Falcon-9 Aiming for Dec. 19 RTF with Orbcomm Satellites, Booster Landing Plans Still Unclear

Elon Musk announced today the updated Return to Flight date for their next Falcon-9 launch, which is now scheduled for nighttime on December 19 to deliver 11 satellites to orbit for Orbcomm. File Photo, Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

Elon Musk announced today the updated Return to Flight date for their next Falcon-9 launch, which is now scheduled for nighttime on Dec. 19 to deliver 11 satellites to orbit for Orbcomm. File Photo, Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

Six months after its 19th mission ended in pieces of falling debris offshore of Cape Canaveral AFS, SpaceX’s new and improved Falcon-9 booster is set for a long-awaited Return to Flight (RTF) from Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40), no sooner than Saturday, Dec. 19, carrying with it 11 Orbcomm Generation-2 (OG-2) communications satellites into low-Earth orbit.

“Aiming for Falcon rocket static test fire at Cape Canaveral on the 16th and launch about three days later,” said company CEO Elon Musk on Twitter today.

Six Orbcomm Generation-2 (OG-2) satellites thundering off pad-40 aboard SpaceX's Falcon-9 v1.1 rocket in July 2014. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

Six Orbcomm Generation-2 (OG-2) satellites thundering off pad-40 aboard SpaceX’s Falcon-9 v1.1 rocket in July 2014. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

A static test fire of the rocket on the pad, firing up all nine of its engines, is a standard practice for SpaceX, a “practice countdown” to ensure the vehicle and all of its systems operate as expected to verify the rocket and its payload are ready to fly together. Following the static test, Falcon-9 is then returned to its horizontal processing hangar for engineers to address any problems or proceed with final launch preparations and conducting the standard Launch Readiness Review (LRR).

As well as transporting the largest number of discrete satellites into orbit aboard a single SpaceX vehicle, the mission is expected to mark the maiden voyage of the “Full Thrust” (FT) variant of the Falcon 9 booster, also known informally as the “v1.2”. A successful flight in mid-December will open the floodgates for an ambitious 2016, which is expected to kick off with the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS)-8 Dragon cargo flight to the International Space Station (ISS) in the first week or two of January.

“We are excited to launch our 11 OG-2 satellites aboard SpaceX’s newly upgraded Falcon-9 rocket and have full confidence in SpaceX and their dedication to this launch,” said Orbcomm CEO Marc Eisenberg earlier this year. “We look forward to completing the deployment of our next-generation constellation and delivering a higher level of performance, coverage and reliability through our modernized and upgraded OG-2 network to our customers around the world.”

“All satellites fully fueled and attached to the rings,” tweeted Eisenberg on Dec. 9. “Waiting on SpaceX to confirm launch date.”

Launch of this next set of 11 satellites will occur under cover of darkness during a 3-hour launch window opening “between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. EST Dec. 19,” according to a SpaceX spokesperson this afternoon. “Following the static fire test, we expect to be able to confirm a specific targeted window for launch.”

Once launched they will bring the total number of OG-2 satellites flown by SpaceX to 18—six of which were carried aloft by a Falcon-9 in July 2014 and one of which failed to achieve orbit, due to a second-stage thrust shortfall in October 2012. All satellites are operated by Orbcomm, Inc., a major Machine-to-Machine (M2M) messaging-services provider, headquartered in Rochelle Park, N.J.

Built by Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) of Sparks, Nev., each three-axis-stabilized OG-2 satellite weighs 380 pounds (172 kg) and, when fully deployed in orbit, measures 42.7 feet (13 meters) x 3.3 feet (1 meter) x 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) and generates about 400 watts of electrical power. Based upon the SN-100 spacecraft “bus,” they are designed for minimum five-year operational lifetimes and utilize a modular payload deck which can be rapidly integrated and tested.

But one thing noticeably not mentioned in Musk’s updated RTF tweet today were plans to land the company’s RTF booster first stage.

At a press event at SpaceX’s Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A on Dec. 1, a NASA spokesperson from the agency’s Commercial Crew Program noted SpaceX plans to test Falcon boosters at 39A in preparation for upcoming launches from there with Falcon-9’s and the company’s highly anticipated Falcon Heavy. However, in doing so NASA specifically said SpaceX wants to land the RTF booster at Cape Canaveral, rather than their Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), which is a fancy barge with a painted bulls-eye that floats offshore to serve as a landing pad, and if done successfully the RTF booster would then be transported to 39A to serve as a test vehicle to practice and prepare 39A for upcoming operational missions.

“Their plan (SpaceX), on their next launch, is they want to land on the Cape-side here,” said NASA. “The first stage, if they successfully get it back, will then be the test article here (39A), and it will go into the hangar where they (SpaceX) will do a little refurbishment, and they will actually put it on the transporter erector and roll it out to the pad to do fluid checks, electrical checks and propellant loading with that test article.”

Following this, SpaceX did offer response to AmericaSpace but could not provide any new information or updates, nor could they confirm or deny NASA’s comments. Instead, SpaceX advised that more information would be made available in coming days.

“Once a targeted launch date is publically confirmed, we’ll have more to say about first stage recovery plans for this next mission,” noted SpaceX to AmericaSpace today (Dec. 10).

The short video below was shot at the 39A media update Dec. 1, where NASA mentions F9 plans for RTF landing attempt on the Cape.

https://youtu.be/vPQ1nsqBswE
VIDEO: NASA Commercial Crew Program 39A Update Dec. 1, 2015

However, comments from the Air Force 45th Space Wing on Dec. 2 confirm that SpaceX has been pressing ahead with plans to land the Falcon-9 RTF Orbcomm first-stage booster on solid ground, rather than aboard the deck of the ASDS in the Atlantic Ocean.

“One thing that is true in recent news is that SpaceX is waiting on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for both RTF and doing a land landing vs. drone ship,” explained Chrissy Cuttita, operations chief of 45th Space Wing Public Affairs, based at Patrick Air Force Base, in response to an inquiry from Zero-G News’ Managing Editor Matthew Travis, who shared the information with AmericaSpace shortly thereafter.

