Author Topic: Developing the BFS - Phase 1 Big Falcon Hopper (BFH) Discussion - THREAD 2  (Read 241170 times)

Offline uhuznaa

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Considering the apparently simple construction of the new BFR (stainless steel, methalox as propellant), would it be possible to build and operate it back in the 60s? Replace Raptor with a gas generator if needed, payload mass should still be acceptable. Would there be any technological showstopper (vertical landing maybe)?

Just wondering if this thing pans out, whether we have lost half a century chasing technological ghosts..

Don't think so
All this was made possible by advancement in electronics and software

I think reusable two stages would still have been totally possible much earlier, but it would have been harder to develop and more expensive. In the first place there was no perceived need for it and no motivation to try with the necessary funding.

In fact without SpaceX nobody would try even today. Nobody else has any interest in furthering low-cost spaceflight at all (except BO maybe of course). Where's the point in that if you can just as well make billions and billions by doing ever more expensive launchers and just throwing them away after a few minutes?

And make no mistake: What SpaceX is trying to achieve is still very risky as a business. If you can go to orbit for cheaper and even can go to Mars you still need somebody to pay you for delivering their payloads, and lots of them. With StarLink (if it should materialize) SpaceX will be at least its own customer for quite a lot of LEO launches, but the EXISTING market for LEO (or even Mars) launches is quite limited.

Offline Lampyridae

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Did the Dear Moon flight money allow this sudden explosive progress and/or the government shutdown allow them to pull employees from other projects to work on this?

I don't think this progress is particularly explosive for SpaceX, it's just for once happening in the open where we can see it.

Maybe Iíve just got used to launcher projects taking forever being built.

Well, the Shuttle Generation got a space shuttle whose economics were justified by fiction, a heat shield protected by hope and an escape system fuelled with nope.

Mercury had hand-written instrumenation labels, and it was still safer than the shuttle. Space is still really, really hard but the fact is you don't need a billion dollars to throw a used car at Mars.
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Offline glennfish

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Did the Dear Moon flight money allow this sudden explosive progress and/or the government shutdown allow them to pull employees from other projects to work on this?

I don't think this progress is particularly explosive for SpaceX, it's just for once happening in the open where we can see it.

If this was done by a water tower company using water tower construction techniques, then the net cost of construction was between 1.2 and 4.5 million net.  Probably at the low end.  The construction speed was about 2-3 times faster than a water tower, but most of the time is spent waiting for parts to arrive.

Online schaban

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Considering the apparently simple construction of the new BFR (stainless steel, methalox as propellant), would it be possible to build and operate it back in the 60s? Replace Raptor with a gas generator if needed, payload mass should still be acceptable. Would there be any technological showstopper (vertical landing maybe)?

Just wondering if this thing pans out, whether we have lost half a century chasing technological ghosts..

Don't think so
All this was made possible by advancement in electronics and software

I think reusable two stages would still have been totally possible much earlier, but it would have been harder to develop and more expensive. In the first place there was no perceived need for it and no motivation to try with the necessary funding.

In fact without SpaceX nobody would try even today.

This is not correct

Multiple companies and NASA itself were working on developing technologies SpaceX almost perfected

If not SpaceX then someone else would succeed. Perhaps not as cheap or quick but eventually would get there

What made Musk to be stand out is that he showed that what is physically possible could be made cheap enough to be economically viable. Just have to think deep and long enough.

Not only in SpaceX but Tesla or Boring or Hyperloop...

Online envy887

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Considering the apparently simple construction of the new BFR (stainless steel, methalox as propellant), would it be possible to build and operate it back in the 60s? Replace Raptor with a gas generator if needed, payload mass should still be acceptable. Would there be any technological showstopper (vertical landing maybe)?

Just wondering if this thing pans out, whether we have lost half a century chasing technological ghosts..

Don't think so
All this was made possible by advancement in electronics and software

I think reusable two stages would still have been totally possible much earlier, but it would have been harder to develop and more expensive. In the first place there was no perceived need for it and no motivation to try with the necessary funding.

In fact without SpaceX nobody would try even today.

This is not correct

Multiple companies and NASA itself were working on developing technologies SpaceX almost perfected

If not SpaceX then someone else would succeed. Perhaps not as cheap or quick but eventually would get there

What made Musk to be stand out is that he showed that what is physically possible could be made cheap enough to be economically viable. Just have to think deep and long enough.

