RedKraken

Big Steel Rockets

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The BFR template is mostly done. 

Who will build the next big steel rocket after spacex?

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^ This. Also, thanks to SpaceX efforts reuseable rockets are a fact. Yet only players on the market that are doing anything similiar is Blue Origins and that Chinese company. At this glacial rate companies like ULA or Arianespace will start thinking about reuseable (stainless steel) spaceships around the middle of century :P Granted, there are serious advantages to "Watch and wait." approach - but if you wait for too long, you might wake with hand in a chamber pot.

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People who build rockets, dont build probes or satellites, they provide a service.

Rocket building and advancement, I would presume depends strongly on the demand for launch capacity.

Anyone know what the supply/demand ratio is like?

Without demand, no funds for new rockets. And without significant demand, it would take a significantly improved rocket to break into the market.

Thats as far as I figure it anyway.

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The aluminium hull was too heavy and required carbon instead, so they have replaced is with steel?

I like it.

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1 hour ago, Scotius said:

Also, thanks to SpaceX efforts reuseable rockets are a fact. Yet only players on the market that are doing anything similiar is Blue Origins and that Chinese company.

Don’t you forget about S7 Space and their... poorly-animated videos not featuring an actual reusable rocket.

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Sea Dragon even was going to be built in a usual shipyard from common ship materials, so it would be literally a space ship, though it's a rocket.

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6 hours ago, p1t1o said:

People who build rockets, dont build probes or satellites, they provide a service.

Rocket building and advancement, I would presume depends strongly on the demand for launch capacity.

Anyone know what the supply/demand ratio is like?

Without demand, no funds for new rockets. And without significant demand, it would take a significantly improved rocket to break into the market.

Thats as far as I figure it anyway.

True, however it don't change the fact that it look like you can build an fairly simple fully reusable rocket who is cheap to operate. 
Just by reusing the first stage who is way easier has SpaceX turned the launch industry upside down. 

Now how early could you build an BFR? accepting weaker engines so reduced payload or scaled up, and I have no idea how it can handle reentry even from LEO. 

Feel like the industry has been run by bean counters on one side, and the perfect SSTO or visionaries on the other side. 

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We will have to wait and see on steel, it depends entirely on the use case. For SpaceX, the goal is a reusable orbital stage, hence their change to steel. How that will work for them has yet to be seen. I can only assume they've already gathered some useful data watching telemetry on S2 reentries that has informed their opinion.

Others will either wait and see how it shakes out, or have already made a similar decision. We know next to nothing about New Glenn's first stage, for example, except that Bezos has said it is overbuilt for reuse.

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7 hours ago, StrandedonEarth said:

So they create their own demand with Starlink

Not really, because somebody still needs to want to buy their services. They are just merely changing what their service is, not providing a demand for their own service. 

 

12 hours ago, Shpaget said:

They first have to demonstrate the benefits.

That’s not how bandwagons work!

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58 minutes ago, magnemoe said:

Just by reusing the first stage who is way easier has SpaceX turned the launch industry upside down.

Or has I? They've scooped up most of the available demand, but haven't exactly undercut prices, and there isn't a mad scramble among existing players to counter it.

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2 minutes ago, DDE said:

Or has I? They've scooped up most of the available demand, but haven't exactly undercut prices, and there isn't a mad scramble among existing players to counter it.

ESA and the Russians know they are in an hard spot and stated so. No they can not counter nor do they have the resources, probably want to trying to see if steel cooled by cow fart can cool an orbital reentry or simply make you smell bad burning up. 
China can counter but is also holding their horses a bit, things are moving fast. 
Still its an danger of getting bumped to Brasil and Israel level, you have an space program for national security reasons as you don't rely on the goodwill on the major powers to launch essential missions and an national pride. 
 

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1 hour ago, magnemoe said:

ESA and the Russians know they are in an hard spot and stated so.

I think Roscosmos is in fact having their internal issues catch up with them, and they're blaming it on outside forces. Furthermore, I've tried to gauge mainstream media attention to the Boca Chica events... and it's quite possible Roscosmos hasn't even seen the Starship. There's exactly one TASS report, and it uses Musk's words and not, well, a mountain of evidence from someone's lucky backyard.

And ultimately I'm mostly looking at the ULA and their take on reusability, which is dangling under a helicopter.