The news came just a week after Blue Origin successfully launched and landed their own rocket in West Texas, which reached an altitude of 329,839 feet (100.5 km) before returning to Earth, making Blue Origin’s New Shepard system the first launch vehicle to successfully reach the universally agreed boundary of space and return for a soft landing back on terra firma.

Earlier this year, the 45th Space Wing signed a five-year lease with SpaceX to create a “Landing Pad” at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s historic Launch Complex-13. Utilized for Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) tests and operational Atlas launches from August 1958 through April 1978, LC-13 was deactivated in 1980. More than three decades passed before SpaceX leased it in February 2015, and efforts to construct five landing pads for its returning Falcon-9 first-stage hardware soon got underway.

The site is now designated “Landing Complex-1.”

SpaceX Landing Complex-1 at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Photo Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX Landing Complex-1 at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Photo Credit: SpaceX

Operations are also ongoing to support a landing attempt for SpaceX’s RTF Orbcomm booster on the ASDS, just in case the FAA does not grant a landing attempt at the Cape in time for their launch date. Speculation is swirling that those approvals have been granted; however, we cannot confirm this yet.

As reported by AmericaSpace Senior Writer Ben Evans:

Flying for the first time with its 11 OG-2 passengers, the upgraded booster will see its first-stage Merlin 1D+ and second-stage Merlin 1D+ Vacuum engines running at their full, 100-percent power level. This is in contrast to the 80 percent of rated performance seen on previous Falcon 9 v1.1 missions. A further 13 percent of additional performance will be accrued through a range of structural enhancements to the vehicle’s airframe and a process of “densifying” and thereby increasing the liquid oxygen propelland load. All told, this is expected to yield a performance “gain” of 33 percent over the v1.1.

It is understood that the v1.1 utilized the Merlin 1D engines at 80 percent of rated capacity, with 20 percent held in reserve, in order to afford maximum flexibility to the payload to achieve its correct orbital position. In contrast, the v1.2/FT architecture centers around the enhanced “Merlin 1D+” engine, which is reportedly capable of 1.53 million pounds (694,000 kg) of thrust at T-0, effectively operating at “full” (100 percent) capability. This will increase to about 1.7 million pounds (771,100 kg) as the vehicle travels higher into the rarefied upper atmosphere. Similarly, the Merlin 1D Vacuum engine of the second stage will see a corresponding increase in propulsive yield from 180,000 pounds (81,600 kg) in the v1.1 to 210,000 pounds (95,250 kg) in the v1.2/FT. According to a source close to SpaceX, “FT” is the internal code name for calculating the Merlin 1D’s output at 100 percent, adding that “this improves the Falcon 9’s performance by 20 percent, although this ‘improvement’ was not really new: it was always there, but never utilized.” At the time of last summer’s failure, it is understood that SpaceX intended to stage its first v1.2/FT launch in July 2015, delivering SES-9 to GTO.

However, the 20-percent performance hike achieved by throttling the engines from their 80-percent to 100-percent power levels has been expanded yet further to reach an overall 33-percent “performance gain” over the v1.1. This gain has been met in part through structural enhancements to the vehicle’s airframe, including a 10-percent increase in propellant tank volumes, a lengthened second stage with extended Merlin 1D+ Vacuum engine, upgraded landing legs and grid fins, an improved “Octaweb” support structure for the first-stage engine suite, a strengthened “interstage” between the two stages and a central “pusher” to ensure a smooth stage-separation process. All told, this increases the height of the v1.2/FT vehicle to 229.6 feet (70 meters), about 5.6 feet (1.6 meters) taller than the v1.1.

Additionally, the 33-percent performance gain has been met through “super-cooling” the liquid oxygen load—in what Musk described as “deep cryo oxygen—below its normal saturation condition, in order to increase its density and permit the carriage of a larger load of propellants in the Falcon 9’s tanks. “Propellant densification,” noted engineers Ke Nguyen and Timothy Knowles in an American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) paper, “is one of the key technologies needed to meet the challenges of future reusable launch vehicles.” The densification process, AmericaSpace understands, has required the installation of specialized cooling stations at SpaceX’s dedicated Falcon 9 pads of Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at the Cape and Space Launch Complex (SLC)-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Article written by Mike Killian and Ben Evans.

Mission Patch for Orbcomm OG-2 Mission-2. Image Credit: Orbcomm

Mission Patch for Orbcomm OG-2 Mission-2. Image Credit: Orbcomm

.
Be sure to “Like” AmericaSpace on Facebook and follow us on Twitter: @AmericaSpace

.

Missions » ORBCOMM » Missions » ORBCOMM » SpaceX OG2 M2 »

79 comments to Falcon-9 Aiming for Dec. 19 RTF with Orbcomm Satellites, Booster Landing Plans Still Unclear

  • Tracy the Troll

    Great article…Looking forward to it.

  • Conway Costigan

    “The first stage, if they successfully get it back, will then be the test article here (39A), and it will go into the hangar where they (SpaceX) will do a little refurbishment,-”

    I expect it will be junk and not refurbished. The engines will be coked and the stage stressed far beyond economical reuse. Like Shannon said, “reuse is a myth.”

    Reuse in the sense of turning an airliner around so it can fly several thousand more hours is absurd when applied to a rocket. This is the turning point for the entire NewSpace movement; everything is going to go downhill when it is realized this fantasy is not practical.

    The other miracle NewSpace fans are hoping and praying for will also most likely fail; the propellant depot. It is quite probably the most ridiculous plan ever considered- much like like trying to cross the Atlantic ocean using a chain of cabin cruisers to refuel each other.

    And the third myth that NewSpace has endlessly hyped over the years; that LEO is some vast new frontier waiting to be exploited.

    It is a vacuum a couple hundred miles up. There is nothing there.

    The NewSpace infomercial plays on.

    • Conway Costigan

      I would add that, ironically, reusing a Super Heavy Lift Vehicle is quite possible while the hobby rocket space airliner is not.

      Very large pressure-fed boosters are structurally strong enough to be parachuted into the ocean and recovered like the space shuttle boosters. Since they are not disassembled, shipped back to Utah to be reloaded, and then shipped back to the cape to be reassembled, such boosters would be returned to the cape, hosed off, “refurbished a little” and then stacked and filled with fuel.

      The core engines of a lunar mission SHLV would boost the wet workshop stage out of orbit, separate from the stage, and then fly all the way around the Moon and back to a reentry and ocean recovery with it’s own heat shield, waterproofing system, and parachutes. It would be a shame to waste that free return.

      The core stage itself would insert into a lunar polar frozen orbit to be used as a space station or spaceship compartment.

      The rocket equation would decide if an expendable stage is needed to make such a system workable. But since the larger the vehicle the more scale counts toward a larger payload it would still be more economical than the hobby rocket- which of course expends it’s upper stage.

    • Arth

      Nothing wrong with trying. And if 1st stage reusability proves useful, then, more power to Mr. Musk’s company. By the way, how are you going to convince Congress to increase NASA’s budget to the 5% needed for a sustainable SLS launch rate of 8 to 10 a year for all the Lunar hardware/software needed, so that we can have a real government financed space program? Putting a maximum security isolated federal prison on the far side would be a start.

      • Joe

        Arth,

        A question. You say:

        “how are you going to convince Congress to increase NASA’s budget to the 5% needed for a sustainable SLS launch rate of 8 to 10 a year ….”

        5% of what?

        NASA’s current budget is about 0.5% of the federal budget, are you saying that to mount a lunar program would require increasing it by a factor of 10?

        If so could you please provide a source for that estimate?

        That would be about $180 Billion/year. As big a space enthusiast as I am, even I would not support that. Fortunately I have never heard such an estimate.

        • Conway Costigan

          If that 180 billion was going to replace GEO satellites with space stations, create a fleet of nuclear space batteships, and be used to create space solar power stations to completely power civilization on Earth and enable beam propulsion that would allow for mass migration to space colonies….would you support it then Joe?

          • Joe

            I might, but my point was there is no credible study that says that it would cost $180B/year ” for a sustainable SLS launch rate of 8 to 10 a year for all the Lunar hardware/software needed” as Arth seemed to suggest.

            Thus, the request for clarification.

          • Joe

            That was not the point I was trying to make.

            The point was there is no credible study suggesting it would cost $180B/year “for a sustainable SLS launch rate of 8 to 10 a year for all the Lunar hardware/software needed” as Arth seemed to suggest.

            That the reason for the request for clarification.

            • Conway Costigan

              I know….just drafting your race car. Sorry Joe.

            • Arth

              It seems that Congress won’t let NASA go it alone. So, maybe with several more federal agencies involved, then, Congress may boost NASA’s budget. Any other ideas? It seems that exploration/science isn’t enough reasons for Congress to boost NASA’s budget. There has to be a more compelling reason for the federal government to provide more financial resources for space exploration.

              • Conway Costigan

                The best I can do is to-

                solve the space debris problem and provide the planet with an order of magnitude increase in connectivity with shielded GEO space stations.

                Provide a fail safe nuclear deterrent and protect the planet from asteroid and comet impacts by diverting funding from ICBMs, Subs, and bombers into spaceships.

                Lay the foundations for powering the entire planet with space solar energy and colonization using beam propulsion- forever solving climate change and overpopulation.

                If that is not compelling enough Arth then I cannot help you.

              • Joe

                Arth,

                I do not necessarily disagree with what you said in this particular post (thought it is difficult to discern exactly what you mean).

                But, in the post to which my question was addressed; you implied implementing a lunar program would require increasing the NASA budget to 5% of the federal budget (about $180B/year).

                Since I did not (and still do not) know of a credible estimate indicating that to be true, I asked for a source for such an estimate.

                Nothing in this post even attempts to address that question.

                • Arth

                  I was thinking more inline of the type of resources the Apollo program used. That’s the only comparable historical program that I could draw a basis from. I wasn’t talking about just a simple NASA lunar program. I was talking about a multi-federal agency permanent moon based research community.

                  • Joe

                    Apollo’s budget peaked out at about $6.5B/year and that for only a couple of years at most.

                    Adjusted for inflation that is more like $40B/year not $180B/year.

                    Constellation Systems was budgeted for $104B total over a 10 year period. Even if you assume that the Augustine Commission was correct (and I do not), they said it would have cost an additional $3B/year. Call that $5B/year (to be conservative) and round up to the nearest Billion (what the heck) and you get $16B/year.

                    Not picking on you, but a properly run Lunar Base Program could be done within the existing NASA Budget, if you prioritized it as a goal.

                    That would, of course, require Presidential leadership which we will not currently get.

                    Whether or not we will get it from some future president remains to be seen.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      We need a President that will change the direction of the space agency by dumping LEO and Mars and effecting a divorce from the ruinous NewSpace movement. A President that will aim the U.S. back at the Moon.

      • Conway Costigan

        “-how are you going to convince Congress to increase NASA’s budget-”

        The first thing to do is abandon that hole in LEO 3 billion a year disappears into (soon to be 4 billion and if they want to keep it up there past 2020 expect it to double). With no space station to nowhere that pretty much means goodbye SpaceX and the Boeing taxi and the other LEO useless-tax-dollar-consumers.

        There are actually three different approaches to convincing the public to increase the Human Space Flight budget.

        Telecom space stations to replace the present satellite junkyard. Those would require massive water shields and the place to acquire that is the Moon.
        Move the nuclear deterrent into deep space on human crewed spaceships (mate nuclear propulsion systems to those space stations and away they go). This would shift about a trillion dollars in funds into space currently earmarked to replace the ICBM, Submarine, and bomber fleets. And the British, French, Russians, and Chinese would do the same.
        Space solar power as the cure for climate change. Again, the Moon has the resources.

        • Clio Marsden

          How does space based solar power make any sense? Why not just put the array on Earth and save the shipping cost and massive transmission loss? On the margin this system would need to be price competitive with natural gas.

          Why does any telecom platform in space need people on it?

          What resources on the moon can be acquired at a cheaper marginal cost than domestically? Even He-3 can be made by just waiting around for a while with a vat of tritium produced by any number of nuclear reactors.

