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Falcon Heavy - General Discussion

Grendal

SpaceX Moderator
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Jan 31, 2012
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So first flights with the current design to test the combination and then upgrade once Block 5 is proven?

And we have the first re-use to come as well...

SpaceX has to move forward with FH. They've pushed it back as far as it will go. Holding out another year for the Block 5 improvement would anger too many customers. So they are working with the v1.2 cores for now.

We've had no official confirmation from SpaceX but the very solid rumor is that FH will be using at least one of the used boosters as a side booster. If they're going to use one then it makes sense that they'd use two. So another reusability scenario will happen very soon after SES-10 if the rumors are true. And considering that SES-10 is almost as heavy as EchoStar 23 then those side boosters might be the first recovered re-used boosters.

And speaking of FH, I threw this out to the informed group of enthusiasts (and SpaceX workers) on Facebook that some of the delay for FH is because of the improvements to F9. They agreed. If you look at the maximum payload for Falcon 9 v1.0, it was less than half of what the current F9 v1.2 can do. I saw those numbers and thought that a lot of the payloads for SpaceX were booked back when they only had F9 v1.0. More than doubling the payload capability implied that F9 could actually launch a bunch of the satellites that were possibly originally intended for FH such as the upcoming very heavy EchoStar 23. A number of the more knowledgeable enthusiasts said that is exactly what has happened.
 
Block 5 is needed to improve performance of Falcon 9.
Falcon Heavy performance with side boosters RTLS and center core ASDS landing is beyond any mission SpaceX has on its books. It might give an extra half a ton to Mars, but that's not going to happen until SpaceX cleared its FH launch backlog (if I were a paying FH customer and SpaceX launched a Dragon towards Mars ahead of my late payload, I would be fuming).
Besides, for Mars missions, SpaceX can use a triple ASDS landing profile, which gives a little extra payload. A trio of ASDS costs a fraction of a single F9/FH core.
 

ggr

Expert in Dunning-Kruger Effect!
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Mar 24, 2011
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San Diego, CA
Block 5 is needed to improve performance of Falcon 9.
Falcon Heavy performance with side boosters RTLS and center core ASDS landing is beyond any mission SpaceX has on its books. It might give an extra half a ton to Mars, but that's not going to happen until SpaceX cleared its FH launch backlog (if I were a paying FH customer and SpaceX launched a Dragon towards Mars ahead of my late payload, I would be fuming).
Besides, for Mars missions, SpaceX can use a triple ASDS landing profile, which gives a little extra payload. A trio of ASDS costs a fraction of a single F9/FH core.
Except that the launch window for Mars only opens every 26 months or so. I think they will do a FH launch in mid 2018, no matter what customers grumble.
 

bxr140

Active Member
Nov 18, 2014
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Bay Area
You guys dream too much and consider real world $$$ issues too little.

Well...you're half right. It really does come down to dollars and cents. BUT...its much more complicated than straight up cashflow. There's only a small number of major players in the industry, both on the spacecraft manufacturing and the launch vehicle manufacturing side. Its a very staccato industry, and deals get made all the time that shuffle order in the manifest.
 

Nikxice

Active Member
Oct 31, 2014
1,203
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Hudson, NH
Within the last few days SpaceX has confirmed a new time frame for the first Falcon Heavy launch, aiming for late summer of this year. Returning all three first stage rocket boosters, plus a possible recovery attempt of the second stage, I can't foresee anything on the horizon that will be more exciting. With no official payload to deliver, Elon has also promised to launch the “silliest thing we can imagine!” Without more of a clue, I'll leave it to others to guess what that might be.

We're driving to South Carolina for the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017. Pondering this FH launch update, would love to get a twofer out of our trip! I'm sure the timing of these events has not escaped notice by Elon. Just sayin, a little TMC, SpaceX forum, FH launch lobbying going on here!
 

Grendal

SpaceX Moderator
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Jan 31, 2012
6,793
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Santa Fe, New Mexico
SpaceX just updated the FH page to include the improvements (not block 5 yet though) they've made. The payload capability just jumped from 54.4 metric tons expendable to 64 metric tons. A little less than 20% improvement. We'll see another 5% or 10% with block 5 FH.

