A Spectacular Day in Florida

Credit: SpaceX

This has been a crazy but pretty amazing trip to Florida.

Flight out of LA on Monday afternoon. Got into the hotel in Cocoa Beach at Midnight. There was a line at the desk. Got to sleep at 1 a.m., up at 4:30 to try to get a prime viewing spot on the beach. Finally got there at about 8 a.m. Then a very long wait while they wanted for upper level winds to calm down. Then an amazing launch 15 minutes before the window closed.

Loved watching this from the beach. People were yelling and cheering, just a great atmosphere. Out in Mojave I see nothing but sand but no water. Being able to like on the beach listening to the waves crash all day was amazing. I went swimming at least three times. I just miss all that so much living where I do.

Credit: SpaceX

We were able to see two high altitude burns on the side boosters and then ones as they approached the landing zones. Then the boosters disappeared behind the dunes. The beach was then rocked a pair of sonic booms and the roars of the engines.

Credit: SpaceX

Elon Musk said yesterday that central core slammed into the ocean at about 500 kph about 100 meters off the drone ship, damaging the vessel in the process. They were planning to send the Red Tesla with the spaceman aboard near Mars, but apparently it’s going to the asteroid belt.

Congratulations to everyone at SpaceX on a spectacular success yesterday.

 

  • Jeff2Space

    For an apples to apples comparison, how many years from now would you say it’s going to take before BFS does a crewed free return trajectory around the moon? This will almost surely require refueling in LEO, so it won’t be enough just to get one BFS flying. You’ll need the “tanker” BFS flying too.

    Falcon Heavy would likely be ready to fly this mission at about the same time Dragon 2 is fully certified by NASA for carrying crew to ISS. My guess is they could do it in two years on Falcon Heavy.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    How’s that? Space X has already won the lions share of global commercial space launch. He’s eaten the Russian’s lunch (almost all of it), and a lot of the ESA’s. What else is out there waiting to be claimed by them? At this point it seems the GEO manufacturers and operators are buying a pretty bare minimum on government LV’s just to keep those programs alive no doubt in concert with the backing governments. I’m genuinely interested as to what part of the market Space X can penetrate into? Do you think they’ll somehow draw customers away from he biggest surviving non SX launch sector in the word that is China? You don’t think SX will actually take their business away? That work comes with active backing by the Chinese government in the form of money and favors. How could they take that work away from them?

  • duheagle

    Starlink is going to pay for Elon’s future flotilla-strength Martian Space Navy once BFR/BFS are well into their production phases. But BFR/BFS aren’t going to break the SpaceX bank as development projects. Falcon 9 and the original cargo Dragon were developed quickly and cheaply. Even if BFR/BFS needs three times the money it took to develop F9/Dragon 1, SpaceX can handily supply that out of operating revenues – as it, in part, already has over the last few years. When figuring out what SpaceX can do on its own account – both in terms of costs and schedules – look to the early F9/Dragon 1 days when the company wasn’t hobbled by all the delays and NASA-mandated cost inflation that has come in with Commercial Crew.

  • duheagle

    I’d say more like 18 months on FH. For BFR/BFS, add a year. I’m guessing the two anonymous would-be Luna flyers-by would be quite willing to wait an extra year in return for much nicer accommodations on their trip.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    BFR’s schedule will largely depend on how much of a buffer 1.2 kT of propellant and carbon composite airframe can provide. On paper it’s huge, and will allow other subsystems to come in overweight with no impact on ability to serve the market as it is now and for years to come. If BFR needs to regain lost margin SX can modify the vehicle the way they have done Falcon 9. I think the most significant issue is can SX manufacture a working airframe that can deliver to design requirements? It can be heavy. My thinking is their ability to come in on time rests on meeting that requirement. Once they have the airframe that can hold the propellants and operate the engines and survive reentry, everything else can be a compromise and come in overweight. The promised delivery date is so close, we might as well just sit back and watch. I expect to see a BFS shell on a production floor this year of they’re going to make schedule.

  • duheagle

    Quite. I said as much after the Adelaide presentation. BFR/BFS is, among other things, a 106 meter-tall middle finger directed at the ancien regime at NASA. Once Elon has built BFR/BFS his own way, on his own dime, NASA will be forced to come around and embrace it. Facts are such merciless things. This is, I think, a brass-knuckled version of that old saw about preferring to ask for forgiveness vs. permission.

    As to the specifics of the Roadster and Starman, that’s just Elon exercising his unmatched knack for striking the public fancy with his sense of fun. But it also raises his public profile even further and makes it yet more difficult for his weasely opponents in Congress and the NASA part of the Deep State to jam him up.

  • duheagle

    You seem to assume a future launch market much like the past one. But that market is changing and expanding and both trends are accelerating.