          • Conway Costigan

            “Why not just put the array on Earth-”

            Because a factory on Earth puts out greenhouse gases, and since energy consumption is spiraling upwards this is a losing battle- and space solar is 24/7. You don’t know much about the subject so why don’t you study up?

            “Why does any telecom platform in space need people on it?”

            Because it is a junkyard up there and instead of hundreds of dead and dying sats a dozen or so large shielded stations with technicians maintaining, repairing, and upgrading the systems would solve a range of problems and also provide an order of magnitude better connectivity.

            “What resources on the moon can be acquired at a cheaper marginal cost than domestically?”

            Water is required for radiation shielding for any long duration human presence beyond LEO. Lifting thousands of tons of tap water from Earth’s gravity well is a non-starter. Everything starts with that and anything else is a waste of time and money and will do nothing but hinder progress. If you want to argue about this I am game but first I insist you go to page 23 and look at figure 10 of this link:

            http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~ucfbiac/Lunar_resources_review_preprint_accepted_manuscript.pdf

            • Tim Andrews

              “Because a factory on Earth puts out greenhouse gases,”

              OK, I know my brain hasn’t kicked up to full speed yet this morning, but why would a field of solar panels on Earth put out more greenhouse gasses than a field power receivers and converters taking microwave or laser energy beamed from solar panels in orbit?

              I get the 24/7 operation advantage – that is pretty big, not to mention it’s full sunlight with optimal angle for the panels to the sun 24/7, unlike ground based panels that even with sun-tracking draw less light at the beginning and end of the day.

              • Conway Costigan

                “-why would a field of solar panels on Earth put out more greenhouse gasses than a field power receivers and converters taking microwave or laser energy beamed from solar panels in orbit?”

                The factory that produces the solar panels has to be built and the raw materials for the panels have be transported to the factory and the energy to manufacture the panels is a huge producer of the same greenhouse gases the panels are being made to eliminate. It takes years for the panels to break even and have used up a significant fraction of their useful lifetime by the time they actually start doing what they were made for. Because India and China are inexorably ratcheting up their energy consumption in pursuit of a western standard of living and the rest of the worlds energy consumption is not going down, alternate energy is a vicious circle that is nowhere near the solution it is presented as. This is detailed in a certain book that is hated by both the right and the left and is seldom cited because it is non-partisan.

                http://www.greenillusions.org/

                Manufacturing the solar power arrays and transmitting satellites on the Moon makes it all go away like magic. No environmental impact polluting the Moon.

                This solution was picked up on way back in the 70’s before climate change was a real issue and was just beginning to be discussed- by Gerard K. O’Neill.

                Even if you are a climate change skeptic space solar stands by itself without any resort to treehuggery.

                • Tim Andrews

                  “The factory that produces the solar panels”

                  So the issue being not where the solar panels are – but where they are made. Makes good sense, thanks for clarifying.

                  • Conway Costigan

                    Space Solar Power advocates have always been their own worst enemies. Because they refuse to include lunar factories in their schemes they make any plan they propose impractical at inception.

                    In the same way the book Green Illusions exposes both energy corporation influence peddling and “greenwashing” an article by Eugene Parker in Scientific American exposes the dirty secret NASA and
                    NewSpace will not talk about: cosmic radiation.

                    In his article “Shielding Space Travelers” Parker reveals the only guaranteed solution to the space problem: massive shielding. It sends space advocates into shock and immediate denial. Nobody ever cites Parker. Until this denial stage is left behind we are not going anywhere beyond LEO.

                    It is what I call the “Parker-Dyson-Spudis effect.”

                    Parker explained the basic problem- radiation- and the solution.
                    The only way to push the required shield around the solar system was worked out by Freeman Dyson with Project Orion (nuclear pulse propulsion). And the only practical way to both acquire the water-as-shielding and use pulse propulsion (outside the magnetosphere) was revealed with the work of Paul Spudis. The ice on the Moon is the critical enabling resource for any Human Space Flight Beyond Earth and Lunar Orbit (BELO) and for any long duration human presence Beyond Low Earth Orbit (BLEO).

                    The Moon is the key to all things in space. Gerard K. O’Neill correctly identified it as the resource to power civilization on Earth and build space colonies. Beam Propulsion is the future enabler for mass migration to these colonies.

                    The NewSpace movement identifies LEO and Mars as the places to go and tourism as the main enabler. This, and the attached legion of Ayn-Rand-in-Space trolls that dominate public discourse, makes NewSpace the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration.

                    • Arth

                      “The NewSpace movement identifies LEO and Mars as the places to go and tourism as the main enabler. This, and the attached legion of Ayn-Rand-in-Space trolls that dominate public discourse, makes NewSpace the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration.”

                      First off there has to be affordable transportation out of Earth’s gravity well. “NewSpace” companies are trying to accomplish this. Then, other future NewSpace companies will pursue the technologies, which you are referring to, for their own business cases. Can the federal government speed things up? Sure, if they had the political will to do so. I would like to see the federal government commit to putting a DOE research station on the moon. Along with a space propulsion research station, a maximum security federal prison, a forward solar system exploration base, and the infrastructure to support these stations on the moon. Just wishful thinking for right now.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      “-there has to be affordable transportation out of Earth’s gravity well.”

                      There is no cheap. If what you consider “affordable” is what SpaceX is charging per pound then I am the one pushing the most economical path, not you.

                      A supermax prison on the Moon? Puh-leez. That is….ridiculous. I saw that in a very bad science fiction movie.

                      The NewSpace movement is largely made up of people who really have no grasp on the practical realities of the rocket equation.

            • Clio Marsden

              Not arguing the technical feasibility at all on these points. Joe’s deck is very interesting and informative for sure. Also no one is arguing that ground based solar is, by itself, a great source of base load electricity (Storage is a challenge for sure). I am arguing the economical justification for such project given alternatives. One could build the same salt loop heat it with solar energy collected on the ground and simply couple with a SMR (Small Module Reactor) such as being planned for testing at the revived Clinch River site.

