SpaceX Starship / Super Heavy Discussion Thread

I’m not particularly worried about either of those things. In no universe would we have expected Blue Origin or Dynetics to not file protests, and it’s common practice to suspend the project for a while in cases like this. Starship development will continue, of course, because it’s largely self-funded by SpaceX. The contingency plan is to do what they’ve already been doing. I would very much like to see SpaceX win the lunar contract, as I think it’ll actually accelerate their Mars plans, but it’s not necessary.

As for Harris, I see no evidence at all that she’ll interfere with NASA’s commercial partnerships. On the contrary, your very quote says that commercial development is a top priority. Planetary observation of Earth should also be a significant priority, and tracking of metrics related to climate change is a key part of that.

As an aside, I don’t know why Republicans want to eliminate climate change observation programs. They go on and on about how China and others are lying about their emissions. Fine–let’s measure it and find out. (Of course, I do in fact have some ideas on why Republicans don’t want to measure these things)

NASA’s findings in the source selection document looked fine. I’m sure there are some legitimate quibbles here and there, but the same would be true of SpaceX. I doubt any of them are significant enough to change the outcome.

I’m just more skeptical than you are. Add in Bill Nelson as NASA administrator, and I think there is lots of cause to worry about NASA’s future direction. Old space isn’t dead yet, and they have a lot of politicians in their pockets.

Bill Nelson is an old swamp creature who fought hard against Commercial Crew, and is one of the reasons SLS still exists. Harris on the National Space Council is not qualified for or interested in opposing him. My worry is that the old aerospace companies know they have a friend in Nelson, and will start lobbying for all kinds of rules intended to hobble SpaceX. Also, Harris’ focus on international cooperation will create bloated programs with unnecessary complications.

I would have preferred a chair of the National Space Council who was technically knowledgeable and presented an alternative view to the NASA administrator, and more importantly someone who actually cared about engineering and spaceflight more than diversity, STEM, and using the space program as a political tool.

I have no pronlem with more Earth-Sensing satellites. We should do more of that, since it’s a better way of assessing global climate than anything else we have.

Mike Pence was the previous chair. He was a climate change denialist, tried to get Creationism taught in schools, and claimed that smoking doesn’t kill. So I’m just happy to get someone that isn’t utterly disconnected from reality.

Promotion of STEM is part of NASA’s mission statement (that is, educational outreach in the sciences). They would be remiss in their duties for them not to do this. They certainly played a role in my education. I still remember when NASA sent a guy to give a class talk when I was in 4th grade (the demonstrations with liquid nitrogen were the most memorable). It’s crucial that they keep this up. If Harris wants to spend some time ensuring minority communities get the same opportunities, I can’t see anything wrong with that.

Bridenstine was a far more concerning pick than Nelson is, and he turned out ok. At this point, SpaceX has embedded itself in NASA enough that they aren’t simply going to be abandoned when a new administrator comes in. Sure, I’d prefer someone else; I just don’t see much changing. Especially since it is in fact hard to argue with success. SpaceX is safely launching astronauts for a low price today. No old space company can say the same.

My advisor is / was a long term NASA manager and while he was teaching at Purdue, was initially quite alarmed at Bridenstine’s appointment, as he was publically on record as being a climate change denier. But then, he changed his stance after (no doubt) meeting with some persuasive folks at NASA. After this change in opinion, my advisor wasn’t as alarmed.

Re. Methane (as many have discussed incl. @Dr.Strangelove )
I always thought the main goal of Starship was to be able to fly people to Mars, then blast off and return to Earth (which, FWIW, has never actually been demonstrated but I eagerly await). And methane is, as mentioned, a fuel we can synthesize and store on Mars. Hence I believe that is the #1 reason behind its selection. The fact that there are numerous other reasons (inexpensive, fairly high performance) are secondary.

I vaguely wonder if Bridenstine was “really” a denialist, or if it was just political expediency. Denialism is pretty much table stakes for being a Republican at all. It’s not exactly a respectable stance, but I guess I’ll take what I can get.

Yes and no. If it were impossible to synthesize on Mars, I agree that it would be out. However, there are other options. Pure hydrogen is one. It’s actually simpler than methane to synthesize, since methane still needs water but then needs extra steps. And hydrogen is a high performance propellant. But it’s also hard to handle and expensive on Earth.

Another possibility is carbon monoxide. It’s not a very energetic propellant, but it could probably serve to at least get to Martian orbit, where another vehicle with better properties could then be used. The advantage is that you can make it purely from the Martian atmosphere. Although Mars has plenty of water, actually retrieving it is unproven tech. Whereas atmospheric processing is relatively easy.

It’s right there in the quote from the article.

Of course, we don’t know yet to what extent she’ll prioritize her pet projects. But based on what’s been going on lately, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she rolls out things like, “Only companies that have X percentage of women, blacks, etc. will be allowed to bid or work on space-related government contracts.”

With the result that essentially all American space activity will cease for however long it takes for space companies to meet those artificial targets.

If Nelson and Harris turn out okay, I will be the first to come back here and say so. Because for me this has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with getting stuff done in space.

My beef with Nelson is that he has done more to damage U.S. spaceflight through pork and political payoffs than anyone else, and he has been rewarded with being appointed head of NASA. Lori Garver again:

That’s pretty much the way I’ve always seen him, too. But maybe now that he’s actually responsible for getting things done he’ll act differently. Not getting my hopes up.

Ok, so you believe that diversity hiring rules are completely incompatible with commercial development, and since she listed diversity ahead of commercial development in her list of priorities, she will take an absolutist position on the former and abandon the latter. That sounds ridiculous to me.

NASA and other Federal organizations already have programs supporting minority and women-owned businesses. The most likely outcome is that Harris will try to beef up these programs. As best I can tell, NASA’s current woman-owned business program provides a 5% cost incentive. Maybe Harris will double that to 10%. It’s still a complete pittance. It’s also likely that she will make an effort in ensuring educational outreach goes to schools with minority populations. Again, a pittance compared to overall costs.

More like no longer answerable to any constituents. For all my problems with SLS and other expensive boondoggles, ultimately they are a direct result of Congressmen doing their jobs by serving their constituents. NASA administrator is a different job than senator and Nelson no longer has to worry about keeping jobs in Florida.

I thought I already posted it (maybe it was a different SpaceX thread) but fingers crossed for the SN15 flight test within the next couple of hours.

Yup, you posted it in this thread. Doesn’t hurt to post it twice, anyhow. I’m currently watching the NSF stream:

I’m thinking it’s about a 50/50 shot at flying today. They seem to be working through some issues, but haven’t scrubbed it yet.

I think I jinxed it by posting here.

Hopefully we’ll get a launch tonight - I’ve got football to watch tomorrow!

They just cleared the pad area of vehicles–a promising sign. Next steps are the various fueling-related bits (tank farm, etc.).

Just imagine if it stuck a perfect landing and 10 seconds later the Chinese rocket that is due to plummet somewhere random on Earth crashes down right on top of it.

No problem, SN16 is already almost finished :slight_smile: .

The propellant condenser has started–assuming things go as before, we’re at around T-30 min.

It’s getting close! Something like T-5 min right now.

Ahh, looks like the SpaceX stream is up now, T-4:00:

It’s off! For some reason the SpaceX stream is pretty far behind the NSF stream.

It landed upright! And the legs aren’t collapsed!

Bit of a fire, but they seem to have a remote water sprayer that should put it out.