Author Topic: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?  (Read 1775 times)

Offline sanman

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4561
  • Liked: 694
  • Likes Given: 8
Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« on: 12/03/2018 08:24 am »
Could India ever build its own version of the Sea Dragon? (aka. "Big Dumb Booster")

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Dragon_(rocket)

Recently, I saw a rather cool video depicting a launch of this largest rocket ever conceived, and it made me want to ask.




I'd read about Sea Dragon in the past (since it's practically the biggest rocket ever), but never knew it was meant to be reusable (I guess that makes sense, since its sheer size justifies recovering/re-using all that hardware - I just never thought such a thing could be possible).


India's launch capabilities are constrained by its geography. While the US is blessed with the very wide Atlantic Ocean to launch across, India is currently limited to launching across the Bay of Bengal which is much less wide. This imposes a cap on delta-V for the lower stages, to avoid having anything fall on Indonesia. Furthermore, other compromises like a dog-leg maneuver are required to avoid overflying Sri Lanka, which also affects performance.

But a Sea Dragon concept would be much more portable, and could be launched from farther down in the Indian Ocean proper, even by the equator. As with BFR, launching out at sea could spare local inhabitants from disturbance, which would be of greater concern for a much larger rocket.

The Sea Dragon was notably designed to be constructed from cheaper materials such as steel plating, which might be easier for India to work with, leveraging lower cost of production. Spec'd to loft a whopping 550 tons to LEO, the very huge Sea Dragon was to use a lower stage propellant supply of RP-1/LOX, while its upper stage would be LH2/LOX. The rocket design did not require a turbopump, but would instead use simple pressure-feed from compressed nitrogen.

The LH2/LOX was to be generated prior to launch from a nuclear-powered support vessel, like a naval aircraft carrier, via electrolysis of seawater. India currently has one indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, and operates another leased from Russia. But there are also projects like the Compact High Temperature Reactor currently under development, which could likewise potentially provide mobile on-site power generation out at sea.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242390016_COMPACT_HIGH_TEMPERATURE_REACTOR_CHTR



Is a "Big Dumb Booster" a feasible idea in relation to the technologies India has available?

Could the Sea Dragon concept be done in principle? Or perhaps some variant of it?
What would it take to put into practice?


« Last Edit: 12/05/2018 02:39 pm by sanman »

Offline srikanthr124

  • Member
  • Posts: 29
  • india
  • Liked: 23
  • Likes Given: 7
Re: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« Reply #1 on: 12/03/2018 11:55 am »
Not only India No country would build a Sea Dragon type rocket in todays space launch industry...

Assume that Apart from design challenges and all other things sorted out and perfectly working Sea Dragon type rocket was built with LEO  payload capacity of up to 550 tonnes with a single launch, Then what are the potential payloads in todays market...

Heaviest of heavy communication satellite ways around 10 tonne. Even entire space station(ISS) weighs around 450 tons...

For interplanetary explorations it may be suitable like Moon Mineral Mining and human Mars Expeditions.But severely lacks the Economy of scale...

I think in todays launch Environment these kind of launch vehicles are not suitable Economically,Even if they work after all the hard work and money spent on it. Pressure fed cycle is simple in design and easy to build but not always cheap.And Sea Dragon is not fully reusable...

Sorry for my English...
   
« Last Edit: 12/06/2018 01:54 am by srikanthr124 »

Offline A.K.

  • Member
  • Posts: 30
  • Liked: 5
  • Likes Given: 5
Re: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« Reply #2 on: 12/03/2018 01:14 pm »


For interplanetary explorations it may be suitable like Moon Mineral Mining and human Mars Expeditions.But severely lacks the Economy of scale...
 
Even inter planetary expedition is easier & economical if performed with modular approach (making space stations between planets and using spaceplanes like buses).

It's engine be useful in Star Trek or star wars when you've to save humans immediately from collapsing solar system or your civilization has to rove in space forever.

Offline Kryten

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 570
  • Liked: 273
  • Likes Given: 27
Re: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« Reply #3 on: 12/03/2018 01:24 pm »
It's not clear if anyone could build sea dragon, scaling up single-chamber rocket engines has proved to be a lot harder than they assumed at the time.

