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posted by chromas on Tuesday September 18 2018, @01:55PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the fun-is-underrated dept.

During a press conference at his company's Hawthorne, CA headquarters, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced the first planned private passenger to travel into deep space and around the Moon. Yusaku Maezawa, a billionaire fashion entrepreneur and art collector, paid an undisclosed amount to become one of the first people to fly on a SpaceX Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), with a target date of 2023. If the launch happens, he won't be going alone. Maezawa (aka "MZ") plans to invite at least six to eight artists to accompany him on a journey around the Moon. The passengers chosen may be painters, sculptors, musicians, fashion designers, dancers, film directors, architects, etc. and are intended to represent the Earth and participate in an art exhibition after returning to Earth. Musk himself has also been invited. The project is called #dearMoon.

Yusaku Maezawa approached SpaceX and made a contribution that will pay for a "non-trivial" amount of the BFR's development costs. During the Q&A, Musk estimated that the entire development of BFR would cost around $5 billion, or no less than $2 billion and no more than $10 billion. Other potential sources of funding for BFR development include SpaceX's top priority, Crew Dragon flights to the International Space Station (ISS), as well as satellite launches and Starlink satellite broadband service.

Maezawa (along with a guest) was a previously announced anonymous customer for a Falcon Heavy ride around the Moon. SpaceX currently has no plans to human-rate the Falcon Heavy. The switch from Falcon Heavy to BFR will substantially increase the maximum number of passengers and comfort level attainable on a nearly week-long mission, since the Crew Dragon 2 has a pressurized volume of just 10 m3, about 1% of the volume of the BFS.

Some changes have been made to the BFR's design. The height of the full rocket (spaceship and booster) will now be around 118 meters, from 106. Incidentally, the Space Launch System Block 2 Cargo will be 111.25 meters tall. The pressurized volume of the spaceship (BFS) portion was estimated at around 1,000-1,100 m3, greater than that of the ISS, and up from a previous estimate of 825 m3. The booster now has 3 prominent fins, two of which can rotate. The third does not move and has no aerodynamic function whatsoever; it serves as the third landing leg. One major motivating factor behind the redesign? Aesthetics, according to Musk. This is supposed to be the final iteration of the design in terms of broad architectural decisions.

Early in the presentation, BFR's payload capacity to low-Earth orbit and other destinations (with in-orbit refueling) was listed as "over 100" metric tons with full reuse, down from the 150 metric tons that has been talked about since 2017. This appears to be due in part to the use of seven sea-level Raptor engines on the BFS. Two of the rear cargo sections around these engines could be removed and the engines can be switched out for vacuum Raptor engines in another iteration of BFS, which would presumably have a higher payload capacity. Two, and possibly as many as four, of the seven engines can fail without compromising the BFS's ability to land.

"Grasshopper"-style vertical takeoff and landing tests are still planned for 2019, at the company's South Texas Launch Site near Brownsville, TX. High velocity flights and tests of the booster are planned for 2020. The first orbital flights could happen around 2021, and may launch from a floating platform. Musk indicated that there would be several uncrewed tests of the BFR before any humans are sent on it, including an uncrewed flight around the Moon.

Due to the low amount of payload on a cislunar joyride, passengers may only have to experience 2.5-3 g during ascent, instead of around 5 g. Depending on how the BFS returns to Earth, passengers could experience 3 g or 6 g on re-entry. Although the exact mission profile has not yet been decided, the BFS will probably "skim" the surface of the Moon before returning to a higher altitude, so that the passengers can get a much closer look at the Moon's surface than what is portrayed in the current flight plan. The total flight time is estimated at just over 5 days and 23 hours, with around 31 hours spent in the vicinity of the Moon (the flyby).

SpaceX press conference (1h11m44s).

Also at Ars Technica, The Verge (alt), and Fox News.

Previously: SpaceX Plans to Fly a Passenger Around the Moon Using BFR


Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

Related Stories

SpaceX to Fly Two Tourists Around the Moon in 2018 24 comments

Two paying customers will travel to the "deep space" beyond the Moon. SpaceX will use the Falcon Heavy to deliver an automated Crew Dragon capsule carrying the unnamed customers next year. Falcon Heavy has not flown yet, and is expected to be tested this summer. NASA will use the Crew Dragon capsule to send astronauts to the International Space Station in 2018, after an unmanned test this year.

SpaceX will not reveal the identities of the participants until they complete health and fitness tests:

We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission. Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration. We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year. Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow. Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results.


Original Submission

SpaceX Plans to Fly a Passenger Around the Moon Using BFR 14 comments

After a previously planned flight around the Moon using a Falcon Heavy fizzled out, SpaceX has announced that it will send a private passenger around the Moon using a BFR launch vehicle. More details will be announced on Monday:

On Thursday evening, without any advance notice, SpaceX tweeted that is had signed the world's "first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle." Moreover, the company promised to reveal "who's flying and why" on Monday, September 17. The announcement will take place at the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

There were only two other clues—tweets from Elon Musk himself. Was the rendering of the Big Falcon Spaceship in SpaceX's tweet new? Yes, Musk said. And was he the passenger? In response to this, the founder of SpaceX simply tweeted a Japanese flag emoji. This would seem to be a strong clue that the passenger is from Japan. Or maybe Musk was enjoying the epic Seven Samurai movie at that moment.

