17 thoughts on “Falcon 8”

  1. “The Artemis program is advancing too slowly. As matters currently stand, it will have no visible accomplishments by the time of the election. Should administrations change, there is an excellent chance it will be cancelled. ”

    Way too slow. Change happens with every administration but some things get to stay. What aspects of Artemis would survive?

    “With Artemis 8, NASA can inspire the nation, restore our space program’s can-do spirit, and astonish the world with what free people can do. We should not miss this chance.”

    A large segment of our country would not be inspired by a Trump effort to visit the Moon. A stunt isn’t structural change. Perhaps some foreigners would think its cool? Tough to say and most foreigners perceptions of the USA are shaped by a media that is even more deceitful than our own.

    There really isn’t enough time but it would be pretty cool.

  2. I was listening to an interview with Tory Bruno from about two months ago and I noted with interest that he indicated that ULA would take people to the Moon during the time he is CEO and I have a feeling he isn’t referring to the Delta second/interim stage on SLS(technically a ULA component). So I have to ask is he planning some type of Vulcan/ACES/Orion combo or has he gone totally rogue on both LockMart and Boeing. Also quite apparent that whether or not George Sowers still has an official connection to ULA the current views he has at Colorado School of Mines are also shared by Tory and the rest of the ULA executive suite.

    **George Sowers also had a longstanding the that 2006 to 2017 system where Boeing and LockMart would continue to market their legacy ULA vehicles on the commercial market was a huge hindrance to the autonomy of ULA and was undone in 2017 by Tory

    1. Hi Tim,

      ULA had a perfectly good lunar lander proposal several years before the current NASA program. It was alternately called the XEUS or ACES lander. Based upon the Centaur upper stage, it would have the highly used RL-10 engine and Centaur stages and so would have been the quickest way to achieve lunar return by 2024. BUT, ULA wasn’t allowed to propose it thanks to its parent companies (Boeing & LM). Tory went along with what his bosses told him to do, forgo hundreds of millions for lunar lander development business and so the ULA engineers won’t see their baby come to life. BUT, maybe something is afoot where that particular dream hasn’t yet died.

      1. Tory and ULA during the interview were claiming that the ACES upper stage was 70% done but were looking to DARPA for the last 30%. I get the feeling that Lockmart and Boeing are ok with ULA competing for DARPA funds in cislunar(whether or not DARPA has any reason to be in cislunar is another question) in part as DARPA has no desire to have anything to do with SLS and Orion.

        Tory also seemed to pretty confident that the DARPA nuclear thermal propulsion project will launch on a ULA Vulcan despite the fact I don’t believe there has been any contract award for this.

        1. I also found it interesting that Tory seemed quite happy with the HLS awards pointing out that both the BO and Dynetics proposals plan to use Vulcan as a launch vehicle. A bit surprising as Boeing is supposedly mad as hell about not getting an award and supposedly trying to blow the whole thing up in Washington. I wonder if Boeing’s plan B is to give ULA approval for Xeus and taking 50 percent of the profits if there is no hope off them getting a NASA award.

  3. SpaceX would have to have an additional launchpad to get both components in orbit at approximately the same time, to prevent excessive boil off of the Falcon Heavy’s upper stage oxygen.

    But perhaps the main problem is that the architecture isn’t part of any ongoing development path towards lunar efforts. Apollo 8 was proving the launch vehicle, CSM, communications, AGC, and other critical components that would be needed for the upcoming landings. Since a Dragon isn’t a critical component of returning to the moon, and with Starship in the works, a Dragon lunar flyby or orbit mission wouldn’t be important.

    1. The main problem is that this is madness. It would never work. The risk is simply too high. How can we ever think that we could count on rendezvous and docking in low Earth orbit to accomplish such a mission?

      NASA settled this science 60 years ago. It’s only possible with one rocket big enough to do the entire job with one launch. None of this crazy, hare-brained “rendezvous and docking,” no sir. (Well, maybe just in lunar orbit. What could go wrong there?)

      At least one aspect of that architecture has been modernized: the one big rocket has to have gigantic solid motors, period, end of story.

      Again, what could go wrong?

      1. Oh, it would work great if SpaceX got a second pad operational, or did work to extend the on-orbit life of its upper stage (which it has to do with Starship anyway). But Zubrin’s piece was talking about doing it very soon, and if done soon there won’t be anything for it to do other than a flyby. If would be a great capability once there’s something for it to rendezvous with out there, and since it is so easy, the configuration could be put into operation anytime it becomes useful.

        If the Artemis, legacy aerospace route was the only game in town, the Falcon Falcon Heavy approach would be vastly cheaper than anything else in the stable, but Elon is going with the idea of Starships for building lunar infrastructure, while Bezos is pursing his own approach.

    2. Which did I read in the past is correct? That SLC-40 was going to be upgraded to accommodate Falcon Heavy or Crew Dragon on Falcon 9? I thought I recalled one or the other.

      Not that NASA would ever allow it, but is it possible (should SpaceX decide to do it on its own) to stick astronauts into a Crew Dragon, erect the rocket and fuel it all in sequence? I suppose it’s possible to also use a modified and large cherry picker to put crew into an F9 Crew Dragon on SLC-40.

      I agree a two pad solution is needed. Seems Vandy is not suitable for this. Too bad there isn’t F9 or FH capability at Boca Chica.

