actually, they already are).

What I contest is notion that ITS will make any and all other rockets obsolete. "Any and all" includes reusables, you know.

I don't have even to point in direction of Bezos' newest toy, just common sense that says there will be still many variants and types of rockets out there with or without ITS. I will repeat it ad nauseam: people do not use 18-wheelers for everything.

People wil not use ITS or ITS-like rockets for everything either.

sure, why not? Throwing away aerospace hardware is expensive. Fuel is cheap.
Do you seriously think cost of fuel is only cost here?  ::)

The cheapest operational orbital commercial launch is the PSLV at about $20M a pop. None of the smallsat launchers are operational yet.
AFAIK Dniepr and the like were for few mln $.
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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #138 on: 08/18/2017 11:46 PM »
Uh, you actually mean "cheapest per kg", not "per launch", right? Surely you do not seriously claim single launch of ITS will be cheaper than few milion $ (cheapest orbital rocket avaliable)?
It's not impossible. If a rocket is fully reusable for ten flights and costs 300 million dollars, it has an amortized cost of $30 million per launch.
You are ignoring other costs. Ground ops during launch, processing between launches, fuel and the like. If rockets became very cheap, those costs start to be significant.

If it flies twenty times, the amortized cost is $15 million per launch. For sufficiently high flight numbers and sufficiently low refurbishment costs (a lofty and very difficult goal, to be sure), a big and expensive but fully reusable rocket could have a lower cost of operation than a small, inexpensive, and expendable or semi-expendable booster.
But I DO agree expendables will be dead in water (actually, they already are).

What I contest is notion that ITS will make any and all other rockets obsolete. "Any and all" includes reusables, you know.

I don't have even to point in direction of Bezos' newest toy, just common sense that says there will be still many variants and types of rockets out there with or without ITS. I will repeat it ad nauseam: people do not use 18-wheelers for everything.

People wil not use ITS or ITS-like rockets for everything either.

sure, why not? Throwing away aerospace hardware is expensive. Fuel is cheap.
Do you seriously think cost of fuel is only cost here?  ::)

The cheapest operational orbital commercial launch is the PSLV at about $20M a pop. None of the smallsat launchers are operational yet.
AFAIK Dniepr and the like were for few mln $.

Taking a 18 wheeler around the block is a poor analogy. People don't use powerboats or Cessnas for intercontinental cargo or transport, they wait for a cargo ship or a wide-body jetliner.

And Dnepr is not operational. Rokot is barely operational and over $20M anyway.

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #139 on: 08/19/2017 04:50 PM »
For your amusement. The GAO have an estimate of the launch cost of the current launch vehicles on page 35 of the linked report. The F9 launch cost per kilogram is impressive even before you add booster reuse to the mix. THe F9 will be in service far longer than anyone expected because it is so cheap IMO.

http://www.gao.gov/assets/690/686613.pdf
« Last Edit: 08/19/2017 08:41 PM by gongora »

Offline ZachF

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #140 on: 08/19/2017 08:00 PM »
I thought Proton was more in the ~$90 million range...

...Maybe that was back before the Ruble collapsed in value?

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #141 on: 08/19/2017 08:32 PM »
Proton (and other vehicles) can be underpriced when underutilized or due to LOM/RTF.

Always judge launch price, backlog and flight frequency together - occasional cheap launches are just statistical noise.

Constant launches with constant low launch price means attempt to command the market volume.

If you do that long enough, you create the future of a low launch cost market.

If that persists, the economics reinforce. It then becomes hard for even the leaders of such to raise prices.

Now lets say you wish to factor in a new launch system (assuming low/no loss rate). How do you attract missions to fly? How do you have acceptable margin to phase in volume?

Even of SX were to command the market with perfect performance (which won't happen), they would find it hard to take F9 (possibly FH) out of service, because it sets market expectations.

