Musk Tweets About Hopper, Flight Tests & Boca Chica Plans

  • Robert G. Oler

    Elon is looking to build very long-lasting vehicles that can do
    hundreds of cycles between refits and thousands of cycles before
    retirement…….

    I am sure he is…so is Bezos, Branson, probably Boeing,, they all would like to wave their magic wand and “getting from there to here” but that kind of technology, operations culture and a lot of other things (including markets) do not emerge with either hand waving or overnight. in your world Jobs or someone could go from the Apple 2 (and Falcon 9 is not the Apple 2 in technology development) to a dual core pentium in well one stroke.

    the road in aviation is littered with people and airplanes that tried to do that…the latest is the Airbus 380 and aside from the numerous technical challenges it is unclear that the market is there to support Musk

    the technology will either work or not and how he puts it together will determine the ability to do as you claim…and his loss ratio will determine how long he does it 🙂

    NOW that is his business because it is his money but it just amazes me how many people are caught up in the “rapture of Elon”

  • Robert G. Oler

    assuming it works…250 tons…ok lets peer into Mr. Magic mirror…do you have any idea what the cost of that sized vehicle would be?

  • ThomasLMatula

    Maybe it is because the events of the last week make it very clear that NASA, Boeing and Lockheed just aren’t going to get America to the Moon. They are not even able to get off the launch pad. So SpaceX is the only game in town.

  • ThomasLMatula

    About one-tenth what it would cost Boeing to do it if Falcon Heavy is a guide. Maybe even less since the engines have entered production for it.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, it’s not like NASA is doing it 😄

  • Jeff2Space

    Absolutely. That’s why there were so many active launch sites at Cape Canaveral in those days. Today, there are only a handful of active launch sites.

  • Jeff2Space

    ” the technology will either work or not and how he puts it together will determine the ability to do as you claim…and his loss ratio will determine how long he does it ”

    That’s not how SpaceX rolls. Falcon 9’s first stage was supposed to not have to restart its engines in flight, was supposed to reenter on its own (without slowing down before reentry), and then parachute into the ocean where it would be picked up and refurbished. None of that worked out. By your line of thinking above, that would be it and we never would have seen SpaceX first stage recoveries.

    Instead, SpaceX tried another approach entirely. We now see Falcon 9 first stages performing reentry burns followed by landing burns on most flights. And most of the time, they land successfully.

    We’ve also seen this with Starship. SpaceX abandoned composite construction because thermal protection for composites would have needed to have been quite substantial. So, they switched to stainless steel for the tanks and structure and this hexagonal thermal protection system. Will it work? Given the testing they’ve done to date it should, but it’s not a sure thing.

    But, I am sure SpaceX won’t give up if it fails. They’ll come up with another solution to the problem and start test flights again.

    In the computer world this is iterative (Agile) development. If you fail, you want to fail early, so you can adjust your plans and try again. In aerospace this is sometimes called, “build a little, test a little, fly a little”. It’s how we did R&D on aircraft “back in the day” when we didn’t know much and didn’t have powerful digital computers to model everything.

    The alternative in computers is the “waterfall approach”. You spend months gathering requirements, then months documenting workflows, then months doing an analysis, then months doing a design, and finally you implement everything. What happens when something doesn’t work during implementation? You’re screwed. Note that this is the approach being taken by SLS. It *has* to work right the first time or the program is doomed, so everything has taken longer and more money.

  • Jeff2Space

    A successful, fully reusable, TSTO will put every single expendable launch vehicle out of business.

    There isn’t any analogy I’m aware of that really fits. What other transportation industry persisted for over 60 years where every vehicle of its type was thrown away after only a single use?

  • redneck

    Single use rafts down the Mississippi.

  • duheagle

    Well, the “hand” that’s full keeps growing new fingers as more NewSpace launch companies step up to take over and rehab derelict pads. We have some serious gentrification going on in the slums of Cape Canaveral.

    There will be still more to come. Space Florida may soon be in the happy situation of having no more relict sites to the south to offer newcomers and will have to authorize new sites on bare ground to the north.

  • duheagle

    Not being pathologically timid and tight-arsed isn’t the same as being reckless. Besides, “barnstorming” paid off pretty well for SpaceX anent Falcon 9 reusability.

