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SpaceX COULD have done a manned lunar mission this year.


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Posted (edited)

Previously, I would have discussed this on Reddit in r/SpaceXLounge, but with the new moderation there they won’t let you discuss anything controversial or speculative. Starship and modeler pics seem to be the name of the game now.  

 For several years I’ve been thinking of mission architectures that could get us back to the Moon by the 50th anniversary of the Apollo manned lunar missions. We missed the Apollo 11 50th anniversary, but we MIGHT have been able to make the Apollo 17 50th anniversary of Dec. 2022.  

 This is where it gets controversial. The SpaceX architecture of making 8 to 16 refueling flights for Moon or Mars flights is a bad architecture. There is a reason why the Apollo missions used a launcher with 3 stages and then 2 more stages for the lander for their round-trip missions. For missions with that high a delta-v requirement multiple stages are critical. SpaceX by using multiple refueling flights is acknowledging that, just in a very inefficient manner.  

 The point of the matter is SpaceX could have done a manned Moon or Mars flights with a single launch IF they had given their launcher a 3rd stage. The 3rd stage could have been comparable size to the Starhopper. Yes, I know the actual Starhopper was not space-worthy but the point of the matter is by continuing it’s development along side the Starship they would have had a space-worthy vehicle capable of lunar landing and return by now.  

 SuperHeavy+Starship+Starhopper single launch missions to the Moon or Mars. It would have been so beautiful …  

 See here:  

http://exoscientist.blogspot.com/2019/07/starhopperstarship-as-heavy-lift.html

 Anyone up to the challenge of a sim?

  Robert Clark

Edited by Exoscientist
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36 minutes ago, Geonovast said:

Moved to Science & Spaceflight, as it's not about KSP.

He’s specifically asking about an RSS sim of a 3 stage SS/SH

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5 minutes ago, tater said:

He’s specifically asking about an RSS sim of a 3 stage SS/SH

Missed that, thanks.

 

Moved back to challenges.

Never moderate before caffeine, folks.

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58 minutes ago, Exoscientist said:

Previously, I would have discussed this on r/SpaceXLounge, but with the new moderation there they won’t let you discuss anything controversial or speculative.

Sounds about right :/

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The blog post is rather waffly and hard to follow.

In terms of the challenge, presumably it'll be RSS+RO-specific (or it has even less basis to call it a "sim"). Do you have a specific design in mind, or just a general idea of "Starhopper on top of Starship" and leave the details up to the players?

As for why the real lunar Starship plan is how it is - I think it comes down to being an opportunistic modification of the already-designed Starship architecture, which was built with heavy lift and interplanetary in mind. If SpaceX had been building a moon rocket from the start they'd never have done Starship as we know it.

Also, the cynic in me thinks that by pitching the enormous Starship lander with the proposal for multiple Superheavy launches, SpaceX hope to make SLS and Gateway look superfluous and NASA look just a bit silly even as they ostensibly support the NASA program.

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Posted (edited)

 I don’t think many people even space advocates realize the complexity of the current Moon plan. Remember, in addition to the 8 to 16 refueling flights it also includes the SLS:

How NASA Plans To Use The Orion Space Launch System & SpaceX Starship To Land The Next Astronauts On The Moon.  
by Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo January 09, 2022  
NASA SpaceX Starship  
https://www.tesmanian.com/blogs/tesmanian-blog/sls-hls-2025

 I’m looking for a much simpler architecture IF you had a 3rd stage. The size of the 3rd stage I’m leaving open. I only used the Starhopper as a convenient reference point as something that could have been available now IF its development was continued.

 You could have had a fully reusable manned lunar rocket. That would go a long way to making lunar flights common and for accomplishing the Moon colonization plan.

 Moveover the 3-stage reusable launcher would work for Mars missions using a single launch

 Note well: IF the 3rd stage had been pursued then by the launch of Starship later this month or the next we would already be capable of manned Moon or Mars missions. In contrast, it will take years for the 8 to 16 launch architecture to be ready for lunar or Mars missions.

Screenshot_20211227-200033_Drive_1024x10

Edited by Exoscientist
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On 6/5/2022 at 4:17 PM, sevenperforce said:

Launching humans without LAS is a non-starter.

Starship Tankers + Starship HLS could readily do a Moon landing with a Crew Dragon, if Crew Dragon was given a lunar-return-capable heat shield.   

 Dragon has its own built in emergency escape system using the Superdracos.  But I think because the Starship tanker version has a greatly reduced dry mass without the passenger compartment, it might be doable in a single flight, no refueling flights required.

  Robert Clark

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  • 2 weeks later...

 I forgot Robert Zubrin also says the SpaceX plan of multiple refuelings for lunar or Mars flights is a bad idea. He says using the Starship as a lunar lander is like using an aircraft carrier for white water rafting. He also suggests using a smaller “mini Starship” that would stage off the Starship to do the landings. He notes this way you could do the missions with no refueling flights required. Plus the Starship not having to land on the Moon or Mars would be reusable.  Zubrins refers to his approach as Mars Direct 2.0

 

 Anyone do a Kerbal sim of this yet?

   Robert Clark

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