Welcome to Tesla Motors Club
Discuss Tesla's Model S, Model 3, Model X, Model Y, Cybertruck, Roadster and More.
Register
  • We just completed a significant update, but we still have some fixes and adjustments to make. Please see this thread for more details and to find out how to revert to the old design. Cheers!

Starship for earth to earth cargo missions

bxr140

Active Member
Nov 18, 2014
3,026
4,845
Bay Area
I think someone here was saying the likelihood of Starship being used for earth to earth transport was about nil. Well, the US military doesn't think so...

The military explores all kinds of new technologies in space and every other sector, some of which we know about, most of which most of us don't.

Of course they're going to investigate PTP transport; should it ever come to be it will be some watered down version of what we imagine today, executed on a government timeframe.

The 747 freighter can carry 128T, but can take 30 minutes just to taxi to some busy airport runways. If this is Boeing's best freighter airplane, the Starship could be quite popular just for freight.

For a very long time there's going to be many hours on both sides of a PTP rocket flight (and many logistical impediments on both sides) vs conventional air cargo. Some of them are certainly solvable and some are more difficult, and while its easy to imagine the flight lifecycle becoming more efficient over time, its hard to imagine the non-flight elements of PTP rocket flight every competing with conventional air. So then, its going to become the standard 'what's the real door to door time' game that many of us play when considering something like air vs road travel.
 

Dave EV

Active Member
Jun 23, 2009
1,932
1,671
San Diego
For a very long time there's going to be many hours on both sides of a PTP rocket flight (and many logistical impediments on both sides) vs conventional air cargo. Some of them are certainly solvable and some are more difficult, and while its easy to imagine the flight lifecycle becoming more efficient over time, its hard to imagine the non-flight elements of PTP rocket flight every competing with conventional air. So then, its going to become the standard 'what's the real door to door time' game that many of us play when considering something like air vs road travel.
I think one of the interesting problems they will have to solve is how to expand allowable launch conditions. Currently, seemingly benign weather delays rocket launches for extended periods of time, when airplanes would take off and land with no issue.

I suppose launch windows would be opened up significantly if you are not aiming for a specific insertion orbit (since you're not going into permanent orbit), which might address a lot of these issues.

What is the typical launch pad availability, compared to an airport, for example?
 
  • Like
Reactions: bxr140

PhantomX

Member
Sep 29, 2016
479
431
Irvine
I think one of the interesting problems they will have to solve is how to expand allowable launch conditions. Currently, seemingly benign weather delays rocket launches for extended periods of time, when airplanes would take off and land with no issue.

I suppose launch windows would be opened up significantly if you are not aiming for a specific insertion orbit (since you're not going into permanent orbit), which might address a lot of these issues.

What is the typical launch pad availability, compared to an airport, for example?
Related question. Cargo airplanes typically have large loading envelopes, so you can carry different size and weight cargo without much issue. Can a StarShip really mix and match cargos with different mass properties without running into stability and control issues?
 

bxr140

Active Member
Nov 18, 2014
3,026
4,845
Bay Area
What is the typical launch pad availability, compared to an airport, for example?

Do you mean the actual pad itself, or a higher level "probability of launching" kind of metric?

Its really all speculation, as trying to pivot legacy launcher metrics (even including F9) is a bit of a mess. But it all kind of boils up to a) infrastructure availability/readiness, b) regulatory approval to launch/land, and c) mitigation of uncontrollable circumstances.

A). Its probably fair to baseline an assumption that the Starship infrastructure will ultimately not be a limiting factor, in the same way that charging our electric cars has eroded into minimal impact.
B). This one's going to take time and won't ever be fully solved as some folks are likely imagining. One could assume clear ocean flights becoming viable around the world, but its hard to imagine widespread global approval for over-land transport.
C). Its plausible that over time something like weather limits for launch/landing can be moved toward conventional air travel. That seems like a technology solution as much as anything--quicker, smarter, more robust controls over the vehicle in shearing or otherwise turbulent environments. Given that much of the flight will take place above weather (where air travel must fly around weather), 'weather' could eventually be a wash in overall impact...?
 

bxr140

Active Member
Nov 18, 2014
3,026
4,845
Bay Area
Just curious though. Wouldn't this be a very detectable method to transport military goods? Seems like you can't use this to insert equipment into front line.

To be fair, a Globemaster let alone a Galaxy is pretty detectable too. And a landing rocket is generally going to be moving either too fast to be a target or slow enough to be escorted. But...either way, NFW will The Man ever let that kind of technology get anywhere near enemy hands, so its pretty safe to assume any scenario will have a big ass rocket (which, mind, requires big ass and more or less permanent infrastructure) landing far behind front lines. Much farther back than conventional air cargo.

Somewhat in between, its interesting to contemplate some kind of cargo drop sequence. Bring the rocket down low, dump the cargo (perhaps pushing it out 'the door', perhaps the top blowing off like a crew capsule during a launch abort, etc), big ass rocket flies away to safety while the the payload lands near needy warfighters.

Related question. Cargo airplanes typically have large loading envelopes, so you can carry different size and weight cargo without much issue. Can a StarShip really mix and match cargos with different mass properties without running into stability and control issues?

An orbital Starship, by design, needs to operate with max payload for both launch (LEO to lunar) and landing (LEO to lunar surface), and also empty (earth re-entry and landing), so that's a pretty wide envelope to start.

Its likely an atmospheric Starship's lift capacity will be theoretically higher than an an orbital variant so there's probably some analysis to be done--especially on the landing side of flight--but in the end if there's anything required I think it would really just be a pretty straightforward technological solution. Bigger controls, maybe a limiting cap on max payload.
 

PhantomX

Member
Sep 29, 2016
479
431
Irvine
To be fair, a Globemaster let alone a Galaxy is pretty detectable too. And a landing rocket is generally going to be moving either too fast to be a target or slow enough to be escorted. But...either way, NFW will The Man ever let that kind of technology get anywhere near enemy hands, so its pretty safe to assume any scenario will have a big ass rocket (which, mind, requires big ass and more or less permanent infrastructure) landing far behind front lines. Much farther back than conventional air cargo.

Somewhat in between, its interesting to contemplate some kind of cargo drop sequence. Bring the rocket down low, dump the cargo (perhaps pushing it out 'the door', perhaps the top blowing off like a crew capsule during a launch abort, etc), big ass rocket flies away to safety while the the payload lands near needy warfighters.

I would think a cargo airplane still post less of a threat and less likely to get shoot down. It can also be escorted by fighters, just in case. A StarShip launch and decent may look too much like a ballistic missile, and thus risk being intercepted.

An orbital Starship, by design, needs to operate with max payload for both launch (LEO to lunar) and landing (LEO to lunar surface), and also empty (earth re-entry and landing), so that's a pretty wide envelope to start.

Its likely an atmospheric Starship's lift capacity will be theoretically higher than an an orbital variant so there's probably some analysis to be done--especially on the landing side of flight--but in the end if there's anything required I think it would really just be a pretty straightforward technological solution. Bigger controls, maybe a limiting cap on max payload.
Good point about the way StarShip works. Perhaps the typical concerns about payload integration on rockets do not apply to StarShip due to the robustness it need to be for its intended operation modes.

I do wonder how they do the payload integration though? Do you need special equipment at launch and landing side to get the payload up and down? or could it have some type of special drop and pick up mechanism?
 

bxr140

Active Member
Nov 18, 2014
3,026
4,845
Bay Area
I would think a cargo airplane still post less of a threat and less likely to get shoot down.

Yeah for sure--just trying to provide a balanced perspective.

To be clear, I'm very much in the camp of "not gonna happen anytime soon, if ever" for the PTP concept in general, and certainly in a military application. But that doesn't mean its not fun to think about how it might play out. :p

Do you need special equipment at launch and landing side to get the payload up and down?

Yeah, that's part of what I mean with the abstracted "infrastructure" (it also includes things like the pad itself, fueling equipment, etc.) I think the interesting thing is going to be for us to see what the actual process is to mount a payload onto a Starship.

FWIW the traditional method of encapsulating a payload in a fairing before mounting that assembly onto the rocket seems unlikely. A variant of the Ariane 5/6 method (lift the fairing over top of the already-mounted payload) or Shuttle method (stuff the payload through the doors) seems more probable.

Either way, it is inevitable that on either end of any flight there's going to be a big ass tower with a big ass hoist on it for lifting stuff on top of Starship; its hard to imagine a scenario where the payload doesn't have to get hoisted way up there to be bolted on top of a vertical starship. In the scenarios where Super Heavy is involved (which I assume is all of them, but I appreciate that's an assumption) there's already going to be a bigger ass tower with a bigger ass hoist for lifting Starship on top of SH anyway, so for those scenarios its a non-issue.
 
  • Informative
Reactions: EVCollies

kaffine

Member
Apr 1, 2016
292
277
Las Vegas
The military has other issues to contend with that this would help. There are times the military needs to get people/equipment somewhere but can't get clearance to use the airspace to get there. While most countries allow commercial air traffic to fly over, if it is military especially if it is for a strike they will not allow it. Going up into space eliminates that concern.
 

Products we're discussing on TMC...

About Us

Formed in 2006, Tesla Motors Club (TMC) was the first independent online Tesla community. Today it remains the largest and most dynamic community of Tesla enthusiasts. Learn more.

Do you value your experience at TMC? Consider becoming a Supporting Member of Tesla Motors Club. As a thank you for your contribution, you'll get nearly no ads in the Community and Groups sections. Additional perks are available depending on the level of contribution. Please visit the Account Upgrades page for more details.


SUPPORT TMC
Top