Blue Origin Vs. Space X, the continuing story.

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bernomatic
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#1 Blue Origin Vs. Space X, the continuing story.

Post by bernomatic » Sat, 09 Apr 16, 06:12 am

In the old Cantina, There was a discussion about who did what first and what was the true results of the work being done by Blue origin and SpaceX. I see where both of them are back in the news again this week. Blue Origin for the third launch and recovery of the booster. SpaceX for finally landing on the barge they have been targeting for a while now.

While I understand that many believe there is no real comparison between the feats, the one thing you have to admit is the "competition between the two is driving things along at a good clip. It has now become so anti-climatic that you don't hear much about it in the "real" world. The problem is with the news media who can only hang on to a story for more than a minute if it has gore or the possibility of gore.

Well hears hoping that the two competitors leave the media in their dust.
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#2 Re: Blue Origin Vs. Space X, the continuing story.

Post by luke strawwalker » Sun, 10 Apr 16, 04:00 am

Yes. Here-here! Totally agree.

I'll be more impressed with Blue Origin when they actually orbit something. Reusable sounding rockets or zero-gee flights for the ultra rich are all fine and dandy, if that's what you're in to, and if it drives progress toward something more substantial.

SpaceX is, IMHO, more impressive because they're actually doing stuff in space, to further spaceflight, at least by a more direct path. While suborbital hops for mega-rich tourists and suborbital reusable sounding rockets *might* lead something more substantial, I prefer the direct approach, like what SpaceX is doing.

I commented in the YORF thread on this topic that "this is the future boys-- NASA looks like it's standing still." I still believe that. NASA has spent the last 12 years fiddling with old shuttle parts trying to build some new sort of super-booster, which has required the redesign of nearly every part in play, and will use all those "reusable" (and thus very expensive) shuttle engines and SRB's in expendable mode, crashing them into the ocean to be destroyed and sink, or burn up on reentry. Even with the "benefit" of starting with all those "pre-existing" shuttle parts, it's taken over a decade and tens of billions of dollars to create this new "super-booster" and it will STILL take years longer before it's even ready for test flights. Then add of course the fact that this new super-rocket won't fly but once every 3-4 years AT MOST, and the fact that NO missions exist for it beyond a couple test flights, NO mission hardware has been developed for it to do anything beyond those test missions or some "stunt" missions like rendezvousing in cislunar space with some washing-machine size asteroid that MIGHT be dragged back to the vicinity of the Moon, IF NASA spends billions more developing a robotic mission to go out there and bring such an asteroid back. It's patently ridiculous. The mindset is insane. To top it off, if Falcon Heavy is successful, it will be just as capable as SLS Block 1 at a TINY FRACTION of the cost on a per-mission basis. SLS block 1 will possess NO capabilities that Falcon Heavy could NOT do, and in order for SLS to achieve the 130 metric ton payload capability spelled out in the authorization documents for SLS, it will require developing ALL NEW advanced SRB's or large F-1B powered kerosene boosters (which for political reasons are already out of the running-- ATK has too good of a lobbying system and too many insiders working within NASA to EVER allow anything BUT "advanced" disposable SRB's to be used). This will require BILLIONS more in development funding and years more time to achieve the SLS Block 2 performance. In addition, SLS will need an advanced upper ascent stage program (another billion dollar development) and an in-space propulsion stage as well (more money and development time). All this for NO specific mission plans beyond some vague talk of going to Mars "someday" 20 years from now.

I doubt SLS will survive to see more than a couple flights. NASA's own RAC-2 study, done in the wake of the cancellation of the Constellation program, showed that cost-wise and performance wise the BEST solution was to develop an all-new serially staged large booster, powered by a kerolox first stage, hydrogen second stage, with an in-space propulsion stage to finish the ascent to orbit and propel the payload to escape velocities for deep space missions. Sound familiar?? It should-- it would basically be a new Saturn V! Turns out Von Braun and company got it right 50 years ago, after all, but now we're too POLITICALLY invested to even recreate what they did that we threw away 40 years ago.

With the technology that SpaceX has already demonstrated (and Blue Origin as well), they've PROVEN that recovery of large liquid-propellant rocket stages IS possible with the technology we have. NASA COULD have developed something akin to a new Saturn V, with the first stages recovering at sea on huge barges ala Falcon 9 stage 1, for refurbishment and reuse. No stupid SRB's necessary, with all the drawbacks that SRB's have, like the huge perchlorate pollution problem at the Cape from 30 years of SRB flights on shuttles, the additional handling expense and difficulties that hampered operations in the VAB and elsewhere on the Cape for decades due to the use of large fully-fueled SRB's being handled and moved, and the difficulties of moving the extremely heavy SRB's mated to the vehicle stack, which unlike liquid propellant boosters MUST be moved fully fueled.