By announcing this on Thursday, and waiting four days to provide more details, the company has set off a big guessing game as to who will fly. Of course that is an interesting question, but we have many other questions that we'd like to see answered before that. We've included some of those questions below, along with some wild and (slightly) informed guesses. Musk even answered one of them for us.

The design of the BFS has apparently changed to include three prominent fins and an underside heat shield.

Related: How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
SpaceX to Launch Five Times in April, Test BFR by 2019
SpaceX to Begin BFR Production at the Port of Los Angeles
2020s to Become the Decade of Lunar Re-Exploration


Original Submission

SpaceX's Starship Will Now be Made of Stainless Steel, With Tests Still Scheduled for Early 2019 13 comments

SpaceX's Starship and Super Heavy (formerly Big Falcon Spaceship and Big Falcon Booster, or Big Falcon Rocket) have undergone further changes following a "final" iteration of the design in September. Elon Musk also said that a downscaled Starship hopper (for vertical takeoffs and landings) will "hopefully" be tested starting in March or April 2019, which is months sooner than a "late 2019" estimate made by SpaceX CEO Gwynne Shotwell in September.

Recent photos taken of SpaceX's operation in Boca Chica, Texas have shown a stainless steel nose cone being built. The new stainless steel design was confirmed by Elon Musk, along with numerous other details. Musk said that stainless steel can beat carbon fiber composites due to its superior strength-to-mass ratio and "mirror-like" thermal reflectivity. SpaceX is using an on-site foundry to create its own steel "superalloy", although some steel parts will be made by a supplier. Finally, the test hopper will feature three "radically redesigned" Raptor engines while being slightly shorter than the full-scale Starship, although it will share the same 9-meter diameter:

While the suggestion that Raptor's turbopumps (basically fuel pumps) would need at least 100,000 HP per engine seems to indicate that the flight design's thrust has been appreciably uprated, a past figure of ~2000 kN (450,000 lbf) per engine suggests that Starship V0.1 could weigh as much as an entire Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket (~1.2 million pounds, 550,000 kg) and still having a solid 80-100% of Falcon 9's liftoff thrust. Put simply, the rocket that appears to be coming together in the boonies of South Texas could rival almost any other liquid fuel rocket booster in service, while still being the testbed for BFR's upper stage alone.

While it's ambiguous if several additional comments applied to the Starship prototype, the final product, or both, Musk also indicated that some of the biggest benefits of a shift away from carbon composites to stainless steel would be relative ease with which the material handles extreme heating. Thanks to the fact that stainless steel can ultimately be polished to mirror-like levels of reflectivity and that mirrors are some of the most efficient reflectors of thermal energy (heat), shiny and unpainted steel would ultimately perform far better than carbon composites and could end up requiring "much less" heat shielding for the same performance.

Perhaps most unintuitive is the fact that steel can apparently beat carbon composites when it comes to usable strength-to-weight ratios at supercool temperatures. According to Musk, steel also performs "vastly better" at high temperatures and appreciably better at room temperatures. A comment made on Saturday may lend additional credence to what seems at face value to contradict basic material intuition – at least some of the stainless steel SpaceX is examing would be a special (presumably SpaceX-engineered) alloy that has undergone what is known as cryogenic treatment, in which metals are subjected to extremely cold conditions to create some seriously unintuitive properties. Ultimately, cold-formed/worked or cryo-treated steel can be dramatically lighter and more wear-resistant than traditional hot-rolled steel.

Elon Musk hinted at a "delightfully counter-intuitive" redesign in November, which was almost certainly a reference to the use of stainless steel instead of carbon fiber composites. Here's a video (10m14s) which offers some speculation about how a steel Starship could effectively conduct and radiate away heat.

Also at Business Insider.


Original Submission

Elon Musk: Why I'm Building the Starship Out of Stainless Steel 38 comments

Popular Mechanics has interviewed SpaceX CEO Elon Musk about his decision to move to a stainless steel design for Starship Super Heavy (formerly BFR). The interview reveals new details about the design, including micro-perforations on the outside of the windward side of the rocket that can bleed water or fuel for cooling:

Ryan D'Agostino: How does stainless steel compare [to carbon fiber]?

Elon Musk: The thing that's counterintuitive about the stainless steel is, it's obviously cheap, it's obviously fast—but it's not obviously the lightest. But it is actually the lightest. If you look at the properties of a high-quality stainless steel, the thing that isn't obvious is that at cryogenic temperatures, the strength is boosted by 50 percent.

Most steels, as you get to cryogenic temperatures, they become very brittle. You've seen the trick with liquid nitrogen on typical carbon steel: You spray liquid nitrogen, you can hit it with a hammer, it shatters like glass. That's true of most steels, but not of stainless steel that has a high chrome-nickel content. That actually increases in strength, and ductility is still very high. So you have, like, 12 to 18 percent ductility at, say, minus 330 degrees Fahrenheit. Very ductile, very tough. No fracture issues.