  • duheagle

    You could well be right on all counts.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    You’re right, I do. At least for the next 5 years to a decade. Payloads take time to design, engineer, test and produce. In order for the market to expand in the next few years to give more work to SX, those payloads need to be in development now.

  • redneck

    It depends on the assumptions. If using the conventional methods of absolute minimum mass and paranoid levels of custom space rated components, yes. If competent engineers are allowed to use more commonly available components and use mass with a rational safety factor, maybe not.

    It is so much easier to buy a hundred pounds of standard half inch bolts than to design and spec 0.361 inch bolts of incredibly finicky specialty alloy units. Not only cost, but also time and peace of mind. Saving that fifty pounds in the normal way can easily cost months and tens of thousands of dollars. And using electronics that are not obsolete on the ground. May have to use a different set of designers though. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of design to cost.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Even if you wanted to put up a 8m space telescope built with terrestrial materials, stainless steel, invar, aluminum, with glass mirrors and ocean liner quality flywheels you’re still talking a decade to build it. They take 5 to 10 years to deploy here on Earth, and another decade to iron out the problems. It’s not like other businesses have a lot of experience, let alone ratings, working with B-300 habitats. We’re not yet at the point of starting at scratch when it comes to relaxed specification space engineering. It’s going to take time to start up and mature. And we have not started yet.

    Some things you can’t relax like alloys used to avoid vacuum welding and lubricants that don’t outgass, not to mention mix of old and new when it comes to electronics that will be used and needed. When it comes to colonizing I expect to see in situ vacuum tube power switching, locally made 1980’s quality 68000 microprocessors and 7400 sereis logic, all working in parallel with what ever is the latest and greatest imported from Earth. Again, we have not even started working on the problems of space development yet.

  • Gerald Cecil

    BFR is a much easier design challenge than BFS. So I home/expect BFR to come quickly for flight tests. But BFS will require long-duration life support, radiation shielding, human factors, a toilet, etc. Many years of development and debugs. Still, a simplified BFS on BFR could make the lunar jaunt, only 10 days reqd. Land more than 2 passengers, then a BA 220 to bury, and then dozens.

  • ThomasLMatula

    The new markets that the lower costs to orbit, and the Moon will open up. It will take a while for them to gear up, but the have been waiting a while.

    In near terms of FH, NASA is suppose to have two space telescopes in storage from the NSA, each the size of the Hubble. The FH could launch them for NASA.

    https://www.space.com/16000-spy-satellites-space-telescopes-nasa.html

  • ThomasLMatula

    Actually NASA has a pair of 2.4 meter telescopes in storage. FH would be one way to launch them.

    https://www.space.com/16000-spy-satellites-space-telescopes-nasa.html

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I need to ask some of my contacts in that side of things if there’s any real work being done on those. The last I heard years ago was that the re-work required make them usable would be as expensive as building them from anew. I wonder if this is being revisited. I’ll sniff around.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I believe you’re right on that front, but you’re talking about a decade or more for them to organically grow from nothing.

  • ThomasLMatula

    If Elon Musk hits the cost target of the BFR at $50/lb to orbit they will emerge a lot quicker. And if you are able to just unload something like cargo, not deploy it, they emerge quicker as well. Who knows, instead of Kitt Peak you may be searching for asteroids from the Moon someday. ๐Ÿ™‚

    https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Screen-Shot-2017-09-28-at-20.09.11-630×341.png

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Sure but you’ll still have the cost of engineering, manufacturing and operating equipment that operates in a very hostile environment. It will be much cheaper than spaceflight today, but more expensive than maritime and aviation. Also you have to grow a new human culture for operating in this environment. I’d expect it to be more maritime than aviation in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, I think it will happen. But instead of say computers from the1970’s until the 1990’s I’m expecting computers from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. Still exciting and dynamic, but it was a small tight specialist market with tons of money being pumped into it. As an economist you see what money is being pumped into now. Why would an American capitalist invest his money into space rather than investing it into the money multiplier that is Communist China? We’ll know we’re in a new space age of human empire when the answer to that question is obvious. We don’t live in that era yet.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Not really to the side boosters and the centre core – which were the primary subjects of this test. For testing the max the upper stage can throw beyond LEO, then fair enough. But even then, with over a 60 tonne performance margin the 500 kg was irrelevant to this particular test.

  • Robert G. Oler

    5 to 7 years

  • SamuelRoman13

    Yes Shotwell said that very large sats have been ordered at a very low rate last year. I think 8.

  • SamuelRoman13

    The ir space telescope is using one and I think will be launched in ’21 by an Atlas. A standard 8m spun glass mirror is what Musk suggested BFR to launch I think.