  4. As others have noted, there are two big problems with this proposal. First, it accomplishes nothing of value so it would be little more than a stunt. There are no future plans be NASA or SpaceX to use Falcon and Dragon for anything but crew transport to and from the ISS. The other big problem is with the launch pads. Only Pad 39A is configured to launch Crew Dragon and Falcon Heavy. Unless the plan is to launch the Dragon to the ISS and wait until they can launch a Falcon Heavy with the rest of the propellant and gear, there doesn’t seem a good sequence of launches for the mission.

  5. Aretemis was, after all, the godESS of the moon.

    Artemis 8 must be crewed by women. Two bio and one trans. The “goal” of the mission to to have the first female (er, well, feminine) astronauts in lunar orbit. If the pool of qualified astronauts happens to be thin on trans-women, then all bio-women would be a barely adequate alternative.

    Bio-women have comparable brains and significantly smaller body mass than bio-men. So there’s an advantage. Women of a certain age have much less risk of genetic damage than men — their gonads are slowing down anyhow, and those organs are better protected, inside the abdomen, while male gonads are exposed to radiation. That’s two. And women’s voices have long been proven to be understood more clearly on low-fidelity communications media like old-style telephones and short-wave radio. So there’s three. Enough to go along with.

    And don’t we want to be able to say all critics of such a mission are obviously anti-woman, anti-science, and on the wrong side of history?

  6. Zubrin’s option A and option B seem needlessly complicated and I can see why. Everyone is well aware of what a harsh critic Zubrin is of Gateway, so of course he would ignore how the Gateway concept might apply to his “Artemis 8” idea.

    The numbers I come up show that a Dragon 2 spacecraft could in theory rendezvous in the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit around the Moon (proposed for Gateway) and still return to Earth. Launched by Falcon Heavy, all the Dragon 2 would require is about double the normal propellant load ordinarily carried for the Draco thrusters, a modest crew size of 2 or 3 and no other payload.

    That’s the advantage of the Gateway concept. It doesn’t just make it easier for a too heavy spacecraft like the Orion, it makes it easier for all potential manned spacecraft (and potential launch vehicles) to contribute to lunar transportation.

    The mass assumption of 9,500 kg Zubrin uses for Dragon 2 seems very pessimistic. A Dragon 2 mass of roughly 5,000 kg (including the normal Draco propellant load of roughly 1,300 kg) without payload seems more realistic. I base my mass assumptions from the numbers published for the Dragon 2 abort tests.

  7. And another thing…

    When it comes to assumptions about the payload capacity of the Falcon Heavy for manned lunar missions, remember how much smaller a Dragon 2 spacecraft is compared to the standard 5 meter diameter payload shroud of the Falcon Heavy.

    Payload figures published for the Falcon Heavy presume use of that large payload shroud. The actual payload might be significantly heavier with the lower drag presented by the Dragon 2.

      1. I’ll even go one step further. Lets call it Option C of “Artemis 8”.
        If you add a small third stage to an expended-mode Falcon 9, you don’t even need a Falcon Heavy launch vehicle for a Dragon 2 mission to a lunar Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit.

        I propose the small Kestrel engined upper stage of the old Falcon 1 rocket, as a Falcon 9 third stage. That keeps the third stage in-house, and compatible with the pre-existing SpaceX ground support launch facilities. The dimensions, mass, thrust, and ISP of that stage are near ideal for the job. It could tuck neatly inside the empty volume of the trunk of the Dragon 2.

        Since the Falcon 9 would be launched in expended mode, the grid-fins and landing gear would be stripped off to reduce mass, reduce drag, and save cost. With the reduced drag of the small Dragon 2, that should benefit a significant increase in the Falcon 9 payload. (Normal payload to GTO is 8.3 tonnes)

        The Kestrel engined 3rd stage provides the TLI burn and a few days later the lunar NRHO insertion burns, after which the stage is discarded. The Dragon 2 Draco thrusters provide mid-course corrections, docking, and the TEI burns.

        Assumed values
        crew 4
        Dragon total mass 6t.
        Kestrel stage mass 6t, diameter 1.7m, length 5m.
        Kestrel engine 7,000 lbf thrust, ISP 320s

          1. That’s the beauty of using the Kestrel, it is so small you don’t have to compromise it’s efficiency by using a smaller nozzle. In fact you could afford to stick an even bigger nozzle on it and increase its vacuum efficiency even higher than normal.

            If you designed a customized propulsion-module using the Kestrel engine, you wouldn’t need even a tiny interstage, since the entire module could fit inside the volume of the trunk of the Dragon 2. A customized module would be the best solution, and shouldn’t be that hard to whip up, with tank dimension of about 2.5 to 3 meters diameter and length.

            Even if you didn’t go to that trouble and just stuck an old Falcon 1 upper-stage on top of a Falcon 9, a new interstage for the new 3d stage could be a very short ring, since most of the length of the 3rd stage would still fit inside the length of the trunk of the Dragon 2. In fact, the Falcon 1 upper-stage is so skinny you might be able to fit two of them, side-by-side, inside the trunk of the Dragon 2.

            I just located an old pdf file of the Falcon 1 users guide, which allows me to refine my original estimates of the Falcon 1 upper stage. As best I can tell that upper stage has a length of 5.3 meters, and a mass of 4.6 tonnes. Not as much propellant as I originally thought.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *