SpaceX Ready for Ambitious Year of Construction at Texas Launch Site, USAF Certifies Upgraded Falcon-9

Artist's rendering of SpaceX's commercial launch complex in south Texas. Image Credit: SpaceX

Artist’s rendering of SpaceX’s commercial launch complex in south Texas. Image Credit: SpaceX

Sixteen months after ground was initially broken at Boca Chica—located about 20 miles (32 km) east of Brownsville, Texas, just northwest of the mouth of the Rio Grande—SpaceX is ready for an ambitious year of construction work at the place which will form its fourth active orbital launch facility, reportedly capable of 12 commercial missions per annum by 2025.

The Hawthorne, Calif.-based launch services provider already supports operations out of Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Space Launch Complex (SLC)-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. and expects to stage the maiden voyage of its mammoth Falcon Heavy vehicle from the newly-refurbished Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in the coming months. Present plans call for the Boca Chica site to be completed next year, with its first launch anticipated in 2018. At the same time, on Monday, 25 January, the Air Force updated its baseline configuration for the Falcon 9 to the new “Upgraded Falcon 9”, which made its first flight last month.

SpaceX OG-2 launch Dec. 21, 2015, Cape Canaveral, Fla. SpaceX hopes to start launching from their new Texas launch site in 2018. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

SpaceX OG-2 launch Dec. 21, 2015, Cape Canaveral, Fla. SpaceX hopes to start launching from their new Texas launch site in 2018. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

The site lies at the southernmost tip of Texas, within Cameron County, directly adjacent to the eastern end of Texas State Highway 4 and about 3 miles (5 km) north of the Mexican border. Over the course of the last four years, SpaceX has explored a number of options for a commercial launch site—described as “the commercial Cape Canaveral”—with an initial focus upon seven locations, including South Texas. A draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in April 2013, revealing “no impacts” which might cause them to deny SpaceX a permit for a launch site at Boca Chica. Public hearings on the statement were held throughout the summer and in July 2014 the FAA released its Record of Decision, noting that SpaceX’s proposed facility “would have no significant impact on the environment”. This enabled SpaceX to formally announce the selection of Boca Chica in August 2014 and will allow the company to apply for FAA licenses to launch its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters.

As previously outlined by AmericaSpace, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk attended the formal ground-breaking ceremony on 22 September 2014. He was joined by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela—who represents the 34th Congressional district, at Texas’ southernmost tip, which includes Brownsville—and it was revealed that the Boca Chica site would support up to 12 launches per annum by 2025. To build it, SpaceX received $2.3 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF), as well as $13 million from the Spaceport Trust Fund to the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp., with Musk explaining that his company would invest around $100 million over three to four years. Boca Chica is expected to produce 300 long-term jobs and, when operational, should pump $85 million of capital investment into the local economy. Gov. Perry described it as continuing “our nation’s proud legacy of scientific advancement” and building upon “our pioneering heritage, our tradition of thinking bigger, dreaming bolder and daring to do the impossible”.

All launches will follow an easterly trajectory over the Gulf of Mexico and—in accordance with FAA environmental impact requirements—would mostly occur between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. local time, with the possibility of one flight per year in the hours of darkness. When complete, the site will house a pair of Launch Control Center (LCC) buildings, two payload processing facilities and a hangar for Upgraded Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy hardware, together with radio frequency transmitters and receivers, power generators and diesel storage locations, an area for propellant storage and associated infrastructure, including roads, parking areas, fencing, security, lighting and other utilities.

However, at the time of the ground-breaking ceremony, it was recognized that the heavy construction work at Boca Chica would likely not commence until the fall of 2015, due to SpaceX’s ongoing commitment to refurbish Pad 39A at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The latter—whose place on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places owes from its pivotal role in the early U.S. human space program, when it served as the point of departure for all six Apollo lunar landing missions, the Skylab space station and 82 shuttle flights—was leased from NASA in April 2014 and is expected to be used by SpaceX to launch the first Falcon Heavy booster in the next few months, as well as Upgraded Falcon 9 vehicles with crewed Dragon spacecraft, beginning next year. It has already received a large Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) on its “crawlerway” and in recent weeks has supported tests of the Falcon 9 Transporter-Erector (TE), together with fluid, electrical systems and propellant-loading operations associated with the just-returned first stage of the inaugural Upgraded Falcon 9.

Artist's concept of SpaceX's Boca Chica commercial launch site in Brownsville, Texas. Image Credit: SpaceX

Artist’s concept of SpaceX’s Boca Chica commercial launch site in Brownsville, Texas. Image Credit: SpaceX

With the Pad 39A refurbishment campaign now largely complete, and the maiden voyage of the Falcon Heavy expected to originate from the historic complex as soon as April 2016, it can be expected that the focus of SpaceX’s developmental attention will now shift to Boca Chica. At the time of the initial ground-breaking, Mr. Musk anticipated starting “more significant activity” in the third quarter of 2015, with an initial launch planned for as soon as late 2016. It has been suggested that SpaceX will mainly fly commercial geostationary missions from the site, thereby reducing the congestion in its Cape Canaveral manifest. However, although it is obligated to fly its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) and Commercial Crew missions from the East Coast, he did not rule out the possibility of future commercial piloted spaceflights originating from South Texas.

Six months after the ground-breaking, in March 2015, it was reported that the design of the launch site was nearing completion, as were approximately 100 acres—around 0.18 square miles (0.46 square km)—of land purchases, together with the establishment and activation of a SpaceX construction office and the posting of jobs “for critical positions”. It is also understood that SpaceX was “actively engaged in monitoring biological and environmental impacts, as was noted would take place in the project’s environmental impact statement.” By October of last year, land acquisition by SpaceX at Boca Chica had reached about 140 acres, equivalent to 0.22 square miles (0.56 square km). The Brownsville Navigation District reportedly pitched an additional 50 acres for SpaceX’s wetland mitigation plan, which is expected to be transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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 recent article by Rio Grande Valley-based KRGV suggests that the tempo of construction will soon rise at Boca Chica. “Construction of SpaceX’s new launch site…is well underway,” it was noted in a report filed on 19 January. “There is not much out at SpaceX’s new launch site, just a few men and a bulldozer.” According to SpaceX spokesperson John Taylor, around 310,000 cubic yards (240,000 cubic meters) of Rio Grande Valley soil—“enough to cover a football field in 13 stories’-worth of dirt”—were expected to be trucked into the site between October 2015 and January 2016 to stabilize the ground, using a technique known as “soil surcharging”. Mr. Taylor explained last year that the new soil would be more suitable for supporting launch complex structures than native clay and sand. It is expected that Boca Chica will achieve completion in 2017, with a first launch a year later.

It is anticipated that the site may reach 12 launches per annum by 2025, including two flights each year by the gigantic Falcon Heavy—whose cluster of three Falcon 9 “cores” and a total of 27 Merlin 1D first-stage engines is expected to cement its credentials as the most powerful rocket in active operational service, anywhere in the world, surpassing United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Delta IV Heavy—and the remainder by Upgraded Falcon 9s and a variety of smaller reusable suborbital vehicles. “SpaceX’s launch site will soon become an invaluable economic driver for South Texas,” said Sen. Eddie Lucio of Texas’ 27th District. “With this site comes tens of millions of dollars in capital investment in our community, annually, and hundreds of well-paying jobs over the next decade. We’ve set up South Texas as a future leader in developing bleeding-edge space technology, which will influence future commerce for the whole planet.”

In addition to commercial launches to Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO), it remains possible that SpaceX may also delivery classified national security payloads from Boca Chica. In July 2014, AmericaSpace reported that the company had been officially certified by the Air Force as having completed three successful missions by the Falcon 9 v1.1, thus completing the first step towards securing full certification under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Program and clearance to bid for major national security contracts. Ten months later, in May 2015, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, Commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and Air Force Program Executive Officer for Space, announced that SpaceX had achieved full certification of its Falcon 9 v1.1 for national security missions. Certification came after more than two years of work, a $60 million investment by the Air Force and more than 125 certification criteria, 21 major subsystems reviews and 700 audits.

Finally, on 25 January 2016, Lt. Gen. Greaves formally updated the certified baseline configuration of the Falcon 9 to its current incarnation: the Upgraded Falcon 9. “The certification process provides a path for launch-service providers to demonstrate the capability to design, produce, qualify, and deliver a new launch system and provide the mission assurance support required to deliver NSS satellites to orbit,” Lt. Gen. Greaves said.  “This gives the Air Force confidence that the national security satellites will safely achieve the intended orbits with full mission capability.”

 

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148 comments to SpaceX Ready for Ambitious Year of Construction at Texas Launch Site, USAF Certifies Upgraded Falcon-9

  • Joe

    In the mean time Blue Origin has successfully re-flown the New Shepard.

    https://www.blueorigin.com/news/blog/launch-land-repeat

  • Red

    wtf does that have to do with it Joe

    • Joe

      Had not seen it reported here and thought someone might be interested.

      Obviously that would not include you.

      Since you are being so polite wtf do you care?

    • Brad

      Te rephrase Joe’s statement, New Shepard is very interesting, and Blue Origin is working toward a reusable orbital rocket (even more interesting), but they are at least half a decade behind where SpaceX is in terms of reuse in orbital launches that are truly relevant to reducing the cost of spaceflight by and order or two of magnitude.

      • Conway Costigan

        That is what the infomercial says. In reality they have not proven they can reduce the cost “by an order or two of magnitude.” The size of the falcon, especially it’s mediocre merlins, means it is not really very useful in terms of human spaceflight beyond Earth Orbit. While Bezos has claimed this vertical take-off and landing technology will “scale up”, landing back something like a Saturn V first stage does not seem practical at all.

        • Clio Marsden

          “landing back something like a Saturn V first stage does not seem practical at all.”

          Good thing what seems practical and what is practical are not always the same thing.

          • Conway Costigan

            It does not scale up- any boosters large enough lift a worthwhile payload BEO have to be recovered at sea. They figured that out long ago.

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

            • Clio Marsden

              Ah yes, the Von Braun photo that you often go to when an overly confident yet explanatorily vacuous conclusion is about to be drawn. What law of physics makes the prospect of propulsive landing of a booster on a much larger vehicle impossible? Lets say Saturn V lift or ~100K pounds to TLI (hope this counts as significant). Not asking whether you like it. Not asking whether it is economical. Not asking if it is a good idea. Only asking what physically precludes it?

              • Conway Costigan

                “-an overly confident yet explanatorily vacuous conclusion-”

                Land it back then.

              • Wrongway Corrigan

                This is all hogwash! The rocket equation proves that it is impossible to land a rocket any high school student knows that. Until these Ann Rand sycophantic new space mob wannabees agree to a UN one world government tax to fund a nuclear powered venture star covered in lunar ice we will never go into space again because space doesnt begin until you are outside the solar system.

                • Conway Costigan

                  Yet another toxic troll trying to bait me.

                  The rocket equation does make it extremely doubtful the fuel, landing gear, and heavier structure required for a reusable rocket is practical. The billionaire hobby projects to date have not proved the practicality of the concept.

                  The Ayn Rand in Space bizarro libertarians do not advocate a one world government or any government funding of space exploration. Even though their flagship company is the poster child for corporate welfare.

                  Nuclear propulsion is required to go anywhere with humans Beyond Earth and Lunar Orbit (BELO) but is not desirable in the magnetosphere, which is basically cislunar space. This makes the Moon the place to go to assemble, test, and launch any exploration missions. LEO is the worst place to do this.

                  Venture Star was a SSTO that, as most space enthusiasts know, did not work. Space really should be defined as beginning at GEO instead of the Karman Line. Everyone not pushing NewSpace pretty much agrees the Karman Line is not a good benchmark.

      • Joe

        Thanks for rephrasing my statement for me.

        I understand what I meant much better now.

        Are their other questions upon which you can educate me as to what I actually think?

        Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.

        Back in reality (if there is anyone interested in that), I meant exactly what I said:

        (1) Blue Origin has succeeded in reusing a stage after a sub-orbital flight.
        (2) SpaceX has not (and the Falcon 9 first stage is also sub-orbital).
        (3) The technological development is the issue.
        (4) Blue Origin’s accomplishment had not been reported here and I thought some might be interested.

        That the local SpaceX “fans” are not only uninterested but hostile to those facts being noted is (unfortunately) to be expected.

        • ChrisParrUK

          I’m genuinely excited about both SpaxeX and Blue Origin but I believe SpaceX are justified in thinking that comparisons between their achievements and those of New Shepherd are unfair.

          The physics of returning Falcon 9 first stage to land is phenomenally more complex than the natural up down of NS. Also the economics of building a successful payload delivery system first then developing its reusability is much more sustainable.

          Both systems are scalable and the bigger the booster the less the inverted pendulum effect gets and is also why Dragon2 needs 8 thrusters arranged in pairs around the edge of the capsule.

          Merlin1D engines are designed to work as a cluster giving greater redundancy so each one may seem mediocre but even 1 alone is too powerful to land an empty F9. It has to be throttled back. Larger boosters for the Mars Colonial Transport will have bigger engines. Scalability again.

          The technology didn’t exist in 1969 to land a Saturn V but modern computers are able to do it. It’s technological evolution. Solve the simplest problem first then move on. Eventually you’re solving problems the original engineers thought impossible.

          Finally the reason I love both SpaceX and Blue Origin is they do not accept that just because something has always been done one way it must be right. Rocketry capable of delivering payloads to and beyond earth orbit is less than 100 years old. We’re still at the very beginning of the evolutionary ladder but some have chosen to climb it faster.

          • Joe

            “The physics of returning Falcon 9 first stage to land is phenomenally more complex than the natural up down of NS.”

            Actually the landing parameters – terminal velocity etc.(which is where the comparisons are being made) are quite similar.

            “Also the economics of building a successful payload delivery system first then developing its reusability is much more sustainable.”

            That is an interesting assertion. Why do you believe it is superior to first develop an expendable launcher, then try to back drive reusability capabilities?

            “Merlin1D engines are designed to work as a cluster giving greater redundancy so each one may seem mediocre but even 1 alone is too powerful to land an empty F9. It has to be throttled back.”

            But it is not throttled back to any significant degree. When the Merlin was designed SpaceX intended to recover the first stage down range by parachute so the deep throttling capability was not considered needed. Consequently, the engine is burned long enough to dissipate the downward velocity then shut down; a tricky maneuver that SpaceX (so far) has accomplished once.

            “Larger boosters for the Mars Colonial Transport will have bigger engines. Scalability again.”

            The Mars Colonial Transport engines do not yet exist, but Blue Origin has already done test stand evaluations of the larger (LNG/LOX) BE-4 and is developing a flight engine as part of a joint project with ULA. As you say “Scalability again”.

            Blue Origin is doing all this on private money without having their internet supporters attack publically financed projects and without the cult of personality fanfare that is encouraged around Musk.

            • Ben

              SpaceX accomplished the suicide burn successfully twice. The video footage of the Jason-3 landing attempt clearly shows that the vehicle landed gently, on target, and upright. The a landing leg failure doesn’t necessarily mean then landing burn also failed.

            • Clio Marsden

              “But it is not throttled back to any significant degree. When the Merlin was designed SpaceX intended to recover the first stage down range by parachute so the deep throttling capability was not considered needed. Consequently, the engine is burned long enough to dissipate the downward velocity then shut down; a tricky maneuver that SpaceX (so far) has accomplished once.”

              You have asserted this before going back those previous threads but I think you may be over reading the situation, at list in principle. Parachute recovery was an early route, sort of low risk/probability of success, but high upside solution that was abandoned. I would imagine propulsive landing was in the cards as at least the possibility at some point in the development process. I mean they knew that if the stage took a salt-water bath it would make reusability very costly even if the stages were recovered completely every time. So you are leaning toward the idea they were completely blind to the path forward and took no steps to accommodate it from Merlin inception through multiple iterations. This is possible but there are other possible reasons to explain the current reality.

              If deep throttling impacts top end performance, reusability, manufacturability (cost) or any number of other metrics then it would make sense to not bother assuming you get it done with a hover-slam and not take the hit in these other categories. This is also plausible explanation.

              • Joe

                My statements on the parachute landing scenario and its impact on Merlin engine design was based on my understanding of Jim Hillhouse’s recounting of the history.

                Perhaps I misunderstood him.

                You would have to take that up with him.

                • Conway Costigan

                  Unmistakable. It’s a Coastal Ron sock puppet Joe. Nobody can robo-comment like him.

                  • Clio Marsden

                    Gary, this is how I really know you are full of it. Your confidence, that I am Ron, is high based on very little data. I know for a fact you are wrong about that, which suggests you’re wrong about other assertions for which you have very high confidence.

            • Conway Costigan

              “Blue Origin is doing all this on private money without having their internet supporters attack publically financed projects and without the cult of personality fanfare that is encouraged around Musk.”

              Unfortunately they are still promoting space clown tourism- in which Bezos was a participant. In this sense Blue Origin is just a lesser evil. The LEO tourist empire concept is a complete dead end and distracts the public from the real issue; Lunar Return.

              Landing back a lower stage cannot be scaled up to the size necessary to support a Beyond Earth Orbit Human Space Flight effort. The only candidate technology to fill that niche is the pressure-fed booster recovered in the same manner as the shuttle SRB’s.

              Pushing for such a booster in the 4 to 8 million pound thrust range to be developed and turning their efforts to lunar landers would be the only way NewSpace can change from being an obstacle to an enabler.

              • Joe

                Whatever you believe Blue Origin is doing, they are doing it on private money and without attacking other projects.

                Even if nothing were to come of their efforts (and – ay least – in terms of cis-lunar space applications I do not think that will be the case) there is no reason to berate them.

                If you do not like what they are doing, just ignore them.

                If you are correct that their work will prove useless, they will lose their investment and there is no reason for you to care.

                • Conway Costigan

                  I have to disagree with you Joe (respectfully). Space clown tourism does real harm to space exploration in several ways. There are many reasons for me to care and “berate” them and if I ignored the issue I would be like all the other space enthusiasts bullied into silence by NewSpace cyberthuggery.

                  • Joe

                    “I have to disagree with you Joe (respectfully). Space clown tourism does real harm to space exploration in several ways.”

                    Serious question:

                    (1) Blue Origin (unlike SpaceX) takes (and requests) no government money.

                    (2) Blue Origin (unlike SpaceX) does not participate in (or encourage internet surrogates to participate in) attacks on other projects (at this point SLS/Orion).

                    (3) The hardware that Blue Origin is attempting to develop would be extremely useful to cis-lunar space activities.

                    Even if they are unsuccessful at (3) how does their very existence do “real harm to space exploration”?

                    • Conway Costigan

                      Serious answer:

                      (1) Blue Origin is developing a methane engine for ULA so, much like SpaceX, they might not be visibly using “government money” but what is being agreed upon on the golf course is not for us to know. Somebody is paying for all of this- these billionaire hobbyists did not get to where they are by using their own money.