Offline sanman

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4561
  • Liked: 694
  • Likes Given: 8
Re: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« Reply #4 on: 12/03/2018 02:39 pm »
Assume that Apart from design challenges and all other things sorted out and perfectly working Sea Dragon type rocket was built with LEO  payload capacity of up to 550 tonnes with a single launch, Then what are the potential payloads in todays market...

Heaviest of heavy communication satellite ways around 10 tonne. Even entire space station(ISS) weighs around 450 tons...

For interplanetary explorations it may be suitable like Moon Mineral Mining and human Mars Expeditions.But severely lacks the Economy of scale...

When you say "economy of scale" I guess you mean mass-production of the vehicle. But technically, lifting so much mass to orbit per launch could provide economy-of-scale for satellite deployments even on a per-launch basis.

I don't think it would work for Moon/Mars Direct, because it's only optimized to send stuff to LEO.

But yes, it seems like it could put up a large orbiting space station - maybe even a large ring for artificial gravity.

Quote
I think in todays launch Environment these kind of launch vehicles are not suitable Economically. Even if they work after all the hard work and money spent on it. Pressure fed cycle is simple in design and easy to build but not always cheap. And Sea Dragon is not fully reusable...

Some people claim that the upper stage could have been made reusable:

https://space.stackexchange.com/questions/24413/was-sea-dragon-second-stage-reusability-ever-plausible

I think it was really just the first stage which had the possibility of being reusable. But gee, what if that entire upper stage could be turned into a large orbiting station/module? Then that kind of makes expendability a moot point.

When such a large object can be sent to orbit, why not keep it there to continue making use of it, rather than wanting to bring it back down? Especially if it could be made refuelable and restartable. I'd read there were ideas for using Space Shuttle fuel tanks in orbit, since they'd already achieved a sizeable fraction of orbital velocity.

It makes me think about what might have been. Suppose India had tried to develop a Big Dumb Booster immediately after operationalizing PSLV in 1994? The simplicity of the system could have meant a faster pace of development. The challenge of producing large quantities of fuel economically for a Big Dumb Booster would have been of a lesser order than in designing a more sophisticated rocket like the GSLV.


It's not clear if anyone could build sea dragon, scaling up single-chamber rocket engines has proved to be a lot harder than they assumed at the time.

The known problem of large-chamber combustion instability could have been solved through splitting up the chambers RD-170 style. The known problem of cryogens freezing the ocean water could have been solved by keeping the upper stage above the waterline using pontoons/etc.

It's all 20-20 hindsight of course, but it's interesting to muse about it...

« Last Edit: 12/03/2018 03:05 pm by sanman »

Offline Zed_Noir

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2643
  • Canada
  • Liked: 430
  • Likes Given: 649
Re: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« Reply #5 on: 12/03/2018 02:42 pm »
Not only India No country would build a Sea Dragon type rocket in todays space launch industry...

Assume that Apart from design challenges and all other things sorted out and perfectly working Sea Dragon type rocket was built with LEO  payload capacity of up to 550 tonnes with a single launch, Then what are the potential payloads in todays market

....

I think in todays launch Environment these kind of launch vehicles are not suitable Economically. Even if they work after all the hard work and money spent on it. Pressure fed cycle is simple in design and easy to build but not always cheap.And Sea Dragon is not fully reusable...

....


If someone can get the mega mono chamber engine to work.

A modernized  Sea Dragon design could toss up quite a bit more than 550 tonnes to LEO. Will make a great tanker to filled up orbital propellant depots.


Offline spacenut

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2532
  • East Alabama
  • Liked: 463
  • Likes Given: 253
Re: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« Reply #6 on: 12/03/2018 02:54 pm »
Scaled down one could launch 50-100 tons.  Enough to build anything useful in space from a Nautilus X, Cycler, Mars transport, moon transport, etc. 

Online slavvy

  • Member
  • Posts: 32
  • Netherlands
  • Liked: 11
  • Likes Given: 25
Re: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« Reply #7 on: 12/03/2018 03:31 pm »
I thought I read somewhere that the sound level would be extremely harmful (=deadly) for all kinds of sea creatures in a very big area?