  • SamuelRoman13

    Musk said he could do the Moon with FH but does not recommend it. Some people might like the price though and do not want to wait for BFR. Orion, DSG etc. Expedition 1 is a good low cost job for FH.

  • ThomasLMatula

    True, it will take a while. And everyone has been so focused on rockets there has been a lag in the architecture, agriculture and industrialization elements of developing space economies. We will soon have rockets that make all three practical, but now we need the killer apps to emerge. They are there as I have been writing about in recent papers at the last few ASCE space conferences, but they need to be integrated into a new space commerce vision.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Thanks! It would be nice to put the other in lunar or Mars orbit in its a modified version of its original function. Imagine the value of the high detail pictures for geologists and itโ€™s use in geomorphology work. It would be especially great for surveying landing sites.

  • Jeff2Space

    Two and a half years until a manned BFR/BFS flight around the moon? I don’t think so Tim! I agree with Robert G Oler (above), more like 5-7 years from now. In the meantime, why not design actual beyond LEO missions using the launch vehicle(s) we have now?

    On another thread someone suggested that adding a high energy upper stage (LH2/LOX) to Falcon Heavy would help greatly in its payload beyond LEO. ULA has that expertise. Makes one wonder if NASA could persuade ULA to provide a properly sized ACES upper stage for NASA launches of Falcon Heavy.

  • Agreed that removal of the battery and other internal hardware would make little difference to the boosters. But it might make a difference between the Tesla going somewhat beyond Mars and it going nearly to Ceres. The total mass of the Tesla is 1,308 kg and the mass of the batteries is 833 kg. I don’t know how much the engine and other internal structural components might mass but I’m guessing that they could have removed another at least 167 kg so as to remove a full metric ton. If someone here knows how to use KSP or Orbiter perhaps they could figure out the apoapsis difference between a regular Tesla and a maximally-modified Tesla.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I think as space launch becomes cheaper the killer app that has been in front of our face for 45 years will be the first to come to the fore. Space solar power. Even with battery storage we’ll still have nations worth of old power infrastructure to replace and upgrade, and the developing world to feed. The question is, can baseload solar power from space be price competitive with solar/battery, wind/battery, and the other offerings from the energy sector? Or put another way, how cheap does space solar power have to be? And, can a launch space of BFR and NG provide that price range? Customers would be established grids, newly built grids, deployed military, remote scientific/engineering/economic development.

    I know Elon hates space based solar power and it conflicts with his solar/battery vision but if batteries become choke pointed on resources, complexity, or pollution, I’m not convinced space based solar is completely off the table of future considerations provided it can be cost competitive.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I worked at the Steward Mirror Lab for some years back in the ‘naughties and I can tell you from personal experience those 8m telescopes don’t happen fast. If the mirror were paid for today the glass would not go into the oven for some years. 8m mirrors are becoming a ‘standard’ large telescope replacing the previous generation of 4m mirrors that are around the world now becoming considered ‘small’.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Ah IRST is one of them! Like I said, I had lost track of that thread. Thanks.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Not to mention you could count and type all the different versions of the Su-27 that the Martians are operating, and probably keep track of how many Tu-22’s they’re bringing out of retirement by the residual heat on the tarmac. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • duheagle

    The availability of cheap, quick, reliable transport to a place tends to radically accelerate the rate of economic exploitation in that place. That will apply to Earth-orbital space, cis-lunar space and the lunar surface as the new reusable rockets come on-line in the same way the transition from Conestoga wagon trains and stagecoaches to railroads did in the 19th Century American West.

  • duheagle

    For unitary payloads, you are correct. For constellation payloads, not so much. The USAF and NRO seem finally to be heading aggressively in a constellation direction. The U.S. government will, I think, be a huge launch services customer as procurement reform and force structure modernization emerge from their erstwhile doldrums.

  • duheagle

    Chicken and egg problems are always amenable to solution if someone just decides to unilaterally build themselves a chicken. Musk and Bezos are aggressively entering the chicken business.

  • duheagle

    Isn’t one of those mirrors the centerpiece of the budget-challenged WFIRST? NASA’s management has degenerated over the last generation to where it can’t even build a reasonably-priced space telescope when it’s handed the biggest and most expensive part, the mirror. Lower launch costs can solve a lot of problems, but impacted incompetence is not one of them.

  • duheagle

    You and RGO are, I think, overly fixated on FH’s long road to reality. That was not typical of how long SpaceX takes to engineer and build something. FH was never a top priority and kept getting sidetracked in favor of other things that were top priorities. BFR is, now, SpaceX’s top priority. Given that SpaceX is developing BFR/BFS completely without reference to NASA, look for it to emerge on a schedule much closer to that of the original Falcon 9 and Dragon 1 than to that of FH or the NASA-fied Dragon 2.