Not only in SpaceX but Tesla or Boring or Hyperloop...

Nobody else is working on a reusable upper stage like Starship. NASA got halfway there with the Shuttle Orbiter and then gave up and went back to fully expendable SLS.

Offline magnemoe

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Considering the apparently simple construction of the new BFR (stainless steel, methalox as propellant), would it be possible to build and operate it back in the 60s? Replace Raptor with a gas generator if needed, payload mass should still be acceptable. Would there be any technological showstopper (vertical landing maybe)?

Just wondering if this thing pans out, whether we have lost half a century chasing technological ghosts..

Don't think so
All this was made possible by advancement in electronics and software

I think reusable two stages would still have been totally possible much earlier, but it would have been harder to develop and more expensive. In the first place there was no perceived need for it and no motivation to try with the necessary funding.

In fact without SpaceX nobody would try even today. Nobody else has any interest in furthering low-cost spaceflight at all (except BO maybe of course). Where's the point in that if you can just as well make billions and billions by doing ever more expensive launchers and just throwing them away after a few minutes?

And make no mistake: What SpaceX is trying to achieve is still very risky as a business. If you can go to orbit for cheaper and even can go to Mars you still need somebody to pay you for delivering their payloads, and lots of them. With StarLink (if it should materialize) SpaceX will be at least its own customer for quite a lot of LEO launches, but the EXISTING market for LEO (or even Mars) launches is quite limited.
It was some ideas back in the 60s. The problem was that most went into the SSTO trap.
The marked was missing and all rocket technology was very new.

Now if the space race had lasted longer and been more intense we probably got it earlier.

Look at the delta clipper, again an SSTO trap and not made here. SSTO trap in that it could easy be used as an reusable first stage.

Now however the cat is pretty much out of the bag, Pretty sure Blue Origin think a lot about reusable second stages as its the next goalpost.
You have to be that high to play the game.

Online Slarty1080

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Considering the apparently simple construction of the new BFR (stainless steel, methalox as propellant), would it be possible to build and operate it back in the 60s? Replace Raptor with a gas generator if needed, payload mass should still be acceptable. Would there be any technological showstopper (vertical landing maybe)?

Just wondering if this thing pans out, whether we have lost half a century chasing technological ghosts..

Don't think so
All this was made possible by advancement in electronics and software

I think reusable two stages would still have been totally possible much earlier, but it would have been harder to develop and more expensive. In the first place there was no perceived need for it and no motivation to try with the necessary funding.

In fact without SpaceX nobody would try even today. Nobody else has any interest in furthering low-cost spaceflight at all (except BO maybe of course). Where's the point in that if you can just as well make billions and billions by doing ever more expensive launchers and just throwing them away after a few minutes?

And make no mistake: What SpaceX is trying to achieve is still very risky as a business. If you can go to orbit for cheaper and even can go to Mars you still need somebody to pay you for delivering their payloads, and lots of them. With StarLink (if it should materialize) SpaceX will be at least its own customer for quite a lot of LEO launches, but the EXISTING market for LEO (or even Mars) launches is quite limited.
It was some ideas back in the 60s. The problem was that most went into the SSTO trap.
The marked was missing and all rocket technology was very new.

Now if the space race had lasted longer and been more intense we probably got it earlier.

Look at the delta clipper, again an SSTO trap and not made here. SSTO trap in that it could easy be used as an reusable first stage.

Now however the cat is pretty much out of the bag, Pretty sure Blue Origin think a lot about reusable second stages as its the next goalpost.
You have to be that high to play the game.
I think Blue's next goal should be launching something into orbit.
The first words spoken on Mars: "Humans have been wondering if there was any life on the planet Mars for many decades Ö well ... there is now!"

Offline tea monster

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Reusable space craft have been proposed since the 1950s. Even Chrysler motors put forward a giant reusable booster called SERV (as just one of many examples). Everyone has known what needed to be done to reduce the cost of spaceflight. Nobody up until Elon and Jeff has actually stumped up the cash and made it happen. Any of the big aerospace contractors could have made such a craft. They have had people like Bono suggesting designs for decades. No interest has been shown at all by any of them.

NASA and others have started projects, but they always were cancelled - sometimes just before flying. The X-33 and the NASP are just two of the many dead projects littering the 90s. Apart from that, the 'new space age' has only existed in power point presentations.

