April 09, 2016

Spacex reusable stages, drone ship technology and the Spacex Heavy

Initially SpaceX plans to reduce the cost of a Falcon 9 rocket with a reused booster to $43 million per flight, a savings of 30 percent.

SpaceX will try to return the booster that was just landed on the drone ship back to Cape Canaveral, in Florida, by Sunday. After running a series of tests on the Falcon, the company plans to fire its engines 10 times in a row on the ground. “If things look good it will be qualified for reuse,” Musk said. “We’re hoping to relaunch it on an orbital mission, let's say by June.”

SpaceX plans to have its first manned flight by the end of 2017 with the second generation of the Dragon capsule. Spacex will have an unmanned test of the new Dragon capsule first.

Spacex Drone Ships

Spacex droneships are modified Marmac barges. The autonomous drone ships are outfitted with four diesel-powered azimuth thruster engines which can pivot horizontally, removing the need for a ship rudder and offering better maneuverability with a complete 360 degree range of motion for the ship controls. The engines are supplied by marine equipment manufacturer Thrustmaster.

The materials on the surface of the ship aren’t entirely known, but is likely a thick sheet of steel which prominently features the SpaceX logo.

The drone ships are capable of maneuvering autonomously, using GPS information for precision positioning, but they can also be remotely controlled by an accompanying support ship with a crew of technicians standing by.

A wide array of sensors are used in tandem with the GPS information to manage the “attitude and placement” of the drone ship and communicate with the incoming rocket and the onlooking teams to control and coordinate the complicated precise landings.

Following each landing attempt the crews of the support ship board the drone ship. If the landing is successful, the standing rocket is welded to the deck of the ship and reinforced until it arrives back in port. If the landing was a failure, whatever is salvageable is secured and returned to port.

Half or more of the launches will not have enough fuel for a landing back onto land. Initially it will be half land landings. As they increase rocket performance they will be able to reduce ocean landings to one third or one quarter. The next ocean landing will be 3 months away. The third mission from now will be land landing.

Everything on the stage should be good for 10-20 re-uses and with minor refurbishment up to 100 reuses.

Elon Musk in the post launch interview indicated that the drone ship held position to within one meter.

They have landing shoes that go over the landing gear and the shows are welded to the deck.

Elon again talked about Spacex launching once every two weeks

Spacex Heavy will launch later this year. The Falcon Heavy configuration consists of a standard Falcon 9 with two additional Falcon 9 first stages acting as liquid strap-on boosters, which is conceptually similar to EELV Delta IV Heavy launcher and proposals for the Atlas V HLV and Russian Angara. Falcon Heavy will be more capable than any other operational rocket, with a payload to low earth orbit of 53,000 kilograms (117,000 lb) and 12-13 tons to Mars.

The Spacex Heavy launch will try to land three first stages.

Reusability can reduce marginal costs by one hundred times.

At the International Astronautical Congress in Sept, 2016 will be when Elon Musk will give a talk about his Mars colonization plans. This will include discussion of creating a city on Mars.

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