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posted by janrinok on Sunday October 27 2019, @07:21AM   Printer-friendly
from the ambitious dept.

Submitted via IRC for soylent_brown

SpaceX wants to land Starship on the Moon before 2022, then do cargo runs for 2024 human landing – TechCrunch

Speaking at a quick series of interviews with commercial space company’s at this year’s annual International Astronautical Congress, SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell shed a little more light on her company’s current thinking with regards to the mission timelines for its forthcoming Starship spacefaring vehicle. Starship, currently in parallel development at SpaceX’s South Texas and Florida facilities, is intended to be an all-purpose successor to, and replacement for, both Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, with a higher payload capacity and the ability to reach the Moon and eventually Mars.

“Aspirationally, we want to get Starship to orbit within a year,” Shotwell said. “We definitely want to land it on the Moon before 2022. We want to […] stage cargo there to make sure that there are resources for the folks that ultimately land on the moon by 2024, if things go well, so that’s the aspirational timeframe.”

That’s an ambitious timeline, and as Shotwell herself repeatedly stated, these are “aspirational” timelines. In the space industry, as well as in tech, it’s not uncommon for leadership to set aggressive schedules in order to drive the teams working on projects to work at the limits of what’s actually possible. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is also known for working to timelines that often don’t match up with reality, and Shotwell alluded to Musk’s ambitious goal setting as a virtue in another part of her on-stage interview at IAC.

“Elon puts out these incredibly audacious goals and people say ‘You’re not going to do it, you’ll never get to orbit, you’ll never get a real rocket to orbit, […] you’ll never get Heavy to orbit, you’ll never get Dragon to the station, you’ll never get Dragon back, and you’ll never land a rocket,'” she said. “So, frankly, I love when people say we can’t do it, because it motivates my fantastic 6,500 employees to go do that thing.”

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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday October 27 2019, @11:56AM

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Sunday October 27 2019, @11:56AM (#912387) Journal

    At IAC last week they showed a rendering of how lunar cargo delivery would work: []

    There was also a render of a cargo variant carrying a LUVOIR telescope: []

    And here is an older render: []

    There will be multiple versions and we don't know exactly what they will look like, but you can expect that the fairing will not detach as with Falcon. It's also likely that the very first customers will be SpaceX (Starlink launches) and telecoms. Forget about passengers for the first couple of years.

    Falcon Heavy is a different beast. They attempt center core landing even when it is not guaranteed to work because of high velocity, low fuel. I think we will see successful center core landings in the future. The first attempts just aren't indicative of future success/failure. First was the very first attempt. Second was the SUCCESSFUL center core landing for Arabsat-6A. They just didn't secure it to the ship properly. And third was USAF STP-2: []

    The center core, in use for the first time, underwent the most energetic reentry attempted by SpaceX, and attempted a landing over 1,200 km (750 mi) downrange, 30% further than any previous landing. This core suffered a thrust vector control failure in the center engine caused by a breach in the engine bay due to the extreme heat. The core thus failed its landing attempt on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You due to lack of control when the outer engines shut down.

    Starship is pretty much overengineered (more payload to LEO than most customers need) which should give the booster plenty of room for return fuel in nearly every mission. And then multiple in-orbit refuels can be used to raise altitude of the Starship. For example, the booster could save some fuel, put the Starship in a slightly lower Earth orbit, where it would be refueled by a second Starship. That would save money over trashing a booster.

    Starship build cost may end up lower than Falcon 9 []. Not only is stainless steel much cheaper than carbon fiber, but it is easier to work with, as proven by the outside builds. Falcon 9/Heavy upper stage is essentially never recoverable, while Starship is fully reusable. Fuel costs are relatively low, possibly under $1 million for a single vanilla Starship launch. So there is basically no situation in which Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy is a better ride than Starship, unless the customer wants the time-tested rocket. The real risk right now is not losing the steel rocket bodies, but the Raptor engines. If they can increase the engine production rate, the risk could diminish, unless they end up destroying multiple Starship + Super Heavy boosters in a row.

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