SpaceX Update June-September

Just received the SpaceX update for the summer, and it appears that I get to beat Clark Lindsey to writing a summary again.

Anyhow, Elon took a bit of time explaining the genesis of the Falcon IX. Apparently they had a customer who needed a launcher with more payload than a Falcon V. They tried a bunch of different design options, but the only one that didn’t reduce the flight safety, or add a bunch of expense or complexity was going with a 9-engine first stage.

He then reviewed some of the safety features they’ve taken into consideration in order to insure that they really have engine-out capability on those engines. After the rumors of the teststand failure last month, I think some people were wondering if having 9 engines would actually decrease the safety level of the Falcon IX. Elon mentioned the various blast shields and debris protection systems, as well as the systems for shutting off flow to severed lines in event of a failure. Not sure how much of that was in the design originally, or how much of that was done in order to eliminate failure modes brought up by the failure last month.

Apparently they’re getting a lot of interest for the Falcon I and Falcon IX, with 6 contracts for the former, and 2 for the latter. He feels that Falcon IX will net a lot of comsat business that’s currently going to EELVs and foreign boosters. However he emphasized that they fully plan to stick with the Falcon I, which they hope can become a very highly utilized smallsat launcher over the ensuing years.

He commented on preparations there at Omelek Island, where they hope to have their maiden Falcon I launch on Halloween.


He also discussed the design progress on the Falcon IX. Apparently they’ve got the 3Mlbf capable “very large test stand” (which is for some reason called the BFTS instead of the VLTS) mostly ready. Apparently they plan on doing a full duration hold-down test of the Falcon IX first stage next spring or early summer. Unlike what some have been assuming, it looks like the Falcon IX development is going to go a lot faster than the Falcon I. The team is further up the learning curve, the engines are pretty close to off-the-shelf, and they’re already getting practice welding up tank sections using their new manufacturing processes.

Anyhow, things are definitely looking quite interesting. Here’s to a succesful launch on the 31st!

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
Jonathan Goff

About Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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4 Responses to SpaceX Update June-September

  1. Ed says:

    I’m guessing that BFTS stands for “Big F***ing Test Stand”.

  2. Mr. X says:

    BFTS–that name’s got a great ring to it!

    Some may think that Falcon I has a lot of customers right now, but the floodgates will come pouring open once it successfully launches. The engineering community is quite risk-avaerse, and few people want the risk of launching on an unflown vehicle. Perhaps this attitude should have prevailed for the launches of Delta III.

    While Falcon IX is being marketed as an EELV-competitor, it might also be wise to view it as a Delta II replacement. Although NASA is moving a lot of its interplanetary probes to the EELV’s, the GPS program will lose its reliable ride when Delta II production reaches its bittersweet end. Falcon V or IX could step up and fill in this glaring gap in capabilities.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Conversely, customers will go running for the exits once Spacex screws the proverbial pooch with a spectacular failure!

  4. Jon Goff says:

    Anonymous,
    My aren’t you a ray of sunshine. I think we all know that a spectacular failure or three from SpaceX will put a real damper on the rest of our activities. You almost seem to be getting some sort of perverse pleasure out of the possibility.

    Schadenfreude is so immature.
    ~Jon

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