Sep 282017
 

Elon Musk just gave a presentation in Australia, updating SpaceX’s plans for the interplanetary transporter. It seems they are indeed making some meaningful progress… with an aspirational goal of sending to of these rather gigantic landers to Mars in 2022 carrying cargo, and four in 2024… two of which are to be manned. Seems ambitious. But then… this is SpaceX, and they’ve accomplished some amazing things in the field of rocketry. if they’d just stop tinkering with that silly hyperloop and devote the effort and manpower to *this…*

It would be entertaining as hell of SpaceX gets the BFR up and running and shooting prototype interplanetary colonization ships to Mars before NASA even has the SLS ready to go.

 Posted by at 11:45 pm
  • Maguffin

    how practical do you think the whole anywhere in the world in 30 minutes thing is?

    • Scottlowther

      Technologically? It’s early-1960’s-pratical. Dornberger and bell proposed such in the late 1950’s. Economically? Well, that’s tricky. If SpaceX can make this two-stage vehicle *vastly* reusable, then… maybe. But even if the system required little more maintenance than a jetliner (fat chance), and even if the travel time was *zero,* there’d still be a whole lot of mess attached to it. The video shows the passengers having to take a *boat* to the launch site, and again at the landing site. Add in luggage and security and driving to the airport/boat dock/whatever, and for some of the shorter trips the video suggests, the advantages start getting lost. But 30 minutes across the Pacific, there might be a market.

      • Barmaglot

        The boat ride isn’t the problem – boats can go pretty fast, and getting to a regular airport through traffic is often tiresome. The big issue with the concept is medical – how many of your passengers are able and willing to subject themselves to 3-5g of acceleration at launch, followed by 20-40 minutes of freefall (accompanied by the inevitable torrents of vomit) and then another 3-5g during re-entry and landing? At the very least, you’d have to have a medical team certify each passenger before they are allowed or denied boarding; otherwise you’ll be landing with corpses aboard pretty regularly.

        Just how many people would be willing and able to fork over, say, $20k (some, but not too much, premium over a subsonic first-class ticket) for aNew York Shanghai roundtrip over a fractional orbit? Concorde offered a speed advantage at a similar price premium and it wasn’t enough to keep abreast of the operating costs.

        • Garrai

          Elon is factoring in cost savings you forgot about. No dish of warm nuts, no coffee service, and on and on — it all adds up. 😉

          We could be working on advanced-cycle MHD engines for hypersonic travel, instead we have a snake-oil huckster selling us “cutting edge technology” rockets the Germans invented 90 years ago. If nothing else, Musk is entertaining. Some years ago he gave a talk at Texas A&M and was prattling on about a battery-powered supersonic business jet. They listened to him politely and in the questions afterwards an audience member called him out and asked him if he was just making stuff up. Musk doubled down and claimed he was indeed serious, but the battery powered jet would have to wait because he had a lot on his plate and couldn’t get to it for a while…

          • Scottlowther

            > We could be working on advanced-cycle MHD engines for hypersonic travel

            So… who’s stopping you? Let’s see the amazing advances that you’ve no doubt generated. And, importantly, the evidence of where the evil Mr. Musk has interfered with you and has stopped your forward progress on MHD engines.

            > snake-oil huckster

            Rockets that are *actually* flying paying customers is “snake oil?”

            > rockets the Germans invented 90 years ago

            Which Germans invented space launch rockets that returned to the launch site for vertical touchdowns?

          • Barmaglot

            If you’re going to play the ‘it’s all been done before’ card (which, by the way, has been done to death), at least give credit where it’s due – to Robert H. Goddard, who invented modern rocketry when Wernher von Braun was still in diapers.

          • Pantagruel

            “advanced-cycle MHD engines”

            Frankly, I’m more impressed with what he has done with rockets than if he had come up with something out of left field. I honestly didn’t think there was that much room for improvement. Just what he and Mueller have done with t/w ratios is nothing less than astonishing.