              This type of project has a lot more knowns around it from the economic/development angle and gets you nearly to the same place. Again whatever you are doing to generate electricity needs to be near or below sticking a straw in the ground over the Marcellus Shale or it is DOA.

              As for the manned telecom rig with bags of water from the moon…I can’t even begin to fathom the price per unit service provided for such a project. You are going to need something better than an order of magnitude better service to justify that one.

              • Joe

                There are all sorts of concepts for “alternative energy” generation and I suppose their proponents will fight each other. Each trying to denigrate the others concepts (thus increasing the chance none get adequate funding).

                For instance I can make an argument in favor of a Natural Gas only approach. It is much cleaner than oil or coal (if you do not believe it take a look at Buses run on Natural Gas vs. those run on Diesel) and more plentiful. The technology for it’s extraction and use is already well understood.

                Listing other possible energy sources does not invalidate any particular concept. Better to take an all of the above approach.

                This will be the end of my comments on this particular discussion as it has been pretty well exhausted

              • Conway Costigan

                “This type of project has a lot more knowns around it-”

                Yeah, Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island. Plenty of “justification” not to go that route.

                “-I can’t even begin to fathom the price per unit service provided for such a project. You are going to need something better than an order of magnitude better service to justify that one.”

                You are the one who is going to have to do better than just naysaying and wailing ignorance.

          • Joe

            Clio,

            If you are actually interested in answers to any of those questions, you can find some of them here:

            http://math.arizona.edu/~nrw/NWT_2010/talks/rubenchik.pdf

            Be careful about making disparaging comments about the presentation, as you will note it uses a Falcon 9 in one of it’s illustrations. SE might throw you out of the glee club.

            • Conway Costigan

              Clio sounds just like Coastal Ron. Exact same language. If it is not him then it is a graduate of his school of robo-commenting. Expect anything we say to be modified into an inaccurate misleading statement and thrown back in our faces ad nauseam.

              • Joe

                Clio (whoever Clio may be – again I do not care) can try to throw anything back anywhere Clio chooses.

                If Clio has a problem with the results of the technical presentation, Clio has an argument with the presentations originator – Alexander M. Rubenchik (Photon Science and Applications, National Ignition Facility Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory).

                Clio can contact him and “set him straight” on the technical details of his specialty (those guys from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are famous for getting their technical details wrong). I am sure the “poor loser” really needs Clio’s help.

                • Conway Costigan

                  Nice presentation, thanks for the link Joe.

                  • Conway Costigan

                    I would add that David Criswell proposed the ultimate Space Solar Power project: converting the Moon itself (a band around the lunar equator miles in width) into a solar power plant and beaming the energy all the way to Earth via relay stations. A Japanese corporation has taken this long view and has been working on it for many years. Wild stuff. But then, show people in 1900 what we have now and they would not believe it possible or practical. The beam is the dream.

          • James

            Clio Marsden –

            Hope this helps!

            “The research project, Space Based Solar Power (SBSP), is investigating the use of space platforms – essentially large satellites – to collect solar energy and redirect it using laser beams operating at eye-safe wavelengths to specially equipped receiver on Earth. The on-board lasers will operate at powers which are comparable to a normal summer’s day and therefore safe for humans and animals to walk through.” From: ‘Space Based Solar Power: innovating for clean energy’ Airbus Defense and Space

            “Xiji said a solar space station in a geosynchronous orbit could circumvent the problem with intermittent energy production on Earth, which must contend with nighttime and weather interruptions.
            Duan Baoyan, a member of the CAE, said space-based solar panels could generate 10 times as much electricity as ground-based panels.”
            From: ‘China considering space-based solar power station’ By Lucas Mearian on Mar 30, 2015

            “It’s been the subject of many previous studies and the stuff of sci-fi for decades, but space-based solar power could at last become a reality—and within 25 years, according to a proposal from researchers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).” From: ‘How Japan Plans to Build an Orbital Solar Farm’ By Susumu Sasaki 24 Apr 2014

            In terms of delta v, Geosynchronous orbit is a lot easier to get to from the Moon than going from Earth to Geosynchronous orbit. Efficiently Tapping Lunar resources is useful for building infrastructure on the Moon and in the rest of cislunar space.

            If you have the cislunar infrastructure to beam power to Earth you can also beam power to spacecraft and dramatically improve the Isp of their rocket engines and drastically lower the risks and costs of getting to LEO, the Moon, Mars, and Ceres.

            Lowering the risks and costs in human spaceflight is critical if we want space tourism and permanent colonies in LEO, Geostationary orbit, and on the Moon, Mars, and Ceres.

            Initial Space Based Solar Power systems could help enable us, or ‘pull us up by our bootstraps’, to lower the cost of second generation Space Based Solar Power systems by reducing the cost of launching those solar power systems from the Moon or Earth.

            And Space Based Solar Power might be beamed via lasers to increase the hours of electricity production at already built Earth based solar power systems.

            Would it be practical to power villages, large aircraft, or ocean going ships with Space Based Solar Power?

            How important is it to move away from coal and oil based cooking and electric power sources?

            Note: Air pollution is killing millions of people around the world every year.

            “An estimated 7 million people died due to air pollution globally in 2012, with more than half of the deaths linked to indoor smoke from cook stoves, according to a report by the World Health Organization.” From: ‘WHO: Air pollution caused one in eight deaths’ By Arshiya Khullar, for CNN March 25, 2014

            And from ‘Air Pollution Causes 4,400 Deaths In China Every Single Day: Study’
            By Dominique Mosbergen on 08/14/2015, “As The New York Times notes, air pollution — particularly exposure to fine airborne particles — can cause a variety of health problems, including asthma, lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.”

            Solar power panels on homes and buildings on Earth are also quite useful. But small, large, national, and international power grids can benefit from having a diversity of power systems feeding them electricity.

            And receiving Space Based Solar Power might eventually make a lot of sense in many places, including our future colonies on the Moon, Mars, and Ceres.

            • Conway Costigan

              “Lowering the risks and costs in human spaceflight is critical if we want space tourism and permanent colonies in LEO, Geostationary orbit, and on the Moon, Mars, and Ceres.”

              Way too much screaming cheap going on over the last 10 years. There is no cheap. We generally get what we pay for- the recent lesson concerning this being 100+ launches by ULA and 18 and kaboom by SpaceX.

              “We” (if you are including me) do not necessarily “want” space tourism. No more billionaut space clowns thank you.

              Permanent colonies in space were exhaustively studied and researched in the 1970’s and the prophet of colonization was Gerard K. O’Neill. He came to the conclusion that miles-in-diameter artificial spinning hollow moons (Bernal Spheres) constructed from lunar materials were the only practical solution to creating lebensraum off-world. The physics and science supporting that conclusion have not changed.

              The only thing that has changed is the discovery of ice on the Moon and new developments in microwave beam projection and propulsion which only make O’Neill’s concept more attractive and practical. GEO is not really the place for such mega-cities in space. The Lagrange points are more appropriate to start with.

              I support the establishment of factories on the Moon with workers doing tours there and semi-permanent science outposts on small icy bodies like Ceres but no colonies with children.

              • Conway Costigan

                And LEO and Mars? Complete dead ends which I ignore.

                • Jester Gambolt

                  Oops, Gary!!

                  You forgot to switch the name to the “James” while you were talking to yourself!!

                  • Conway Costigan

                    Troll.

                  • James

                    Jester Gambolt –

                    Repeatedly insulting an individual that posts his or her honest opinion on the internet is bullying pure and simple.

                    You sound as ignorant as se jones. Perhaps you are his identical twin brother. If so, I pity your parents.

                    These days Internet bullying is often a paid for deal. Who pays for your bullying?

                    • Jester Gambolt

                      Gary,

                      we’ve long ago established that since you are the one doing all the insulting, that makes you the bully.

                    • Joe

                      Jester,

                      You seem convinced that a number of different posters on this website are “Gary”.

                      The only discriminator you seem to use is whether or not they express any level of skepticism about SpaceX.

                      I have expressed skepticism about SpaceX. Am I “Gary” too?

                      Jim Hillhouse (the founder of this website) has expressed skepticism about SpaceX. Is Jim Hillhouse “Gary” also?

                      Maybe you could save time and just give a list of everybody who you think is “Gary”.

                    • John hare

                      Joe,
                      It is clear that the Gary Church and Conway Costigan posts have the same author. Often disturbed people post under multiple screen names, at least one of which is as normal as they can manage. James matches several of the pointers for that profile and you match a few. Jim H doesn’t. Enough OT.

                    • Joe

                      Thanks for the analysis John.

                      Tell me which ones you think I match and I will reciprocate.

                      I posted that because I am tired of having my e-mail inbox full of posts consisting of people accusing each other of being someone else.

                      That would include your attempts at amateur psychoanalysis of someone you have never even met.

                      “Enough OT” indeed.

                    • Joe

                      Jim,

                      Thanks for the information.

                      “Actually, it turns-out that “Arth” is very likely Gary.”

                      “Everyone else is legit, AFAIK.”

                      Arth as Gary. I would have never figured that one, apparently neither did anyone else.

                    • Arth, Joe, everyone,

                      My bad. The tool I was using to verify identities apparently sucks.

                      Arth is NOT Gary.

                      Uggg…one of those days.

                    • Arth

                      Jim Hillhouse…”Actually, it turns-out that “Arth” is very likely Gary. I’m holding his comments in moderation until I can verify that, as we say in CompSci, Arth != Gary.”

                      Please!!! Care to bet $1,000,000 dollars on your false assumption? I have talked back and forth with Gary on several websites. He has rather extreme views, but, he is a space enthusiast. Also, I have commented on several of your blogs, too. I have been accused of many things, but, never a master of disguise. Next you will be saying that I’m Santa Clause.

                    • Arth

                      “Arth as Gary. I would have never figured that one, apparently neither did anyone else.”

                      That makes two of us Joe. I’m sure if I had a multi-personality disorder, it would’ve been caught during my 21 years of military service. However, reading Gary various personality posts, along with yours, caused me to objectively view SpaceX as just another launch provider among others.

                    • Arth

                      Jim Hillhouse

                      That’s okay, Jim. No harm done. At least now I don’t have to ask my mom why she switched me at birth.

              • Clio Marsden

                Titan IV was plenty expensive and a bunch of kaboom as well. And of course we all remember the great success of Delta III. From the ashes rose the DCSS for Delta IV; glad the got the kinks worked out off the Delta IV books.

              • Hey lebensraum boy, it finally dawned on me, you thought “Dr. Strangelove” was a documentary!

                It’s all so clear now. I…I see your future. The Houston Bureau chief for Pundit From Another Planet. http://punditfromanotherplanet.com/

                Joe, if you ever grow a sense of humor, check it out.
                Naw…probably NOT.

                • Conway Costigan

                  Troll.

                • James

                  se jones –

                  Calling someone “boy” was considered an insult and grounds for getting a knuckle sandwich or an obvious indication of severe stupidity in the neighborhood I grew up in.

                  se jones, it’s too bad your family apparently didn’t, or couldn’t, teach you to refrain from insulting folks you don’t even know.

                  Joe has politeness which is extremely useful in the world.

                  se jones, it’s too bad your family apparently didn’t, or couldn’t, teach politeness to you.

                  Joe has intellectual integrity.

                  se jones, it’s too bad your family apparently didn’t, or couldn’t, teach intellectual integrity to you.

                  Joe has good social skills and could get along well with folks at a Lunar base or a neighborhood anywhere on Earth.

                  se jones, it’s too bad your family apparently didn’t, or couldn’t, teach even basic social skills to you.

                  Joe isn’t interested in being a bully and tries to be a gentleman even when dealing with an obvious bully such as se jones.

                  se jones, it’s too bad your family apparently didn’t, or couldn’t, teach you how ignorant and foolish you are when you try to bully someone.

                  • Joe

                    James,

                    First of all thanks for all the complements.

                    Next: “Calling someone “boy” was considered an insult and grounds for getting a knuckle sandwich or an obvious indication of severe stupidity in the neighborhood I grew up in.”