Offline sanman

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4561
  • Liked: 694
  • Likes Given: 8
Re: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« Reply #8 on: 12/03/2018 05:07 pm »
For interplanetary explorations it may be suitable like Moon Mineral Mining and human Mars Expeditions.

A modernized  Sea Dragon design could toss up quite a bit more than 550 tonnes to LEO. Will make a great tanker to filled up orbital propellant depots.

Scaled down one could launch 50-100 tons.  Enough to build anything useful in space from a Nautilus X, Cycler, Mars transport, moon transport, etc.

And that reminds me that that the Compact High Temperature Reactor could not only be used to generate the propellant from seawater, but the same technology could also be leveraged again later on at the Moon, to likewise split lunar water ice into propellant, and to power a lunar surface station.
So there would be a natural progression.

And 2 otherwise disparate technology development programs like CHTR and a superheavy launch vehicle would have a new common point of convergence through a sea-launched Big Dumb Booster, as an overlapping effort.

I was just imagining/comparing 2 rival alternative technology development paths:

1) Launching across (the geographically confined) Bay of Bengal and developing the technology for this.
That means mastering the more difficult liquid cryogenic upper stage engine propulsion to provide more delta-V to compensate for the geographically imposed cap on delta-V of the lower stage. It also includes later developing a winged flyback booster (TSTO) for reusability as well as cross-range maneuverability to avoid hitting land on the other side of the Bay of Bengal.

OR

2)
Launching across (the less geographically confining) Indian Ocean proper by developing technology for sea-launched rockets, including even a Sea Dragon. This then allows equatorial launching.
India is developing compact mobile nuclear reactors anyway, which could be used for generation of required propellant at sea. That same technology could eventually be upgraded for use off-world, like making propellant from lunar water, including for support of orbital propellant depots. Because the Compact High Temperature Reactor uses Thorium, its technology could hypothetically one day be adapted to make use of Lunar Thorium or  Martian Thorium extracted from the surface regolith.

As a lower-tech brute force approach, a superheavy lift Sea Dragon could be built at existing dockyards, making use of India's under-utilized shipbuilding capacity and its lower cost of production. The less sophisticated technology would be closer to India's level of technological development, while being more labour-intensive. It also allows convergence among various otherwise unrelated technology programs.
« Last Edit: 12/04/2018 07:47 am by sanman »

Offline sanman

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4561
  • Liked: 694
  • Likes Given: 8
Re: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« Reply #9 on: 12/04/2018 03:31 am »
Scaled down one could launch 50-100 tons.  Enough to build anything useful in space from a Nautilus X, Cycler, Mars transport, moon transport, etc.

Maybe that would be the best compromise, using improvements in materials and other technologies for a scaled-back version with more efficient performance.

Some other forum threads seem to have discussed newer updated versions of the old Sea Dragon concept, incorporating newer improvements. But the whole launching-at-sea idea seems worth pursuing, including because of its scalability and geographic flexibility.

I thought I read somewhere that the sound level would be extremely harmful (=deadly) for all kinds of sea creatures in a very big area?

"So long - and thanks for all the fish!"   :P
Maybe a scaled-down version would be better in this regard. I also wonder if soundwaves could be used to temporarily make nearby sea life retreat from the vicinity prior to launch. Or could some kind of curtain be put in the water around the launch vehicle at some radius, to contain/absorb some of the noise?
« Last Edit: 12/04/2018 05:56 am by sanman »

Offline Tywin

Re: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« Reply #10 on: 12/04/2018 03:52 am »
This company already try to make a mini "Sea Dragon"  ;)

http://www.ripple-aerospace.no/

The knowledge is power...
Everything is connected...

Offline sanman

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4561
  • Liked: 694
  • Likes Given: 8
Re: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« Reply #11 on: 12/04/2018 06:56 am »
Yeah, I remember there was a discussion thread on the Ripple, among other updated ideas for Sea Dragon. They seem to use a large annular aerospike engine. This is in contrast to the original Sea Dragon concept with its Expansive Nozzle which was subsequently used for an ICBM, and finally wound up on the later versions of the Minotaur launcher.