[...] [Here's] the other benefit of steel: It has a high melting point. Much higher than aluminum, and although carbon fiber doesn't melt, the resin gets destroyed at a certain temperature. So typically aluminum or carbon fiber, for a steady-state operating temperature, you're really limited to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. It's not that high. You can take little brief excursions above that, maybe 350. Four hundred, you're really pushing it. It weakens. And there are some carbon fibers that can take 400 degrees Fahrenheit, but then you have strength knockdowns. But steel, you can do 1500, 1600 degrees Fahrenheit.

Blue Origin Plans to Deliver Several Tons of Cargo to the Moon's Surface 44 comments

Jeff Bezos Is Planning to Ship 'Several Metric Tons of Cargo' to the Moon

Blue Origin, described by Bezos as "the most important work I'm doing," signed a letter of intent with German aerospace companies OHB Space Systems and Security and MT Aerospace at the 69th annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Germany on Tuesday. The OHB SE dubbed the lunar project the "Blue Moon" mission in a press release.

It's not clear exactly what cargo the Blue Moon mission would transport, but it likely includes infrastructure designed to start private business on the Moon: The IAC also detailed the launch of the "Moon Race," a competition between Blue Origin, Airbus Air and Space, and other space agencies around the world to develop technology that will bring companies around the world to the Moon.

According to a press release, the competition could involve manufacturing products and technology, manufacturing energy sources for humans to survive, getting access to water and sustaining biological life, such as plant or agricultural life—all on the Moon.

Also at Space.com.

Related: Blue Origin to Compete to Launch U.S. Military Payloads
NASA Administrator Ponders the Fate of SLS in Interview (Blue Origin targets Moon landing by 2023)
SpaceX Reveals Plan to Fly Yusaku Maezawa and Artists "Around the Moon" in a BFR
Blue Origin Wins Contract to Supply United Launch Alliance With BE-4 Rocket Engines


Original Submission

Japanese Billionaire Arrives at Space Station for 12-Day Tourist Trip 8 comments

Japanese Billionaire Arrives at Space Station for 12-Day Tourist Trip:

Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire and fashion retail mogul, arrived at the International Space Station for a 12-day stay on Wednesday. [Dec 8] He is the latest privately funded traveler to the orbital laboratory in a year that has seen more tourists making voyages to space than ever before.

Mr. Maezawa, the founder of Zozo, a Japanese online fashion retailer, launched to space from Baikonur, Kazakhstan at 2:38 a.m. Eastern time (10:38 a.m. local time) on a Russian Soyuz rocket with Yozo Hirano, a production assistant who will document his trip. Alexander Misurkin, a Russian astronaut, was also on board. The three-man crew docked to the space station six hours later at 8:40 a.m. and boarded the outpost around 11:12 a.m.

[...] Mr. Maezawa, an animated adventure-seeker, drew international attention in 2016 when he spent $57.3 million at an auction for a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. In 2017, he paid $110.5 million for another painting by the same artist. In 2018, he declared his interest in spaceflight at an event at the Southern California headquarters of SpaceX, where he joined the company's founder, Elon Musk, onstage to announce that he would be the first passenger to ride SpaceX's Starship, a massive next-generation rocket that will one day ferry NASA astronauts to the lunar surface.

[...] The space station jaunt for Mr. Maezawa, 46, was announced in May, and he has been training for weeks at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Center just outside Moscow.

Read more of the article for estimates of how much Yusaku may have paid for his ride to space.

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by takyon on Tuesday September 18 2018, @02:08PM (5 children)

    by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Tuesday September 18 2018, @02:08PM (#736517) Journal

    Big discussion of the design over here: https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/comments/9gqd4g/change_in_bfs_design/ [reddit.com]

    Didn't check that subreddit until a few minutes ago, obviously it's exploding.

    The mass-volume tradeoff for this new design seems particularly well-suited for this crewed Moon trip and any crewed Mars trip. You want more room for each astronaut and aren't going to fill up the vehicle with the maximum number of tons.

    The rear/aft cargo segments around the BFS engines could be used to release Starlink satellites, or maybe CubeSats.

    It's too bad that most of the reporters at the press conference felt the need to ask the same questions about cost over and over. If it wasn't for Everyday Astronaut [everydayastronaut.com] being there, there would have been much less clarification about the design.

    Also about the cost, some are saying that 80% of the BFR dev costs are going to be payroll (with existing engineers switched from Crew Dragon, etc. soon), so the material/testing costs are much closer to $1 billion. And even if NASA or the Air Force aren't pitching in any money now, they probably will want to at some point, even if it's not a development grant but a launch contract (like the one that saved SpaceX from dying).

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    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:03PM (4 children)

      by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:03PM (#736604)

      Indeed, and why give Reddit all the fun. From various video clips it sounds like some of the big tradeoffs and other details are:

      LEO payload reduced from 150t to 100t
      Cargo volume increased from 825m^3 to 1000m^3
      Removal of vacuum engines, increased number of total engines to 7
      Ring of 6 cargo pods around the engine bells, totaling 88m^3 of additional capacity (supposedly can be replaced with 3 vacuum engines if needed)
      Addition of mobile fins
      Landing on the fins/legs instead of the base
      Total height increased from 109m to 118m

      More info? Corrections? Thoughts?

