Author Topic: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?  (Read 118595 times)

Offline john smith 19

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Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
« Reply #160 on: 01/17/2019 07:01 am »
I don't expect this thread to have a long life. It easily derails and will probably end in a shouting match. But maybe there can be some fruitful discussion.

We are now seeing real Starship hardware and it seems Elon is convinced that they have solved the major engineering problems. SpaceX targets next year for the first orbital launch of Starship.

There are a number of high profile programs that would, IMHO, become immediately obsolete when Starship comes close to its goals:

* SLS: $1bn per launch? No way...
* LOP-G: A small multi billion dollar outpost while MZ cruises around the moon with a bunch of artists? No way...
* Mars sample return: Multiple billion dollar missions to collect a few pounds of rocks while SpaceX geologists scout the surface? No way...

So, what will happen?
US Government funded and Congressionally supported space programmes do not die easily.  :(

I guarantee that all of those concepts will continue "under development" until at a minimum SX physically demonstrates those capabilities, and probably several years (decades?) afterward, like the proverbial Y2K projects that ran into 2002.

Marshall hasn't delivered a single new launch vehicle design since Shuttle ($deity knows it's had enough attempts at it). In pretty much any other area that would had triggered a site wide performance review with a view to radical down sizing or closure. All of the original Von Braun crew are long dead. The issues that were such complete unknowns in 1958 are now available in text books yet still Marshall continues.

And yet Marshall continues its painfully slow steps toward the SLS.
« Last Edit: 01/17/2019 07:02 am by john smith 19 »
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Offline Gantz

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Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
« Reply #161 on: 01/17/2019 05:12 pm »
A company may use the Starship for a mission to mine huge amont of rare metals (or other precious ressources)  from a nearby asteroid, bring the ressources back to earth and demonstrate it can be profitable by doing that.

I think it would be the real game changer : more important than going to Mars. it would be the next gold rush, trigger lot of investement. Mars would come naturally after that. And I think it's the only thing which can prevent our civilisation from collasping because of lack of natural ressources (especially those needed for the transisiton to a clean energy world). We would not be in this "finite world" model anymore.
What do you think ?

Offline Tulse

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Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
« Reply #162 on: 01/17/2019 05:21 pm »
I have yet to see a convincing business case for doing asteroid mining for terrestrial use.  And a lot of the costs for such activity falls outside of simple launch costs, which means that a successful Starship may not be that helpful with profitability.

Offline Slarty1080

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Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
« Reply #163 on: 01/17/2019 06:00 pm »
A company may use the Starship for a mission to mine huge amont of rare metals (or other precious ressources)  from a nearby asteroid, bring the ressources back to earth and demonstrate it can be profitable by doing that.

I think it would be the real game changer : more important than going to Mars. it would be the next gold rush, trigger lot of investement. Mars would come naturally after that. And I think it's the only thing which can prevent our civilisation from collasping because of lack of natural ressources (especially those needed for the transisiton to a clean energy world). We would not be in this "finite world" model anymore.
What do you think ?

It doesn't sound at all likely to me in the foreseeable future. Necessity is the mother of invention and as material prices rise so will efforts to reduce or avoid their use and/or find more sources.

We were supposed to run out of oil 30 years ago, but we haven't, there are still a lot of reserves left. Perhaps these reserves will become harder to access and the price might rise, but as the price raises so too will the pressure for change as can already be seen by the move to electric cars which is now starting to build.

Which materials in particular do you think we might be able to economically mine from asteroids? Bear in mind that mining is a difficult and dangerous task even on Earth. It involves a lot of heavy machinery and maintenance. Refining is also rarely an easy task and often involves a lot of physical and chemical processing that is neither simple nor practical to achieve in space. And some processes just wouldn’t work at all (froth flotation for instance).
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Offline DistantTemple

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Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
« Reply #164 on: 01/17/2019 07:56 pm »
One of Bezos' aims is to get heavy industry off the planet into orbit. (unfortunately it looks as if he won't be the first to try.)
We are already seeing on-orbit optical fibre manufacturing experiments, because of the important improvements in quality. IMO in 5 years the companies will be ready to try an orbital facility. SS  is the obvious choice, most likely initially using a SS long term, rather than using it to launch a hab or manufacturing module.

I suspect microchip production will be another industry that looks to space. The absence of any vibration not caused on board helps. And maybe the zero gravity will benefit in the preparation of the silicon that the wafers are struck from. I may be way off here!

