back to article LUNAR-CY! SpaceX announces a Moon trip-for-two it'll inevitably miss the deadline on

Two unnamed and presumably very well-heeled people have booked a flight around the Moon using unproven hardware from SpaceX. The announcement was made on Monday by CEO Elon Musk. He said the two passengers will be launched in a Dragon 2 capsule using Falcon Heavy rockets for a trip around our natural satellite. They will …

I hope his name is Jebediah

I don't see why there is any pessimism on this one, it's blind easy.

Not to intimidate anyone with all my Kerbal Space Program expertise, but doing a flyby of the moon is a lot easier than a rendezvous with the ISS, from an orbital mechanics perspective. The big different is it takes a lot more Delta V (fuel) for the moon and they have a big falcon rocket that in fact has lots more fuel.

If they can launch a Falcon Heavy, and if they can send a Dragon 2 to the ISS, then they are done, existing hardware on a slightly different course! If they can reuse everything but the second stage (or is it called third stage in FH configuration?) this might even be easy money!

Still a massive prestige move and will make them (rightly!) look like the world leader in space. No one else can send people to the moon with no new hardware.

28
0
Silver badge

Re: I hope his name is Jebediah

I wonder if Falcon Heavy is Onion staged.

Auto pilot would have to be MechJeb; although MJ can't dock for shit he will get you close :)

0
0
Silver badge

Re: I hope his name is Jebediah

It isn't.

There is no fuel transfer between stages, the engineering to do that is currently too hard to be worthwhile for the delta-v improvement - emptying a tank out of two holes is much harder than for one!

0
0
Silver badge

Re: I hope his name is Jebediah

"Not to intimidate anyone with all my Kerbal Space Program expertise..."

That's the thing with Kerbal Space Program, it's well easy to get something in to orbit, it's getting it back that's the problem.

I won't go in to how many Jebediah's I've either killed on reentry or left alone for eternity orbiting some far off distant planet, but it does surprise me how long those Kerbals can hold their breath for when they're out of fuel on a craft with no batteries or solar panels, orbiting a planet for 3 years.

2
0
Silver badge
Alien

Re: I hope his name is Jebediah

MechJeb's usually pretty good at docking, as long as the RCS on your craft isn't totally unbalanced. Check you're on the latest version, or even switch to the dev branch.

not a kerbal, but will have to do >>>>>>>>

0
0
Silver badge

Re: I hope his name is Jebediah

Not to piss on your chips, but I think you'll find real life is a bit more complicated than Kerbal.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: I hope his name is Jebediah

Obligatory XKCD.

6
0
Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: I hope his name is Jebediah

quote:

Not to piss on your chips, but I think you'll find real life is a bit more complicated than Kerbal.

----

Have you ever tried to dock an emergency refueller craft to a spaceship stuck in a long elliptical orbit around Jool?

They would have made it home except I got the aero-braking wrong and ended up deep fat frying my brave Kerbals 25km from the surface of home

Icon..... because everyone who plays KSP sees that from time to time ...

1
0
Gold badge
Go

"driven by the universal human spirit of exploration"

And I imagine a very large bag of money.

Musk always says his schedules are (just about) possible but that normally assumes everything works right first time.

3
0

And the others?

What about China and India?

China plans an unmanned mission this year that will bring back samples, a more difficult feat than flying a couple of tourists around the moon. That''s far more likely to actually occur on schedule.

No complaints about the SpaceX news, but it would be useful in the summary of other efforts to have mention of the ones from Asia as well. China has put a rover on the moon. India has put an orbiter to Mars. Be nice not to have to search for the reminders.

7
0
Silver badge

Profit Motive?

There probably won't be one for the first flight or even the second. It's bragging and bargaining rights along with all the publicity.

0
0
Silver badge

Price looks sane to me

The SpaceX price list shows a Falcon Heavy costs $90M compared to $62M for a new Falcon FT. I could not find a link to the price for a second hand FT launch. IIRC that costs about forty few million. A one-off flight round the moon would cost way more than $100M, but as a part of a sequence of launches including re-use the price should be profitable. SpaceX has already sold 3 other Falcon Heavies. If they do not start re-launching soon, they will run out of places to put spare rockets. There must be about half a dozen used stage 1's lying around by now. The first re-launch is planned for late March.