      The weight-for-volume tradeoff is interesting - it seems that it's now planned to contain more pressurized volume than the ISS. It would seem to be especially relevant to passenger flights (e.g. tourism, Mars colonization) and transporting space station modules to orbit. I wonder if the Bigelow 2000(?)m^3 inflatable habitat would fit in the expanded bay - I seem to recall it was a bit too large for the old design.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:15PM (3 children)

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:15PM (#736607) Journal

        I'm not sure that the removal of the cargo pods would allow the "addition" of 3 vacuum engines. I thought I heard that some of the sea-level engines would have to be swapped out.

        Specs of the Raptor engine, such as the specific impulse and chamber pressure, appear to have been improved.

        Previous height was 106 meters, not 109 meters.

        Bigelow's BA 2100 [wikipedia.org] which is what you're referring to, has a pressurized volume of 2,250 m3 and an uncertain mass of 65 to 70 or even 100 tons. BA 2100 is just a concept right now, so maybe Bigelow could size something in its class to fit BFR or... SLS?

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        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:42PM (2 children)

          by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:42PM (#736613)

          You might be right - I only came across one second-hand reference to Musk (supposedly) describing the vacuum engine/cargo ring swap. Would love to find a definitive reference. I could even see simply replacing the ring with a secondary bell being possibly viable, akin to your initial thoughts in the previous thread, before the nature of the ring was established.

          Thanks, I looked for it, but without the 100 of B2100 I was coming up blank.

          My impression was that the 2100 was well along in design, if not in production - it would seem to serve everyone involved if it could be ready for launch in either vehicle soon after the BFR and/or SLS is ready to carry it. Once you have a protective shell, the interior is much easier to outfit in orbit.

          There's also the possibility that, with that much volume, BFRs could be retired to serve as space stations in their own right. I would imagine refurbishing windows, docking rings, etc. would be considerably easier than doing the same for the more active parts. And of course the fuel and oxygen tanks offer additional potential living volume with only moderate in-orbit retooling - especially if most of the prep-work was done on Earth - e.g. bond hatches and "hallways" between the tanks and cargo bay, so you need only cut out "doorways" along the dotted lines to complete the conversion.

          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by takyon on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:20PM (1 child)

            by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:20PM (#736633) Journal

            Passenger BFSs are intended to have a "closed-loop" life support system, due to targeting destinations that are in deep space, including Mars. If that is the case, it could definitely be a good space station, or at least a healthy-sized component of one. Heck, if you detected a problem with your BFS that could be catastrophic for re-entry, maybe you could just leave it at the ISS or LOP-G indefinitely, to be used as large living quarters or storage.

            B330 [wikipedia.org] is the Bigelow module that is closer to being realized.

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            • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday September 18 2018, @07:17PM

              by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @07:17PM (#736663)

              Excellent point about re-entry critical flaws.

              As for the B330... I imagine it will be rather difficult for anyone to care about when you can launch a much larger (and probably cheaper) rigid module fully assembled within the BFR's cargo bay. I think they largely missed the boat with that one - their technology is just getting proven on the ISS, and along comes much bigger rockets that render their mainline module irrelevant. It certainly seems like they were banking on even the SLS taking a lot longer than planned.

              Or, perhaps it really is just an intermediate tech demo itself. Might prove useful on the moon though, where unloading size could be a significant hurdle.

              I'm trying to imagine how large modules would even be unloaded from the BFR - Musk showed a crane sticking out a side hatch in his lunar/martian mockups - and that's great for human-scale cargo, but to unload even a B330 you're going to have to open the main hatch (Maybe doable under Moon gravity?) and presumably have a much larger crane as part of the payload. Having a sufficiently large crane on the Moon would be incredibly handy - but getting it there would be a challenge. I mean I suppose you could just unload a giant "erector set" boom and assemble it by hand - but that's probably weeks or months of assembly. Though I suppose if you just leave a passenger rocket standing nearby as a habitat until the crane is built so you can unload your proper habitat... Hmm, or perhaps just use small rockets and design the cargo bay to survive their firing. You could even extend 2-3 of them outside the BFR to lift the cargo - Musk did mention that several F1 rockets would fit in the cargo bay, so existing technology could potentially be harnessed. It's not like you have far to go - just lift it up and out of the ship, travel a short distance horizontally, and land gently enough not to break anything. Not ideal, but it could serve to at least get a proper grane down to the ground.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18 2018, @02:30PM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18 2018, @02:30PM (#736526)

    A rocket full of artists and such. No hairdressers? God this is just begging to draw Simpsons comparisons. Are we sure it is going around the Moon and not into the Sun [youtube.com]? Is Tom Arnold and Pauly Shore going to be on it too?

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by zocalo on Tuesday September 18 2018, @02:42PM (3 children)

      by zocalo (302) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @02:42PM (#736532)
      One step at a time; you have to learn to walk before you can run, something Musk clearly understands very well. I'm hoping that the Big Ares Rocket Colony ship (AKA "The B-ARC") will begin development and construction soon enough, although we do need to ensure that we remember to substitute the politicians for the telephone sanitizers in the roster of people who get to crash on colonise Mars first.
      --
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      • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:41PM (1 child)

        by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:41PM (#736612) Journal

        Just don't forget to rename it to the A+ Ark prior to launch.

