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posted by martyb on Sunday February 03 2019, @12:38AM   Printer-friendly

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

On Thursday night, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared photos of Raptor rocket engines that recently left the company's factory in Hawthorne, Calif., headed out to be tested at its facility near McGregor, Texas. "Preparing to fire the Starship Raptor engine," he said by way of a caption on Twitter.

The photos were interesting, but Musk had additional comments about the engine that revealed much about how the company is proceeding with overall design of the vehicle it will power. SpaceX's approach seems focused on keeping costs down and moving as quickly as possible towards a launch of the Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket in the early 2020s.

For example, Musk said, "Initially making one 200 metric ton thrust engine common across ship & booster to reach the Moon as fast as possible. Next versions will split to vacuum-optimized (380+ sec Isp) & sea-level thrust optimized (~250 ton)."

This comment is notable for a couple of reasons. First of all, the company appears to have decided to streamline the Raptor engine to a single design that will power both the rocket at liftoff, and the spaceship in the upper atmosphere and outer space. It will take less time to develop, test, and qualify a single engine. It will also cost less money.

Additionally, Musk notes that the goal is "to reach the Moon as fast as possible." The company still appears to be focused on lunar orbital flights, such as the #dearMoon project for Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa, as the first missions for Starship.

There is an added benefit to this approach: for the next two decades, NASA appears likely to be highly interested in developing infrastructure near and on the Moon. By flying Starship on early test flights to the same destination, SpaceX has a far greater chance to win government contracts for the delivery of cargo, and potentially astronauts, to the Moon. Heretofore, neither NASA nor the US military has shown much if any interest in SpaceX's ambitious rocket and spacecraft.

-- submitted from IRC


Original Submission

Related Stories

Elon Musk Posts Starship Raptor Rocket Engine Test 5 comments

Elon Musk has been at SpaceX's test site for its rocket engines in central Texas this weekend. The facility near McGregor is where the company both tests Merlin engines for Falcon 9 flights, and also performs some experimental firings.

Due to a variety of reasons including financial pressures, SpaceX is pushing hard on the development of its next-generation Super Heavy rocket and Starship spacecraft. This was evidenced this weekend when, at 1:15am Central Time on Sunday morning, Musk shared a nighttime picture of himself on the test stand at McGregor, saying "with engineering team getting ready to fire new Raptor rocket engine." It was the dead of night on Super Bowl weekend, and they were working on an engine that won't go into space for a few years. But that didn't matter.

The test itself appears to have taken place later on Sunday. Eyewitness reports in Central Texas noted a large pop on Sunday evening, and more later Sunday night. Musk himself tweeted a photo shortly before 10pm local time, and thereafter a video. The test firing itself lasts for a few seconds, and was evidently successful. "First firing of Starship Raptor flight engine! So proud of great work by @SpaceX team!!" Musk wrote.

Also at Fox News.

Previously: In New Starship Details, Musk Reveals a More Practical Approach

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


Original Submission

SpaceX Launches CRS-18 Using Twice-Flown Booster, Starhopper Finally Flies 9 comments

SpaceX Falcon 9 booster nails landing in lead-up to next NASA-sponsored reuse milestone

SpaceX has nailed its 24th Falcon booster reuse and 44th Falcon booster landing with Falcon 9 B1056's flawless Landing Zone-1 recovery, setting the booster up to become the first SpaceX rocket NASA has flown on three times.

According to NASASpaceflight.com, NASA had already moved from a conservative "maybe" to a much firmer "yes, but..." on the second-reuse question, pending – of course – the successful completion of B1056's second launch and landing. As of now, the Block 5 booster has indeed successfully completed its second orbital-class mission, setting itself up for a milestone NASA reuse that could happen as early as December 2019 on CRS-19, Dragon 1's second-to-last planned International Space Station (ISS) resupply mission.

SpaceX's Starhopper nails first untethered flight as CEO Elon Musk teases next test

Starhopper has completed its first untethered flight ever, simultaneously a small step for the awkward prototype and a giant leap for SpaceX's Starship/Super Heavy program as the next-gen launch vehicle is carried into a new phase: flight testing.

Despite the spectacular and reportedly successful hover and divert test, Starhopper's powerful Raptor engine appears to have started a significant fire, placing SpaceX's Starhopper pad in a precarious position per the fire's apparent adjacency to full liquid oxygen tanks. Ironically, despite Starhopper's seeming predilection as of late towards catching itself on fire, the large rocket testbed appears to be entirely unscorched as a brush fire burns around a few hundred feet distant.

[...] According to Elon Musk, the SpaceX CEO will present an update on the company's progress designing, building, and testing Starship and Super Heavy soon after Starhopper's first successful flight, meaning it could potentially happen within the next week or two. Additionally, Musk deemed Starhopper's July 25th flight a success and indicated that SpaceX would attempt to put Starhopper through a more ambitious 200m (650 ft) hop in a week or two, continuing what is expected to be an increasingly arduous serious of tests for the prototype.

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  • (Score: 2) by RandomFactor on Sunday February 03 2019, @01:00AM (14 children)

    by RandomFactor (3682) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 03 2019, @01:00AM (#795523) Journal

    There is an added benefit to this approach: for the next two decades, NASA appears likely to be highly interested in developing infrastructure near and on the Moon.

    Where's that coming from?

    --
    В «Правде» нет известий, в «Известиях» нет правды
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 03 2019, @01:15AM (11 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 03 2019, @01:15AM (#795532)

      Just Musk's PR, as usual. He has to keep talking, otherwise people will forget him.

      Even the Moon is out of our technological reach; a couple days to travel, but no water, no energy, no atmosphere to protect solar panels... better to stay in space. Mars is richer in usables, but 6-12 months of travel are out of question, and the costs are unbearable by the entire planet.

      The goals of NASA are uncertain at least because their rocket is not ready yet. The goals will be largely defined by what the rocket can do, and the ultimate goal, besides science, us again to remain relevant. Do not forget that there is a network of old rocket boys behind this project, and they expect to be paid.

      • (Score: 4, Informative) by takyon on Sunday February 03 2019, @01:36AM (8 children)

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday February 03 2019, @01:36AM (#795540) Journal

        NASA doesn't actually need a specific rocket (SLS) to send payloads to the Moon [soylentnews.org]. We should see an Israeli company send a lunar lander using a Falcon 9 this month, for example.

        Going back to the Moon "as a stepping stone to Mars" has been on the agenda [space.com] since the Bush administration. Obama took the Moon off the table, and Trump has refocused on the Moon. With cheaper rockets from SpaceX, Blue Origin, and ULA, and capable small payloads from other companies, the Moon is probably back on the table for good. The Moon has plenty of water ice under the surface and in shadowed craters. The solar panels aren't a huge problem, just build lots of them if you are worried about micrometeorites, but NASA is working on nuclear power [soylentnews.org] that could be used on the Moon too.

        One-way travel time to Mars can be as low as 1-3 months. The costs of getting astronauts there are only unbearably high if we want them to be.

        If you want to diss Elong, read up on what you're talking about.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 2, Interesting) by realDonaldTrump on Sunday February 03 2019, @02:07AM (5 children)

          by realDonaldTrump (6614) on Sunday February 03 2019, @02:07AM (#795546) Homepage Journal

          Tell me, Mars -- I'd love to be actually sending humans. Guys and gals getting there during my first term. What if we give NASA all the money they could ever need. What if we send NASA's budget through the roof, but focused entirely on that instead of whatever else they're doing now? First we send the building materials. Those can go on the slow boat. Then we send the builders, on a much faster ship. Very fast, very comfortable. Luxury the likes of which they've never known, they're gonna be very happy in that one. Could it work then?

          • (Score: 1) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday February 03 2019, @02:33AM (3 children)

            by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Sunday February 03 2019, @02:33AM (#795551) Homepage

            I think you should worry more about your second term, and to make that happen you have to kick out the Mexicans and H1-B stinkies, and fast. If this means roadside immigration-status checkpoints in big cities, then so be it. The REAL Americans offer their full support on that one. Then you can worry about your Mars base during your second term.

            • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Sunday February 03 2019, @05:34AM (2 children)

              by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 03 2019, @05:34AM (#795599) Homepage Journal

              I disagree with the road side checks. I give them hell every time I have to go through one. If on a fast bike*, I don't bother to stop. Fuck 'em.

              Definition of a "fast bike" - it cruises at 150 mph, and can flirt with 200 mph, if not actually reach it. I left the house one evening, and decided to pass two trucks that were moving along at the speed limit, 55. State cop clocked me at 72, and came after me. When he approached me on foot, he said, "I thought you were going to rabbit!" I just laughed, he asked what I was laughing about. Told him, "This bike tops out at 100 mph - only an idiot could think he could outrun a police car on it!" He says, "If you were on a different bike?" I says, "Maybe!"