                    That pretty well sums up the personality of the internet troll.

                    Lots has been written about what causes people to go on the internet with the primary purpose of insulting/picking fights with people. The general consensus is that they lack the courage to face the challenges of everyday life in face to face situations. They attempt to compensate for this by trying to bully people from the safety of the distance and anonymity provided by the internet.

                    Rather sad actually.

                    • Jester Gambolt

                      Hi Joe,

                      James and Conway both have the exact same pompous writing style, narcissistic attitude, impracticable ideas, and are just as quick to insult those who disagree with them as the long-ago banned Gary Church. Gary has had other pseudonyms banned in the past, and it would not surprise me if he has a few other pseudonyms as well.

                      I do not discriminate on that basis or any other. If I must judge, then I judge on the basis of the merits of ideas. However, my primary interest is in learning new things, and my secondary interest is the correcting of incorrect statements and the providing of information when questions are asked. Otherwise, I tend to keep silent.

                      I don’t have any problem with your (or anyone else’s) skepticism, and contrary to my interactions with Gary, you and I have had productive conversations and misconceptions have been cleared up on both sides. What I do have a problem with is wilful ignorance.

                    • Joe

                      Hi Jester,

                      “If I must judge, then I judge on the basis of the merits of ideas. However, my primary interest is in learning new things, and my secondary interest is the correcting of incorrect statements and the providing of information when questions are asked. Otherwise, I tend to keep silent.”

                      Noble sentiments and I agree with them.

                      The reason I made the post in question is I got frustrated with having repeated postings showing up in my e-mail inbox with both sides accusing the other of being somebody else, with the posts being completely devoid of any technical content. I actually use this e-mail account for business as well.

                      Look, I have no control over what you post or do not (nor should I have), but I suspect none of us is a psychologist/psychiatrist so if you think Conway/James (whoever they may be – and believe me I do not care) get their facts wrong, correct them.

                      But could we please let the amateur psychoanalysis go. None of us has ever even met each other and even the pro’s (the legitimate ones anyway) are very reluctant to evaluate people on that basis.

                      Think of all the band width it would save.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      “James and Conway both have the exact same pompous writing style, narcissistic attitude, impracticable ideas, and are just as quick to insult those who disagree with them as the long-ago banned Gary Church. Gary has had other pseudonyms banned in the past, and it would not surprise me if he has a few other pseudonyms as well.”

                      The infamous excluded one was repeatedly banned for giving back as good as he got while criticizing the NewSpace mob for their incessant bullying of any who disagreed with their dogma.

                      That dogma was pompous, narcissistic, impractical, and quick to insult. The legion of Ayn-Rand-in-Space cyberthugs dominating all public discourse made sure “Gary Church” was excommunicated and any mention of him or any new appearance by him under a pseudonym invariably provokes a vicious response.

                      Jester you are not fooling anybody. People who visit these forums know exactly what you and your gang have been doing for years.

              • James

                Conway Costigan
                December 11, 2015 at 10:39 am

                “Way too much screaming cheap going on over the last 10 years. There is no cheap. We generally get what we pay for- the recent lesson concerning this being 100+ launches by ULA and 18 and kaboom by SpaceX.”

                “‘We’ (if you are including me) do not necessarily “want” space tourism. No more billionaut space clowns thank you.”

                If we want permanent, thriving, and rapidly growing communities on the Moon and elsewhere in space, then those communities will have tourists because touring is simply one of the many educational things curious humans do.

                A long time ago, some of the upper-class European young men used to do a ‘Grand Tour of Europe’ as an interesting and useful part their elite education. Today millions of common folks from everywhere on the planet Earth do European Tours.

                Or as ‘Grand Tour’ in Wikipedia puts it, “The custom flourished from about 1660 until the advent of large-scale rail transport in the 1840s, and was associated with a standard itinerary. It served as an educational rite of passage.” And, “After the arrival of steam-powered transportation, around 1825, the Grand Tour custom continued, but it was of a qualitative difference — cheaper to undertake, safer, easier, open to anyone.”

                Obviously, we don’t yet have the evolutionary spaceship technology equivalent of “steam-powered transportation” of the 1840s and thus it is difficult for us to imagine the future.

                If the space based solar power beaming infrastructure is in place, the risks and transportation costs to LEO could drop to the point that initially folks with the spirit of adventure and tens of millions of dollars will be able to do a ‘Space Grand Tour of LEO, Geostationary orbit, and the Moon’.

                And if such a trip could be made safe and cheap enough to be considered a wise and useful educational practice, we could see almost millionaires, graduate students, business folks, political leaders, and elite members of the world’s military making such ‘Space Grand Tours’ and even repeated trips to the Moon.

                Eventually, as our space engineering, beaming, and transportation infrastructure evolves and becomes very sophisticated, Mars, and Ceres could be included on the ‘Space Grand Tour’ and going to the Moon wouldn’t be a ‘big deal’ for even common folks like myself.

                And for those who are still very confused ‘Mars soon’ spouting space cadets, developing cislunar infrastructure is the high priority of both the international space game and the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111–267).

                “‘The Chinese have said repeatedly that they are not going to go into space, land on the moon, look around, say, Been there, done that,’ and consider themselves done,’ says Johnson-Freese. ‘They’re going to do stepping-stone infrastructure, and in those terms their space station makes sense.'” From: ‘China: The Next Space Superpower’ By Eliza Strickland 31 Dec 2013 http://spectrum.ieee.org Note: Joan Johnson-Freese is a notable professor at the U.S. Naval War College and has testified before Congress on several occasions.

                In strictly energy consumed terms, we probably already have thousands, or maybe even millions, of folks every year using the energy equivalent of what is required for a Lunar trip. Fortunately, our current space transportation inefficiencies and relatively primitive engineering capabilities won’t last forever.

                Technology evolves. I’m old enough to remember how the introduction of jet airliners made flights to Europe, Asia, and around the world a comfortable and commonly available opportunity for nearly everyone.

                I started to fly on jet airliners in the early 1970s and such cheap long distance travel has challenged, changed, and shaped my perspectives about my fellow humans and the planet we live on.