        Otherwise, Trump might get on the wrong one.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:44PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:44PM (#736615)

        I think we can skimp on the B-ARC development costs. Just fill it with old cell phone stuck on vibrate and put computer screens where windows would be. Y'know, without actual windows the crew will be safer as they *ahem* launch into space.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday September 18 2018, @02:43PM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Tuesday September 18 2018, @02:43PM (#736533) Journal
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  • (Score: 2) by CZB on Tuesday September 18 2018, @03:31PM (14 children)

    by CZB (6457) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @03:31PM (#736551)

    At least this crop of billionaires are building cool stuff!

    Now how is it that Elon's rocket crew is making more progress than all the other rich guy rocket ventures? Are his guys smarter? Got lucky? Willing to take more risks?

    • (Score: 2) by isostatic on Tuesday September 18 2018, @03:49PM (7 children)

      by isostatic (365) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @03:49PM (#736560) Journal

      SpaceX got a lot of money from uncle sam, which helped, and they have progressed a lot in the field

      But make no mistake that this announcment is not progression. the BFR does not exist. Maybe one day it will, I hope it does. I hope that this tourist does a trip round the moon. But this isn't the first time spacex have announced a lunar trip -- last time they said it would launch in 2018.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Tuesday September 18 2018, @03:58PM

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Tuesday September 18 2018, @03:58PM (#736567) Journal

        This tourist was the previously planned tourist. They moved it from Falcon Heavy to BFR, and there are a lot of great reasons for doing that.

        As for it not existing, they have showed off images of its construction, and are promising the first BFS tests next year, which is a lot sooner than this lunar trip.

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      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:21PM (4 children)

        by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:21PM (#736584)

        Yep, and you should always add 50-100% to Musk's timeline estimates to compensate for his optimism. Add that in and they'd be well on track to deliver, if not for the fact that they basically abandoned the Falcon Heavy once they realized they could scale down the ITS to something that could still get the job done while being small and cheap enough to profitably replace even the normal Falcon 9 launches. At which point the Heavy became nothing more than a stop-gap to use existing hardware to establish themselves as a player in the sparse high-payload market until the BFR could take over.

        • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:30PM (3 children)

          by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:30PM (#736588)

          > Yep, and you should always add 50-100% to Musk's timeline estimates

          That is pretty much true for any project on this scale. Factor 2 contingency in cost and time is even quite conservative. See, for space examples, SLS, JWT; but one could extend beyond the space sector to LHC, SNS, UK's crossrail and HS2, etc etc.

          • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:56PM (1 child)

            by bob_super (1357) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:56PM (#736600)

            A major difference is that Musk is typically not being paid more when he's late, unlike most of your list.
            He really needs to master the art of profitable stagnation, instead of constantly rocking the boat.

            > High velocity flights and tests of the booster are planned for 2020. The first orbital flights could happen around 2021

            "Mine will most likely take off a lot earlier than yours."

            > pressurized volume of the spaceship (BFS) portion was estimated at around 1,000-1,100 m3, greater than that of the ISS

            "Mine's bigger than yours, yet it will go much farther"

            > full rocket (spaceship and booster) will now be around 118 meters, from 106.
            > Incidentally, the Space Launch System Block 2 Cargo will be 111.25 meters tall.

            "Mine's bigger than anybody's."

            > [traditional capsule] Crew Dragon 2 has a pressurized volume of just 10 m3

            "In summary, delays or not, either it blows up, or you all look like chumps pouring all those billions into the SLS boondoggle. Prepare your prayers and your resumes."

            • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Tuesday September 18 2018, @08:51PM

              by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday September 18 2018, @08:51PM (#736723)

              > A major difference is that Musk is typically not being paid more when he's late, unlike most of your list.

              Those darn folks at CERN, just trying to slow down the LHC build to shred more pork from the bone. Wait to see how much they can get out of the current upgrade cycle!

          • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Immerman on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:13PM

            by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:13PM (#736606)

            Agreed. It's a rare large-scale project of any sort that manages to deliver on time, even without the presence of "cost-plus" perverse incentives. I think Musk gets so much grief in large part because he makes big public announcements at the "the engineers are starting to think about it seriously" stage, whereas most endeavors aren't publicized at least until production has begun, and possibly not until a great deal of tests and revisions have already been completed.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by DannyB on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:50PM

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:50PM (#736595) Journal

        SpaceX got a lot of money from uncle sam

        Some of SpaceX competitors have long gotten money from uncle sam too. Yet SpaceX made such huge leaps so quickly.

        One answer to the GP post is that some of SpaceX competitors operate on the pork plus cost plus model.

        I for one am hoping that SLS gets off the ground in time to send a mission to mars before the SpaceX colony already on mars can roll out the red carpet for Orion capsule.

        --
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    • (Score: 4, Informative) by takyon on Tuesday September 18 2018, @03:56PM (3 children)

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Tuesday September 18 2018, @03:56PM (#736565) Journal

      You don't stay a billionaire by spending your own money. SpaceX scored lucrative contracts even when it wasn't clear that they would be able to deliver. As Musk noted at the press conference, SpaceX's first three Falcon 1 flights were failures, and the fourth was finally successful. Then NASA gave them a launch contract. If that test flight had been a failure, that would have been the end of SpaceX. But they still hadn't flown a Falcon 9, and landing and reusing rockets multiple times was a distant dream.