Again, while you own the LV, the LV also owns ... you.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #142 on: 08/19/2017 08:58 PM »
If you could launch 4 large sats per ITSy launch in order to replace the current F9 launch rate would require at least 5 launches per year launch rate. Now add in at the time frame of when ITSy would fly the CommX deployment annual launches of ~30 F9's and that would require another ~8 ITSy to launch all of those as well. So to completely replace the F9 ITSy would have to fly at a rate of 13 per year just to handle the foreseen base rate for F9. Now add additional Lunar and Mars mission flights and the launch rates climb into the 20's. It took SpaceX 7 years to get to this rate of just ~20 (hopefully no incidents will occur for the remainder of this year or next). So even if it takes SpaceX only half that time for ITSy that is still 3 years after ITSy starts flying before it is flying often enough to take all the payloads that F9 would be launching in that time frame.

This then puts the F9 flying for about a decade before it is retired if then. The delay in the ability for replacement for SSO orbits may push the retirement out even further or even never retire it for as much as a couple of decades.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #143 on: 08/19/2017 10:23 PM »
For use in delivering SSO sats the F9 and FH mated with a mini ITS like US (even one using a M1DVAC and not methalox) could keep the F9/FH flying out of VAFB for quite awhile after ITSy is launching into equatorial orbits. Other than for a protion of the CommX constellation SpaceX launch tonnage out of VAFB will never be as large as that to equatorial will grow to. A new US for the F9 would not be something done prior to ITSy but something done after the ITSy is flying to reduce the F9/FH per flight costs without having to spend alot on development costs.

Added: A BTW if the F9/FH can be made into a fully reusable vehicle the store of boosters/engines and a dozen US's could keep the F9/FH flying for a decade after the production line is shut down.
« Last Edit: 08/19/2017 11:35 PM by oldAtlas_Eguy »

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #144 on: 08/20/2017 01:41 AM »
In the long run only fully reusable rockets will survive (once the first one enters service reliably).
F9/FH will survive if they can be fully reusable, with refurbishment costs low enough.
But that limits F9 essentially to LEO only and FH refurb costs could be pretty high having to deal with 4 stages.

There was a quote that ITS/ITSy upper stage can fly 200 times. The booster can fly 1000 times. With the complete set costing around half a billion USD.
To simplify lets assume 5 complete sets would be required for 1000 flights (US$ 2,5 billion), but that the fact that the booster will actually be good for 1000 flights covers the refurb costs.
2.5 billion / 1000 flights = US$ 2.5 million per flight
Plugging in US$ 1 million in prop costs per launch
Compare that with the cost of building a F9 upper stage and fueling the entire stack. Even assuming boosters and fairings can be easily reused, ITSy is already winning big time.

Is that going to be accomplished ? Dunno.
But even if costs double, SpaceX might actually become a near monopoly for civilian launches.

Some of those per launch costs can be streamlined with a private launch facility with a few launches a month.
If you just assume twin manifest launches to GTO it already makes great sense.
And then a single ITSy launch could have delivered the entire Orbcomm or Iridium constellation in a single shot (assuming all orbits are parallel, where drifting between orbits is possible).

Don't compare rockets with cars or airplanes. Those aren't thrown away after each launch. Its a brave new world.
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Offline LouScheffer

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #145 on: 08/20/2017 02:40 AM »
For your amusement. The GAO have an estimate of the launch cost of the current launch vehicles on page 35 of the linked report. The F9 launch cost per kilogram is impressive even before you add booster reuse to the mix. THe F9 will be in service far longer than anyone expected because it is so cheap IMO.

It's even better than it looks - there's a typo in the table.   The SpaceX entry should be 2684 $/kg, not 2864.

This is immediately clear when you ask how Proton can be comparable.  They payload is 23,000 vs 22,800, or about 1% more.  But the cost is more than 1% higher.  So at least one of the numbers must be wrong, and it's SpaceX.

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #146 on: 08/20/2017 03:59 PM »
For your amusement. The GAO have an estimate of the launch cost of the current launch vehicles on page 35 of the linked report. The F9 launch cost per kilogram is impressive even before you add booster reuse to the mix. THe F9 will be in service far longer than anyone expected because it is so cheap IMO.

It's even better than it looks - there's a typo in the table.   The SpaceX entry should be 2684 $/kg, not 2864.