                If you view SpaceX’s Falcon-9 Full Power Reusable, Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard launch vehicle, and various other launchers, including the very useful Space Shuttle, Ariane 6, Angara 5, H3, Long March 5, Atlas V, Delta IV Heavy, and SLS, as being somewhat similar to the risky early airplanes of the 1900s, 1910s, and 1920s, then the design for the spacecraft equivalent to the first reliable jet powered airliner is maybe not yet even a dream in some space engineer’s mind.

                I hope someone will write an article about the various options, costs, risks, and pros and cons concerning making an evolved SLS core to have a reusable option. The article might also include various options and costs of reusable first stage options for evolved Atlas V, Ariane 6, and H3 launchers.

                See: NASA’s May 2015 report ‘Payload Performance Analysis for a Reusable Two-Stage-to-Orbit Vehicle’ by Paul V. Tartabini, James R. Beaty, Roger A. Lepsch, and Michael G. Gilbert

                Since the above research article notes a LEO payload mass decrease of 50% for an equivalent fully reusable two stage launcher, I’m not sure how the refurbishment, second launch costs, and risk issues will play out in the real world of launch date sensitive, costly to build, and sometimes unique payloads.

                Reusable rockets aren’t always a cost reduction guarantee in the real world as has been demonstrated for thirty years by the Space Shuttle’s SRBs.

                Yet reusable SRBs and RS-25 rocket engines may have had a big impact on improving our understanding of potential problems with such powerful propulsion systems and thus be an important factor in reducing risks for future spaceflights.

                • Conway Costigan

                  “-the design for the spacecraft equivalent to the first reliable jet powered airliner is maybe not yet even a dream in some space engineer’s mind.”

                  In my view after surveys of available and likely technologies the most probable, actually the only probable, “airliner to space” on the horizon will use a beam propulsion system:

                  http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/02/escape-dynamics-and-microwave-power.html

                  • James

                    Thanks for the reference and reading it led to: ‘Rocket scientist aims to relaunch propulsion technology’ October 20, 2010 http://www.cnet.com/news/rocket-scientist-aims-to-relaunch-propulsion-technology/ and the quotes,

                    “‘What we propose,’ said Tseliakhovich, who is the founder of Escape Dynamics, a start-up devoted to solving the problem, ‘is, let’s get rid of producing energy on board the launch vehicle and delivery energy by way of microwave beams.'”

                    And, “Peter Diamandis, the chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation and co-vice chairman of Space Adventures. ‘There’s been no leap from the propeller to the jet, as we had in aviation. I had read about beamed power, and as I looked at it…what became evident to me was that the technology to implement it was here today. Nothing magical needed to be created.'”

                    From Wikipedia ‘Escape Dynamics’ we read, “In the summer 2015, the company demonstrated operation of a prototype thruster with specific impulse above 500 seconds [7] using helium propellant. The demonstration showed an end-to-end sequence of operation of an externally-powered propulsion system.”

                    This will make me smile all week. I’ve been waiting for something like this to be demonstrated for around 40 years. Christmas came a little early this year!

                    Thank you Conway Costigan and have a great week!

                  • Arth

                    “actually the only probable, “airliner to space” on the horizon will use a beam propulsion system:”

                    The SKYLON project shows great promise.
                    http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/space_skylon.html

                    • Tracy the Troll

                      Arth,
                      I have followed the news on the skylon for a few years …My question is while they say a test vehicle is 2025 time frame ..Does anyone think we will see this before 2035?

                    • Arth

                      Tracy the Troll

                      That question would probably best be answered by Jim Hillhouse or one of Americaspace’s editors.

                    • James

                      Arth –

                      “The SKYLON project shows great promise.”

                      Yep, and there’s lots of progress being made in many of space’s other technological areas, too. And that is wonderful!

                      Thank you Arth for your “21 years of military service”. I do appreciate your service for America.

                      Speaking of doing service for America, note the quote from Eric Berger’s December 15, 2015 article ‘Why we’re going back to the Moon—with or without NASA’, “During the meeting, Garver polled the nearly 50 astronauts about their preferred destination. Who wanted to go to an asteroid, she asked. No hands. Mars? Three hands. The Moon? All the rest.”
                      http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/12/why-were-going-back-to-the-moon-with-or-without-nasa/

      • Conway Costigan

        “-more power to Mr. Musk’s company.”

        Mr. Musk ain’t got no power- he is a carnival sideshow. The power switch was flipped off in 1972.

        https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/16/S-IC_engines_and_Von_Braun.jpg

        • Arth

          “Mr. Musk ain’t got no power- he is a carnival sideshow”

          He is also a successful businessman. Same as Mr. Bezos, Bill Boeing, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and countless others.

          • Conway Costigan

            He is a hobbyist and his deluded groupies think he will provide them a space station vacation. The worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration.

  • Tracy the Troll

    Hope they get to try and land the first stage…Even if they fail the explosion is great publicity!!!

    • Joe

      “Even if they fail the explosion is great publicity!!!”

      Contrary to the old cliché, not all publicity is good publicity.

    • Arth

      “Even if they fail the explosion is great publicity!!!”

      It would be the biggest fireworks of the holiday season.

  • […] SpaceX: A Falcon-9 carrying 11 Orbcomm satellites is poised to return to flight as early as Dec. 19, following six months of down time from an accident caused by a structural failure in the vehicle’s second stage this summer (AmericaSpace Dec. 10). […]

  • […] As outlined in a previous AmericaSpace article, this mission marks the maiden voyage of the “Full Thrust” (FT) variant of the rocket, also known as the “Upgraded Falcon 9”, whose nine Merlin 1D+ first-stage engines are expected to deliver a 33-percent performance gain over their predecessors. This will be achieved by running the engines at 100-percent rated thrust, as opposed to the approximately 80-percent thrust previously used, together with structural enhancements—such as increased tank volumes, a lengthened second stage and an improved “Octaweb” support structure for the first-stage powerplants—and the “densification” of the liquid oxygen load (which SpaceX CEO Elon Musk described as “deep cryo oxygen”) to meet an extra 13 percent of performance. […]