      Compared to old players like Boeing/ULA, SpaceX may have been helped by starting from a clean slate and relying more heavily on computers to design and simulate rockets. They also operated with the goal of creating cost-efficient rockets, rather than cost-plus pork contracts. And now that they have a working rocket that can become cheaper over time with partial reusability, they get to pocket the difference, including the difference between their rocket and competitors (NASA pays way more than $60 million for ISS cargo launches).

      SpaceX does take risks. Attempting landings when it was unclear whether it would be achievable, modifying the rocket design for increased reusability, "load-and-go" fueling, etc.

      The most directly comparable venture to SpaceX is Bezos's Blue Origin, since they are actually looking at the super-heavy launch business, unlike Virgin Galactic or Bigelow Aerospace. Blue Origin was founded before SpaceX. Their slowness is alluded to by their own motto: Gradatim Ferociter, or "Step by Step, Ferociously". They have taken a token milestone away from SpaceX, but the real fight is going to be with Falcon 9 and especially the BFR. New Glenn or New Armstrong could target 100 tons to LEO or higher, with at least partial reusability.

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      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:00PM (2 children)

        by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:00PM (#736623)

        SpaceX has certainly taken some big risks, but I'm not sure that the landing attempts are among them. After all - what was risked, exactly? The rockets were going to be destroyed anyway, so all they really risked was wasting the engineering and production time of the landing-specific components, along with a relatively cheap and sturdy landing barge. Risking a small percentage of profits in pursuit of much larger profits is practically no risk at all.

        Also, what token milestone did Blue Origin take from SpaceX? The only thing I can think of offhand was the "first" successful landing - years after Falcon 1 had already done the same. Granted F1 was just a testing platform while the New Shepard is... I'm not sure exactly. Expensive amusement park ride?

        Blue Origin is certainly taking the safe route though, and I hope it eventually pays off for them. SpaceX could use some real competition.

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:24PM (1 child)

          by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:24PM (#736636) Journal

          It is a risk because they had to devote company resources to developing the reusable capability, building drone ships, etc. with no guarantee that any of it would pay off. The stuff needed to land the rocket also added to the mass.

          At least this:

          https://www.theverge.com/2016/1/22/10815800/blue-origin-rocket-launch- [theverge.com]

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          • (Score: 3, Informative) by Immerman on Tuesday September 18 2018, @07:40PM

            by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @07:40PM (#736682)

            Sure, but it's a risk of lower profit margins, nothing that jeopardizes the company, or the rocket. And I seem to recall them leaving out the landing system when that extra payload was actually needed. I suppose I just don't think of that in the same terms as the sort of company-gambling behavior usually considered as risky. "We're betting the company on the success of X" is risky "We'll slow down development of systems that are already working well, in a market where we have no real competition, to develop technology that will radically increase profit margins" is the sort of thing any non-stagnating company would jump on.

            That's right. I forgot about that one. Though I have to wonder about the article calling the New Shepard a "commercial rocket" - have they successfully sold... anything yet? Though I'll grant them that it's a lot more refined than you'd expect for a test platform. They're certainly at least *targetting* a commercial application for it, even if it's not something rockets are typically used for.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Immerman on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:13PM

      by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:13PM (#736579)

      A big part is probably first-mover advantage.

      SpaceX was a serious project before any of the "competition" was much more than a hobby project. I suspect that's part of the reason Blue Origin targeted the suborbital tourist market rather than doing anything useful, they'd be nothing but an also-ran in that market. By the time they got off the ground SpaceX was well on their way to orbit. By the time their current rocket was undergoing serious test flights, SpaceX was already launching commercial payloads to orbit and was mastering the art of landing the first stage.

      And once they went commercial, SpaceX had the advantage of being dramatically cheaper than any other launch options - they could undercut all other launch services while still maintaining huge profit margins to fund further development. The next commercial competition will have to be able to undercut SpaceX launch costs if they want to be able to use their profits to fund development, and that just doesn't look realistic for a rocket company just starting out. There was really only one window of opportunity for a cost-conscious company to undercut the globally political-pork-acclimated launch business.

      Incidentally though, the Blue Origin looks an awful lot like their initial plans for a second stage rocket, so they may also have be positioning it as a second stage vehicle to launch atop a much more powerful first stage. That remains to be seen, but tourism would seem to be the only chance there is of operating a profitable launch business now that all the easy money has been taken out of the orbital launch market. Of course, if BFR manages to deliver on its goal of lower overall launch costs than the Falcon, that could well destroy the suborbital tourism market for them before it even gets off the ground. If you're buying a space tourism ticket, would you rather go suborbital in a little passenger capsule for a few minutes, or a bigger-than-the-space-station passenger liner where you could fool around in free-fall for hours or days?

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by khallow on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:59PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:59PM (#736602) Journal

      Are his guys smarter?

      This. We need to keep in mind that Musk was able to get the pick of the litter. "I'm going to launch rockets. You in?" is a strong selling point in a world with a lot of skilled rocket designers and not a lot of opportunities to use those skills. That world is changing now.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:02PM (16 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:02PM (#736569)

    "a billionaire fashion entrepreneur"

    so he's filthy rich from all the asian pseudo slave labor then?

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:07PM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Tuesday September 18 2018, @04:07PM (#736574) Journal

      That, or his company's "at-home measurement system".

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    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:04PM (14 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:04PM (#736605) Journal

      pseudo

      Words have meaning [oxforddictionaries.com].

      Not genuine; spurious or sham.

      Just about everyone rich has done so by employing the labor of free people (that is, pseudo slaves).

      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:24PM (13 children)

        by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @05:24PM (#736608)

        Part of the definition of pseudo-X is resembling the thing being referenced. A pillow is not a rock, but that doesn't make it a pseudo-rock unless it superficially resembles a rock.

        So what are the defining superficial qualities of slave labor? You can't quit, you're routinely abused, and you receive essentially none of the wealth you generate.

        Hmm, you know what - I retract my objection. You're right, just about everyone rich HAS become so by employing pseudo-slaves. Sure, you can theoretically quit, but they've done a good job of forging chains out of people's greed, consumerism, and superficial social status to keep them feeling like they can't.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:03PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:03PM (#736624)

          While I like to hype the cynicism train myself I just can't get 100% on board with this one. There are a fuck ton of pseudo-slaves in every country, but there are a ton of "free-ish" people as well. That is how the pseudo-slaves are kept down. The "free" people claim that the slaves can just work hard and save to improve their own situation.

          It is THEIR fault the corporations profit massively from the shit wages. If only they had more positive qualities to offer society /sarcasm

        • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:06PM (5 children)

          by Thexalon (636) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:06PM (#736626)

          Sure, you can theoretically quit, but they've done a good job of forging chains out of people's greed, consumerism, and superficial social status to keep them feeling like they can't.

          In the countries where the kinds of sweatshops under discussion are common, quitting your job is pretty close to suicidal. The reason that 12-year-olds are working stitching shoes and clothing for pennies is that their families can't afford to feed them or their younger siblings if they don't work. And there are more than enough families in this position that even if the entire staff of 12-year-olds quits or strikes or something, they can be replaced in a matter of hours. If they quit, they will be blacklisted as unreliable, and be unable to find work at another factory. And that plus a lack of a social safety net means that there are millions of families that aren't making ends meet in these societies, which provides a steady supply of desperate and powerless people for sale as slaves to global drug cartels, prostitution rings, and other human traffickers.

          Efforts by these impoverished workers to organize to improve their situation tend to be quashed by force. On the small scale, anyone attempting to organize a union is likely to be murdered, and the government will routinely look the other way when that happens. On the larger scale, if they manage to elect a government that tries to institute and enforce labor laws like higher minimum wages or overtime or protection for unions, their country will be very likely to face a coup or civil war with the anti-laborer side having US backing.

          Make no mistake: The massive amounts of cheaply-made stuff from overseas comes with a body count of people whose only crime was being born poor in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, China, Taiwan, or southern Asia. Their chains aren't forged by their own greed, consumerism, or social status, but the threat of starvation, slavery, and murder. And that's what OP is getting at.

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          • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:50PM

            by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:50PM (#736648)

            Hey, you'll get no argument from me. I actually started my post to make a similar point, but my inner smart-ass won out before I got to the conclusion.

          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday September 18 2018, @07:24PM (3 children)

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday September 18 2018, @07:24PM (#736670) Journal

            In the countries where the kinds of sweatshops under discussion are common, quitting your job is pretty close to suicidal.

            Except of course, you already said sweatshops are common and hence, it's not hard to find another sweatshop job.

            The reason that 12-year-olds are working stitching shoes and clothing for pennies is that their families can't afford to feed them or their younger siblings if they don't work.

            Ok. Those jobs also mean that down the road there are less people [ourworldindata.org] not more in those desperate straits.

            Make no mistake: The massive amounts of cheaply-made stuff from overseas comes with a body count of people whose only crime was being born poor in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, China, Taiwan, or southern Asia. Their chains aren't forged by their own greed, consumerism, or social status, but the threat of starvation, slavery, and murder. And that's what OP is getting at.

            I wonder what the excuse will be in 30 years when those places have massively improved from the present?

            • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Tuesday September 18 2018, @07:45PM (2 children)

              by Thexalon (636) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @07:45PM (#736687)

              Except of course, you already said sweatshops are common and hence, it's not hard to find another sweatshop job.

              I already addressed this: The sweatshop managements talk to each other and blacklist employees who quit, because they have a shared interest in punishing people for quitting sweatshop jobs.

              This is one of those instances where theoretical capitalism differs from real-life capitalism: In theoretical capitalism, each employer is making decisions in a vacuum with no information beyond what they've garnered from the resume and interviews plus the wage the employee is willing to accept. In real-life capitalism, employers tend to work together to drive down wages for their employees and make it harder for their employees to quit. You don't even need to go to dirt-poor countries and sweatshops to see this in action, because those kind of anti-competitive efforts have been proven to happen right here in the US, e.g. between Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe [cnet.com].