This is immediately clear when you ask how Proton can be comparable.  They payload is 23,000 vs 22,800, or about 1% more.  But the cost is more than 1% higher.  So at least one of the numbers must be wrong, and it's SpaceX.

The SpaceX price is likely only for missions with recoverable boosters.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #147 on: 08/20/2017 04:00 PM »
There is also a table on page 50/51 of new entrants. This table includes FH. But it also includes all the others in development. An interesting item is that except for the XS-1 the price per flight of the government LVs such as SLS and others are all TBD. This is a government GAO report and these are government LV programs. If they have no idea of how much it will cost per flight that is a bad thing.

The SpaceX price is for a new booster. The recovery or even if it is expendable flight is not at this time the determiner for flight price.

[added:]
Note these tables are all specifying the commercial market prices for the LV's. The possible reason for TBD's or unknown values is that there is no effort to market the LV in the commercial  launch market or the provider is not sufficiently mature with their design to offer a stable price estimate.
« Last Edit: 08/20/2017 04:52 PM by oldAtlas_Eguy »

Offline ZachF

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #148 on: 08/20/2017 06:59 PM »
Looking at that table it looks like Falcon 9's GTO price/kg (If we use the 6761kg Intelsat 35e) beats most other LV's LEO prices...

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #149 on: 08/20/2017 07:07 PM »
Intelsat 35e was well over the mass limit to GTO for $62M. They likely paid a premium for the performance.

Offline Doesitfloat

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #150 on: 08/20/2017 07:45 PM »
Intel 35 likely paid less than 63 mil. Because they contracted  the flight before the price was 62.2. If you have a source that confirms a higher price then please share it.

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #151 on: 08/20/2017 08:59 PM »
Intel 35 likely paid less than 63 mil. Because they contracted  the flight before the price was 62.2. If you have a source that confirms a higher price then please share it.
The Intelsat 35e launch was originally a Falcon Heavy contact. When it was announced in 2012, the Falcon Heavy list price was $128M for more than 6.4 t to GTO. 35e was 6.7 t.

The contract was probably renegotiated since it was delayed and then moved to F9. But I highly doubt they got the launch for anywhere near $62M.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_Heavy
« Last Edit: 08/20/2017 09:01 PM by envy887 »

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #152 on: 08/20/2017 10:21 PM »
This has started trending OT for this thread. I suggest that the discussion of the LV pricing comparisons and how that involves competition between providers should move to this thread http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39688.msg1714441#msg1714441 where there is already a discussion going related to the GAO report that is also inline with that threads topic.

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #153 on: 08/21/2017 02:21 AM »
This has started trending OT for this thread. I suggest that the discussion of the LV pricing comparisons and how that involves competition between providers should move to this thread http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39688.msg1714441#msg1714441 where there is already a discussion going related to the GAO report that is also inline with that threads topic.

Concur. And thanks for the self moderation, folks!
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Offline RoboGoofers

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #154 on: 09/29/2017 09:21 PM »


Personaly. 15 years untill old faithful becomes obsolete.


It will fly much longer.  there isn't going to be something to replace it unless the new thing has wings.
Very prescient

Offline raketa

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #155 on: 09/30/2017 02:01 AM »
Between 2020 and 2024.
BFS flying to Mars will be tested and use multiple time in  LEO and Moon delivery and start to replace F9, F9H, befor "refurbish" send on Mars trajectory.
Mars will be like retirement for BFS used and tested around Earth.

Offline QuantumG

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #156 on: 09/30/2017 02:42 AM »
I don't think retirement is the right question. When does SpaceX start raising the price of Falcon to get people to use ITSy? When does Falcon get delegated to "conservative customers" only?

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

Offline alang

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #157 on: 09/30/2017 11:32 AM »
Much has been made of the risks surrounding Elon Musk's stated determination to move all resources to the BFR but I wonder if that statement is more to motivate his workers than anything else.
I can imagine that some people involved in production of increasingly stable Falcon stages will look enviously at the work being done on the BFR prototype and need reassuring that their future has more in it.
There's a long road before the new rocket becomes part of a production line, especially the second stage. A prototype is much easier than a production model. I imagine that changes to the falcon second stage for reuse practice will continue as a way of providing reentry R&D relevant to BFS and keeping engineers engaged.
My impression is that in innovative companies that keeping the workers happy is much more important than those of us who work in commodity service industries, that can only make money by cost reductions, tend to assume.
In other words I don't think the Falcon will be retiring any time soon after a stockpile of reusable first stages has been achieved and we'll continue to see second stage experimentation.