                      (2) Blue Origin is by definition NewSpace and if they are not as visibly supported by bizarrro Ayn-Rand-in-Space fanatics as SpaceX, they are still….NewSpace. They get all the benefits while playing innocent. NewSpace has always been about one thing- LEO tourism for the ultra-rich. And that is damage.

                      (3) The hardware Blue Origin is developing is designed for space clown tourism. The engines are not in the right thrust ranges to support lunar landers or Super Heavy Lift Vehicles. As I commented, if Musk and Bezos were to suddenly start building lunar landers and support SHLV projects I would be a brand new NewSpace fan.

                      The hover tricks allowed by COTS avionics are nothing special- I worked on similar systems on military helicopters for years. What these bored billionaire hobbyists are doing is playing a game and space exploration is going to be the inevitable loser. The public has come to believe the NewSpace infomercial and when it collapses like a house of cards- as it must- then space exploration will be in the same dead end it has been in since the end of Apollo.

                      The public will be far less willing to spend tax dollars on public works projects in space after such a debacle. After all, if genius minds like Bezos and Musk cannot make it all happen then certainly it must be impossible.

                    • Joe

                      Thank you for the clarification of your position.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      You are very welcome Sir.

                    • Tim Andrews

                      Joe,

                      “(1) Blue Origin (unlike SpaceX) takes (and requests) no government money.”

                      The direct funding and NASA funded consulting Blue Origin received under Commercial Crew, while minuscule compared to what SpaceX and others have received, seems to contradict this point, as did their bid for NASA to fund their biconic crewed orbital vehicle under the same program. They not only received funds, but asked for more that they didn’t get.

                      Please keep in mind I share your positive opinion of Blue Origin, and find it very refreshing that their financial driving force is not government based.

                      Gary,

                      ” if Musk and Bezos were to suddenly start building lunar landers and support SHLV projects I would be a brand new NewSpace fan.”

                      It’s several months away, but when it comes you may find the news coming out of this event to be interesting.
                      http://www.iac2016.org/

                    • Joe

                      “The direct funding and NASA funded consulting Blue Origin received under Commercial Crew, while minuscule compared to what SpaceX and others have received, seems to contradict this point, as did their bid for NASA to fund their biconic crewed orbital vehicle under the same program.”

                      Hi Tim,

                      I think we had this this discussion a long time ago. I believe it was Ben Evans who had earlier reported that Blue Origin had been talked into their brief Commercial Crew participation by Bolden and then dropped out (for whatever reason) of their own volition.

                      In any case the amount of money they received amounted to well less than 1% of what SpaceX has already received. I said something at the time like – “from now on for every 100 times I criticize SpaceX I will stop to criticize Blue Origin.”

                      Granted that may be a bit snarky, but it is also fair and accurate. Since even I have not reached my 100 threshold yet, I did not stop to restate the (as you yourself called it) “minuscule” point. If that caused you a problem, I apologize.

                      “Gary,

                      ” if Musk and Bezos were to suddenly start building lunar landers and support SHLV projects I would be a brand new NewSpace fan.”

                      It’s several months away, but when it comes you may find the news coming out of this event to be interesting.”

                      That would indeed be interesting (at least to me), but if any information is available in the link it is well hidden. Since Musk appears still fixated on Mars (he just recently stated that he expects SpaceX to land the first humans on Mars by 2025), I assume the new lunar activities would have to come from Blue Origin.

                      Care to elaborate.

                    • Tim Andrews

                      No need to apologize, I was just picking nits on an absolute declaration of something that was only nearly absolute. Either way the big-picture you were going for was right on.

                      “Care to elaborate.”

                      Musk has mentioned that event as where they want to unveil their Mars transportation architecture, which is expected to include a super heavy launch vehicle.

                    • Joe

                      “Musk has mentioned that event as where they want to unveil their Mars transportation architecture, which is expected to include a super heavy launch vehicle.”

                      Ah yes the famous BFR, able (at least at the last version with which I am familiar)to put 100 metric tons onto the Martian surface in a single launch. In addition it is to be reusable and be capable of a flight rate of (what else) 100’s (if not 1,000’s) of flights per year.

                      John Hare made an apt (and accurate) note that would indicate a vehicle large enough to place the equivalent of a fully fueled Saturn V into LEO on each launch.

                      Add that to Musk’s recent assertion that SpaceX would put the first humans on Mars in 2025 and that is very interesting.

                      It’s credibility is (at best) questionable, but it is interesting.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      “Musk’s recent assertion that SpaceX would put the first humans on Mars in 2025-”

                      I just don’t understand how people can fall for this nutty fantasy. Of course, that is similar to what Senator William Proxmire said about Gerard K. O’Neill’s plans for space colonies back in 1977.

                      Except… everything O’Neill proposed made so much sense there is still no arguing with it 40 years later.

                      Everything Musk has proposed makes little or no sense at all.

                    • Joe

                      The technical basics of O’Neill’s proposals were sound (especially his later bootstrapping work), but (sadly) his earlier work time scales were overly optimistic.

                      But O’Neill’s optimism pales compared to Musk’s “optimism”. The reason being that O’Neill was sincere in what he was doing.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      “-his earlier work time scales were overly optimistic.”

                      Much of his work was predicated on a national effort that diverted a major percentage of the defense budget into the space program. The logic behind this being that if energy actually became “too cheap to meter” then poverty as the underlying cause of conflicts on planet Earth would be eliminated and that military spending would not be needed.

                      He was not a rocket scientist and in my view did not understand the scale of launch vehicle required- a critical problem that continues to this very day. When I say the Saturn V was of very limited capability I am stating it literally and not as some stylistic device. Extremely large vehicles several times the lift of even the evolved SLS are the basic prerequisite for the timely building of any cislunar infrastructure. There is no cheap. Until this becomes accepted we are not going anywhere.

                      And because NewSpace is the antithesis of O’Neill’s massive public works project it has become the very worst possible thing that could have happened to space exploration.

                    • Tim Andrews

                      Looks like Blue Origin is going to get stuck with more government money that they aren’t asking for. Florida’s kicking in 26 million to help with their launchpad and factory.

                    • Joe

                      More Spaceport Florida (or whatever)?

                      Got a link?

                    • Tim Andrews

                      Yep, Space Florida, the Florida government agency tasked with promoting space industry.

                      16.4M is in 1:1 matching funds and 10 in unmatched, all towards facilities on the cape.

                      http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/01/29/space-florida-approvesfunding-deals-blue-origin-moon-express-casis/

                    • Joe

                      State money from “Chamber of Commerce” types hoping that there will be new business to their areas based on these “investments”.

                      Maybe it will work, maybe it will not.

                      I am not a Florida taxpayer so it is not my problem.

                      Texas (where I am a resident) has also put up money to support a SpaceX “launch center” at Brownsville. So far (after 10 months) there has been no ROI (other than irritating residents of a small town that may – at some future point – be inconvenienced if SpaceX actually ever does anything there).

                      Really not the same thing as the federal hardware development money we were discussing.

          • Ben

            Saying landing a Falcon 9 1st stage is phenomenally more complex is a bit of an exaggeration. As Joe said, the terminal phase is very similar with a number of caveats:
            -The F9 1st stage has a higher fuel fraction and thus it’s engines are overpowered (even only one is used). BUT the BE-3 engine can throttle down to 23% instead of 55% like the M1D-FT (the M1D may only throttle down to 70%, references are iffy)
            If the M1D could throttle below ~34% it wouldn’t need to do a suicide burn either.(~56320lb empty weight/165000lbs max thrust = ~34% throttle required)

            -The F9 1st stage is much bigger. But, as you point out this supposedly makes things easier for the falcon 9.

            -the F9 1st stage performs Boost back and a re-entry burns before the landing burn.
            Figuring out supersonic retro-propulsion is a significant achievement, but doesn’t directly affect the difficultly of the landing burn.

            • Tracy the Troll

              Ben and Joe,
              I always thought the NS was a limited architecture for the sub orbital tourist market and minor science missions but would require a completely new architecture for LEO and beyond. Do you believe the NS from BO is a scalable design that will provide mass to LEO without major breakthroughs by BO?

              • Joe

                Good questions.

                I have no inside information whatsoever, but as I understand their near term plans; Blue Origin expects to field a reusable first stage powered by the bigger BE-4 (LNG/LOX) engine and the second stage using the BE-3 (Hydrogen/LOX) engine also used by the New Shepard.

                That new second stage would not be reusable in the sense of returning it to Earth, but could be refueled in LEO for use as a BEO tug.

                If Ben or anyone else has more detailed information it would be interesting to hear.

                • Conway Costigan

                  The problem with a “BEO tug” is of course transferring liquid hydrogen. The fuel cells in the Apollo service module were recently used as an example to argue against my assertion that such refueling is a mess best avoided. Considering the service module carried a whopping 50 pounds of liquid hydrogen and sent it to fuel cells a few feet away in tiny quantities this was not convincing.

                  The best propellant for any cislunar spacecraft is methane because using the ULA-type piston engine system it is far more easy to maintain than hydrogen. A robot lander that is meticulously refueled and pre-flighted on the Moon can take off carrying a methane-hydrogen booster that can then dock with cislunar vehicles and act as a “tug.” The piston system can re-liquify boil-off very efficiently for weeks or possibly even months. The lander can exchange these boosters and carry the spent ones back to the Moon to be “turned around” for the next mission.

                  Considering the energy required to travel from the Moon to GEO, this would be the best plan and avoid most the problems associated with other schemes using hydrogen. While there is absolutely no substitute for the high Isp of hydrogen in the upper stages of an Earth launch vehicle, this is not as true concerning cislunar in-space applications.