Instead we've gotten 12 years of development of some hybrid-shuttle-throwaway booster thing using redesigned shuttle parts that won't even fly a test flight for a couple years more at the earliest and won't fly a mission again after that for YEARS, and will be 2-3 more years after that before it flies again. Such a system is going to be RIDICULOUSLY expensive to maintain and operate, which is why it won't survive... unless of course Congress and NASA are content to spend most of NASA's budget NOT to fly, but just to maintain the capability...

Later! OL J R :)
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#3 Re: Blue Origin Vs. Space X, the continuing story.

Post by blackshire » Mon, 11 Apr 16, 07:57 am

It's ironic that then-NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin belittled the DC-X's first test flight (this was before the program was transferred from the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization [SDIO] to NASA), saying that it wasn't of much interest. *That* was the very kind of work that NASA--and its predecessor agency, the N.A.C.A. (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics)--was supposed to do. Instead of running a government-owned "airline to space" (which stifled private development in this area because NASA, being a government agency that doesn't have to make a profit, could undercut private ventures), they should have--as the N.A.C.A. had for aviation technologies--been conducting the high-risk, high-payoff technology development experimentation (with vehicles such as the DC-X, and its proposed follow-on test vehicles) that private firms could ill-afford to do themselves. Both agencies were founded to do such expensive R & D work and to disseminate the knowledge gained from it to industry, so that they could turn it into improved air and space vehicles, whose sales and use would benefit the economy. Now:

Blue Origin and SpaceX have benefited from the knowledge gained by test-flying the DC-X (and their rocket engines' designs were built on the foundation of NASA's work on the [kerolox] Fastrac engine and experimental LOX/LH2 engines and subsystem test articles). But running an "airline to space" in the form of the Space Shuttle program not only stifled private aspirations to do the same; it also consumed a significant portion of NASA's budget (just ask the folks at JPL how much they liked the Shuttle...), which reduced the amount of R & D work that the agency could engage in.

Just a few examples of such "under-nourished" NASA research work include the development of LOX/methane rocket engines (these were desired in the Constellation program because they could have used asteroid- or comet-sourced methane--the LOX/CH4 service module engine was dropped when NASA couldn't spare the funding for it), ground-launched and air-launched spaceplanes (which would be useful for suborbital research work as well as for developing larger flyback boosters [some could carry small upper stages for orbiting satellites themselves]), and VTOVL rockets. All of these things have been done, or are now being done, but if NASA had conducted the basic research in these and other areas first, with higher levels of funding, we would not have had to wait so many decades before private firms--which luckily were headed by passionate people who were willing to risk total financial ruin--finally brought them to fruition. NASA should return to doing the important--and often exciting, including to them--work of advancing the states of the aeronautical and astronautical arts, leave space transportation to hired contractors such as SpaceX and Orbital ATK, and stop needlessly duplicating cheaper private space transportation systems at fantastic expense with boondoggles such as the SLS.

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#4 Re: Blue Origin Vs. Space X, the continuing story.

Post by Joe Wooten » Mon, 11 Apr 16, 11:37 am

stop needlessly duplicating cheaper private space transportation systems at fantastic expense with boondoggles such as the SLS.

The SLS is a congressionally mandated system. Gotta get the congresscritters who forced that turkey on NASA to rescind it first.

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#5 Re: Blue Origin Vs. Space X, the continuing story.

Post by luke strawwalker » Mon, 11 Apr 16, 23:58 pm

Good points.

SLS was *technically* "foisted" on NASA, BUT it certainly wasn't like NASA was dragged kicking and screaming and forced into it. NASA was a more than willing partner in getting that approved, because nobody in gubmint (inside NASA or outside it, say in Congress) has the courage or foresight to retool NASA into what it NEEDS to be-- a RESEARCH organization and not an "OPERATIONS" organization. What I mean by that is NASA should be doing the sort of cutting edge research that *traditional* aerospace companies can't or won't do. Fortunately we've had a "paradigm change" over the last few decades thanks to the fortunes made by enthusiastic young entrepreneurs in the digital age, like Musk and Bezos, which have allowed them the money and time to spend on "passions" such as spaceflight and cutting edge technology which NASA has been unwilling to do, and its big aerospace contractors in "traditional aerospace companies" (most of whose senior leadership come and go through the "revolving door" between NASA, space policy/leadership in gubmint, and the big aerospace "private industry"-- forming a sort of "space/industrial complex" similar to the "military/industrial complex" that Eisenhower warned us about over 50 years ago) won't do without a fat NASA or gubmint contract paying them millions to do. The big "traditional aerospace companies" have NO incentive to "rock the boat" or disturb the status quo with cheaper or more efficient systems, because they'd replace the more expensive and lower efficiency systems they are presently selling to the gubmint for enormous profits. It's not like Boeing or Lockheed Martin couldn't have designed a reusable first stage modifications for Delta IV or Atlas V a decade ago. It's not in their interest to do so!