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #158 on: 09/30/2017 11:48 AM »
Much has been made of the risks surrounding Elon Musk's stated determination to move all resources to the BFR but I wonder if that statement is more to motivate his workers than anything else.

Gwynne Shotwell mentioned on the Space Show that she likes to have multiple projects in startup phase, because this gives employees something to look forward to. So yeah, I guess there's a motivation factor in it.

Offline aero

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #159 on: 10/20/2017 07:22 AM »
It is interesting though that possibly 25% of Falcon 9 launches this year, 2017, will use flight proven boosters. That's 4 or 5 flight proven boosters out of 20 launches this year. Cost at this time was not a significant factor, insurance rates didn't change, (in one instance) but booster availability, hence customer schedule assurance was a deciding factor.

I guess the above implies that the customer really sweats the production of his launch vehicle. As long as SpaceX continues to have launch and recovery success the demand for new Falcon 9 first stages could diminish significantly. Even to the point of retiring the F9 first stage production line while continuing the current pace of F9 launches using flight proven first stages.

In other words, if booster recovery continues to work, and I see no reason why it shouldn't even if there are more bumps in the road for SpaceX then the Falcon 9 may find itself in the situation of thousands of aircraft still flying even though their production was discontinued many years ago. Shutting down the production line is not the same as shutting down the launch vehicle.
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Offline IRobot

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #160 on: 10/20/2017 07:35 AM »
I don't think retirement is the right question. When does SpaceX start raising the price of Falcon to get people to use ITSy? When does Falcon get delegated to "conservative customers" only?
Not really. SpaceX might just pull the plug, especially because maintaining production capability is very expensive.
I think Elon was very clear on this: stock several units, reuse as much as possible and then stop making them.

Online guckyfan

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #161 on: 10/20/2017 08:08 AM »
In other words, if booster recovery continues to work, and I see no reason why it shouldn't even if there are more bumps in the road for SpaceX then the Falcon 9 may find itself in the situation of thousands of aircraft still flying even though their production was discontinued many years ago. Shutting down the production line is not the same as shutting down the launch vehicle.

They will still need to run the second stage production line and cost pressure to shut it down will increase over time. Assuming that BFR works as intended they will phase out Falcon, with the possible exception for a while of manned Dragon flights to the ISS. They can build a stock of second stages for that as it will be a predetermined number of flights.

Offline aero

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #162 on: 10/20/2017 03:01 PM »
In other words, if booster recovery continues to work, and I see no reason why it shouldn't even if there are more bumps in the road for SpaceX then the Falcon 9 may find itself in the situation of thousands of aircraft still flying even though their production was discontinued many years ago. Shutting down the production line is not the same as shutting down the launch vehicle.

They will still need to run the second stage production line and cost pressure to shut it down will increase over time. Assuming that BFR works as intended they will phase out Falcon, with the possible exception for a while of manned Dragon flights to the ISS. They can build a stock of second stages for that as it will be a predetermined number of flights.

Has SpaceX stopped working on the recoverable fairing and second stage for the Falcon 9? Were they ever working seriously on second stage recovery? Of course with the BFR/BFS in operation, there is little or no benefit from a recoverable second stage for the Falcon 9 as the stockpile can deal with the transition.
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Offline Ludus

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #163 on: 10/20/2017 11:24 PM »
In other words, if booster recovery continues to work, and I see no reason why it shouldn't even if there are more bumps in the road for SpaceX then the Falcon 9 may find itself in the situation of thousands of aircraft still flying even though their production was discontinued many years ago. Shutting down the production line is not the same as shutting down the launch vehicle.

They will still need to run the second stage production line and cost pressure to shut it down will increase over time. Assuming that BFR works as intended they will phase out Falcon, with the possible exception for a while of manned Dragon flights to the ISS. They can build a stock of second stages for that as it will be a predetermined number of flights.