                  • Joe

                    I was answering a question as to what I think (and it is all based on available public information) Blue Origin was planning.

                    Blue Origin apparently believes the BE-3 can be refueled on orbit and ULA is at least considering it as an option if they select the BE-3 as the upper stage engine for their Vulcan rocket. I was neither endorsing nor attacking the concept (though I am more optimistic about it than you) just passing on information.

                    If you are sold on methane (rather than Hydrogen) as propellant for refueling it should be noted that the BE-4 is an LNG (Methane)/LOX engine.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      They might get away with topping off a stage with LOX but hydrogen….I do not think it is going to work. By having a much larger hydrogen load and thus having some left when the LOX is exhausted they can then extend the mission with another burn by transferring LOX. It is dense and fairly low temperature for a cryogen and may be doable. I did not say methane could be transferred- only that it is easy to maintain in a tank. Transferring cryogens is a mess and has never been done in space for good reasons. As I noted, simply sending boosters to dock with whatever vehicle needs to move is a much simpler plan. Why refuel? It became popular as a way to get rid of that evil Super Heavy Lift Vehicle and promote hobby rockets. Now we seem to be stuck with it even though it does not make alot of sense.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      Sorry, I meant to say LOx was fairly high temperature- compared to hydrogen.

                    • Joe

                      That’s OK.

                      Like I said everyone has a right to their own opinions.

                      Just be aware that a lot of good and experienced engineers at both Blue Origin and ULA seem to disagree.

                      Time will tell how it works out.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      In my view ULA is saying alot of things as marketing strategy; “promising” things that seem NewSpacey.

                      I don’t believe very much of it is for real. The last press release by Bruno I read was definitely imitating the blathering of Musk and Bezos. He is in the business of launching satellites- mostly GEO and mostly military satellites- and all his space cadet talk seemed contrived.

                    • Joe

                      Once again (and for the final time in this discussion).

                      Everyone has a right to their own opinion.

                      If you believe the folks at Blue Origin and ULA to be:
                      (1) Incompetent.
                      (2) Dishonest.
                      (3) Both of the above.

                      That is your opinion and you have a right to it.

                      My participation in this particular line of discussion is completed.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      Okay. Bye-bye Joe.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      “-methane-hydrogen booster that can then dock with cislunar vehicles and act as a “tug.”

                      Sorry for yet another typo- I meant Methane-oxygen booster. I do not mean to come across as advocating for methane-oxygen only. Hydrogen is the highest Isp but is a problem to store and transfer; a much much larger problem than laymen realize. Methane is much less difficult and can probably be easily manufactured on the Moon using volatiles trapped in lunar ice as catalysts. Hypergolics are simple but are of course super toxic and corrosive and this makes their use in reusable systems difficult- as the shuttle proved. So a Methane oxygen system with a piston engine to re-liquify boil-off and provide low thrust seems to be the best solution for many applications. This will not remove hydrogen as the propellant of choice for Earth launched upper stages or for certain other future types of vehicle (such as beam-propelled).

          • Conway Costigan

            “-delivering payloads to and beyond earth orbit is less than 100 years old.”

            As with most comparisons concerning space this is inherently flawed. Thermodynamics and the rocket equation are set in stone and the only “evolution” is in materials science. There are forms of wishalloy that will improve the mass fraction situation but even if engines and structure become fantastically lightweight there is still the rocket equation and the payload. Only so much energy can be extracted from propellants. Much like steam and diesel engines used in ships, rockets are not going to see much improvement. The parachute and ocean recovery is not going to go away as the very best method of recovering boosters. Landing back is a gimmick and the worst way to go.

            Scale is the only practical way to improve lift and the Super Heavy Lift Vehicles with hydrogen upper stages to accomplish this have been demonized by NewSpace propaganda for years. Promoting hobby rockets has done serious damage to the public perception of what it takes to travel through space and it is now set in stone that space must be cheap. There is no cheap.

    • mlc449

      BO fanboys always feel like butting in to SpaceX articles. Maybe it’s a tacic admeissiy by them that no one cares for their puny sub-orbital (lol) flights.

      • john hare

        Or it could be that newspace proponents recognize that there’s not just one way to get there and that multiple approaches are good. BTW, how many other organizations have managed those puny suborbital flights? Especially multiple times by a single vehicle? Cheering for one entity is not an attack on another.

        • Joe

          “Cheering for one entity is not an attack on another.”

          It should not be, but as mlc449 went out of their way to prove; to SpaceX fanboys it is.

          • Conway Costigan

            Anything that gives more column inches exposing NewSpace sycophant trolls is fine by me.

  • john hare

    IMO the Blue Origin vs SpaceX competition is closer than some people think. The question is BO scale up vs SpaceX rapid reuse of booster. It is very possible that they will be offering a similar service within a very few years.

    It has already been pointed out in other forums that New Shepard could serve as a rapid reuse booster for nanosats as is after testing completes. An expendable upper could place 100-300 pounds in LEO after a pop up boost by new Shepard for a fairly low price IF a market exists for such. Jeff has mentioned that a much larger orbital vehicle has been in development for three years. New Shepard could be the trainer and bug finder for a very effective LV that doesn’t owe its’ existence to NASA or other government funding. As a newspace proponent, I find that very attractive.

    I see it as two somewhat similar approaches to a similar problem. Without inside information it is not clear which will be first and second to become an economical provider to LEO. What is clear is that, if either or both succeed in providing a much more economical ride to LEO, much of the competing industry will have to scramble to keep up or get out. It will also make feasible projects that are not affordable at this time.

    • Joe

      I will throw in one other possibility.

      Both the Blue Origin BE-3 (Hydrogen/LOX) and BE-4 (LNG [Methane]/LOX} Engines are compatible with the resources now known to exist at the Lunar Poles.

      Even if re-usable Earth Surface to LEO transports turn out to not be practical, the engines and their derivatives may prove useful in implementing a reusable cis-lunar space transportation system centered around the moon.

      • Tracy the Troll

        Joe,
        Have you heard of a time frame for BO to start taking passengers up in the NS suborbital flight excursion? Do you think it will be this year? Any idea of the cost?

        • Joe

          Do not know anything about price/ticket.

          Based on public statements they intend to fly the New Shepard “several dozen times” before committing to launching passengers.

          They intend a very aggressive flight schedule however, so (if they are successful)probably first passenger flights in a couple of years.

      • Conway Costigan

        “-the resources now known to exist at the Lunar Poles.”

        The resource not yet confirmed- immense lava tubes- are what will allow factories on the Moon. And while we have had rovers wandering around Mars for years, we have nothing at all mapping lunar resources. This shows just how badly NASA priorities have been skewed by popular opinion and poor decision making. The solution has always been to educate the public on the realities of space exploration but again, NASA is afraid of losing funding if they do that, so they end up promoting dead ends like LEO and Mars.

    • Ben

      Arguably the SpaceX Falcon 9 is already an economical provider to LEO. It’s already one of the cheapest options. If they can reuse the 1st stage perhaps they will get even cheaper (or have larger profit margins). Time will tell.

      We’ll have to wait until the Falcon Heavy finally launches before they can compete with Atlas/Centaur for deep space missions. (the greater lift capacity should offset the greater efficiency of the Centaur’s RL10s)

      • Conway Costigan

        “It’s already one of the cheapest options.”

        So they say. Actually a significant percentage of the cost to launch these rockets is money or NASA services provided by the taxpayer for ISS support. In other words, it’s a scam.

        • Ben

          Out of curiosity, what taxpayer money do they get that covers launch costs for non-NASA/Air Force missions? (since NASA and the Air Force are taxpayer funded, obviously these launches are taxpayer funded…)

          I know they have gotten development contracts from NASA and the Air Force, but am not aware of any launch cost subsidies for commercial launches.

          • Conway Costigan

            NASA provides a huge amount of support gratis, and the company was built almost from the ground up with money provided for “a cheap astronaut taxi.” Now it is launching commercial satellites for profit. Your tax dollars at work.

  • John hare

    Makes sense to me.

  • Vladislaw

    I am more of a fan boy of commercial space in general. If the press wants to call this a competition. GREAT! Anything that gives more column inches for commercial space is fine by me. Anything that gives more column inches for domestic commercial passengers services is fine by me. Anything that gives more column inches for reusablity is fine by me.

    I am for the paradigm shift that the size of a person’s checkbook should be influencing if they can actually get into space. The same determiner for who gets to utilize every single form of transportation humans have come up with. I want to see the market determine a little bit of what innovations get incorporated and how fast not a congressional committee and lobbying.

    So, for me, there is nothing to fight about here, the more competitors that better. The more different routes tried, the better. That Eureka moment, or netscape moment if you will, comes with the more brains we have dreaming, thinking, studying, tinkering, building, developing about space.

  • Conway Costigan

    I am more of a fan of OldSpace instead of NewSpace. The popular culture media had done a terrible job of covering space exploration. BAD! After years of hype and misleading information the NewSpace mob has contaminated almost all public discourse. This monumental flim-flam has gotten to the point where the NewSpace infomercial is now accepted as fact.

    I am for the paradigm shift away from the “entrepreneurship” that is promising a multi-planet species but delivering very little. The “market” as the path to space is a dead end. LEO is a dead end. Mars is a dead end. Everything NewSpace is promising, from propellant depot miracles to reusable rockets, is a dead end.

    So, for me, commenting on these forums has been one bad experience after another, year after year. Exposing the truth about the NewSpace scam just gets me banned- over and over again. No criticism of NewSpace, Elon Musk, or SpaceX is tolerated by their legion of cyberthugs on any of these public forums. The toxic trolling by these sycophants is never-ending.

