SpaceX may try to catch Crew Dragon capsules with a giant net. (No, really.)

Jan 16, 2020
3
0
10
I wonder why SpaceX did not design their astronaut capsules to land on terra firma whereas Boeing's capsule does and is designed to be reused 10 times. This means SpaceX will have to build a new capsule for each launch, that doesn't make financial sense to me. Notwithstanding the chance of a mechanical or otherwise error during construction when you compare that to a previously successfully flown capsule that has passed all the tests, including the big one. SpaceX is known for making reusability a reality and I applaud that, but what happened to this mindset regarding the capsule?
 
Jan 23, 2020
1
2
10
I wonder why SpaceX did not design their astronaut capsules to land on terra firma whereas Boeing's capsule does and is designed to be reused 10 times. This means SpaceX will have to build a new capsule for each launch, that doesn't make financial sense to me. Notwithstanding the chance of a mechanical or otherwise error during construction when you compare that to a previously successfully flown capsule that has passed all the tests, including the big one. SpaceX is known for making reusability a reality and I applaud that, but what happened to this mindset regarding the capsule?
my guess is that late in the design phase SpaceX were forced into selecting the lowest of risks options as a fallback plan due to a failure in the effort to get propulsive landings to work in time for the crew program milestone commitments they needed to hit to keep the $ coming in.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Dave643 and John
Jan 23, 2020
1
1
15
That was the idea originally. The capsule would propulsively land using the Super Draco thrusters, and small landing legs would come out the bottom through the heat shield. They decided against it to speed up development, and reduce testing delays since a lot more would be needed to make sure the heat shield is not compromised. SpaceX will probably not continue with the original plan, as their R&D is focused on Starship with the intention of superceding the Falcon 9 rockets since they will end up being cheaper and more capable at the same time, rendering the Falcon 9 obsolete.
 
  • Like
Reactions: John
Jan 23, 2020
1
0
510
I wonder why SpaceX did not design their astronaut capsules to land on terra firma whereas Boeing's capsule does and is designed to be reused 10 times. This means SpaceX will have to build a new capsule for each launch, that doesn't make financial sense to me.
There is no such thing as "financial sense" at all for crew contracts between Boeing and SpaceX.

NASA pays Boeing $4.2 billion and it pays SpaceX $2.6 billion for identical contracts.

Source: https://spacenews.com/41891nasa-selects-boeing-and-spacex-for-commercial-crew-contracts/
 
Jan 24, 2020
5
2
515
I wonder why SpaceX did not design their astronaut capsules to land on terra firma whereas Boeing's capsule does and is designed to be reused 10 times. This means SpaceX will have to build a new capsule for each launch, that doesn't make financial sense to me. Notwithstanding the chance of a mechanical or otherwise error during construction when you compare that to a previously successfully flown capsule that has passed all the tests, including the big one. SpaceX is known for making reusability a reality and I applaud that, but what happened to this mindset regarding the capsule?
NASA did not want to have Crew Dragon land propulsively. NASA also did not want to have landing legs protruding through holes in the Crew Dragon heat shield. Since the customer, NASA, said no, SpaceX did not feel the need to argue and keep pushing for propulsive landings for Crew Dragon. This was even more true because SpaceX was already planning Starship and did not want to throw even more R&D funding to solve a problem that NASA did not want and slow down Starship at the same time.
 
  • Like
Reactions: John

Sam

Jan 5, 2020
33
3
535
They are required and have tested landing on land. Use Draccos to soften the landing. Soyuz does it. I like steerable parachutes. That would be a lot more work though. The computer or pilot could land as softly as a feather after a few tries. Right on the heat shield. No damage.
 
Jan 24, 2020
5
2
515
AFAIK, there has not been a land landing test for Crew Dragon, and I don't think NASA has any interest in having Crew Dragon test landing on land. Where did you hear that testing a land landing was a requirement?
 
Jan 16, 2020
3
0
10
There is no such thing as "financial sense" at all for crew contracts between Boeing and SpaceX.

NASA pays Boeing $4.2 billion and it pays SpaceX $2.6 billion for identical contracts.

Source: https://spacenews.com/41891nasa-selects-boeing-and-spacex-for-commercial-crew-contracts/
Maybe Boeing did a better job negotiating their end of the contract, after all, they have been around the block a few times more than SpaceX when it comes to these things. Obviously, we don't know the facts contained in the proposals, but I wonder if SpaceX requested funds to develop landing on terra firma instead of splashing down in the ocean? The big advantage is avoiding seawater contamination and therefore enabling the capsule to be reused, isn't that one of SpaceX's priorities? In light of the fact, the Orion capsule is already capable of landing on dirt and reused up to 10 times I believe gives an advantage to Boeing. Since the contract awards were more or less dictated by the respective company's needs, I wonder if SpaceX even addressed the landing issue? Or, did they leave it out thinking a higher bid would scare NASA off? Somewhere along the way, there was a miscalculation, part of that caused by not knowing the internal rules NASA set up, which is understandable. It must have been frustrating from the bidder's standpoint trying to read the minds of the NASA contract deciders. However, I still think Boeing had the advantage since they have had a long relationship with NASA and that counts a lot in any case.
 
Jan 4, 2020
217
95
1,660
NASA did not want to have Crew Dragon land propulsively. NASA also did not want to have landing legs protruding through holes in the Crew Dragon heat shield. Since the customer, NASA, said no, SpaceX did not feel the need to argue and keep pushing for propulsive landings for Crew Dragon. This was even more true because SpaceX was already planning Starship and did not want to throw even more R&D funding to solve a problem that NASA did not want and slow down Starship at the same time.
Yes. IIRC Musk has officially stated something along the line that the sunk cost fallacy is (well, duh) a fallacy.
 
Jan 4, 2020
217
95
1,660
Maybe Boeing did a better job negotiating their end of the contract, after all, they have been around the block a few times more than SpaceX when it comes to these things. Obviously, we don't know the facts contained in the proposals,
Speculative Kremlology is, well, speculative. IIRC I read the speculation that the both landing versions, Red Dragon and Crew Dragon, were axed when NASA put the brakes on development they did not want to risk (Crew Dragon land landing certification). I'm surprised that they allow hypergolics almost up to the crew compartment after STS similarly surrounded the crew with propellant and set off the rapid unscheduled disassembly once. But the Russian technology (so I guess the China first generation) looks very similar with an angled offset to the propellant tanks, so I guess YMMV.

When SpaceX sought NASA contracts, an established commercial contractor (Kistler) failed miserably, and SpaceX lost out then or the round after. And generally Musk reason from first principles, so his economy planning would tend to be honest. If you look at the number of times SpaceX has made US type litigation against unfair (read: high likelihood of being corrupted) launch contracts - NASA, AIR Force once or twice - after that first round of NASA having unsurprisingly crapped in their pants 💩and gone for known cards instead ... SpaceX may have a point.
 
Last edited:
Jan 24, 2020
5
2
515
Maybe Boeing did a better job negotiating their end of the contract, after all, they have been around the block a few times more than SpaceX when it comes to these things. Obviously, we don't know the facts contained in the proposals, but I wonder if SpaceX requested funds to develop landing on terra firma instead of splashing down in the ocean? The big advantage is avoiding seawater contamination and therefore enabling the capsule to be reused, isn't that one of SpaceX's priorities? In light of the fact, the Orion capsule is already capable of landing on dirt and reused up to 10 times I believe gives an advantage to Boeing. Since the contract awards were more or less dictated by the respective company's needs, I wonder if SpaceX even addressed the landing issue? Or, did they leave it out thinking a higher bid would scare NASA off? Somewhere along the way, there was a miscalculation, part of that caused by not knowing the internal rules NASA set up, which is understandable. It must have been frustrating from the bidder's standpoint trying to read the minds of the NASA contract deciders. However, I still think Boeing had the advantage since they have had a long relationship with NASA and that counts a lot in any case.
Clearly, Boeing has close connections to key decision makers in both NASA and the US Congress that SpaceX does not. And that clearly made a great difference in the bid. Boeing knew that whatever they bid, they would be chosen as one of the providers. SpaceX did not have this assurance. So SpaceX bid according to what they were planning on doing with Crew Dragon to meet NASA specifications at the lowest possible price. Boeing bid based on what they knew they could get from the government at the highest possible price.

As I said before, not only was the government not interested in propulsive landings, they actively told SpaceX that such a feature would not be acceptable. NASA wanted a normal ocean landing for Crew Dragon and that is what SpaceX gave them. The contract award was is not in any way dictated by SpaceX company needs or interests. To get the contract, SpaceX gave NASA what it wanted, irrespective of SpaceX interests.

As far as reusability goes, NASA did not want SpaceX to go in this direction with Crew Dragon. Now for Starliner, on the otherhand, Boeing was the preferred provider and was given tremendous leeway in their plans for a land landing. NASA had no interest in questioning Boeing's wisdom on this. Such was not the case for SpaceX. In fact, NASA would prefer to limit Crew Dragon capabilities to ensure that Starliner would look more like a capable alternative to Crew Dragon. But of course, SpaceX would still like to re-use Crew Dragon capsules as much as possible, even if NASA does not wish to take advantage of such capabilities.

So, if SpaceX can retrieve Crew Dragon spacecraft without having them suffer salt-water corrosion - refurbishment and re-use becomes a less expensive and more realistic option. Not so much for NASA, but SpaceX can turn around and offer other customers seats on such a flight-proven Crew Dragon spacecraft. Clearly a Crew Dragon is not cheap to build, the more it can be reused the better it will be for SpaceX's bottom line. And that is good for everyone, except Boeing.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Dave643
Nov 30, 2019
31
9
35
While capturing the capsule sounds like madness, it makes sense.
I agree with the above posts assessment, on the reasons for SpaceX building there capsule like they did and Boeing was helped, to help them stay competitive, by making the capsule side of the mission be reusable to make up for their rockets not being, it was folly on NASA’s front they wanted 2systems for redundancy in the end only one will win on the cost front, if in the end Boings capsule is best NASA would be better buying them and getting SpaceX to put them in orbit for them.

you can see Elon’s frustrations at the press conference after the escape test, when he says test, retest, multiple times, until all possible tests have been completed multiple times. while I am sure I would want the same if I was going up in one at some point test tell you nothing New you just have to do it. NASA is a political animal, and has its problems,

getting back to topic I think as Elon said when they have a number of fairing capture runs that are getting the job done, then I think he will go for a capsule capture likely starting at first with cargo if there design is close to the same.
I see no issue with an attempt as long as safety is put first, So if the capture is not looking good then they abort and allow the default water landing,.
Only if they think they can capture it without problem, do they try to do so.
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY

Latest posts