Author Topic: Special Feature Article - The Evolution of the Big Falcon Rocket  (Read 8877 times)

Offline Eric Hedman

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Nice article.  I can only imagine the time it took to put this well researched quality piece together.

Offline Bubbinski

Wow. Excellent article, very interesting to read. Liked reading about the evolution of Elon's and SpaceX's plans over the years. Looking forward to seeing if the actual BFR matches last September's design, or is very different yet again.
I'll even excitedly look forward to "flags and footprints" and suborbital missions. Just fly...somewhere.

Offline Steven Pietrobon

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I spent quite a bit of time reviewing, correcting and fact checking all the information in the article. Here's a list of references for the various facts.

IAC 2017 Slides
250 t expendable payload mass (slide 13)
http://spaceflight101.com/spx/iac-2017-spacex-slides/

Mars Atmosphere: 0.02 kg/m≥. Von Braun was 0.11 kg/m≥. 0.11/0.02 = 5.5 times.
Mars Solar Iradiance: Min = 1/1.639≤ = 37.2%. Max = 1/1.405≤ = 50.7%
https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/marsfact.html

Mars Direct Architecture
https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/376589main_04%20-%20Mars%20Direct%20Power%20Point-7-30-09.pdf

Mars Direct Architecture (1000 km landing distance)
http://www.marssociety.org/home/about/faq/

Michael Griffin at OSC
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/osc-24648/

R-36 (SS-18 Satan) Dnepr
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R-36_(missile)

Kosmatras launch service provider for Dnepr
http://www.kosmotras.ru

SpaceX COTS selection Aug. 2006
https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/news/COTS_selection.html

Max Vozoff Raptor first announcement video June 2009
youtube.com/watch?v=dsxQypAfCME

Max Vozoff Raptor first announcement paper June 2009
https://web.archive.org/web/20100407170704/http://www.aiaa.org/content.cfm?pageid=843

Elon Musk talking about Tom Markusic Joint Propulsion Conf. Paper Jan. 2014
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2014/01/08/virgin-galactic-propulsion-vp-leaves-launch-company/

Jeff Thornburg started at SpaceX in June 2011
https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffthornburg/

Article on where the $20M that saved Tesla came from May 2015
https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-elon-musk-spacex/

Reference to 150-200 t payload mass for BFR Oct. 2012
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/spacex-aims-big-with-massive-new-rocket-377687/

First mention of methane and full-flow combustion Nov. 2012
https://web.archive.org/web/20160611083349/http://www.seradata.com/SSI/2012/11/musk_goes_for_methane-burning/

L2 Link. Reference to 15 Mlbf (66.7 MN) thrust value) Nov. 2015
Reference to 5000-6000 t launch mass.
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=40127.msg1447984#msg1447984

L2 180 m BFR length, 236 t payload, 15 m diameter. Dec. 2015
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=40127.msg1456356#msg1456356

First announcement of Raptor thrust value Oct. 2013
http://spacenews.com/37859spacex-could-begin-testing-methane-fueled-engine-at-stennis-next-year/

Raptor component testing to start in May 2014
https://web.archive.org/web/20150708002708/http://mseigs.com/nasa-spacex-cut-ribbon-to-launch-testing-partnership/

NSF early Raptor history Mar. 2014
https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2014/03/spacex-advances-drive-mars-rocket-raptor-power/

Tom Mueller AW&ST Raptor Thrust 6914 kN May 2014
https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=34197.msg1223284#msg1223284

10 to 15 m cores Aug. 2014
https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2014/08/battle-heavyweight-rockets-sls-exploration-rival/

Elon Musk 2256 kN Raptor. A lot of engines. Jan. 2015
https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2rgsan/i_am_elon_musk_ceocto_of_a_rocket_company_ama/cnfpuwi/

SpaceX lost $260M from Falcon 9 failure Jan. 2017
https://www.businessinsider.com.au/spacex-financials-rocket-accident-costs-revenue-2017-1?r=US&IR=T

Raptor pre-burner full power test Jun. 2015
http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/septemberlagniappe2.pdf

Raptor 3.8 to 1 mixture ratio Aug. 2015
https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/08/how-and-why-spacex-will-colonize-mars.html/4

Falcon 9 v1.0 specs 4.54 t GTO, 10.45 t LEO, 332,800 kg, 4,940 MN, 1.51g
https://web.archive.org/web/20110617024433/http://www.spacex.com/falcon9.php

Falcon 9 v1.1 specs 4.85 t GTO, 13.15 t LEO, 505,846 kg, 5,885 kN, 1.19g
https://web.archive.org/web/20150617073541/http://www.spacex.com:80/falcon9

Falcon 9 v1.2 specs 8.3 t GTO, 22.8 t LEO, 549,054 kg, 7,607 kN, 1.41g
https://web.archive.org/web/20160701214521/http://www.spacex.com:80/falcon9

N-1 7 kiloton explosion
https://jalopnik.com/this-insane-rocket-is-why-the-soviet-union-never-made-i-1448356326

N-1 debris flying
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N1_%28rocket%29

Little Boy 15 kt
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Boy

Fat Man 21 kt
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_Man

Pound Mass
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pound_%28mass%29

Standard Gravity
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_gravity

ITS $10B development cost
https://www.geekwire.com/2016/spacex-elon-musk-colonize-mars/

Subscale Raptor thrust of 1 MN.
https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2016/10/its-propulsion-evolution-raptor-engine/

Raptor new alloy for oxygen rich turbopump Oct. 2016
https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/comments/590wi9/i_am_elon_musk_ask_me_anything_about_becoming_a/d94tbej/

A380 pressurised volume is 2,100 m≥
http://www.aircraft.airbus.com/support-services/airport-operations/aircraft-characteristics/
https://web.archive.org/web/20171206035132/http://www.aircraft.airbus.co
m/fileadmin/media_gallery/files/tech_data/AC/AC_A380_20161201.pdf

ISS volume 915.6 m≥
https://www.nasa.gov/feature/facts-and-figures

Boeing 747-400 pressurised volume is 1,035 m≥
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/social-media/8419266/Quora-the-10-most-unexpected-questions.html

IAC 2017 Transcript. No mention of solar array power value. 200 Bar subscale engine. 1200 seconds across 42 tests. BFS has 40 cabins. Tooling for main tanks ordered. Eventual increase of Raptor chamber pressure from 250 to 300 Bar.
http://shitelonsays.com/transcript/making-life-multiplanetary-elon-musk-adelaide-iac-2017-09-29

BFS third sea level engine added Oct. 2017
https://www.theverge.com/2017/10/15/16476884/elon-musk-reddit-ama-spacex-mars-interplanetary-transport-system-raptor-engines

2015 Failure Rate 5.7%
http://spaceflight101.com/2015-space-launch-statistics/

2016 Failure Rate 2.4%
http://spaceflight101.com/2016-space-launch-statistics/

12 meter October 2015 design was a simulation in Chris' source document, although the design summary said 15 meters.

$250 million dollar loss
https://www.wsj.com/articles/exclusive-peek-at-spacex-data-shows-loss-in-2015-heavy-expectations-for-nascent-internet-service-1484316455

Five million percent cheaper
https://www.reddit.com/r/SpaceXLounge/comments/6h8lzb/making_humans_a_multiplanetary_species_pdf/

Old way $10 billion a person. New way $200,000 a person. 50,000 times cost decrease. IAC 2016 transcript.
http://shitelonsays.com/transcript/making-humans-a-multiplanetary-species-mexico-city-2016-09-27

30% sandbagging of Falcon 9 v1.1. Gives (4.85/4.54)*1.3 = 1.389 or 39% increase for GTO missions.
http://aviationweek.com/blog/nasa-cnes-warn-spacex-challenges-flying-reusable-falcon-9-rocket.
« Last Edit: 08/10/2018 10:05 AM by Chris Bergin »
Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

Offline TomH

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Have been following this since the first draft appeared in L2. Outstanding work, Phillip.

Offline TomH

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What I donít understand, then, is why, when they knew they were building a new factory, they still stuck with the old factory imposed constraint of 9m?

From the article:

Quote
The most pressing issue with the design was the lack of details on how to make money with it apart from Mars.  Development would likely take years and cost in the order of 10 billion dollars, but its uneconomical size and lack of satellite launch capability drastically hurt its business case.  The issue was even referenced in the speech by Musk.

Even though this was prior to the drop from 10m to 9m, it still is the most pertinent factor in the design. Though it does have to be big enough to perform Mars missions, if it's too big, it can't make money as a commercial launcher. IMHO, they had come to the realization that this single launcher had to pay for itself as a commercial launcher, being able to go to Mars had to come second or else the whole thing would fail financially. My guess is that they felt this size was ideal for still launching from 39A and making the most viable profit margin.

In the end, it's all about money. No bucks, no Buck Rogers.

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Great article! I read it in one go. Very well written and researched. Congrats to everyone involved!

Offline JamesH65

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OK article, but by the end, I was wanting to punch the screen every time I read the phrase "NSF expert". It was used so many times it was really getting on my bits.

Online Chris Bergin

OK article, but by the end, I was wanting to punch the screen every time I read the phrase "NSF expert". It was used so many times it was really getting on my bits.

They are experts and they are on NSF. Can't use "source" as Trump's killed that use as #fakenews. Can't use names. Can't use alternates like "NSF guru" to appease the one bloke out of 105,782 reads so far who is literally the first "this is my take home from the article". ;D

No, we're not going to have a conversation about this. ;)

Online RotoSequence

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OK article, but by the end, I was wanting to punch the screen every time I read the phrase "NSF expert". It was used so many times it was really getting on my bits.

They are experts and they are on NSF. Can't use "source" as Trump's killed that use as #fakenews. Can't use names. Can't use alternates like "NSF guru" to appease the one bloke out of 105,782 reads so far who is literally the first "this is my take home from the article". ;D

No, we're not going to have a conversation about this. ;)

Source is still okay, it just requires an answer to the ol' Wikipedia [who?] citation markup.  ;D

Offline edzieba

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While assembly has been moved from Hawthorne to the port, that doesn't necessarily mean all production has been moved there. Hawthorne currently is making Falcon, Dragon, and Dragon 2, but the mid-term goal is to reduce that to just building Falcon 9 upper stages and Dragon 2. We know Raptor is being made at Hawthorne, and it makes little sense to move that line unnecessarily. With the room freed up, it may make sense to both build Raptor at Hawthorne and integrate it into the thrust structure - using all the metal-forming equipment that is already there. This can then be taken by road (through that diameter-limiting door) to the port - where all the composite tooling is - for integration.
« Last Edit: 08/13/2018 04:41 PM by edzieba »

Online Lar

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(fan) Not everyone on NSF wants their real name used or even their handle, if what they shared was off the record. so NSF expert is a good compromise. If that's your main beef with the article I'd call that a win.

(mod) But we're not having a conversation about this. So don't
"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 alexterrell

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Excellent article. It brings most of the stuff together in one place, and is really informative.

Perhaps one piece to be added might have been this cutaway:
https://www.reddit.com/r/SpaceXLounge/comments/8o05ua/bfs_cutaway_diagram_oc_graphic/
Whilst this is third party (by NSF's Nobiwan), it brings home what the 9m diameter crew ship could look like.

The evolution of different weights, engine size and configurations is interesting. I think with advanced CAD/design systems, flight simulations and finite element analysis, it's possible to get almost everything designed on paper and frozen, before building large scale hardware. That could and should make the build phase shorter and more cost effective.

The 12 times resuse for the spaceship was new to me. I hope the people going to Mars on the 12th flight, 26 years after launch, get a discount! We could actually see a specific launch vehicle becoming "obsolete" before "end of life".

One area lacking information (from SpaceX, I assume) is the "cargo version". Is there a means of lauching and deploying - either in orbit, or on Mars - monolithic, 100 ton plus cargos? (should someone eventully make these).

Online envy887

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I spent quite a bit of time reviewing, correcting and fact checking all the information in the article. Here's a list of references for the various facts.
...
N-1 7 kiloton explosion
https://jalopnik.com/this-insane-rocket-is-why-the-soviet-union-never-made-i-1448356326
...

This is an excellent list, but that one is flat-out wrong. While the N-1 contained 7 kt (~30 terajoule) worth of chemical potential energy, it could not release it with the efficiency of a 7 kt nuke, or even the much lower efficiency of TNT. The effective yield of unmixed kerolox is about 10-15% of its mass in TNT, so the N-1 explosions were at most 1 kt effective yield and likely quite a bit less.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/appendix-E_to_part_420

This still agrees with BFR needing several miles of exclusion zone, though.

Online abaddon

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I spent quite a bit of time reviewing, correcting and fact checking all the information in the article. Here's a list of references for the various facts.
That is awesome; it really should be linked from the article or included somehow.  (If it is already, my apologies, I missed it).  Great work!

And props to author and collaborators, as well as NSF.  this is really fantastic work.
« Last Edit: 08/10/2018 06:03 PM by abaddon »

Offline jak Kennedy

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What is the tank of brine for? I tried google and didnít find any links.

Offline Kaputnik

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What is the tank of brine for? I tried google and didnít find any links.

Is it a euphemism for non-potable water?
Waiting for joy and raptor

Offline Kaputnik

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Absolutely outstanding article. I thought I had a pretty good handle on all of this but the details about the early days in particular were fascinating.
Well done to everyone involved!
Waiting for joy and raptor

Offline Ionmars

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Congratulations to Chris Bergin, Hyperion5 and the L2 community for documenting a piece of history. This excellent article should become a science classic to store in the laptop of every engineering student.
After landing, Mars pioneers will require our continued support.

Offline AegeanBlue

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This is a great article. It highlights though the main issue with the BFR: We do not really know what is going on and expert guesses by NSF member feel at times like Kremlinology. BFR development is taking place, and some pathfinder material has been built. The design choices, successes and failures, is stuff we are trying to parse from a limited number of presentations and public remarks. On the other hand SLS development is quite open: there are periodic reports to the NASA advisory bodies out on the web and when anything goes wrong it leaks to news sites very fast. We did not know that Elon Musk reached very close to cancelling Falcon Heavy three times until he announced it at the inaugural launch. What are the frustrations and issues with BFR, we can only guess, and this is why there are well intentioned people who are very skeptical if it will fly at all

Online Lars-J

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Why is lack of transparency such an issue? Has it helped SLS? Has it hindered BFR?
« Last Edit: 08/11/2018 07:38 AM by Lars-J »

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