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Amechwarrior
Jan 29, 2007



Want to chat about upcoming big rockets? The space industry is entering an era unlike any before, multiple states and private companies are developing rockets capable of over 50 metric tons to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) that should be lifting off within a decade. These are classified as "Super Heavy Launch Vehicles" (SHLV), the most famous one being the Saturn V that took the Apollo Astronauts to the moon and back. Currently, only one SHLV is operational, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy. We have around five other SHLVs being built and some of them are in a little bit of a unofficial space race to see which one can get to orbit first. However, space is hard. Many, if not all, of these vehicles are behind their stated schedules, failures and setbacks are the norm in this industry. Place your bets and talk about which one will be the most over budget and behind schedule.

I'm just a normal person with no special education in this topic other than following public news and forums. I've put a quick write up on each of the SHVLs below. If I got anything wrong, let me know.

Operational Vehicles:

Falcon Heavy

Capacity to LEO: 63.8t
Country: USA
Company/Program: SpaceX
Status: Operational
Announced: 2011
Planned First Flight Date: 2013
Actual First Flight: 6 FEB 2018

My uneducated opinion:

Currently the most powerful rocket in operation. Also, the Falcon 9 family is the only recoverable system in the market which enabled SpaceX to undercut every other launch provider by tens of millions. The FH however seems to have arrived a little to late. The upgrades to the regular F9s enabled them to launch a good amount of the FH payloads and the rocket has only launched three times to date. Unfortunately, each of the center cores has not survived the landing process and I bet SpaceX would really love to get those back for analysis. SpaceX have moved focus to the Super Heavy/Starship in the past few years and it seemed to me like the FH was getting left in the dust. However, with the announcement of the FH getting the NASA contract to launch the initial modules of the upcoming Lunar Gateway station and to later supply the station in the way the F9 does for the ISS will keep this design flying for the near future.

I forgot to mention a huge disadvantage for the FH is that it uses the same size payload fairing as the normal F9. This means the customer is mostly volume limited, instead of mass constrained.

Upcoming Vehicles:

Space Launch System (SLS)

Capacity to LEO: 95t (Block I) and 130t (Block II)
Country: USA
Company/Program: NASA with Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Aerojet Rocketdyne, etc
Status: Partial Green Run Test 16 JAN 21
Announced: Sept 2011
Planned First Flight Date: 2018
Planned First Flight Date: Nov 2021

My uneducated opinion:

Colloquially known as "Senate Launch System", the SLS has run horrendously over budget and behind schedule. However, it's still an incredibly powerful design and fairly close to their test launch. Currently, they will be running another green run of the core stage engines and this time hope to reach the full eight minutes of run time. The previous test was cut short at 67 seconds due to a testing parameter set too tight triggering a shutdown. The SLS is kind of the poster child for "old space" contractors , budgets and slow pace of development. The rocket itself is incredibly expensive per launch and their testing looks like mainly a validation of the design instead of the iterative failures seen by "new space" companies like SpaceX.

I think it will fly a few times to justify itself, but if the Block II never gets off the ground I don't think it will last much longer as Sen. Shelby of Alabama is retiring after his term ends. He was known as a huge force to keep the SLS and it's 'Bama based jobs in the state.

Starship/Super Heavy

Capacity to LEO: 150t (Planned)
Country: USA
Company/Program: SpaceX
Status: Starship - Low Alt. test flights/landings / Super Heavy - Test articles under construction
Announced: 2012
Planned First Flight Date: 2020
Planned First Flight Date: -

My uneducated opinion:

Long March 9 and 921 Rocket


Capacity to LEO: 140t (LM9) / 70t (921)
Country: China
Company/Program: CNSA with CALT
Status: ???
Announced: 2018 (LM9) and 2020 (921)
Planned First Flight Date: 2028

My uneducated opinion:

I know very little about the Long March 9 and the 921. The CNSA plans on using the 921 to take Taikonauts to the Moon and back. The LM9 would be more capable Lunar craft and Wikipedia suggests it could accomplish a Martian sample return mission of some kind. I would bet it would look similar to their recent Lunar sample return scaled up for Mars. If we're lucky, their Tianwen-1 Mars probe will land their own rover on Mars. Mars has been a hard target in previous decades, but recently the successes have surpassed the failures.

Yenisei

Capacity to LEO: 103-130t (Planned)
Country: Russia
Company/Program: Roscosmos with RSC Energia
Status: ???
Announced: 2018
Planned First Flight Date: 2028

My uneducated opinion:

I feel like the Russian space industry is in a lull after the massive embezzlement in the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome and the loss of their market share of commercial launches after the rise of the F9. They seem to announce very large and ambitious projects that end up as paper rockets or heavily delayed. Their Nauka module going to the ISS this year was planned to launch in 2007. On the other hand, their heritage of safe human launch hardware is currently unmatched, even with the recent incidents.

Honorable Mention:

New Glenn

Capacity to LEO: 45t (Planned)
Country: USA
Company/Program: Blue Origin
Status: Test articles under construction
Announced: 2016
Planned First Flight Date: 2020

My uneducated opinion:

This rocket gets an honorable mention as it's just under the tonnage with 45t to orbit as currently planned. Blue Origin has had a very good run with their suborbital New Shepard reusable rocket. They look on track to put humans on board within a year or two and had planned on human test flights by 2018, not too bad relative to everyone else. However, the company as a whole has yet to even go to orbit. This would be seen as a huge mark against them, but with SpaceX's rapid development you can't just write off a company like BO for only doing suborbitals. The BE-4 engine looks very promising and with their partnership with ULA to use the engine will give them a lot of flight data before the New Glenn ever hits a test pad.

Amechwarrior fucked around with this message at 05:50 on Feb 25, 2021

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Loving Africa Chaps
Dec 3, 2007


We had not left it yet, but when I would wake in the night, I would lie, listening, homesick for it already.



Think one of the unique things about new glenn is that it has a giant fairing compared to alternatives (at least till starship gets going) which should hopefully open up for some interesting missions that take advantage of it.

Amechwarrior
Jan 29, 2007



Loving Africa Chaps posted:

Think one of the unique things about new glenn is that it has a giant fairing compared to alternatives (at least till starship gets going) which should hopefully open up for some interesting missions that take advantage of it.

That's a great point I forgot to mention about it vs the fairing limits of the FH. The competition between those two and maybe the supposed Starship cargo version are going to be interesting.

Amechwarrior
Jan 29, 2007



https://www.americaspace.com/2021/02/22/nasa-delays-sls-test-fire-2-after-finding-faulty-propulsion-system-valve/

Looks like the 25FEB green run #2 for the SLS has been called off due to a bad valve found on inspection. Hope they can get everything right and headed to the pad before those SRBs shelf life wears out. They have something like 1 year or so after being stacked before they aren't good to launch.

aniviron
Sep 11, 2014



While F9 Heavy can take more tonnage to orbit, the Delta IV Heavy in practice gets a lot of the same contracts that F9 competes for because while it has less lift capacity, the F9H still only has the same fairing size as a F9.

Amechwarrior
Jan 29, 2007



aniviron posted:

While F9 Heavy can take more tonnage to orbit, the Delta IV Heavy in practice gets a lot of the same contracts that F9 competes for because while it has less lift capacity, the F9H still only has the same fairing size as a F9.

Yea, the F9 fairing is a huge limitation I forgot to put in to the OP. However, the D4H's roughly 29t to orbit kept me from adding it on as an honorable mention. That's in addition to it only having like 4 more launches, all of the them NRO EELV launches which the FH wasn't certified for until mid 2019. Out of the 12 current D4H launches only 3 of them aren't NRO/DOD related. It just cost too much to be viable outside of the NatSec field.

I certainly love the toasty launches though.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlBhV0HgqYA#t=60s

aniviron
Sep 11, 2014



Starship, and to a lesser degree stuff like SLS is being built with the idea that once the capability to launch huge and voluminous things exists, people will want to do it. I certainly hope that pans out.

celewign
Jul 11, 2015

just get us in the playoffs


Iím a big fan of the new methalox engines, I think itís a good compromise of energy and efficiency and price.

Amechwarrior
Jan 29, 2007



celewign posted:

Iím a big fan of the new methalox engines, I think itís a good compromise of energy and efficiency and price.

That and going Oxy-rich and even full-flow staged combustion are some big steps for US based manufacturers.

Speaking of which, BO posted some stuff recently.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuckWaCJPWg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQJj1_ad3FY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXOXKfarFhg

Making the factory right next to the LC seems like a great idea once your rockets get too huge to transport easily. This would make deep overhauls of landed rockets easy as your plant just a stones throw away.

Meanwhile...

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1364488368994848769

And on the Chinese side:

https://spacenews.com/landspace-closes-in-on-orbital-launch-with-liquid-methane-rocket/
https://spacenews.com/china-moves-to-next-stage-of-super-heavy-rocket-development/

Amechwarrior
Jan 29, 2007



https://twitter.com/bocachicagal/status/1366831841509056512?s=21

Test window NET 2021-03-03 14:00 - 00:30 UTC (08:00 - 18:30 CST)

SpaceX Starship test SN10 should be making a test flight tomorrow if everything goes well. I give it a 2/3 chance of landing without exploding on impact. Last time I guessed around 50/50.

Here's the usual suspects that should be streaming the flights live in addition to an official SpaceX stream that seems to go online around 5-15min before launch.

Everyday Astronaut has great commentary for both new and experienced viewers.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6uKrU_WqJ1R2HMTY3LIx5Q

Lab Padre usually has the closest cam to the launch site.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFwMITSkc1Fms6PoJoh1OUQ


NASA Space Flight is great if you're already familiar with a lot of lingo and want a little deeper dive than Everyday Astronaut as the questions they get on stream are from a much nerdier audience.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSUu1lih2RifWkKtDOJdsBA

Amechwarrior
Jan 29, 2007



Welp, it was a successful failure of SN10. It stuck the landing, but hit the ground a bit too hard on its tiny legs and exploded dramatically a few minutes after landing. The links in the post above have the ecplosion on thier longer streams, but I don't see their clipped versions up yet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODY6JWzS8WU

Anyone got a guess on how SN11 will go?

Will other companies that are going to try for recovery go through an equally public testing phase?

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Elukka
Feb 17, 2011



Amechwarrior posted:

Will other companies that are going to try for recovery go through an equally public testing phase?
Probably not. Looking at, say, Blue Origin, they are going the traditional way of producing what's meant to be the final vehicle at the end of the development program, and very likely the first time they ever try to fly and land it is on an orbital test flight.

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