A prologue to this interview was the hype around Canadian-American billionaire Ilona Mask, an extremely popular project to create reusable launch vehicles Falcon and reusable spacecraft Dragon by the private company SpaceX. The sensational concept of conquering space "by a private contractor at many times lower prices than state corporations," found a vivid response both abroad and in our country. The noise became significantly more after Musk, who became the prototype of the most Hollywood Tony Stark - Iron Man - managed in front of the whole world in April and May 2016 of the year to successfully land the first stages of their Falcon 9 missiles on the sea platform ASDS.
At that moment, it really began to seem to many that the era of state-owned rocket and space corporations, disposable launch vehicles and disposable spacecraft is coming to an end. Maskofili believed: given the fact that space shuttles like Burana and Shuttle have been gathering dust in museum halls for a long time, only Iron Man will send satellites, cargo and people into space ... Sorry, His Brilliant Majesty Ilon Musk!
However, on a par with “maskkofilov” immediately found a decent amount of “maskofobov”, who said that Musk - a generator of not technical innovations, but solid financial “drank”. Imagine the joy of the latter, when Musk tweeted that the first stage of the Falcon 9, which landed on the ASDS, did it so “successfully” that it was not suitable for reuse?
The Russian writer Dmitry Konanykhin, who wrote a note “Pasta Monster Ilona Mask”, undertook to comment on his blog about the deliberate constructive inferiority of the concept of His Genialism. Dmitry could not even imagine that his modest text would instantly spread across the Runet, evoking the most varied reaction of the public - from stormy indignation to no less stormy approval.
Agreeing in advance that Konanykhin’s findings are not certain, Federal Agency News decided to acquaint readers with the point of view of Dmitry, which he set out in an interview format and which, in our opinion, is of interest to both supporters of the ideas of Elon Mask and their opponents.
So, meet Dmitry Konanykhina.
Surrounded by creators
- Let's get acquainted first.
- Let's. On the Internet, I position myself as a writer. In April of this year, I received the Gorky Literary Award in the nomination "Russian life" for the best novel of the year 2016. I have been writing 10 for years. I wrote my first novel in 2008, after which he was together ...
- Quite the contrary - rejected by our liberal public. After this, "with grief" I wrote three more novels, and the first was able to publish only last year. Actually, this novel was awarded.
What I usually keep silent about, because I first of all wanted to declare myself as a writer, this is my background, so to speak. Since 1993, I worked at the NGO Cryogenmash. Before that, he graduated from the Bauman Moscow State Technical University - Faculty of Power Engineering, E-4 Department, specialty “Technique and Low Temperature Physics”. After graduating from Baumanka, I went to work directly to the department dealing with the storage systems for cryogenic components of fuel and oxidizer, as well as refueling of launch vehicles.
From the same 1993 of the year I, let's say, “deeply drilled” on the subject of building the Indian space center Shriharikot. This place, located a hundred kilometers from Madras, became the basis of the modern Indian space program. After Sriharikota, I continued to engage in ground support for launches. He worked, in particular, in the Sea Launch project - this is a floating cosmodrome for launching Zenit rockets, created by an international consortium with the participation of our rocket and space corporation Energia, the American firm Boeing and the Ukrainian Yuzhmash. In this project, I participated in the development of a system for filling with liquid oxygen.
Since 1996, I have been working on the “Angara” theme, that is, on creating a family of modular launch vehicles. I was fortunate to work with the truly legendary people who developed ground systems for the Angara and the superheavy launch vehicle H-1 of the Lunar program. Queen, for “Energy — Buran” and MAKS Lozino-Lozinsky.
Actually, this later became one of the aftershocks for my writing activity. I want to show in my books that история Our country is not only and not so much intellectual throwing, as the hard and joyful work of people-creators - the real builders of the state.
- How did you get exactly to the space theme?
- By inheritance. My father was a leading specialist in the space “ground” on Cryogenmash, a mother on the same Cryogenmash as a designer of the first category, a patent specialist. I spent all my childhood in the midst of talking about the space industry.