SLS came about because of the late 50's belief that "only NASA can muster the scientific genius and gubmint resources to design complex spacecraft, rocket engines, and launch systems and only NASA can safely conduct complicated space missions". That hasn't been true for a LONG time. Most of the cutting edge experience in rocket vehicle design, engine design, etc. resides OUTSIDE NASA, in industry and academia. It shows because NASA has been working on SLS and its Constellation predecessors for about 12 years now and won't even have TEST flights for another couple years, IF the schedule holds. While NASA has spent billions of dollars and over a decade "reinventing the wheel", entrepreneurial industry has moved beyond into new realms and operation paradigms and is quickly leaving their NASA mentors and 'traditional aerospace industry' predecessors in the dust.

NASA needs to follow a more "military" example-- issue "requirements" for the new system and then put out bids and turn the companies loose to come up with their own designs and methods of meeting those requirements. NASA can design and be in charge of the MISSIONS, using its own astronaut corps and people, but it needs to allow the COMPANIES to design and build the systems it uses to perform those missions. This ancient "cost-plus" contractor system is a relic of the Cold War when budgets were limitless and national prestige was just as important as any actual mission success or mission achievements. Those days are LONG dead and buried! Lest someone start with the "NASA has NEVER built their own hardware-- industry has ALWAYS done it for them!", NASA has basically designed everything from the ground up and then hired some contractor to take NASA designs and build it to their specifications. I'm talking about DOING AWAY with that mindset and following a "here's what we want to do, show me how you'd do it and how much it'd cost" approach, and then selecting from a number of systems... much like the commercial orbital resupply missions to ISS and the commercial crew programs have been done. We need to do the same with launch vehicles, crew modules and spacecraft, etc. NASA should COORDINATE the work to make sure it all works seamlessly together, and meets the safety and mission requirements, but the DESIGN should come from industry, and they should build it and operate it for NASA (prepare and launch it, with NASA astronauts performing the mission, where relevant).

I was going to mention FASTRAC (the NASA research engine project that they sold to industry after its cancellation, which became the basis of the SpaceX Merlin rocket engine), the abortive NASA attempt at a methane engine (which as was pointed out can use in-situ produced methane fuel from asteroids or the Martian atmosphere when reacted with hydrogen brought from Earth in the Sabatier process, as Robert Zubrin first proposed decades ago). NASA also cancelled the Prometheus project, which was focused on developing nuclear power and propulsion for deep-space missions, which is DEFINITELY something that "only NASA" can actually afford or have the authority (as a gubmint agency) to do, and which eventually WILL be absolutely necessary to perform any kind of SERIOUS missions in orbits beyond Earth (Mars or the outer solar system) due to the fall-off of solar power intensity and capabilities at distances beyond Earth's orbit around the Sun... Remember Mars only gets HALF the solar energy Earth gets.)

Later! OL J R :)
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#6 Re: Blue Origin Vs. Space X, the continuing story.

Post by bernomatic » Tue, 12 Apr 16, 00:20 am

All valid points and well taken Luke.

I was actually writing about the fact that NASA needs to be more like the FAA than anything. but that post was written while at work and by the time I went to post it, the portal had timed out and I couldn't take the time to rewrite then.

Basically, I wrote could you imagine what the aviation industry would be like today if it would have been as guarded and protected as the aerospace industry is today.

With both airplanes, and automobiles for that matter, The industry had a time with very little to no government interference which caused them to grow and flourish (or flounder in a large majority of cases). But the rockets, missiles and men in space (with apologies to Wiley Ley) almost from the get-go was put under the foot of the bureaucratic government eye.

Except for one venue, which decided correctly that it should regulate itself. That venue of course was model rocketry where we were allowed to dream and come up with ideas and technologies ourselves. Could you imagine what the industrial aerospace venue would be like today if it had been allowed to grow like model rocketry has? :ugeek:
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