Benefits in orbit are zero gravity, "no" vibration, free sunlight heat energy, and free solar energy. As mirrors or photovoltaics could be extensive. Also pollution is not released into the earth environment.
 So eventually smelting or  refining could be done in orbit, especially for materials to be used to construct other orbital structures... but I bet this is said up-thread!
« Last Edit: 01/17/2019 07:58 pm by DistantTemple »
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Offline Alana519

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Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
« Reply #165 on: 01/23/2019 05:57 am »
Well the forcing function will move one step down the line. Whats the next expensive industry in the way of exploiting space. I'd say payload manufacture.

And spacex is already looking into this.

So what's after that? I've no idea.

Offline docmordrid

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Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
« Reply #166 on: 01/23/2019 06:23 am »
Well the forcing function will move one step down the line. Whats the next expensive industry in the way of exploiting space. I'd say payload manufacture.

And spacex is already looking into this.

So what's after that? I've no idea.

ISTM, non-chemical propulsion for faster transits.
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Offline Hominans Kosmos

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Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
« Reply #167 on: 01/23/2019 08:26 am »
Well the forcing function will move one step down the line. Whats the next expensive industry in the way of exploiting space. I'd say payload manufacture.

And spacex is already looking into this.

So what's after that? I've no idea.

ISTM, non-chemical propulsion for faster transits.

Non-chemical propulsion is slower. Unless you mean by that statement maturation of high powered space nuclear power. Which is still not light-weight, radiator mass doesn't go away. Chemical propulsioni is the go-to fast propulsion for the near to medium term. It'll take magic to flip the other technologies over to being the faster way to travel.

Offline Cinder

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Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
« Reply #168 on: 01/23/2019 11:57 am »
Well the forcing function will move one step down the line. Whats the next expensive industry in the way of exploiting space. I'd say payload manufacture.

And spacex is already looking into this.

So what's after that? I've no idea.
ISRU.  Whatever precedes an actual industrial base.
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Offline magnemoe

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Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
« Reply #169 on: 01/23/2019 03:42 pm »
Well the forcing function will move one step down the line. Whats the next expensive industry in the way of exploiting space. I'd say payload manufacture.

And spacex is already looking into this.

So what's after that? I've no idea.
At least assembly. The Web telescope had been much easier to build if you assembled it in orbit and could afford it to be some times heavier.
Can see this being relevant for communication satellites to.

Offline Lars-J

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Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
« Reply #170 on: 01/23/2019 09:47 pm »
Well the forcing function will move one step down the line. Whats the next expensive industry in the way of exploiting space. I'd say payload manufacture.

And spacex is already looking into this.

So what's after that? I've no idea.

ISTM, non-chemical propulsion for faster transits.

Non-chemical propulsion is slower. Unless you mean by that statement maturation of high powered space nuclear power. Which is still not light-weight, radiator mass doesn't go away. Chemical propulsioni is the go-to fast propulsion for the near to medium term. It'll take magic to flip the other technologies over to being the faster way to travel.

It doesn't have to be nuclear. A combination of chemical and ion propulsion would enable faster transits, but the main benefit of that would be on transits to the outer solar system. (ion propulsion during the months/years of "coasting")

Offline ncb1397

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Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
« Reply #171 on: 01/23/2019 10:36 pm »
Well the forcing function will move one step down the line. Whats the next expensive industry in the way of exploiting space. I'd say payload manufacture.

And spacex is already looking into this.

So what's after that? I've no idea.

ISTM, non-chemical propulsion for faster transits.

Non-chemical propulsion is slower. Unless you mean by that statement maturation of high powered space nuclear power. Which is still not light-weight, radiator mass doesn't go away. Chemical propulsioni is the go-to fast propulsion for the near to medium term. It'll take magic to flip the other technologies over to being the faster way to travel.

Sort of. It is difficult to provide enough energy to go fast and to efficiently use propellant. But if all you wanted was something like 600 isp on an electric propulsion system, that requires only 500 MWh of power in the form of kinetic energy to accelerate 100 tonnes of propellant. Assuming a 50% conversion efficiency, call it one gigawatt-hour. With a 1 megawatt system, it would take 40 days. The problem is if you want to efficiently use fuel at the same time. 10x the ISP (6000 seconds) requires 100 gigawatt-hours. The same system would require 10 years to collect that amount of energy. Low power, fast, fuel efficient - pick 2.
« Last Edit: 01/23/2019 10:40 pm by ncb1397 »

Offline Hominans Kosmos

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Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
« Reply #172 on: 02/10/2019 08:00 am »
Well the forcing function will move one step down the line. Whats the next expensive industry in the way of exploiting space. I'd say payload manufacture.

