I would like to reiterate the point made before which is that SpaceX is on the verge of being in a place that no company has ever been before with regard to space.
The are on the cusp of having a capsule that they can send into orbit for days and then return to Earth. They already have rockets capable of putting tons of material into every orbit level (Low, mid, and geo-stationary). SpaceX is also nearing completion of their own launch facility in Texas.
When all of those things are added together, SpaceX can do space 'tourism' like nobody else. They could offer a 'day trip' on a Dragon into orbit. By partnering with Bigelow Aerospace they could launch a habitat into orbit where they could ferry their own paying customers to spend a week in space. With their own launch facility they are freed from the scheduling hassles of the dozens of other clients who compete for space on those launch pads.
That would definitely feel like living in the future to me.
The big problem is that while the capsule will be reusable, since NASA killed the propulsive landing for Dragon 2, it now needs to splash down in saltwater and therefore is not considered safe for humans after the first use.
This makes Dragon 2:s too expensive for large-scale space tourism. Unless there is suddenly a huge market for this, I think SpaceX would prefer to sell interested space tourism customers flights on Starship instead.
They are already getting good experience (and can experiment with) Dragon Cargo capsule re-use to better understand the impact of salt water landings on their designs. And while it would be hard to find space for the landing struts to go back into D2, if that meant doing a parachute landing with a last minute landing burn similar to what Blue Origin has proposed in their sub-orbital offering and is currently used on Soyuz, I could see that working with a landing in Texas.
What amazes me that this seems like a "small" amount of engineering to go from where they are, to a capability that was previously considered impossible by many. I'm sure it is way more complex than I realize, but they have some so far from where they started.
Pretty unlikely. To have it landing on land would be incredibly difficult specially to qualify.
Also they already have Starship and Starlink as huge projects they have to finance. They will make as much money as possible of Dragon 2 with the flights from NASA and invest that money in Starship.
Starship could actually be useful for tourism.
But that's fine for NASA if they want to pay for a splash down? If somebody else wants to pay for propulsive landing, it's on the table?
EDIT: Sounds like a SpaceX driven decision.
Once they decided to go straight to Starship/BFR with the movable 'wings' and raptor engines on the bottom and cancelled the dragon missions to Mars, there was less reason to go though the huge amount of work to finish developing and qualifying dragon-style propulsive landing. NASA was never super happy with it and Dragon was designed to do water landings with parachutes in case the thrusters failed anyway, so it wouldn't have been too much work to make that the only option.
This has lead to a strange situation where it seems Boeing's Starliner has ended up being more reusable than Dragon as it comes back onto land... But if they get Starship going, all this will be irrelevant.
I'd guess that one of the big reasons they (and everyone else who does water landings) lands in the ocean, is that it is much more palatable to regulators to create an exclusion zone in the ocean, which people can easily route around.
Also, people live on the side of the lake, so there isn't much margin for error, which never warms the cockles of a regulator's heart.
So yah they didn't reach orbit but you betcha it was still pretty neat to see it.
Are you sure NASA was to blame for it? I remember Elon saying they are not perusing propulsive landing anymore because of the amount of resources it would take to develop and validate the design. From what I gather, it was SpaceX's decision.
Ships rust like hell. I've known some guys in the Navy and they said it was common for everything unarmored to have holes all over.
In comparison, splashdown capsules spend maybe few hours tops in the water.
I'm guessing there are things on the "outside" that might still have issues?
Professor Farnsworth: Good Lord! That's over 5000 atmospheres of pressure!
Fry: How many atmospheres can the ship withstand?
Professor Farnsworth: Well, it was built for space travel, so anywhere between zero and one.
... on the second reentry attempt.
The Soyuz fires retro-rockets just before landing in Kazakhstan to lessen the impact. Even with that, the landing is still pretty rough. Land landings are sometimes described as akin to a car crash - water landings are softer. I'm sure there's probably a contingency capability of being able to support a land landing for Crew Dragon in case of aborts.
Interesting history note: there was an actually a concern during some of the early Apollo flights (I'm specifically thinking of Apollo 7) of land landings during an abort. Apollo 7 used a Block II version of the Command Module, however the crew couches were still the Block I variant. There was evidence showing the couches wouldn't perform well during a land landing. The concern was that if the LES was used, winds could force the capsule to a land landing. The resolution was that wind speed was a factor in a GO decision for launch.
It's interesting to note that Starliner is planned to perform land landings (using airbags). Land landings for capsules have been worked on since the 60s with the Gemini initially having plans for a Rogallo wing (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogallo_wing#/media/File:Gemin...). There were even plans for re-use of the Gemini capsule! Water landings quickly ended that discussion, since salt water is pretty terrible and corrosive.
Different capsule, different costs and development.
What was the price of that program module for propulsive landing? $2B or the amount of money wasted on the knucklehead category of Ofo bikeshare app business model?
