Problem facing SpaceX

Feb 1, 2020
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One problem I see facing SpaceX in the near term future is the lack of customers for their larger rockets.

Falcon 9 can launch the Crew Dragon carrying up to six or seven people. The first launch is actually taking up a crew of four, as currently planned. The Cargo Dragon version takes a couple of tons of cargo up to the ISS (International Space Station) at a time. Falcon 9 also lofts regular batches of satellites to orbits ranging from LEO to GEO and sizes ranging from that of a small car to shoe box sized satellites. In fact, they regularly send up multiple satellites on a single rocket.

Falcon 9 is in fact overkill for most satellite launches. That's OK, as it is the least expensive large launcher at present. SpaceX currently launches their own satellites in batches of sixty at a time.

Falcon 9 generates all of SpaceX's current profits. It's the most used rocket for payloads into space just now.

Falcon Heavy (FH) lifts more than twice what Falcon 9 does. To date, there have only been three launches of the Falcon Heavy rocket. Simply put, it's too much rocket for the current market. Sure, Elon Musk launched his sports car on an orbit that intersects the orbit of Mars, but nobody really wants to do that .
NASA might someday want to use Falcon Heavy to launch some elements of the planned Artemus Program, but they are really trying to use their SLS system with around twice the payload of FH. But Artemus wont be launching anything for a few years yet. Perhaps the FH could be used to build another space station. However nobody who can afford it really wants to just now.

So Falcon Heavy just waits for a needed customer. It's ready whenever it's needed. It isn't needed yet.
But SpaceX isn't waiting.

Space X is now developing rather publicly the "Starship" system. This is a slightly modular large booster system for a two stage to orbit rocket family. It will take up to 100 people to LEO (Low Earth Orbit), or maybe only 30. It will also take up cargos of up to ten times what a Falcon Heavy can lift to LEO. It will also include tanker craft that can refuel other Starship class rockets. Starship can also take cargos up to three times wider than can the Falcon family of rockets.

Refueling a Starship class rocket in LEO will allos it to reach and land on bodies such as the Moon or Mars. True, travel times will be substantial, several days to the Moon, and 3/4 of a year for Mars.

There are also plans to use the Starship upper stage for point to point travel on Earth. Animations show it being used for New York to London travel.

Don't expect that to happen however.

Oh, it is possible. Travel time would be less than a half hour. Takeoff and landing are already established technologies due to operation of the Falcon 9 family or rockets.

However, such a system will never operate close to any large city.

Rockets are LOUD. Then there is that the inevitable crashes when one fails would be devistating to any big city. And like airliners, there will be failures. Not often, but once is enough.

No, if such point to point transit is ever used, it will be between points located far from any big city, and most likely not close many small towns either.

But that just highlights the real problem facing SpaceX.

Rockets are a transport system. They move things from here to there. It's also what ships, cars, trucks and trains do. It's really what the rocket bombs like the German V2 or any ICBM does.

To be viable, transport rockets have to have places to go.

They don't have places to go currently.

SpaceX launches roughtly six to ten big staellites per year and probably just as many cargo and crew missions to the ISS can be expected, for as long as the ISS lasts. That is their current income stream. Falcon 9 has saturated the market.

Nobody needs anything bigger currently.
Oh, eventually we will need more. Someday.

Now however, we don't need more rocket.

So SpaceX is building full size Starship models in Texas and slowly getting closer to having one that will actually work as planned. The booster section will mate with crew, cargo and fuel tank sections and then there will be a "Super Heavy" first stage built.

But nobody currently needs anything with twice the lifting capacity of the much critisized SLS.

In ten to fifteen years thing s will be different.

However SpaceX can't wait ten years to get costomers.

That is the real SpaceX problem

All dressed up and nowhere to go.
 
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Feb 1, 2020
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Stoc
Yea I think it is going to be a big bust. I wouldn't buy stock in it., ...
The stock isn't that big a risk. Falcon 9 currently brings in about 3 to 5 Billion (with a B) a year of income. That will grow to close to 8 Billion in a few more years. NASA, Space Force, plus all of the established commercial satellite providers will see to that. Plus, there is that SpaceX is predicting an income stream of around 10 Billion from their orbital internet business that currently has no customers. That is Starlink.
I don't believe that they will make $10 Billion off of Starlink, but it will be several Billions. No, the income isn't their problem. The problem is the outgo. SpaceX is trying to increase the amount that can be boosted by quite a large margin when there is no current revenue stream for it. We can't even claim they will capture more of the existing revenue stream either. They already did that. Virtually all commercial satellite launches of large craft are on SpaceX rockets, or they are on National launch vehicles that routinely lose over half the cost of the launches. (Russia, China, ArianSpace, ULA, India, JAXA, ...) The exceptions to this are the very small satellites. Those are going with Electron and friends.
So I don't look for SpaceX to collapse, but it isn't a growth stock any more either.
It may just be time for Elon to begin paying dividends.
 
May 2, 2020
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One problem I see facing SpaceX in the near term future is the lack of customers for their larger rockets.

Falcon 9 can launch the Crew Dragon carrying up to six or seven people. The first launch is actually taking up a crew of four, as currently planned. The Cargo Dragon version takes a couple of tons of cargo up to the ISS (International Space Station) at a time. Falcon 9 also lofts regular batches of satellites to orbits ranging from LEO to GEO and sizes ranging from that of a small car to shoe box sized satellites. In fact, they regularly send up multiple satellites on a single rocket.

Falcon 9 is in fact overkill for most satellite launches. That's OK, as it is the least expensive large launcher at present. SpaceX currently launches their own satellites in batches of sixty at a time.

Falcon 9 generates all of SpaceX's current profits. It's the most used rocket for payloads into space just now.

Falcon Heavy (FH) lifts more than twice what Falcon 9 does. To date, there have only been three launches of the Falcon Heavy rocket. Simply put, it's too much rocket for the current market. Sure, Elon Musk launched his sports car on an orbit that intersects the orbit of Mars, but nobody really wants to do that .
NASA might someday want to use Falcon Heavy to launch some elements of the planned Artemus Program, but they are really trying to use their SLS system with around twice the payload of FH. But Artemus wont be launching anything for a few years yet. Perhaps the FH could be used to build another space station. However nobody who can afford it really wants to just now.

So Falcon Heavy just waits for a needed customer. It's ready whenever it's needed. It isn't needed yet.
But SpaceX isn't waiting.

Space X is now developing rather publicly the "Starship" system. This is a slightly modular large booster system for a two stage to orbit rocket family. It will take up to 100 people to LEO (Low Earth Orbit), or maybe only 30. It will also take up cargos of up to ten times what a Falcon Heavy can lift to LEO. It will also include tanker craft that can refuel other Starship class rockets. Starship can also take cargos up to three times wider than can the Falcon family of rockets.

Refueling a Starship class rocket in LEO will allos it to reach and land on bodies such as the Moon or Mars. True, travel times will be substantial, several days to the Moon, and 3/4 of a year for Mars.

There are also plans to use the Starship upper stage for point to point travel on Earth. Animations show it being used for New York to London travel.

Don't expect that to happen however.

Oh, it is possible. Travel time would be less than a half hour. Takeoff and landing are already established technologies due to operation of the Falcon 9 family or rockets.

However, such a system will never operate close to any large city.

Rockets are LOUD. Then there is that the inevitable crashes when one fails would be devistating to any big city. And like airliners, there will be failures. Not often, but once is enough.

No, if such point to point transit is ever used, it will be between points located far from any big city, and most likely not close many small towns either.

But that just highlights the real problem facing SpaceX.

Rockets are a transport system. They move things from here to there. It's also what ships, cars, trucks and trains do. It's really what the rocket bombs like the German V2 or any ICBM does.

To be viable, transport rockets have to have places to go.

They don't have places to go currently.

SpaceX launches roughtly six to ten big staellites per year and probably just as many cargo and crew missions to the ISS can be expected, for as long as the ISS lasts. That is their current income stream. Falcon 9 has saturated the market.

Nobody needs anything bigger currently.
Oh, eventually we will need more. Someday.

Now however, we don't need more rocket.

So SpaceX is building full size Starship models in Texas and slowly getting closer to having one that will actually work as planned. The booster section will mate with crew, cargo and fuel tank sections and then there will be a "Super Heavy" first stage built.

But nobody currently needs anything with twice the lifting capacity of the much critisized SLS.

In ten to fifteen years thing s will be different.

However SpaceX can't wait ten years to get costomers.

That is the real SpaceX problem

All dressed up and nowhere to go.
NASA, in their infinite wisdom, has deemed the seats and configuration is not ideal. NASA has made them go from a 6 man configuration, 2 pilots in front and 4 passengers below, to a 4 man, they say, for safety reasons. Yea right!
I disagree. Musk is not going to make boosters and capsules forever. After so many are on hand, no more will be made. This will be a huge savings, no one else can match. I think eventually, Space X will be the go to, because of the launch price.
NASA hates Space X, for what ever reason. Space X has had to sue NASA many times, and has not lost one yet. NASA didn’t have to make the SLS, Space X already has one, not as big but big enough. They are spending Billions of our money for no reason! And the SLS hasn’t even flown yet, is very expensive, and is only built for 1 reason. With the tax climate, because of the virus shutdowns, the program will be shut down probably permanently. This will leave Space X’s heavy lift vehicle the only one.
 
May 8, 2020
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the real problem is using fire cracker wont last there is no real future application, it in the world of intelligent technology is well its a fire cracker. any real space direction first must have good intel. and finish off all the tech that is needed. research and development of propulsion. better design's.
 
Nov 25, 2019
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Despite all the publicity, SpaceX has not invested all that much in Starship. They built then blew up two stainless steel fuel tanks ad they flew "star hopper" close to the ground. That's their investment to date.

Musk claims that this Starship project uses only 5% of the company's resources ad most of the rest is spent on Falcon.

I do see a use for Starship/super heavy in NASA's plans for Mars. NASA will need quite a lot of heavy lift, NASA's plan is to build a small space station in orbit around Mars where astronauts will live. Astronauts will take short trips down to the surface and back up. This station will need to be built and supplied just like ISS needs a constant stream of supply so will the Mars station.

Starship can launch from Earth with 100 tons of cargo then wait in Earth orbit while ten tankers are lanuched one after the other and re-fuel the Mars-bound cargo ship. The nice think about Starship is that because it is designed to land on Mars in can also aero-brake to enter Mars orbit. It can drop a huge 100T load at the station then still have enough fuel to return to Earth.

Landing a starship on Mars is a huge problem because you need a chemical fuel plant on Mars to make rocket fuel. This is not a small job to make 100 tons of fuel. But Starship could go to Mars orbit and back with no fuel plant.

Starship could fit into NASA's plan better then it could fit into Musk's plan.
 
Feb 1, 2020
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Despite all the publicity, SpaceX has not invested all that much in Starship. They built then blew up two stainless steel fuel tanks ad they flew "star hopper" close to the ground. That's their investment to date.

Landing a starship on Mars is a huge problem because you need a chemical fuel plant on Mars to make rocket fuel. This is not a small job to make 100 tons of fuel. But Starship could go to Mars orbit and back with no fuel plant.
No, the investment is much larger than just the flying water tank. SpaceX has leased/purchased properties in Texas and in Florida. They have also built facilities in both places.

They have developed a new methane/oxygen full flow combustion cycle rocket engine (not a small or cheap project) with Space Shuttle or Saturn V levels of thrust.

The project is only half way through as well. I expect to see them blow up/crash at least three more times before they have a working prototype. Musk himself doesn't expect anything before prototype 6 to fly. They are currently on prototype 4.

So far, the folks down in Texas haven't exploded any rockets. They have however imploded a few. That comes from overpressure due to condensation, or to loading up the top without providing any support under it. In practice, the oxidizer above is supported by the pressure of the fuel below.

Launching from Mars isn't a big problem. Refueling will take time and a good power system. The actual device was manufactured by the Mars Society well over ten years ago. It uses a chemical cycle that was developed around 1910. It isn't Rocket Science, if you will excuse the expression.

The Sabatier Process inputs power, water and carbon dioxide and outputs methane and oxygen. An air compressor and a tank with ice (mined locally), plus a few megawatts of generation is all the input needed to produce the propellants. That's one of the two reasons for the selection of methane and oxygen as the fuel and oxidizer.

The other reason is that liquid hydrogen doesn't store well for long periods. Most materials have molecualr bonds that have gaps larger than a hydrogen molecule.

Basically, long term, hydrogen tanks leak slowly.

It's why in the old Apollo launches, the rockets were always connected to the launch tower right up until the boosting Saturn V literally ripped the fuel lines out of the rocket.

Hydrogen/Oxygen has the highest exhaust velocity of any chemical rocket fuel. Methane/Oxygen is the second best.

Though you may have to wait for the next Holman Transfer to have enough fuel saved up. That's 26 months. The process takes a large plant to produce a large amount of fuel quickly. A small plant can do it, but only slowly.
 
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Nov 25, 2019
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To launch from Mars he needs 100 tons of CRYOGENIC liquified Methane and O2. They have to use power to keep it chilled orthey need some means to coll 100 tons of it just before use. They need a redundant supply in case of a failure of the chiller or a tank or a pad abort on the launch date. They can not use the fuel tanks in a landed Starship for long term storage because they are un-insulated stainless steel. A tank farm that size is larger then the cargo space in a Starship. Ice mining requires a fleet of self-driving robot bulldozer and dump trucks and an automated oven and RO plant. None of this exists even as a prototype let along "space-qualified" It all either has to work or be faut tolerant of the crew dies on Mars.

So, they need multiple landing of Starships that will never return to Earth to set up an infrastructure. Then a couple unmanned round trip missions to test the system. But each mission from Earth to Mars requires not one but ten tanker flights to refuels the ars bound ship. That is a 13 to 1 ratio of Earth launches to Mars landings. Yes, this could be done but it is very expensive.

Typically on all space missions the launch is by far NOT the main cost. Payloads cost maybe 10X the launch cost.. His bulldozer miniing fleet and chemical plants and tank farm and all the robots needed to make it work will be the main cost items.

Yes, the cost of a single Starship launch might be low but going to Mars requires 13 launches because of the 12 tankers. You do need 12 of them. A starship payload is 100T and they hold 1200T of fuel.

As said, a more realistic plan is NASA's gateway station. This saves the work or landing most of the equipment. The main living space and all the food and water and the Earth return vehicle does not need to be landed. un-crewed Starships can go to Mars and back if they don't land. (bt they still would need the 12 takers)
 
Feb 1, 2020
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To launch from Mars he needs 100 tons of CRYOGENIC liquified Methane and O2. They have to use power to keep it chilled orthey need some means to coll 100 tons of it just before use.
That is correct. It is why the plan, like the Mars Direct plan it was taken from has a couple of cargo ships going to Mars one-way before the first launch. There is a reactor to provide power and a chemical processing plant to convert atmosphere and water into methane and oxygen. Fuel generation is expected to take two years, which is why the cargo vessels are launched one-way two years before the people are.

But none of this has been done yet. We still haven't got any ships capable of carrying people to Mars safely. The transport systems, SLS and Starship, are BOTH untested at present. SLS has never been launched with a crew and never had the full stack launched. Hope it works!

Starship is still just a series of mock-ups. I see that they have done a test firing on a stand, but I don't believe that even a short un-tethered hop is planned for a few more months. The first stage only exists on paper and gets changed regularly. It will take both stages to be of any use.

The Falcon Heavy can do the job, but only for around ten tons of cargo to Mars. That isn't enough. Maybe for a two to four man crew, but that's peanuts for what Mr. Musk is promising. The FH is being used for cargo for NASA's upcoming Moon Base and the Lunar Orbital Station. The same rockets that can get you to the Moon can get you to Mars. It just takes longer. Days to the Moon, months to Mars.

That's why nobody is suggesting they go this year. In two to four years it will be different.

Or maybe six to eight years, depending on who you listen to.
 
Apr 14, 2020
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NASA will continue to be preoccupied with showy, one-off events and some basic planetary exploration but they have no long-game. A political system cannot sustain the long term investment of time and vision to do much more.

Space-Force will end up being a militarized activity with its long term goal of having some isolated orbital platform in a polar orbit to just be eyeballs in the sky. Maybe at some distant date they will have a few people on the moon (more eyeballs in the sky).

Private investors are looking at an eventual return, either from zero-gee manufacturing or lunar/asteroid mining for resources. Eventually the mining will extend to manufacturing (as its lots easier to keep things in space than haul them up and down out of a gravity-well).

People going to space and living/working there will be employes of those private investors. They will bring skills necessary for specialized manufacturing/ mining so they will be the brightest and the best.

It may be 20-30 years after commercialization of space before you will start to see people going to space to just live there or those who have done their time with a corporation and want to "retire" to the surface of the moon. (the first Starbucks on the Moon).
 
Feb 1, 2020
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The military has a history in the US of bringing along family for long term engagements where there is not immediate threat of violence. They also bring along some civilian support personnel. It's how the west was won.

Over time, the civilians build out the area around the forts for other uses. That's how we got places like Cheyenne Wyoming and Denver Colorado.
It was also the beginnings of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. That was under the Britsh before the revolution of 1776.

So I'm not adverse to some military engagement. I'd rather see a coast Guard type of organization than a Navy type however. I'd rather see rescues than assaults. Trump just took the existing Air Force spy satellite organization and made it a separate branch.

That's not what we need.

But it is a small step in whatr could be a good direction.
 
Feb 1, 2020
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NASA, in their infinite wisdom, has deemed the seats and configuration is not ideal. NASA has made them go from a 6 man configuration, 2 pilots in front and 4 passengers below, to a 4 man, they say, for safety reasons. Yea right!
I disagree. Musk is not going to make boosters and capsules forever. After so many are on hand, no more will be made. This will be a huge savings, no one else can match. I think eventually, Space X will be the go to, because of the launch price.
NASA hates Space X, for what ever reason. Space X has had to sue NASA many times, and has not lost one yet. NASA didn’t have to make the SLS, Space X already has one, not as big but big enough. They are spending Billions of our money for no reason! And the SLS hasn’t even flown yet, is very expensive, and is only built for 1 reason. With the tax climate, because of the virus shutdowns, the program will be shut down probably permanently. This will leave Space X’s heavy lift vehicle the only one.
Current vehicles last about five launched for the boosters, and three to four for the capsules. So they still have to be and in fact are producing both rockets and capsules. Though the number needed is much smaller than the number of launches. That's why they can charge two thirds of the next cheapest ride to orbit and still make 50% profit.

But it won't last forever. Jeff Bezos can smell the money. New Glenn still isn't real hardware but it is partial hardware. By 2022 or 2024 New Origin will be launching. to orbit and to the moon.
 

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