I wonder what the mystery payload will be for the first test flight. I personally hope it is something useful as well as amusing. How about a mini Bigelow station?
 
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Nikxice

Active Member
Oct 31, 2014
1,203
2,079
Hudson, NH
I would like to see them launch a Model 3 into orbit. Think of the advertising potential.

That idea might sound crazy, but not impossible. Well, I would suggest one major modification. It would be downsizing the scale of the car. SpaceX is probably intent on keeping their first payload light, so as to increase the chances of success for any potential second stage reentry recovery. How about one of those off-the-shelf Radio Flyers for kids, based on the classic Model S? For some additional flair......... launch the car with the battery close to a zero SOC. After the Dragon capsule's solar panels have deployed, the plugged-in Model S inside Dragon begins charging (or the creme de la creme, a zero G snake charging demo! ;)). After returning to earth, that'll be one revered space hardened kids EV. With plenty of media attention on this particular launch, could be an opportunity to have fun and expose the masses to information about the benefits of owning an electric vehicle.
 
That idea might sound crazy, but not impossible. Well, I would suggest one major modification. It would be downsizing the scale of the car. SpaceX is probably intent on keeping their first payload light, so as to increase the chances of success for any potential second stage reentry recovery. How about one of those off-the-shelf Radio Flyers for kids, based on the classic Model S? For some additional flair......... launch the car with the battery close to a zero SOC. After the Dragon capsule's solar panels have deployed, the plugged-in Model S inside Dragon begins charging (or the creme de la creme, a zero G snake charging demo! ;)). After returning to earth, that'll be one revered space hardened kids EV. With plenty of media attention on this particular launch, could be an opportunity to have fun and expose the masses to information about the benefits of owning an electric vehicle.
FH has a 60 ton payload to LEO expendable or something around 40 tons to LEO with side booster RTLS and center core ASDS. It can easily launch a half a dozen M3s into LEO (assuming 2 tons each, or 12 tons) and still leave massive performance left for SX 2nd stage recovery attempts.
Whatever SX is going to try, if its a logical thing, it cannot be over ~3 tons of extra mass attached to the 2nd stage, because that eats directly into payload capacity and would be very limited use. I bet its not going to be more than that in extra mass.
 

ggr

Expert in Dunning-Kruger Effect!
Moderator
Mar 24, 2011
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San Diego, CA
I would like to see them launch a Model 3 into orbit. Think of the advertising potential.
I had another though about what they should launch, although I still prefer the Model 3. They keep talking about the fairing, and how it could hold a school bus. There's a series of kid's science books called "the Magic School Bus", which can become (among other things) a space ship.
 
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bxr140

Active Member
Nov 18, 2014
3,310
5,634
Bay Area
Now space LEO is the next frontier for trash. Next stop moon.

LEO isn't what you have to worry about. Objects in LEO are required to deorbit in 25 years, and many do that passively. Its the higher orbits that will lead to the WALL-E scenario.

That said, we're already working on in-orbit refueling, repair, and repurposing, because its becoming financially viable to extend the life of an on-orbit asset versus replacing with a new asset. We're already working on solutions to mitigate the impact to mega-constellations when assets are no longer useful/controllable, because its a Bad Deal to have a dead spacecraft clogging up your constellation. SpaceX is already reusing launch vehicles, setting the precedent of less debris and more importantly driving down the cost of space.

Its very reasonable to expect one of the next evolutionary steps in space will be clean up/disposal of existing orbiting entities. It may disappoint to know that motivation will be financial, but that's the reality of human civilization right now. When we see demand for (or threats to) orbital positions converge with inexpensive space access, we'll start hucking up 'Coroner' spacecraft to make sure the mess we've made doesn't impact future quarterly returns. And that convergence is coming faster than one might think.

Regarding debris beyond earth orbit, like it or not there is again a financial aspect that lines up almost perfectly well with the concept of minimal debris. It costs a LOT of money to send stuff beyond earth orbit, and for the foreseeable future such missions are going to minimize material and maximize reuse/repurposing/recycling. In fact, just as the space industry has been a technology catalyst in the past, R&D into R/R/R for extraterrestrial environments will accelerate similar concepts here on Earth. So...not only will your concern for space debris be mitigated, the very thing you're worried about will actually result in a cleaner world back home.
 

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