- Let's go back to your Mask note. I will not retell comments to it: there are also admiring reviews, and, to put it mildly, not very. In my opinion, it is more interesting to hear from you what you think about Ilona Mask and SpaceX already after they wrote about the “macaroni monster” and received feedback from domestic readers.
- The Mask program, if we talk about each individual technical solution of the design of the same Falcon, is a very good result of engineering work. Perfectly executed welding technology of tanks, perfectly calculated parameters of landing supports, perfectly working pneumatic locks, perfectly working communications, perfectly working control system. The first step of the Falcon 9 really sits down, which is the greatest achievement of engineering design.
At the same time, the very idea of landing the first stage of a launch vehicle on planet Earth, in my deepest conviction, is a stillborn bastard. The concept of "salvaged" in this way, which means that the reusable first stage is presented as some kind of absolutely "breakthrough" idea, for which the future of astronautics.
I will make a small digression. Both our and American engineers solve optimization problems. In this case, you can not take any technical solution and implement it. You have restrictions on materials, on technologies, on dimensions of workshops, on machine park, etc. With an eye on these limitations, and you optimize. You decide where you will have the launch pads, with whom and how will you agree on the zones of falling waste stages ... This is not a local private, it is a national state project with enormous cooperation, to which hundreds of industrial associations are connected, as well as private, semi-private and public companies. In other words, this is a huge job of hundreds of thousands of people. All this can not arise from nowhere and quite suddenly, as Mask apologists are trying to prove to us. It was precisely this that surprised me first of all as a professional in how the idea of the Mask is presented.
Recall how the legend sounds. In 2001, Mask suddenly thought that it would be necessary to colonize Mars. After that, he came to Russia, where he tried to find a cheaper rocket. In Russia, Mask didn’t do anything with this, but an insight came - you need to make the launch vehicle yourself, for it will cost 10% of the existing government price tag! In the 2002 year, driven by this brilliant idea, Musk creates the company Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, better known as SpaceX. Hires a talented guy Tom Mullerwhich, according to the media, was spending all evenings and weekends to design a liquid-jet engine in his garage. Then, already in 2006, Mask has a Merlin jet engine designed for use on the Falcon family of missiles. The engine is good, it provides excellent energy. Right there, Mask has an admission with all his property on the launch complex located on Cape Canaveral. Then it turns out to be launched from the territory of the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. That is, everything is great. The rocket flies, the first step sets, the world applauds. Limpot! ..
- In your intonation you feel “but” ...
“... But I know how long the cycle of creation and development of a new jet engine for a launch vehicle takes. Not a single private company “from scratch”, having no experience, backlogs and technologies, will fail to meet the deadlines voiced by Masky, even if it has dimensionless funding.
Imagine that we have a person with a couple of billions of euros in his pocket. And now he comes to some Arianespace founded by the French and says that he wants to make his own rocket with his engine ... Yes, he will only be chased by bureaucrats for a couple of years! You can not take and get out of his pocket a new engine running. The engine must be produced in several hundred copies. They need to be annealed on a test bench to achieve the required reliability. A huge test cycle will be needed here, financial costs will be needed not only for the engine itself, but also for fuel. As well as years and years to drive the engine in all modes. You can not make a couple of new engines and immediately mount them on a rocket. You will have no guarantee that they will work properly ...
And what about Mask? The Mask simultaneously had its own engine, its own carrier, its own control system, which is fully integrated and interfaced with the control systems of the launch site at Cape Canaveral and the Vanderberg base. Sorry, that doesn't happen. Management systems are not reconfigured for a new carrier. The entire interface of the carrier is defined in a certain way through pipelines, pneumatics, control signals. These are dozens and hundreds of control channels connecting the earth with the missile side ... And then, it turns out, a boy comes Ilon Musk, a talented inventor who, through 5 years, pulls out a ready-made rocket from his pocket and says: "Here you have a rocket, which by all measures is already connected Canaveral and Vandenberg launch complexes. ”
Where did Mask get these parameters? Where did he get the entire interface for connecting the carrier to the launch facility? The answer is only one - to the Mask all this came from the outside. Starting from this conclusion, I began to “unwind the ball” Mask and discovered many very interesting things.
- For example?