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2 hours ago, kerbiloid said:

Next step - a steamrocket.

In the form of a hydrogen NTR with oxygen afterburner, technically a steam rocket.

8 hours ago, DDE said:

Don’t you forget about S7 Space and their... poorly-animated videos not featuring an actual reusable rocket.

That’s so far in the future, it’ll have to compete with BFR. If it even leaves the drawing board stage.

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The issue is not steel vs not steel, it's reuse vs expendable.

It's self-evidently true that if reuse can be made cost-effective, it changes everything. Actually doing that is the engineering challenge.

The jury is still out, but so far we have SpaceX all-in, with Blue Origin as a fast-follower, and some of the "private" Chinese companies also moving forward with stage 1 reuse.

Stage 2 reuse---and to be clear, I mean routine, operational reuse at something at least in the same order of magnitude of labor as airliner (EDIT: or military aircraft) "reuse"---is a fundamental game-changer if they make it happen. Space Shuttle was indeed reused, but never as the 1970s concept art by the contractors envisioned. Those same contractors (now all subsumed into Boeing, LockMart, and Northrop Grumman) came to this same conclusion over 50 years ago, it is not new, they were just not of the entrepreneurial bent to build it themselves minus vast government largesse (to be fair, their shareholders might have balked at spending billions on a pipe dream).

So if active cooling and steel is the way to launch stuff to space at something approaching the cost of operations and propellants (vehicle amortized over many launches), then everyone follows, or gets put out of business, expendables will never cost only marginally more than propellants. It's important to note how such a development changes the entire ecosystem. Payloads can become larger/heavier with almost no bearing on delivery cost.

Again, all this predicated on costs dropping substantially. Which relates to:

On 1/11/2019 at 12:14 PM, DDE said:

Or has I? They've scooped up most of the available demand, but haven't exactly undercut prices, and there isn't a mad scramble among existing players to counter it.

They have not hugely undercut prices because they have no business reason to leave money on the table. If the going rate is 100 M$, and they can charge 90M$, they are still undercutting, and if the launch costs them 20M instead of 80M, they make 70M instead of 20M.

Edited by tater
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Situation is quite interesting. Underdog SpaceX managed to shoulder its way to the top of the market - with lowest launch prices, very capable and reliable (and as far as we know cheap) launcher. And they are already working very hard on a new rocket, that shapes up to be a total gamechanger. Blue Origins talks the talk (sparingly :P), but they have yet to present anything resembling a flying article. But what of the rest? ULA talks about Vulcan - but with estimated price of 200+ millions $ for one launch i doubt very much they will take back their share of the market. Arianespace, Roscosmos - they seem to be floundering, not really knowing what to do with this particular hot potato. Time will show if they will jump on innovation bandwagon, or will they cling to safety of government sponsored contracts. Times are a'changing, folks - and it is a good thing :)

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"Wait and see" is a legitimate business strategy.

MySpace was first. FaceBook followed. Where are TWA, PanAm, and Eastern?

If Starship works, maybe the huge contractors dig though their file cabinets and simply build stuff their engineers designed 50 years ago, only with better materials (Boeing LEO, the Douglas work of Phil Bono, etc). Who knows.

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These are concepts from 1963 for fully reusable "Nova" class launch vehicles (450 tonnes payload to LEO).

nxs_rnv.jpg

Left is General Dynamics 1.5 stages design. Center is General Dynamics "Nexus." On the right is Martin Marietta's "Renova" (note it's a partial air breather where the fairing acts as the inlet spike).

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On 1/11/2019 at 10:50 PM, tater said:

The issue is not steel vs not steel, it's reuse vs expendable.

It's self-evidently true that if reuse can be made cost-effective, it changes everything. Actually doing that is the engineering challenge.

The jury is still out, but so far we have SpaceX all-in, with Blue Origin as a fast-follower, and some of the "private" Chinese companies also moving forward with stage 1 reuse.

Stage 2 reuse---and to be clear, I mean routine, operational reuse at something at least in the same order of magnitude of labor as airliner "reuse"---is a fundamental game-changer if they make it happen. Space Shuttle was indeed reused, but never as the 1970s concept art by the contractors envisioned. Those same contractors (now all subsumed into Boeing, LockMart, and Northrop Grumman) came to this same conclusion over 50 years ago, it is not new, they were just not of the entrepreneurial bent to build it themselves minus vast government largesse (to be fair, their shareholders might have balked at spending billions on a pipe dream).

So if active cooling and steel is the way to launch stuff to space at something approaching the cost of operations and propellants (vehicle amortized over many launches), then everyone follows, or gets put out of business, expendables will never cost only marginally more than propellants. It's important to note how such a development changes the entire ecosystem. Payloads can become larger/heavier with almost no bearing on delivery cost.

Again, all this predicated on costs dropping substantially. Which relates to:

They have not hugely undercut prices because they have no business reason to leave money on the table. If the going rate is 100 M$, and they can charge 90M$, they are still undercutting, and if the launch costs them 20M instead of 80M, they make 70M instead of 20M.

This, next goalpost is stage 2 reuse. Not saying airliner, think an B1 or F22 even B2 operation would still work well enough at least until you get competition. 
Either you do this or you have an space program for national security reasons like Israel does. 
Prestige is a bit out the window then you can buy an slot on an Moon landing. 

And yes the 100 ton from LEO to target, yes you could refuel the second stage and the injection stage, you still need an hyperbolic braking stage, but the cargo starship works like an KSP LV-N tug. You have an Uranus orbital probe with an speed run.
Enjoy. Stuff tend to get easier with more dV

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New Glenn is probably big and made of steel, other than that...

Vulcan, Ariane 6, all the Chinese and Russian rockets...

 

Do you count these as big?

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It's important not to take it as gospel that the BFR/BFS will succeed. The last time people took it as gospel that a revolutionary orbital launch vehicle would work, we got... the Space Shuttle.

SpaceX have a decent chance with BFR/BFS, and there's one very important thing SpaceX have going for them: SpaceX has the opportunity to fail. It was evident fairly early on that the Space Shuttle would fail at its goals, but with the entire might of the US behind it, it wasn't allowed to fail before it took decades of NASA funding with it.

I'd reserve judgement on whether we see more stainless-steel spaceships until after either SpaceX demonstrates the BFS, or some of their competitors put down a serious effort to build their own stainless-steel vehicles.

That seems to be the path of the more well-positioned competitors: neither Blue Origin nor ULA are accelerating their plans to demonstrate partial reusability. They're getting the easier problem down before the much harder challenge of reusable upper stages... rather than building a shuttle upside-down, they're building their vehicles right side up... and then, presumably, looking to improve their partial reuse. If the BFS succeeds... we'll probably see some copycatting, followed by people investigating how to improve on that.

I'm honestly a bit surprised it's taken this long for space launch providers to seriously pursue the ULA proposal to eject a pod containing the expensive rocket engines and avionics while leaving the relatively cheap fuel tank to plummet into the sea.

Incidentally, Right Side Up is an excellent space-focused alt-history by the same guys who did "Eyes Turned Skywards", possibly the hardest sci-fi story I've ever read.

Edited by Starman4308
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Spoiler

If a big dumb steel rocket fueled with methane and air successfully flies, NK has a lot of this and can build an orbital base..

 

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16 hours ago, Scotius said:

Roscosmos - they seem to be floundering, not really knowing what to do with this particular hot potato.

On the one hand, they seem to. But if Novosti Kosmonavtiki forums are an indicator, they think of it as a military asset that doesn’t have to be economically viable (the Shuttle on steroids), and since they’ve actually announced that they’re deemphatizing the commercial launch market, they end up having a combination of a wait and see attitude, and an assymetric response, namely:

  • Accelerated commissioning of Nudol, Nivelir, Burevestnik and whatever the follow-up to the MiG-31D-based Kontakt is called, to enable conventional and nuclear attacks on the BFR in all Earth orbit regimes;
  • Slow and steady commissioning of Energia-5 to enable flag-and-footprints Lunar exploration, followed by an exorbitantly expensive lunar base and potentially mostly non-reusable Mars missions, alongside deployment of large “monobloc” Earth orbit military payloads, including advanced reconnaissance satellites and space-to-space DEWs, all nuclear-powered;
  • Efforts towards a more comprehensive space demilitarization treaty (alongside China) and UN-level prohibition of any commercial space mining.
7 hours ago, Xd the great said:

Do you count these as big?

No, because they at best use clusters of small expendable stages.

Edited by DDE

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