    It’s one thing to be a corpulent, slug of a legacy prime on a cost-plus IV drip or a NASA full of high-mileage drones just waiting for their retirement dates to roll around. It’s quite another to be a real enterprise with deployment dates to meet for comsat mega-constellations.

    Time is money in both cases, but in the former case, the more time the more money comes in while in the latter case, the more time taken, the likelier one is to lose one’s shirt. SpaceX is, I think, operating with all deliberate speed – and that turns out to be pretty damned fast.

    As to the engines:

    Merlins cost less than a million bucks apiece – just how much less is not known accurately by outsiders. My own opinion is they’re about $900K each, but they may be as little as 2/3 of that. A Raptor is about as complicated as a pair of Merlins but probably weighs in at rather less because of only having one engine bell. I don’t see where the cost of a Raptor can reasonably exceed twice the cost of a Merlin and that is almost certainly too pessimistic an estimate. The financial future of SpaceX is not going to called into question if it loses a Raptor or three, or even the whole vehicle, in testing StarHopper.

  • duheagle

    Mmmm! Nice and toasty warm!

  • duheagle

    LOL.

    I think the large air ducts going into payload fairings are generally to provide temperature- and humidity-controlled air. Anything inside a payload fairing – such as acoustic insulation – that might outgas has presumably been baked sufficiently during fabrication to make that a non-problem.

    Stainless steel propellant tanks that are never exposed to outside air and contaminants after being fabricated don’t need their insides checked for corrosion. The outsides of stainless steel rocket structures won’t need much if any corrosion inspection either, but it won’t be hard to do.

    If sand gets into tanks during fabrication, it is easily pressure-washed out before initial service. Any sand on the exterior of a vehicle will be seen off by the vibration and hypersonic air stream encountered on ascent.

    The only way sand would get into space is if it were deliberately brought there. The cargo bays of the Shuttles were blocked off to the South Florida ambient environment by the conformal clean rooms on the Rotating Support Structures at both LC-39A and LC-39B. The former is gone now, but something functionally equivalent – only likely a lot less expensive – can certainly be built to enable equally tidy loading of freight aboard SH-Starship. The cheapest approach would probably be to load Starship and close it up before it’s hoisted atop SH for a launch.

    Honestly, you make it sound as though you think SH-Starship will be operating on some Gilligan’s Island beach with banana leaf and palm frond-wrapped payloads being pushed up ramps of notched palm logs joined with lashings of creosoted hemp rope under an awning made of bamboo.

  • duheagle

    As stainless doesn’t oxidize at normal temperatures, its a much easier material to weld cleanly than most other steel or aluminum alloys, particularly with any of the inert gas welding technologies. Both manual welding and robotic welding of stainless are mature technologies.

  • Lee

    “Honestly, you make it sound as though you think SH-Starship will be
    operating on some Gilligan’s Island beach with banana leaf and palm
    frond-wrapped payloads being pushed up ramps of notched palm logs joined
    with lashings of creosoted hemp rope under an awning made of bamboo.”

    Well, given the pix coming out of Boca Chica, that’s about what it looks like at the moment LOL.

  • duheagle

    And lets not forget that it’s being built on the beach and not in an expensive clear-span hangar.

  • Lee

    Ever personally welded stainless? Hummm, thought not…

  • duheagle

    SH-Starship is appropriately-sized for hauling large numbers of Starlink sats to VLEO at a whack. That is the main reason it’s being built and will keep it busy for awhile. Well before that job is done, there will be people lining up to put big things cheaply into space once it’s absolutely apparent that there is no fantasy involved whatsoever. In amongst all the other missions, there will be some initial freight deliveries to Mars and a number of lunar excursions – some orbital only, some surface expeditions.

  • redneck

    Couldn’t be. No Mary Ann.

  • duheagle

    Not since the 70’s when I fabricated a few stainless motorcycle parts. Since then, my stainless experience has been the machining and grinding of various types, especially 4-17 PH, which is martensitic, magnetic and grinds beautifully on standard surface grinders.

    The austenitic 300-series grades are pretty easy to weld. They are used a lot in the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Some of their formulations, in fact, are deliberately intended to make welding easy and durable. My understanding is that SH-Starship is being fabricated from 300-series stainless alloys. Robotic seam welders appear to be in use at Boca Chica.