And spacex is already looking into this.

So what's after that? I've no idea.

ISTM, non-chemical propulsion for faster transits.

Non-chemical propulsion is slower. Unless you mean by that statement maturation of high powered space nuclear power. Which is still not light-weight, radiator mass doesn't go away. Chemical propulsioni is the go-to fast propulsion for the near to medium term. It'll take magic to flip the other technologies over to being the faster way to travel.

Sort of. It is difficult to provide enough energy to go fast and to efficiently use propellant. But if all you wanted was something like 600 isp on an electric propulsion system, that requires only 500 MWh of power in the form of kinetic energy to accelerate 100 tonnes of propellant. Assuming a 50% conversion efficiency, call it one gigawatt-hour. With a 1 megawatt system, it would take 40 days. The problem is if you want to efficiently use fuel at the same time. 10x the ISP (6000 seconds) requires 100 gigawatt-hours. The same system would require 10 years to collect that amount of energy. Low power, fast, fuel efficient - pick 2.
 

I don't see a dry mass fraction mentioned anywhere in the reasoning. Thrust to weight ratio will eat up most of your specific impulse gains leaving you with no improvement in transit times. What mass numbers did you use to come up with the 40 day transit?

Offline Hominans Kosmos

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Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
« Reply #173 on: 02/10/2019 09:07 am »
Well the forcing function will move one step down the line. Whats the next expensive industry in the way of exploiting space. I'd say payload manufacture.

And spacex is already looking into this.

So what's after that? I've no idea.

ISTM, non-chemical propulsion for faster transits.

Non-chemical propulsion is slower. Unless you mean by that statement maturation of high powered space nuclear power. Which is still not light-weight, radiator mass doesn't go away. Chemical propulsioni is the go-to fast propulsion for the near to medium term. It'll take magic to flip the other technologies over to being the faster way to travel.

It doesn't have to be nuclear. A combination of chemical and ion propulsion would enable faster transits, but the main benefit of that would be on transits to the outer solar system. (ion propulsion during the months/years of "coasting")

Thrust to weight ratio of ion propulsion is abysmal. Where I can see an application for what you propose is a small ion booster on MCT/ITS/BFR/Starship, if and only if it can provide a net benefit. Something like that might possibly fit in the residual performance envelope of Starship. 

Requirements: 

  • (1) Lightweight and high thrust electric rocket thruster (plasma/ion) and propellant (argon/nitrogen for availability on Mars?), has to outperform just flying more methalox mass for Raptor. 
  • (2) Electric power rating probably can't exeed power surplus at perihelion (Earth orbit), leaving ion drive probably useless closer to aphelion (Mars orbit). Solar power budget may be upgraded if condition (1) can be met! 
  • (3) Thermal performance can't exeed the capacities of cryogenic propellant reserve maintenance, and life support heat rejection rate performance. Additional heat introduced by the electric propulsion system can't exeed onboard capabilities which might mean performance limits near perihelion or low earth orbit radiation environment. Cooling performance limits are more relaxed further from the Sun (and to a local extent: Earth). Heat rejection subsystems put extra burden on available electrical power therefore still experiencing performance ceilings going further from the sun. Might possibly warrant a heat rejection capacity upgrade if both condition (2) AND (1) are met.
  •  

    We know Gwynne Shotwell has said (if I recall right) they will look into electric propulsion as performance optimization strategy in future. Having in-house electric propulsion engineering for Starlink, they are surely going to be looking at the relevant trades once more critical problems for the architecture have been solved, after minimal viable product, or a couple of initial versions have been brought to profitability.

    Might be able to bring transit times down a day or two below three months, that way.

    Offline Robotbeat

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    Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
    « Reply #174 on: 02/10/2019 01:05 pm »
    If successful I can perhaps foresee a de-scoping of NASA's HSF activities and a refocusing on robotic and other space related activities...
    The opposite.

    NASA plays insane amounts of money just to maintain a tiny toehold in LEO. With Starship, for the same cost they can establish McMurdo and/or Amundsen-Scott Station sizes bases on Mars and the Moon.

    The scope can be drastically expanded as NASA is no longer spending all those resources on SLS and Orion, etc.
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    Offline philw1776

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    Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
    « Reply #175 on: 02/10/2019 04:03 pm »
    If successful I can perhaps foresee a de-scoping of NASA's HSF activities and a refocusing on robotic and other space related activities...
    The opposite.

    NASA plays insane amounts of money just to maintain a tiny toehold in LEO. With Starship, for the same cost they can establish McMurdo and/or Amundsen-Scott Station sizes bases on Mars and the Moon.

    The scope can be drastically expanded as NASA is no longer spending all those resources on SLS and Orion, etc.

    Agreed.
    The SpaceX challenge is to fund and make sufficient demonstrable technical progress with their Starship, probably successful launches to LEO at a minimum or maybe a crewed flight around the moon worse case, without bankrupting the company as Elon has said.  If SpaceX financial risk is anything like his approach with his public company, he'll run real close to that red line.  That is SpaceX's biggest risk, not rocket engine & airframe design, although unexpected bad engineering decisions there likely would bankrupt SpaceX.  Unexpected.
    With above success, I see NASA signing up and paying for crewed & robotic Mars missions to scientific interest sites.  NASA's Mars desires are the search for (sub-surface?) life today, or evidence of ancient life and better understanding Mars geology, (aereology)?  Different from SpaceX's primary objectives finding and expanding sustainable site(s) supplied by local resources.
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    Offline CraigLieb

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    Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
    « Reply #176 on: 02/10/2019 04:43 pm »
    Elon has $10 billion in Tesla stock. Multiple posters on multiple threads have pointed out already that he can sell some or all of his shares and fund his dreams directly.  He has gambled everything before, so it is not out of character. <edit> to point out this is far from an original idea here<\edit>
    « Last Edit: 02/10/2019 05:00 pm by CraigLieb »
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    Offline philw1776

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    Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
    « Reply #177 on: 02/10/2019 04:57 pm »
    Elon has $10 billion in Tesla stock. One case would be to sell his shares and fund his dreams. He has gambled everything before, so it is not out of character.

    Won't happen.  Selling even a small fraction of this would make stock price plummet.  Investigation by unfriendly SEC still smarting over Elon's comments dissing them.
    It's reported that Elon has borrowed LOTS of money using Tesla stock as collateral.
    Possible that the lenders have restrictions on how much over what time period he can sell.  Speculation.
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    Offline uhuznaa

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    Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
    « Reply #178 on: 02/10/2019 06:24 pm »
    One of these days someone posted a link with a real treasure trove of Atlas photos (the one-stage-wonder which shares at least the stainless steel construction with SS). I'm still going through them but I immediately realized that setting up a real production line of (theoretically) cheap spacecraft would change things A LOT. Like: You wouldn't launch a space station and then supply it with spacecraft from the ground. You would instead launch an especially outfitted craft with all the experiments (and the scientists and engineers) you need for some project and leave it in orbit for a month or two and then return it. Same with space tourism: Why launch modules for a space hotel and then supply it with launches and transport people to and from it if you can just as well fly a fully supplied ship for a two week LEO cruise and land it again?

    I really want to see a production line that spits out Starships like that: https://flic.kr/p/qefVfQ

    This of course depends on how cheap SpaceX will be able to build these things, but going from CF to SS may change things a lot even in the long run.

    Offline Zed_Noir

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    Re: What happens when SpaceX's Starship succeeds?
    « Reply #179 on: 02/11/2019 12:44 am »
    <snip>
    You wouldn't launch a space station and then supply it with spacecraft from the ground. You would instead launch an especially outfitted craft with all the experiments (and the scientists and engineers) you need for some project and leave it in orbit for a month or two and then return it. Same with space tourism: Why launch modules for a space hotel and then supply it with launches and transport people to and from it if you can just as well fly a fully supplied ship for a two week LEO cruise and land it again?
    <snip>

    Hmm. The SX Spaceship is a Space Station that is mobile. It can be placed from LEO to beyond Mars. However SX seems to plan to use the Spaceship as combo U-Haul and RV.

    Some experiments will take much more than a couple months to run.

    Having a large space station as a space resort is like comparing a cruise ship (SX Spaceshp) to the destinations (Space Resort). Besides people might want to go further then LEO.

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