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#1 2022-06-22 11:38:09

From: Philadelphia, PA
Registered: 2006-07-05
Posts: 558

SpaceX COULD have done a manned lunar mission this year…

For several years I’ve been thinking of mission architectures that could get us back to the Moon by the 50th anniversary of the Apollo manned lunar missions. We missed the Apollo 11 50th anniversary, but we MIGHT have been able to make the Apollo 17 50th anniversary of Dec. 2022. 

This is where it gets controversial. The SpaceX architecture of making 8 to 16 refueling flights for Moon or Mars flights is a bad architecture. There is a reason why the Apollo missions used a launcher with 3 stages and then 2 more stages for the lander for their round-trip missions. For missions with that high a delta-v requirement multiple stages are critical. SpaceX by using multiple refueling flights is acknowledging that, just in a very inefficient manner.

The point of the matter SpaceX could have manned Moon or Mars flights with a single launch IF they have given their launcher a 3rd stage. The 3rd stage could have been comparable size to the Starhopper. Yes, I know the actual Starhopper was not space-worthy but the point of the matter is by continuing it’s development along side the Starship they would have had a space-worthy vehicle capable of lunar landing and return by now.

Robert Zubrin also says the SpaceX plan of multiple refuelings for lunar or Mars flights is a bad idea. He says using the Starship as a lunar lander is like using an aircraft carrier for white water rafting. He also suggests using a smaller “mini Starship” that would stage off the Starship to do the landings. He notes this way you could do the missions with no refueling flights required. Plus the Starship not having to land on the Moon or Mars would be rapidly reusable. Zubrins refers to his approach as Mars Direct 2.0:

Mars Direct 2.0 - Dr. Robert Zubrin - IAC 2019.

SuperHeavy+StarShip+StarHopper single launch missions to the Moon or Mars. It would have been so beautiful …

See here: 

Saturday, July 27, 2019
Starhopper+Starship as a heavy-lift launcher. Triple-cored Starship for super-heavy lift. 2nd UPDATE, 9/2/2019: Starhopper as a lunar lander. … -lift.html

  Robert Clark

Last edited by RGClark (2022-06-22 11:40:12)

Nanotechnology now can produce the space elevator and private orbital launchers. It now also makes possible the long desired 'flying cars'. This crowdfunding campaign is to prove it:
Nanotech: from air to space. … 13319568#/


#2 2022-06-22 19:06:06

From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 26,815

Re: SpaceX COULD have done a manned lunar mission this year…

Zubrin had put for before starship a plan in 2018 to build a moon base with just 4 falcon heavies. … our-years/

we do have a topic with this being discussed


#3 2022-10-02 09:49:27

From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 2,241

Re: SpaceX COULD have done a manned lunar mission this year…

SpaceX's Raptor 2 looks revolutionary.

"Plan and prepare for every possibility, and you will never act. It is nobler to have courage as we stumble into half the things we fear than to analyse every possible obstacle and begin nothing. Great things are achieved by embracing great dangers."


#4 2022-10-02 16:02:43

GW Johnson
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 4,952

Re: SpaceX COULD have done a manned lunar mission this year…

I'm not at all sure how "revolutionary" the Raptor-2 is,  but it is a big improvement no matter how you slice things. 

It's the same basic design,  but with the powerhead plumbing greatly simplified by redesign,  including the turbopump assemblies.  It was inadequate delivery from the Raptor-1 turbopumps that kept thrust (and specific impulse) achievables well below the original design intentions.  Inadequate massflow is lowered pressure,  which is lowered thrust.

The new turbopump assemblies are good enough to reach the intended 4400 psia = 303 bar (abs) chamber pressures,  despite a slight increase in throat diameter.  That and 150:1 expansion ratio gets you to 250 metric tons-force thrust and almost 380 s Isp in vacuum.  At 107:1,  you can fire it in the open air,  but thrust and Isp are a tad lower. 

The same powerhead fitted with a 40:1 expansion bell is the sea level engine.  Thrust levels and Isps's are lower,  but the disparity between vacuum and SL performance is not high,  unlike what happens if you try to use the 107 vac engine at SL.

I just published all this reverse-engineering data on my "exrocketman" site for the 1 October posting. 


Last edited by GW Johnson (2022-10-02 16:18:34)

GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"


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