          • Herp McDerp

            We could be working on advanced turbine engines for flying cars;
            instead we have snake-oil hucksters selling us “cutting edge
            technology” ground-hugger cars with internal combustion piston engines that the Germans invented almost a century and a half ago.

        • Scottlowther

          > 3-5g of acceleration at launch

          For suborbital lobs, you can throttle that back. 2-g might still be a bit much for some, of course.

          • Barmaglot

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks to me as more of a fractional orbit system than suborbital – to go halfway around the globe, you need to either boost to low circular orbit and then brake to re-enter, or go into a really high elliptical trajectory – and the latter would defeat the point of the exercise.

          • Scottlowther

            The video is a little lean on details.But keep in mind that the cargo/passenger stage is a lifting vehicle. It could in principle be lobbed on a ballistic trajectory that would fall far short of the destination, but “skip” across the top of the atmosphere Sanger-like to gain that extra range, or even go into a straightforward hypersonic glide like the Shuttle.

          • Barmaglot

            A Silbervogel trajectory would be awfully hard on the heat shield, no?

          • publiusr

            I want Musk to build a cycler out of BFR payloads. Some Nautilus-X type deal that can be pushed by an NTR. That will be SLS’s job–hydrogen to orbit.

            Once that cycler is on its way–you could get by with Dragons launched on Falcon Heavy to act as Soyuz/Progress re-supply vehicles even if BFR develops problems

          • Scottlowther

            If BFR works out even remotely like it’s supposed to then there will be no rational role for SLS whatsoever. And F9H is being phased out in favor of BFR, so it won’t have a role either by that point.

  • Garrai

    “And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
    Till touch down brings me round again to find
    I’m not the man they think I am at home
    Oh no no no, I’m a rocket man
    Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone”
    — Elton John – Rocket Man.

    Elon Musk, nucking futs

  • Bob

    I hope he realizes that the emissions from this thing will negate all his suposed good works from his electric cars.

    • se jones

      #1: the CO2 + H2O exhaust is a trivial amount (drop in the bucket) of total human auto emissions

      #2: he’s addressed that in other venues by proposing a solar powered Sabatier reactor farm to produce the methane fuel for the BFR.

      https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20120001775.pdf

      • Bob

        If you’re going to fantasize, fantasize big.

      • James

        People already have.

      • Peter Hanely

        “solar powered Sabatier reactor farm to produce the methane fuel for the BFR.”
        Is that a talking point for the watermellons, or is he insane?

        • se jones

          Why in the f would that be insane? It’s just 19th century level chemistry on a modern industrial scale. There’s a Sabatier reactor on the ISS that’s been working perfectly for years for Christ’s sake.

          CO2 + 4H2 → CH4 + 2H2O ∆H^0 = –165 kJ/mol

          • Garrai

            Yes of course, get nine women pregnant and we’ll have a baby in under a month.

          • Peter Hanely

            The chemistry works. The economics doesn’t come anywhere close to working compared to extracting methane from natural gas. Unless this is for use on Mars.

          • Scottlowther

            For the whole interplanetary system to function,they need to have a methane generator plant running on Mars. While a methane generator doesn’t make sense from an economic sense on Earth, having full-scale pilot plants running on Earth gives the the experience to try to make the Martian system work.

        • Garrai

          Not just insane, it’s Elon Musk’s trademarked version of insane. The interesting part is where otherwise level-headed, intelligent people fall for these grandiose claims as though they are a given. Tesla actually builds 1200 cars a week and Elon says they will ramp production up to 10,000 a week in a few months time…sure. SpaceX plans to increase both the size and complexity of its booster rockets many fold, *and* fly people on them in a few years with little testing…sure.

          • se jones

            #1: aerospace projects always come in over weight, over budget, and behind schedule, that’s nature of the business. So (speaking for myself) we take all schedule claims with a grain of salt.

