Author Topic: SpaceX Payload capability summary for different vehicle and landing combinations  (Read 18148 times)

Offline M.E.T.

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I decided to start this thread as a potential solution to my own constant search for a single reference point for the payload capabilities of the various SpaceX vehicle, mission and landing configurations. I am aware of the (very minimal) information on SpaceX's website, and of the various calculations and estimates that are made on an ad hoc basis in various discussions by those forum members with sufficient knowledge and skills to do so. However, I have not been able to find it all summarized in one place.

So my idea was to compile a list of the most likely SpaceX vehicle, destination and landing combinations, and ask those among us with the requisite knowledge to help populate it with the most accurate estimates available. Hopefully this "table" will gradually improve over time as more information is released, and as each new SpaceX flight provides new insights into vehicle capabilities.

Below I have put down the initial vehicle, destination and landing combinations that I think would be most relevant to most people. My request is for informed payload estimates next to each option. Hopefully others will find it as useful as I do. So here goes.

Definitions

LEO numbers are approximately 200 km circular LEO at 28.5 deg.
GTO from the Cape is commonly specified as GEO-1800 (about LEO+2500 m/s delta-v).
TLI is roughly LEO+3200.
TMI near LEO+3900.

The list (in approximate ascending payload order):

Falcon 9 (commencing with Block V)

Falcon 9 Block V RTLS - Payload to LEO: 13,680kg (40% payload penalty estimate)
Falcon 9 Block V RTLS - Payload to GTO:
Falcon 9 Block V RTLS - Payload to Moon:
Falcon 9 Block V RTLS - Payload to Mars:

Falcon 9 Block V ASDS - Payload to LEO: 18,240kg (20% payload penalty estimate)
Falcon 9 Block V ASDS - Payload to GTO: 5,500kg (SpaceX F9 reusable GTO payload quote for $62m)
Falcon 9 Block V ASDS - Payload to Moon:
Falcon 9 Block V ASDS - Payload to Mars:

Falcon 9 Block V Expendable - Payload to LEO: 22,800kg (SpaceX website)
Falcon 9 Block V Expendable - Payload to GTO: 8,300kg (SpaceX website)
Falcon 9 Block V Expendable - Payload to Moon:
Falcon 9 Block V Expendable - Payload to Mars: 4,020kg (SpaceX website)

Falcon Heavy (assuming Block V boosters)

Falcon Heavy 3 Cores RTLS - Payload to LEO:
Falcon Heavy 3 Cores RTLS - Payload to GTO: 8,000kg (SpaceX reusable Falcon Heavy GTO quote for $90m)
Falcon Heavy 3 Cores RTLS - Payload to Moon:
Falcon Heavy 3 Cores RTLS - Payload to Mars:

Falcon Heavy Side Boosters RTLS, Centre Core ASDS - Payload to LEO:
Falcon Heavy Side Boosters RTLS, Centre Core ASDS - Payload to GTO:
Falcon Heavy Side Boosters RTLS, Centre Core ASDS - Payload to Moon:
Falcon Heavy Side Boosters RTLS, Centre Core ASDS - Payload to Mars:

Falcon Heavy Side Boosters RTLS, Centre Core Expendable - Payload to LEO:
Falcon Heavy Side Boosters RTLS, Centre Core Expendable - Payload to GTO:
Falcon Heavy Side Boosters RTLS, Centre Core Expendable - Payload to Moon:
Falcon Heavy Side Boosters RTLS, Centre Core Expendable - Payload to Mars:

Falcon Heavy Multiple ASDS options

Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to LEO:
Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to GTO:
Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to Moon:
Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to Mars:

Falcon Heavy Side Boosters ASDS, Centre Core Expendable - Payload to LEO:
Falcon Heavy Side Boosters ASDS, Centre Core Expendable - Payload to GTO:
Falcon Heavy Side Boosters ASDS, Centre Core Expendable - Payload to Moon:
Falcon Heavy Side Boosters ASDS, Centre Core Expendable - Payload to Mars:

Falcon Heavy Fully Expendable

Falcon Heavy Expendable - Payload to LEO: 63,800kg (SpaceX website)
Falcon Heavy Expendable - Payload to GTO: 26,700kg (SpaceX website)
Falcon Heavy Expendable - Payload to Moon:
Falcon Heavy Expendable - Payload to Mars: 16,800kg (SpaceX website)

Suggestions are welcome for further expansions or changes to the list.

Edited with:
Information from SpaceX's website.
Envy887's estimates added.
RonM additional Falcon Heavy configuration added.
Envy887's F9 reusable payload penalty estimates added.
More edits based on various suggestions. Don't think I'm going to be able to reference them all.
« Last Edit: 04/17/2017 07:53 PM by M.E.T. »

Offline envy887

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SpaceX also lists 5500kg to GTO for $62M on F9, which has to be with ASDS landing. The 8000 kg to GTO for $90M on FH is definitely with booster RTLS, and might be with center RTLS as well.

