Poll

Will commercial space companies be able to conduct manned space flights (i.e. above 80km) in 2018?

Both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic will send people to space in 2018.
19 (19.6%)
Blue Origin will send people to space, but Virgin Galactic won't.
29 (29.9%)
Blue Origin won't send people to space, but Virgin Galactic will.
4 (4.1%)
Neither company will send people to space, BO will launch unmanned NS rocket, VG will have powered rocket flights
35 (36.1%)
Neither company will send people to space, only BO will launch unmanned NS rocket
5 (5.2%)
Neither company will send people to space, only VG will conduct gliding or powered tests.
2 (2.1%)
Neither company will send people to space - total hiatus, only ground activities, no flights at all.
3 (3.1%)

Total Members Voted: 97

Voting closed: 02/03/2018 01:05 pm


Author Topic: Will commercial tourist companies conduct manned space flights in 2018?  (Read 5820 times)

Offline Svetoslav

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Here I go... In this chapter I will include Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, the companies who plan to start tourism space flights. As of December 2017, neither of these have conducted a suborbital manned spaceflight.

Offline Svetoslav

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Much thanks to Chris Bergin for fixing my poll :) Now everyone can vote.

Offline ZachS09

For some reason, I think tourists will be more likely to fly in Blue Origin's New Shepard rather than Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo.
« Last Edit: 12/05/2017 01:22 pm by ZachS09 »
Because the Falcon Heavy Test Flight was successful, it has inspired thousands of people to consider changing the future of space travel.

I think we will see a manned NS by the end of the summer, a month or so before the first crewed Dragon mission. Because testosterone  ;D

Only unmanned tests for VG
Failure is not only an option, it's the only way to learn.
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Offline Svetoslav

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Only unmanned tests for VG

VG never conducts unmanned tests. All of the tests are conducted in manned mode. Perhaps the only company that does this.

Online gongora

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So does a VG flight with just the test pilots count as a manned flight, or do we require other passengers?

Offline Svetoslav

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So does a VG flight with just the test pilots count as a manned flight, or do we require other passengers?

Yes. We're talking about the first manned suborbital flight since 2004.

Only unmanned tests for VG

VG never conducts unmanned tests. All of the tests are conducted in manned mode. Perhaps the only company that does this.
Ops. I thought the gliding tests were unmanned. I'm going to vote for no actual manned suborbital space flights then :D
Failure is not only an option, it's the only way to learn.
"Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the custody of fire" - Gustav Mahler

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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I think both will day suborbital crewed test flights in 2018, but I doubt either will fly paying passengers until 2019 (assuming no major failures).

Offline high road

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I went a little negative on that one. Maybe VG surprises me, who knows.

Offline Svetoslav

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I have to admit, I also voted negative. I don't believe they will do it, but maybe VG will surprise me too. I think November 2018 is earliest for manned spaceflight

Offline SweetWater

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So does a VG flight with just the test pilots count as a manned flight, or do we require other passengers?

Yes. We're talking about the first manned suborbital flight since 2004.

Based on this definition, I voted that both will send humans to space. I think we see manned test flights of both vehicles in 2018. Flights with paying customers, however, will not happen until 2019 or later.

Offline Svetoslav

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To sum it up : Blue Origin is about to resume NS flights next week.

Meanwhile SpaceShipTwo appears to be in a hiatus (although White Knight Two was seen flying several days ago).

Apparently 2018 is going to be a very interesting year.
« Last Edit: 12/18/2017 04:35 pm by Svetoslav »

Offline hop

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Voted both doing power flights but not crew to space. I think VG will be close, less of an idea how close BO is. Wouldn't be very surprised by any of the options, though I'd slightly lower odds on "neither flies anything"
« Last Edit: 12/10/2017 10:51 pm by hop »

Offline spacenut

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To me suborbital is a trip to nowhere.  If I was a billionaire, I would rather orbit the earth, than have a 15 minute joyride.  I guess it is a start though. 

Offline Paul451

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If I was a billionaire,

Suborbital is meant for non-billionaires. Rich enough to throw away $200k, but not rich enough to throw away $20m.

Offline Svetoslav

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To me suborbital is a trip to nowhere.  If I was a billionaire, I would rather orbit the earth, than have a 15 minute joyride.  I guess it is a start though. 


The question is: what does it mean to be a trip to somewhere? Yes, Blue Origin is seeing New Shepard rocket as a testbed for reusability, and New Glenn and future rockets are meant to be upgrades of this rocket. Virgin Galactic IMO doesn't - the spaceplane is just for tourism is nothing else.

But space tourism is more about entertainment and personal gain and pleasure,  and everything else is secondary - that includes expansion in the Solar System.

Offline deruch

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BO yes, VG no.

Why no listing for SpaceX's circumlunar trip for tourists?  Even though it's not in the poll, I'm voting not in 2018 on that one too.
Shouldn't reality posts be in "Advanced concepts"?  --Nomadd

Offline wardy89

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I am being optimistic and saying both will. Although i think that they will occur late in the year.

Online Johnnyhinbos

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My answer would be "yes" for 2018. However I think it'll be SpaceX that's the first commercial entity to put humans in space (but that wasn't an option in the poll).
John Hanzl. Author, action / adventure www.johnhanzl.com

Offline DanielW

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Neither.

I don't think BO even plans on manned flights in 2018, so that counts them out. VG might but color me doubtful. I think blue origin will end up launching customers first and end up with a virtual monopoly on sub orbital tourism. I just think most people will prefer BO's simple elevator ride to virgin's complicated multi-step mission profile.

Offline Craftyatom

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I have more faith in Blue than VG, given that Blue has now basically done a dry run with human-capable hardware.  They don't plan to put humans in their current capsule (which we've been told has ECLSS and abort capability), but they definitely could - so if someone said "$1 billion to the next commercial company to put people into space" I think Blue could slap an intern in one of the chairs and have it done within the next 30 days.  They won't - because they're sensible - but it bodes well for them flying one of their employees in the next 12 months, even if it requires building another capsule that meets their strict human-rating standards.

VG are a different story.  They're on track, but it's one that we don't have a map for, and they're taking it slow because the last time they tried, they crashed.  I was almost tempted to say they won't make it before the year is out, except that - as mentioned upthread - they don't have unmanned capability.  All flights to space will be manned, which means that the question becomes "will a spaceshiptwo go to space next year?"  Given that they're supposedly quite close to powered testing, and there are only so many powered tests you can do before you end up in space, I think they're probably going to make it to space this coming year, and there will have to be at least one human on board.

So I voted both.  Now, in terms of customers, not a chance.  Nobody - not Blue, not VG, not SpaceX - is flying commercial passengers in 2018.  SpaceX may well fly people in 2018, but given that they'll be NASA astronauts, I don't think they count.
All aboard the HSF hype train!  Choo Choo!

Online mme

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I think Blue will conduct a manned test flight but won't begin commercial operations.

I bet on VG not flying at all in 2018 but I hope I'm wrong.
« Last Edit: 12/18/2017 10:41 pm by mme »
Space is not Highlander.  There can, and will, be more than one.

Online Zed_Noir

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In theory SpaceX could omitted the upper stage from their Falcon 9 stack with a slightly modified Dragon 2 for sub-orbital flight profile in 2018.

Not likely IMO. SpaceX will need a new TEL and new crew access hardware along with several fast recovery ships and dedicated search & recovery air assets.

However, if block 5 cores is used in this role. Then only maybe a pair of cores and a pair of Dragon 2 is all the flight hardware required along with the trunks for the Dragon. The trunks might be recoverable for sub-orbital flights.




Offline Paul451

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so if someone said "$1 billion to the next commercial company to put people into space"

A billion? Virgin is selling suborbital tourist flights for $200k, and that seems to be the appropriate market price (judging by response.) And the Ansari prize was $10m.

Offering $1b for suborbital flights would be just throwing money away. That's substantially more than SpaceX & Boeing will receive for each manned orbital flight.

(Aside: And I'm disappointed that "space flight" has been downgraded to 80km.)

Offline hop

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I don't think BO even plans on manned flights in 2018, so that counts them out.
FWIW, Jeff Foust reported on this today http://spacenews.com/blue-origin-a-year-away-from-crewed-new-shepard-flights/
Quote
a Blue Origin executive said Dec. 18 that the company was now about a year away from starting to fly people
So notionally, there's a chance they could fly crew before the end of 2018, but given how schedules move in the space biz, slipping past that seems like a pretty safe bet.

Offline Svetoslav

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It's good to see how things turned out to be.

Quote
Neither company will send people to space, BO will launch unmanned NS rocket, VG will have powered rocket flights

... was my vote. Got it half-right. BO did launch unmanned NS rocket, but I thought late-2018 spaceflight for VG was possible, but unlikely. Things turned out more optimistic than I predicted.

Offline Paul451

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So I voted for "Neither company will send people to space, only VG will conduct gliding or powered tests." Doubly wrong. BO did an unmanned flight and VG did a manned flight above the arbitrary 80km mark.



In theory SpaceX could omitted the upper stage from their Falcon 9 stack with a slightly modified Dragon 2 for sub-orbital flight profile in 2018.

The F9-1S is way overpowered for this. You'd want to launch it partially fuelled with perhaps 5 engines at launch, shutting down 2 more during ascent to keep the g-force down.

Not likely IMO. SpaceX will need a new TEL and new crew access hardware along with several fast recovery ships and dedicated search & recovery air assets.

You wouldn't need much for recovery. For a suborbital flight, you don't need to launch 100's of km down range. Both the capsule and the first stage would RTLS. The capsule splashing in the water just off the coast (as with the recent aborted first stage RTLS), while the first stage ideally lands on land. So you only need the existing crane-ship plus a fast RIB for rescue divers. Optional S&R helo launched from shore, if the poo hits the prop.

Similarly, wouldn't need a permanent crew access gantry for a single show-off flight, instead you might just add a temporary scaffold for the crew loading. You could even use a mobile crane with a crew basket. (Plus a zip-line escape system attached to the TEL.)

The TEL would need the top cradle temporarily moved to the middle if the hold-downs aren't strong enough alone. But the second and third sections of the TEL seem to be designed to be removable. Similarly, a simple scaffold deck added to the TEL at the new level of the capsule, which also serves the emergency zip-line, and receives the crane-basket. So the crane-basket brings the closeout crew then the flight crew to the mid-TEL platform. Flight crew are tucked into the capsule. Closeout crew descend in the crane basket. In an emergency during refuelling that isn't immediately fatal, the flight crew exit the capsule and zip-line to an bunker, or for a one-off an armoured safety truck.

(OTOH, the scheduled inflight abort is going to use a "simplified" second stage. Dummy? No engine, no fuel? Ballasted? Either way it solves the height problem and you just use the gantry built for the c/crew program.)

Not that any of this matters. Not worth SpaceX's time. Just fun to figure out.

However, if block 5 cores is used in this role. Then only maybe a pair of cores and a pair of Dragon 2 is all the flight hardware required

Pair?

[edit: the recent recently.]
« Last Edit: 12/15/2018 04:26 am by Paul451 »

Online Zed_Noir

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So I voted for "Neither company will send people to space, only VG will conduct gliding or powered tests." Doubly wrong. BO did an unmanned flight and VG did a manned flight above the arbitrary 80km mark.



In theory SpaceX could omitted the upper stage from their Falcon 9 stack with a slightly modified Dragon 2 for sub-orbital flight profile in 2018.

The F9-1S is way overpowered for this. You'd want to launch it partially fuelled with perhaps 5 engines at launch, shutting down 2 more during ascent to keep the g-force down.

Propellant is cheap. Use it as ballast along with staggered engine shutdowns and reduce burn time to reduce acceleration. Just burn off the extra propellants with some hovering before touch down.

Quote
Not likely IMO. SpaceX will need a new TEL and new crew access hardware along with several fast recovery ships and dedicated search & recovery air assets.

You wouldn't need much for recovery. For a suborbital flight, you don't need to launch 100's of km down range. Both the capsule and the first stage would RTLS. The capsule splashing in the water just off the coast (as with the recent aborted first stage RTLS), while the first stage ideally lands on land. So you only need the existing crane-ship plus a fast RIB for rescue divers. Optional S&R helo launched from shore, if the poo hits the prop.

The capsule will not be RTLS unless it remains attached to the core during the reentry burn. So it will either splash down at sea or propulsively landed on an ASDS (before NASA nixed the whole landing thing) down range. Dedicated recovery boats & helos will not be optional in any case.

Quote
Similarly, wouldn't need a permanent crew access gantry for a single show-off flight, instead you might just add a temporary scaffold for the crew loading. You could even use a mobile crane with a crew basket. (Plus a zip-line escape system attached to the TEL.)