Has anyone ever done a comparison of the aerospike performance vs the expansive nozzle?

During the thread on latest re-design of BFR, we were all (wrongly) speculating that it might have some kind of large expanding macro-nozzle around the engine cluster. That part seemed reminiscent of the Sea Dragon, which is perhaps why there was some natural speculation in that direction.
« Last Edit: 12/04/2018 08:00 am by sanman »

Offline sanman

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4561
  • Liked: 694
  • Likes Given: 8
Re: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« Reply #12 on: 12/04/2018 08:01 am »
Maybe an iterative approach could be taken for development of a Sea Dragon. Start out at a smaller scale with the cruder non-optimized features for simplicity, and then iteratively improve these across successive launches by incorporating the more optimized refinements and scaling up over time.

For one thing, unlike most modern rockets, Sea Dragon is made of materials that are tolerant to seawater. This then facilitates recovery in the ocean. As shown in Ripple's video, you could start out with parachute landing at sea - but then maybe finda way to do powered landing onto the water's surface, and even finally to barge landings. Once you have these dry landings at sea perfected, perhaps you could upgrade to more modern engine technology which isn't so water tolerant.

Maybe ISRO's decision to not construct the 3rd Launch Pad could be a fortunate happenstance, if it were to allow the chance to go down the Sea Dragon route instead of towards ULV.  ;)

Or could even a smallsat launcher try this approach with a Sea Horse type of rocket?
http://www.astronautix.com/s/seahorse.htm



Perhaps ISRO could pursue it, even if only as a technology demonstrator to enable equatorial launches. If the upcoming SSLV is based on Agni solid motor parts, then a SeaHorse-style SSLV could perhaps leverage India's SLBM development:



« Last Edit: 12/16/2018 11:47 pm by sanman »

Online chetan_chpd

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 109
  • Pune
  • Liked: 21
  • Likes Given: 23
Re: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« Reply #13 on: 12/04/2018 12:08 pm »
India would find it very very...very difficult both with respect to technology and economy.
Currently either USA has realistic possibility of developing such a huge rocket or an international effort similer to ISS

Offline Refleks

  • Member
  • Posts: 24
  • USA
  • Liked: 9
  • Likes Given: 4
Re: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« Reply #14 on: 12/28/2018 08:38 am »
The original Sea Dragon studies were done about the same time as combustion instability issues were encountered with Saturn, were there any plans to solve this or was there any indication this would actually be a fundamentally un-solvable showstopper? 

Should a large combustion chamber be impossible to design, has there be any tests regarding the potential for the Aerospike design at that scale?

Offline sanman

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4561
  • Liked: 694
  • Likes Given: 8
Re: Could India Build a Sea Dragon?
« Reply #15 on: 12/31/2018 04:26 am »
I thought I read somewhere that the sound level would be extremely harmful (=deadly) for all kinds of sea creatures in a very big area?

India would find it very very...very difficult both with respect to technology and economy.
Currently either USA has realistic possibility of developing such a huge rocket or an international effort similer to ISS

What if such a project were done as a joint effort between the United States and India  (and others? Japan/Europe/Russia?) - for superduperheavy launches that only get sent up once every few years? This would be for really enormously massive payloads. Maybe it could be done for some kind of international mega-space-station (spacewheel?) located somewhere Beyond Earth Orbit.

If the United States could allow the use of the Diego Garcia atoll, it has a natural tidal basin inside of it which could provide natural shielding to keep the rest of the ocean safe from the effects of such a big-bang launch. Diego Garcia happens to be located just south of the equator and far from other populated areas, which makes it a nice candidate for launching really massive payloads.

To reduce costs, assembly of the big dumb booster superstructure could be done at Indian shipyards, after which it could be towed to Diego Garcia for further work and ultimately launch. (Fine, some dredging might first have to be done at the actual launch spot within the tidal basin.)





Due to Diego Garcia's equidistant location, it could be used for either prograde or retrograde trajectories.
« Last Edit: 12/31/2018 06:10 am by sanman »

Tags: