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Old 9th February 2018, 11:20 PM   #1
Coveny
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My issue with Musk sending a Tesla into space

Iíve always been a big fan of magnetic levitation trains in vacuum tubes like the Virgin hyperloop. This project is inspiring. It could bring the globe together and better the lives of everyone on the planet. The concept is from Musk and itís awesome on many different levels, but heís not backing that horse. He wants to go to space, but rather than working with the maglev technology of a Startram heís trying to re-invent the wheel with fossil fuel based rockets. To add insult to injury for his first package into space he sent a Tesla as a publicity stunt. I share the sadness for the waste of an opportunity for research and advancement that this represents.
http://www.iflscience.com/space/not-...ar-into-space/

And itís not like Musk isnít renewable energy conscious. His solar collecting shingles are very nice, and pretty cool. Even if Iím his Powerwall is un-inspiring itís at least an attempt to move away from fossil fuels.

Now I tried to think positively about this. I tried to convince myself that this is just advertising, and itís working. I should admit that a lot of people are talking about it. Iíll also admit that as this was the maiden voyage so as Musk said, ďthere is a good chance this monster rocket blows upĒ, but the whole thing just seems like such a waste to me. He could have easily sent up expendable experiments, or Iím sure he could have gotten some investors to take a risk with a contingency that if the rocket blew up they wouldnít have to pay for the trip, but if it was successful they had to pay him and he could have recouped some much-needed capital on his passion project.

I get the infatuation with space, but it just seems like to me that heís throwing reason out the window in pursue of his dreams.
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Old 9th February 2018, 11:54 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Coveny View Post
Iíve always been a big fan of magnetic levitation trains in vacuum tubes like the Virgin hyperloop. This project is inspiring. It could bring the globe together and better the lives of everyone on the planet. The concept is from Musk and itís awesome on many different levels, but heís not backing that horse. He wants to go to space, but rather than working with the maglev technology of a Startram heís trying to re-invent the wheel with fossil fuel based rockets. To add insult to injury for his first package into space he sent a Tesla as a publicity stunt. I share the sadness for the waste of an opportunity for research and advancement that this represents.
http://www.iflscience.com/space/not-...ar-into-space/

And itís not like Musk isnít renewable energy conscious. His solar collecting shingles are very nice, and pretty cool. Even if Iím his Powerwall is un-inspiring itís at least an attempt to move away from fossil fuels.

Now I tried to think positively about this. I tried to convince myself that this is just advertising, and itís working. I should admit that a lot of people are talking about it. Iíll also admit that as this was the maiden voyage so as Musk said, ďthere is a good chance this monster rocket blows upĒ, but the whole thing just seems like such a waste to me. He could have easily sent up expendable experiments, or Iím sure he could have gotten some investors to take a risk with a contingency that if the rocket blew up they wouldnít have to pay for the trip, but if it was successful they had to pay him and he could have recouped some much-needed capital on his passion project.

I get the infatuation with space, but it just seems like to me that heís throwing reason out the window in pursue of his dreams.
Have you ever worked for a corporation before? Let's start with the basics.
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Old 10th February 2018, 12:55 AM   #3
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There's already a long debate on this here:

http://www.internationalskeptics.com...=327007&page=8

Consensus seems to say you lose.
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Old 10th February 2018, 12:58 AM   #4
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He heads commercial enterprises and he used this opportunity to advertise one while developing the other. I can't see the slightest problem with this. Also, it was huge fun.
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Old 10th February 2018, 01:31 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Coveny View Post
...... He wants to go to space, but rather than working with the maglev technology of a Startram heís trying to re-invent the wheel with fossil fuel based rockets.........
That's the only part of your concern I share. If he had embarked on a programme of development of a space vehicle which didn't rely on burning fossil fuel in enormous quantities I would be so much more impressed. If this new rocket turns into a long term success it will over-ride attempts to do space launches in a more environmentally responsible way.

Apart from that, I don't agree with anything much you say.
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Old 10th February 2018, 01:59 AM   #6
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StarTram is verging on SF. The 1st generation facility proposes a tunnel of ~80 miles length with the exit at 20,000' altitude. It also seems to require a 'plasma window' to maintain the vacuum when the exit is briefly opened. While this is known technology it is a very advanced application and would (presumably) take a hefty r+d effort to get it working on such a scale. I can hardly blame Musk (or anyone else) for not viewing all this as a plausible commercial project.

If avoiding fossil fuel use is a major consideration then a better solution might be to synthesise methane fuel using renewable energy sources, which is exactly what SpaceX proposes to do on Mars to refuel its BFRs when they land there.
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Old 10th February 2018, 09:52 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
That's the only part of your concern I share. If he had embarked on a programme of development of a space vehicle which didn't rely on burning fossil fuel in enormous quantities I would be so much more impressed. If this new rocket turns into a long term success it will over-ride attempts to do space launches in a more environmentally responsible way.

Apart from that, I don't agree with anything much you say.
First, there is no plausible alternative to chemical propellants for anything remotely near-term. StarTram certainly isn't one. You can hardly fault Musk for not wasting money on such things.

Second, launch vehicles don't burn fossil fuels in enormous quantities. If SpaceX made the Falcon Heavy from pure carbon dioxide and launched one every day in 2017, it'd have been dwarfed 70000:1 by the carbon emissions from the rest of human activities. Musk's wildest Mars plans are less than a drop in the bucket of human carbon emissions.

In addition, they are working hard on making launch vehicles reusable instead of dumping them in the ocean with every launch and burning carbon to make more, and Musk's other projects and their influence on the auto and power industries will enable reductions in carbon emissions that far exceed what is emitted by SpaceX's operations. Criticizing him on the basis of environmental impact is absurd.
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Old 10th February 2018, 10:08 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
That's the only part of your concern I share. If he had embarked on a programme of development of a space vehicle which didn't rely on burning fossil fuel in enormous quantities I would be so much more impressed. If this new rocket turns into a long term success it will over-ride attempts to do space launches in a more environmentally responsible way.

Apart from that, I don't agree with anything much you say.
the irony of burning the amount of fuel and polluting with rockets that his vehicles have saved.
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Old 10th February 2018, 10:22 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
First, there is no plausible alternative to chemical propellants for anything remotely near-term.
There is, of course LOX & LH2, which produces just water in its exhaust. Most energy per unit mass as I recall, but the hydrogen takes up an enormous amount of volume making the rocket itself bigger. But yeah, the amount of fossil fuel burned in rocketry is trivial.
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Old 10th February 2018, 11:16 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Whip View Post
the irony of burning the amount of fuel and polluting with rockets that his vehicles have saved.
Negligible compared to what is burned in autos, fossil power plants, home heating, ships, even aircraft.
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Old 10th February 2018, 12:51 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
There is, of course LOX & LH2, which produces just water in its exhaust. Most energy per unit mass as I recall, but the hydrogen takes up an enormous amount of volume making the rocket itself bigger. But yeah, the amount of fossil fuel burned in rocketry is trivial.
Except hydrogen is currently produced from fossil fuels in a process that emits carbon dioxide. It could theoretically be synthesized in a carbon-neutral manner using non-fossil energy sources, but so could hydrocarbon chemical propellants (and they'd actually be slightly carbon-negative when you consider that some of the propellant is burned far from Earth). And as GlennB points out SpaceX currently developing rocket systems using methane fuel and the needed propellant synthesis equipment for doing just that, because there aren't a lot of fossil fuels where they want to go.

But current launch providers are not doing this...they are using fossil kerosene and worse things such as solid boosters and hypergolics. Not only that, SpaceX is the only one who isn't throwing the entire launch vehicle away after one use, and the Falcon Heavy is a step toward improving that, allowing first stage reuse on launches that would require expending a Falcon 9. The people complaining about environmental impact couldn't be further off target.
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Old 10th February 2018, 01:24 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
.........Criticizing him on the basis of environmental impact is absurd.
Don't be ridiculous. Of course it isn't absurd. Is space flight low carbon? Is it looking like becoming low carbon? Is Musk trying to make it low carbon? Given that the answers are no, no, and "has an aspiration sometime in the future to maybe hopefully possibly make it a bit lower carbon", I'm perfectly content to criticise the environmental impact of the space industry.
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Old 10th February 2018, 01:49 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
Don't be ridiculous. Of course it isn't absurd. Is space flight low carbon? Is it looking like becoming low carbon? Is Musk trying to make it low carbon? Given that the answers are no, no, and "has an aspiration sometime in the future to maybe hopefully possibly make it a bit lower carbon",
And yet as people have pointed out SpaceX has already reduced the carbon footprint of spaceflight by reusing first stages instead of throwing them away in the oceans.

Quote:
I'm perfectly content to criticise the environmental impact of the space industry.
But you aren't. You are criticizing the one company doing something about making spaceflight more efficient and lowering it's Carbon footprint whilst ignoring ULA, or the Russian space agency who have a delightful habit of dropping spent boosters full of toxic chemicals all over Kazakhstan. For that matter what is 'low carbon' in spaceflight terms? Unless you have a viable alternative to chemical rockets that doesn't come with its own hidden Carbon costs you are simply holding SpaceX to a purely arbitrary standard.
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Old 10th February 2018, 02:06 PM   #14
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We have bio-diesel. Is it possible to crack and refine that into kerosene?
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Old 10th February 2018, 02:12 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Garrison View Post
And yet as people have pointed out SpaceX has already reduced the carbon footprint of spaceflight by reusing first stages instead of throwing them away in the oceans.
Yes. And?

Quote:
But you aren't. You are criticizing the one company doing something about making spaceflight more efficient and lowering it's Carbon footprint whilst ignoring ULA, or the Russian space agency who have a delightful habit of dropping spent boosters full of toxic chemicals all over Kazakhstan. .........
I don't want to get snippy with you, a poster I respect, but you might want to go back and examine the words I quoted directly above the response you are now quoting. I'm surprised you missed them.
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Old 10th February 2018, 02:22 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by crescent View Post
We have bio-diesel. Is it possible to crack and refine that into kerosene?
Can I refer you to my previous post? SpaceX's plan to refuel their BFRs on Mars is by the synthesis of methane, presumably using solar to power the process. If this is a viable idea then it can be used 'down here', much more easily than on Mars, to fuel SpaceX launches. In fact, if the BFRs can return from Mars using methane then presumably they can get there using the same fuel, otherwise the proposal makes little sense.

Meanwhile I agree with Garrison, just above. Picking out this one aspect of space projects strikes me as a bit, well, weird. It's a trivial amount in the grand scheme of things. *Note* I'm not suggesting we shouldn't make CO2 savings where reasonably possible, but in this case the amounts don't amount to a hill of beans in this wasteful world. So - for that small cost - we get communications satellites plus some pretty inspirational scientific missions.
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Old 10th February 2018, 02:26 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by GlennB View Post
Can I refer you to my previous post?
I saw your previous post. The BFR is still some time away. Kerosene synthesized from biofuels would be usable on the currently in-use rockets, today.
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Old 10th February 2018, 02:42 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
Yes. And?

I don't want to get snippy with you, a poster I respect, but you might want to go back and examine the words I quoted directly above the response you are now quoting. I'm surprised you missed them.
I appreciate that and I agree that worrying about the environmental impact of spaceflight is not absurd. However I'm sorry but regardless of the 'absurdity' of the post before yours you did say this:

Quote:
Given that the answers are no, no, and "has an aspiration sometime in the future to maybe hopefully possibly make it a bit lower carbon
And it is inaccurate, reusing the first stage is a significant step in reducing the Carbon footprint of spaceflight, indeed I would wager the Carbon cost of manufacturing a first stage is far larger than the amount generated by burning its fuel load.

In terms of the space industry SpaceX are the only ones who have actually done anything to reduce the Carbon footprint and encouraged their competitors to follow suit. I'm not saying there isn't more that they could do, but they have at least made progress.
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Old 10th February 2018, 02:43 PM   #19
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If the entire industry ceased to exist, it would literally have no measurable impact on global carbon emissions. Criticizing Musk for the carbon emissions of the Falcon rocket makes it clear you're more interested in criticizing Musk than you are in carbon emissions.
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Old 10th February 2018, 02:50 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
If the entire industry ceased to exist, it would literally have no measurable impact on global carbon emissions. Criticizing Musk for the carbon emissions of the Falcon rocket makes it clear you're more interested in criticizing Musk than you are in carbon emissions.
I've no interest in criticising Musk. I'm following the line "it's a pity that this new vehicle is just an improvement on existing technology, and doesn't herald a radical fuel-efficient replacement for it". Indeed, arguably, it puts that laudible aim off.

Before you get too hot under the collar, perhaps you'll point to any method of transport in the entire history of humanity which is less fuel efficient? Once you've done that, then we can talk.
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Old 10th February 2018, 03:02 PM   #21
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Reducing the fossil fuel use of rockets would have very little effect on the environment. Maybe Musk should do something like develop an electric car? That would seem to be something that might have a noticeable effect.

Big picture-wise, I would guess that the impact of the reduction in fossil fuel use because of more efficient navigation provided by GPS and other satellites in orbit far outweighs the total impact of all rockets ever launched.
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Old 10th February 2018, 03:11 PM   #22
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Obviously he should develop an electric rocket.
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Old 10th February 2018, 03:18 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post

Before you get too hot under the collar, perhaps you'll point to any method of transport in the entire history of humanity which is less fuel efficient? Once you've done that, then we can talk.
It would depend on the value one attaches to the 'transport' in question. Do you use satellite technology in any way? Sat TV, satnav? Do you eat 'flown-in' foods when they are really not at all necessary from a dietary point of view?

Then again, 'efficiency', here, must relate to the distance flown. A payload in orbit might have got there at a hefty CO2 cost, but it can remain there for decades. How does that compare to the CO2 cost of your recent flight (I presume) to Spain? Was that flight strictly necessary, or merely desirable?

I think that these things should be kept in proportion to their impact. Space launches have an utterly trivial impact compared with countless other aspects of human activity, although the value must obviously be taken into consideration.
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Old 10th February 2018, 03:22 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
I've no interest in criticising Musk.
Again, the fact that you continue with such a baseless line of criticism makes it clear that that is exactly your interest.
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Old 10th February 2018, 03:38 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
Again, the fact that you continue with such a baseless line of criticism makes it clear that that is exactly your interest.
Only a fanboy would get so upset that they contrived such a lie. I am actually quite an admirer of Musk, but no, blather on regardless. Clearly anything the space industry does is beyond reproach, and beyond improvement.
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Old 10th February 2018, 03:39 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by GlennB View Post
It would depend on the value one attaches to the 'transport' in question.........
No it doesn't. It's a straight forward tons of fuel per tons of payload per mile equation.
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Old 10th February 2018, 04:07 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by sts60 View Post
Negligible compared to what is burned in autos, fossil power plants, home heating, ships, even aircraft.
you may have missed the joke.
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Old 10th February 2018, 05:51 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
Only a fanboy would get so upset that they contrived such a lie. I am actually quite an admirer of Musk, but no, blather on regardless. Clearly anything the space industry does is beyond reproach, and beyond improvement.
Uh-huh.
Look, it's a plain and indisputable fact that the space launch industry is not and will not be a significant contributor to carbon emissions. We're not even talking "fraction of a percent", we're talking "parts per million". It's way down in the noise.

Yet you bash Musk for supposed excesses in this area in spite of the major accomplishments he's had in reducing carbon emissions. An admirer, indeed.

Is space flight low carbon? Yes. Your "enormous quantities" of fuel are equivalent to about 2 787 fuel loads in the case of the Falcon 9. Guess which flies more often?
Is it looking like becoming low carbon? Relatively speaking, yes, but reducing an insignificant carbon source is not really meaningful.
Is Musk trying to make it low carbon? Actively working on it from multiple directions, though not as the primary goal (see above two answers). Making significant progress, through reuse of hardware, use of liquid fueled boosters instead of solid rockets, development of methane fueled rockets, development of hardware for synthesizing methane, etc.

Musk isn't a perfect person, but there is no basis whatsoever for criticizing him for excessive carbon emissions, and claims that rocketry is in any way problematic in this area are completely false. And your complaints that he's not whipping up some physics defying magic to get payloads into orbit...well, Musk and the rest of us live in the real world.

edit: As far as fandom...as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't even matter if you're talking about Musk, Bezos, Bruno, DeYoung, "NASA", or whatever. My issue with your posts and with the starter of the thread is the FUD and misinformation you're spreading about spaceflight.

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Old 10th February 2018, 08:38 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by GlennB View Post
StarTram is verging on SF. The 1st generation facility proposes a tunnel of ~80 miles length with the exit at 20,000' altitude. It also seems to require a 'plasma window' to maintain the vacuum when the exit is briefly opened. While this is known technology it is a very advanced application and would (presumably) take a hefty r+d effort to get it working on such a scale. I can hardly blame Musk (or anyone else) for not viewing all this as a plausible commercial project.

If avoiding fossil fuel use is a major consideration then a better solution might be to synthesise methane fuel using renewable energy sources, which is exactly what SpaceX proposes to do on Mars to refuel its BFRs when they land there.
It's known tech, but you want to go with the one they haven't gotten working yet? (at least not to my knowledge if you have an article on it I'm all ears)
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Old 10th February 2018, 08:49 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by sts60 View Post
Negligible compared to what is burned in autos, fossil power plants, home heating, ships, even aircraft.
SpaceX, plans to launch its Falcon 9 rockets every two to three weeks approximately 4,000 tonnes of carbon per year. Negligible isn't a word I would use.
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Old 10th February 2018, 10:31 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Coveny View Post
SpaceX, plans to launch its Falcon 9 rockets every two to three weeks approximately 4,000 tonnes of carbon per year. Negligible isn't a word I would use.
That's not even 1 millionth of total human output.
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Old 10th February 2018, 10:32 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Coveny View Post
SpaceX, plans to launch its Falcon 9 rockets every two to three weeks approximately 4,000 tonnes of carbon per year.
Citation please.

Quote:
Negligible isn't a word I would use.
In conjunction with the adverb compared I don't see a problem, unless maths aren't your strong suit or you have difficulty understanding simple English.
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Old 11th February 2018, 12:35 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
..........Is space flight low carbon? [b]Yes........
Bollocks.

It is the most inefficient form of transport ever built. In the entire history of man. If you proposed a new train or lorry which used twenty times as much fuel as payload per journey, you'd be laughed out of kindergarten.
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Old 11th February 2018, 12:47 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Coveny View Post
It's known tech, but you want to go with the one they haven't gotten working yet? (at least not to my knowledge if you have an article on it I'm all ears)
This suggests there's a version that is working. I'm not aware of any such launch technique.
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Old 11th February 2018, 01:13 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
No it doesn't. It's a straight forward tons of fuel per tons of payload per mile equation.
Once in orbit the number of miles that a satellite covers is colossal. Are you not factoring that in?

But what I meant is that an ambulance whisking a seriously ill person to hospital might burn fuel at the same rate as a carload of people out for a Sunday drive, but the latter would represent less 'value' in any energy efficiency comparison. Similarly flying salad veg across continents represents less value than flying aid to famine zones.
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Old 11th February 2018, 01:37 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by GlennB View Post
Once in orbit the number of miles that a satellite covers is colossal. Are you not factoring that in?
No.

Quote:
But what I meant is that an ambulance whisking a seriously ill person to hospital might burn fuel at the same rate as a carload of people out for a Sunday drive, but the latter would represent less 'value' in any energy efficiency comparison. Similarly flying salad veg across continents represents less value than flying aid to famine zones.
Granted, but that's not the point. The point is that space exploration and satellite technology is a great thing, and something we should be doing. However, like every other area of human activity, we should be constantly trying to do it in a more fuel-efficient manner. This whole aside in this thread is because this new SpaceX craft is just prolonging the current way of doing space travel, and not moving us towards a sustainable new method. Arguably, re-using the vehicles will make space travel much cheaper, and thus remove any incentive to move to a more fuel efficient alternative platform for accessing space. That's my whole argument: this new vehicle is great in itself, but it prolongs the current monstrously inefficient method of getting stuff off the planet's surface.

Does anyone seriously think that in a hundred years time this is how we'll be doing it?
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Old 11th February 2018, 02:19 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
No.
Why not? That satellite might perform a useful function for decades at the cost of one launch.

Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
... That's my whole argument: this new vehicle is great in itself, but it prolongs the current monstrously inefficient method of getting stuff off the planet's surface.

Does anyone seriously think that in a hundred years time this is how we'll be doing it?
If I thought that SpaceX were sincere in their plan to land BFRs on Mars and refuel them with locally-synthesised methane then I'd say that we're already on the way to a solution (though the proposed Mars mission strikes me as utterly pointless, but that's another argument). But I don't think they're the slightest bit sincere.

However, synthetic fuels made with renewable energy is an obvious solution, but, given the trivial savings 'in the grand scheme of things', I can't see much motivation for implementing the idea.
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Old 11th February 2018, 05:39 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
Bollocks.
Plain fact. Global carbon emissions in 2017 were in the area of 37 billion metric tons. The contribution of spaceflight to overall carbon emissions is effectively zero, and would still be zero if space launch activities expanded a thousand times over.


Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
It is the most inefficient form of transport ever built. In the entire history of man. If you proposed a new train or lorry which used twenty times as much fuel as payload per journey, you'd be laughed out of kindergarten.
More FUD and BS. Rocket engines are likely the most efficient heat engines ever created, and are the only way to achieve high-thrust propulsion in space. You'll never get off Earth's surface without them, even if giant mass drivers were feasible (on Earth, they aren't). Complaining that Musk isn't chasing some fantasy unicorn-fart propulsion system only shows your ignorance of the issue.

Criticizing people for their inability to break the laws of physics to achieve some arbitrary and pointless goal is not generally how people demonstrate their admiration.
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Old 11th February 2018, 06:20 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
Plain fact. Global carbon emissions in 2017 were in the area of 37 billion metric tons. The contribution of spaceflight to overall carbon emissions is effectively zero, and would still be zero if space launch activities expanded a thousand times over.




More FUD and BS. Rocket engines are likely the most efficient heat engines ever created, and are the only way to achieve high-thrust propulsion in space. You'll never get off Earth's surface without them, even if giant mass drivers were feasible (on Earth, they aren't). Complaining that Musk isn't chasing some fantasy unicorn-fart propulsion system only shows your ignorance of the issue.

Criticizing people for their inability to break the laws of physics to achieve some arbitrary and pointless goal is not generally how people demonstrate their admiration.
Charming. Useless bilge, and the end of the conversation.
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Old 11th February 2018, 07:10 AM   #40
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The question is not are there more efficient forms of transport, it's are there more efficient ways of transporting payloads into orbit or deep space.

Now as it stands all manner of alternatives have been proposed, such as Startram, or Space Elevators. Problem is that so far they either require technologies that we don't have, and may not be possible in some cases, or will need a lot of chemical rockets putting payloads into space to make them work.

At the moment chemical rockets are the most efficient way to get payloads into space and SpaceX is probably operating the most efficient launchers given their current and future reusability.
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