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SpaceX |OT| Reusable Rockets - To Mars!

Oct 25, 2017
863
#1
A Brief History of SpaceX
(for more detail, .check out this excellent article)

In 2001, PayPal board member Elon Musk wanted to put a greenhouse on Mars, to reinvigorate public excitement for space exploration. However, even the cheapest Russian launcher was too expensive, and Musk was deemed naive by the Russian engineers. After PayPal went public in February 2002 he decided to build his own rockets, founding Space Exploration Technologies in May of that year. That October, PayPal was sold to eBay. Musk put more than half his fortune from that sale into SpaceX.

Six years later, after three consecutive launch failures and with funds nearly exhausted, SpaceX became the first private operation to successfully orbit a liquid-fueled rocket (Orbital's Pegasus was the first private orbital vehicle, but that used far simpler solid rocket engines).

Since then, the company has grown to employ more than 6,000 people and has achieved some remarkable things. Their main rocket, the Falcon 9, can carry 34x as much payload as the Falcon 1, and the entire first stage can fly itself to a controlled landing either downrange on a barge or back to a landing pad on land. This is something no other launch operator has even attempted, let alone succeeded at. They've dramatically reduced the cost of spaceflight, and aim to reduce it much further.

Past Rockets & Spacecraft

Falcon 1 | 2006-2009



Powered by a single Merlin engine on the first stage and a single Kestrel engine on the second stage, Falcon 1 was the "minimum viable orbital rocket" that SpaceX cut their teeth on. It flew 5 times, the first three of which were failures. The 1st flight nose-dived into the ground after 30 seconds, while the 2nd and 3rd failed during stage separation. Flights 4 and 5 were successful, carrying commercial payloads into orbit.

Falcon 9 (v1.0 and v1.1) | 2010 - 2016



While the Falcon 1 was being refined, SpaceX were already designing their "proper" rocket. Originally planned for 5 and 9 engine versions, the 5 was dropped. In 2006, NASA awarded SpaceX a contract for resupplying the ISS, which helped pay for the development of the rocket and the Dragon capsule. The F9 v1.0 had the engines in a 3x3 grid and only made 5 flights. The v1.1 saw a 60% increase in engine thrust and propellant capacity, and the Merlin engines arranged in an octagon, with one in the centre. This version of the rocket was also used in SpaceX's first attempts at powered descent of the first stage. In 2015, a F9 v1.1 failed during launch when a helium bottle ruptured inside the liquid oxygen tank, destroying the whole vehicle.

Grasshopper and F9R | 2012-2014

Two modified Falcon 9 stages were used to practice the low-altitude part of the landing procedure. Flown from SpaceX's test site in Texas, they went no higher than 1000m. Grasshopper, a modified F9 v1.0 was retired and now lives at the company's factory. F9R, a modified F9 v1.1 was deliberately destroyed when it started to go off-course during a flight.

Space is Hard


Falcon 9 "Full Thrust" | 2015-2018



The next version of the F9 had an even more powerful engine design and super-cooled propellants to squeeze even more performance out of the vehicle. F9 FT flew 16 times in 2017, more than any other rocket worldwide. Three of those flights were with previously flown and landed first stages.


Current Fleet (last updated Jan 2018)

Falcon 9 "Block 5"



The "final" version of F9, designed for ease of reuse, with even more powerful Merlin engines; almost 3x more powerful than the first version that flew on F1. The aim is to get 10 flights from every booster without any maintenance, and a minimum turnaround time of 24h. PS: Pick a naming convention and stick to it, Elon.

Falcon Heavy



The most powerful rocket currently in service, and 5th most powerful ever flown (Saturn V, Shuttle, N1 and Energia still have it beat). Essentially three Falcon 9 boosters strapped together, the Falcon Heavy is in a class of its own. When first conceived, it would carry geostationary satellites too heavy for a single booster. However, engine upgrades have now put all such payloads inside Falcon 9's envelope. Falcon Heavy therefore has an uncertain future. It offers tremendous performance, but there are no current payloads that need it. It remains, however, SUPER SUPER COOL.



Dragon 1 | 15 Flights | 1 Failure



Developed as part of the commercial resupply program for the International Space Station, Dragon is a traditional capsule spacecraft, about the same size as the Apollo command module, with a disposable "trunk" containing the solar panels and non-pressurised storage. It lands under parachutes and splashes down in the ocean for recovery by boat.

Coming Soon - Dragon 2



The refined and upgraded capsule that will take NASA astronauts to the space station. First (unmanned) flight currently planned for January 2019. Designed to land on rocket power, but NASA don't want landing gear hatches in the heat shield, so it'll be parachute splashdown instead.

Future Plans

Starlink satellite internet

A fleet of 7,500 satellites in low earth orbit, providing high speed internet anywhere in earth, completely bypassing local wired connections. SpaceX aren't the only company contemplating such a thing, but they might be first to market. This could replace major backhaul cables and individual consumer connections. 100Mb internet in the middle of the jungle, the ocean, the desert, the suburbs, anywhere. The profits could be huge. Enough to fully fund the development of:

Super Heavy and Starliner

This is the booster and the spaceship that will take people to Mars. It will be by some distance the most powerful rocket ever built. Fully reusable and capable of taking 60 people to Mars. Here's Elon's presentation: (warning, Elon Musk is possibly the worst public speaker in the world)


They're already building the prototype Starliner and plan to start "hop" flights in 2019. The plan is to completely retire F9 once the it's flying. It will make all other rockets obsolete. At least, that's the plan...

(all image credits: SpaceX or NASA)

Updated 2018-12-03
 
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Crispy75
Oct 25, 2017
863
#2
Today's launch is at 3:34pm EDT (19:34 UTC - http://time.unitarium.com/utc/1934)

The payload is Koreasat 5A, a geostationary communications satellite. Launch pad is LC- 39A, one of two historic Shuttle and Saturn 5 pads. There's still a bit of the old Shuttle launch tower & service structure hanging around, but less is visible with every launch:



The 1st stage will land on one of SpaceX's autonomous landing platforms in the Atlantic before being returned to Cape Canaveral.

Live coverage of the mission will be available in this youtube stream just before the launch window opens:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUjH14vhLxA

Next launch after this is a Dragon resupply mission to the ISS in mid November, which will be the first launch from LC-40 following last year's catastrophic explosion of a Falcon 9 during a preflight test.
 
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Oct 26, 2017
132
#6
These camera shots of the first stage descending live through the atmosphere never fail to amaze me.

edit: aw signal lost :(
 
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Crispy75
Oct 25, 2017
863
#8
Today's launch is the secretive Zuma payload. All we know is that it was made by Northrop Grumman for a US governement agency that's not the NRO, and it was rushed to the front of the launch queue. Otherwise it's a mystery.

The upside for us is that the webcast will not have any coverage of the 2nd stage. This means we'll get uninterrupted footage from the 1st stage as it flies back for a landing at Cape Canaveral.

Launch window opens at 8pm EST, which is 1am here in the UK so I'll leave y'all to it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPHbqY9LHCs
 
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Crispy75
Oct 25, 2017
863
#12
Can't believe I missed this thread!
I put it in Hangouts by mistake, where it sunk without trace :D
Thanks mods for moving it!
Will they ever attempt to reuse the 2nd stage?
They were considering it, but now think it's not worth the cost & effort. The upper stage of the BFR will be designed for reuse from the start, which is much easier with a large craft than a small one. The plan is to build up a stockpile of F9 2nd stages when the BFR goes into service, to run out the F9 manifest with reused 1st stages. When they're all used up, that's it, no more F9 launches (and all those 1st stages go to museums I guess)
 
Nov 6, 2017
2,180
#13
After the Apollo missions people were convinced there would be a man on Mars before the turn of the century. Nope.
When NASA cut back people thought there would be a private company take the reigns during the 80's. Nope.

Doing space is incredibly expensive, dangerous, and time consuming. Not an easy task, but at least we've finally got some advancement from a private company. Good for SpaceX. I hope they have all sorts of success.
 

Dan

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,311
#16
Crispy75 you beaut.

Fuck yeah, a SpaceX OT. This is my home from now on :)

So the Zuma launch was delayed due to some data they received from fairing testing another customer, so I suspect while they're playing around trying to get reusable fairings sorted they found some issue.

Obviously Dragon missions don't use fairings, so no problem there.

The question is, does this affect the Falcon Heavy launch?
 
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Crispy75
Oct 25, 2017
863
#17
So the payload for the Falcon Heavy test flight has been revealed as.... Elon's very own Tesla Roadster.



They are going to send it to a heliocentric orbit (ie. around the sun) that will bring it close to Mars.

I don't think the Most Expensive Car Ad record will be beaten any time soon, if ever :D
 
Oct 27, 2017
212
#21
At one point I wish either NASA or SpaceX would just launch an interplanetary camera probe that has multiple 8k cameras and capture hours of close-up planetary footage.
But for now, a car with a David Bowie song is a good first step.
 
Oct 26, 2017
271
#25
Thanks for the thread, OP! I always thought a general SpaceX OT would have been great on GAF, 'cause I always forget about the launches, but I was too lazy to make one... <_<

Can't wait for the Falcon Heavy test flight! Hopefully it doesn't get delayed further.
 
#26
I don't know. His initial idea, back in 2002 or whatever, was to put a greenhouse on Mars. If the rocket he's launching can punch a fucking car into solar orbit, I think he'd do that. Why not? I think he might even give some thought to putting a teapot into solar orbit, too.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell's_teapot
Well, apparently he told The Verge he made it up, only to tell them afterwards that he didn't. Humor, I guess.
 
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Crispy75
Oct 25, 2017
863
#27
Eric Berger at Ars Technica confirmed it directly with SpaceX, and he's a very credible spaceflight journalist. If he says it's true, you should believe him.
 

Dan

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,311
#28
I think given that he's mentioned that it'll be a Hohmann Transfer orbit rather than actual orbital insertion (which wouldnt have been possible with Falcon 9 Stage 2) then it's much more realistic a scenario.

Anyway. 4th December. CRS-13 static fire is due today. First time on SLC-40 since Amos6........
 

Dan

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,311
#29
CRS 13 static fire has been rescheduled to tomorrow. Friday still scheduled for the launch, but weather isnt looking good for that day.
 
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Crispy75
Oct 25, 2017
863
#33
The spaceship parts in the red rectangle have *not* been to space before.



I like that they didn't wipe the soot off :)
 
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Crispy75
Oct 25, 2017
863
#34
If you live in Europe and the skies are clear, you might be able to see Dragon fly across the sky after the launch EDIT: tomorrow evening

Go here: https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/sightings/ and put your city in to find out where the pass will be in your sky. There should be two passes of the ISS tonight. Dragon will fly over a few minutes after the *first* ISS pass around 5pm. You might even be able to see the solar panel covers moving away slowly on either side.
 
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Crispy75
Oct 25, 2017
863
#35
Delayed till Friday now.

Meanwhile here's a fantastic fan animation of a BFR booster launch and landing, seeing as SpaceX didn't release one for the recent design iteration.

 
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