If it wasn't for SpaceX (and, maybe, Blue Origin), we may have had some kind of reusable spacecraft operational at some time, but with NASA's current obsession with "Apollo on steroids", you may have had to wait a LONG time to see anything like what SpaceX is doing come to pass. 


Offline Llian Rhydderch

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Multiple companies and NASA itself were working on developing technologies SpaceX almost perfected

If not SpaceX then someone else would succeed. Perhaps not as cheap or quick but eventually would get there

What made Musk to be stand out is that he showed that what is physically possible could be made cheap enough to be economically viable. Just have to think deep and long enough.

Not only in SpaceX but Tesla or Boring or Hyperloop...

Let' get some perspective.

The really big factor is that the incentive structure is entirely different for the companies developing spaceflight technology on their own dime.  Such companies, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Rocket Lab, OneSpace, and others are primarily developing this technology with private capital.  Thus, they face a variety of standard choice metrics that face companies that endeavor to develop new technology that will eventually sustainably pay for itself.  They are principally driven by economic incentives, just like companies that make new cars or new marine vessels.

The legacy model for spaceflight tech development had been for a few nation states to pursue spaceflight technology, originally for exclusively geopolitical interests.  Later, although there were commercial applications (commsats in the Clarke Belt), the launch vehicle technology used was all originally developed by nation states.  Heck, in the first five decades that humans have possessed the technology of spaceflight, only six nation states had ever got any object to orbit.  In all of those government space technology dev programs, program funding and program decision making are primarily driven by political incentives

Change the incentive structure, and one can get entirely different results.  SpaceX put the first object into orbit on a privately funded launch vehicle in 2008, right at the end of that fifth decade of humans possessing spaceflight tech.  Now in 2018, at the end of the sixth decade, that one company facing these different incentives has made reusable booster technology a real thing, and reduced the price of space launch services sufficiently to be already eating the commercial market

And they are not stopping there.  The next generation launch vehicle technology based on a methalox engine development program started in 2012 and a large vehicle program unveiled a few years later is still aiming for program objectives that no nation state is even contemplating for their government programs:  fully and rapidly reusable vehicles at a price point well below existing lowest-price Falcon 9 orbital payload technology.  The first article test vehicle--Starship hopper--for low-altitude testing is now complete in its vehicle structure, for tests within months in early 2019 (notably, on approx. the schedule that would be required to support the program aspirational dates unveiled in 2016 and 2017).  When both Starship and Super Heavy are put together, with the requisite ground infrastructure advancements to support faster launch and land turnaround, SpaceX is aiming for an announced marginal cost on launch that is a small fraction of their already world-beating tech. 

Will they succeed?  We don't know. 

This is standard entrepreneurial development of the private sector.  One invests resources to develop technological ideas and concepts,  If successful, growth and profit follow; if not, the entrepreneur discovers that the business idea is unsustainable and it is shut down. 

But these economic incentives are driving entirely different behavior over the political incentives we are used to in the "space sector" of the economy, and that is the fundamental difference that will deliver the very different results we see in the 2010s.

And we get to watch!   8)
« Last Edit: 01/11/2019 01:06 pm by Llian Rhydderch »
Re arguments from authority on NSF:  "no one is exempt from error, and errors of authority are usually the worst kind.  Taking your word for things without question is no different than a bracket design not being tested because the designer was an old hand."
"You would actually save yourself time and effort if you were to use evidence and logic to make your points instead of wrapping yourself in the royal mantle of authority.  The approach only works on sheep, not inquisitive, intelligent people."

Online Johnnyhinbos

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I wonder if the four portholes and four associated power lines are for four blowers that are there for nothing more than to provide slight positive pressure to the foil n frame for the photo op, which was taken of the opposite side. That would make sense to me.
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Online Slarty1080

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Multiple companies and NASA itself were working on developing technologies SpaceX almost perfected

If not SpaceX then someone else would succeed. Perhaps not as cheap or quick but eventually would get there

What made Musk to be stand out is that he showed that what is physically possible could be made cheap enough to be economically viable. Just have to think deep and long enough.

Not only in SpaceX but Tesla or Boring or Hyperloop...

Let' get some perspective.

