Future SpaceX & Blue Origin rocket recoveries may use largest mobile crane in the US

While there’s a good chance that SpaceX will avoid changing their current Port Canaveral recovery operations and the complement of cranes they …

Florida’s Canaveral Port Authority took delivery of what is now the largest mobile crane on U.S. soil, originally purchased in order to support both extremely large cargo ships (known as New-Panamax-class) and the unique needs of orbital-class rocket recovery operations for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy and Blue Origin’s prospective New Glenn launch vehicle.

While there’s a good chance that SpaceX will avoid changing their current Port Canaveral recovery operations and the complement of cranes they already lease or own, Blue Origin will almost certainly take advantage of Port Canaveral’s vast new crane, capable of lifting more than 200 metric tons (~450,000 lbs) at heights greater than 50 meters (160 ft).

I know @AstroVicnet had some questions about the new mobile crane and how it will be used in Port Canaveral. Here is an explainer and how it connects to our Spaceport partners like @SpaceX and @blueorigin. #SpaceXFleethttps://t.co/UQqItZbdIr

— Julia (@julia_bergeron) January 19, 2019

To put the scale of the crane (and perhaps SpaceX and Blue Origin rockets) into perspective, Falcon 9’s booster – on its own – stands an incredibly 45m (~150 ft) tall or almost the same height as the LHM 600’s main boom (the gray cylinder/tower in the photos above), while Blue Origin’s New Glenn first stage – set to debut as early as 2021 – would tower an extraordinary 57.5m (~190 ft) tall, probably 60m if its small legs are deployed. While SpaceX’s BFR booster (now Super Heavy) is expected to attempt recoveries on the actual launch pad mount, it would stand around 63m (~210 ft) tall. New Glenn and Super Heavy are likely to weigh 50-150+ tons empty.

COLOSSAL CRANE ARRIVES: A 270-foot-tall mobile harbor crane billed as the largest in the United States sails into Port Canaveral aboard the cargo vessel Happy Dover on Friday morning. The 87-foot-long, 1.1-million-pound Liebherr LHM 600 is set to go into service later this year. pic.twitter.com/51DP8Hdb0w

— Port Canaveral (@PortCanaveral) January 18, 2019

The point is that for monolithic objects that are as tall as large rocket boosters, the logistics of actually moving them around can be surprisingly complex and challenging. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Heavy boosters happen to be short enough to be conveniently moved and manipulated by cranes that are quite large but still fairly common and easy enough to lease or purchase. SpaceX consistently uses similar tall, yellow cranes for the process of actually lifting Falcon 9 boosters – around 30t (~66,000 lbs) dry – off of their drone ships and onto land, while far smaller wheeled cranes can be used for the process of manipulating Falcon boosters once they are horizontal.

Given just how relatively light Falcon boosters are compared to their towering height, the cranes that can safely lift such tall and delicate objects tend to be designed to easily lift 5-10X as much weight at once. The next-generation rocket boosters (and even SpaceX’s Starship upper stage) will continue to push the height performance and begin to test the mass capabilities of modern cranes, particularly mobile varieties like the one that just arrived in Port Canaveral. One massive benefit of wheeled cranes like LHM 600 is how versatile and flexible they are, while tracked cranes like the largest ones SpaceX currently uses simply can’t move without risking the destruction of the ground beneath them, requiring that they use advanced mass-spreading technologies (i.e. giant beams of hardwood) wherever they crawl.

Another view of Port Canaveral’s shiny new LHM 600 crane shortly after arriving ashore. (Canaveral Port Authority)

Teslarati photographer Tom Cross managed to catch Port Canaveral’s new crane shortly after sunset, January 18th. (Tom Cross)

One of several large cranes used by SpaceX to vertically transport Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters is pictured here during third recovery of Falcon 9 B1046, December 2018. (Pauline Acalin)

Blue Origin’s New Glenn visualized shortly after landing aboard a recovery vessel. (Blue Origin)

Liebherr’s mobile harbor cranes offer a far more mobile solution in the form of traditional rubber tires and multiple large spreader plates that can be deployed and retracted when stationary. It will be genuinely interesting to see if SpaceX decides to replace its proven modes of vertical-lift recovery operations to gain the benefits of a crane that is new and an unknown quantity but could still simplify certain recovery operations. Perhaps even more importantly, the Canaveral Port Authority owns the new crane and apparently bought it with the specific intention of allowing companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin to use it – presumably for a reasonable fee – to assist during rocket recovery operations.


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SpaceX Laying-off 10% of Employees as Launch Business Wanes

Close to 600 employees of SpaceX have lost or will lose their jobs over the next few days as the space transportation company founded by Elon Musk …

Close to 600 employees of SpaceX have lost or will lose their jobs over the next few days as the space transportation company founded by Elon Musk fights to stay in business as the number of rocket launches is expected to drop this year.

The total of those being let go represents close to 10% of the company’s total workforce of some 6,000 employees. Most of those to be fired work at the company’s headquarters and rocket factory located at Hawthorne, California.

Analysts say this mass firing is the first large-scale reduction of its workforce since SpaceX was founded in 2002. The company, however, has laid-off many employees before but not on this scale.

In a statement, SpaceX said its ability to continue delivering for its customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet means “SpaceX must become a leaner company.”

And in a sop to the employees it fired, SpaceX said it is grateful for everything they’ve accomplished and their commitment to SpaceX’s mission. SpaceX said the employee firings were the result of the extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead and would not otherwise be necessary.

In late 2018, SpaceX President and CEO Gwynne Shotwell warned there might be a slowdown in the number of satellites to be launched by firms in the geo-telecommunications industry. These commercial launches are the lifeblood of SpaceX.

SpaceX says it costs more than $60 million to launch a Falcon 9 rocket on a commercial mission such as deploying a telecommunications satellite to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). On the other hand, it will cost a client some $90 million to use the more powerful Falcon Heavy rocket.

“Next year (2019) you won’t see as many launches as you see in 2018,” said Shotwell. “2019 is a lower-cadence year.”

Ironically, Space X had its best year in 2018. It successfully launched 21 missions, giving it the U.S. record for the most number of launches in a year.

It’s always unfortunate when there are large layoffs, noted Jan Vogel, executive director of the South Bay Workforce Investment Board.

He said the board is in touch with SpaceX and is ready to provide transitional services to employees that have been let go. We’re ready to help people, said Vogel.

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SpaceX to build its Starship in Texas… for now

SpaceX was planning to build a new facility to construct its huge new vehicle designed to take people to the moon, Mars or even deeper into the solar …
starship

A SpaceX Starship prototype is assembled.

Elon Musk

For now, SpaceX will be assembling and testing its Starship prototype in Texas rather than California.

CBS Los Angeles reports that the rocket company helmed by Elon Musk has canceled a lease with the Port of Los Angeles.

SpaceX was planning to build a new facility to construct its huge new vehicle designed to take people to the moon, Mars or even deeper into the solar system.

“To streamline operations, SpaceX is developing and will test the Starship test vehicle at our site in south Texas,” reads an emailed statement from the company. “This decision does not impact our current manufacture, design, and launch operations in Hawthorne and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Additionally, SpaceX will continue recovery operations of our reusable Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft at the Port of Los Angeles.”

SpaceX and Musk have recently been showing off the development of the Starship “hopper” prototype in Texas that is set to begin short test flights this year. Musk explained via Twitter that the prototypes are being built in Texas where SpaceX has a launch site because “their size makes them very difficult to transport.”

The source info is incorrect. Starship & Raptor development is being done out of our HQ in Hawthorne, CA. We are building the Starship prototypes locally at our launch site in Texas, as their size makes them very difficult to transport.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 16, 2019

The lease with the Port of Los Angeles would have allowed SpaceX to build a manufacturing facility on a 19-acre parcel on the historic Terminal Island. The plan was for the huge assembled rockets to be then transported via barge and the Panama Canal to Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Los Angeles city councilman Joe Buscaino tweeted that he was “crushed” Musk’s company will no longer be expanding its presence at the port.

While I feel crushed about #SpaceX pulling the #SuperHeavy out of the @PortofLA, I feel confident that other innovators will see the huge value they get in San Pedro. (1/2)

— Joe Buscaino (@JoeBuscaino) January 16, 2019

The streamlining move also comes shortly after the company, based in the Los Angeles area, announced it would be laying off about 10 percent of its employees to “become a leaner company.”

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SpaceX Orbital Starship Prototype Built By June 2019 and Orbital Launch Might Be in 2019

Elon Musk has tweeted that the first orbital Starship upper stage prototype should be completed by June 2019. He has stated that the Super Heavy first …

Elon Musk has tweeted that the first orbital Starship upper stage prototype should be completed by June 2019. He has stated that the Super Heavy first stage will start construction in the spring.

Previously, Elon Musk has targeted the Super Heavy Starship to reach orbit by 2020. Elon has said the odds of making it to orbit by 2020 are at least 60% and rising rapidly.

If the Starhopper has successful testing from February through July, then an orbital test could happen in the latter half of 2019. SpaceX will be able to build the 38 Raptor engines for a full Super Heavy Starship.

If the new engines work and the new design enable this shortened development schedule then it seems SpaceX would try for orbit in late 2019.

SpaceX had the Falcon Heavy succeed on its first launch into space. The Falcon Heavy had 27 engines. The engines were similar in size to the Raptor engines.

SpaceX has landed many first stages.

The single piece Super Heavy seems like something that they will be able to take larger and larger test hops and then fly to orbit.

The Starship is seven engines and following the same development plan.

I think replicating the first launch success of the Falcon Heavy with both the Super Heavy and Starship is a possibility in 2019.

Elon Musk will be giving a new talk about the shiny stainless design for Spacex Super Heavy Starship after the first Starhopper flight.

to rephrase, @elonmusk thinks that the chances of a full-up Starship/Super Heavy (BFR) launch making it to orbit by 2020 are at least 60% and “rising rapidly”, thanks to the recent strategic shift towards stainless steel and a regeneratively-cooled hot metal structure 😀 https://t.co/wQB2dVtXXV

— Eric Ralph (@13ericralph31) December 27, 2018

When will we see pictures of an orbital starship?

— JoshuaTheProfessional (@JoThePro10) January 11, 2019

Should be done with first orbital prototype around June

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 11, 2019

Both, but demo Starship is being built now, whereas Super Heavy hardware will start getting built in spring

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 9, 2018

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Why Elon Musk’s SpaceX Fired Hundreds Of Employees In ‘Purge’-Like Method

Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has just fired about 10 percent of its workforce of over 7,000 employees. On Friday, Jan. 11, hundreds of SpaceX …

Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has just fired about 10 percent of its workforce of over 7,000 employees.

On Friday, Jan. 11, hundreds of SpaceX employees were likely shocked when they received a notice that they were could be getting fired in a manner that some workers had described as similar to a corporate “Hunger Games” or a “purge.” All the employees of the company, regardless of whether or not they were a new or veteran one, were apparently told to leave work early that day and wait for an email, which would notify them if they still had a job, to arrive within 24 hours.

SpaceX COO and President Gwynne Shotwell said via CNBC that the move was necessary due to “extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead” and that the company would not have let go of the employees unless necessary.

“To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company,” Shotwell said. “Either of these developments, even when attempted separately, have bankrupted other organizations. This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team.”

SpaceX confirmed that the company still had over 6,400 employees and that layoffs were spread across all teams and departments.


Elon MuskSpaceX fired about 10 percent of its workforce. Pictured: Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks during a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (not pictured) at the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing on January 9, 2019.Photo: Getty Images/Mark Schiefelbein

Teslarati pointed out that even though letting go of workers was often “necessary” for underperforming companies and those in particularly competitive industries, SpaceX did not seem to fit the bill, which makes the layoffs even more shocking. The privately-held company is currently one of the most valuable startups in the U.S., and it has even raised $500 million to $750 million within the last six months alone.

Eric Berger wrote on Twitter that this was a “classic Silicon Valley move to cull the weak.” Another Twitter user said that layoffs are more likely to happen when the person’s or department’s skills are no longer needed or when they show bad performance. It could also be because of company politics.

Interestingly, SpaceX may have fired 10 percent of its workforce due to the terms of its fundraising rounds. As confirmed by SEC filings showing about $270 million of $500 million raised, SpaceX has been in discussions with investors and banks to raise funds.

SpaceX may have fired about 700 to 800 employees in order to cut operational costs by $80 million to $100 million per year. While this amount would not be enough to fund any of Musk’s ambitious plans like the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) and Starlink, Teslarati noted that this could be intended only to sway investors to bet on the high-risk launch company.

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