Sep 27 2016

SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System

Today SpaceX released a video showing renderings of its proposed interplanetary Transport System. This video shows a massive booster, far larger than the Saturn V moon rocket, launching from LC-39A, sending a massive crewed ship into low Earth orbit. The booster, looking to feature around 40 engines, is an absolute monster, rated at 4 times the power of the Saturn V at launch.

Now, the first thing that bothers me is the sheer number of engines – 40 some engines leaves quite a bit to fail. Sure, if one engine just stops, you have the others going. That’s good, and that’s a redundancy that was proven during both the Apollo and Shuttle programs, and even tested intentionally on some Saturn 1 flights in the early 1960’s: kill and engine and see if the vehicle stays flying, which indeed, it did.


However, this is also quite a large number of engines – more than would ever have been fired at once on one stage, beating out the 30 some NK-33 engines on the failed Soviet N-1 booster.

It’s simple laws of probability – the more parts there are, the more chances for failure there are – 40 engines means 40 times higher chance of catastrophic failure should any given engine blow.

Now, of course, the N-1 was plagued with tons of design flaws, production issues, an inability to test most of the booster, well, ever, and who knows what other kinds of problems. The point I’m making isn’t a straight out comparison of the N-1 to the new SpaceX system , but instead to the sheer chance of something going wrong.


Now of course, more engines = redundancy, and these will be top quality rocket engines, but still, all I’m saying is, the chance of failure is there. People don’t seem to want to acknowledge this at all.

Moving on, though, this booster idea is intended to fly back, landing on the very pad it launched from, to be refueled and readied with a fuel shuttle to rendezvous and dock with the crew shuttle, and then head off to Mars.

Landing back on the pad? A crazy idea, but possible. Launching back just a day or 2 later? Also absolutely insane, but still, possible, if given time to work out the logic of re-flying a booster. This still is just a mad proposition overall, but I kind of like the concept.


Still, it has quite a ways to go, testing the booster, actually building and flying something this scale, and just the sheer power of the vehicle, 4 times that of the Saturn V, begs the question of if LC-39 can even handle it, which I don’t think it can.

In whatever case, here is the video. At this stage I almost don’t even want to bother sharing it, since the comments are quite pathetic. It’s been a nonstop argument with absolute idiots over the concept of just an engine failing. Of course, what do I expect? It’s YouTube, and YouTube comments are terrible.

Whatever. Enjoy the video.

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