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(Ars Technica)   SpaceX wants Fark to red light coverage of SpaceX launches   (arstechnica.com) divider line
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992 clicks; posted to STEM » on 20 Oct 2020 at 1:30 AM (6 weeks ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook



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2020-10-19 9:13:06 PM  
It's funny that science fiction from the very earliest days showed rockets landing vertically and being reused, but it's taken years for reality to catch up.
 
2020-10-19 9:21:36 PM  
Fark user imageView Full Size
 
2020-10-19 10:03:02 PM  
I know they're right.

I live for these launches and landings. I have these things planned out on a calendar. I try to participate in Fark launch forums (with the usual crowd, you know who you are. We need a club name or something... Farklauchnerds or something)

But I missed the last two launches. I could have made it, I can make a really great excuse as to why I was distracted... But the fact is... I missed them.

I'm worried that they're becoming...

...Mundane.
 
2020-10-19 11:21:18 PM  

Destructor: I know they're right.

I live for these launches and landings. I have these things planned out on a calendar. I try to participate in Fark launch forums (with the usual crowd, you know who you are. We need a club name or something... Farklauchnerds or something)

But I missed the last two launches. I could have made it, I can make a really great excuse as to why I was distracted... But the fact is... I missed them.

I'm worried that they're becoming...

...Mundane.


We could take a cue from Stan Lee and call ourselves "The Merry Musk Marching Society".

Or maybe, to improve the scanning, "The Merry Muskhead Marching Society".

/Excelsior!
 
2020-10-20 2:11:50 AM  
Kinda cool that in just a few years anyone with even the cheapest of smartphones will be holding a SATPhone and internet connected device from anywhere on earth for hopefully a reasonable price.
 
2020-10-20 2:29:31 AM  

Carter Pewterschmidt: It's funny that science fiction from the very earliest days showed rockets landing vertically and being reused, but it's taken years for reality to catch up.


Early SF assumed that it would be easier to make a robot walk around than beat humans at chess.
 
2020-10-20 4:23:55 AM  
Whoa! I've been looking at the launches and the fairing catching boat for a while and I thought the fairings were quarter this size.!

cdn.arstechnica.netView Full Size
 
2020-10-20 6:11:39 AM  

Destructor: I know they're right.

I live for these launches and landings. I have these things planned out on a calendar. I try to participate in Fark launch forums (with the usual crowd, you know who you are. We need a club name or something... Farklauchnerds or something)

But I missed the last two launches. I could have made it, I can make a really great excuse as to why I was distracted... But the fact is... I missed them.

I'm worried that they're becoming...

...Mundane.


I found a great app called "Next Spaceflight". Keeps everything up-to-date, and even has a tab just for what's going on in Boca Chica. Easy way to keep track of everything.
 
2020-10-20 6:46:31 AM  

Carter Pewterschmidt: It's funny that science fiction from the very earliest days showed rockets landing vertically and being reused, but it's taken years for reality to catch up.


Science fiction doesn't have to think about the technical details.

It's like the giant robot thing. It seems like a good idea until you're forced to look at the details and realize how complicated it really is.
That doesn't mean someone won't figure it out someday. When they do people will say "wasn't it obvious? Wrap your soldiers in powered metal exo-skeletons to increase their survivability! That's what fiction suggested all along. "

...Which it did. But it was easier for the author who just had to write about it.

Fark user imageView Full Size
 
2020-10-20 7:10:48 AM  

Carter Pewterschmidt: It's funny that science fiction from the very earliest days showed rockets landing vertically and being reused, but it's taken years for reality to catch up.


We were landing rockets vertically back in the 1960's.   That's how we landed on the Moon, both the unmanned Surveyor probes and the Apollo LM's.

It's not that we couldn't really do it, it's that they weren't efficient  and reliable enough to make it worth our while at the beginning to do so.

Even today, landing the booster cuts the amount of payload that SpaceX can put into orbit by about a third.  For example, a Falcon 9 can put 8,300 kg into geosynchronous transfer orbit if you expend the booster, but just 5,500 kg if you recover the booster, just 66.3% of the total expendable capacity.

By the time rocket boosters became efficient enough and reliable enough that it would be technically feasible to land the boosters, throwing them away had become habit.
 
2020-10-20 8:15:51 AM  

jaytkay: Whoa! I've been looking at the launches and the fairing catching boat for a while and I thought the fairings were quarter this size.!

[cdn.arstechnica.net image 640x427]


If they were not big and thus expensive, Elon would just use new ones. He ain't recovering stuff because it looks cool, but because it cheaper to recover and reuse than it is to simply toss. For the second stage, it is still cheaper to discard.  Of course, Starship will try to change that calculation.
 
2020-10-20 8:16:25 AM  
From the comments: "I can't believe that we're at a point where it almost seems like a failure somehow that they're throwing away the second stage."
 
2020-10-20 8:19:47 AM  

dittybopper: Carter Pewterschmidt: It's funny that science fiction from the very earliest days showed rockets landing vertically and being reused, but it's taken years for reality to catch up.

We were landing rockets vertically back in the 1960's.   That's how we landed on the Moon, both the unmanned Surveyor probes and the Apollo LM's.

It's not that we couldn't really do it, it's that they weren't efficient  and reliable enough to make it worth our while at the beginning to do so.

Even today, landing the booster cuts the amount of payload that SpaceX can put into orbit by about a third.  For example, a Falcon 9 can put 8,300 kg into geosynchronous transfer orbit if you expend the booster, but just 5,500 kg if you recover the booster, just 66.3% of the total expendable capacity.

By the time rocket boosters became efficient enough and reliable enough that it would be technically feasible to land the boosters, throwing them away had become habit.


I'd say it's not just efficiency. What would it matter how much fuel you spend if its cost is a fraction of the total budget, most of which is sunk into the hardware. Something like $200k of your $60 million F9 stack is fuel, its almost trivial.

The issue gets into the weeds of whether you want to bother recovering the engines and tanks. It takes money to refurbish these parts and make them launch ready, and back in the 50's the tech was evolving so fast that there wasn't much of a point in doing that.  Even when we had better technology, it still cost money to engineer the recovery method.

This is the reason the shuttle was supposed to succeed and also failed. Yes we could recover everything except the big orange tank, and that did save alot of money (you didn't have to buy a new shuttle every time), but then you had to pay Dr. Rocket Surgeon to recertify everything and re-stack it. It made some sense with the RS-25 engines that were very expensive and reusable, but as a total package it just didn't work out how it should have.
We needed a Gas&Go rocket and the shuttle was not it.

NASA had the interest in making a better rocket, but getting the political support is tricky when you've got the likes of Boeing and Shelby killing all up and comers.

Fark user imageView Full Size


So now we have the merlin, which can be fired multiple times without a teardown. We have the technology to recover tanks gently so it they be turned around quickly (about a month VS the shuttles year), You are taking a payload hit but you have to put that against the fact that one booster moves alot more payload on multiple missions.
 
2020-10-20 8:32:48 AM  

way south: dittybopper: Carter Pewterschmidt: It's funny that science fiction from the very earliest days showed rockets landing vertically and being reused, but it's taken years for reality to catch up.

We were landing rockets vertically back in the 1960's.   That's how we landed on the Moon, both the unmanned Surveyor probes and the Apollo LM's.

It's not that we couldn't really do it, it's that they weren't efficient  and reliable enough to make it worth our while at the beginning to do so.

Even today, landing the booster cuts the amount of payload that SpaceX can put into orbit by about a third.  For example, a Falcon 9 can put 8,300 kg into geosynchronous transfer orbit if you expend the booster, but just 5,500 kg if you recover the booster, just 66.3% of the total expendable capacity.

By the time rocket boosters became efficient enough and reliable enough that it would be technically feasible to land the boosters, throwing them away had become habit.

I'd say it's not just efficiency. What would it matter how much fuel you spend if its cost is a fraction of the total budget, most of which is sunk into the hardware. Something like $200k of your $60 million F9 stack is fuel, its almost trivial.

The issue gets into the weeds of whether you want to bother recovering the engines and tanks. It takes money to refurbish these parts and make them launch ready, and back in the 50's the tech was evolving so fast that there wasn't much of a point in doing that.  Even when we had better technology, it still cost money to engineer the recovery method.