    The sad truth is that NewSpace is the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration and has set it back a decade- and the damage is accumulating. These hobby rocket games of bored billionaires have had a worse effect than both shuttle disasters. The public has been bamboozled by false information and nobody can speak truth to power without being shut down by the disgusting insults of Ayn-Rand-in-Space fanatics.

    • Clio Marsden

      Gary, do you use cut and paste or do you retype this every time?

    • Ivan

      Gary,

      talk is cheap. Go setup your own company and get it done right! If your vision is good, people will get behind your idea and you will get the money. Stop wasting time here.

      Make a book, argue your vision, push it out there. Nobody will kill it.

      Dont blame others.

      But dont expect others to agree with your vision as well, cause I for one, see no-vision-at-all (ofcourse you can argue that I am nobody and you can be right as well!)

      Have in mind, there is LOTS of space programs out there, not just NASA – so from your perspective, NOBODY is doin it right, not china, not russia, not india etc, nobody.

      Everyone is fool and idiot.

      Except you. If only you would have billions, we would already be on the Moon and doin other space things that makes sense from your perspective.

      • Conway Costigan

        Whatever you say “Ivan.” Talk is cheap. The “go do it yourself” troll is just more of the same old NewSpace B.S.

    • Ben

      You say reusable rockets are a dead end.

      There are a number of air-launched rockets. For smaller rockets it certainly seems viable and without a doubt the aircraft(1st stage) is reusable.

      The Falcon 9 1st stage has successfully landed once (it is reasonable to assume they will continue getting better at it) Time will tell how economical reuse will be.

      The space shuttle had “reusable” components. Although it was expensive overall.

      So while it’s reasonable to say that reusable rockets are not currently “reducing the cost of access to space”

      It’s a bit disingenuous to say reusable rockets are a dead end.
      Even if only some of the rockets are reused, it may be able to provide a benefit.

      • Conway Costigan

        The NewSpace concept of “reusability” is essentially the commercial airline model. That is a dead and accusing me of being disingenuous when some of the NewSpace fan comments are over-the-top infomercial trash is…..disingenuous.

        • Ben

          Simply because others comments are poor/misinformed is no excuse for yours to be as well.

          I agree that a large portion of NewSpace fan comments are just over-enthusiastic fans parroting how things “WILL WORK” with apparently no understanding of how difficult or complex these things really are.

          I do try to correct these comments as well.

          But, nevertheless you are correct that my bias results in me being much more likely to respond to comments that are Anti-NewSpace as opposed to Pro-NewSpace. However, I don’t troll.

  • Conway Costigan

    What is really going to become glaringly apparent as the SLS gets closer and closer to flying is just how limited the “go cheap” NewSpace concept is. A complete dead end.

    The Saturn V was barely able to land two people on the Moon and only by resorting to Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR). The next iteration of Moon rocket would have necessarily been much larger and probably surpassed the Nova Moon rocket. In this respect the SLS is far too small to establish a cislunar infrastructure. More powerful iterations will be necessary and any plans for such vehicles have yet to be revealed. The requirements for human expansion into space are not going to change and this is why NewSpace is so incredibly damaging- there is no cheap and the more the public expects it the greater the disappointment will be when it does not happen.

    And Joe the space plumber leaving on this annual space station vacation is an impossible fantasy. Even more absurd is the notion of colonizing Mars. The game these billionaire hobbyists are playing can only end one way- a harsh wake-up call that space travel is not a hobby.

    • Neil

      Nice to see that the USAF and SpaceX have overcome their issues and moved on to a enable certification of the F9FT in a timely manner. There were quite considerable changes to the vehicle from the previous version so this certification bodes well for not just future SpaceX vehicles such as F9 and FH but hopefully for other launch providers such as the ULA/BO Vulcan and perhaps BO, etc.
      The progress on the pad is also welcome and speaks highly of SpaceX’s commitment to their program.
      It’s a great time to be following space with the newer companies shaking the tree and watching more established companies both in the U.S. and overseas responding.
      It would also be rather nice if there was less bickering and more comment related to the article and would save readers a lot of wasted time checking through the comments’ posts for relevant comments.
      Cheers

      • Conway Costigan

        Relevant comments being…what? SpaceX related? The problem is that NewSpace fantatics love to mix it all up and call anything related to their billionaut hobbyist heroes “space exploration.” Some of us consider Human Space Flight to be in a separate class from satellites. And still others consider LEO to be a dead end and true Space Flight taking place Beyond Earth Orbit. So…in terms of HSF-BEO what is “relevant” to you is nothing but hype and distraction to others. The “bickering” as you call it is actually NewSpace trolls attacking anyone daring to suggest anything could possibly be “relevant” except their flagship company and private space god.

        Cheers.

        • Ivan

          Gary,

          is ANYONE on this planet, right now, doing anything good space-program wise, or everyone suck?

          If your replay is NO, can you please name anything that is GOOD in any space program, cause you only focusing on the negative, and I did not seen anything positive what so ever.

          • Conway Costigan

            “-please name anything that is GOOD-”

            5 segment SRB at 3.6 million pounds of thrust each at seal level (Isp 242 seconds).

            RS-68A at 800,000 pounds of thrust in a vacuum (Isp 414 seconds).

            RS-25 at 512,300 pounds of thrust in a vacuum (Isp 452.3 seconds).

            • Ivan

              Gary,

              ok, you are fan of this rocket engines!

              Great!

              So lets say if Blue Origin or SpaceX would use this engines – would that make you happy? Since you listed only rockets engines, seems only thing that needs to be changed is rocket engine and ta-da! All is good!

              Just to make it clear, whenever I read your posts, you sounds like very grumpy person who shit on everyone and everything.

              You dont have to agree with everyone and everything, but I dont see how what is Blue Origin is doinh is not cool and great already!

              You keep saying billioners games and what not, but thats how world works. It was always like that. Back in old days, Europ sea ships, did not go to China for “cool” factor, it was always need to make money and profit, everything else was side effect. I dont see how would space thing would be any different.

              I would like some cool vision where 100+ countries would put shit alot fo money on the table and say “Lets go to space in way GARY would become happy!” but thats not how things works. Thats not how Humans works.

              You are upset and mad all the time, cause Humans are doing what they been doing for last 2000+ years (and more). They are selfish, focused on making as much as possible for as less is possible, money and profit first, everything is second. (It’s sad but true).

              And after all that, we get a person like Elon Musk, who actualwill said many times, that making money with SPACEX is not not a goal, but side effect, cause he dont know any other way to get people to Mars (cause nobody want to give money really, so he have to make money + tech as he go). You should be happy that someone is trying and have balls to invest everything in to VS not doing anything at all.

              I dont know how old are you (witch is not important anyway) but you should be wise enough to know, your way is not THE ONLY way or not even best way, and same goes for everyone else doing the same thing.

              I want us to get to space as HUMAN race, now, if we use GARY engine, or some Thomas engine, or Elon rocket engine, red paint, or blue, or this space port or that, who the fuc* cares?

              Results are only thing that we should use to messure success.

              • Conway Costigan

                “-you should be wise enough to know, your way is not THE ONLY way-”

                You just showed everyone the NewSpace way. Thanks “Ivan.”

                • Ivan

                  Gary,

                  you should be more open to new things. Not just in rockets.

                  I have 40+ people working in my company (I know, crazy!) and a lot of them are younger then me. So imagine me on meeting when we do projects “Hey, this is NEW-SPACE-BULLSHIT, OLD-SPACE-THING IS THE ONLY WAY!” is just not possible.

                  I would be out of business long time ago, if I would do it your way.

                  I use a lot of kid level analogy when I talk with you, cause you are really missing the point.

                  You cant just jump on heavy lunch rockets right away, you need to learn how to walk before you learn how to run, jump, fly whatever.

                  Space things, is NOT just about rockets and engines, its about EVERYTHING, witch means, you need to even know, how to eat/shit/sleep/have sex/whatever in space/moon/mars. We need to learn / know about A LOT of things about anything in space.

                  It’s also a lot about human politics and moving things around and what not.

                  You can have best heart in your body, from any human that lived on this planet, but you can still die tomorrow from any number of reasons.

                  I watched video of Elon Musk on youtube, where he said, he did not wana to design rocket him self, but he could not find anyone who would do it for spacex so he had to do it him self! I mean, for god sake, you have to admit that guy have a will to get it done.

                  I never meet Elon Musk face to face, and maybe he is asshole and whatever, but that makes no difference really.

                  Whenever you make label like NewSpace vs OldSpace thats makes no sense as well.

                  It should be only one Label and thats “Goin to Space!” regardless how, as long results are there, I will support it.

                  Btw, I only learn what “NewSpace way” terms means only when you start to talk about it.

                  • Conway Costigan

                    You need to stop defecating on this forum.

                    • Ivan

                      Gary,

                      I will not go there and offend you back.

                      I am sure there is reasons you are feeling what you feeling inside of you.

                      Even so, that is not giving you excuses to be assholes to others here.

                      Best of luck to you!

        • Neil

          Well, the article was about SpaceX after all.
          Cheers

          • Conway Costigan

            So if the comments are anything but one long SpaceX infomercial then it’s OK to poison the well with trash talk. NewSpace fans truly are a bunch of malicious brats.

      • Clio Marsden

        Would be nice to see FH send a Dragon to Mars on a science mission.

        • Conway Costigan

          SLS=Europa for science missions.

          • Neil

            You don’t need an over-priced launcher like SLS to send a science mission to Europa. Delta IV can do it already and it is a proven launcher. NASA is only building SLS because Congress directed them to do so. There’s a reason why it’s called the Senate Launch System you know.
            Cheers

            • Conway Costigan

              There is also a reason why every NewSpace groupie has been brain-washed into making an obligatory death-to-SLS statement whenever it is mentioned.