- Mask started with a small Falcon 1 rocket.
- Everyone knows that.
- They know everything. Not everyone pays attention to the fact that the first two launches of the Falcon 1 were paid for by the US Department of Defense as part of the DARPA prospect launch vehicle program.
- DARPA, it’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, it’s an extremely well-known office in certain circles.
- Yes, this is the US Department of Defense agency responsible for the development of new technologies for use in the armed forces. The tasks of DARPA are to preserve the technological superiority of the American army, to prevent the emergence for the United States of new technical means of warfare, to support breakthrough research, and much more.
Steeper Biblical Wonders
- DARPA was founded in 1958 in response to the launch of the Soviet Union Sputnik-1. DARPA does not depend on conventional military research institutions and reports directly to the top leadership of the Pentagon. I remember that it was DARPA that was responsible for sponsoring the development of the ARPANET network, which later became the Internet ...
- Over-closed, super-cool office, in which our inventor-innovator Musk is immediately entering. Well, is it not a miracle? Inventor with a new engine running. Where are Musk and Muller annealed this engine? In the garage? Another miracle. An inventor with tolerances on supermodes? Again - a miracle! The young genius with the already developed start and landing algorithms is another miracle. The inventor, who not only immediately finds full support in the Pentagon and DARPA, but also manages to hire people to him already worked together teams. Biblical miracles on such a background are just cheap bazaar tricks.
- Is there any explanation for this phenomenon?
- Let's not rush - remember about hired by Tom Masler Muller. Who is that?
“The guy who was rumored to be driving a jet engine in the garage.”
- We do not have access to the DARPA archives, so we will use open sources in English. It follows from them that, firstly, Comrade Tom Mueller did not use his garage for the test bench for the Merlin engine, but the test site of the former production plant aviation ammunition, located in the Texas region near the town of McGregor. Most interestingly, the first rocket engine stands were built by Beal Aerospace by enthusiastic engineer Andrew Beale. And all this was done within the framework of the NLI - National Launch Initiative, "National Launch Initiative". But the NLI program was completed in 2000, the company Andrew Beale, in fact, ruined, but then there was a brilliant Ilon Musk. Summary: our new Canadian-American Leonardo da Vinci literally “on the ball” received a ready-made test base.
Secondly, Tom Muller worked as a leading developer of the largest hydrogen engine in the framework of the very NLI, which had government funding through a joint program of NASA and the US Department of Defense. Muller in 15 years has gone from an ordinary engineer to almost the vice-president of the company TRW. This guy was there the most important rocket technology. Suddenly, Muller, who did not sit in the vice-presidential chair, goes to the company of the most perfect newcomer Mask. And Muller goes to the Mask is not one, but taking with him the leading experts in rocket affairs from TRW. At the same time, Muller is working on technologies of the famous American lunar program, applied in the lunar landing module, using pin nozzles. It works - and all this, together with the already prepared team of specialists, is being transferred to the Mask.
- What's next?
- Further interesting. In the 2002 year, at the same time as Muller left, the giant Northrop Grumman Corporation buys TRW. Not even a giant, but a monster who built stealth bombers and nuclear aircraft carriers. This monster sues Mask, which, by hiring a former TRW manager Muller, gained commercial gain from TRW's intellectual property, now owned by Northrop Grumman Corporation. The results of the trial are indicative - it seems that the SpaceX baby has managed to fend off an aerospace tyrannosaur! Well, or Mask someone helped implement another miracle.
- What kind of company is this - TRW?
- 57 is a place in Fortune Global 500, that is, in the 500 ranking of the world's largest companies, the criterion for compiling which is the company's revenue. TRW, or Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge, is the developer of all major US intelligence satellites. It was TRW that created the Pioneer 10, an automatic interplanetary station sent to the edge of the solar system, and American Viking probes for Mars. TRW is a staff of 122.000 people.
And from such a monster Tom Muller, along with a proven team and in an embrace with a nozzle escapes to the mask. At the same time, let me remind you, in TRW, Muller was working on a hydrogen engine, while Mask meekly took up the kerosene-oxygen Merlin. Hydrogen and kerosene engines correlate with each other approximately like Ferrari and Zaporozhets ...
