For a while there, during the lull, not only were no Brownsville jobs posted on SpaceX’s online job board, Brownsville wasn’t even on the list of places …
For a while there, during the lull, not only were no Brownsville jobs posted on SpaceX’s online job board, Brownsville wasn’t even on the list of places the company has its operations — Cape Canaveral, Fla., McGregor, Texas, or SpaceX’s Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters, for instance.
That was the case even though the company broke ground ceremonially on its Boca Chica launch site in September 2014 to much fanfare. It may not be a hiring wave exactly, though the recent spate of job postings on the SpaceX website nonetheless underscore the fact that things are picking up at the Boca Chica site, where so little was happening for so long that skepticism about the company’s plans inevitably began to take root.
The sudden appearance of a retro-looking, gleaming, stainless-steel rocket prototype (the Starship Hopper) at Boca Chica in late December did much to dispel doubts. The craft is the first test version of the massive Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy booster that SpaceX chief Elon Musk is planning to use to one day to send humans to Mars.
The job board is currently advertising for five jobs at Boca Chica, among them a tank fabricator/welder to build the Starship and Super Heavy primary airframes, according to the posting.
“The tank fabricator will work with an elite team of other fabricators and technicians to rapidly build the tank (cylindrical structure), tank bulkheads, and other large associated structures for the flight article design of both vehicles,” it reads.
SpaceX is also looking for a Tank Fabrication Supervisor “responsible for leading a team of fabricators, welders and technicians building the Primary and Secondary structures for the Starship and Super Heavy vehicles,” according to SpaceX.
The supervisor will take technical direction from the company’s engineering team and be the main driver of day-to-day progress at the build site, says the ad, also serving as a “key enabler to a productive, fun and hard-working culture.”
For this reason, it’s important that the supervisor be “an inspiring leader, often-times working side by side with their build team,” according to the posting. SpaceX also has two openings for security officers (Level 1 and Level 2) and an Environmental Health and Safety Specialist at Boca Chica.
The new job postings come soon after SpaceX’s decision to move construction of the Starship and Super Heavy prototypes from the Port of Los Angeles to Boca Chica as part of a company effort, announced Jan. 11, to “streamline operations,” entailing a 10-percent reduction of its 6,000-strong workforce.
According to a Jan. 16 tweet from Musk, “Starship & Raptor (engine) 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.”
Repairs are being done to the top portion of the Starship Hopper, which was heavily damaged when high winds snapped its moorings late on Jan. 22 or early on Jan. 23. Before the accident, low-altitude vertical takeoff and landing tests (hopper flights) were set to begin as early as February or March. How long the accident will delay the first tests is unknown, though Musk tweeted after the incident that repairs should take “a few weeks.”
On Feb. 3, Musk tweeted dramatic video of the first firing of the new Raptor engine the Raptor that will propel Starship, the tests taking place at SpaceX’s McGregor engine-testing facility.
TESLARATI.COM – A duo of SpaceX job postings at the company’s South Texas facilities have confirmed that both Starship and Super Heavy “flight …
TESLARATI.COM – A duo of SpaceX job postings at the company’s South Texas facilities have confirmed that both Starship and Super Heavy “flight article” vehicles will initially be fabricated and assembled on-site in Boca Chica, also implying that the rocket’s first orbital launch attempts will occur in the same vicinity.
Construction of the first massive Super Heavy booster could begin in Boca Chica within the next several months, presumably progressing in a similar fashion to Starship’s full-scale hopper prototype. According to CEO Elon Musk, Starhopper hop tests and Super Heavy construction could begin – respectively – as early as March and April 2019, perhaps just one or two months from now.
Posted on February 15th, both open positions centered around structural assembly (i.e. welding) critical for the construction of the massive propellant tank domes, barrel sections, and other major structure of Starship and Super Heavy. Following an unanticipated pivot to stainless steel – rather than advanced carbon composites – as the primary structural material of choice for BFR, the project has been continually marked by a flurry of impressive technical progress at the same time as many previously foundational aspects became uncertain.
Editor’s Note: Click here to read the full story in Teslarati.Com
Editor’s Note: Click here to read Tesla CEO Elon Musk respond to tweets about the fabrication of Starship and Super Heavy vehicles at Boca China.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk believes that there may be a path for the company to ultimately build the massive Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy …
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk believes that there may be a path for the company to ultimately build the massive Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy booster (formerly BFR) for less than Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy, a rocket 3-9 times smaller than BFR.
While it certainly ranks high on the list of wild and wacky things the CEO has said over the years, there may be a few ways – albeit with healthy qualifications – that Starship/Super Heavy production costs could ultimately compare favorably with SpaceX’s Falcon family of launch vehicles. Nevertheless, there are at least as many ways in which the next-gen rocket can (or should) never be able to beat the production cost of what is effectively a far simpler rocket.
This will sound implausible, but I think there’s a path to build Starship / Super Heavy for less than Falcon 9
On the one hand, Musk might not necessarily be wrong, especially if one throws the CEO several bones in the interpretation of his brief tweet. BFR at its simplest is going to require a full 38 main rocket engines to achieve its nominal performance goals, 7 on Starship and 31 on Super Heavy. As a dramatically more advanced, larger, and far more complex engine, Raptor will (with very little doubt) cost far more per engine than the relatively simple Merlin 1D. BFR avionics (flight computers, electronics, wiring, harnesses) are likely to be more of a known quantity, meaning that costs will probably be comparable or even lower than Falcon 9’s when measured as a proportion of overall vehicle cost. Assuming that BFR can use the exact same cold gas thruster assemblies currently flying on Falcon 9, that cost should only grow proportionally with vehicle size. Finally, Starship will not require a deployable payload fairing (~10% of Falcon 9’s production cost).
All of those things mean that Starship/Super Heavy will probably be starting off with far better cost efficiency than Falcon 9 was able to, thanks to almost a decade of interim experience both building, flying, and refurbishing the rocket since its 2010 debut. Still, BFR will have to account for entirely new structures like six large tripod fins/wings and their actuators, wholly new thrust structures (akin to Falcon 9’s octaweb) for both stages, and more. Considering Starship on its own, the production of a human-rated spacecraft capable of safely housing dozens of people in space for weeks or months will almost without a doubt rival the cost of airliner production, where a 737 – with almost half a century of production and flight heritage – still holds a price tag of $100-130+ million.
BFR shown to scale with Falcon 1, 9, and Heavy. (SpaceX)
Falcon 9 B1054 – sans grid fins or landing legs – lifted off for the first and last time in support of the USAF’s first GPS III satellite launch. (SpaceX)
Falcon 9 B1046 is pictured here landing after its third successful launch, December 2018. (SpaceX)
Adding one more assumption, the most lenient interpretation of Musk’s tweet assumes that he is really only subjecting the overall structure (sans engines and any crew-relevant hardware) of BFR relative to Falcon 9. In other words, could a ~300-ton stainless steel rocket structure (BFR) cost the same amount or less to fabricate than a ~30-ton aluminum-lithium alloy rocket structure (Falcon 9/Heavy)? From the very roughest of numerical comparisons, Musk estimated the cost of the stainless steel alloys (300-series) to be used for BFR at around $3 per pound ($6.60/kg), while aluminum-lithium alloys used in aerospace (and on Falcon 9) are sold for around $20/lb ($44/kg)*. As such, simply buying the materials to build the basic structures of BFR and Falcon 9 would cost around and $7.5M and $5M, respectively.
Assuming that the process of assembling, welding, and integrating Starship and Super Heavy structures is somehow 5-10 times cheaper, easier, and less labor-intensive, it’s actually not inconceivable that the cost of building BFR’s structure could ultimately compete with Falcon 9 after production has stabilized after the new rocket’s prototyping phase is over and manufacturing processes are mature.
*Very rough estimate, difficult to find a public cost per unit mass from modern Al-Li suppliers
Costs vs. benefits
On the opposite hand, stainless steel rockets do not have a history of being uniquely cost-effective relative to vehicles using alternative materials. The only orbital-class launch vehicles to use stainless steel (and balloon) tanks are the Atlas booster and the Centaur upper stage, with Atlas dating back to the late 1950s and Centaur beginning launches in the early ’60s. Stainless steel Atlas launches ended in 2005 with the final Atlas III mission, while multiple forms of Centaur continue to fly regularly on ULA’s Atlas V and Delta IV.
Based on a 1966 contract between NASA and General Dynamics placed shortly after Centaur’s tortured development had largely been completed, Centaur upper stages were priced around $25M apiece (2018 USD). In 1980, the hardware for a dedicated Atlas-Centaur launch of a ~1500 kg Comstar I satellite to GTO cost the US the 2018 equivalent of a bit less than $40M ($71M including miscellaneous administrative costs) – $22.4M for Centaur and $17.6M for Atlas. For Atlas, the rocket’s airframe (tanks and general structure) was purchased for around $8.5M. That version of Atlas-Centaur (Atlas-SLV3D Centaur-D1A) was capable of lifting around 5100 kg (11,250 lb) into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and 1800 kg (~4000 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), while it stood around 40m (130 ft) tall, had a tank diameter of 3.05m (10 ft), and weighed ~150t (330,000 lb) fully fueled.
Atlas shows off its shiny steel balloon tanks. (SDASM)
The original space-faring Atlas, known as SM-65, seen here with a Mercury space capsule. (NASA)
A Centaur upper stage is pictured here in 1964. (NASA)
Atlas SLV3D is pictured here launching a Comstar I satellite.
A Falcon 9 booster is seen here near the end of its tank welding, just prior to painting. (SpaceX)
An overview of SpaceX’s Hawthorne factory floor in early 2018. (SpaceX)
In a very loose sense, that particular stainless steel Atlas variant was about half as large and half as capable as the first flight-worthy version of Falcon 9 at roughly the same price at launch ($60-70M). What does this jaunt through the history books tell us about the prospects of a stainless steel Starship and Super Heavy? Well, not much. The problem with trying to understand and pick apart official claims about SpaceX’s next-generation launch architecture is quite simple: only one family of rockets in the history of the industry (Atlas) regularly flew with stainless steel propellant tanks, a half-century lineage that completed its final launch in 2005.
Generally speaking, an industrial sample size of more or less one makes it far from easy to come to any particular conclusions about a given technology or practice, and SpaceX – according to CEO Elon Musk – fully intends to push past the state of the art of stainless steel rocket tankage with BFR. Ultimately, American Marietta/Martin Marietta/Lockheed Martin was never able to produce launch vehicle variants of the stainless steel Atlas family at a cost more than marginally competitive with Falcon 9, despite the latter rocket’s use of a far more expensive metal alloy throughout its primary tanks and structure.
At some point, it’s even worth asking whether the per-unit cost of Starship and Super Heavy should be relevant at all to their design and construction, at least within reason. If the goal of BFR is to drastically lower the cost of launch by radically improving the ease of reuse, it would be truly bizarre (and utterly unintuitive) if those goals could somehow be achieved without dramatically raising the cost of initial hardware procurement. Perhaps the best close comparison to BFR’s goals, modern airliners are eyewateringly expensive ($100-500M apiece) as a consequence of the extraordinary reliability, performance, efficiency, and longevity customers and regulatory agencies demand from them, although those costs are admittedly not the absolute lowest they could be in a perfect manufacturing scenario.
At the end of the day, it appears that Musk is increasingly of the opinion that the pivot to stainless steel could ultimately make BFR simultaneously “better, faster, [&] cheaper”. However improbable that may be, if it does turn out to be the case, Starship and Super Heavy could be an unfathomable leap ahead for reliable and affordable access to space. It could also be another case of Musk’s excitement and optimism getting the better of him and hyping a given product well beyond what it ultimately is able to achieve. Time will tell!
When the same Twitter follower asked what kind of outreach programs he had planned for SpaceX Starship, he joked about rapid unscheduled …
Elon Musk believes humans will soon be able to move to Mars for as little as $100,000 (£77,646).
He told a Twitter follower that, depending on demand, people will one day be able to relocate to the red planet for less than $500,000 (£388,230).
The founder of SpaceX was asked about the cost of travelling to the moon or Mars on his Starship craft.
He said: “Low enough that most people in advanced economies could sell their home on Earth & move to Mars if they want.”
The billionaire also added that a return ticket to the planet would be free.
When the same Twitter follower asked what kind of outreach programs he had planned for SpaceX Starship, he joked about rapid unscheduled disassemblies (RUDs) – more commonly known as an unplanned explosion.
You might be interested in…
Elon said: “Just planning on keeping the public informed about progress and setbacks. Will be some RUDs along the way, but excitement is guaranteed!”
Starship is SpaceX’s craft is currently going through the testing process.
Elon said last week its newest engine reached the power level necessary for the next round of rocket designs.
The US SpaceX aerospace company has conducted the first test firing of the methane-fueled Raptor engine for its Starship interplanetary ship, the …
The US SpaceX aerospace company has conducted the first test firing of the methane-fueled Raptor engine for its Starship interplanetary ship, the firm’s CEO, Elon Musk, said on Monday
MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik – 04th February, 2019) The US SpaceX aerospace company has conducted the first test firing of the methane-fueled Raptor engine for its Starship interplanetary ship, the firm’s CEO, Elon Musk, said on Monday.
“First firing of Starship Raptor flight engine! So proud of great work by SpaceX team!!” Musk said on Twitter, posting a couple of videos of the test firing.
On Thursday, Musk posted a couple of images on Twitter showing a Starship Raptor engine and saying SpaceX was preparing to test fire it at its Texas facility.
So far, SpaceX has completed the assembly of a stainless Starship Hopper prototype meant for takeoff and landing tests.