Thinking big is one of the things that makes a business successful. But so is thinking practically. Robot stages that return to the launch site and land under full power and full control are impressive and exciting, but difficult to accomplish and of dubious safety and economy.
Granted we all want the Millennium Falcon. We dream of saying, "Punch it, Chewie!" and arriving magically in orbit some short time later. But so far the industry favors an incremental approach. And SpaceX is still in the process of demonstrating they're competent at that.
Post by randombloke on Oct 7, 2011 12:50:14 GMT -4
Depends if you're going to a planet where there's an atmosphere worth a damn to generate aerodynamic lift/drag with I guess. I understand that the design was originally a test of a proposal for a multiple-take off lander for either renewed lunar missions or a Mars mission. The idea that a system capable of performing under Terrestrial wind and gravity conditions really ought to be robust enough for the tenuous Martian atmosphere has some merit after all.
Every minute you're not looking directly at Batman is a minute he is potentially spying on you.
The video is cool, yes, for what it is. The problem is that the people who are SpaceX fanboys trot out such videos to argue how allegedly far ahead of the curve that company is, and how aggressively they are thinking outside the box.
The more mature companies think big too. But their experience shows that progress which is economically and technologically feasible proceeds in smaller steps.
Substantial reuse is still not economically feasible or technologically advisable. Keep in mind your booster stage burns out many miles out to see. Are you really going to turn it around under engine power? You spent tons upon tons of propellant getting it to that altitude at 7,000 mph, and you're going to do a full delta-v about-face? How are you going to convince your customers that the additional fuel budget is to their advantage?
The premise is that reusable stages saves money. You only have to build a small fleet of them and keep reusing them. But a stage that does what the video depicts would be mind-bogglingly expensive to develop and test. And you still have refurbishment costs. So far no one has been able to make the "reuse" equation work financially. And SpaceX isn't doing anything differently in the design arena, so frankly it remains just a cool video.