The TEL would need the top cradle temporarily moved to the middle if the hold-downs aren't strong enough alone. But the second and third sections of the TEL seem to be designed to be removable. Similarly, a simple scaffold deck added to the TEL at the new level of the capsule, which also serves the emergency zip-line, and receives the crane-basket. So the crane-basket brings the closeout crew then the flight crew to the mid-TEL platform. Flight crew are tucked into the capsule. Closeout crew descend in the crane basket. In an emergency during refuelling that isn't immediately fatal, the flight crew exit the capsule and zip-line to an bunker, or for a one-off an armoured safety truck.
....

Presuming there will be additional ride takers after the first flight. So a new smaller TEL with integrated passenger access hardware.

You are not seriously suggesting using the full stack F9 TEL for this role after modifying it some more? The paperwork and time loss from stand down is no small matter.

Quote
However, if block 5 cores is used in this role. Then only maybe a pair of cores and a pair of Dragon 2 is all the flight hardware required

Pair?


Presuming there will be additional ride takers after the first flight. Only one core & one capsule is really required the additional core and capsule is to ensure flight availability in case the operational vehicle stack can not be ready for the next scheduled flight.

Offline Paul451

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Just burn off the extra propellants with some hovering before touch down.

I don't think the F9-booster can hover before landing. Even with a single engine, it can't reduce thrust enough. (You might have enough fuel/ballast to allow it to hover, momentarily. But as it does so, it burns enough fuel to become too light to hover and will rise again, even on the lowest throttle.)

So a new smaller TEL with integrated passenger access hardware.

Apparently it is difficult to have two TELs operating out of the same pad, from the same VAB.

Both the capsule and the first stage would RTLS. The capsule splashing in the water just off the coast (as with the recent aborted first stage RTLS),
The capsule will not be RTLS unless it remains attached to the core during the reentry burn. So it will either splash down at sea

See the highlighted portion. For the capsule, "RTLS" means "RT-near-LS". Under the current config, it would splash down. But there's a huge difference between splashing 5-10mi off-shore vs dropping 200 miles or more off-shore. Being able to launch rescue/recovery vehicles from shore makes everything much simpler, and reduces the sheer number of vehicles you need in order to cover the entire splashdown range.

Presuming there will be additional ride takers after the first flight.

Okay, not the scenario I was playing with. I was responding to Craftyatom's "prize" scenario, and your "not likely because [TEL/crew-access/recovery-ships]". For a one-off prize-grab, IMO it wouldn't be as difficult as you claimed. (Recover the capsule in close to shore. Existing shore-based S&R would be fine. Add some temporary bits to the existing TEL. Just add-ons, no extensive mods, no down-time. Which also solves your crew-access.) For an ongoing paying-passenger service, you'd want something nicer.

Pair?
Presuming there will be additional ride takers after the first flight. [hence backup]

Yes, that makes sense now. (Because I was thinking one-off, I was picturing a twin-booster/twin-capsule launch. "What?!")

Hmm if you are supposing a regular service with two dedicated boosters and capsules, then would you launch from existing sites? Might make more sense to build a small launch pad, perhaps in Texas or even near "Spaceport America". Capsule would need to land-land from Spaceport America. Or even mod the booster so that it can land with the capsule still attached. (The capsule would still need LAS capability all the way to to landing. But not having to use the Superdracos and parachutes on every single flight would make it significantly cheaper.)

Come to think of it, given the excessive capacity of the F9 booster and your desire for a dedicated TEL for this: How about a new capsule made from the "Starship" 9m moulds. Say, just a nose-cone out to 5m diam, and a tank-cap for the rear, low-grade heat-shield at the bottom. Lots of superdracos and extra fuel for the RTLS land-landing. Gives you potentially dozens of seats per flight. Could this be ready earlier than the Starship test unit?
[edit: Played with the scale, the BFS's nose widens quickly, so at 5.2m across (width of the F9 fairing, to reduce aerodynamic changes), it's only 3.8m high. You might double the volume, less than I was picturing.]
« Last Edit: 12/16/2018 08:28 am by Paul451 »

Offline whitelancer64

"Blue Origin won't send people to space, but Virgin Galactic will."

Holy crap. I nailed it lol *. Me and 3 others :)

* for some definitions of "space"
« Last Edit: 12/18/2018 08:00 pm by whitelancer64 »
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Offline QuantumG

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Pfft... I took the question as customers, not crew. VG repeating SpaceShipOne is great and all, but it's not news.
Human spaceflight is basically just LARPing now.

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