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SpaceX hiring engineers for building floating Starship spaceport

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has issued advertisements looking for two engineers to help build an offshore floating spaceport for launching its Starship/Super Heavy reusable rocket.

This plan is not really a surprise, as Musk from his first description of Starship said that it would likely launch and land on floating platforms. The rocket is big, so putting its launch and landing in the ocean reduces the risk to populated areas, while giving the company some flexibility about where it will land. The latter point reinforces the company’s stated goal of using this rocket not only to make interplanetary travel affordable but to also provide point-to-point transportation on Earth.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

8 comments

  • Col Beausabre

    Hey, Elon, I got a sea-going platform – never been used – and you want it, for you, I make a deal…Reply to Vladimir, Red Square, Moscow

  • pzatchok

    I just can not see the passenger ground to ground flights being profitable.
    Sort of like the Concord of old. Yes it worked but was the time savings worth the added cost? the fuel usage was far more and the amount to destinations are far less.

    You would need as many rockets as a sizable airline has planes today.

    But I can see it being used a little like the landing platforms they are using today. They just wouldn’t take the rocket back to port. Instead they would refuel and reload it and relaunch it.
    A dozen set equatorial would actually help lower the cost of launch and give them the added boost factor. This would be great for launching the satellite network.
    But would the satellite shipping cost suck up the savings? Plus the fuel shipping and added cost of the on sight personnel.

  • Edward

    pzatchok,
    You wrote: “I just can not see the passenger ground to ground flights being profitable.

    Maybe, but there are some differences between the Concord and Starship. First, the Concord shaved a couple of hours from a transatlantic flight, while a Starship could shave half a day from a trip half way around the world, possibly generating more passengers than Concord did. Second, Starship could provide a better suborbital spaceflight experience for a lower price than Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo or Blue Origin’s New Shepard, giving a reason for many people to take a vacation starting or ending on a Starship. Third, when it absolutely, positively has to get from Singapore to New York yesterday, Starship cargo express will be the way to go, providing an excellent sideline for Starship. Post offices may start to issue not just airmail stamps but spacemail stamps.

    SpaceX thinks that it can launch a Starship to orbit (Starship and Super Heavy) for $2 million (I doubt this includes amortizing manufacture and development costs). If this is true, and since point to point does not need a Super Heavy booster, then a point to point launch may only cost $1 million, or perhaps $10,000 per seat. That is not too much more than the price of a ticket on an airliner for half way around the world. The price tag drops further if they can seat more than 100 people for such a short flight.

    I think your comment hit upon the biggest reason for SpaceX to have half a dozen, or so, launch pads around the world: “But I can see it being used a little like the landing platforms they are using today. They just wouldn’t take the rocket back to port. Instead they would refuel and reload it and relaunch it.

    A long-term goal for SpaceX is to send large numbers of Starships to Mars during each transfer window, so if each launch site can launch once a day they could put up a crewed ship and a refueling ship every other day, for a total of around thirty Starships to Mars in each two-month long window. Half a dozen launch sites could easily send a hundred Starships to Mars, assuming that Martian colonies could accommodate a surge of ten thousand immigrants every couple of years.

    We should also take into consideration that SpaceX has a record of finding improvements in its systems. The Falcon 9 was originally less capable and seemed more expensive to operate than the current, fifth, version. I think it is reasonable to believe that the early Starships will not be the most efficient and effective possible, and that SpaceX will make similar incremental improvements until they reach diminishing returns. Should Starship become less expensive to operate, then we should expect more customers and an increased likelihood that point to point flights become profitable, supplementing the missions to Mars that originate from the same launch pads.

    You would need as many rockets as a sizable airline has planes today.

    You may only need one Starship per route or maybe two to four per route, depending upon turnaround time and size of the seagoing launch platform. Just as SpaceX ran into storage problems for all the Falcon 9 first stages that returned, they have limited space to park Starships. Airlines have similar parking space problems at airports.

    But would the satellite shipping cost suck up the savings?

    Probably not. Shipping costs may not be as large as you imagine.

    A major advantage of Sea Launch was that it could move to the optimal latitude for any launch. It turns out that the optimal latitude for launch corresponds with the orbital inclination with the equator. One might expect that the extra “throw” that is gained by an equatorial launch makes it ideal, but, counterintuitively, it does not make up for the fuel expenditure of having to launch northward (or southward) in order to get into a non-equatorial orbit. Ariane launches from the equator because its main customers are geostationary satellite operators.

  • pzatchok

    Moving such a large platform is more than likely not profitable.
    It would take months to go from one launch point to the next. And they do not move into port. Not with a rocket on top.

    As for point to point global launches.
    Name the top 10 cities you would launch to and from.
    Then remove the smaller ones that are less than 3 hours from another. You wouldn’t launch from Washington and New York.
    Then remove all inland sights. No one wants a rocket crashing on the Louvre. And yes one at least will crash filled with passengers.