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              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday September 18 2018, @08:04PM (1 child)

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday September 18 2018, @08:04PM (#736699) Journal

                The sweatshop managements talk to each other and blacklist employees who quit, because they have a shared interest in punishing people for quitting sweatshop jobs.

                And how does that catch people who give fake names? Or are poached by competitors?

                • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18 2018, @08:53PM

                  by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18 2018, @08:53PM (#736724)

                  Fuck off you dip.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:40PM (5 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:40PM (#736646) Journal

          Hmm, you know what - I retract my objection. You're right, just about everyone rich HAS become so by employing pseudo-slaves. Sure, you can theoretically quit, but they've done a good job of forging chains out of people's greed, consumerism, and superficial social status to keep them feeling like they can't.

          I see some pseudo-thinking there. Let's do some actual thinking.

          So what are the defining superficial qualities of slave labor? You can't quit, you're routinely abused, and you receive essentially none of the wealth you generate.

          You think those qualities are "superficial"? I would wager instead that they are what makes slavery slavery. Now let's compare that to workers who can quit, aren't abused, and receive a considerable portion of the wealth they generate - that is the pseudo-slaves. Ok, um, not much really to think about there. So sure, there's people hand wringing away about the badness of pseudo-slavery. But don't we all have better things to do with our time than worry about sham slavery?

          • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:53PM (2 children)

            by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @06:53PM (#736650)

            Sure, there's plenty of people working comparatively pleasant jobs - but we're talking about the jobs that made other people rich. I'd wager that there's a very short list of those that treated the lower-echelon employees (or "contractors") that well.

            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday September 18 2018, @07:21PM (1 child)

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday September 18 2018, @07:21PM (#736666) Journal

              I'd wager that there's a very short list of those that treated the lower-echelon employees (or "contractors") that well.

              Compared to slavery? There's a reason it's "pseudo".

              • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday September 18 2018, @07:55PM

                by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @07:55PM (#736695)

                Agreed, and I was being a bit of a smart ass with that last line. You talk about pseudo-slavery in China, etc. though, where losing your job may mean you don't eat until you find a new one, you may be locked in so you literally have to escape to quit, etc. and that "pseudo" starts looking a lot thinner.

          • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Tuesday September 18 2018, @07:22PM (1 child)

            by Thexalon (636) on Tuesday September 18 2018, @07:22PM (#736667)

            You can't quit, you're routinely abused, and you receive essentially none of the wealth you generate.

            You think those qualities are "superficial"? I would wager instead that they are what makes slavery slavery.

            The people described as "pseudo-slaves":
            - Can't quit unless they like starving. So while they could quit in theory, in practice they can't.
            - Are definitely abused, unless you think standing their sewing shirts for 16 hours straight day-in and day-out without breaks isn't abuse. And if you think it isn't abuse, why didn't you sign up for it.
            - They get about 20 cents for making an item that sells for at least $10 (if it's considered "high fashion", then it's selling for more like $100, but let's focus on the cheap stuff). What is your threshold for a "considerable portion" of the wealth they created? I'm guessing it's higher than 2%.

            --
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            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday September 18 2018, @08:13PM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday September 18 2018, @08:13PM (#736701) Journal

              Can't quit unless they like starving.

              Or like a better job better.

              Are definitely abused, unless you think standing their sewing shirts for 16 hours straight day-in and day-out without breaks isn't abuse. And if you think it isn't abuse, why didn't you sign up for it.

              Always relative. There's that starvation thing.

              They get about 20 cents for making an item that sells for at least $10 (if it's considered "high fashion", then it's selling for more like $100, but let's focus on the cheap stuff). What is your threshold for a "considerable portion" of the wealth they created? I'm guessing it's higher than 2%.

              What did they do? They didn't supply the capital to make the clothing. They didn't supply all the labor either (numerous workers would be involved in the making of that clothing). They didn't ship it. They didn't market or sell it. Seems considerable to me for the value they actually generated.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Tuesday September 18 2018, @08:29PM (1 child)

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 18 2018, @08:29PM (#736708) Homepage Journal

    I'm an artist:

    http://www.warplife.com/mdc/drawings/ [warplife.com]

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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday September 19 2018, @01:30AM (2 children)

    by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday September 19 2018, @01:30AM (#736870) Journal

    One thing that annoyed me is that when Musk was trying to come up with a list of solar system objects with atmospheres, he left out Titan [wikipedia.org]. Let's see BFR land there.

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 19 2018, @05:40PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 19 2018, @05:40PM (#737133)

      Titan is pretty far away, bit you're right, with its thick atmosphere and pretty low gravity, it shouldn't be that hard. But the flight time to Saturn, we are really fantasizing SF stories here. We'll see. The only place we could walk around without a full pressure suiit, though. Just warm clothing. If that could only happen for us to see it. Damn.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday September 19 2018, @05:59PM

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday September 19 2018, @05:59PM (#737150) Journal

        Well, even if you don't want to put humans on it, we definitely want additional landers on Titan. Titan is a target for: rovers, drones, boats, and submarines.

        BFR should be able to get a payload to Saturn faster [crowlspace.com] than the Titan IV-B rocket that got Cassini-Huygens there.

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