Author Topic: When will F9/F9H be retired?  (Read 28231 times)

Online 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

Offline 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 :)
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

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. »

Offline 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.

Offline 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.
Shouldn't reality posts be in "Advanced concepts"?  --Nomadd

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.

Offline 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 »

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