54 votes

Why are the recent flights of two billionaires discussed in terms of space travel?

Did they reach space? Branson: yes The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo class craft "VS Unity" flew Branson up to 53.5 miles (86 kilometres). This altitude is considered "space" by the ...
CuteKItty_pleaseStopBArking's user avatar
46 votes

Why has a rocket system like Starship never been proposed before? It does not seem to use any new science, materials or fuels

I wonder why nobody ever proposed a space launch system like Starship. What exactly do you mean by "like Starship"? Systems like Starship have been proposed before, although differing in ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
42 votes

Why has a rocket system like Starship never been proposed before? It does not seem to use any new science, materials or fuels

Fundamentally, it's because of economics. There simply wasn't any demand for a large rocket between today and the space race. Let's analyze what (I think) makes the Starship concept special: Size: ...
Dragongeek's user avatar
  • 18.6k
29 votes

Would reusable rockets render the idea of space elevators useless?

A Space Elevator would still be amazingly useful The two factors that come to mind are forms of power and scale: Power With a space elevator connected to the ground, you could use the energy in ...
JMekker's user avatar
  • 391
27 votes
Accepted

Why don't we build standardized space probes?

There already is some economy of scale in the space industry which I describe a bit more below. When it comes to interplanetary missions however, there is a significant limitation on the destination ...
ChrisR's user avatar
  • 6,220
16 votes

Why don't we build standardized space probes?

The benefits of tooling up for mass production only matter if you plan to make a lot of something. A cheap consumer computer case that sells for $63 requires millions and millions of dollars of ...
J...'s user avatar
  • 807
15 votes

Would reusable rockets render the idea of space elevators useless?

Rockets suffer from the tyrrany of the rocket equation. While a reusable rocket is great, you need to burn a lot of propellant for each kg of mass to reach orbital velocity. A space elevator can ...
Yakk's user avatar
  • 573
13 votes
Accepted

Why is BFR replacing the Falcon 9?

The current cost per launch of Falcon 9 is \$62 million. According to the planned launch cost BFR will be cheaper to launch than Falcon 1. That means it's cheaper than a marginal $7 million per launch....
Christian's user avatar
  • 292
12 votes
Accepted

If the Moon were solid gold, how far away would it have to be to not be economical to mine it?

Given your constraints I can't see it being worthwhile, period, even if it were our own moon. Lets throw some numbers at it: Current cost to deliver a kilogram of payload to the moon: \$1.2 million. ...
Loren Pechtel's user avatar
12 votes

Would reusable rockets render the idea of space elevators useless?

Whatever concept of space elevator you want to build, it requires you to transport massive amounts of material into space, so no. Having cheap launch vehicles is actually a requirement to building a ...
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi's user avatar
12 votes

Would NASA be financially self-sufficient if it could keep all revenues from patents?

This is actually built on a false premise. NASA can, and does, charge for patent usage. See this page for what it takes to get a NASA patent license. Note this: including higher royalties Or this ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
12 votes

Would NASA be financially self-sufficient if it could keep all revenues from patents?

The question how much revenue might arise from a patent isn't something that can generally be proved or disproved (except sometimes in retrospect). Bear in mind, though, that the Apollo program was ...
terry-s's user avatar
  • 1,102
10 votes

Why is BFR replacing the Falcon 9?

SpaceX won't exit the medium lift market. They plan to use BFR for small payloads too. BFR, unlike Falcon 9 enables reuse of the second stage, they hope this will make BFR cheaper to run than Falcon 9....
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 127k
10 votes

Why don't we build standardized space probes?

Two points that the answers so far have missed. First, missions are not all that frequent, and technology improves between each mission. For instance, consider the difference between the Voyager ...
jamesqf's user avatar
  • 607
10 votes

Why is the Orion spacecraft so big?

The Orion capsule can carry 6 because that is what the NASA requirements it was designed to satisfy asked for. Unbelievably these requirements date from 2004. Orion then was supposed to be a multi-...
Organic Marble's user avatar
9 votes

Would Starship be able to lift mass to orbit (both low and geo-stationary) cheaper than "any" space elevator?

Short answer The price of Starship is definitely going to make things cheaper, but a space elevator still is cheaper than Starship is - atleast in the long run. Long answer It is a bit hard to compare ...
The Rocket fan's user avatar
9 votes

Would Starship be able to lift mass to orbit (both low and geo-stationary) cheaper than "any" space elevator?

Bradley C. Edwards at NIAC published a detailed study of space elevators in 2000 that resulted in energy costs alone of \$220/kg. This is an easy order of magnitude above the aspirational operating ...
Christopher James Huff's user avatar
7 votes

Why don't we build standardized space probes?

Customization Costs are Not Significant There are a lot of costs associated with operating an inter-planetary probe. Customizing the hardware is not a major driver. For example, this article claims ...
codeMonkey's user avatar
  • 1,548
7 votes

Why is the Orion spacecraft so big?

Leaving aside the very valid political elements of the Orion design choices. As noted in the question, many costs/weights in manned space flight are fixed per craft regardless of crew size. A computer,...
GremlinWranger's user avatar
6 votes
Accepted

Who provides the insurance for SpaceX launches?

Aon International Space Brokers does, according to this article. Although they likely only cover liability type losses from SpaceX, not the cost of the rocket themselves. In fact, this 2012 FCC ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
6 votes
Accepted

Why are there no Mass Catchers?

Update: Turns out that there was some work on passive mass-catching in space after all! Original answer included below, after the break. The relevant work which at least mentions this is Space ...
Starfish Prime's user avatar
6 votes
Accepted

Why is the Space industry expected to flourish and grow in the near future?

Private companies have been trying to get into the launch business since the 80s (ORTRAG in Germany since the 70s), usually turning into a financial disaster for the investors. Several things have ...
Greg's user avatar
  • 4,297
6 votes

Why are the recent flights of two billionaires discussed in terms of space travel?

Is this all just advertising, or do these events carry serious implications for astronautics? Am I simply mistaken (very likely - I'm a complete layman) or have large parts of the media fallen for (or ...
Machavity's user avatar
  • 7,840
6 votes

Would Starship be able to lift mass to orbit (both low and geo-stationary) cheaper than "any" space elevator?

Chemical Rockets don't stand a chance. The energy cost to hit geostationary orbit is about 72 MJ per kg. The rocket equation for a 3 km/s exhaust rocket means only 30% of the expended energy is used ...
Yakk's user avatar
  • 573
5 votes

Why don't we build standardized space probes?

We actually do try to make more generic more standardized probes. CubeSat and especially the delfi program is based on the idea of "simple satellites that can easy be replaced". Hardware in ...
paul23's user avatar
  • 311
5 votes

Would Starship be able to lift mass to orbit (both low and geo-stationary) cheaper than "any" space elevator?

Space elevator to LEO still needs chemical rockets Space elevator designs rely on the cable following the surface of the Earth, being anchored to a counterweight above GEO orbit. At low-Earth orbit ...
jpa's user avatar
  • 1,922
4 votes
Accepted

How long are the wait queues for commercial payloads?

The Ariane 5 user manual contains a mission integration schedule that's 24 months long (page 140). This includes a pile of analysis and tests to ensure spacecraft compatibility with the launcher. ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 127k
4 votes
Accepted

What is the correlation between the cost of a satellite and its lifetime?

There is some correlation between cost and lifetime. Higher cost systems tend to have redundant electronics, while lower cost tend not to have such backups. The fuel is actually a fairly significant ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
4 votes

Who provides the insurance for SpaceX launches?

There are regular insurance markets for satellite launches (i.e. successful delivery to separation), in-orbit satellite operation and third party liability. There are a number of insurance brokers. ...
Puffin's user avatar
  • 9,504
4 votes

Theoretical Asteroid Composition and the economy

To the extent that these precious metals have actual value in industrial processes it would be a great day. The cost to make many goods would drop and we all would, to some degree, benefit. To the ...
Erik's user avatar
  • 10.1k

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible