Why SpaceX's Newest Rocket Will Never Get to Space
Hi it's me Tim Dodd the everyday astronaut as you, probably know by now SpaceX, is building, a massive. Massive. Rocket, down in Boca Chica Texas, that's. Never going to go to space no, this isn't some clickbait. Headline, this particular, rocket will never go to space because it's, not designed, to now this is just a hopper, version of their upcoming starship, that some people are calling the star hopper and at, first this thing is only going to fly a couple, meters, at most but. Don't get me wrong I of course am fully. Confident, that SpaceX will eventually, get an actual, starship, flying and get it up to space and into orbit but, for now that's. Not what this is so today we're gonna do a quick little history, rundown on SpaceX, as Hopper's we're, gonna explain why they build them you know why they're building this one what they do with these things and, then we're actually going to build one in Kerbal space program and show what we hopefully will see the, star hopper do in 2019, let's. Get started. Okay. Now right off the bat let me do a friendly reminder that I'm not here to speculate, I'm not here to do any rumors, or any you know who upcoming, things about starship, because it's, constantly, changing at, this point literally like almost every day we, get something new about starship, the super heavy booster the, upcoming, new Raptor engines the stainless, steel actively. Cooled skin and at this point it's. Just constantly changing so much that I'm not here to speculate I'm just going to be teaching you guys what, we actually know about star, hopper so before, we actually start we need to do a really quick brush up on all the names and the name changes because this stuff is confusing we just want to make sure we're all on the same page here so back. Before November. 20th of, 2018. SpaceX's, upcoming, mega rocket was called the bfr or the big Falcon. Rocket, the, upper stage / spaceship, portion was called the BFS, or big Falcon spaceship, and the. Booster, was called the bfb or big falcon, booster but since then Elon announced a name change of the upper stage / spaceship, that's now called starship. And the booster is now called super-heavy. And together, some people are calling it starship, super-heavy, but, it's really hard not to just call the entire rocket still, just the bfr so let's start off with just a quick overview of what's been going down at Boca Chica so, we first saw some glimpses of space X's latest, vision for their big Falcon rocket at the dear moon event in September, of 2018, now at that dear moon event Elon mentioned that they plan to do some sub orbital hops by the end of 2019, well. Fast, forward to December 8th and Eli didn't just casually, mentioned in four, weeks, they, would have cool pics of the, demo starship that will fly suborbital, hops. For. Weeks this. Was surely just elan time right I mean there's no way they would have pictures, of a hopper, ready in four weeks but, before you know it people on NASA space flights forms started, showing pictures of a water, tower company, building a water, tower --is-- thing that just so happened to be exactly. Nine meters wide, of, course people were just going crazy saying there's no way this is any kind of starship, mock-up it's clearly just, a water tower well those people were wrong because on December 22nd, Elon let the cat out of the, that this is indeed, the actual.
Hopper, That will perform those suborbital, hops so this leaves us with a few things we need to explain so first off its, kind of like a flying. Boilerplate. Mock-up, or maybe just a shell of a starship over a small little, suborbital. Hopper and but. Having it look like the starship is a bit functional, so the aerodynamics, and the weight distribution are, representative. Of starship but this is also so, SpaceX can start taking some pretty pictures and give, the public a glimpse, of just how massive. And gorgeous, this thing's going to be but it's not just there to take some pretty pictures with, if. We want to understand what, SpaceX, is doing in the future all we have to do is look back in the past because, SpaceX, has literally, done this exact same thing before they. Built some hoppers, for, their Falcon nine as they prepared, to try and land them propulsively, during. Actual missions, for their Falcon nine so let's rewind a 2011 where. Some journalists, noticed some FAA filings, for some suborbital, hops at SpaceX is macgregor site beginning. In 2012. SpaceX took a single merlin, 1d engine, and a falcon 9 version, 1.0, tanked they attached some fixed landing legs and began, to learn how to fly or more. Importantly, how to land, hello, grasshopper. Grasshopper took, its first flight on December 21st, 2012 and that, lasted, just three seconds. And it went 1.8. Meters, in altitude so, although, this was just literally. Almost nothing, SpaceX, had to learn how to crawl before, they could walk I mean now think about what's actually going on during even, a small hop like this they, have to spin up the turbo pumps they have to throttle, up until the thrust, is just slightly more than the weight of the vehicle and then, they have to throttle down nice. And slow and gently so it descends, slowly and, controlled, so. I mean yeah just starting, with a little, three-second, hop is probably. A pretty, good idea they continued, to use the grasshopper, to take bigger and bigger steps for, a full year and they flew it eight times in total with a maximum, altitude of, 744. Meters, but. Perhaps the. Most important, things that grasshopper, did was perform a landing with a thrust to weight ratio greater, than one and this is called doing a hover slam or suicide. Burn, and this. Was absolutely vital. For the success of Falcon, 9 landing, and that's, because when the Falcon 9 comes, in for its final landing burn it weighs so, much less than it did at takeoff, so, not only has it obviously let go of the upper stage and the, payload it's also burnt through most of its fuel so even with just one, out of the nine engines at its minimum, throttle, setting the. Merlin engine is still producing. More thrust than the entire vehicle weighs so. This means if the Falcon diner were to light his engine too early it would actually zero out its velocity before, it got to the ground and since, its thrust is higher than the weight of the vehicle you wouldn't hover. It can't hover its its, thrust is too high instead. It would actually go start going back up and start ascending and that's. A very bad thing so performing this precise maneuver was vital. In SpaceX, actually being able to successfully recover, Falcon nine boosters which. In my opinion is, still, honestly one, of these single coolest things you could watch I mean I could honestly just sit here and just, watch these every. Single day so, next up SpaceX, build a more realistic, and properly scaled version, of the Falcon 9 to practice landing and this, was called the f9r, and this, thing looked a lot more like a Falcon 9 and they even had retractable, landing legs that, look like the iconic ones we're now familiar with the Falcon 9 and they, would eventually test, out some steerable, grid fins as well as a matter of fact the tank on this unit was actually a full-blown, qualification. Test article from a falcon 9 so. It was the full length meaning, this thing stood about 50 meters tall, the f9r flew five times first 250, meters then, to a thousand, meters and then it tested the actual grid fin so SpaceX, could learn how to steer. And control the booster but then there was one more flight and then, on the, fifth flight on August 22nd, 2014 the Falcon 9 def, one took.
Off For its last time now unfortunately, the booster, had to be remote terminated, when it suddenly veered off-course and that's because there is a blocked sensor that caused the anomaly but. SpaceX still move forward confidently, with the Falcon 9's landing, attempts since, the Falcon 9 has redundant, versions, of those sensors but the good news is these hoppers were very successful in teaching how to do hover slamming ooh how to precisely throttle, through a landing, phase and how, to maneuver, around using, only an engine gimbal now back to star hopper it's not going to be the first time they try to propulsively, land eight actual, spaceship, because, don't forget they tried to do propulsive, landings, and hovering with their Dragon 2 capsule, now unfortunately. They ended up canceling propulsive. Landing for Dragon 2 already, have a video all about that it's, a little bit older so bear with me but, it's, a still a really good explanation of why they actually canceled propulsive, landing here on earth and, of course on other bodies as well and just like with the grasshopper, and the f9r you, always, want to test real-life, hardware, I mean when you have new engines, on a brand, new platform with wildly, different geometry, you, want to test it and you want to test it a lot so that's where we're at today we're, seeing literally, the, new version of grasshopper. But this time it's for starship. And just. Like how grasshopper. Didn't have any aerodynamic control, surfaces such as grid fins this, first version of star hopper won't feature probably, anything more than a trio of Raptor, engines with gimbals and just like grasshopper, this star hopper only needs to kind of look the part you know it's really just about learning how to hop fly. And land with a brand new set of engines and a new much. Much, larger fuselage, the fact that it's covered in roughly bolted, on or riveted stainless steel plates is simply to make it look a little bit the part because Elon, likes everything, even.
Test Things to look pretty and we don't really know what's inside the shell most, people think there's another set of tanks and that's, where the Raptor engines are bolted on to so you'd almost think of it as like a f9r. Inside, the shell of star, hopper, maybe. But. That's kind of getting into speculation, land the engines currently on the hopper are a blend of Raptor development, and operational. Parts but they'll soon be replaced by a quote-unquote. Radically, redesigned, Raptor, and I, can't, wait, to hear more about that and now lastly we know that spacex applied with the FAA and the FCC to do high-altitude flight tests of an experimental, vertical. Takeoff and vertical landing, vehicle, that, can go up to five kilometers and, altitude for, up to six minutes and this of course means we're getting really close to actually seeing this thing fly so, in order to get a better sense for, things to come and, what they're going to be doing the star hopper let's pull up Kerbal space program and, I'm gonna show you what. We can actually expect. And. Welcome. To Kerbal space program and like, I always say this is basically 50%. Rocket. Designer, 50%. Flight, simulator and 9,000. % explosion. Factory now, this is with, all of the realism overhaul, mods installed which, makes it a lot more realistic a lot harder to use uses. A real earth all, these other things I'll. Link in the description how you can try to get the realism overhaul mods it's a long, story it's really hard. To get working on a computer but, that's what I'm using here and. What I'm gonna do is I'm going to take basically just the avionics, I'm gonna stick a three, meter internal. Tank which. Again, is maybe a little bit speculation, but just for for building, this hopper it's good enough just a three meter tank that, I'll have that'll be pressurized, for the fuel we're, gonna stick three engines, on this thing and then, we're going to slip this big beautiful. Stainless, steel Aero shell right, down on top of this and this looks, just. Perfect alright, so first off we. Better just learn how to just. Fly a tiny little bit just little baby. Tiny, hops so, this is all about precise, throttle, control and one of the hard things about realism overhaul is there is a delay between throttle, inputs so like you'll throttle. Up or down and it doesn't, change right away like it normally does in Kerbal space program so, it's. A lot, a lot harder it's very, realistic. So, doing, this stuff it might, look easy but it's it's really, not and so this.
Is Just a quick little hop, up to a little over 50 meters in altitude and. The hard part is that these landing legs here, are, about the same width as the, takeoff. Slash landing, pad so, actually. Performing. A quick little hover is quite. Difficult. And. Again, all throttle, inputs are delayed, so. Right. When you think it's like stopping, all this and you it's. Just really, really hard so here we go trying, to Center it a little bit better on this landing on the takeoff and landing pad, but it looks like we're doing just about fine. Well. Huh, there, you go not, bad so that's probably pretty. Close to what we're going to see for the first couple of flights of the star, hopper just little, hovers, nothing, out of the ordinary, up, and down nice and slow nothing scary and, now you before, you know what we're probably going to see them doing higher, and higher and higher flight, tests like probably up to you, know say, 500 meters or so and not, only going just straight up and straight down but we'll probably start to see them divert and actually go sideways you know they did this same thing with, the grasshopper. And lift the f9r they went up and would scoot, over and come back down or I guess. If they're you, know really. Feeling brave and bold they, can sure aim themselves, directly. At the Vehicle, Assembly Building or that tent down there in polka chica and, they too can, try to land the star hopper right. On top I think. That's a. Pretty. Good idea in my opinion as. You can tell. Yeah. I mean. Come on if I can do this SpaceX, can do this right I dare. You land. It on a building. Actually. To, be perfectly honest they are going to have to have more. Precise landings in this even especially. With the you know with the booster. Portion with this super heavy booster they, plan to land that thing directly. Back, on the launch pad so, they better be practicing, like this I mean yeah I'm sitting here kind of joking about landing on the on the Vehicle Assembly Building but. They're gonna have to be insanely. Precise, like we're talking down, to you, know half a meter of precision of landing in order to kind of get into some guide slots here now you're gonna notice I'm struggling. Personally. Not struggling, I'm succeeding. In. Landing, on the Vehicle Assembly Building but. This is kind. Of relevant actually, dang, it I definitely should have kept scooting over but. Hey that's what the stairs are there for not. Bad not. Bad okay. So next up let's take this thing up quite a bit higher about 700, meters and altitude and. We. Are going to work on. Turning. Off one. Of the three, Raptor, engines and that's because this, is something that they'll probably be practicing, with star hopper is making. Sure the reason it has three, engines to land with is, not because it requires three in order to have enough thrust it's so you have redundancy, you know Elon talked about to, minimize, pucker factor they're. Going to end up with three. Engines. That are fully redundant so that way if one of them goes out is no big deal but that means they are going to the they're gonna have to practice that you know that's you, can model that all day long but, actually getting it to work in real life it's. Probably gonna be a lot harder than the, you know obviously now your thrust is offset, you're. Going to have to you know throttle, to compensate, and gimble in towards, the, center of mass with your center of thrust now super.
Out There it's, actually really hard and. Hmm. As you, may. Be seeing here I wasn't. Exactly very. Good at it I hope. A computer, is better at flying than I am I I, don't know if I I don't, know if I believe in that statement though, but. As you can see two, engines of course it is controllable, ish you, still have a decent line of roll control, but, it is going to have to fly a little bit crooked in, order to actually stay. Maintaining. Its orientation, and and doing, a nice slow touchdown it's going to be difficult but it's something they're, going to have to practice is what if an engine goes out you, know how that's, something that the Falcon nine currently, if the, center engine goes out they're. Pretty well screwed sometimes. They do three and the landing burns but I don't believe they have any contingencies. Yet or they've ever practiced, what, if one, of those three in the, middle of the landing burn goes out I don't know what the Falcon nine can do the, starship. On the other hand has. To be able to do that you know we're eventually talking about this, landing on Mars we're talking about this landing potentially. Point-to-point. Earth transportation. We're, talking about this thing needing. To be airliner, like reliable, and if. You, can't have a you know an engine failure in the middle of your landing burn and survive, and have it really be no big deal then. That's not reliable, so this is something they're going to have to practice and I hope they do a lot better than I did because. Yeah, this I know. It looks pretty easy but it's. A computer, is obviously, going to have to be doing a lot better job than, I am because. Yeah, look. That. It. Took me a couple times and I had to add some, better landing gear but yeah I eventually, got. A soft touch down with just two engines but. Again. I think they'll be doing a lot better job than I will be now, one thing to keep in mind here is that. They're, going to have to go pretty slow on descent at least with the fixed, legs on the. Star hopper because, although, you, know this. Is pretty stable going up when you're coming back down now you basically have wings or fins at the front of your rocket and the. Actual, starship, will have the ability to bring, those legs in not fold them but kind. Of fold them in tehy drily and, that. Will help eliminate. A lot of those aerodynamic, effects but on star hopper, you. Know they're gonna have to be nice and slow. Because they don't really have any other aerodynamic, control services to, control it and compensate, for. The center of lift / center of drag being. Basically. In the front of the vehicle when it's coming back down so, gonna have to go nice and slow take it easy. Which. There's. A lot of stuff that can test out with a starship hopper, and it's. Gonna be really cool I I, really, hope it doesn't end like the f9r. But. There's going to be a lot, of really cool tests they're gonna be doing with this thing so this brings up the fact that clearly SpaceX, will eventually, be building a much, much, more advanced version that has aerodynamic. Features and large, control thrusters so they can start practicing that absolutely. Ridiculous. Belly-flop to tail down maneuver that's going to be the key to starship, success of course I've already done a video all about how starship, will reenter belly, first and then go tail down so if you need more on that definitely check this video out but. We do know that at some point maybe even by the end of 2019 will. Actually, see a stainless, steel starship, complete. With the giant, flap air brake things the, moving forward fins and large powerful, control thrusters and Elon, mentioned, that eventually they're going to be doing supersonic. Reentry, of the starship down at Boca Chica they're, gonna fly out over the Gulf of Mexico turn, around just. Come back super, fast and practice, that landing, sequence that. Will be absolutely amazing and fun reminder last, we know at least the control, thrusters. Won't be cold gas thrusters at. Least according to Elan. Have. That enough. Control, pigeon. Every. Day yeah. We. Must. Be. There. Very. Powerful. So. For today that's all I want to talk about with starship, and star hopper at least until we get some more concrete, information I mean like I said at this point this, info is just kind of shrinking in all randomly, and it'd be literally, a full-time job right now to stay on top of all these little changes in speculations, and rumors there, are really good resources for other groups of people and other organizations. That are doing a really really good job of digging into the stuff and finding out all these fun things like, the ones that I pay attention to the most are NASA space flight comm reddit. / r / spacex, of course the SpaceX group on Facebook, there's. Tesla. Rowdy comm and then of course Scott Manley is doing a phenomenal job as well stay on top of this stuff so I'm actually gonna wait until we hear and learn more about the, actively, cooled stainless steel heat shield and talk.
More About you, know things like the radically, redesigned Raptors that might have like dual expansion, nozzles and all these other rumors. And speculation, I'll, wait until Elon, does a presentation, or really, gives us some hard facts to talk about but. Meanwhile, we. Have a lot, of stuff to look forward to in 2019, so stick, around I've got plenty. Of, videos coming I have a list that's literally like ever-growing, I can't seem to chip away at it fast enough but, of course I wouldn't be able to do this stuff full-time if was it for my patreon, supporters so if you want to help support what I do head on over to patreon comm, slash everyday astronaut, but, also while you're online be sure and check out my brand new web store where I've got really, cool new exclusive, shirts, and some, fun hats and mugs and prints of rocket launches, grid. Fin not a coasters, lots. Of fun stuff check, it out and while you're there you can click on music where you can stream our music anywhere, you listen to music on Spotify and, iTunes and all that stuff or, right here on YouTube I've got a playlist so check that out while you're online let. Me know what you think thanks. Everybody that's gonna do it for me I'm Tim Dodd the everyday astronaut bringing space down to earth for everyday people.