4
0

Re: Price looks sane to me

Price for a reused Falcon 9 FT is about 30% cheaper than the new one currently, so around $44M. But given each stage may only get one o two reuses still some way to go on the reuse side.

2
1
Gold badge
Unhappy

"SpaceX has already sold 3 other Falcon Heavies. "

Not quite.

It's sold 3 "tickets" to ride on FH's.

Unlike every other transport system you can't buy one, you only buy a ride on one.

0
0
Silver badge
Childcatcher

Re: Price looks sane to me

I am not sure price is as big an issue for this proposed trip as it will be for subsequent jaunts. It might constitute their entire advertising budget, but considering the possible increase in business, it could pay off. Perhaps it's best to think of it as a very big advertising stunt...

0
0

Re: "SpaceX has already sold 3 other Falcon Heavies. "

"Unlike every other transport system you can't buy one, you only buy a ride on one."

Hmm, trains, buses and aeroplanes you buy a ride on one, not the transport.

Then we get into taxis, ubers, ferries, ski lifts, gondolas, ferris wheels, rollercoasters, I am sure I have missed some, but you get the point........

1
1
Silver badge

Re: "SpaceX has already sold 3 other Falcon Heavies. "

Weeell, a taxi driver buys their taxi, the rail company buys the train and the airline buys the plane...

The difference is that they get to use them more than once!

Rockets are still a one-shot affair.

So far everyone has bought the SpaceX rockets. Recently SpaceX started collecting some of the scrap metal back.

Hopefully they will actually refurb and refly one soon, but until then their customers did in fact buy the rocket.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: "SpaceX has already sold 3 other Falcon Heavies. "

It's like the Ferrari FXX. You effectively own it, but Ferrari say when and where you can use it.

0
0

Not just Bragging and publicity

Think about it for a second, a way to get some funding to cover some of the costs of the development flights. Given the Falcon Heavy has a smallish customer base, well NRO will want to loft some more "ugge" birds soon, this will up the number of flights in the manifest.

Dont forget Crewed Dragon builds upon Dragon they will hit their target for it to go un-crewed to ISS, NASA/FAA will control the certification so we all know govt.. they might miss it.

SpaceX is already on the record as saying they are focusing resources on the Falcon Heavy, so I agree a late 2019 tourist flight is possible after Crew Dragon starts its ISS runs in mid 2018.

And there is already two MCC rooms at ..... <static>... :-)

3
0
Coat

That'll be some holiday photos I won't mind seeing

Mines the flightsuit with the "Salvage-1" mission patch

9
0
Silver badge

I remember the Salvage 1 space ship was called The Vulture.

Time for El Reg to expand its space ventures?

3
0
Silver badge

Do we get to choose who goes?

Could be a good kickstarter opportunity

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Do we get to choose who goes?

If it's Noel Edmonds and Michael Gove, I'll put a few quid into the kitty.

7
0
Silver badge
Coat

Re: Do we get to choose who goes?

Is one of the stretch goals to make sure they don't come back?

7
0
Silver badge
Boffin

As long as we don't hear...

Elon, we have a problem...

2
0
Silver badge

I'm all for enthusiasm. But fully expected some tongue-in-cheek Reg stuff when starting to read the following sentence:

"Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration"

Yes. Yes! Yes!!! And then:

said SpaceX.

The anticlimax. Or rather the contrary, SpaceX being utterly ironic? Or just pathetic me being an old bag of cynicism. That's probably why I'll never circle the moon and have to settle for circling the sun. Lifelong.

1
0
Silver badge

There, there... technically, while circling the moon, you are still simultaneously circling the sun.

Anyway, good luck to SpaceX! Good to see that somenone is going to go "out there" again. Although I wouldn'd call a lunar orbit "deep space".

But it makes sense; it's the logical step towards moon landings and, later on, mars missions.