              --
              Through a Glass, Darkly -George Patton
              • (Score: 2) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Sunday February 03 2019, @06:37AM (1 child)

                by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Sunday February 03 2019, @06:37AM (#795622) Homepage Journal

                “... mentally ill homeless man to a soup kitchen at one hundred forty miles per hour?”

                “I like to drive.”
                — King City CHP Officer W. Godfrey, Badge Number 19523

                I puzzled over his badge number a moment then said “March nineteen fifty two” while envisioning those heady days of yore.

                --
                Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
                • (Score: 4, Funny) by Runaway1956 on Sunday February 03 2019, @09:05AM

                  by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 03 2019, @09:05AM (#795642) Homepage Journal

                  "Because only the mentally ill who have nothing to lose will ride with me."

                  --
                  Through a Glass, Darkly -George Patton
          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by takyon on Sunday February 03 2019, @02:33AM

            by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday February 03 2019, @02:33AM (#795552) Journal

            Give SpaceX $20 billion, win a second term.

            --
            [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Sunday February 03 2019, @05:28AM (1 child)

          by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 03 2019, @05:28AM (#795596) Homepage Journal

          What does "plenty of water ice" mean? Sure, there is ice there. How much? I've read nothing to suggest that it's abundant. Will it support a million people indefinitely? Will it support a few thousand, for some limited time? Who has been able to quantify this water?

          Seriously, I suspect that if we ever have a significant moon population, they'll be importing a lot of water from the asteroids.

          --
          Through a Glass, Darkly -George Patton
          • (Score: 5, Informative) by takyon on Sunday February 03 2019, @05:52AM

            by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday February 03 2019, @05:52AM (#795608) Journal

            Moon Wetter Than Previously Thought [soylentnews.org]

            NASA Finds Ice on the Surface of the Moon [soylentnews.org]

            ESA Plans to Send Mining Equipment to the Moon [soylentnews.org]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_water [wikipedia.org]

            How Much Water Is on the Moon? [airspacemag.com]

            So how much water is at the lunar poles? We don’t have an exact answer yet, but from looking at the amounts sensed at each pole (and accounting for the technique and how deep it samples), I estimate that between 100 million and one billion metric tons of water are present at each pole. The actual quantities of ice at a given site, its physical state, depth of burial and other properties still need to be determined. Although more orbital measurements would be valuable, it is most critical to get instruments down on the surface of the Moon next, at the poles, in order to make detailed site surveys—information crucial to formulating good engineering decisions about where to place the lunar outpost(s) and how to go about harvesting the Moon’s water for the creation of new capabilities in spacefaring and settlement.

            Putting your base near the poles can also allow you to place solar panels where they will be in nearly permanent sunlight year-round.

            There could also be large quantities of water deep underground.

            We don't really need to think about supporting millions of people on the Moon right now. We can start by supporting tens or hundreds [soylentnews.org] of researchers, many of them being geologists, and those people will probably be finding more water/ice deposits during their stay.

            --
            [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 2) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Sunday February 03 2019, @06:31AM

        by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Sunday February 03 2019, @06:31AM (#795619) Homepage Journal

        Strong solenoid always magnets will afford quite a lot of protection, as will leaded glass

        --
        Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday February 06 2019, @05:59PM

        by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday February 06 2019, @05:59PM (#797264)

        A permanent moon outpost is well within our technical reach, and has the potential to be very valuable as a source of industrial raw materials as we start seriously expanding beyond out planet.

        Where we are likely to encounter difficulties is trying to develop a self-sufficient colony there. Mars is a far more attractive target for that, with nigh-unlimited water and CO2 being easily accessible anywhere on the planet - in addition to glaciers and ground ice, the atmosphere is generally close to 100% humidity so that dehumidifiers are a feasible option for a simple, steady (if limited) flow of fresh water. Travel time to Mars is is a bitch, no denying that, but 6 months is readily achievable, and shouldn't kill anyone with some basic precautions (And a substantial drop in life expectancy is to be expected for early colonists, even without the radiation. Price of being a pioneer - don't sign up if you're not willing to pay). And Musk at least claims that 2-3 months is eventually achievable - and while he tends to be overoptimistic about his timelines, he's got a good track record when it comes to technical feasibility. Mars is unlikely to become a tourist destination, but colonizing anywhere has generally been a one-way trip. And shipping supplies to Mars on slower, high-efficiency trajectories is only marginally more expensive than shipping them to the Moon.