Has SpaceX stopped working on the recoverable fairing and second stage for the Falcon 9? Were they ever working seriously on second stage recovery? Of course with the BFR/BFS in operation, there is little or no benefit from a recoverable second stage for the Falcon 9 as the stockpile can deal with the transition.

They’ve recently been pretty clear that faring recovery and reuse is in the plan, some efforts to recover the second stage will happen, but only for data without any intent for reuse.

Online guckyfan

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #164 on: 10/21/2017 02:21 PM »
I am not quite clear on second stage recovery. I understand they will at least do the ED part of EDL. But actually getting anything back, that is bigger than the debris of their first water landing? Maybe not.

Offline RDoc

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #165 on: 10/25/2017 01:21 AM »
Perhaps they just leave the second stage in orbit and pick it up later with a BFS cargo flight after it drops off its payload  ::) ?

The number of manned flights per year is pretty small and hopefully there will be a lot of BFS cargo flights.

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #166 on: 10/25/2017 02:27 AM »
Could all of the second stages be drifted into a "salvage yard" orbit and maybe station keep for a while? Obviously not launches with different inclinations than the salvage yard, but launches to the ISS perhaps? What sort of device/equipment would be needed at the salvage yard to attach and lock the orbiting stages into formation? Do the second stages fall within the 50 ton down mass limit? Seems I recall they mass less than half of that.
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Online Lars-J

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #167 on: 10/25/2017 05:42 AM »
Could all of the second stages be drifted into a "salvage yard" orbit and maybe station keep for a while? Obviously not launches with different inclinations than the salvage yard, but launches to the ISS perhaps? What sort of device/equipment would be needed at the salvage yard to attach and lock the orbiting stages into formation? Do the second stages fall within the 50 ton down mass limit? Seems I recall they mass less than half of that.

Why do you want to salvage them? Assuming the BFR becomes operational with its extreme payload capability, what possible use could they have?

Offline RDoc

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #168 on: 10/25/2017 05:53 AM »
Could all of the second stages be drifted into a "salvage yard" orbit and maybe station keep for a while? Obviously not launches with different inclinations than the salvage yard, but launches to the ISS perhaps? What sort of device/equipment would be needed at the salvage yard to attach and lock the orbiting stages into formation? Do the second stages fall within the 50 ton down mass limit? Seems I recall they mass less than half of that.

Why do you want to salvage them? Assuming the BFR becomes operational with its extreme payload capability, what possible use could they have?
If the BFR doesn't have a LAS, F9 would be needed for manned NASA flights.

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #169 on: 10/25/2017 05:58 AM »
If the BFR doesn't have a LAS, F9 would be needed for manned NASA flights.

I can see them putting the Dragon on the nose of a BFS or tanker. But have the Dragon reenter separately to avoid BFS reentry issues. Not cheap but possible to do ISS missions and crew transport for manned BFS missions.

Offline woods170

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Re: When will F9/F9H be retired?
« Reply #170 on: 10/25/2017 08:03 AM »
Could all of the second stages be drifted into a "salvage yard" orbit and maybe station keep for a while? Obviously not launches with different inclinations than the salvage yard, but launches to the ISS perhaps? What sort of device/equipment would be needed at the salvage yard to attach and lock the orbiting stages into formation? Do the second stages fall within the 50 ton down mass limit? Seems I recall they mass less than half of that.

Why do you want to salvage them? Assuming the BFR becomes operational with its extreme payload capability, what possible use could they have?
If the BFR doesn't have a LAS, F9 would be needed for manned NASA flights.
Two things:

- BFR/BFS won't visit the ISS, regardless of the notional image shown during the 2017 IAC, given that BFR/
BFS will only just be coming online by the time ISS is retired (courtesy of real-time taking precedence over Elon-time).
- All NASA manned spaceflight, beyond ISS, is BEO and will therefore fly on SLS/Orion, not BFR. US Congress will see to that.

So, BFR/BFS (supposedly) not having a LAS is not going to present a problem IMO.

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