    As to a better upper stage for FH, ACES would be nice, but it’s years away from reality and USAF has been funding such work for a couple years now on an FH upper stage based on the Raptor engine. We may see another of SpaceX’s sudden “surprise” announcements in the coming months. RGO agrees with me on this one, by the way.

    Oh yes, for the record, my first name is Dick, not Tim.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    ….. If those reforms happen. It’s not a sure bet yet.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Or to get really good images of the Chinese rovers ๐Ÿ™‚

  • SamuelRoman13

    Small indeed. They put 2 8m together to make a 16M span. Combining the views. Now they are using 5 8M to make 24M and are figuring them to make one continuous curve. Europe is making a 32M hex segment. Long time and hard to do. 2025 or so. The largest one I have seen proposed is the arc of 6′ mirrors 300′ wide.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I’ve had the same thought for years but also question if a unilateral chicken will survive in the ecosystem. Hunters can kill it too. I think a important test for the unilateral chicken solution to the chickenegg problem is ‘are there any other space enterprises yet out there who would not be functioning were it not for Space X?’. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I sure hope we are soon.

  • duheagle

    Can’t argue with that. Every new business is a risk. I think the new capacity will find takers in the market, but I appreciate that not everyone shares my basically sunny disposition on this question.

  • duheagle

    No, it isn’t. But there are numerous encouraging signs of significant movement in that direction. I’m optimistic.

  • duheagle

    Like the poor, it seems, the Gloomy Gus Malthusians and what we might as well dub the Human Quarantine League (or maybe the “You’re Not Going Anywhere Until You Clean Up Your Room” League) we will always have with us.

  • duheagle

    Yes. But SpaceX has already demonstrated the ability of suitably organized enterprises to move at several times the speed of legacy aerospace firms. I think we’ll soon see a massive proliferation of Planet and Spire-like operations doing rapid design-build-deploy-test-redesign cycles.

  • duheagle

    I think Iridium might qualify. There are several comsat and other-sat projects for small and/or impecunious nations that should go on such a list too: Bulgariasat, Formosat and the upcoming Bangabandhu are three that come immediately to mind. There are probably others that have slipped my mind. Their tribe seems certain to increase a lot over the next few years.

  • Jeff2Space

    The “Tim” reference was from the TV show Home Improvement.

    While the original Falcon 9 was developed quickly, it’s taken many years and many versions to get where we are today, which is the year the “final” version of Falcon 9 starts flying, the Block 5 version. In fact, it’s arguably the almost constant changes to Falcon 9 that delayed Falcon Heavy. I don’t doubt that we’ll see BFR/BFS test flights in a few years. I doubt that it will be “the final version” which is capable of sending people around the moon and back.

    We shall see. I hope you’re right and I’m wrong. I really want to see BFR/BFS operational sooner rather than later.

  • Lee

    Here’s how I see the BFR/BFS shaking out. Not sure the order of when each version gets built:

    1) Common BFR for all versions of BFS.

    2) BFS satellite delivery vehicle.

    3) BFS LEO crewed vehicle.

    4) BFS Tanker vehicle.

    5) BFS Lunar/Mars cargo vehicle.

    6) BFS Earth point-to-point cargo vehicle.

    7) BFS Lunar crewed vehicle.

    8) BFS Earth point-to-point human vehicle.

    9) BFS Mars crewed vehicle.

    And yes, there will have to be at least 8 (!) different versions of the BFS stage. Each mission has very different requirements from the other. To expect that all of these will be up and running in a couple of years is not logical.

  • Jeff2Space

    I see where you’re going here. But I think there are huge overlaps.

    #2 and #3 could be the same vehicle (think space shuttle orbiter) with the crew in the tip of the nose and the payload bay behind it.

    #5 and #7 could also be the same vehicle as long as the crew size isn’t too large (it’s starting with #2 and #3 only with a bit more capability).

    #6 and #8 I think are not realistic, at least not for a long time.

    #9 is the most capable of the manned vehicles, needing long term life support and more redundant systems in general.

    At any rate, my list eliminates two versions outright and combines 4 other versions into two versions. So, only 5 versions in my book.

  • Lee

    #2 and #3 aren’t envisioned by Musk to be anything like the same vehicle.

    Yes, you could combine #5 & #7, but all plans I’ve seen center around sending cargo-only versions first. There would be no need for these cargo versions to have crew quarters.

    I agree that #6 & #8 are not realistic for a long time, but they still need to be counted in the equation of how many versions of BFS there will be.

    Even if you limit it to the 5 versions you suggest, that’s still a lot of versions to flight qualify. I think my original premise still stands.