        However, the moon is still rich in resources - as I recall the moon is estimated to be about 60% oxygen by mass (as compared to the Earth's 46%), so all you need is energy, the right equipment, and a source of hydrogen to produce water, and there is actually a fair bit of hydrogen that's been deposited by the solar wind over the last few billion years, some of which was incorporated into the surface minerals rather than floating away. There may also be more substantial hydrogen and water deposits deeper underground - we won't know that until we start digging.

        No energy? The moon gets just as much solar energy as the Earth - actually about 40% more than Earth at the surface, thanks to the lack of atmosphere. The 2-week-long nights are admittedly a bit of a problem, but there are lots of ways to store energy (stacking large blocks with an electric crane is perhaps one of the easiest and best suited), and there's also the possibility of orbital mirrors providing sunlight at night. An acre of "space blanket" weighs only about 250 lbs, and would reflect up to 5.6 MW of solar power to the surface, depending on angle - though there is the challenge of making the mirror flat enough to keep that power focused onto only one acre (or even a few) on the surface.

        There's also fission - NASA has already developed and built compact 1k-10W fission reactors for use in space, and particularly the moon, and while you'd periodically have to ship up fuel (or new reactors) in the short term, in the long term fissionable fuel should be about as common on the Moon as on Earth. (And if we get thorium reactors working it should be downright easy to acquire)

        No atmosphere to protect solar panels... from what? There's nothing hitting the moon that isn't already hitting everything else in Earth orbit.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by takyon on Sunday February 03 2019, @01:20AM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday February 03 2019, @01:20AM (#795535) Journal

      NASA Eyeing Mini Space Station in Lunar Orbit as Stepping Stone to Mars [soylentnews.org]
      NASA and Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on the Development of a Lunar Space Station [soylentnews.org]
      President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1 [soylentnews.org]
      2020s to Become the Decade of Lunar Re-Exploration [soylentnews.org]
      NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Serious About Returning to the Moon [soylentnews.org]
      NASA Opens the Floodgates for Firms With Planetary Ambitions [soylentnews.org] (lunar payloads, actually)

      Even if a new administration wants to change space priorities, I don't think they will downsize lunar exploration plans too much. It's a lot easier to go there than Mars.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 03 2019, @04:42AM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 03 2019, @04:42AM (#795576)

    Seems a little generous to refer to craft that will remain within the Earth/moon system as "starships". You might as well refer to a pile of grains as a supercomputer because you can use them to count, so, y'know, close enough, right? If things work out, in a few design generations the SpaceX rocket engines might lead to something that can be used for interplanetary travel, but starships? Not likely within our lifetimes.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by takyon on Sunday February 03 2019, @05:26AM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday February 03 2019, @05:26AM (#795595) Journal

      in a few design generations the SpaceX rocket engines might lead to something that can be used for interplanetary travel

      That was basically Musk's response to your exact criticism.

      The name doesn't mean much. It was basically a pivot away from "Big Fucking Rocket" which is too naughty, so they picked something generically cool. Although I expect they will refer to the individual rockets by codenames [wikipedia.org] like "BFR v1.0 B0001".

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Sunday February 03 2019, @05:37AM (1 child)

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 03 2019, @05:37AM (#795601) Homepage Journal

      Agreed. It might even be called "presumptuous". Every time I see that name, I just cringe. The uninformed, uneducated public probably thinks it is going to the stars. Ehh, maybe it will. When we've established a galactic federation of human populated planets, maybe they'll come back for that "starship", and put it in a museum.

      --
      Through a Glass, Darkly -George Patton
      • (Score: 2) by choose another one on Monday February 04 2019, @09:42AM

        by choose another one (515) on Monday February 04 2019, @09:42AM (#796062)

        Someone has forced him to change it from the excellent "BFR", so he's picked something deliberately family-friendly can't-be-misconstrued and bloody (mindedly) ridiculous.

    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday February 06 2019, @06:11PM (1 child)

      by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday February 06 2019, @06:11PM (#797279)

      Yeah, it's over the top, but is it really any worse than, say, a Ford Fusion, Chrysler Concorde, or 4-door BMW Gran Coupe?

      Heck, it even has some slight legitimate claim to the name - it may not be the ship that will actually take us to the stars, but it is intended to be the one that lets us take the first steps on that journey, expanding humanity beyond just the Earth onto other worlds. Once we've mastered that, traveling to other stars is just a matter of energy and patience (though new propulsion technology would certainly help).

      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday February 06 2019, @06:13PM

        by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday February 06 2019, @06:13PM (#797280)

        Also, who said anything about it being confined to the Earth-Moon system? The early prototypes maybe, but the final version with proper vacuum engines is intended to reach pretty much anywhere in the solar system.

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