            #2: when was the last time you built a reusable rocket booster, flew a s/c to the ISS, de-orbited said s/c and recovered it, re-captured the lions share of the international launch business for the United States after Boeing/LM pissed it away?

            #3: go fuck yourself and the horse you rode in on.

          • Scottlowther

            > it’s Elon Musk’s trademarked version of insane

            Good. I worked for ATK from 2004 to 2007, and management thought that Musks ideas were stupid and insane. They laughed at the whole idea of SpaceX. And now, the idea of ATK building the next generation of launch vehicle…. THAT is the insane idea, and people (other than NASA) will laugh at the notion of a big throw-away solid rocket boosted launcher.

            > SpaceX plans to increase both the size and complexity of its booster rockets many fold

            Size, yes. Complexity, no.

          • publiusr

            I do like the big segmented solids. I want something like Athena III with some cubesats,, (or maybe nukes) in silos for tansient events like asteroid or comet encounters.

            There seems to be a shift–perhaps–away from the land-based missile part of the triad. I think that is a mistake. Some runt SLBM simply cannot have the same dual utility.

  • Jon Risque

    I don’t mean to offend but the way he talks, it almost sounds like stuttering or he’s real nervous.

    • Scottlowther

      The usual consensus is that he’s an Aspie.

      • Jon Risque

        SpaceX has a “no assholes” hiring policy, I don’t know enough about Aspies but are they all a-holes?

        • Scottlowther

          No, you’re thinking of Democrats. Aspies range from barely odd to seriously nerdy to not very functional. Your average *true* asshole is someone who wants to dominate, and not only is willing and ready to ground you underfoot, they know they’re doing it and they know they’re upsetting you. Aspies are no more power mad than regular folks, but don’t recognize it when they annoy others.

          • se jones

            …thinking of Democrats

            FOTFL -thanks I needed that.

    • James

      He’s always been that way.Musk from what I have seen is pretty much a nerd who got rich. He is still a nerd and basically hasn’t changed.

  • James

    When I first saw it I was very confused about the point of it but NOW I get it…and it is pretty insanely smart.

    Free up the manpower and industrial capacity from the Falcon 9 and Falcon 9H.
    Integrate the mars project, the Dragon, the ISS supply, COTS, and all the others into a single project.
    Instead of working with a launcher that is reaching the limits of its power and growth get something that growth won’t be a problem. They can throw up anything. They can build massive stations and launch amazingly large telescopes and such much faster.

    But it also means they just have two stages to orbit. So they can make it totally reusable. Not only that if they have the point to point on earth its also all the same system.

    • Pantagruel

      And all that means that he has just bet the entire company on BFS, much the same way Boeing did with the 747. If Bfs is significantly delayed, or over budget, or under capable, or too explodey, SpaceX is dead. It also means that they need to keep Falcon 9 prices up as high as he can, rather than aggressively lower them to push competitors out. Instead, he is giving them the opportunity to lower prices and put the squeeze on SpaceX.

      It is a real race now. First place, the solar system. Second place, bankrupt. For a man known for his risk taking, this is the biggest risk he has ever taken.

    • Peter Hanely

      It would be madness for SpeceX to drop the Falcon 9 before they have an operational replacement.

      • Paul451

        They won’t shut down F9 production before BFR is ready for production. With maturation of the Falcon design, and the near completion of FH and D2, they are freeing up a lot of their development people and facilities over the next year or two.

        And reusability means they can keep a stock of first stage cores and spare engines to satisfy the existing market. Only the non-reusable upper-stages need to be produced. That’s one Merlin engine per core, which can be stockpiled, based on predicted production rates, for several years in advance. So you shut down the F9-core line, then the Merlin line, and that opens up space and people to work on BFR.

        BFR test flights will therefore be carried out along-side commercial Falcon launches. There won’t be a “gap” as such.

        By that time, many future customers will be pushing to switch over to the cheaper BFR, even at the cost of a delayed launch-date. That starts to eat into F9’s manifest anyway.