I almost forgot another touch to the TRW portrait. Rameau и Woldridge, the founders of the company, were employees of the truly legendary Howard Hughes. They have made a long-range air-to-air missile, which is being guided by the radar. A remarkable detail: the rocket had a range of up to 180 km and the name ... Falcon. So, at the beginning of 1950-x, zadolbavshis with the management style of eccentric Hughes, Rameau and Wooldridge decided to create their own company. In this they helped a simple guy by the name Thompson, until that time owned the company, which in 1926 year was the supplier of the number 1 valves and other parts of automobile engines for the American industry.
When in May 1927 of the year Charles Lindbergh He became the first person to fly over the Atlantic, there were Thompson valves in the engine of his plane - this is our complicated story ... Let's make it even more complicated: it was in TRW that he performed his first job Bill Gates, which is a strange coincidence! - there was a grandmother by the name of Thompson ...
One way or another, a familiar TRW appears, which in 1953, becomes the general contractor of the US Air Force for the development of ballistic missiles. It turns out that the white and fluffy TRW, baking satellites like pancakes and pioneering in space, is an enterprise of the level of our Votkinsk or Makeevka factories. That is, a company deeply buried in the US military-industrial complex, from which Comrade Musk at some point lures the leading specialist and five minutes to the vice-president with a group of specialists and a suitcase of top-secret technologies.
It is clear that Mask could never do anything like this if he did not have the support at the highest level. Even not so - on the highest. And these “achievements” of Ilona Mask, which consist in the fact that foreign developments and foreign specialists were literally invested in his hands, are presented here as an example of his genius.
Privatization of profits and "black holes"
- A natural question arises: why then did you need this whole epic with a “ingenious” Mask?
- Why did it take in our time on planet Earth to work out a knowingly unprofitable technology, in which the allegedly “reusable” (in fact, no) first stage of a booster rocket has overpriced, strength and weight characteristics compared to disposable counterparts; fuel for planting and, as a result, raises less payload? Why trumpet everywhere that the first stage is reusable, which means it is much more financially advantageous than a single stage, if all this is shattered into pieces, if not about the ground, then about the problem of post-installation troubleshooting?
There is a feeling that assertiveness and the colossal investments with which the Mask program is being implemented are clearly within some kind of technical task. But the parameters and purpose of this TZ are not at all those that are officially declared by Mask.
Once again, from a purely engineering point of view, the Falcon 9 is a masterpiece. From the point of view of a reusable first-stage booster, this is a bastard. Thus, if we proceed from the conformity of the results achieved at the moment by Maskim to the goals stated earlier by Mask, it can be stated that these goals have not been achieved. Despite the fact that to perform the task Musk got everything and even more than everything. After all, Ilona was not only given ready-made technical solutions, the highest professionals for implementing these decisions, the necessary production, test benches and free access anywhere. In parallel with SpaceX, the development costs and tests of these very technical solutions, including the engine problem, were removed.
This is what I call the nationalization of losses and the privatization of profits. Musk promised a jackpot to everyone, received a complete check-out for it and ... did not justify the high confidence of the American establishment in that regard.
- That is, in fact it turns out all the same "drank" funds?
- It is not necessary. I admit that just the opposite - saving. For example, savings on pensions, when part of the staff of the state corporation NASA is displayed in frequent structures like SpaceX.
In general, behind all the hype around the Mask, it is forgotten that SpaceX is not the only strange company working alongside NASA. There is still, for example Scaled Composites Bert Rutanworking in an alliance with a billionaire By Richard Branson. If we look closely at Branson, we will understand that we face the Mask of an earlier version - absolutely the same model of actions!
In fact, both SpaceX and Scaled Composites are private “pocket” campaigns, in which there is an order of magnitude less bureaucracy and where fewer approvals are required when working than at NASA. They are very convenient to quickly work out something completely innovative and just as convenient to hide the development of something very secret. It is possible on the contrary - to take and flaunt something there in order to put competitors on the wrong track. DARPA is a big “black hole”, and no one, except the top leadership of the United States, has any idea what is going on inside. SpaceX, Scaled Composites and other companies like them are small “black holes” appearing on the game board or removed from it as needed.
