Business, Space, Technology and Society Starship Performance Update January 29, 2023 Rand Simberg 49 Comments Wow. All of a sudden the #Starship enthusiast population has noticed, and gotten excited about, an update to the #SpaceX website Starship maximum payload capacity specification to:– 150 metric tons to orbit with a reusable ship!– 250 metric tons to orbit with an expendable ship! pic.twitter.com/Pw1YtL8unj— Starbase Watcher 🚀 (@watchstarbase) January 29, 2023
49 thoughts on “Starship Performance Update”
Is Twitter still a distraction preventing SpaceX from getting work done?
If these are the results of “distraction,” SpaceX’s competitors should pray Elon doesn’t find some other acquisition to be “distracted” by.
Probably not. Just a few days ago they completed a successful wet dress rehearsal and countdown. If they make it thru the full static fire without any major incidents, then I think they will be good to go.
The 14(?) engine firing apparently blew away some of the concrete surrounding the pad. I assume that was one reason they stopped the progress until that was figured out – giving Musk time to grab Twitter.
SpaceX seems to be closing in on a solution to the concrete spalling under the launch mount. Recent indications are this will consist of a still more resistant grade of concrete combined with a ground-level water deluge system salvaged from the aborted initial Starship launch mount at LC-39A. This latter is currently aboard a barge being towed to Brownsville. The initial 33-engine static fire may or may not wait for all such work to be done. I’m guessing the upgraded concrete will be tried standing alone for an imminent 33-engine static fire with the deluge system being added later.
I’ll get a bit more excited when this thing is fully operational and delivering those results in a reliable manner. There’s just too many ways to miss the target to assume it’s all peaches and cream.
Note I said assume. I assume it’s going t work and deliver large payloads at some point. I have a bit of trouble with the multiple flights per day and $10.00 a pound claims.
SpaceX could “miss the target” by a wide margin and STILL be an order of magnitude improvement over all that has come before.
It will take time for daily launches but more or less time than it took them to hit their current launch cadence with the F9?
Daily launches per fleet, possibly similar to the F9 timeline. Daily or more per vehicle is what some are claiming and they expect that by next year. As Ctrot noted, they can miss by a pretty good margin and still have an excellent vehicle.
I guess 2024 is not unreasonable for daily flights, so long as they can actually catch the booster. They’ll still be pad limited (to 5 flights at BC) for most of 2023 (the crew tower for LC-40 is supposed to come on line this Fall, and there won’t be any Starships doing anything at LC-39A until then). I also want to see how quickly they can add the scavanged deluge system currently making it’s way from KSC to BC.
If they want daily flights at BC they are going to have to do something major about that highway they keep closing for each launch.
It’s not a “highway,” it’s a two lane back road that only goes to a wild seashore. But I’m guessing the max flight rate for BC will be around once a month (what the original permit specified for Falcon Heavy).
But 250 tons, damn. You could put a lot of construction dock equipment into orbit with that.
ISS in four launches?
Two, actually. ISS is 500 tons.
They could lift the mass of the ISS but not the volume. Perhaps, if there were a demand for expendable Starships to carry large (volume) payloads, they could develop a stretched version like the Air Force did with the C-141 back in the day. The C-141A was ran out of volume before it ran out of lifting capacity most of the time, so the C-141B was made over 23 feet longer and added aerial refueling capability.
ISS is in a few dozen small pieces (“small” averaging 20 tons). You’d bring it up tightly packed and assemble in orbit (as with Shuttle and Proton deliveries). Of course an optimized upper stage could have a 12 meter hammerhead shroud. And of course #2, if I were building ISS with a launcher 15 times as large, it build a bigger station from bigger piece.
The ISS volume is about 1000 cu/m. Skylab was 350 cu/m.
Two starships could easily launch enough pressurized volume to easily dwarf ISS, without even going to an inflatable module or hammerhead configuration.
Having to pack things into the shuttle bay with multiple connection points was not as volume to mass efficient as launching it in fewer pieces on a heavy lift. It worked because the Shuttle was what we had to use.
You’re right. Gedankenfahrt.
Or for that matter two or more one way Starships docked together ARE the next Space Station. I always get a smile out of pictorials showing Starship “docked” to the ISS. I suppose the ISS crew has to have someplace to migrate.
Maybe also hedging bets a bit if they can’t stick the landing for the upper stage in the first few tries.
250 tones to orbit as payload. And the Ship itself in orbit too?
SLS block 2 is estimated at 130 tons to orbit, for a $2 billion expendable vehicle.
This was tweeted back in October 2021: https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1450875068150652939
I wrote it up in November 2021: https://www.thespacereview.com/article/4275/1
“All of these services, along with positioning and a data network, can be created and delivered to the Moon, too,”
A prime location for a data network is Earth and of course it would communicate with the other networks as part of the Solarnet. The NSA might not like it at first but I think they could manage.
I’m concerned that this year might provide a capital crunch for Mr. Musk. The issues with Twitter coupled with Tesla facing flat sales with recent price reductions might make it difficult to raise capital for SpaceX should it need it at this critical juncture. Especially since Musk himself has said Starship is make or break for SpaceX, by that I’m assuming it is necessary for full rollout of Starlink which I assume Musk needs to obtain the bridge capital needed to fund further expansion of Starship. Which he might not otherwise obtain in the existing capital markets and given the recent track record with the market cap for Twitter. There’s a lot of pressure on SpaceX to get Starship “right”. Will they get the 4 tries they got with Falcon 1?
Tesla sales are not “flat.” Tesla’s record 4Q22 sales – and profits – confirm that. The price cuts are a strategic move to maintain full output as output capability advances at all plants. This cuts unit costs and overhead and takes painful chunks out of other automakers’ sales and margins, especially BYD in the PRC.
That’s true. I shouldn’t have said flat I should have said below growth targets, hence the price cuts:
I think the price cuts are also due to changes in the tax code.
Tesla has customers for everything it can build. The main reason the company fell short of growth targets was the weeks-long Covid lockdown of Giga Shanghai. That took at least 100,000 units off of annual production.
Elon is pivoting with the price cuts. He is working to shore-up market share as the economy slows down. Take market share from his competitors.
If that’s the case, he knows in advance he has enough capital to meet is goals.
In addition to a degree in physics, he has another one in economics. Goofy he may be, but clueless he is not.
They’ve learned a whole bunch in the last 15 years! My guess is there will be 5 Starship launches in 2023 (Biden’s FAA and things like unexpected hurricanes notwithstanding). 1. The first test flight (splash rockets and find out how bad the sonic booms are). 2 First lower stage recovery and test of EDL. 3. Starlink launcher. 4. First depot (excuse me, “accummulation tanker”). 5. Tanker and fuel tranfer test (a paid milestone). I think 2024 will be devoted to filling the depot and flying the “Skeletor” Lunar Starship test bed, along with the first test launch from LC-39A (I think Skeletor will fly from there for obvious reasos). I guess we’ll see!
I’m concerned that this year might provide a capital crunch for Mr. Musk.
SpaceX literally just raised another $750 million in venture capital.
Let’s hope that valuation holds this year. Raising $750m is good. Let’s hope that holds up well for this year too.
Getting Starlink birds up on Starship is going to help without doubt. Delays to that objective are going to hurt.
Indeed you did Sam! I remember it well!
These numbers are still sandbagged, and this potential has been known ever since Musk talked about what he called Starkicker a few years ago. Realistically, with a fully optimized upper stage and SuperHeavy recovery down range (we need a bigger barge…), the payload would approach 300 metric tons. With an optimized expendable SH, maybe 360? A big part of the gain is the Raptor 2 engines, which could now take the place of BE-4 for all applications. If you really needed to match the thrust of the BE-4, there’s more than enough margin to overdrive the Raptor 2 to 101%. And the payload would go up due to greater efficiency and greater thrust to weight. Now imagine Raptors on New Glenn. They’re physically smaller, so more would fit in the 7 meter circle.
The New Glenn uses LH2 in second stage, will Starship eventually use LH2 in it’s second stage?
With Depot, it can mostly be LOX, or only store LOX and the LH2 can be the last re-fill
My guess is that Starship will not use LH. It would greatly complicate the launch pad infrastructure to work with different propellants, and methane is pretty easy to make on Mars. It’s also a lot easier to handle and store than LH.
If use 6 vac raptor LH2/LOX engines it seems it lift more payload to Moon. Or need less mass of rocket fuel to be delivered to LEO.
Or reduce it with much larger fuel tanks. Still for interplanetary probes, an hydrogen kick stage (especially an existing one) might work as a Starship payload.
I think you’re right, but it’s not out of the question. LC-39 has existing, active LH2 infrastructure (for SLS).
LC-39B yes but LC-39A? Did they leave the LH2 plumbing & tanks or pull it completely because neither Falcon 9 nor Starship needs it? Wouldn’t that hydrogen plumbing just been in the way and removed from the FSS? Maybe they left the LH2 tank along the pad perimeter? I’ll have to check.
I think the plumbing is intact, but it goes to the Falcon pad (built on top of the Saturn/STS infrastructure) and is probably in poor shape. However, it’s worth remembering the hydrogen for 39B is brought by Air Liquide in tanker trucks, and the same will be done for methane (just like BC now). High flight rate will eventually require a natural gas pipeline and fractionation tower. I guess you could put in a steam reformation plant if you absolutely had to have hydrogen in quantity. Probability zero? More likely an LNG terminal nearby.
Yeah I suspect the water table at the Cape is pretty high for an underground pipeline but I don’t know. However there is plenty of coastline for LNG tanks and a port for LNG tankers. Making hydrogen on-site from abundant supplies of LNG rather than dual-fuel storage makes sense if the consumption of LNG is high enough to justify it.
The juice isn’t worth the squeeze when you are set-up to methane all things.
Elon optimizes for operational efficiency and cost over absolute performance.
Any yet it’s probably not possible to build a full flow sgtratified combustion engine (or any other rocket engine) with better absolute performance than Raptor 2. And remember SpaceX also manufactures kerplox and hypergolic engines. Still, there’s probably no good reason to image a Centaur going up in a Starship’s payload bay.
It turns out KSC has had a high pressure gas pipeline since 1994.
Good to know. Thanks.
Looks like the LH2 tank is still along the perimeter of LC-39A along with its plumbing at least going up to the pad, can’t say for the FSS. Also, I can’t read the stenciling on its side from the Google Maps Satellite angle, unlike for LC-39B, which says Liquid Hydrogen. The other round tank at LC-39A is clearly marked Liquid Oxygen. So, the old LH2 tank sits there along with a bunch of new tanks as well. I don’t know what’s in those tanks. I have no idea what it contains today. Conversion to LNG? Nothing? An anti-corrosive plus inert gas? It’ll be interesting to see if additional plumbing is added to the original run and sent to the Starship pad under construction there.
Comments are closed.