SpaceX Starship Update
SpaceX will hold a presentation today at 19:00 CDT / 00:00 UTC at their Boca Chica build site to present updates to Starship and show off their newly constructed full scale prototype.
SpaceX's website: https://www.spacex.com/webcast
Direct Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOpMrVnjYeY
Announcement on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SpaceX/status/1177938839949627392
Picture SpaceX posted: http://spacex.com/sites/spacex/files/starship_drone_sunset_7.jpg
Update: it's been rescheduled to 8PM CDT (20:00/01:00 UTC) due to weather.
Presentation actually starts at 16:45. Worth watching at least the first couple minutes to really get a sense of scale for the new ship.
It's funny, after 20+ years, Elon still sucks at public speaking. Apart from that, good presentation, esp the Q&A (starts just past the 1:06:00 mark).
Big takeaways, they'll be building more of 'em, fast. Roughly 2 new ships every 1-2 months, and start building the first 2 first-stage boosters in 4-5 months, after they have 4 Starships built.
Optimum timeline: 20km high 'hop' in 1-2 months. First orbital flight in 6 months. First manned flight in 1 year.
That goal of first manned flight in 1 year is hella ambitious, considering how long Crew Dragon has taken.
Hey, just a friendly aside, but it's better to use the term "crewed flight" these days :)
Also an aside—so is it wrong to say "mankind" or anything with "man" to describe people in general now?
Getting off topic here, but I wouldn't say it's wrong, just that there's more tasteful choices to wordsmith with; just as "negro" is still technically a valid word in that it describes an ethnic group, but now has a few negative connotations.
So, this made me curious and I looked up the etymology:
It looks like "man" was originally gender-neutral and this gender-neutral meaning is preserved in some words. However, I guess that doesn't really affect the perception of the words and the connotations (i.e. the exclusionary meanings) that go along with them.
Yes and no. Assuming no major roadblocks developing this new launch system, my personal theory is they'll have it ready for manned flight about 6 months after they finally deliver astronauts to the ISS.
What do you mean "yes and no"? There's not a single damn chance Starship is flying people for at least 2 years, probably far more. Dragon v2 was officially unveiled in 2014, and it's now pushing nearly 6 years since that program began in earnest—a dramatically simpler and smaller capsule that had decent prior engineering art available (Dragon 1) to be based off of (even this assumption turned out to be wrong, as it happens, designing a crewed capsule is a significantly different process to designing a cargo transit vehicle).
Building a fully, rapidly reusable spaceship that can go from LEO, thru re-entry, land, and be ready to go again in <24 hrs is going to be, IMO, much harder than making it capable of carrying humans.
On the off-chance they actually work out all the challenges to the "rapidly reusable" part in 6 months, and after they learn all their lessons from Dragon, then yeah, I think adding support for human crew/passengers will be relatively quick and easy.
Hmm ... ETA ... at least, relatively quick. May not be easy, but with potential 24-hour turn-around between tests, they'll be able to iterate at an incredible pace.
You'd be surprised. They're actually probably comparable challenges. As I've indicated, Dragon 2 has taken several years, nearly 7, and billions of dollars to be at the point where it receives crew-readiness certification. It's still not there yet. In that time, SpaceX has long-ago managed to iterate Dragon 1 to the point where it can be refurbished and sent back up again.
Furthermore, Dragon 2's life support is a finite, resource-constrained system, not renewable at all:
Emphasis mine. Source: https://arstechnica.com/features/2019/09/after-starship-unveiling-mars-seems-a-little-closer/2/
I hope this is okay to post @Deimos, I was typing a reply to one of the removed comments while it was removed, but I feel this is still an important comment to make, in regards to the vaporwareness of this rocketry system:
You don't happen to remember the (at the time) Dragon V2 introduction in 2014? They showed off the "first manned Dragon capsule" at the event. It turned out to be little more than a Dragon 1 capsule with an outer mold line that matched the new Dragon 2 specifications, and was in every other way non-functional, right down to the faked interior controls and screens.
Starship is for the most part still vaporware. They have a glorified grain silo that's done a single hop (literally, it was built by a water tankage company). That's absolutely laughable and so removed from the realities of orbital rocketry that it isn't close to being remotely built out into even a "version 1" iteration.
The absence of hardware does not prove vaporware, but the presence of hardware doesn't disprove it either.
Part of the reason for the steel construction is the ease of manufacture.
With the Falcon-series track record of success, why do you dismiss Starships feasibility?
So, I've followed SpaceX since their first vehicle flight since 2010, attended IAC 2016 where Musk unveiled the initial MCT architecture, and moderated r/SpaceX for the better part of 3 years during the company's growth phase. I was also lucky enough to receive two tours of their Hawthorne facility in LA, which is an incredible experience.
The problem is you're looking at it from an external facing perspective and not considering the unknown unknowns you, as a (presumably) non-aerospace engineer, non-SpaceX employee don't have an idea about; and don't worry, I get it, we saw this all the time on r/SpaceX. People simplify things far too much to the point most comments didn't hold any engineering merit or factual basis—I don't mean that to be rude either, that's just a trend we noticed over 100k+ comments over the years.
Having an OML, which is the thing you see in the pictures at the media event is one of the more trivial parts of building a rocket or capsule; as I indicated in my top level comment. The real work is in the tankage, engines (which they are actually progressing well on), the COPV-based pressurization systems, flight surfaces, FTS, RCS, cabin environment (ECLSS), and more.
Ease of manufacture of steel is a tiny component of what is an engineering megaproject. Starhopper was literally nothing more than a glorifed grain silo (and was actually built by a water tankage company), and it's not representative of an actual flying vehicle yet.
It's super important—especially with Elon—to differentiate between what's real and what isn't, because he's a master at the art of hype. Remember, this is the man who said Level 5 SAE vehicle autonomy would be available in 3-6 months in Tesla vehicles equipped with autopilot hardware several years ago (and then proceeded to sell this hype to thousands of customers for thousands of dollars—how he hasn't been sued into the ground over that blows my mind).
There's so much you don't realize when you aren't intimately familiar with the actual processes that are applied, and the actual work that is undertaken. It's always good to consider that, and factor it into your thought process!
Don't think I haven't read through this whole comment, but I don't feel like my question has been satisfied.
The Raptor engine is going well. Starhopper went well, and wasn't meant to be much more than a test of the Raptor.
The ease of manufacture is being touted as a selling point, Elon saying that future versions being done with a single-seam weld right off the roll. Yes that sounds low tech, but why should I believe that's not possible?
Okay, I'll pose to you a question: excluding Musk's Twitter antics and regurgitated Eric Berger articles, what are your metrics to quantify "going well"? What gives you the credentials and knowledge to state that as fact?
I'm questioning your assumption in the first place. I'm not saying it's not going well, but I just want to know your factual reasoning for it, from an engineering standpoint. Because rocketry is fucking hard, and if you don't know what the unknown unknowns are (which, 99% of people outside of SpaceX can't possibly comprehend), then most comments and reasonings are inherently faulty.
I wasn't aware I needed a PhD in Aerospace Engineering to watch a video of a rocket engine not exploding, and compare projected capabilities with alternative platforms to see the advantage.
I don't care what Elon posts on his Twitter feed, and I don't read it anyway. That seems irrelevant in the face of a physical prototype that exists in the real world. It will work or it will not work.
The Merlin's work.
The Raptor seems to work.
You seem to have beef with Dragon. Fair.
But that doesn't mean SpaceX doesn't have a proven track record of accomplishing things. I don't see a reason to doubt Starships feasibility, but my mind is open if you have information I don't.
I'm not going to reply to reductive commentary that shifts the intent of my comment from an approach of nuanced cautiousness to "you need a PhD"—I never said that. It works or it doesn't. Sure, but that's never been what the argument was about.
If you want to reduce the comment chain to this, when I've given you rationale as to why cautiousness need be applied, and skepticism should be given to Musk's timelines, then that's your choice.
The M1D turbopumps have had very severe turbine cracking issues in the past that NASA has listed as a priority to resolve before a crewed flight, by the way. SpaceX is lucky: they get to publicize success and hide failure, for the most part.
You set the bar high, forgive my hyperbole. By bringing credentials into question, and specifically requesting something based in an engineering education, that inherently limits only Engineers to have an opinion one way or the other. FWIW, I do not have an Engineering degree; I have a B.S. in Chemistry and I minored in Physics. No, that's not rocket science. I've played with Orbital Mechanics a bit, but my understanding is more on the physics of the very small than having an expertise in the rocket equation or Kepler's equation. Yes, there are plenty of holes in my education when it comes to this topic.
Don't mistake my position as one of hostility, please. It's not my intent.
I'm interpreting your opinion as one of doubt, and I want to understand if there's something I'm missing. By my mostly self-taught understanding, Starship/BFR seems like it should work out fine. Nothing stands out as obviously impossible, at least. I don't mean to suggest it will be easy to make it happen, not by a long shot. It's an ambitious project that ought to outclass the Saturn V if it works. We're in uncharted, unprecedented territory. The way I see it, if you throw enough money and brain-power at the problem then it should happen eventually. Maybe it will blow up on the launch pad for its first test. Maybe the one after that will blow up too. SpaceX isn't unfamiliar with that sort of thing, but in time they've always pulled through before. Maybe this time they won't. Maybe it will fail, and keep failing until they run out of money and can't operate anymore. Sure, that's possible.
It will almost certainly not stick to Elon's timetable either. Those are historically inaccurate. I chalk that up to his being an optimist, and I don't interpret delays to be a sign of failure or doom on the horizon for a project. Things don't work out, bureaucracy happens, a problem might be harder than first thought, etc.
I'm basing my optimism of the platforms ultimate success on SpaceX's track record. There will be bumps. Launch vehicles will likely explode. But I don't understand if there's a reason to believe it isn't possible.