Space launch is also heavily regulated. SpaceX isn't free to launch anything. Every launch is subject to tight government controls on everything from the technology involved to the specifics of the range. Nobody is going up without US government permission. Their ability to "do" space tourism is not that different than previous space tourists on other rockets. That a corporation is selling the seats, and the passenger lists then being vetted by a government, rather than a national government doing both is again only a legal distinction.+
In contrast every aspect of the Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule design was determined by SpaceX. NASA set the overall goals and safety criteria, but you can see from the differences between the Starliner and Dragon designs how much scope the manufacturers had. It really is a completely different paradigm.
It has been done before; for example the Thor IRBM was a competitive bid between Douglas, Lockheed and NAA. Official specs specified the equipment to be carried but the bidders designed their own airframes and launch facilities.
Douglas only won the contract to do the airframe and integration. It looks like a typical arrangement of the era. It’s not as if competitive bids have never been part of this process, they very often have. That’s not the point at all.
Sure contractors have been involved and built lots of components, but this is the first time a corporation has owned the fully, complete product as well as the facilities to launch and recover.
No company does (including SpaceX)
They don't own the land like they do with Boca Chica, but from the operational perspective they are the same.
Leasing the pad also prevents SpaceX from making certain modifications and puts some infrastructure constraints on them
The bucket list item would be Mars.
They still might not do it, but I don't think the sub-orbital passenger trips are very close. So many "other people" have to get involved before that is real, like treaties with the world about how you regulate overflights, or tariffs, or do air traffic control, or who pays when your rocket augurs into the innocent village, Etc. There are lots of details there, whereas Roscosmos has already done tourist flights to the ISS, and with their own launch facilities most of the variables would be under SpaceX's ability to control.
Why exactly do you need crew taking up nearly 30% of the seats on a vessel that can provably operate without them?
Your passengers do multiple g's to altitude, then go weightless, then go back to taking g-forces on descent. That's the vomit part. Not a great customer experience.
Meanwhile, the Starship looks like an ICBM to every early warning radar on the planet. It's only during reentry that it stops looking like an ICBM, but most missile defense strategies call for intervention in the boost phase.
Let's suppose that they address those false positive detection issues. If you're a military planner, though, you're probably asking yourself how many MIRV warheads could fit inside a militarized Starship retrofitted for a preemptive strike?
It looks like a hold of that size could fit 15 units per 200cm length, or 60 units, with space for structural rails and deployment gear. For comparison, that's 7.5x the capacity of the Trident II SLBM which was designed to accommodate 8 W88s.
In terms of potential, one W88 detonated in an airburst would produce a fireball over 1.56 sq km, an air blast to 5psi overpressure over 91.9 sq km, and 3rd degree burns over 233 sq km.
The scale of the human tragedy involved in a first-strike deployment of 60 of these things is too gruesome to write down here, but you can play with it on NukeMap  if you're so inclined. Suffice it to say that no sane government on the planet will want Starship to land anywhere nearby unless we're living in a global utopia where this sort of thing is unthinkable.
A sky full of friendly traffic makes the hostile traffic more difficult to spot, after all.
Excuse my ignorance, but what have they done that's so revolutionary? We have been putting people into LEO for decades. What's so groundbreaking about this test?
And secondly, this was an unmanned test launch to LEO. I think it'd be more prudent to wait till we get reliable manned launches to LEO before dreaming about other planets.
It's very cool that private companies are now doing this type of stuff. But imo the technical challenges still remain.
What they said was they couldn't be funding the whole Mar endeavor. They certainly can and plan to fund Mars launches. They stated their aspirational goal of sending the first unmanned spaceship to Mar in 2022, followed 2 years later with a manned one. They have seemed to pivot a bit to Moon, so I'm not so sure what their current plan is, but a trip to Mar isn't out of their reach financially.
Source? I highly doubt this is accurate.
> if the SpaceX’s plan for a rocket launch every two weeks comes to fruition, this amount of carbon (approximately 4,000 tonnes per year) will rapidly become a bigger problem
So, that gives us a number... and it's also very weird for the Smithsonian to describe that as a "problem". 4,000 tonnes per year is about a thousand cars worth per the EPA's numbers (https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/greenhouse-gas-emissions-t...) - pretty much a drop in the bucket.
This, similarly, is also the answer when it comes to aviation by and large. The real problems on Earth are ground transportation and electricity.
Average co2 from a car per year: 4.6 metric tons (https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/greenhouse-gas-emissions-t...)
co2 output from a Falcon 9 launch: 440,000kg or 440 metric tons (https://space.stackexchange.com/questions/13082/calculate-fa...)
So a single launch is about 95 cars worth of exhaust a year, give or take.
There were 21 SpaceX launches last year (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Falcon_9_and_Falcon_...)
The number of launches is expect to increase to 30-40 a year (previous source).
Let’s go with 35 launches per year. And remember we’re disregarding all other rockets launches in the world.
35 x 95 = 3325 cars worth of emissions per year.
It’s definitely not great. However it’s such a tiny drop in the bucket overall that it’s not even a rounding error. I think cows produce more methane per year. I’m on mobile at the moment so not gonna look up those numbers.
Rockets get terrible gas mileage.
(Though it's still comparable in "order of magnitude" terms.)
To LEO, the Moon, Mars, and beyond!
Not to mention all those time tracker/scheduler/todo/chat apps hailed as such as well.
Those were the two big question marks from what I understand.
It is also incredible that we can watch all this real-time too. Just amazing!
At the same time, it just seems a bit lame to watch this whiplashing splash down in the ocean with parachutes instead of a perfectly smooth VTOL landing on a pad.
Particularly as the chutes seems to billow and twist, one seemed to trade positions with another which I’m sure is fine but in the moment seemed worrisome, and the craft bobbing and twisting at the end of the ropes...
Is the ultimate longer term plan a Dragon that can land properly under its own power?
So then why not use that to slow down just before a splash down?
Perhaps if you throttle them down to the point where the G-force is reasonable, the losses to gravity add up too quickly and you run out of thrust. Too bad :-(
We aren't going to the stars. We're not colonizing space. Do we need to mine resources off-planet because we waste so many resources on-planet? Our robotic solar system explorers don't really need any help.
OTOH, we are destroying the spaceship we were born on, with so many indifferent tactics that it sometimes almost seems planned. Other, helpless species are disappearing regularly. So I find it hard to feel celebratory about these minor victories on the way to ... ???
But sure, single handedly.
It's still well possible congress will find a way to prevent crewed flights. Or there might some Falcon 9 mishap.
- it marks the return of American human launch capabilities after a several year hiatus from the retirement of the space shuttle
- it is being done on by a private company (with government funding), which is unprecedented
- dragon crew is intended to be reusable (in opposition to Shuttle/mercury/Gemini/Apollo
- the capsule is designed to have inflight abort capability, which is unprecedented and a differentiator from the Boeing effort (previous abort capability came from a ‘towed’ approach (the big pointy thing on top of Apollo) and was only available on the pad, not in-flight, so if something goes wrong during flight the crew is probably buggered)
(Edit: removed Soyuz from list of non-in flight abort capsules)
Here's a video explaining how it works, with footage of it being tested during the Apollo era.
SpaceX has been driving not just innovation but a much faster pace of innovation. Landing rockets, reusing rocket stages of orbital launchers, developing crewed spacecraft on a budget roughly an order of magnitude cheaper than the way government procurement works. Etc, etc, etc. Ten years ago there had been zero Falcon 9 launches. Today the Falcon 9 makes up the majority of commercial orbital launch traffic, has flown over 60 times, has been landed over 20 times, and has been reused nearly 20 times. And the pace is accelerating. They're working on new engines, new vehicles, new ideas. All of which has dramatically shaken up spaceflight and opened up the possibility of a new space age where access to space is a lot cheaper and more routine than it has been.
They're also pretty much doing it all themselves for a fraction of the price due to vertical integration, which is also unique.
Raptor is a full-flow staged combustion engine. Others have been made, yes, but none have flown. Right now Raptor is the only methalox variety of such an engine to ever reach a test stand.
Credit where credit is due; landing an orbital booster should be lauded as a fantastic engineering achievement. Fingers crossed this is a step towards interplanetary exploration (a la that one episode of Stark Trek Enterprise). The flight we're currently celebrating is again a fantastical achievement for the sheer logistics involved. All I'm saying is this is technology (so far that's what it is) is still on its way to make tangible changes in our species' exploration beyond earth's orbit and I have a few thoughts and concerns as follows -
1) We've currently matched the performance of the RD-180 on a test stand, where they left off. Arguably this is part of the structure to achieve interplanetary whatever. (we're in 1970 with more advanced materials)
2) I'm extremely wary of the bias towards automation. As a robotics engineer by training and profession I've seen firsthand complications arising from the over reliance of machines and contemporary bias against human capabilities . If the full-flow combustion engine removes barriers to a interplanetary future this, I perceive this developmental philosophy is a setback to those efforts carrying catastrophic potential. We set up the entire Gemini Project to prove we could achieve milestones in orbit (an entire space program) and we still encountered number of issues in the subsequent ventures.
3) Every large-scale space project has been beset, often bested, by dramatic technological failures. Are engineers now somehow more capable then our forefathers? If not, we should expect massive setbacks in achieving truly novel accomplishment and I pray that the good men and women at SpaceX helming this burgeoning revolution overcome them. My fear is private enterprise without government support carries its own risks.
4) The space Shuttle program faced a dearth of expertise resulting from Apollo engineers retiring or otherwise. Poor documentation had us rebuilding lots of technology from scratch. Simply another barrier to overcome in progress.
Finally, what the heck do I know? I'm nothing more than an armchair observer and now a faceless internet pundit. As a somewhat technical Lazy-Boy inhabitant I'm simply voicing my thoughts in the hopes of a rewarding discussion.
The Raptor is the first functional full-flow staged-combustion methalox engine, and it's already been successfully fired. By some measures, that surpasses both Soyuz technology and the RS-25. Of course, we have yet to see what their true Isp and T/M numbers will turn out to be, but they do plan to use multi-stage (including a refuel in LEO) with separately tuned engines on each. The overall performance (i.e. tons to Moon and beyond) will be very interesting to see.