But in general, in the Mask trial I was not interested in this. It was much more curious to dig in open sources, to compare the facts lying on the surface and to see how the fabulous image of a genius lonely self-taught self-taught media cherished gradually turns into an image of a capable guy put by the state to the top of a real aerospace iceberg. An iceberg created, albeit indirectly, but with government money. An iceberg, most of which is hidden under the "water" by the efforts of various interested parties, because of which the simple man in the street does not notice it at all.
- Is it possible to conclude that Ilon Musk for the US military-industrial complex is not some newcomer, but a very personal one?
- Such technologies, such resources, such opportunities, which Ilon received, will not be given to others. Ilon Musk for the US military-industrial complex is the same "in the board of his boyfriend," as was Bill Gates with his grandmother by the name of Thompson.
- So, Musk is a beautiful PR-picture, behind which much larger structures are hidden than SpaceX?
What else profitability ?!
- Is it right to consider, based on your text “Pasta Monster Ilona Mask,” that the main stumbling block in the way of the first step of the Falcon 9 to real reusability is the problem of post-landing troubleshooting?
- The step could not stand the temperature overheating. "She flew too fast!" - said Ilon Musk. Guys, if the materials you applied do not keep the temperature mode, you will have to abandon the flight mode, which leads to the temperature mode that is critical for the materials ... Either you limit yourself by the selected flight mode, or you change materials. That is, the problems of the Mask with the reliability of the first stage of the Falcon 9 are not limited to a single defect.
We go on the topic of "reliability" further. Now the "nine" Mask - nine engines Merlin. In the future Falcon Heavy, crammed as the “most powerful rocket in the world,” the engines will be 27. And here comes the theory of probability. Ensuring full-time reliable operation of nine engines is by definition simpler than 27-mi. There are no complaints about the engine itself - its concept was driven by crazy state money even when it was working on the lunar landing module and the newest hydrogen engine under the National Starting Initiative program. But the need for a major upgrade for the Heavy already developed on the "nine" control circuit nine engines will appear exactly. That is, the fact that Mask engineers taught nine Merlin engines to work well on the Falcon 9 does not mean that 27 engines of the same kind will work just as well on the Falcon Heavy. 27 engines! To understand what a nightmare, you just need to remember the sad story of the lunar H-1 Queen ...
Now back to the defect. Here you have the first step of the Falcon 9 - a fifty-meter fool. She descends from near space. You carefully plant it as far as possible, but your accuracy does not at all cancel the mechanical and temperature overloads acting at the time of landing. They planted - great. What's next, after the triumph, hugs and champagne?
- Next - troubleshooting?
- Next you need to check all welds, all engines at the run down stage. And the first step is not just a tank and not a design that is all bolted and easily disassembled. Can you imagine what expenses will be needed to unmount, ring, enlighten, drive away, test, check every detail there, and then assemble everything together again? Submitted?
Finished troubleshooting and installation, again launched Falcon 9, again put the first stage, and now what? Now - new troubleshooting with the corresponding costs. No defect - no way. The slightest omission and - bang! Well, if no human victims will do ...
It is terrible to imagine the costs of first-stage “nine” troubleshooting, and the cost of first-stage troubleshooting of the Heavy with its engine pile cannot be imagined at all. What kind of profitability, what are you talking about?
It turns out that Mask’s engineers have created a heavy-class launch vehicle that can put a payload into orbit, which is now perfectly placed into orbit by middle-class launch vehicles. Why? Because instead of part of the payload, the Mask carrier rocket has to carry the fuel needed for landing the first stage. Why did it take? To then the most expensive part of the launch vehicle - its first stage - to reuse.
At least one successfully landed first stage of the Falcon 9 flew again?
- No, not flying.
- For some reason I am not surprised.
- So maybe in the future will fly?
- Then we will return to this conversation.
What else to add to what was said? I apologize to my readers - I made a mistake in my article. He indicated that Musk is transporting his launch vehicles from the factory to the launch complex on the railway. It never occurred to me that the Mask had to use motor transport for this operation. Apparently, the features of US railways do not allow transporting Mask products with their phenomenal longitudinal dimensions.
However, this mistake of mine does not affect the already voiced conclusion that the concept of a launch vehicle with the first stage of multiple use is a mistake. Moreover, I think this is not just me ... The United States and Russia have such a thing as "guaranteed launch payload." This is the payload that a country must put into orbit with an absolute guarantee. As a rule, we are talking about the payload, which allows us to put military satellites into orbit without extreme risk. So, after all the adventures of the Mask with Falcon 9, the Americans removed this honor from the “promising” Falcon Heavy - the launch of military satellites into orbit. It says a lot.
- That is, let Musk continue to play around with reusability, and his Yankee spy satellites will raise ... By the way, what will they raise them?
- One-time "Delta" company Boeing.
This is not economics, this is politics.
- And yet, many fans of Mask believe that the concept of a reusable first stage is extremely progressive, and he himself is a genius.
- From the point of view of a person who knows the inside of the space industry, everything looks different. I, by the way, do not argue with the fact that Musk is a genius. Only his genius lies not in the fact that he sat down and "from scratch" invented everything, but in the fact that he ingeniously plays the role of a top manager of the team of specialists given to him. A team that copes with the optimization of their task to create a reusable launch vehicle.
They were told: "Here you have a production site, and over there, beyond the horizon, is a starting complex." They explained that delivering the launch vehicle from point A to point B will not be burned out either by train or on a barge in water. Only by motor transport and for 7 — 8 days, because you will have to haul with stops, otherwise the product will overlap all the bands tightly on radii and the main achievement of the Mask will not be a reusable level, but reusable traffic jams. And what? His specialists coped. True, for transportation by motor transport, the dimensions of the rocket had to be pulled out into “macaroni” ...
Adherents Mask argue that he will bury our Roscosmos with an economically low price tag for launch services. Guys, if you have overheads consisting in maintaining a bench economy, R & D, etc., that is, “all the roots” are removed from the company, leaving it only “tops”, you can draw any price tag you need in the financial statements launch services. But this is not the economy. This, my dear, is already politics! The Mask project is not economic, it is political. It is for this reason that Ilon Musk still, despite all his failures, rushing forward like a tank and instead of going into a pipe, he dreams of flying to Mars. Accordingly, who will bury someone there will also be a policy.
- Are there any real alternatives to the Mask project? The question, of course, is not about disposable launch vehicles, but about reusable systems.
- Of course have. This, for example, the project Gleb Evgenievich Lozino-Lozinsky ...
- Is he. Multipurpose aerospace system, developed by NPO Molniya. Within the framework of this project, the most problematic part of the Mask concept - the reusable first stage - was replaced by the super-heavy An-225 aircraft. More precisely, developed on the basis of "Mriya" An-325. This carrier aircraft was supposed to raise the spacecraft to the required height. Then the air launch followed, and the spaceplane from the “back” of the aircraft carrier went into orbit.
- Hasn't this project been buried forever under the ruins of the USSR?
- I would not be so categorical. There are just two events that inspire me with optimism.
For starters, I will remind you about Paul allen. This is the same Paul Allen, who is a school friend of our old friend Bill Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft Corporation and a person who has sponsored the creation of Bert Rutan and his Scaled Composites suborbital spacecraft SpaceShipOne. So, Allen in the company with all the same Rutan started the implementation of the project Stratolaunch, which is nothing more than the American reproduction of the ideology of MAX. Instead of a spaceplane there, however, provides for the use of a capsule, but this does not change the essence. There is an unexpected nuance, and perhaps, on the contrary, the expected ... Do you know who should develop the orbital capsule for Stratolaunch? SpaceX Ilona Mask!
Now about the second event. In December 2015, the bankruptcy of NPO Molniya was suddenly suspended. Now "Lightning" is part of the state corporation "Rostec" Chemezovand I very much hope that the old rivalry between rocket engineers and aircraft builders will be overcome for the sake of reanimation of MAKS. Our country has all the necessary resources to do this.
- What will be the approximate financial gain using a system like MAX?
- Starts will fall in price at least twice.