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Open Lines, Sunday, 4-27-14 April 28, 2014

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Open Lines, Sunday, 4-27-14


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Guest:  Open Lines with Dr. David Livingston.  Topics:  SpaceX reusability, reusability assumption making, fly back boosters, “Space, Inc.”  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See http://www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.  For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.

Welcome to our Open Lines discussion.  During the first segment of our two hour seven minute show, I went over suggested topics including the upcoming SpaceX lawsuit, reusability, the Earth-like planet discovered by Kepler, ISDC 2014 & more.  By far, the topic of choice for the entire program was SpaceX reusability though the other topics did come up during both segments of the program.  Doug from S. California called first and took up most of the first segment to praise SpaceX reusability, to let us know his thoughts on the subject and the type of assumption making he uses.  While I agree on the importance of the success of the SpaceX reusability work so far, I had a departure from Doug on his conclusions and analysis.  Doug was unflinching in his approach to the subject, his analysis, his assumption making process, and his conclusions. I repeatedly asked for aerospace engineers to call in to give us their views on the subjects as Doug and I do not work in the field nor are we engineers.  Unfortunately, that did not happen until the very end of the show when Dr. Lurio called in about some of the issues Doug and I talked about.  So you listen and decide.  If you have comments and thoughts about our discussion, post them for all to see and learn from on TSS blog.  During our discussion, Kelly, another John, and others sent critical emails to me to read on air. We also talked about pricing strategy, reusable penalties, and Doug’s unwavering support in the public discussion comments by SpaceX executives.

In the second segment, John called in from Ft. Worth to clarify what he had said a few months back given that Doug recalled the comments and mentioned them during his call.  John had much to question about reusability, especially with a fly back booster to a land designation.  He talked about economics, reusable launch penalties for added mass and fuel, plus ideas for water landing locations.  I repeated the comments offered on launch penalties made by Ms. Shotwell when she was on the show last month.  She said the Falcon rockets were designed for reusability so any launch penalties were already factored in and discounted so there were none.  We also talked Falcon Heavy & how it might benefit from reusability.  Tim called from Huntsville to talk about heavy lift & delays in depot turnaround times.  I asked listeners if anyone had seen the Al Jazeera America Fault Line documentary last week, “Space, Inc.”  I gave my opinion that it was a type of hatchet job on private/commercial space and that editing made many people look a bit off or less than serious.  The program is not yet archived but if anyone has a copy of it, I will post if for our audience to see.  Tim never saw the documentary but had much critical to say about it, but without his having actually seen it, I had to discount his comments.  Dr. Charles Lurio called in to say that were probably many ways/solutions to do reusability from wings to no wings. He made a strong point saying there was no single solution.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS Blog above.  If you want to reach any of our participants, email to me and I will forward your note to the person of your choice.




1. jimjxr - April 29, 2014

A small correction: You can certainly buy a non-reusable Falcon 9 and get the extra performance, SES bought Falcon 9 launch services for SES-9 and SES-10 a few months ago, both satellites weight more than 5 tons, well above Falcon 9’s published GTO payload (4.8 tons). According to @pbdes on twitter, SpaceX explained this as “SpaceX: Falcon 9 can lift 5,300kg to GTO. Published 4,850kg max included 450kg we reserved for ourselves. So 5,300kg SES-10 fits on F9.”

Also I think you’re too hard on the space cadets, your generation saw the Apollo landing, and the generation after that saw Space Shuttle took off, I think Falcon 9 1st stage landing will be the Apollo and Shuttle moment for the new generation. Sure there is a possibility that reusability will not work out, just like Shuttle didn’t work out, but at least someone is pushing the boundaries in spaceflight again, that alone should make any space cadets giddy with excitement.

2. Andy Hill - April 29, 2014

One of the things that has been said is that space needs to be taken to a wider audience and it is interesting that when someone has the opportunity to do this there is resentment from the space community about how the message is treated by the broadcaster.

Al Jazeera knows its audience and what it likes so its not surprising that no one rang in who had seen the program as I suspect nearly all space cadets wouldn’t be their normal viewers. If we don’t want to be only preaching to the choir we need to get many different voices talking and if we don’t always like what is said well tough.

If we only see space from our own point of view and refuse to acknowledge others then how can we convince others of its merits?

3. Luis - April 29, 2014

Great show, glad to hear it all went well on your medical issues.

