Author Topic: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style  (Read 10418 times)

Offline Archibald

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Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« on: 02/20/2018 07:07 AM »
Ok, forget NASA, politics, the shuttle, everything else.

This is a 100% technical discussion.

According to Wikipedia (I know...)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX_reusable_launch_system_development_program

Quote

The technologies that were developed for this program, some of which are still being refined, include:

1 - restartable ignition system for the first-stage booster. Restarts are required at both supersonic velocities in the upper atmosphere—in order to decelerate the high velocity away from the launch pad and put the booster on a descent trajectory back toward the launch pad—and at high transonic velocities in the lower atmosphere—in order to slow the terminal descent and to perform a soft landing.
 
2 -  new attitude control technology—for the booster stage and second stage—to bring the descending rocket body through the atmosphere in a manner conducive both to non-destructive return and sufficient aerodynamic control such that the terminal phase of the landing is possible.
This includes sufficient roll control authority to keep the rocket from spinning excessively as occurred on the first high-altitude flight test in September 2013, where the roll rate exceeded the capabilities of the booster attitude control system (ACS) and the fuel in the tanks "centrifuged" to the side of the tank shutting down the single engine involved in the low-altitude deceleration maneuver.

 The technology needs to handle the transition from the vacuum of space at hypersonic conditions, decelerating to supersonic velocities and passing through transonic buffet, before relighting one of the main-stage engines at terminal velocity.
 
3 - hypersonic grid fins were added to the booster test vehicle design beginning on the fifth ocean controlled-descent test flight in 2014 in order to enable precision landing. Arranged in an "X" configuration, the grid fins control the descending rocket's lift vector once the vehicle has returned to the atmosphere to enable a much more precise landing location.

4 -   throttleable rocket engine technology is required to reduce engine thrust because the full thrust of even a single Merlin 1D engine exceeds the weight of the nearly empty booster core.
 
5 - terminal guidance and landing capability, including a vehicle control system and a control system software algorithm to be able to land a rocket with the thrust-to-weight ratio of the vehicle greater than one, with closed-loop thrust vector and throttle control
 
6 -   navigation sensor suite for precision landing

7 - a large floating landing platform in order to test pinpoint landings prior to receiving permission from the US government to bring returning rocket stages into US airspace over land.

8 -   large-surface-area thermal protection system to absorb the heat load of deceleration of the second stage from orbital velocity to terminal velocity

9 -   lightweight, deployable landing gear for the booster stage.

So, let's suppose NASA get the idea to develop such a vehicle in the early 70's.

A - can they pull it off with  state-of-the-art technology ?

B - what would be the main roadblocks ? computing power maybe ? something else ?

Again, please forget historical background, shuttle and politics. Just discuss technical feasability of the thing. Thank you !!

« Last Edit: 02/20/2018 07:09 AM by Archibald »
... that ackward moment when you realize that Jeff Bezos personal fortune is far above NASA annual budget... 115 billion to 18 billion...

Online ugordan

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #1 on: 02/20/2018 07:26 AM »
B - what would be the main roadblocks ? computing power maybe ?

I'd say that's probably a good bet.

Precision landing could also have been an issue, although I don't know how precise you can get without GPS and only using radio beacons (?) and IMUs. Probably not precise enough to nail a barge in the ocean, but a large-ish landing pad could be workable.

Online woods170

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #2 on: 02/20/2018 09:06 AM »
B - what would be the main roadblocks ? computing power maybe ?

I'd say that's probably a good bet.

Precision landing could also have been an issue, although I don't know how precise you can get without GPS and only using radio beacons (?) and IMUs. Probably not precise enough to nail a barge in the ocean, but a large-ish landing pad could be workable.

Several things would probably prevent landing a S-IB stage in Falcon 9 style.
The first of which is the fact that the H-1 engine was unable to throttle.
Second thing is that the thrust of a single H-1 is twice of what is required to hover the empty mass of a S-IB stage. So, substantial hover-slam required to get the stage on the ground.
Third is computing power, or rather, lack of computing power. Not just for the rocket but for simulating the environment as well.

On the other hand:
Precision landing within 100 - 200 metres of a target should have been possible in the late 1960's. The LM managed similar precision on several of the Moon landings, on IMU's alone and without crew intervention.
So yeah, probably not good enough for a barge, but possible on land given a large enough landing area.

Landing radar is a different matter but the basics were demonstrated on the LM as well.

Grid fins were developed in the 1950s. Steerable grid fins emerged in the 1970s. But I don't see significant obstacles why steerable grid fins could not have been developed in the 1960s.
« Last Edit: 02/20/2018 09:25 AM by woods170 »

Online speedevil

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #3 on: 02/20/2018 10:04 AM »
The strict question - land a rocket on its tail - may also be misstating the problem - get the first stage back.

I am unable to find it, but remember reading a NTRS report on research in this area into stage recovery using hot air ballutes.
The ballute is filled with hot air from reentry, or at the time partially a gas generator, and floats down gradually enough that recovery with high speed boat is an option - as it pretty much only has to catch a very slowly descending stage drifting with the wind.
The technique has gotten more plausible as fabrics for the ballute have improved.

Offline Archibald

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #4 on: 02/20/2018 10:26 AM »
Thank you folks, you are great, as usual :)

Quote
Third is computing power, or rather, lack of computing power. Not just for the rocket but for simulating the environment as well..


I see. In the end, radio beacons may handle the guidance job, with the help of Saturn IU; the real problem is not there, but computer simulation of the manoeuver before atempting a flight.

Well, I suppose they would use the usual pre-70's aircraft and rocket method: crash, recover the pieces, learn something, try again, crash again, learn more, rinse, repeat, until it works. See early cruise missile development - MAtador, Navaho...
The good thing is that there would be no pilot onboard these things.

Quote
The first of which is the fact that the H-1 engine was unable to throttle.
Second thing is that the thrust of a single H-1 is twice of what is required to hover the empty mass of a S-IB stage. So, substantial hover-slam required to get the stage on the ground.

That's a good point. In this "magical world" NASA would have to replace the H-1 by throtteable engines.

Ok, so I would say it must be feasible, somewhat, if only because of

- the LM descent engine was pintle (AFAIK) and the first to the deeply throtteable

- they build the SSME that could throttle between 65% and 109%, yet it was one hell of a complex beast, with liquid hydrogen and reusability.

I would say that a throtteable H-1 would be a nice in-between these two.

Grid fins, yeah, the Soyuz had them on the escape tower, so maybe NASA could get a glance at them through ASTP.
Also the R-27 soviet air to air missile, and many others, had them.

The impossibility of barge landings would somewhat limit what missions could be done. Or you could just go the Elon way and say "this rocket will fly too high and too fast, so screw recovery for this one" and expend the booster from time to time.

Maybe try to use a Batillus class tanker or a Troll oil rig as landing pad (I'm half-joking, they would be insanely expensives !!! Then again, just think about Sea Launch !!!)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batillus-class_supertanker
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_A_platform
« Last Edit: 02/20/2018 10:38 AM by Archibald »
... that ackward moment when you realize that Jeff Bezos personal fortune is far above NASA annual budget... 115 billion to 18 billion...

Offline Lobo

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #5 on: 02/20/2018 10:05 PM »
The H-1 evolved into the RS-27 and later used for Delta by 1974.  Was the RS-27 throttleable?  Or could it have been upgraded to be so?

And then later the RS-27 was evolved into the RS-56 (although that was a decade later or so).  Was that throttleable?

Basically, are there derivatives of the H-1 that could have been made to be throttleable, for the perhaps -later- purpose of attempting propulsive F9-style booster landings, even if they may not have been able to right up front in the 70's?

Had the S-1B continued in service (and/or perhaps been upgraded to a monocore for the long run), then it wouldn't necessarily have had to try landing right away, just as F9 didn't originally.  But later it was added in an evolution of upgrades.  So is it plausible that something like that could have happened with S-1B?

Offline IanThePineapple

Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #6 on: 02/20/2018 10:20 PM »
I'd like to pop in with my small input on this

By my calculations (calculations meaning messing around in Kerbal Space Program), a good bet would be to do your post-liftoff burns (Boostback, entry, landing) using some or all of the outer 4 engines, since they can gimble. That gives a good bit more control. I think doing a 4 engine boostback would work (Maybe 2 outer, 2 inner? All 4 outer?), but I don't know how strong the S-IB stage is (I would guess pretty strong since it's 9 separate tanks together, giving a lot of stability and material for dispersing the load). Entry using either 2 or 4 of the outer engines. Then a landing burn with 2 of the outer engines, maybe all 4 if you really want to save performance.