    And as for crashes. What is the passenger procedure for getting out of the craft if it has to ditch on lift off at sea. Lets just say it has a problem and comes down safely but into the water. The rocket will not stand up in the ocean. It will fall over. Even if its a gentile flop now all those fat, rich, nonathletic passengers are hanging in their seats on what is essentially the wall. Children and women screaming men demanding the crew do something about it.
    If they get lucky and the craft floats just fine think about the next 6 hours until rescue gets there. bobbing around in the open ocean hanging off the wall and possibly the cylinder rolling around. Talk about a vomit comet.

    The first accident could turn a billion in profits into pay outs instantly. How fast do you see them making a billion dollars on this scheme? And what would the insurance costs per flight be if they decided to pay for insurance instead of self insuring?

  • pzatchok

    Do you want to make the flight on a large air liner better.
    Reduce the passengers from 400 to 200 and add in walking areas, a lounge, sleeping room(better seats), maybe a conference area and better food.
    Even tripling the price its still cheaper than the rocket ride.

    And the cheapest thing to do is teleconference. Costs next to nothing.

  • Edward

    pzatchok,
    You wrote: “Name the top 10 cities you would launch to and from.

    I don’t have to. A few months back, SpaceX had a page that described the idea, including proposed routes. These routes were not short hops but half-a-world hops. Routes such as New York to Singapore. Other proposed cities included Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Sydney. They listed almost a dozen proposed routes.

    However, they have since floated the idea of using only the upper stage Starship, without the Super Heavy, and the range for that is closer to 10,000 kilometers rather than half way around the world. Perhaps they will try that idea first and upgrade to longer routes using the Super Heavy booster, if the shorter routes work out.

    And as for crashes.

    With pessimism like that then we should not even attempt airline passengers and stick to airmail and cargo routes. Oops. I forgot, we already lost thousands of passenger lives getting people from here to there via aircraft. Then again, ships and trains are limited in their safety, too. Maybe we should stick to cars, they have been proved to be perfectly safe.

    With pessimism like that, we should definitely not do any manned travel into space!

    Interestingly, your original concern was that SpaceX might not be able to make a profit even without any accidents. Somehow the goal posts moved, in this discussion, and I’m still not sure whether SpaceX thinks that they really can profit from the idea. However, now that Scott Pace has expressed skepticism ( https://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/points-of-information/trump-official-skeptical-of-point-to-point-suborbital-transportation/ ), I suspect that it is not only possible but economical.

    SpaceX has proposed quite a few ideas that it later abandoned, and it is possible that this will become one of them. Scott Manley recently listed most or all of these abandoned ideas in two YouTube videos:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4g796kiGDyU (8 minutes)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOiEwXF4ZC4 (9 minutes)

    Moving such a large platform is more than likely not profitable.

    Sea Launch knows how much it costs, but the idea for SpaceX’s point to point service is to have the launch platforms relatively stationary and located a few miles (kilometers) out to sea from the origination and destination cities.

    Whether or not they do point to point, having a landing platform for Super Heavy can add to its performance for orbital launches, relative to return to launch site, just as the autonomous drone ships do for Falcon 9.

  • pzatchok

    Don’t think my crash thought is pessimistic, its just down right realistic.

    The airline industry did not start out transporting 600 passengers at once. They started moving one at a time.
    The airline industry counts on having several hundred other craft and thousands of flights to cover the costs of a crash. Not 6.

    You also have to add in the time factor for each passenger. How long will it take them to travel to a space port and then wait 12 hours or more for the rocket to launch? You now have to plane, train, automobile, and finally boat to the space ship. if your lucky you only waited for a day or so then traveled to launcher for only a few hours and planned it perfectly and got there right on time to make the flight with minimum wait time. When you could have just went to the airport and boarded a plane and been there in the same time.

    And think about it this way. The only people who can afford all of this have their own private planes or access to them. No waiting.

    Do you really think Taylor Swift will ride that thing more than once? People like her don’t even go on Disney rides more than once.

    And business men. Whats so important that a 20 dollar postal mail or a normal airplane ride isn’t good enough? I am not so sure a 10 thousand dollar one way ticket is going to float past the expense department more than once.
    The internet has made business travel unnecessary. Covid 19 proved it.

  • Edward

    pzatchok,
    You wrote: “its just down right realistic.

    Duh. But you are using it in a pessimistic way.

    The airline industry did not start out transporting 600 passengers at once. They started moving one at a time.

    Actually, the first plane used as a passenger airliner sat three, uncomfortably. Starship has a plan to start with eight passengers.

    If you want to discuss spacecraft safety, find someone with more knowledge of the topic. I am not willing to go into such minutia.

    When you could have just went to the airport and boarded a plane and been there in the same time.

    Well, if you time it just as well as you do for an airliner, the flight time is less than 45 minutes, a savings of up to 13 hours. I wonder what Taylor Swift thinks 13 hours are worth to her.

    The internet has made business travel unnecessary. Covid 19 proved it.

    Maybe, but there are still business trips being made today.

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