On Kelly’s comment during the show of something about using a mothballed aircraft carrier, I had thought about something similar to the approach used by Sea Launch of using a decommissioned oil platform, and use it as landing platform for the first stage. That might lead to increased operational costs and knowing about Sea Launch’s many financial struggles it might be why Musk is not pursuing it this way but attempting a fly back to the launch site. Hope he can make it. Anyways, also looking at google maps, wonder if some of the islands north of Bahamas might come close to the most common flight paths from the Cape, to use them as landing sites. Already hearing cry outs from environmentalists, but could be worth giving it a look by the Spacex folks. Anyway as Rick points out, fuel is very little of the launch cost, so maybe Elon has it all sorted out already.

Oh and I think they had long stated that the launch was going up with the legs.

As for GSO recoverable launch, maybe could be done with the Heavy, but really don’t know at all.


4. rocketscirick - April 28, 2014


Great to hear you back. Perhaps I’m dreaming but it sounds like you have a lot more energy now.🙂

Regarding the landing legs on the recent Falcon 9 launch: yes, they were on this Falcon 9. I heard reports that the legs deployed about 10 seconds before F9 stage went into the water.

That deployment was indeed interesting. There was also an interesting test just before that. On April 18, there was an F9R test flight at the McGregor site. Video of the flight is on the SpaceXChannel on YouTube. It reports that these F9R flights have the legs fixed in the down position; but in future, they will be folded against the side. If you look at the Falcon 9 v1.1 diagram on the SpaceX website (spacex/falcon9), you see the legs folded up. In fact, those folded up legs and the ones in the F9R video look the same. Hopefully, we will soon see tests at McGregor of the legs deploying seconds before touchdown on hard ground.

Going back to the SpaceX website, you begin to realize that the black dots on the top of the folded up legs are the landing pads that contact the ground. And thus, it start to become clear how the legs fold out. There are some hidden away extending struts, but the F9R video shows what they look like when fully extended.

Regarding John Hunt’s assessment that the rocket has to null out its horizontal velocity and then effectively reverse course to get back to the Cape, I am in complete agreement. It would not be surprising if they need 15-20% fuel reserve to do this. However, Elon Musk has stated that the fuel is about 0.3% of the cost of the launch. So there is virtually no economic loss in doing this.

From earlier flights, I understood that recovery and reuse of the first stage is not compatible with a launch to geosynchronous orbit (GSO). The commercial satellite payloads are large, and they need all the fuel to get the payload and upper stage to LEO before a burn to geo transfer orbit then GSO/GEO ever happens. In that case, the fuel is completely spent, and the stage cannot be recovered. At least, that is the case with the Falcon 9 v1.1 design. Who knows if they will come up with a new solution to this as well.

–Rick in Silicon Valley

5. Space-for-All at HobbySpace » Space policy roundup – April.28.14 - April 28, 2014

[…] Open Lines, Sunday, 4-27-14 | Thespaceshow’s Blog […]

6. Alan M - April 28, 2014

Great show! Glad to here you medical went well! Keep up the good work Dr. Doug!

On the Falcon 9, i believe if you look at the original and compare with today, its not all great marketing from SpaceX. Knowing that a reusable will likely be heavier, etc., they have upped the engine performance and fuel capacity which maintains a similar payload to orbit. So same payload and now reusable (soon, hopefully). There is no reusable penalty. Unless my numbers are wrong.

On a side note, JP Aerospace is doing the same as SpaceX, using paying payloads to fund research and development. Seems like a solid plan. I wish the best for both of them.

I believe the space cadets have every reason to be optimistic for Mars, etc. This is serious progress. More than we had a month ago. Even if some customers don’t care about reusable, they will like massive cost savings and likely there will be more customers with the cost savings than before – college research being just one. Wow, imagine taking courses, launching and getting results before graduation. Here we Go!

Alan M

wodun - April 30, 2014

“On the Falcon 9, i believe if you look at the original and compare with today, its not all great marketing from SpaceX. Knowing that a reusable will likely be heavier, etc., they have upped the engine performance and fuel capacity which maintains a similar payload to orbit. ”

If you go re-listen to the Shotwell program, she says that the published lift capacity of the F9 already took into account performance trade offs needed for re-usability. The published numbers were not accurate and the F9 was more capable than they were telling the public. That, in conjunction with the engine performances and increased fuel capacity you mention, allow SpaceX to add the re-usability hardware without a hit to their published numbers on what the F9 can fling.

At least, that is what I took her comments as. I can’t quote them lest I run afoul of copyright infringement. I am surprised Dr Space and John didn’t catch this because it is a rather significant admission and gives us a lot of insight into how much planning for re-usability SpaceX has done from the beginning.

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