Just my uneducated thoughts on this

Offline Archibald

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #7 on: 02/21/2018 01:32 PM »
Well, the S-IB was build by the famous German team, and was overengineered, hence one can guess it was probably... quite a solid piece of hardware.
Plus of course were those early studies about recovery, back in 1959, when they wanted to dunk the stages into the ocean and recover them.
« Last Edit: 02/21/2018 01:33 PM by Archibald »
... that ackward moment when you realize that Jeff Bezos personal fortune is far above NASA annual budget... 115 billion to 18 billion...

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #8 on: 02/21/2018 02:44 PM »
Didn't SpaceX start with the Saturn 1 recovery concepts when they first started? Parachute based recovery....
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Offline Kansan52

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #9 on: 02/21/2018 02:58 PM »
Didn't SpaceX start with the Saturn 1 recovery concepts when they first started? Parachute based recovery....

Yes.

Offline Proponent

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #10 on: 02/21/2018 03:38 PM »
... later the RS-27 was evolved into the RS-56....

What was the RS-56?

Offline Lobo

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #11 on: 02/21/2018 04:16 PM »
... later the RS-27 was evolved into the RS-56....

What was the RS-56?

Single nozzle of the Atlas II power plant.  The whole power unit was 3 nozzles called the "MA-5A", but each nozzle was an RS-56.  The two outer were a booster ring that fell away, and the center sustainer engine burned the core empty.  But they were evolved from the RS-27 which was evolved from the H-1.

Hopefully I have my history correct there.  :-)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RS-56

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MA-5A

What I don't know is if any of those H-1 derivatives were throttleable or could have been made to be throttleable, feasibly.  If so, then it could have been technically feasible for an S-1B to perhaps one day been able to land itself.  They may have wanted to add a 9th engine in the middle that could gimbal.  And I also tend to think that in this scenario, where the Saturn 1B lived on post Apollo, and thus STS would not have happened, then the clustered S-1B would have been evolved into a more mass efficient mono core tank, and in that process a 9th center gimbaling engine could have been included into the new main thrust structure design (which would have been required), with the idea that some day it could be used to land the booster, when the avionics and computing power evolved to make that feasible.
perhaps?

Landing the S-1B as-is I don't think was possible, even if the computing power existed.  Only the outer engines gimbaled and since the H-1 couldn't throttle, there'd just be way to much thrust to land on the four outer engines and full thrust.  So we'd have to accept some future evolutions of the S-1B to a point where propulsive landing might have been plausible.   And the title of the thread is if the S-1B could have landed "Falcon 9 style", so...

IMO anyway.
« Last Edit: 02/21/2018 04:28 PM by Lobo »

Offline notsorandom

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #12 on: 02/21/2018 07:37 PM »
How about a recovery scheme where the first stage turns around while in space using gas thrusters, restarts some engines for an entry burn, deploys some sort of air break at the top to keep it pointed the right way, then uses parachutes to splash down? That would avoid the issues of developing the computers for guidance, control surfaces, and throttleable H-1s which may not have been easily done in the 1960s.

Offline Lobo

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #13 on: 02/21/2018 11:50 PM »
How about a recovery scheme where the first stage turns around while in space using gas thrusters, restarts some engines for an entry burn, deploys some sort of air break at the top to keep it pointed the right way, then uses parachutes to splash down? That would avoid the issues of developing the computers for guidance, control surfaces, and throttleable H-1s which may not have been easily done in the 1960s.

That's probably -have- to be the way to attempt it in the 70's.  I don't think there would have been a way to really try to attempt a propulsive "Falcon 9 style" landing until much later.
They did some testing of the H-1 engines being dunked in the ocean to see how they withstood it.  Apparently, the came through in pretty good shape.

Offline Proponent

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #14 on: 02/26/2018 02:33 PM »
The structure fraction of the F9's first stage is something like 3-4%, whereas the comparable figure for the S-IB stage is about 10%.  That means that powered recovery of an S-IB is going to take quite a bit more propellant than for an F9's first stage.  Hence, the loss of payload due to recovery will be quite a bit greater.

Offline Archibald

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #15 on: 02/26/2018 03:54 PM »
I wondered how could Musk vehicles take so little penalty even with recovery - and  part of the answer is, they have pretty good mass fractions...
well, if Saturn S-IB is too heavy, then there is Titan III core, or better, Titan III-L, the larger one with four engines.
But then I'm killing my own thread.  :)
« Last Edit: 02/26/2018 03:54 PM by Archibald »
... that ackward moment when you realize that Jeff Bezos personal fortune is far above NASA annual budget... 115 billion to 18 billion...

Offline Archibald

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #16 on: 02/26/2018 03:56 PM »
How about a recovery scheme where the first stage turns around while in space using gas thrusters, restarts some engines for an entry burn, deploys some sort of air break at the top to keep it pointed the right way, then uses parachutes to splash down? That would avoid the issues of developing the computers for guidance, control surfaces, and throttleable H-1s which may not have been easily done in the 1960s.

How about splashing down as close from Cocoa beach as possible ? or near the "astronaut house"  ? the less time spent into the water, the better...
« Last Edit: 02/26/2018 03:56 PM by Archibald »
... that ackward moment when you realize that Jeff Bezos personal fortune is far above NASA annual budget... 115 billion to 18 billion...

Offline Citabria

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #17 on: 02/26/2018 04:27 PM »
From 1952:
Quote
Immediately after separation, the first stage would have deployed from its base a 217-foot-wide "ring-shaped ribbon parachute" made of steel mesh. At its deployment altitude, air resistance would be minimal, so stage and parachute would continue to coast upward to an altitude of about 40 miles before turning nose-down and falling toward the ocean. The conical blast shield would help to protect it from aerodynamic heating during descent.

It would attain a descent velocity of 150 feet per second by the time it fell to 150 feet above the water. At that moment, small solid-propellant motors would have ignited and burned for two seconds, gently lowering the first stage into the sea 189 miles downrange of the launch site.

A large recovery ship, pre-positioned to collect the stage, would soon have arrived. Von Braun envisioned it as a specialized "seagoing drydock," which would have filled on-board tanks with sea water to submerge, moved its drydock section under the bobbing first stage, then pumped seawater from its tanks to raise the stage clear of the ocean. The ship would then have set course for a special harbor close to the launch site where the first stage would be inspected, refurbished, and reused. The same harbor would, von Braun noted, serve ocean-going ships that would deliver thousands of tons of propellants to the launch site.
https://www.wired.com/2014/09/wernher-von-brauns-fantastic-vision-ferry-rocket/

Offline Citabria

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #18 on: 02/26/2018 04:41 PM »
Or, more on-topic, actually done in 1966:
Quote
Each craft was planned to slow to about 110 m/s (4% of speed before retrofire) by a main solid fuel retrorocket, which fired for 40 seconds starting at an altitude of 75.3 km above the Moon, and then was jettisoned along with radar unit at 11 km from the surface. The remainder of the trip to the surface, lasting about 2.5 minutes, was handled by smaller doppler radar units and three vernier engines running on liquid fuels fed to them using pressurized helium. (The successful flight profile of Surveyor 5 was given a somewhat shortened vernier flight sequence as a result of a helium leak). The last 3.4 meters to the surface was accomplished in free fall from zero velocity at that height, after the vernier engines were turned off. This resulted in a landing speed of about 3 m/s. The free-fall to the surface was in an attempt to avoid surface contamination by rocket blast.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveyor_program
« Last Edit: 02/26/2018 04:43 PM by Citabria »

Offline Archibald

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Re: Landing a Saturn S-IB, Falcon 9 style
« Reply #19 on: 03/03/2018 05:04 PM »
Two things dawned on me recently, somewhat like bolts of thunder.

First, Falcon 9R is getting closer and closer from... NASA space shuttle specifications, circa 1972.

 It is partially reusable, it can lift 50 000 pounds of payload, and flight rates are getting higher and higher, above 20 in 2017 and still going better. And of course it can be manned, and flown to a space station. It also beat the pants of Ariane through reusability, something the shuttle tried very hard to achieve, but failed. Finally, it is sweeping a good share of the launch market - launching military, commercial, and NASA payloads.

Secondly, BFR / BFS is also getting closer from another shuttle... the 1969 original concept that was fully reusable. One booster, one orbiter, and that's it. No drop tank, no SRBs.
The main differences are the lack of LH2 and the simpler booster - no need to wrap a 747 around it for a piloted, powered landing. As we discussed in this thread, computing power was not up the task...

Having grown with the space shuttle in the 90's, then learned about its history and failure (in the 2000's) I find very interesting to see its premises finally come true, through SpaceX and quite a... very different design from what NASA imagined 50 years ago.

I remember spending a lot of time on this website, back in 2002, learning about the space shuttle pre-history (1969 - 1972).
http://www.pmview.com/spaceodysseytwo/spacelvs/
Funnily enough, Musk created SpaceX the same year, in 2002...
« Last Edit: 03/03/2018 05:12 PM by Archibald »
... that ackward moment when you realize that Jeff Bezos personal fortune is far above NASA annual budget... 115 billion to 18 billion...

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