25 thoughts on “BFR”

  1. “The fact that Musk is showing off his giant tool demonstrates that he’s serious.” – A. Boyle Geekwire

    That’s a quote and accreditation I could not refuse…

    1. … to even conduct a study to invest the possibility of building anything as monumental as the BFR.

  2. Gwynne Shotwell gave a TED talk two days ago, and it has been reported that she predicted SpaceX will introduce point-to-point BFR passenger service “within a decade. The moderator expressed skepticism on such an ambitious timeline. Shotwell did not waver in her response. “That’s my time, not Elon time.””

    While I’m as also skeptical about that, it is an indication that they are charging ahead with BFR.

    1. Where some might see a competitor for the 787 and A350, I see a strategic bomber. Worried about loiter time or maneuvering to avoid ground-launched interceptors? There’s a tanker variant for that. Want second, third or nth strike capability? Build an ammunition carrier variant.

      1. You’re the second I’ve seen hypothesizing some bomber role for BFR-BFS. How would that work, exactly? The notional point-to-point BFR-BFSes will operate mostly, or exclusively, on over-water routes and will require major infrastructure at each end of their routes. Orbital BFR-BFSes will operate in orbit. Dropping bombs on-call on arbitrarily located targets is not something single orbital platforms are very good at. Easier and more timely to deliver a bomb via ICBM or SLBM. Deep space BFR-BFSes, of course, will operate in deep space. Nothing to bomb out there in the near or medium term.

        Back when the Soviet Union was still a thing, its leadership was apparently convinced the Space Shuttle was some kind of bomber also. Not good role models to emulate.

    2. I don’t see it myself.

      There’s little benefit to saving a few hours on travel time if I have to spend hours traveling to and from a spaceport. Twelve hours in first class on a big jet vs three hours on a regional jet to the spaceport plus half an hour on the spacecraft plus three hours on a regional jet to the destination, plus at least an hour in the airport between flights to reduce the odds of missing one? I can tell you which one I’ll pick.

      Sure, you can work around that by flying many times a day to many destinations from many spaceports, but where are you going to find the passengers to fill those flights? You’re not going to find thousands of people wanting to spend thousands of dollars each to fly on a rocket from Winnipeg to Manchester any time soon.

      I presume they’re aiming for the business market. But VR is going to kill much of that market before this could become viable. Last year, I had to fly to Europe and back for a day to visit a customer site to do some maintenance, and the company probably paid as much for that trip as they would on a point-to-point rocket. But in ten years, the customer will have a VR bot at their site, and I’ll just log into it from here.

      Similarly for rapid transport of replacement parts, where it makes sense to pay $10,000 to ship over a $100 part a few hours faster when you’re losing $10,000 an hour while the site is down. Those parts are increasingly going to be made on site with 3D printers and similar local manufacturing technology.

      This whole idea seems to be one whose time has come and gone. By the time it’s viable, it won’t be necessary.

      1. Your withering scorn might be more convincing if your hypothetical wasn’t so risible. “BFR Spacelines” is proposed to link major coastal cities. Neither Winnipeg nor Manchester qualifies on either score. Nor, it seems, is direct Winnipeg-Manchester service a thing even using conventional aircraft.

        There is, alas, also no direct service from Negaunee, MI to Pahrump, NV. Sadly, even the advent of BFR Spacelines seems likely to fall well short of what would be required to initiate same. Yupes and desert rats who wish to exchange visits will, perforce, continue to be forced to accept multi-hop itineraries as part of their price of face-to-face contact. Or long road trips.

      2. Concorde made BA £30-50 million per year in operating profit and presumably the same for Air France. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/07/supersonic-airplanes-concorde/396698/ If all they do is link LA, NYC, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, Sydney, Taipei and Seoul (these have the 10 highest seat-mile routes) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_busiest_passenger_air_routes that might be 25 pairs with 50 spaceframes active doing daily or twice daily service and 9 warm spares and a couple of cold ones. (222 A380s in service now with another 109 firm orders). At $200 million per frame that’s $10B in frames. The primary value is to spread the fixed costs of space frame R&D and production capacity for LEO, Moon and Mars flights and to have the operations tempo high enough for safer spaceflight. Probably Florida and Texas will get service too because they already have spaceports.

    3. Oh, and let’s not forget that the people most likely to get expense accounts that would pay for a rocket flight are also likely to be older and have spent decades eating out with business customers, so their bodies are not going to take too kindly to a multi-g liftoff. I’m guessing they’ll need a ton of extra health insurance to be allowed on board.

  3. So it seems they’ll keep up with the idea to use composites. Remains to be seen how well those will work in practice in such a large aerostructure. I still think it’s too much risk on the same vehicle, with all new components in everything, structure, engines, etc. Reminds me of the X-33.

    The Falcon design was a lot more incremental. The first engines even used ablatives. Not to mention that all those small Falcon-1 failures were a lot cheaper than much larger Falcon-9 failures would have been.

    1. X-33 lived and died a stillbirth before SpaceX was even founded. It’s not like carbon fiber composites are exactly a brand spanking new technology. It’s also the case that the technology of composites for cryogenic tankage has come a long way in the last 20 years. Hell, the late XCOR – nobody’s idea of an aerospace giant – built composite cryo tanks.

      SpaceX is at least 50 times bigger now than it was in the Falcon 1 days. And it didn’t get where it is today by a program of teensy incrementalisms.

  4. Thankfully there are reports that the Raptor engine is progressing well, but still I think it’s too much risk when something like a Falcon with the Raptor engine could have been done with much the same tooling to prove the engine and the fuel cycle in actual operations.

  5. The comments about NASA are accurate. Burt Rutan built a single-seat jet aircraft for NASA to test pivoting wings. They thought his stated price was just for a feasibility study, because they wouldn’t have believed he could create the actual aircraft for that price.

    1. Ken’s penultimate post some time back mentioned he was quite ill. All my best to him. Reminds me of USENET days when regulars would drop off line and we’d suspect the worst.

  6. I’ve done 16 hours Sydney to LA and also the return trip in economy a few times. I’m very reluctant to do it again.
    Hmm… A few hours on a RJ and a trip to space thrown in? Count me in.
    The offshore launch platform will likely be serviced by distributed electric powered VTOLs from city centers or nearby (may use hydrocarbon engines in forward flight). I’ve read that there are at least 30 of these projects going on.
    Business might use VR but consider tourism with a trip to space as a side benefit. Heck, you could sell it with an extra “once around”.

    1. “Business might use VR but consider tourism with a trip to space as a side benefit.”

      VR will kill tourism even before it kills business. Why spend a couple of days shipping your body around the world when you can just rent a VR drone at your destination?

      Particularly if we really are about to see breakthroughs in longevity medicine that give us all multi-century lifespans. Why risk dying on a trip to do something you can do from home?

    2. The Adelaide video of a notional “BFR Spacelines” trip showed a fairly conventional-looking ferry connecting a coastal city to the BFR-BFS launch platform. But one needn’t conjure up non-existent electric helicopters or tilt-rotors as speedier alternatives. Hydrofoils and hovercraft have been in revenue service as ferries for decades.

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