Offline Lars-J

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Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to LEO:
Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to GTO:
Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to Moon:
Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to Mars:

This configuration will never fly. Boosters will either RTLS or be expended. (they'll need a fleet of ships)

For FH with recovery, there are only two options. Either the core will RTLS, or land on ASDS.

Offline M.E.T.

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Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to LEO:
Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to GTO:
Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to Moon:
Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to Mars:

This configuration will never fly. Boosters will either RTLS or be expended. (they'll need a fleet of ships)

For FH with recovery, there are only two options. Either the core will RTLS, or land on ASDS.

OK. I was wondering about that when I posted it, as I haven't ever seen this configuration discussed before. I just thought that if it managed to squeeze some extra payload out of a recoverable set of boosters, the cost benefit might be there. But ok, I'm happy to remove this option.
« Last Edit: 04/04/2017 05:27 PM by M.E.T. »

Offline Lars-J

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OK. I was wondering about that when I posted it, as I haven't ever seen this configuration discussed before. I just thought that if it managed to squeeze some extra payload into a recoverable set of boosters, the cost benefit might be there. But ok, I'm happy to remove this option.

I'll grant you that it is a theoretical option that is available, but the need for multiple ships and SpaceX's clear preference for RTLS makes it very unlikely.
« Last Edit: 04/04/2017 05:28 PM by Lars-J »

Offline envy887

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It could easily happen if SpaceX adds another ASDS operating out of Brownsville. It would only take a week or two to tow OCISLY and JTRI to the Gulf to catch 3 cores.

Offline sevenperforce

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Parallel-booster staging for FH will happen at a much lower velocity than F9 staging, so the RTLS penalty is correspondingly lower.

Offline M.E.T.

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OK. I was wondering about that when I posted it, as I haven't ever seen this configuration discussed before. I just thought that if it managed to squeeze some extra payload into a recoverable set of boosters, the cost benefit might be there. But ok, I'm happy to remove this option.

I'll grant you that it is a theoretical option that is available, but the need for multiple ships and SpaceX's clear preference for RTLS makes it very unlikely.

Would it be possible to estimate the payload gain from booster ASDS landing vs booster RTLS? For both ASDS centre core landing and expendable centre core flights? Would the payload percentage gain be in double digits or not?

Offline Lars-J

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It could easily happen if SpaceX adds another ASDS operating out of Brownsville. It would only take a week or two to tow OCISLY and JTRI to the Gulf to catch 3 cores.

No, the barges are too wide to pass through the Panama canal without extensive modifications. They had to partially disassemble one to get it to the west coat.

And the goal is a launch every two weeks from each pad.
« Last Edit: 04/04/2017 05:37 PM by Lars-J »

Online guckyfan

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I could imagine they need two ASDS on the eastcoast when the flight rate increases. To really maximise performance and expend only the central core they could do downrange landing of the 2 side boosters. Probably rare if ever needed but possible. Like if they need a lot of throw mass to Mars for Red Dragon with heavy payload and lots of fuel for Mars EDL.

Offline M.E.T.

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I could imagine they need two ASDS on the eastcoast when the flight rate increases. To really maximise performance and expend only the central core they could do downrange landing of the 2 side boosters. Probably rare if ever needed but possible. Like if they need a lot of throw mass to Mars for Red Dragon with heavy payload and lots of fuel for Mars EDL.

Well, a booster costs what, $40m to construct? So if the payload is too heavy for the boosters to RTLS, that's $80m that could be saved if there are two barges waiting to catch them.

How many times would you need to do that before paying for the costs of the extra barges and support ships? And I guess the other question is, what is the payload range where such a scenario would be beneficial. I.E., the payload is too heavy for booster RTLS, but light enough for boosters to land on ASDS.

Or perhaps, by pushing the boosters a bit harder resulting in the need for ASDS recovery, it makes the difference between the more expensive centre core having to be expended vs landing on ASDS. In that case, it saves you only the one core, but it is the presumably more expensive, reinforced centre core. (And would require 3 barges instead of 2, since all three boosters land ASDS).
« Last Edit: 04/04/2017 06:06 PM by M.E.T. »

Offline envy887

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Would it be possible to estimate the payload gain from booster ASDS landing vs booster RTLS? For both ASDS centre core landing and expendable centre core flights? Would the payload percentage gain be in double digits or not?

Here are some estimates by user nadreck from before the Block 5 thrust upgrades were announced:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39181.msg1521480#msg1521480

The thrust upgrades will bump payloads to high energy orbits up about 10% across the board.

Offline docmordrid

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"Falcon Heavy Expendable - Payload to GTO: 22,200kg "

@elonmusk
Looks like it could do 20% more with some structural upgrades to handle higher loads. But that's in fully expendable mode.

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/847884776719740928

22,200t * 1.20 = 26,640t
DM

Offline LouScheffer

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Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to LEO:
Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to GTO:
Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to Moon:
Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS - Payload to Mars:

This configuration will never fly. Boosters will either RTLS or be expended. (they'll need a fleet of ships)

For FH with recovery, there are only two options. Either the core will RTLS, or land on ASDS.
Given the accuracy they have demonstrated, and since differential GPS is much better than regular GPS, I don't see any reason in principal why they could not land the two side boosters on one ship, and the core on another.  The two side cores could line up, perhaps 20 meters apart (using differential GPS for relative location), and land simultaneously.

SpaceX are likely to have two ships anyway to avoid a single point limitation on regular launches.  So if they had a payload too big for 2 cores RLTS, one core ASDS, then they could try this.  Otherwise they need to expend the boosters anyway, so why not?   And if it's deemed too risky, splash one and save one - still better than splashing both.

And if the steering authority is enough, and the structure can stand it, you could imagine an even wilder strategy where they burn the side boosters at different rates.   (Current missions launch with asymmetrical solids, so this is not completely unprecedented.)   Then you drop the first, then sometime later the second, then the central core.  This could lead to all sorts of mission profiles, RLTS, ASDS, ASDS, or RLTS, ASDS, expend, or RLTS, expend, ASDS, and so on.

Offline Jim

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 since differential GPS is much better than regular GPS

What  differential GPS?


And if the steering authority is enough, and the structure can stand it, you could imagine an even wilder strategy where they burn the side boosters at different rates.   (Current missions launch with asymmetrical solids, so this is not completely unprecedented.)



yes, it is completely unprecedented.  Not liquid boosters and not ones as large as the core.  The upper attach points have some role in opposing each other.
« Last Edit: 04/04/2017 07:15 PM by Jim »

Online RonM

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Our four Falcon Heavy options are:

1) Falcon Heavy Side Boosters RTLS, Centre Core ASDS
2) Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS
3) Falcon Heavy Side Boosters ASDS, Centre Core Expendable
4) Falcon Heavy Expendable.

Options 2 and 3 require multiple ASDS, so they should be labeled "theoretical" or something like that.

We're missing an option, Falcon Heavy Side Boosters RTLS, Centre Core Expendable.

Offline M.E.T.

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Would it be possible to estimate the payload gain from booster ASDS landing vs booster RTLS? For both ASDS centre core landing and expendable centre core flights? Would the payload percentage gain be in double digits or not?

Here are some estimates by user nadreck from before the Block 5 thrust upgrades were announced:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39181.msg1521480#msg1521480

The thrust upgrades will bump payloads to high energy orbits up about 10% across the board.

Are these numbers generally endorsed by knowledgeable members of the forum? I'd love to insert them into the table, as "No less than" figures.

Offline LouScheffer

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Given the accuracy they have demonstrated, and since differential GPS is much better than regular GPS

What  differential GPS?
Purely passive - just that the difference between two nearly GPS positions is much more accurate than the absolute location.   (This is what GPS surveying does - it can get mm differences even though the GPS positions themselves are off by meters.)  So if two boosters aim for coordinates 20m apart by GPS, then this part of the position calculation should be more than accurate enough, even if the individual GPS locations are meters off.

Quote
And if the steering authority is enough, and the structure can stand it, you could imagine an even wilder strategy where they burn the side boosters at different rates.   (Current missions launch with asymmetrical solids, so this is not completely unprecedented.)
yes, it is completely unprecedented.  Not liquid boosters and not ones as large as the core.  The upper attach points have some role in opposing each other.
A liquid booster 2*core radius away from the centerline, throttled to 50%, applies the same torque as a similar thrust solid located 1 radius away from the centerline.  And in this case, it's applying thrust, so the upper attach points are still in compression.   But obviously you'd need to do the analysis - that's why I said IF the structure can stand it.

Offline stcks

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Our four Falcon Heavy options are:

1) Falcon Heavy Side Boosters RTLS, Centre Core ASDS
2) Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS
3) Falcon Heavy Side Boosters ASDS, Centre Core Expendable
4) Falcon Heavy Expendable.

Options 2 and 3 require multiple ASDS, so they should be labeled "theoretical" or something like that.

We're missing an option, Falcon Heavy Side Boosters RTLS, Centre Core Expendable.

The likely scenarios:

1) FH Side Boosters RTLS, Center Core RTLS
2) FH Side Boosters RTLS, Center Core ASDS (Red Dragon?)
3) FH Side Boosters RTLS, Center Core Expendable (Red Dragon?)

IMO everything else is very unlikely or only for performance advertisement

Offline M.E.T.

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Our four Falcon Heavy options are:

1) Falcon Heavy Side Boosters RTLS, Centre Core ASDS
2) Falcon Heavy 3 Cores ASDS
3) Falcon Heavy Side Boosters ASDS, Centre Core Expendable
4) Falcon Heavy Expendable.

Options 2 and 3 require multiple ASDS, so they should be labeled "theoretical" or something like that.

We're missing an option, Falcon Heavy Side Boosters RTLS, Centre Core Expendable.

OK, I added the option, and the ASDS categorisation. My aim is also to try and maintain a progressive payload increase as one moves through the options, but I'm not sure how a 3 core ASDS recovery payload would compare with a side booster RTLS, expendable core payload. My guess would be that the expendable core would provide more added energy than pushing two of the boosters to ASDS landings along with the centre core. But that's just a guess.

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