Kistling a Different Tune: Commercial Space in an Alternate Key

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by e of pi, Jun 2, 2018.

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  1. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    Woomera is OTL. The author has covered this above.
     
  2. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    What blows my mind is that it fits in a Beluga! Especially since the sucker's almost the diameter of an ET.
     
  3. e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

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    That is indeed the reference. :)
    As @Dathi THorfinnsson says, the use of Woomera by Kistler is historical. It was a part of their plans from sometime prior to the first Payload Planning Guide I have from them (a 1998 or 1999 document) all the way to the end of the program. NASA knew about it for the entire time Kistler was contracted to deliver cargo to ISS--starting as early as the 2001 SLI contract which SpaceX sued over. They wanted to eventually do a US launch site, but even then they were looking for inland over desert in Nevada.

    The reasoning, as far as I can tell, goes like this: They wanted to be able to handle as large an inclination range as possible from any site--after all, if they hit their goal of routinely turning rockets around in 9 days, then the time spent on a truck, boat, or plane between launch sites to handle switching inclinations would be a major limitation to their launch tempo. That wasn't something they wanted, so they wanted launch sites to be able to handle a wide range of mission types. Existing ranges couldn't provide that, other than maybe Korou, but then they'd have to coordinate their RTLS with existing infrastructure and get ESA onboard as well as NASA for double the paperwork hell. There was already a range in Woomera, if an old one, and it had plenty of open space in a lot of directions for varying inclinations. Their hope was (and in this TL remains) to prove out RTLS in Woomera and get FAA buyin for eventually having a second launch site back in the southwestern US. (It'd take a fair amount of buyin, because some of the mid-inclination launches have the instantaneous impact point of the trajectory go over Salt Lake City pretty early, then others to equatorial orbits eventually overfly the east coast cities. Nothing the FAA is willing to accept out of the gate, but also nothing they dismiss out of hand and aren't willing to eventually certify once Rocketplane Kistler has a few dozen flights in the bag. After all, RPK's suborbital business is also advocating to open up ranges for overland flights of rocket vehicles in similar performance envelopes to the K-1 LAP...)

    I may be being a bit liberal with the use of "almost" there--at 6.7 meters, it's only 80% the diameter of the ET, really closer in absolute terms to a Delta IV core. Of course, both of those are hydrogen/LOX. In kerolox, the 6.7 meter diameter of course brings to mind the longer and heavier Saturn IB core, but that's almost exactly twice the length, mass, and thrust and has about four times the payload, which does point out the limitations of a fully reusable and all-kerosene vehicle design in terms of raw payload as a fraction of gross launch mass. As the heir of Saturn IB in dimensions, it's a little less surprising it squeezes aboard the heir of the Super Guppy. :)
     
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  4. RanulfC Well-Known Member

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    It is very interesting to suddenly realize I “know” most of these ARN posters and can recognize them by the posting style. (Hello “Tim” :) ) Lucky for me I don’t think I was commenting much on Kistler or ARES-1/V at the time so I probably won’t make an appearance in TTL.

    Randy
    (Edit: that's probably a good thing because I've actually cut down some on my verbosity since my NSF days! :) )
     
  5. e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

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    Thanks, I'm glad somebody is appreciating that! I'm glad it feels like I got the "voices" right. I'm not sure how well the "social media" presentation of some of this is working, I was hoping it'd help set the time and that in-TL commentators might resonate with how we speculate within a thread on a TL, but I'm not sure how well that's working.

    Would people like to keep seeing that kind of discussion as a way of showing events occurring, see more of that kind of discussion relating to topics raised within the discussion like the Woomera's selection, speculation on the impact of Kistler and SpaceX respectively on commercial markets, and how commercial can feed into the post-Augustine space program, or just for me to hustle to get Kistler to the launch sites and show events actually happening more through ARN new articles and scenes like the roll-out?
     
  6. IncongruousGoat Armchair Rocket Scientist

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    I like the discussion. It's not often you get a TL in which you can show in detail what the people in the TL are thinking about the events that are occurring. Also, it really does set the time.
     
  7. RanulfC Well-Known Member

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    "Tim" may actually be a little more 'verbose' than the person we're thinking of* but in general I like the view from the 'community' as it gives depth to the narrative. It may be lacking a few 'extreme' views which were both annoying and amusing but we can probably avoid the digressions, (enough are self inflicted here already :) ) to keep the bandwidth manageable :)

    For the most part that sounds great. I worry about the amount of "post-deleted for forum violations" segments when you have "fan-boi's" for Kistler and SpaceX on the same forums but I've a feeling you can handle that :)

    Randy
    *If who I'm thinking of as an amusing aside he actually contacted the NSF forum host at one point worried my account had been hacked because some of my postings at the time seemed "too short" to actually be written by me :)
     
  8. Threadmarks: American Rocket News July 20, 2009: Kistler Takes Flight, Travels to Space

    e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

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    Rocketplane Kistler Takes Flight, Travels to Space

    --by Arnold Holmes (American Rocket News, July 20, 2009)

    Rocketplane Kistler (RPK) has taken major steps in the past week to deliver on the promise of their Kistler K-1 launch vehicle, which have seen two major components of their architecture take flight headed to the launch pad and to space. Following its roll-out and public unveiling two weeks ago, the first stage “Launch Assistance Platform” (LAP) has been delivered to RPK’s Woomera launch site, continuing Kistler’s process of activating the facility. Also shipped was the first of the three Payload Modules which the second-stage “Orbiter Vehicles” will carry to space. While these shipments lay the groundwork for the activation of Kistler’s launch site and the maiden launch of the Kistler rocket, RPK has already seen its first bit of hardware carried to space as the Space Shuttle Endeavour launched on July 15 on the STS-127 mission to the International Space Station.

    The main payload of the STS-127 mission is the Exposed Facility of the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM). Accessed through the airlock included on JEM’s Pressurized Module, this exposed facility acts as a “terrace” for holding experiments which require exposure to the vacuum of space. It will be tended by the JEM Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS), a small robotic arm which can conduct operations near the exposed facility without tying up the station’s main Canadarm2 manipulator. Also aboard were test installations of the proximity detection systems for both Commercial Orbital Transfer Services (COTS) competitors. During Endeavour’s rendezvous and docking operations with the ISS on July 17, both SpaceX’s DragonEye LIDAR and RPK’s Kistler Proximity Operations Detection System (K-PODS) were tested, backing up the Space Shuttle’s Kurs system to provide a real-life performance test of their ability to navigate their respective vehicles to deliver payload to the station. The K-PODS is a two-element system, with dissimilar redundancy for maximum resistance to system failures. It consists of a combination of a license-built copy of the Space Shuttle Kurs system and the Canadian-designed TriDAR system, which like the SpaceX DragonEye uses LIDAR to actively detect and model the shape of the object being approached, working much as a human pilot would to calculate attitude and distance from the shape and size of the returned profile for complete three dimensional autonomous navigation.

    For initial K-1 missions, Kurs will serve as the primary element of K-PODS, while the TriDAR system provides close-up accuracy during operations in the ISS Keep Out Sphere (KOS). In the future, TriDAR and may take over as the primary component of the K-PODS if it proves suitable, though RPK anticipates retaining Kurs indefinitely as a backup as their system provides nearly 50% surplus payload above COTS requirement per flight to the International Space Station and the additional safety to both the K-1 OV and the station itself is a first priority for RPK engineers. For Rocketplane Kistler, it is the first time any of their products have flown in space, while for SpaceX is is only the third, after the avionics and second stages of Falcon 1 Flight 4 and Flight 5. It is understood both systems performed within expectations, and data has been provided to both companies to allow for refinement ahead of the two company’s COTS Demo flights to the station, anticipated to occur next spring for Rocketplane and next fall for SpaceX. The K-PODS unit brought to space by Endeavour is in fact the unit which is to be installed on RPK’s first Kistler test flights. Further tests of both DragonEye and K-PODS will occur on future Space Shuttle missions as payload capability and mission planning allows.

    While the K-PODS system was being tested in space, other RPK hardware was in the air on its own path to space. The “Launch Assistance Platform” is the first stage of the K-1 launcher, and serves much like a conventional first stage during the initial ascent of the vehicle. After separating the first stage, however, the first stage turns and re-lights its center AJ-26-59 restartable engine to perform a “lob-retro” maneuver, increasing its apogee and boosting it back uprange to return to the K-1 launch site via parachutes. The first LAP of two to be built, which will be used for all of the COTS demonstration flights and the initial operational cargo delivery missions, was rolled out from Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana two and a half weeks ago on July 3, 2009. It has now shipped, via an Airbus Beluga oversized cargo transporter, to RPK’s Woomera launch site, and been unloaded into the integration hangar there. This airborne transportation method draws parallels to past rocket programs. The Airbus Beluga is the modern replacement for the venerable Super Guppy, which were leased in their post-Apollo era by Airbus to move components of their airliners between European factories. After building two Super Guppies of their own to meet their needs, Airbus’s Beluga is a similar concept based on their own A300-600 widebody jet, replacing the long out of production Boeing-built turboprop C-97 Turbo Stratocruiser which is the base of the Super Guppy. The K-1, for its part, sees its dimensions put onlookers in some mind of a half-scale S-IB stage from the Saturn IB rocket, which also saw its upper stage, the S-IVB, carried when required by air aboard the original Super Guppy and Pregnant Guppy aircraft.

    Also aboard this delivery flight was the first of four Payload Modules (PM) which will serve RPK’s orbital launches. Each launch of a LAP first stage and OV second stage sees a PM complete the vehicle. The Payload Module forms the K-1 vehicle’s distinctive blunt-nose, made up of the rocket’s heat shield. The heat shield is actuated, and when moved can expose payload held within the PM to space. In cargo launches to the ISS, the Pressurized Payload Module (PPM) and Unpressurized Payload Module (UPM) will carry additional maneuvering thrusters to help the vehicle maneuver in proximity to the station and will hide a Common Berthing Mechanism (CBM) port behind the heat shield hatch. A pressurized module fills the remaining space in the PPM, allowing transport of standard ISS Payload racks and cargo bags, while the UPM uses an additional side hatch to expose a payload bay much like the eagerly anticipated Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) which can transport American ExPRESS Logistics Carriers and Japanese Exposed Facility Units, as well as other hardware which requires mounting to the outside of the station. Unlike the HTV, which can only carry such payloads to orbit, the K-1 UPM will also enable the return of these units to Earth, as is possible aboard the Space Shuttle. The Payload Module shipped this week to Woomera, the first to be completed, is the third type of the four four Kistler plans to construct, the Expandable Payload Module. This module is almost twice as long as either of the ISS Payload Modules, and consists of the standard heat shield hatch, mounted to a telescoping outer payload fairing. When retracted, the EPM is the same size and has the same TPS as the other Payload Modules, but extended for launch offers twice the payload volume for customers to use. The two ISS Payload modules are undergoing testing by RPK’s integration partner ATK at Michoud and will then require testing at NASA’s Plum Brook vacuum chamber at the Glenn Research Center to confirm their readiness to go to the station, but the simpler EPM has already been qualified to ship with LAP-1 to Woomera

    With the arrival of the first major launch vehicle component and orbital element of the K-1 rocket, RPK is now ready to begin actively commissioning the Woomera launch facilities, which largely completed construction this spring. The presence of LAP-1 will enable testing of fueling systems at the pad and will let RPK and ATK begin testing operations of the processing systems and turnaround for the reusable vehicle, while the presence of the EPM will allow them to conduct test runs of the loading and unloading of customer payloads and the checkout of the K-1 for orbital flight. The first second stage OV, OV-1, is understood by American Rocket New’s STAGE TWO to be completing integration ahead of rollout, and should ship to Woomera within a month to complete the first operational Kistler vehicle at the pad. Such milestones, along with the ongoing testing and integration of the RPK suborbital XP-1 spaceplane and its Polaris AR-36 engine, should continue to make 2009 a banner year for Rocketplane Kistler and for commercial spaceflight as a whole!
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2018
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  9. Threadmarks: July-August 2009: Stage 2 Kistler Discussion, OV Shipment to Woomera and vehicle delays...

    e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

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  10. TimothyC Well-Known Member

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    Here we can really see the difference between the Kistler side of coin (They want to find out what works and what doesn't on LAP-1 and OV-1 before a second set of vehicles is built), but I also really understand what ATK is going at here - ATK gave Rocketplane Kistler money so that RpK can give ATK money to build, integrated, and fly the vehicle, and here RpK is going and rather than investing money in Kistler, they are investing money in Rocketplane. They don't have the hindsight to know that their competitors in the sub-orbital market wouldn't be ready in ten years without an outside push (from say, Rocketplane demonstrating a flight on something that isn't horribly stupid like a hybrid rocket).
     
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  11. Threadmarks: Commercial Kistler and SpaceX Discussion, September 2009

    e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

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  12. TimothyC Well-Known Member

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    Excalibur99's attempt to start a handbag fight is fun to see in retrospect in the sense that it can be fun to read the diary of a doomed expedition that is so far off course and doesn't know it.
     
  13. TheKutKu Well-Known Member

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    This is so entertaining.
     
  14. e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

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    Yeah, it's remarkable looking back the skepticism, some warranted and some not, about commercial operators. Rocketplane deserves about as much as SpaceX at this point, from both the Pioneer Rocketplane and the Kistler sides of the house, and though they're very close to getting the K-1 to actually launch, there's yet room to doubt either's success. Some of those reason we know about from our perspective down the the line, like the NK-33 issues, others are equally apparent to both times, like the open question of how well the K-1 OV can be turned around, as the second-generation of a reusable orbital vehicle, drawing on the Shuttle legacy both of what went right and what to hopefully avoid. Then there's the ones we know are overblown, like the flight profile risks of a post-separation boostback burn which Kistler is using but SpaceX isn't at this point (unneeded with their plans for purely-passive ocean parachute recovery). I hope people are interested in the answers, and how some of those perspectives may change, both in ways they did and did not IOTL.

    As a historical in-joke, the thread "I've" created here is started on the same day that some of the questions for commercial customers for the COTS launchers were answered, when OrbComm contracted with SpaceX to fly 18 satellites to LEO, originally scheduled aboard the Falcon 1. Eventually IOTL, of course, they would fly in groups aboard Falcon 9, with the second set being the first RTLS landing at the Cape and the first successful landing (CRS-8 a few months later was the first ocean landing to succeed, not for lack of trying). OrbComm is being a little slower to commit ITTL, because they're being offered tempting offers by both COTS competitors--LEO comsats are after all what the K-1 was designed to launch!
    Thanks! Anything in particular you're enjoying?
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2018
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  15. Threadmarks: October 1/2, 2009: Preparations for Flight

    e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

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    The tip of the Falcon 9 first stage core caught the last light of the sun as it sank below the Texas horizon. From the tip, one could see the lights of McGregor easily, and on the horizon the barely-visible lights of Waco. None, of course, held a candle to the one SpaceX was working to light here. This wasn’t the first Falcon 9 core they had fired, but it was instrumented heavily nonetheless--this would, if all went well, be the first to fly, and that meant extra data that was needed by NASA’s evaluations and by SpaceX’s own engineers back in Hawthorne. Sensors fed trail of wires down the side of the booster, held on every few meters with blue tape, The work they were doing hadn’t sprung from nothing, however--it built on the foundations of much of what had gone before. This 9-engine test of the first flight Falcon 9 built on the previous tests of qualification tanks and stages, and the single Merlin 1 had already been proven on Falcon 1 flights--indeed, the Falcon 9 engine section was massively overbuilt to allow them to us essentially the same actuator assembly as already used for the Falcon 1.

    It wasn’t even just the Falcon foundations that this test built on: the test site and many of its structures and blockhouses dated back to the WWII Bluebonnet Ordnance Plant, then leveraged the grounds and facilities designed to be far from anything worthwhile in case of an explosion into a history of other applications. The core itself now rested on one of those foundations--the massive main vertical test stand, a giant blue tripod rising almost the core’s own height above the ground, the legacy of a Beal Aerospace engineer who had at some point calculated that it was cheaper and more effective to build a test stand far enough in the air to not need to dig a flame trench or a flame bucket than to build a traditional test stand. As the core test counted down and the sun-lit portion of the booster tracked ever higher towards its tip, nearly 140 meters above the ground, the steady boiloff from the tanks cut out as the stage began to build to flight pressure. McGregor’s residents were about to once again face the results of that decision by some unknown Beal Aerospace engineer, for while Beal hadn’t gotten a core in condition to use their large tripod stand, SpaceX now had, and thus McGregor got to appreciate that mounting the engines of the stage 70 meters above the ground gave acoustic waves from test firings near-direct line of propagation to the town itself.

    While single engine Merlin tests were barely audible, not even the fountain of water which created an artificial Niagara at the top of the trip wrapping around the base of the tanks could prevent the fury of the nine Merlin engines from creating a roar which could be heard almost as far as Waco. The engineers in the blockhouse waited out the final seconds, then with a rush of white rising to a roar of flame with a brief moment of green TEA-TEB flash, the core was lit. In town, at least a few residents stopped what they were doing to look once again to the southwest. Alerted to be ready by the warnings of “louder than usual” rocket tests that always preceded uses of the tripod stand, at least one quickly tapped a stopwatch on their wristwatch, counting off the runtime of two or so minutes. When the roar from the distance stopped, leaving only the towering plume of smoke illuminated into a glow by the setting sun, one went in after a camera to post a picture and the runtime to the internet. Almost before the test results and data could be packaged and sent to Hawthorne, armchair engineers of all sorts of experience levels would be trying to read tea leaves into the sounds overheard on a clear, warm summer afternoon in Texas. The first flight core was through testing. The first flight second stage was to soon follow--the planning charts had it shipping to Texas from California by the end of the year--and with that done nothing would be between them and a maiden launch except the tiresome work of putting the vehicle together and testing it.

    -----------------------------------

    While the sun was setting on McGregor, it was rising high into the sky over Woomera, 17 hours ahead. The weather was as inconsistent as could have been expected from an Australian spring. The morning of September 29th when they’d rolled out the first stack on the transporter-erector, it’d been barely 9 Celsius in the morning, then peaked at 25C. The 30th had been hot, though, one of the first properly hot days of spring. It’d bounced between comfortable and the cool side of warm--particularly up on steel towers above the desert, 30 Celsius wasn’t particularly comfortable. Sweat had soaked fall harnesses as they worked, checking hoses and electrical lines. All of yesterday, while SpaceX had been preparing their tests in McGregor, the temperature had only slowly bled off the heat.

    Today it was chilly again, a fact appreciated by the tank technicians as their chillers worked to pull enthalpy out of the kerosene and liquid oxygen, cooling the propellants ahead of the first full wet dress rehearsal for the K-1 program. It might have been a decade late, but for the first time the Woomera launch site was active and the launch mount was taking up the load of a filling K-1 stack. Preparations had begun around 9 in the morning, as small amounts of propellants had begun to circulate through the vehicle and its engines to begin chilling them down to the bitterly cold temperatures of densified propellants needed for the K-1’s high performance Russian engines. To minimize the time allowed for the sun to warm the tanks, the propellants didn’t begin loading until just two hours before the start of the test window. Now, the tanks were full, and the vehicle and the control staff were running through the full sequence of test preparations. While the propellants flowed out of the tank farm, through feed lines, up the transporter-erector, and into the vehicle, radar systems were brought online and traversed, the communications links to flight control in Oklahoma were tested, and the launch team settled in for a dress rehearsal of every flight event short of actual ignition, a fact repeatedly confirmed, as the test director in Oklahoma City, Jean-Pierre Boisvert, would call over the communications loop, “Flight enable to inhibit,” to be confirmed by one of the Woomera avionics engineers as “Confirmed, flight enable inhibited.” The clock ticked down, sensors monitoring hundreds and even thousands of values--the flow rates through valves, the temperatures inside and outside the vehicle, the pressure of the LAP and OV kerosene and oxygen supplies, the pressurization levels of the ethanol and helium for the OV’s orbital maneuvering engines, and the state values of hundreds of variables and flags inside the complex weave making up the flight control avionics. The engines were traversed, confirming the functionality of the thrust vector control gimbals for both the LAP’s twin AJ-26-58 engines outboard and the center restartable AJ-26-59 and the OV’s vacuum-optimized AJ-26-60. All was going well as the final minute counted down.

    Within the last few seconds, the wet dress rehearsal proved its value as a stress-test on the vehicle and pad systems. As the water deluge system on the pad came on, adding a shroud of spray to the small billows of cloud from the engine cryo purge, the dreaded call came over the loop: “HOLD, HOLD, HOLD!” The results were an anticlimax, as they looked much like a successful wet dress rehearsal: the tanks were cycled, the cryogenic propellants once again billowing from boil-off relief valves as operators dumped the flight pressure, the flow of sound damping water and engine cooling propellants cutting off. Boisvert, half a world away from the team in Woomera, leaned back. It’d been too much to hope for that they’d get a successful test on the first run, but getting so close before failing was in some ways as frustrating as if they had hit a hold during main propellant fill. His team began to set the propellants from the vehicle to flow back to the the main storage tanks--the capacity of the chillers and the tanks for the super-cooled propellants was the main limit on the number of times they could attempt a WDR or a flight in a single day, regardless of length of the test or launch window. Finally, any hope of a quick turnaround was halted--the problem wasn’t with the vehicle at all, but with the water deluge: a valve on the high-pressure mains feeding the deluge had failed due to the circulating cryogenic boil-off from the engines in the vicinity, and needed to be replaced. It was as close to a successful first test as he could have hoped for--the vehicle was almost ready, but the ground support systems had failed. Still, it meant a stand-down for the day. While Boisvert and the North American team stood down from the test, Woomera’s engineers and technicians, ATK contractors and RPK employees alike, continued the work to safe the vehicle to be able to service the pad. They would simply have to keep trying until they got it right. Fortunately, they had three months until the end of the year.
     
  16. Polish Eagle AntiFa Supersoldier

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    Hmm. That does pose an interesting design dilemma--at what point do nuisance fees from the town government get more expensive than a flame bucket?

    A good update--neither have flown yet, but Kistler is in the better position of full-reusability from the moment it does. Out of curiosity (since I remember watching the first F9 demo flight), would NASA TV be streaming the first Kistler flight live?
     
  17. e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

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    One of the interesting things about researching and working on Kistling as a project is that these events have happened within the time that I--and that a lot of us in general--have been following spaceflight, and that we can find the answers with the tools we have. The earliest appearance of the flame trench construction I see in Google Earth images is 12/2012. Apparently, then, they found the need to warn McGregor and limits on firing times to be an annoyance relatively early. By 2014, it was "relatively common knowledge" on NSF L2 that this new stand was to let them test all three FH cores coupled together for a ground static fire. (Something which ended up never happening.) The first core I'm aware of being photographed using the "new" in-ground stand at McGregor was seen 9/8/2014.

    Kistler is getting pretty close, and they--and everyone else--will have some interesting lessons to learn about recovery and reuse from the start. I hope to have some of that coming with a shorter delay--this post took a while to get out because of the holidays and having to find a hook for it.

    I think certainly the first test flight will be streamed, though probably just by RPK--NASA didn't stream the maiden Falcon 9 flight, either. Another question is if any of the preliminaries would be streamed, as SpaceX used to live stream static fires. (I recall having to explain it was intentional that there was only the briefest burst of flame every single time they streamed one.) Ultimately, I suspect RPK and ATK corporate culture and the lower-drama of a wet dress rehearsal means that these tests likely aren't streamed--only flight attempts. Given the lower population around Woomera compared to even the rural area around McGregor (500 in Woomera Village vs ~5,000 in McGregor) I suspect more of "AmericanRocketNews" updates on Stage 2 will be drawn from internal sources, rather than locals sending in cameras and stopwatch timing...
     
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  18. TimothyC Well-Known Member

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    Heck, Kistler is even closer to having their first vehicle flying. It's at Woomera, and all of the engines have presumably done individual hot-fire tests already. RpK is certainly on track to get the first launch off by the end of the year, and a second launch off sometime in Q1 of 2010, which sets the stage for a payload - probably ceremonial, but maybe not - to go up on a K-1, and back down on one of the last shuttle flights.
     
  19. IncongruousGoat Armchair Rocket Scientist

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    Well, maybe. However, it seems highly likely that they're not going to be successful with full reusability from the get-go. There are just too many unknowns, not to mention too many technologies that in OTL have proved to not work as well as one might think (I'm looking at you, parachutes). They're probably going to spend a couple years blowing up boosters before they start getting them back in one piece, and then a year or two more to get them back in good enough shape for re-use - and all that destroyed hardware is going to put a serious crimp in their launch schedule, not to mention the effect it's going to have on pricing. And this is assuming their reuse model is viable, which it might not be.

    Let's just say I'm pessimistic about Kistler's ability to storm onto the stage and cause a revolution overnight.
     
  20. e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

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    Parachutes have a pretty solid record for recovery, actually--the vast, vast majority of Space Shuttle boosters using parachutes were recovered intact, it's just turnaround after recovery that was the issue. I'm aware of something like three failures in the program history (2 on STS-4, which saw a sensor failure on both boosters due to a design flaw and the Ares 1-X booster which saw a similar design failure due to a redesign they were attempting, causing the premature deployment of a parachute and subsequent damage due to landing on only the remaining ones). And of course, ATK did the SRBs and their recovery systems. It may take time to perfect stage turnaround, but the benefit of parachutes and airbags is that--while heavier and requiring more systems onboard than a legs-and-engines landing--it is much lower energy and much more robust. It may take fewer explosions than you think, though a number of flights to get turnaround down to something reasonable. SpaceX chose "hard mode" historically.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
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