This is the reason the shuttle was supposed to succeed and also failed. Yes we could recover everything except the big orange tank, and that did save alot of money (you didn't have to buy a new shuttle every time), but then you had to pay Dr. Rocket Surgeon to recertify everything and re-stack it. It made some sense with the RS-25 engines that were very expensive and reusable, but as a total package it just didn't work out how it sh ...



My main point was that by the time it became practical to do it, we were in the habit of throwing them away.

It takes a lot to step outside of a paradigm and say "Hey, we could do this better".


One of my favorite examples is submarine design just before and during WWII.  It was known how to make a high underwater speed submarine, the British R-Class did that back at the end of WWI.   Likewise, the submarine snorkel was first patented in the UK back in 1916, and the Italians successfully tested one in the mid-1920's.

But the people in charge of ordering new submarines in all the navies of the World had been submariners themselves in WWI and so their idea of what a submarine was and could do was influence by their past experiences in the use of those submarines.

That's why the Germans started WWII with slightly improved versions of their WWI submarines instead of starting with a clean sheet and developing boats like the Type XXI and Type XXIII in the 1930's.   The basic technology was there, but not the doctrine.

Thus it is was with re-usable rockets.   We've had the technological ability to do it for quite a while now.   Probably at least by the late 1960's/early 1970's.  At the latest, the late 1970's.   But boosters were always thought of as expendable.   Make them absolutely light as possible for highest performance, not with an eye to ever being able to use them again.

Someone had to step away from that and say "Hey, we're throwing away a lot of money here for no reason", and then work to make it a reality.
 
2020-10-20 8:39:50 AM  

flondrix: Carter Pewterschmidt: It's funny that science fiction from the very earliest days showed rockets landing vertically and being reused, but it's taken years for reality to catch up.

Early SF assumed that it would be easier to make a robot walk around than beat humans at chess.


I've read Azimov stories with android police detectives, who if they wanted to check details of a case went to a room full of card index drawers and looked up the paper files for a case.
And one with a seven foot tall robot who was used to check spelling grammar on manuscripts, by picking up the paper, typewriter made, manuscript and turning the pages by hand.

Yes, there was a huge gap between what they thought would be easy and what they didn't realise could be done.
 
2020-10-20 9:13:13 AM  
They've got this procedure on lock-down at this point, it makes me wonder at what point we are safe enough to do this over land and have the rockets touch down at the rebuild facility.

Side note, I don't mind the slideshow when it doesn't involve a page-reload
 
2020-10-20 9:21:05 AM  

OldJames: They've got this procedure on lock-down at this point, it makes me wonder at what point we are safe enough to do this over land and have the rockets touch down at the rebuild facility.

Side note, I don't mind the slideshow when it doesn't involve a page-reload


I don't think it will ever be safe enough to do that.  There is a reason why the recovery barges are unmanned.

With something like an aircraft, if you lose an engine, you can still glide it.  You lose the engine(s) on one of these, and you've got a ballistic missile coming down, with a limited capacity to steer it aerodynamically.

Even if it was safe enough, you'd have to move the launch facility.   It's probably cheaper just to continue using the barges.
 
2020-10-20 10:36:55 AM  

way south: Carter Pewterschmidt: It's funny that science fiction from the very earliest days showed rockets landing vertically and being reused, but it's taken years for reality to catch up.

Science fiction doesn't have to think about the technical details.

It's like the giant robot thing. It seems like a good idea until you're forced to look at the details and realize how complicated it really is.
That doesn't mean someone won't figure it out someday. When they do people will say "wasn't it obvious? Wrap your soldiers in powered metal exo-skeletons to increase their survivability! That's what fiction suggested all along. "

...Which it did. But it was easier for the author who just had to write about it.

[Fark user image 850x566]


Does that thing have the "I fell down and can't get up" button thingy ?
 
2020-10-20 10:59:35 AM  

dittybopper: I don't think it will ever be safe enough to do that.  There is a reason why the recovery barges are unmanned.


It is less that, and more the additional fuel required to fly them back there.

The recovery location is a product of the launch trajectory.  Depending on the launch orientation, the boosters can only come back down in a specific area unless you want to burn a lot more propellant to get to an alternate recovery site.  The more fuel you have to burn for recovery, the less mass you are able to push into orbit.
 
2020-10-20 11:50:10 AM  
I'm waiting for one day when SpaceX has to move one of their boosters from East Coast to West Coast (or vice versa), but the trains/trucks/etc are not working out right to move it safely in time.

So one smart aleck gets the idea of just launching it without a second stage (but some aerodynamics), and having it land over on the other Coast's recovery location.

Maybe 2 hops, not sure the math
 
2020-10-20 2:21:50 PM  

Cthushi: I'm waiting for one day when SpaceX has to move one of their boosters from East Coast to West Coast (or vice versa), but the trains/trucks/etc are not working out right to move it safely in time.

So one smart aleck gets the idea of just launching it without a second stage (but some aerodynamics), and having it land over on the other Coast's recovery location.

Maybe 2 hops, not sure the math


Not happening... launching a unmanned craft over populated land is a big no no... especially one with no wings..
 
2020-10-20 2:30:27 PM  

Carter Pewterschmidt: It's funny that science fiction from the very earliest days showed rockets landing vertically and being reused, but it's taken years for reality to catch up.


Science fiction then, still is.   Not going to happen with a manned vehicle.. more weight needs more fuel, so bigger rocket, which needs even more fuel.. Obviously doable with a light empty shell...
 
2020-10-20 3:07:19 PM  

Nicholas D. Wolfwood: Destructor: I know they're right.

I live for these launches and landings. I have these things planned out on a calendar. I try to participate in Fark launch forums (with the usual crowd, you know who you are. We need a club name or something... Farklauchnerds or something)

But I missed the last two launches. I could have made it, I can make a really great excuse as to why I was distracted... But the fact is... I missed them.

I'm worried that they're becoming...

...Mundane.

We could take a cue from Stan Lee and call ourselves "The Merry Musk Marching Society".

Or maybe, to improve the scanning, "The Merry Muskhead Marching Society".

/Excelsior!


It's still a thing!? 12 year old me thought this was the stuff in 84.

Fark user imageView Full Size
 
2020-10-20 3:11:38 PM  

dittybopper: Carter Pewterschmidt: It's funny that science fiction from the very earliest days showed rockets landing vertically and being reused, but it's taken years for reality to catch up.

We were landing rockets vertically back in the 1960's.   That's how we landed on the Moon, both the unmanned Surveyor probes and the Apollo LM's.

It's not that we couldn't really do it, it's that they weren't efficient  and reliable enough to make it worth our while at the beginning to do so.

Even today, landing the booster cuts the amount of payload that SpaceX can put into orbit by about a third.  For example, a Falcon 9 can put 8,300 kg into geosynchronous transfer orbit if you expend the booster, but just 5,500 kg if you recover the booster, just 66.3% of the total expendable capacity.

By the time rocket boosters became efficient enough and reliable enough that it would be technically feasible to land the boosters, throwing them away had become habit.


Simultaneously the load was becoming smaller and lighter so the two curves finally crossed. Technology allowed the numbers to work and made the software/hardware to do it.
 
2020-10-20 4:02:10 PM  

dittybopper: Carter Pewterschmidt: It's funny that science fiction from the very earliest days showed rockets landing vertically and being reused, but it's taken years for reality to catch up.


We were landing rockets vertically back in the 1960's.   That's how we landed on the Moon, both the unmanned Surveyor probes and the Apollo LM's.


True, but every stage of the moon landing system was used once and thrown away. The rocket that landed on the moon is still there today. The rocket that took off from the moon wasn't the one that landed. That one was then thrown away after the astronauts got to the orbiter. The orbiter was then thrown away after the astronauts got into the re entry capsule etc. The early scifi showed a complete rocket landing vertically and then taking off again, the entire system being reused.
 
2020-10-20 4:29:09 PM  

TheMysteriousStranger: jaytkay: Whoa! I've been looking at the launches and the fairing catching boat for a while and I thought the fairings were quarter this size.!

[cdn.arstechnica.net image 640x427]

If they were not big and thus expensive, Elon would just use new ones. He ain't recovering stuff because it looks cool, but because it cheaper to recover and reuse than it is to simply toss. For the second stage, it is still cheaper to discard.  Of course, Starship will try to change that calculation.


scanman61: From the comments: "I can't believe that we're at a point where it almost seems like a failure somehow that they're throwing away the second stage."


It's not only that it's "cheaper to discard" the second stage, it's also a question of allocation of scarce resources and 'choosing your battles wisely'.

There was a time when recovery and reuse of the Falcon second stage was definitely part of the plan.  Also, the Falcon Heavy was supposed to include the ability to transfer fuel from the outboard cores to the center core.

But making those sorts of things happen carries costs, in money, in resources, in the time and talent of your engineers, etc.  And there's only so much of each of those to go around.

The decision was (sadly?) made that, while things like that would be really neat, the returns just didn't justify it.

Because, in the long run, Falcon is obsolete, no more than a stopgap measure to gain experience and generate revenue while the company 'levels up' for a run at the real game - Starship.

It might have been a close call - the experience with fuel transfer on the Heavy should have been directly applicable to Starship (but now NASA is subsidizing that work, so, good on them) - but SpaceX made the call to take the resources in engineer's time and talent and put them on Starship instead of pushing the Falcon second stage.

Maybe someday, examining this decision will be a lesson in a business school somewhere.  I sure don't know enough to say whether it was the right call, but I'm comfortable enough with SpaceX's record that I'll bet on them being right.

Starship now has a tanking and plumbing system that seems to have been proven out in static testing and flight.  The Raptor Methalox engines look good.  They've started bending metal for Super Heavy.  Revenue should soon be coming in from Starlink.

I think the basic spaceframe for Starship and Super Heavy are in good shape.  That still leaves a boatload of entirely new problems to be dealt with, problems like:

- a Life-Support System that can support one hundred people for up to a year at a time.

- propellant transfer, in bulk, between vehicles in microgravity.

- *keeping* mass amounts of cryogenic propellants supercooled / densified (or even "merely" cryogenic, if not chilled the way SpaceX loads the Falcon 9) without having them boil off during a long-duration crewed flight to Mars.

- thermal management for a ship with one hundred people during a long-duration mission - getting rid of waste heat when the only means is to radiate it away.

SpaceX has done jaw-droppingly amazing things, pushing boundaries far beyond what has come before.  But they have many, many more rabbits to pull out of their hats before they reach the Finish Line.
 
2020-10-20 5:01:47 PM  

way south: Yes we could recover everything except the big orange tank, and that did save alot of money (you didn't have to buy a new shuttle every time),


Well, not EVERY time...
 
2020-10-20 8:03:28 PM  

Nicholas D. Wolfwood: "The Merry Muskhead Marching Society"


When's the next meeting? :-)
 
2020-10-20 10:57:20 PM  

Destructor: Nicholas D. Wolfwood: "The Merry Muskhead Marching Society"

When's the next meeting? :-)


May
 
2020-10-20 11:42:50 PM  

Destructor: Nicholas D. Wolfwood: "The Merry Muskhead Marching Society"

When's the next meeting? :-)


This Thursday, October 22, 12:14 pm EDT, at SpaceX.com/Webcast.  Starlink 14 launch.
 
2020-10-21 12:11:37 AM  

Destructor: Nicholas D. Wolfwood: "The Merry Muskhead Marching Society"

When's the next meeting? :-)


Some good news -

"Early this morning (Oct. 20), SpaceX lit up the three Raptor engines on its SN8 ("Serial No. 8") Starship prototype in a brief "static fire" test at the company's South Texas site, near the beachside village of Boca Chica."

Looks like there's now a thread for it.  They've already fixed a typo in the headline, by making it just - weird.
 
2020-10-21 10:25:49 AM  

Nicholas D. Wolfwood: This Thursday, October 22, 12:14 pm EDT, at SpaceX.com/Webcast. Starlink 14 launch.


I should be able to make that.
 
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