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Blue Origin Thread (merged)

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4 minutes ago, tater said:

I compared it to the timeline of 2 years from a Saturn 1B flight with CSM, to Apollo 8 2 years later. Call the 1B the F9, and the SV the FH for this analogy. So 2 flights is just about right. D2 tests begin (that's our Apollo 6 analog), then some FH tests, along with more F9/D2 tests, then this mission.


In their currently crowded schedule, that's going to be a pretty tall order even without their habitual rightward slippage.

Either way, my original point stands - CatastrophicFailure is way out to lunch...  SpaceX's current hardware experience (to say nothing of their operational experience) is in no way comparable to where NASA stood when they first started considering a circumlunar mission in August of '68.  Granted, SpaceX "stands on the shoulders of giants", but NASA had a tons of experience (Mercury, Gemini, all the Apollo engineering tests and flights cited above) when they started to even consider the possibility - and then had Apollo 7 under their belts when they committed to it.

 In another group (which includes actual, NASA and commercial, rocket scientists) the general opinion is that 2018 is aggressive even by the standards of  SpaceX's normally extraordinarily optimistic PR outlook.

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I'd say they're in an even better position. Like you said, they're standing on the shoulders of giants. Nothing involved here is new technology-- it's evolutionary, not revolutionary. The FH is an extension of the well-tested F9. The D2 is an extension of the well-tested D1. And they have plenty of NASA experience to glean from, too.  I think it's entirely plausible that they pull this off. 

Now is it probable? Ask me in about December. It depends on how the rest of this year goes for them... and on just how bad this rich dude wants to go to the Moon. 

Who might just be Jeff Bezos with a Truly Awesome but fake mustache. :sticktongue:

 

ETA: an article with more details:

https://spaceflightnow.com/2017/02/27/spacex-to-send-two-private-citizens-around-the-moon-and-back/

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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5 hours ago, tater said:

The first crew Orion mission will be in a spacecraft that has never flown at all. Yes, the actual hull will have literally flown (they plan on reusing the EM-1 capsule, though they have to tear it down to the bones for reuse). None the less, EM-1 will not be a real, all up Orion, so the critical systems related to the crew will be untested in flight. It will fly on the second SLS launch.

Its hard to imagine this idea being any different except that the components would have been more tested (flight tested, anyway).

I have a little more faith in NASA's flight record that in SpaceX's.

Cutting corners in sourcing, experimenting new procedures on the customer's dime, employing junior staff, blowing stuff up to see if it works... I admire SpaceX, but I'm not confident at this stage with man-rating the way they work.

They haven't even proven they can do a Mercury program and they want to do Apollo 8 next year.

They currently have their plate full with: Reusable F9, Fly Falcon Heavy, Reuse F9, Fly Dragon 2, Reuse Dragon2, Internet constellation, DoD Raptor US, RedDragon, ITS, Mars colonies, and now the Moon. As I said above, they need to stop adding goalposts and strike a few actual goals, without blowing up customer's payloads. A little less conversation, a little more action.

Edited by Nibb31
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5 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

And they don't need to expend resources pursuing it further, either. They're smart guys, they can likely see the writing on the wall that with a functional, reusable Falcon Heavy (and more so the New Glenn) would make SLS obsolete. I'm given to wonder how much support SLS actually has within NASA's ranks, and how much is just politics. 

Not quite so, I'm afraid. New Glenn is a long way from flying (SLS will be launching well before it), and we know little to nothing about its detailed capabilities. And Falcon Heavy? Well...

You need to consider what a rocket can actually launch. And I'm not talking about payload to LEO. For most launchers on this planet, that's a fantasy figure that will never be reached, based purely on propellant available on board but ignoring other considerations like structural limitations. For example: a Falcon 9 that SpaceX will sell you today has an advertised expendable payload to LEO of 22,800 kg. But do you know what the maximum mass is that you can physically mount onto a Falcon 9 before you roll it out onto the launchpad? It's 10,800 kg, as per the Falcon 9 User's Guide, section payload adapters. And while we don't have a Falcon Heavy User's Guide yet, keep in mind that it uses the exact same stage 2 as the Falcon 9, and therefore uses the exact same payload adapters. Thus I would not be surprised at all if the maximum payload you can physically mount onto Falcon Heavy also ends up being exactly the same 10,800 kg.