The really big factor is that the incentive structure is entirely different for the companies developing spaceflight technology on their own dime.  Such companies, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Rocket Lab, OneSpace, and others are primarily developing this technology with private capital.  Thus, they face a variety of standard choice metrics that face companies that endeavor to develop new technology that will eventually sustainably pay for itself.  They are principally driven by economic incentives, just like companies that make new cars or new marine vessels.

The legacy model for spaceflight tech development had been for a few nation states to pursue spaceflight technology, originally for exclusively geopolitical interests.  Later, although there were commercial applications (commsats in the Clarke Belt), the launch vehicle technology used was all originally developed by nation states.  Heck, in the first five decades that humans have possessed the technology of spaceflight, only six nation states had ever got any object to orbit.  In all of those government space technology dev programs, program funding and program decision making are primarily driven by political incentives

Change the incentive structure, and one can get entirely different results.  SpaceX put the first object into orbit on a privately funded launch vehicle in 2008, right at the end of that fifth decade of humans possessing spaceflight tech.  Now in 2018, at the end of the sixth decade, that one company facing these different incentives has made reusable booster technology a real thing, and reduced the price of space launch services sufficiently to be already eating the commercial market

And they are not stopping there.  The next generation launch vehicle technology based on a methalox engine development program started in 2012 and a large vehicle program unveiled a few years later is still aiming for program objectives that no nation state is even contemplating for their government programs:  fully and rapidly reusable vehicles at a price point well below existing lowest-price Falcon 9 orbital payload technology.  The first article test vehicle--Starship hopper--for low-altitude testing is now complete in its vehicle structure, for tests within months in early 2019 (notably, on approx. the schedule that would be required to support the program aspirational dates unveiled in 2016 and 2017).  When both Starship and Super Heavy are put together, with the requisite ground infrastructure advancements to support faster launch and land turnaround, SpaceX is aiming for an announced marginal cost on launch that is a small fraction of their already world-beating tech. 

Will they succeed?  We don't know. 

This is standard entrepreneurial development of the private sector.  One invests resources to develop technological ideas and concepts,  If successful, growth and profit follow; if not, the entrepreneur discovers that the business idea is unsustainable and it is shut down. 

But these economic incentives are driving entirely different behavior over the political incentives we are used to in the "space sector" of the economy, and that is the fundamental difference that will deliver the very different results we see in the 2010s.

And we get to watch!   8)

I would agree, but I think there is also another factor at work with SpaceX and possible some of the other private companies that has not been seen previously. And that is what you might call a personal vision incentive. Musk realy wants to get to Mars as he sees it as the destiny of mankind and wants to make humanity a multiplanetary secies. When he says that he realy means it. It's his equivalent of climbing Mount Everest and would be a lifetimes achievement.

Reaching this goal is what drives Musk rather than money. Although he sees money as a vitaly important means, its only a means to the ultimate end of getting to Mars and establishing a human prescence there not an end in its own right as it appears to be to many rich people.

Without this personal incentive I don't think SpaceX would exist. As Musk himself said he thought the chances of making a success of SpaceX were low, but that it was worth the try as no one else was doing it. Not the thought processs you would expect from a multi millionare wanting to expand his fortune.
The first words spoken on Mars: "Humans have been wondering if there was any life on the planet Mars for many decades Ö well ... there is now!"

Offline Llian Rhydderch

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The really big factor is that the incentive structure is entirely different for the companies developing spaceflight technology on their own dime.  Such companies, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Rocket Lab, OneSpace, and others are primarily developing this technology with private capital.  Thus, they face a variety of standard choice metrics that face companies that endeavor to develop new technology that will eventually sustainably pay for itself.  They are principally driven by economic incentives, just like companies that make new cars or new marine vessels.


I would agree, but I think there is also another factor at work with SpaceX and possible some of the other private companies that has not been seen previously. And that is what you might call a personal vision incentive. Musk realy wants to get to Mars as he sees it as the destiny of mankind and wants to make humanity a multiplanetary secies. When he says that he realy means it. It's his equivalent of climbing Mount Everest and would be a lifetimes achievement.


Exactly.  And that "personal vision incentive" is just another example of an economic incentive (one of choice by the actor who  can take action).  "Economic incentive" does not mean a financial only incentive, or a return on investment incentive.  The study of economics is the study of human choice, and it's consequences.  Oftentimes, the unintended consequences (like the price system and market prices) are the most important; but so are all factors that humans consider in making choice.  And material, or monetary/pecuniary returns, are always only a part of the calculus that good economists study when they study economic incentives.