              Going direct to the Moon dumps the NewSpace LEO business plan in the trashcan. Where it belongs.

              • Ivan

                Gary,

                what is wrong now with SLS ? (except it cost shit alot of money!)

                Also, why would SLS kill anything related to SPACEX or other similar companies.

                Nobody will reach out for SLS to put 10 satellites in orbit (unless they are super heavy for some reason).

                I think cost projection for SLS per lunch is 500 Million (but I think that projection was like from 2011 or so, could be wrong, it would not be strange to see price go up to 600-700 milion per lunch).

                SLS should be able to deliver around 19-20 MT to Mars while FH should be around 13 MT to MARS (ish, I did fast math just now, could be wrong).

                So SLS Is way to go, if we wana to send heavy things out there.

                Ofcourse, by time SLS will be ready (2025+ and beyond) maybe SpaceX will have something else (beyond FH) also. (Same goes for other companies)

                But right now SLS is winner (on paper anyway if we exclude the cost!)

                Further out in space, if you want a single launch, SLS seems to gain the advantage.

        • Neil

          CM. that’s being seriously considered. Ref: NSF L2.
          Cheers

    • Bob Tsiolkovsky

      I can’t help but notice you are using the rocket equation to act as a bludgeon to promote your classist and pseudo-marxist space ideology.

      • Conway Costigan

        “-classist and pseudo-marxist space ideology.”

        The communist branding had to start sooner or later.

        I can’t help but notice these names I have never seen before commenting. Could they be the same person trying to bludgeon me with NewSpace righteous indignation? Yathink?

        • Tracy the Troll

          Conway,
          Why such heavy large launch vehicles rather than small reusable hobby rockets to build the big ship with machines in orbit and then travel to destination leaving the Big Ship in orbit and then land smaller pieces to assemble on the surface? If the SLS will be more than $500M per launch what will the Super Heavy SLS cost? $1B… Haven’t we kind of approached the point that soon we will only be able to afford welfare (social Spending) and payment on the national debt?

          • Joe

            Tracy,

            If you want to make cost comparisons of various architectures you need to do a comprehensive cost analysis.

            For instance, you say “the SLS will be more than $500M per launch”. Assume that is true. OK here are some other costs that need to be taken into the comparison:

            (1) What will be the cost per launch of the “small reusable hobby rockets to build the big ship”?

            (2) How many flights of the “small reusable hobby rockets” will be required?

            (3) What will be the total cost of those launches compared to the fewer SLS launches?

            (4) What will be the cost of the “machines in orbit” (not to mention the loss of the cryogenic propellants while the construction is taking place)?

            Could go on, but the list would get too lengthy.

            “Haven’t we kind of approached the point that soon we will only be able to afford welfare (social Spending) and payment on the national debt?”

            Not trying to endorse one scenario or the other, but until you can do a comprehensive costing (which you have not even tried/begun to do) you can not even begin to answer that question.

            Again, know you do not like to hear this, but details matter and you need to take a greater interest in them.

            • Tracy the Troll

              Joe,
              How much does a interplanetary ship need to weigh?

              • Joe

                Tracey,

                Too general a question.

                The real problem is a comparison of (some level) HLV and “hobby rockets”.

                Whatever the size of the “interplanetary ship” it is not a straight comparison of launch weights. Launching in smaller increments requires additional interface hardware (disconnects, drive mechanisms, etc.) so the number of smaller vehicle launches will be larger than just looing at the lift capacity of the launch vehicles.

                In addition you need to take into account the support required for on-orbit assembly.

                You referred to “machines in orbit” to build your “interplanetary ship”. A series of questions:

                (1) Are these “machines in orbit” tended by humans?
                (2) Do they require maintenance?
                (3) They must do on orbit “station keeping” (translational/rotational).
                (4) What number of additional launches of “hobby rockets” will be required to support this extra logistics?

                That is again over simplified.

                I am not saying that orbital assembly is not required, only that the challenge is grossly underestimated.

                Based on my own analysis to support the building of a lunar base I believe that a launch vehicle in the range of a Block I SLS is the best approach.

                Anyone can argue about that as much as they like.

                • Conway Costigan

                  “-to support the building of a lunar base I believe that a launch vehicle in the range of a Block I SLS is the best approach.”

                  With 8 to 10 launches a year and even the most favorable scenario of a lava tube to move into and an efficient way to deliver ice to it from a deposit- it might not take long to set up a minimum base but any kind of infrastructure to facilitate factories would take….a really, really long time. I would argue much larger launch vehicles will be required and we might as well build them now instead of later Joe.

                • Chris

                  I assume Delta IV Heavy would be considered a “hobby rocket” in this context as well? I don’t think anyone serious about large scale projects on the moon or mars would argue it isn’t more efficient with a larger vehicle than EELV heavy class lifter. The question becomes with the amount of launches you will need to have a significant and persistent presence in either case is SLS even capable of flying at a rate needed given budgets? As it stands NASA can only nearly budget the lifter itself let alone complex payloads and operations. Even without ISS and tail off of SLS dev the ops cost of maintaining a moon base is significant and would chew up much of this. So to me it is really important that the lift be as economical as possible or your project is dead before it even started. I agree super-heavy scale is needed but not sure the manifestation in SLS is really going to hit the mark on costs given all the legacy rolled into it. I am working off of the assumption there is no chance of NASA’s budget growing significantly from where it is now. I think that is safe to say.

                  • Joe

                    “The question becomes with the amount of launches you will need to have a significant and persistent presence in either case is SLS even capable of flying at a rate needed given budgets?”

                    Yes it can. If you are using the limitations being quoted currently for the SLS, you are using propaganda being produced by the current administration which wants to rid itself of the SLS. If that is what you want to believe it may work well for you, but it is not accurate.

                    “I am working off of the assumption there is no chance of NASA’s budget growing significantly from where it is now. I think that is safe to say.”

                    Even making that assumption, that does not allow for reprioritizing NASA’s existing budget. If you do not allow for that, without a significant increase in the budget, then nothing will be accomplished regardless of the launch vehicle.

                    • Chris

                      I would prefer the budget goes up for NASA but simple straight up proposition of continuing the current (legacy) NASA paradigm of just give us more money to do this great project isn’t going to fly politically. Just calling it like I see it. SLS largely exists in the budget as a jobs program to keep legacy shuttle vendors going. Everyone knows this so someone is going to have to sell a very new paradigm for NASA related projects to get a significant increase in funding out of the congress. From just a game theory perspective Congress’ ideal setup is SLS is built and flies somewhat infrequently on the most risk averse missions possible. This way they can keep money flowing to the districts, don’t have to fight for bigger budgets and mitigate possibility of LOC scenarios which we’ve never really come to terms with from Congress/NASA policy perspective. I simply don’t think SLS is going to move the needle on this reality.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      “SLS largely exists in the budget as a jobs program to keep legacy shuttle vendors going.”

                      It exists to enable Human Space Flight Beyond Earth Orbit. If it is a jobs program then the space station to nowhere and the poster child for corporate welfare paid to build a cheap astronaut taxi are not only just another jobs program, they are a failed jobs program.

                    • Joe

                      Chris,

                      “I would prefer the budget goes up for NASA but simple straight up proposition of continuing the current (legacy) NASA paradigm of just give us more money to do this great project isn’t going to fly politically.”

                      Good for you, but that was not the point. The point is that without more money being directed towards a narrowly defined goal (whether that is by an increase in the overall budget or a reprioritization of the existing budget) nothing is going to get done regardless of selected launch architecture.

                      Use of “already existing” launch vehicles (with all the required on-orbit assembly infrastructure) will not be significantly cheaper (very possibly more expensive) than use of the SLS.

                      “SLS largely exists in the budget as a jobs program to keep legacy shuttle vendors going. Everyone knows this so someone is going to have to sell a very new paradigm for NASA related projects to get a significant increase in funding out of the congress.”

                      No “everyone” does now know this . You and others in the New Space community may think you know it, but you should really stop arrogantly trying to tell everyone else what they know.

                    • Joe

                      “No “everyone” does now know this.”

                      Should read: “No “everyone” does not know this.”

                • tracy the troll

                  I have heard is that NASA wants to land something the size of the space shuttle on Mars. Why not land something like the Dragon attached to a BA330 grouping for people and use a different BA330 for a robotic supply drop on a automatic contineous cycler that Buzz Aldren came up with…Also I am thinking the F9R could get down below $5M per launch at 13 tons to LEO. 100 launchs could put 1,300 tons to LEO for $500M or the price of one SLS launch that only provides 170 tons to LEO..

                  • Joe

                    (1) “I have heard is that…”
                    (2) ” Why not land something like…”
                    (3) “Also I am thinking the F9R could get down below $5M per launch…”

                    All very well for unsubstantiated conjecture. Not good for serious planning.

                  • Ben

                    Falcon 9 getting to below 5M per launch is very unlikely right now.
                    The current plans only call for re-using the first stage.

                    If the second stage alone costs at least 10% of the rocket, and it probably costs a good bit more, that is ~6M already.

                    Then you have to include the operations costs of launching the rocket, The fuel costs, the refurbishment/reuse costs (it won’t be free, even airplanes require maintenance)

                    Getting under 10m seems nearly impossible without some major advances.

  • Conway Costigan

    “I am working off of the assumption there is no chance of NASA’s budget growing significantly from where it is now. I think that is safe to say.”