So all that theoretical >54 tons to LEO performance is most likely only going to be available for a mix of two jobs: pushing a lighter payload beyond LEO, and returning booster cores. SpaceX says that Falcon Heavy can push about 13.5 tons to Mars in fully expendable mode. But IMHO it's possible like that's the only scenario we'll actually ever see Falcon Heavy flying expendable, because for destinations closer to home, it might not have any way to mount more payload to make use of its capabilities. Even sending a Dragon around the Moon may be possible while expending only the center core. GTO payload in that configuration is estimated as 14 tons, and Dragon V2 is specced at a maximum possible loaded mass of around 9.5 tons, which is unlikely to be tapped out on 2-3 people leisure cruise. A free return just might be possible with recovered side boosters, especially if the SuperDracos add their >400 m/s to the mix.

As such, SLS offers something Falcon Heavy cannot, and that is raw payload mass. As a much bigger rocket, is has structural capabilities far greater than a Falcon 9 upper stage, so more of that theoretical 70-120 tons to LEO can actually be physical payload. And the fact that it will have more than 100s of specific impulse advantage over the F9 upper stage will also help a great deal in space.

SLS may be the last own launcher that NASA ever operates... and it may not be the best it could have been, had NASA had a free hand with it... but the commercial market will not yet be quite where it needs to be to replace it within the coming ten years.

 

3 hours ago, regex said:

Wow, some good stuff in this thread, I had no idea NASA wasn't really that hot about the SLS.

I dunno, there weren't any sources on that claim. And even if there were factions inside NASA lobbying against it, NASA is a huge organization. You need to consider the whole of it.

I mean sure, I can believe that many people at NASA aren't happy about being prescribed by laymen how to build their rockets. But I also wouldn't be surprised if many people at NASA were miffed for not having their own rocket. It limits them in so many ways - not only in terms of manned spaceflight, but also in terms of solar system exploration and public outreach.

So maybe some of NASA isn't all that hot about the specifics of SLS - I wouldn't know. But I'm willing to venture a guess that when given the choice between continuing SLS development now or scrapping it in favor of commercial suppliers... which don't have anything remotely comparable on offer today or in the near future... you'd find the overwhelming majority of NASA personel on the SLS side. The whole organization is made up of geeks and enthusiasts. Any rocket is better than no rocket, and SLS is not a bad rocket. If there wasn't a mandate to spend unnecessary amounts of money on it to employ an unnecessary amount of people in certain states, I don't think there would be nearly as many complaints (apart from those people that would no longer have a job, of course).

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Why shouldn't SpaceX be able to pull this stunt off? By mid 2018, they have a good chance that they have a flight-proven rocket (Falcon Heavy) and capsule (Dragon). Sure, they won't have flown a BEO mission, but that should only be a minor hindrance.

However, one must understand about this is that it isn't redoing Apollo 8 (like SLS+Orion on EM-2), but rather the Soviet Zond missions and their unmanned lunar flybys (hopefully with a better success rate than 1 in 5).

And like the Zonds with their modified Soyuz capsules on Proton rockets, Dragons lunar flyby will be a dead end in terms of space craft development, since it is the maximum the given hardware is able to do. Sure, they have a good chance of beating NASA in putting humans into lunar space, but NASA will do it with hardware that after further development can support Moon landings.

However, one should not underestimate the public opinion and the opinion of the Trump administration: If a private company can do it, why spend such a ridiculous amount of money on NASAs manned lunar (and beyond) program? But if SLS is cancelled and they still want missions outside of LEO, they have to fund a private company. In short, SpaceX will get its ITS program funded by NASA, just like they got funded their Dragon and Falcon program (2.6 billion dollars + technical assistance for Dragon to ISS!). I don't know, if Musk is speculating on this happening, but it would sure as hell solve his problem of funding ITS.

This might also be the reason, why NASA is in some sense pushed to do EM-1 manned: They can show that they are just as good as SpaceX and they have the more capable hardware.

Edited by Tullius
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When SpaceX launches a manned Dragon 2 to LEO then I'll believe they might be able to launch a manned Lunar flyby the following year.

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5 hours ago, LordFerret said:

One thing is for sure, if this venture does get successfully pulled off... it should put an end to all the naysayers regarding stuff like the 'you can't survive the Van Allen Belts' crew, and the 'we've never been to the moon' crew, and the 'Earth is flat' crew. They'll all need new hobbies. :sticktongue:

They don't believe the evidence from the last time it happened - I have zero faith they'll be any more amenable to reason this time.

As for the SpaceX announcement, right now I'm torn between excitement and skepticism, certainly with regard to the proposed 2018 schedule. And at the risk of being a thorough wet blanket, I really, really hope this doesn't turn into a half-cocked dongle-waving contest between government (SLS) and private industry (Falcon) to put a crew around the Moon. Because that way lies Go-Fever and Go-Fever never ends well.

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27 minutes ago, Tullius said:

Why shouldn't SpaceX be able to pull this stunt off? By mid 2018, they have a good chance that they have a flight-proven rocket (Falcon Heavy) and capsule (Dragon). Sure, they won't have flown a BEO mission, but that should only be a minor hindrance.

Because SpaceX has a pretty bad track record of sticking to schedules. As explained above, manned Dragon is 6 years late. Same is true for flying a reused F9, which we have been talking about for ages and hasn't flown yet. And F9, and RedDragon, and that comsat constellation...

27 minutes ago, Tullius said:

However, one should not underestimate the public opinion and the opinion of the Trump administration: If a private company can do it, why spend such a ridiculous amount of money on NASAs manned lunar (and beyond) program? But if SLS is cancelled and they still want missions outside of LEO, they have to fund a private company. In short, SpaceX will get its ITS program funded by NASA, just like they got funded their Dragon and Falcon program (2.6 billion dollars + technical assistance for Dragon to ISS!). I don't know, if Musk is speculating on this happening, but it would sure as hell solve his problem of funding ITS.

If SLS is cancelled, the money is gone. NASA will have to convince Congress to fund yet another shiny new program, which is certainly not a given in the current climate. The only way NASA can end up funding ITS is if there is a fair competition for "Commercial Mars", where SpaceX wins against Boeing, LM, Orbital, etc...  and if ITS is redesigned to fit NASA's requirements (NASA has no use for 100 tons of cargo or 100 pax).

 

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I guess that, at least, SpaceX will still have to :

- Fly FH.

- Confirm whether CCDev manned is a go.

- Fly unmanned Dragon v2.

- Fly more FH.

- End the CRS (probably on Dragon v2) and take the manned one.

- Strap Dragon v2 to FH.

- Do whatever crap they want to do, budget permit.

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12 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

If it's little more than a boilerplate, that seems plausible with minimal extra expense for them. I think I remember reading somewhere that the D2 heat shield is meant for multiple reuses without refurbishment. If true, that right there could make it lunar-ready.  

  

Possibly. 

12 hours ago, tater said:

Two, it doesn't have to be "rated" for anything if the crew isn't NASA.

EM-1 won't fly til 2019, and unless this spooks NASA into risking crew on that

Yep. The Soyuz isn't man-rated by the FAA because it's not even flown in the US.

NASA was already spooked into risking crew BEFORE this announcement.....

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There's currently no such thing as FAA crew-rating, only NASA standards. The FAA are only currently allowed to make regulations for the safety of uninvolved persons, not vehicle passengers.

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3 hours ago, Nibb31 said:

Because SpaceX has a pretty bad track record of sticking to schedules. As explained above, manned Dragon is 6 years late. Same is true for flying a reused F9, which we have been talking about for ages and hasn't flown yet. And F9, and RedDragon, and that comsat constellation...

Sure, they might miss the schedule (or even it is quite likely that they will miss it), but it is theoretically possible.

3 hours ago, Nibb31 said:

If SLS is cancelled, the money is gone. NASA will have to convince Congress to fund yet another shiny new program, which is certainly not a given in the current climate. The only way NASA can end up funding ITS is if there is a fair competition for "Commercial Mars", where SpaceX wins against Boeing, LM, Orbital, etc...  and if ITS is redesigned to fit NASA's requirements (NASA has no use for 100 tons of cargo or 100 pax).

Depends on how it is done. If the Senate decides to cancel SLS in favour of private projects, then there is nothing preventing them from doing it. And relating this to the current administration is a bit difficult, since nobody really knows how their intentions are: Sure they want to save money, but at the same time they seem to have some interest in a manned Moon mission (even if it is just for the pictures on TV), since they are investigating for a manned EM-1.

For the second part: NASA is free to create the requirements they want, i.e. to adapt them to ITS. Sure, they shouldn't make it too obvious, but finding some scientists saying that, if they want to go to Mars, they should "either go big or go home", should not be that hard. Also, there is nothing preventing them from buying part of an ITS mission to Mars, i.e. only pay for 2-3 of 6 seats. For example, in case of Red Dragon, NASA essentially gifted SpaceX the necessary capacity of the Deep Space Network (in return, NASA gets scientific and technical results of the mission).

But in the end, I don't think that it would be really cheaper for NASA to fund commercial missions than doing it by themselfs: The commercial resupply missions will cost NASA a few billion dollars, and the commercial crew program already granted Boeing nearly 5 billion dollars and SpaceX over 3 billion dollars even before the first flight. Comparing those values to those of SLS program which will have cost some 40-50 billion dollars by the time of the prospected EM-2 mission, it is actually not that expensive, considering the relative size of the project. Do you really think that companies like SpaceX would be able to develop ITS for NASA at less than 10 times the cost of the Commercial Crew program? And grant to a company like Blue Origin the same support for the competition? So I think that the Senate, if they want to do the sensible thing (which is not guaranteed), will stick to SLS, if they want the US to do more in space than ISS and probes.

Edited by Tullius

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I feel like part of the whole schedule slipping thing is the fact that SpaceX is a relatively small space company. They launch almost every month so one mishap means a lot of setbacks because of the limited number of employees working on things.

Whoops apparently I'm horribly wrong. SpaceX has more eployees than ULA.

Edited by Veeltch

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6 hours ago, Nibb31 said:

I have a little more faith in NASA's flight record that in SpaceX's.

So far NASA has killed substantially more astronauts than SpaceX has (just sayin'). :wink:

Clearly their risk estimates might not be as good as one might think.

6 hours ago, Nibb31 said:

Cutting corners in sourcing, experimenting new procedures on the customer's dime, employing junior staff, blowing stuff up to see if it works... I admire SpaceX, but I'm not confident at this stage with man-rating the way they work.

D2 is meeting presumably the same standards as Orion is, right? Part of my Orion references here is that I'm sort of surprised that even in the much delayed, and very slow SLS progress they still have EM-2 crewed as the first time they fly an all-up Orion.

6 hours ago, Nibb31 said:

They haven't even proven they can do a Mercury program and they want to do Apollo 8 next year.

Yeah, I'd rather see them accomplish a few goals before adding new ones, no question.

6 hours ago, Nibb31 said:

They currently have their plate full with: Reusable F9, Fly Falcon Heavy, Reuse F9, Fly Dragon 2, Reuse Dragon2, Internet constellation, DoD Raptor US, RedDragon, ITS, Mars colonies, and now the Moon. As I said above, they need to stop adding goalposts and strike a few actual goals, without blowing up customer's payloads. A little less conversation, a little more action.

This X 1000. LOL.

 

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http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/gao-slams-nasas-cost-estimating-for-orion-sls

(this link was posted at NSF, and I hadn't read it before, even though it is old)

Regardless of what the cost per launch might be in the indeterminate future, the total dev cost of this large hog is now hovering around 19-22 billion $. They won't get near even shuttle total cost per launch (program $/launches) until they fly this thing dozens of times. 

Edited by tater

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1 hour ago, tater said:

They currently have their plate full with: Reusable F9, Fly Falcon Heavy, Reuse F9, Fly Dragon 2, Reuse Dragon2, Internet constellation, DoD Raptor US, RedDragon, ITS, Mars colonies, and now the Moon. As I said above, they need to stop adding goalposts and strike a few actual goals, without blowing up customer's payloads. A little less conversation, a little more action.

In SpaceX's defense, most of those things are overlapping.  In addition, there are limits on how fast they can do things that are not based on the abilities of SpaceX's engineers.  They are limited to how fast they can launch by how fast they can fix launch pads from normal flights, test rockets, get all the politics out of the way for a launch, etc.  Might as well plan and work on other things that can be done mostly internal (like making new vehicles) while they are waiting for other things to be done.  It is possible for a group to work on multiple things simultaneously. 

Also, everyone has failures early in their history.

Edited by ment18

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1 hour ago, tater said:

So far NASA has killed substantially more astronauts than SpaceX

Well, at least NASA has astronauts.

1 hour ago, tater said:

Yeah, I'd rather see them accomplish a few goals before adding new ones, no question.

Agreed. I think they are being to ambitious right now.

 

So will the people be fliying by themselves for this moon flight? Or will there be an astronaut with them.

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24 minutes ago, ment18 said:

In SpaceX's defense, most of those things are overlapping.  In addition, there are limits on how fast they can do things that are not based on the abilities of SpaceX's engineers.  They are limited to how fast they can launch by how fast they can fix launch pads from normal flights, test rockets, get all the politics out of the way for a launch, etc.  Might as well plan and work on other things that can be done mostly internal (like making new vehicles) while they are waiting for other things to be done.  It is possible for a group to work on multiple things simultaneously. 

Also, everyone has failures early in their history.

You quoted me, but that was Nibb31's comment, not mine.

How limited they are is not an issue, if you are trying for a goal, and you set a date, you cannot then complain that the limitations you already knew about before are holding you back.

22 minutes ago, munlander1 said:

Well, at least NASA has astronauts.

It was sort of a joke, hence the wink. That's what a wink is for.

On the serious side, NASA's risk aversion is laudable, but clearly they fall victim to the same problems as anyone else.

Quote

So will the people be fliying by themselves for this moon flight? Or will there be an astronaut with them.

They ARE astronauts. Requiring someone to flip switches is an anachronism, IMO. This mission has no components that require human beings to do anything other than go along for the ride.

Manned spaceflight is a stunt. Always has been, and will be for the indefinite future. If the goal was "science," they'd send a probe, and this statement has been true a while, and gets more true every year as automation improves.

If this was a flight to ISS, and a human was required to dock (vs berthing, with the human on ISS), then you might require someone that they have vetted for docking skill to avoid harm to ISS. For this flight, Newton is doing the steering.

Edited by tater
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15 minutes ago, tater said:

It was sort of a joke, hence the wink. That's what a wink is for.

Oh, missed that. Sorry:blush:

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2 minutes ago, munlander1 said:

So will the people be fliying by themselves for this moon flight? Or will there be an astronaut with them.

The article I saw was that the capsule would be autonomous with the passengers trained for some emergency situations.

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3 hours ago, Kryten said:

There's currently no such thing as FAA crew-rating, only NASA standards. The FAA are only currently allowed to make regulations for the safety of uninvolved persons, not vehicle passengers.


This is something worth emphasizing - WRT to space vehicles, FAA is (currently) charged with protecting public safety and has no authority over mission assurance.   This schism is deliberate, as theory is (was) that the nascent commercial launch industry would be killed in it's cradle if subjected to 'normal' regulatory oversight.  It's also based on the presumption that private spaceflight participants are willing and informed as to the risks.

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1 hour ago, tater said:

http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/gao-slams-nasas-cost-estimating-for-orion-sls

(this link was posted at NSF, and I hadn't read it before, even though it is old)

Regardless of what the cost per launch might be in the indeterminate future, the total dev cost of this large hog is now hovering around 19-22 billion $. They won't get near even shuttle total cost per launch (program $/launches) until they fly this thing dozens of times. 

Even if they would get the price down to shuttle levels for a number of launches equal to the one of the shuttle, they will never get the number of missions. Okay, NASA may send one probe (due to the payload capacity of SLS, of the billion dollar class) per year for the next 30 years with SLS, do a dozen missions to the Moon and 2-3 missions to Mars, before the Senate decides that they should shut down the program, since they achieved all goals (cf. Apollo). But that is still at most some 75 missions (and that is still a very generous amount), i.e. half of the shuttles launches.

But you also need to put it into perspective: the shuttle needed much more flights to achieve its goals: 22 Spacelab missions, 10 to Mir, 5 for Hubble, 37 to ISS, and numerous other science missions or satellite transports. Every goal that the shuttle achieved or tried to achieve relied on numerous launches, as otherwise they wouldn't be worthwile.

Would it be a problem, if one Mars mission costs as much as the entire American contribution of ISS (37 shuttle missions, all of the American modules etc.), i.e. some 100 billion dollars?

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I have to say that while I remain skeptical about the ability of SpaceX to do this in anything like the stated timeframe, it's awesome that this is a real conversation, and there is a nonzero chance of them actually achieving it.

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1 hour ago, tater said:

Manned spaceflight is a stunt. Always has been, and will be for the indefinite future. If the goal was "science," they'd send a probe, and this statement has been true a while, and gets more true every year as automation improves.

Sailing around the world was a stunt. Flying an airplane was a stunt. Visiting the poles was a stunt. Climbing Mt. Everest was a stunt. 3/4 of those have developed into more than just stunts. Perhaps space travel will also.

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