The point is that these sorts of incentives are very different than the political incentives that have primarily driven government space programs for many many decades.

So your are supporting my point:  economic incentives bring about entirely different actions and outcomes than political incentives of thr traditional government space programs.
Re arguments from authority on NSF:  "no one is exempt from error, and errors of authority are usually the worst kind.  Taking your word for things without question is no different than a bracket design not being tested because the designer was an old hand."
"You would actually save yourself time and effort if you were to use evidence and logic to make your points instead of wrapping yourself in the royal mantle of authority.  The approach only works on sheep, not inquisitive, intelligent people."

Online meekGee

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Plus, Musk is a unique individual.

A lot of what SpaceX does right is because of this.  Few people have the ability to think as freely as he does, but also lead and manage large real projects and bring them to fruition.

That, plus the grand Mars vision, makes him probably unique from a historical perspective.

Add to that a bunch of early good hires, and the ability to fire bad ones, and there you have it.

« Last Edit: 01/11/2019 08:35 pm by meekGee »
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Offline Nomadd

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 I keep hearing various estimates for size of 120-130 feet or so, but I'm pretty sure the peak of that tent is almost exactly 50 feet, and when I measure a long shot to eliminate perspective, I'm getting close to 150 feet for this beast, about 14' of it being legs.
« Last Edit: 01/11/2019 02:29 pm by Nomadd »
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Online Johnnyhinbos

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I keep hearing various estimates for size of 120-130 feet or so, but I'm pretty sure the peak of that tent is almost exactly 50 feet, and when I measure a long shot to eliminate perspective, I'm getting close to 150 feet for this beast, about 14' of it being legs.
Is there work still going on there? Recent photos don’t seem to show much going on, but that could be misleading.
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What SpaceX is trying to achieve is still very risky as a business. If you can go to orbit for cheaper and even can go to Mars you still need somebody to pay you for delivering their payloads, and lots of them. With StarLink (if it should materialize) SpaceX will be at least its own customer for quite a lot of LEO launches, but the EXISTING market for LEO (or even Mars) launches is quite limited.
To use a baseball analogy, "Build it and they will come." SpaceX are risking that their efficient launch technology will stimulate a wave of non-traditional customers whose business proposals have been made feasible by SpaceX's relatively low prices.

Offline Eric Hedman

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Plus, Musk is a unique individual.

A lot of what SpaceX does right is because of this.  Few people have the ability to think as freely as he does, but also lead and manage large real projects and bring them to fruition.

That, plus the grand Mars vision, makes him probably unique from a historical perspective.

Add to that a bunch of early good hires, and the ability to fire bad ones, and there you have it.
From all that I've read about our real-life D.D. Harriman/Tony Stark, he believes that if the laws of physics don't preclude the existence of a technology, then he refuses to back off when conventional thinkers tell him it can't be done. Door handles flush to the body that pop out when you walk up to the car? Make it so! Reusable rocket boosters? Just do it! If it's not impossible, it's, well, possible. His motto is, "Never say never." He's also a hard-a$$.

Offline PaulVla

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In December 2017 I got to visit the Hawthorne factory, I'm by no means willing (or able) to provide you with any technical details of semi-assembled Merlin engines but I can tell a thing or two about the atmosphere in the company and why I believe SpaceX is able to hire some of the business' brightest but also why they are willing to work day and night for a paycheck which could be much higher in different companies.

The place is littered with past successes and what is too large or dangerous to suspend from the ceiling or walls like trophies can be seen from screens all over the place, replaying launches/landings of Falcon 9 and or showing teasers/renders of Falcon Heavy/BFR. Some of the workplaces are in between the assembly stations of the engines themselves!

I can not imagine anyone sitting behind a desk and not be intrinsically motivated and pumped.
It felt almost like a religion and the place where they are working towards is heavenly Mars.

Online AC in NC

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I keep hearing various estimates for size of 120-130 feet or so, but I'm pretty sure the peak of that tent is almost exactly 50 feet, and when I measure a long shot to eliminate perspective, I'm getting close to 150 feet for this beast, about 14' of it being legs.

I'm all over the place with estimates from 107'-164'

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