5
0
Silver badge

Since the moon has quite a lot of mass the earth also circles the moon, though the barycenter is still within the planet. So one could argo we've all been circling the moon already. And I don't even need to spend millions on a pointless pleasure ride. (I would never waste my own money on a venture like this, but I certainly wouldn't mind if someone were to gift me a ticket for a ride )

1
2
Silver badge

This is ridiculous

They haven't ever launched anything out of Earth's orbit, they have no experience handling the radiation found there. I'm sure Musk is willing to wave it away, but I should think that they need to run an UNMANNED mission to loop around the Moon and verify everything actually works before sticking people in there. Just because people are willing to take the risk doesn't mean the FAA will permit it.

If I design a big cannon to shoot people across a football field into a big net, and I find a couple people willing to sign a waiver and chance it, should I be allowed to do so, without ever testing even once that everything works as designed?

NASA has already had more than one mission where having actual people piloting the craft made the difference between mission failure/death, and mission success or at least avoiding loss of life. I think there's two reasons his mission has no pilot. 1) he doesn't have anyone qualified to pilot it and 2) he'll use the publicity to help sell self-driving Teslas down the road "we managed to have a self driving vehicle go around the Moon and back, so you don't need to worry about your car driving you across town".

2
15
Silver badge
Holmes

Re: This is ridiculous

he'll use the publicity to help sell self-driving Teslas down the road "we managed to have a self driving vehicle go around the Moon and back, so you don't need to worry about your car driving you across town".

During a trip to the moon and back you're *extremely* unlikely to encounter crossing traffic running red lights, buses, bicyclists, pedestrians suddenly stepping out into the road, potholes, roadworks, traffic jams, having to give way to emergency services and all the other side effects of not being the only one around for hundreds of miles. And with respect to remote control, the communication delay is inconsequential when you need to make minor corrections if you're aware of the need for one in time.

9
0

Re: This is ridiculous

@DougS

"I should think that they need to run an UNMANNED mission to loop around the Moon and verify everything actually works before sticking people in there"

Why? NASA's first Apollo mission to the moon was manned (Apollo 8) and it went into lunar orbit too.

And no need to shout the word "unmanned" either. We can read...

10
0
Silver badge

Re: This is ridiculous

I don't actually see any indication that the 2 people involved will be the ONLY people on board. I fully suspect there will be a crew of atleast 1 (probably 2 or more) to handle the craft.

1
1
Silver badge

Re: This is ridiculous

I crew member to recognise the moon and the other to press the "keep orbital mechanics working as we continue in the same orbit" button ?

4
0

Re: This is ridiculous

However, encountering pedestrians would be a MUCH bigger news story on the far side of the moon!

3
0
Gold badge

"They haven't ever launched anything out of Earth's orbit, "

No. This mission is in place at the Sun/earth 1st Libration point, 930 million miles from Earth IE close to 4x the Earth/Moon distance.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Space_Climate_Observatory

Apollo 8 (which this mission roughly models) was also crewed. However there were earlier Apollo missions launched on the Saturn 1 (which is why Apollo was so small, despite the diamter of the Saturn V)

As for crewed or uncrewed. I wonder if you realized all the Shuttle takeoffs were fully automated? The crew would have only become involved if there was a serious fault (and what that turned out to be is "nothing" in the case of the Challenger disaster in 1986 :-( ). Likewise Shuttle had "autoland" software in the software suite from about the 3rd flight. It was not used because the pilots (having spent years of time practicing for their flight) claimed they could not get the feel of the controls if they had to take over. This would have been off as the Shuttle is FBW. It would have been a strange fault that killed the autoland SW but left the vehicle controllable at all.

Would an experienced professional 'naut be useful if something went wrong? Possibly, but I suspect the two people going will be quite well trained (not 18 months in Russia but well enough) to cope with aborted takeoffs or off course landings.

As for radiation the mission SX launched BEO is specifically to monitor "space weather" and it's not the only mission to do so.

Solar and GCR monitoring (and forecasting) is massively better than during Apollo, which basically prayed there would be no major solar storms during the flights.

0
0
Silver badge

@imanidiot - uncrewed

The news report I saw on this last night said there would be no crew, just the two passengers, and the ship would be on autopilot for the entire trip.

1
0
Silver badge
Headmaster

Lunacy

Didn't the word Lunacy already refer to the moon , without you crow-barring extra letters in there?