  • duheagle

    No Mary Ann or Ginger, though – worse luck. 🙂

  • duheagle

    Yes. And, and as they used to say on Firefly, “shiny.” The whole Terran Space Navy will polish up brighter than brass.

  • duheagle

    The nose cone thing was unfortunate, but hardly indicates some basic defect in the design even of a temporary testbed like StarHopper. All rockets have limits as to the velocity of high-altitude winds they can fly through because they aren’t designed to stand high cross-winds. SpaceX and ULA missions get weather scrubbed with some frequency for excessive high-altitude winds. StarHopper lost its nose in a surface-level high wind that wasn’t blowing as fast as high-altitude winds that would be dangerous, but had much greater density. As to flying without it, if SpaceX thinks that will both work and not compromise the data it seeks to gather, then I’m not going to assert otherwise.

    B-52’s continue in service because they have been essentially rebuilt several times each over the years. I doubt there’s an original equipment skin panel in the entire fleet. There are certainly no original weapons, electronics or engines. Ditto the KC-135. I assume something similar applies to the Tu-95 and its variants. A lot of Soviet-era aircraft are still in service because Russia has no money to develop replacements and because many types are barely used owing to limited ops funds. The Mig-29 is notoriously short-lived.

    The TU-22 was a very early design that benefited from essentially no prior art in the Soviet aeronautical establishment. SH-Starship, in contrast, is not exactly SpaceXs first TSTO rodeo.

    Anent subsystems being replaced by better successors over the years to keep vehicles in service, I’m sure that will happen to SH-Starships too. They’ll likely be the first rockets with service lives long enough for this to become a thing as it has long been in the aviation world. Only reusable rockets, as individual flight articles, can benefit from this process of incremental subsystem upgrade by replacement.

    As you have indicated no specific concerns about particular problems SpaceX has allegedly overlooked, nor essayed any predictions about what compensatory additional subsystems might be ginned up to “solve” them, I’m going to assume that you have actually identified none of either and simply wrote what you did under the influence of what seems like quite a galloping case of general anxiety on your part regarding anything not firmly under government control. As with the old joke about puritans being people ceaselessly worried that someone, somewhere is having fun, you seem to be someone comparably concerned at the prospect that someone, somewhere might do something great without getting permission from “authorities” and “experts” first. You have a very European sensibility in that respect.

  • duheagle

    And I am equally amazed at how many people imagine themselves to be as smart or smarter than Elon Musk. Especially people who seem completely hagridden by the cultural norms and folkways of the elderly industries and enterprises he is in the process of upending.

  • duheagle

    Which were broken up after their cargoes were removed and sent to sawmills to be rendered into lumber. The raft was part of the cargo too.

    Expendable rockets are just littering the sea floors awaiting oohs and aahs from future generations of recreational deep-dive submariners.

  • Jeff2Space

    Single use rafts down the Mississippi isn’t really a great example to compare with launch vehicles, IMHO. These rafts were relatively simple to make (compared to sailing ships or steam ships of the same era) because they had no integrated propulsion system. So, the relative level of complexity just isn’t the same. And since cost scales with complexity, it’s not really a great example.

    I was racking my brain trying to come up with any historical example of large, expensive, single use transportation devices which would be comparable to an orbital launch vehicle. Other than military ordnance, I’ve got nothing.

  • Robert G. Oler

    d. None of that worked out. By your line of thinking above, that would
    be it and we never would have seen SpaceX first stage recoveries….

    Nope not what I said at all. sorry you missed the point

    your post is one of those cheerleader post with really nothing to say that addresses my point

  • Robert G. Oler

    actually the events of the last week gave me some hope they are finally getting serious…about returning to the Moon..SpaceX is an easy decade away from an operational vehicle

  • Robert G. Oler

    smart has little to do with it.

  • redneck

    I admit I was stretching for that one, and as Duheagle points out. they weren’t actually thrown away. All the single use over large periods of time things I could think of were along similar lines. Sled dogs becoming dinner in the Antarctic and such.

  • Jeff2Space

    Agreed. It’s amazing how the Space Race sent everyone on the planet down the dead end path of using expendable, military ordnance style, missile technology to get us into space. Then we got stuck in the rut of “this is how we’ve always done things”. This goes double for solid rocket boosters that are known to go “boom” from time to time.

  • Jeff2Space

    Other than rambling hand waving I see no point in your post above.