    And THAT is the single most nefarious and destructive anti-space propaganda the NewSpace mob has been pounding into the public collective consciousness from the start- that the NASA budget MUST NEVER EVER GO UP!

    There is really no use discussing space policy with anyone who believes this is a law of physics and cannot be violated. In fact, it is only a law of Newspace public relations that supports their “flexible path.” The path to nowhere.

    The NASA budget already went up. And it will effectively increase by over 4 billion dollars a year simply by abandoning the LEO space station to nowhere and Mars bootprint fantasy dead ends and focusing on Lunar Return.

    And THAT scenario scares the hell out of the NewSpace fanatics. There are several different paths to doubling, tripling, and quadrupling the NASA Human Space Flight budget. They are:

    Using lunar water to fill space station radiation shields in lunar orbit and transiting those stations back across cislunar space into GEO thus acquiring the over 100 billion dollar a year revenues of the satellite industry. Such true space stations would provide an order of magnitude improvement in connectivity and reliability.
    Replacing the strategic nuclear deterrent by cocking nuclear propulsion systems with space stations in lunar orbit thus creating human-crewed spaceships also capable of deflecting asteroid and comet impact threats. This would divert into space the over one trillion dollars earmarked for bombers, submarines, and missiles over the next ten years.
    Factories on the Moon producing space solar power stations would provide the cure for global warming, eventually power beam propelled SSTO shuttles, and finance artificial hollow spinning moons constructed of lunar material as space colonies as envisioned by Gerard K. O’Neill.

    • Chris

      I never said it can’t go up or that I didn’t want it to. Just that it won’t given the current paradigm. I think your position is not likely to motivate change on that front. But go ahead and spin your wheels.

      • Conway Costigan

        “-your position is not likely to motivate change-”

        Like I said, “-no use discussing space policy with anyone who believes this-.”
        I think that is safe to say.

        • Chris

          Yet you still cannot articulate a political strategy, coalition or plan of any sort to get this budgeting priority changed. How has OldSpace been cultivating the basic ideas, motivations and rational to the public for such a project over the last 10 years or so? For that matter since Apollo, which had it’s own built in geopolitical struggle to provide rationale? Not very well. The last time Moon base was brought up in the context of presidential politics was Newt Gingrich. This was perceived as almost a joke because of the lack of the aforementioned ground work completely missing from this topic. So again, and last time for me. Good Luck

  • Conway Costigan

    “Yet you still cannot articulate a political strategy, coalition or plan of any sort to get this budgeting priority changed.”

    I could draw you a picture but that would not help – your mind is made up and closed to any possibility. I articulated it quite well but you just chose to ignore it.

    The only significant revenue generator in space is the GEO telecom satellite industry. By using lunar water dipped from a far shallower well than Earth to fill radiation shields human-crewed GEO space stations would solve the space junk problem, provide better service, and start a construction pipeline for…spaceships.

    By mating a nuclear propulsion system with these space stations they become interplanetary spaceships capable of moving our nuclear arsenal far into deep space thus eliminating the dangerous hair trigger situation existing with Earth-based nuclear weapons. And the weapons can be used to deflect impact threats. The money for bombers, subs, and missiles would thus be diverted into space.

    Building space solar power stations on the Moon would solve global warming and provide beam propulsion for cheap lift into space. If you refuse to accept these facts (GEO sat billions, space debris, nuclear weapons, global warming) then it is safe to say it is “no use discussing space policy” with you.

    • Chris

      Ok, but that’s not a political strategy.

      • Conway Costigan

        Nothing is going to move the needle in your reality. You want some miraculous “political strategy” but you are completely blind to how this allows the left and right to both get what they want.

        The left wants to cure global warming, the right wants energy independence= space solar power.
        The left wants nuclear disarmament, the right wants nuclear modernization= a space navy.
        The left wants jobs in their districts, the right wants jobs in their districts= expansion into space.

        Industry does not really care whether they are making bombers and submarines or space stations and spaceships as long as they make money. The problem is they can make easy money with weapons while humans in space is hard money. The solution is to vote. The prerequisite to the solution is an informed citizenry and the only thing the public has been fed is NewSpace billionaires promising LEO vacations and retirement condos on Mars.

        NewSpace has to either change their business plan or disappear if humankind is going to expand into space. They are presently the obstacle and not the enabler.

        • Chris

          I didn’t say nothing will move the needle. Just not SLS in its current form with associated political support/reality. Have a good one. I also don’t see the supporters of SLS and wider vision making the political moves needed to change that.

          • Conway Costigan

            You keep back-pedaling denying what you said Chris. You don’t see that?

            • Chris

              “I simply don’t think SLS is going to move the needle on this reality.”

              “Just that it won’t given the current paradigm.”

              Nope. Already made it very clear that under a different paradigm I could see NASA’s budget being raised significantly. I simply state that SLS and the political strategy (or there lack of) will not be a trigger for this. The most likely outcome of SLS is as I described; a ~18 month flight rate moving slowly to crewed missions in the mid 2020s and baby stepping for as long as Congress can go just keeping the cogs turning in the big machine with the least risk.

              • Joe

                Chris,

                You can keep arguing this as much as you want, but a ” ~18 month flight rate” is an artifact of the Obama Administration not that of Congress.

                You are (sort of) correct on one point. Congress forced the SLS on the Administration and consequently the Administration has done everything possible to make the SLS look as bad a possible.

                There is no reason that the Block I SLS could not maintain a 6 – 8/year flight rate, except for Administration decisions intentionally limiting the capabilities of the supporting infrastructure.

                Correcting those intentional errors would be difficult, but not impossible. The main thing it would require is a President that actually wants the Country to have a real HSF program again.

                Sadly I agree that getting such a President is a remote possibility, that is not the fault of SLS supporters; but the low priority placed on space activities by the general public. If we do get such a President, it will be by coincidence.

                • Chris

                  Joe, SLS was funded on the basis of a launch vehicle and not a coherent mission. This is the problem with SLS fans in general; they think the big hurdle is the launch vehicle. Not true, the big lift is getting broad support in the congress, executive and public for a mission requiring super heavy lift. That requires broad political action and a narrative that will resonate with people outside this forum and others like it. Imagine if the Saturn V were almost built and then NASA came along and said what are we going to do with this thing? Lets have a meeting to discuss. That would be ridiculous yet that is precisely what is occurring. 6-8 mission flight rate is nice if you have wide support for a mission and presumably the budget for payloads in support of that mission…

                  You may hate the NewSpace crowd but there is leadership in that crowd that has narratives that resonates far beyond people in the industry and fans of it. And this group is taking steps building architectures precisely tuned to those narratives and explaining those steps as they go along. Those steps are building hardware but also a vast array of memes and mass media messaging to fill out the underlying motivations and rationale for these narratives. You may not agree with it but that is what is happening.

                  • Conway Costigan

                    The NewSpace flim Flam. LEO space clown tourism is a dead end.

                  • Joe

                    Chris,

                    “SLS was funded on the basis of a launch vehicle and not a coherent mission.”

                    There was a coherent mission for a launch vehicle sized as the SLS Block I. It was called the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE). The VSE was approved and passed by bipartisan majorities in Congress and signed into law.

                    President Obama cancelled the VSE (without consultation with Congress) for the well thought out reason that “Buzz has already been there”.

                    That unilateral action was opposed by bipartisan majorities in Congress – then overwhelmingly in control of the Presidents own party.

                    It was for that reason the Congress instituted the SLS. It was all they could do in the face of the unilateral executive action.

                    “You may hate the NewSpace crowd but there is leadership in that crowd that has narratives that resonates far beyond people in the industry and fans of it.”

                    First I do not “hate” anybody. Second if you believe the rest of that statement, you need to spend less time on “The Elon Musk Fan Page”. The public is generally favorably disposed toward space, it is just not that high a priority to them. They assume that others will make things work out alright.

                    You can deny those facts if you choose, it will not make them go away.

                    • Chris

                      VSE goes back to Constellation program, which was cancelled. SLS, modified zombie re-spawn of Ares IV, has never had a concrete mission or buy in from everyone required. That is my point. Constellation itself was passed without the requisite political and societal buy in to make it stick. I am also not specifically talking about Musk but a whole cohort of players from BO to Skybox and everyone in between. They have a missions (narratives) and working toward them. They are not building h/w then floating trial balloons on possible missions to see what sticks.

                    • Conway Costigan

                      “-there is leadership in that crowd-”

                      There is certainly influence peddling- that campaign contribution by Musk basically made him the invisible NASA director of Human Space Flight. The Moon has been verboten despite the discovery of ice deposits and international interest in a lunar return.

                      SpaceX has no “Moon people” as Shotwell put it because the Falcon cannot go there and a Super Heavy Lift Vehicle bypasses the dead end of LEO and would end corporate welfare for the NewSpace flagship company.

                      The worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration. Worse than both shuttle disasters.

                    • Joe

                      Chris,

                      “VSE goes back to Constellation program, which was cancelled.”

                      Yes it was cancelled unilaterally by Obama, exactly as I said.

                      But you are wrong about VSE going back to Constellation. It actually preceded Constellation. The VSE was the strategic plan (return to the moon and learn to do lunar ISRU), Constellation was the selected technical implementation, it ended up being a flawed implementation; but that does not in any way invalidate the VSE.

                      “Constellation itself was passed without the requisite political and societal buy in to make it stick.”

                      One more time, it passed with sizable bi-partisan majorities in both houses of Congress. It was unilaterally canceled without consultation with Congress. Maybe they should have gone to Chicago and sought Obama’s approval before proceeding, even though he wasn’t even running for the Senate then.

                      Before you sound off on a subject, you should learn something about it.

                      “SLS, modified zombie re-spawn of Ares IV…”

                      And you are the one talking about winning people over. Yes stringing together ad homonym insults is certainly the way to do that.

                      Talking to you is a waste of time and band width, an error I will now stop making.

                      Have a nice life.

  • Chris

    “One more time, it passed with sizable bi-partisan majorities in both houses of Congress. It was unilaterally canceled without consultation with Congress”

    I know enough to know that the president whomever he/she is, and I did not vote for this one, cannot re-allocate funds unilaterally or kill funding for something without their say. Did congress not vote for the 2010 budget??? What a crock of horse poop are you trying to pull. They saw Constellation as a train wreck so the dumped it. The underlying mission never had the popular support to survive. Congress didn’t have any leverage because the political groundwork was never laid. Have a good one.

  • Conway Costigan

    “What a crock of horse poop are you trying to pull.”

    And you just showed what NewSpace is all about. Insults, misinformation, and cognitive dissonance.

    • Chris

      No misinformation is saying the president unilaterally killed a program when congress could have voted down the budget or put the language back in and sent it out to see if the president would veto it. Very simple Constitution 101: “the president proposes the congress disposes”. It takes two to tango.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Authorization_Act_of_2010

      “The budget allows NASA to terminate the Constellation program, a change which had already been announced by the Obama administration and authorized by Congress. The passage of the budget frees NASA to start working on the new initiatives, without making major cutbacks to overall NASA funding.”

    • Joe

      Conway,

      This isthe reason I said talking to Chris is pointless.

      I was there at the time. Not only did the Administration not coordinate with the Congress, it did not work with the NASA Engineering Directorate either. Dave Cooke (then the head of the Directorate) was informed of the decision in a 2:00 AM e-mail on the day he would have to defend the decision at a 9:00 AM Press Conference called for him by someone. It was the first he had heard of it and he had no idea what it was all about.

      The Congress (Committee Chairmen and Ranking Members) cobbled together the best deal they could get past a Presidential Veto to avoid being accused of forcing “poor” Obama to shut the government down and “forcing” NASA to “accept money they didn’t ask for” (after all Cooke had supported the decision).

      Chris, of course, only selectively quotes from the article, There are also sections of the law that emplace the SLS/Orion and maintain a lunar return as a goal (remember there were no Asteroid or Mars goals at that point). Obama signed that into law and has ignored it ever since.

      Jim Hillhouse has written a pretty extensive history of all this on this website.

      But responding to Chris just gets another dissembling response from him and on and on it goes. Anyone paying any attention (and not already preparing to move to Musk Town on Mars) has already gathered that.

  • Conway Costigan

    “-a vast array of memes and mass media messaging to fill out the underlying motivations and rationale for these narratives.”

    A legion of NewSpace sycophant cyberthugs that have contaminated public discourse for years. Most of the popular space site comment forums are in effect propaganda rags for SpaceX. The gangs of groupies that squat on these sites allow no criticism of their bizarro Ayn-Rand-in-Space dogma. Anyone interested in space goes to these sites and has no option but wallowing in the cesspool with them. It sucks.

  • Chris

    Great summary of the history from personal account. But sounds to me a lot like.

    “Congress didn’t have any leverage because the political groundwork was never laid.”

    I am not saying it is easy or obvious path but to get a large scale project to stick over a long period of time there must be deep buy from the body politic that can resist the whims of administrations. The fact there was zero political risk on the Obama side makes the point in spades. No one even tries a move like that unless they can politically run the table. I do not see such broad buy in on specific mission and goals for SLS but maybe I am missing something.

    Just an observation that when “hobby rocket” is pushed around it is no big deal but when “zombie re-spawn” is used people get their nose out of joint. It’s all a matter of perspective I guess.

    • Conway Costigan

      Not really- it actually is a hobby rocket.

      • Ben

        But it is an impressively big hobby rocket.
        Mine never had more than an Estes D in them when I was a kid…

      • Clio Marsden

        Gary “Conway” has size issues to work through. Very jealous of Elon’s very large hobby rocket and must co-opt SLS to say, “Mine is bigger”. Either that or Elon drove over Gary’s cat with a very quiet car, not sure which.

        No, but really the extreme here are pretty glaring. It is possible for reusability to work without it being a “commercial airline model” maybe just a “bush charter flight model”. The idea that “reuse is dead” just because Gary says so is laughable. Almost every major market inflection is filled with people saying it can’t be done, it never worked before and here are all the reasons. And yet they get walloped when it comes. By no means is this a certainty but a possibility, as we already know this is possible. Gary also tends to go on about the physics being a huge constraint, which it is, but only to a point. Ask anyone in the mid 1980s what the smallest feature size transistor that could ever be imaged via lithography. What is being done today in a modern fab is not violation of physics but a very aggressive use of the physics we have, and basically inconceivable to the vast majority of micro-e engineers in the 80s. By no means am comparing Moore’s law to rockets directly but there is a certain reality that progress on the margins can make things economical when they weren’t before as soon as the requisite progress is made. And experts are often blinded by the very advantage they have, deep historical knowledge and well-deserved biases. Again, it is a good fight to have (fight for reuse that is), unless we prefer to lie down and just take it like some want.

        • Joe

          “… has size issues to work through. Very jealous of Elon’s very large hobby rocket and must co-opt SLS to say, “Mine is bigger”.”

          Glad to see we are going to maintain the usual high standards for discussion.

          “By no means am comparing Moore’s law to rockets directly …”

          Funny, sure sounds like what you are doing.

          • Ivan

            Joe,

            he does have a point. Moore’s law cant be used directly to rockets, but for sure rockets today do benefit from x10000… more computing power compare to 20-30+ years ago. Now you can run fluid simulations and design rocket engines and test them in virtual world before you even make single part of them in real world. For example, the only reason F117 looked so ugly was they did not had enough computing power to do the math and calculate the radar cross-section of curved surfaces. It’s same here in today rocket business. NEW companies will use tools and software to get things done faster / for less money / force to invent cause of budget and so on.

            This all reminds me on old debate on wooden warships vs ironclad boats. If you asked anyone if SHIP made from IRON would ever float or even used for war, you would get feedback that you are crazy person. (Cause IRON cant float, we all know that right?!)

            It’s same here, goin with new tech, new material, new production ways, open minded thinking, taking everything BEST from the past + new things from today will create better rockets for tomorrow!

            So when anyone piss on something that is new, please remember, its only you getting older and you have hard time to adjust to change.

            If your mind open enough, you can learn something new from kid that is only 4+ year old, as long you are open to the possibility that you dont know everything already, cause you DONT.

            • Joe

              Ivan,

              “Now you can run fluid simulations and design rocket engines and test them in virtual world before you even make single part of them in real world.”

              You can get quite a debate going among engineers about the advantages/disadvantages of design relying on simulation. It is fair to say that many (myself included) consider it a mixed blessing. The build a little/fly a little approach is attempting a come back and I sincerely hope it makes it.

              “So when anyone piss on something that is new, please remember, its only you getting older and you have hard time to adjust to change.”

              When attributing characteristics it is best to speak only for yourself. As a good example while I believe we currently have come to rely too much on simulations and too little on testing, I am very enthusiastic about additive manufacturing (3D Printing). So by your criteria am I getting older or younger?

              “If your mind open enough, you can learn something new from kid that is only 4+ year old, as long you are open to the possibility that you dont know everything already, cause you DONT.”

              Never claimed to know everything (or anything close to it), find me a 4 year old that can produce a workable (and cheap) SSTO and I promise I will learn as much from them as I can.

          • Clio Marsden

            “Funny, sure sounds like what you are doing.”

            “Funny, sure sounds like what you are doing.”

            If I were doing that I would have just said rocket performance should double every 18 months, which is insane and completely ignorant to the world including Newtonian physics. The rate may be much different but the principles still apply. Battery technology is another one that does not operate at anything like Moore’s law but nonetheless once you hit a certain inflection point sealing the battery in the device goes from insane to plausible. This argument isn’t about the rate but the fact that improvements over time can compound and give rise to an inflection point where something was unthinkable and now plausible.

            We all know chemical rockets are more constrained than both of these but Moore’s law does play a role in another way. I think there is a reason why today there are three staged combustion engine development programs underway in the US, which, I believe, is a record. Many aspects of engine development are now, and only relatively recently, at much lower risk because of the availability of modeling and additive manufacturing, which reduces lead-time and testing cycles. In the mid 1970s if you went around the industry and said can you imagine three simultaneous 550K-pound thrust staged combustion engines being developed, what would the response be?

            • Joe

              The subject was (or was supposed to be) reduction of Earth surface to LEO launch cost by means of reusability.

              The driving issue there is the harsh conditions to which the vehicle is subjected during such a flight and the attendant maintenance/turn around requirements.

              Properly used (in conjunction with testing) simulations can aid in reducing the cost of designing a new engine. That can help reduce the cost of an expendable or reusable launch vehicle, but it does not in anyway guarantee a practical reusable launcher.

              Additive manufacturing allows for engines to be designed requiring (among other things) fewer parts. That can reduce manufacturing costs and potentially reduce any maintenance/turn around cost.

              For those reasons I am interested in following the Blue Origin activities (now with the – by many New Space types – hated ULA). They are incorporating both additive manufacturing and the build a little/fly a little approach.

              Interestingly, I have been taken to task in this one comments section as being:

              (1) A Dino Space supporter.
              (2) A Blue Origin “fan boy”.

              It seems that for some (in fact most) “New Space” types the only way to purity is to give all praise to SpaceX and Elon Musk it’s profit.