12
0
Silver badge
Coat

Re: Lunacy

If they stop off at the Apollo 11 landing site, would it be the Lunacy of Tranquility?

7
0
Silver badge

"If I design a big cannon to shoot people across a football field into a big net, and I find a couple people willing to sign a waiver and chance it, should I be allowed to do so, without ever testing even once that everything works as designed?"

Well you have to put some faith in physics. Maths dosent lie.

You could shoot some potatoe sacks a few feet , to verify the cannon actually works, and then calculate how much further to wind it up for the live "people across pitch" mission.

That way save many millions in fuel on test runs , or is most of the fuel used launching?

1
1
Silver badge

Yes - That's why all new passenger aircraft are flown under remote control around the world before you risk putting people on them.

4
0
Silver badge
Boffin

Crew?

There are going to be two paying passengers, but I assume there will also be at least one professional astronaut to pilot the capsule - for whatever value of pilot is appropriate for a full automated system.

4
0

Re: Crew?

No, Musk said the flight would be fully automatic. That's actually not very hard to do (speaking in relation to other rocket-science feats) as long as everything goes exactly right, and the options are limited anyway if it doesn't.

7
0
Silver badge

Re: Crew?

Kind of reminiscent of when Ford & Arthur board that ship that's set to autopilot into the sun

5
0
Silver badge

Re: Crew?

Do you know how much Δv you need to crash into the sun? Far harder than you would think.

2
0

Re: Crew?

I think the phrase is 'Spam in a can'.

0
0
Silver badge

They haven't ever launched anything out of Earth's orbit, they have no experience handling the radiation found there.

They employ lots of people who do. For precisely that reason.

Not that it matters for a 3 day jaunt around the moon. Unless you manage to catch a solar flare it's fine - we're not talking a 6-month transit to Mars here.

Of more interest is that some of the vital tech is now flight-proven even if Falcon Heavy hasn't launched yet. For instance, the most recent SpaceX mission (CRS-10) had an autonomous flight-abort/range-safety system - no need for a flight controller to be sat with their finger on a boom-button. That's the sort of tech required if you want - for instance - to have three first-stage boosters operating/landing on the range simultaneously. And they actually have a FH-capable pad now.

The capability to actually launch FH is now more or less in place, and moreover, enthusiasts have spotted boosters on the highway that differ from standard Falcon 9 boosters (rounded nose cones where you would normally have a cylindrical interstage).

Falcon Heavy does actually exist and the bits are now in testing, ready for transport to Florida, final assembly/integration and launch. After 5 years of vapourware, there is hardware to show for it and a pad ready to launch it. Unless they have another incident/grounding, there's no reason a FH Demo flight shouldn't launch this year. Crew Dragon should also be ready for a trip to the ISS, and then you've got everything you need for a quick jaunt out to Mun.

6
0
Coat

2 people coming back in "one piece"?

Some kind of mushy puddle in the bottom of the capsule?

7
0
Silver badge

I wish that politicans would take a look at something other than their polling numbers and give NASA and ESA some dedicated funding and let them get on with interesting science and cool exploration.

2
1
Silver badge

Excellent piece

Well done to the Reg for pointing out the emperor's nakedness on this one. Lots of Musk fans in both the general media and tech really, really want this to happen and to work, but like Mr Thompson, I don't think there's a cat in hell's chance of it happening before 2020 at the earliest.

And, given the unpleasantness of dying thru a small thruster failing and sending you flying off into space to die of thirst, hunger or asphyxiation -- the first and third are particularly unpleasant -- I'd want to have seen at least two proof-of-concept crewless vehicles pull off the round trip and make survivable landings back on earth before I went anywhere near it. TBH I wouldn't want to watch a Falcon Heavy launch from less than ten miles away.

* braces for all the downvotes from libertarian Star Trek fans...

0
5
Silver badge
Devil

Re: Excellent piece

No, the Emperor is not naked, and this was not an expose of SpaceX's empty promises. You could say that if SpaceX had no realistic hardware and plan to achieve this goal. However, they do, and will do it some day Soon Enough.

Missing an estimate by a year or two does not make them liars or idiots or naked. I challenge you to find ANY multi-million dollar project that comes in on time these days. Let's have some perspective here.

4
0

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017