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Another Private Space Startup 147

Posted by michael
from the to-the-moon-alice dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Wired has a story about former PayPal owner Elon Musk who has his own rocket company, SpaceX, trying to lower the cost of getting into space. They just tested the rocket engine, and hope to fly a test by the end of the year. Not bad for less than a year's worth of work so far." We mentioned this guy last year.
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Another Private Space Startup

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  • by sundip01 (214355) <sandeep@nosPaM.clusterbeep.org> on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:29PM (#5810218) Homepage
    by far, the greatest phenomenon in the world is that of the rich man with too much time on his hands....
  • by inertia@yahoo.com (156602) on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:30PM (#5810224) Homepage Journal
    By his own admission, Musk is making some grandiose claims -- among them that he will cut the cost of launching up to 1,000 pounds of payload into near-Earth orbit by up to two-thirds, and that he can buck the dismal success rate of space-launch startups.

    Wait a second. Grandiose or not, which market is he talking about? The European Space Agency can already lift more for less. So is he talking about taking two-thirds off the American price or the European price?

    Heck, for all we know, he's going to take two-thirds off the price Afghanistan would charge you if they had launch capability.

    Mirror to the article. [martin-studio.com]
  • John Carmack (Score:1, Interesting)

    by rmohr02 (208447)
    In a semi-related note, John Carmack (yes, that John Carmack) is competing to win the X-Prize, which gives $10 million to the first small team to put a man 62.5 miles above the surface of the earth. See http://www.cnn.com/2002/TECH/space/10/16/xprize.co ntest/ [cnn.com]
    • by Anonymous Coward
      NO?

      REALLY?

      Why havent I read about this on slashdot?

      Also, I'm curious if you have any information on this "water is wet" theory I've been hearing about.
      • by niom (638987)

        Also, I'm curious if you have any information on this "water is wet" theory I've been hearing about.

        Not yet, but a start-up founded by Steve Wozniak (yes, that Steve Wozniak) has already made significant advances towards the commercial production of humid water. Just imagine the possibilities!

    • Re:John Carmack (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ChuckDivine (221595) <charles.j.divine@gmail.com> on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:55PM (#5810477) Homepage

      There's quite a bit going on with regard to private space. Just check out The X Prize [xprize.org] for information on Carmack, Rutan and others. The most recent story [scaled.com] about Rutan's work is attracting quite a bit of attention.

      Personally, I think the next crewed orbital vehicle will be coming out of one of these startups, not out of NASA. Of course, NASA could get back into the picture if they decided to help independents rather than try to run the whole damned show.

    • Re:John Carmack (Score:2, Informative)

      by nofx_3 (40519)
      Yeah, his company is called armadillo aerospace, it uses a hydrogen peroxide engine and has no control surfaces, instead it is controlled by software so that the engines are independently controlled and can be used to stabalize the craft. check it out at Armadillo Aerospace [armadilloaerospace.com]
    • John Carmack (yes, that John Carmack) is competing to win the X-Prize, which gives $10 million to the first small team to put a man 62.5 miles above the surface of the earth.

      Shouldn't he be focusing on game development instead? Currently, his reputation for THAT ain't looking so good...
  • Nerds in space (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phorm (591458) on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:32PM (#5810247) Journal
    I found how many other types of people are actively starting their own "going to space" club. So far the only ones I've heard of on slashdot are IT-industry veterans. Are they the only ones, or is there somebody else out there with the money to pull it off?

    Regardless, private space enterprise could be both a good and bad thing. As NASA seems to be flagging in some areas, private funding of exploration could be the big push needed to get us beyond the moon.

    That... and whomever develops a working "warp drive" will probably have to be a Star Trek geek...
    • The guy who built the ion engine that was on Deep Space 1 got the idea from Star Trek... so anything is possible.

      Personally, I think we need to sort out Fusion. We've got TDP technology, so at least that's a step in the right direction...
    • found how many other types of people are actively starting their own "going to space" club. So far the only ones I've heard of on slashdot are IT-industry veterans. Are they the only ones, or is there somebody else out there with the money to pull it off?

      Just a matter of time before IP Lawyers are in space...

      "Jeff Bezos announces Amazon awarded patent for 1-click launch."

      "Pan-IP files suit against PayPal for infringement of their patent on doing business from space."

      "Now we've got all this room, we've

    • by Cyno (85911) on Friday April 25, 2003 @03:29PM (#5810775) Journal
      That... and whomever develops a working "warp drive" will probably have to be a Star Trek geek...

      And get sued by Paramount for violating their trademarks.
      • whomever develops a working "warp drive" will probably have to be a Star Trek geek...

        And get sued by Paramount for violating their trademarks.

        At which point, he leverages the market potential of his warp drive and flat-out buys Paramount.

    • Well, the Rocket Guy [rocketguy.com] isn't in IT, he's mainly a toy inventor. For that matter, I wouldn't call Carmack [armadilloaerospace.com] or Rutan [scaledcomposites.com] IT guys, though "nerd" is probably appropriate. Who else are you thinking of as an IT guy trying to go into space?
  • by Ooblek (544753) on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:36PM (#5810289)
    Now that he helped make an electronic payment method to help the corrupt hide money and defraud eBay auctioneers, he has invented a punishment method for those caught in the act! Get caught using a hacked PayPal account, get blasted into space!

    Or maybe it is to blast the 5 PayPal customer dis-service employees into space....

    This guy doesn't look like Emperor Ming by any chance does he?

  • by Drathus (152223) on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:36PM (#5810296)
    So, did he get the funding from this from all the disgruntled PayPal users?

    http://www.paypalsucks.com [paypalsucks.com]

    You might not like it, but that's my opinion.
    • Too right.

      "Hey, this guy who stole all our money is spending it on something cool for himself, so now he's a hero."

      The wierd ironies of Slashdot postings. And to think tabloid newspapers get criticised for being fickle - they ain't got nothing on geek news...

      Grab.
  • by AbdullahHaydar (147260) on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:38PM (#5810309) Homepage
    The guy in the article should join the Space Entrepreneurship Network [spaceentre...urship.net].

    Maybe I should too...

    Either way, I'll better off than that stupid NSync guy who thought Pepsi was going to sponsor his $20 million ride on a Soyuz. If he's really a space fanatic, as he claims, he should have put the money up himself. (I'm sure he's got enough, with all the teenage girls who listen to that crap.)
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:38PM (#5810319) Homepage Journal
    We have a pressurized water engine, but we need a lot of volunteers to work the pump. Anyone want to sign on?

    Do they still have those little platic water rockets or have they gone the way of the lawn dart?

    • You can make your own with a two liter bottle and some pressurized air. I used an air compressor.
      Very easy to get 80 ft or more.

      [google.com]
      A google search
      • I made a launcher about ten years ago and our Boy Scout troop had a water rocket contest.

        The 2-liter bottles didn't work well at all - 50, 60 feet, tops. The 1-liter bottles were excellent, though - a couple hundred feet easily. One went completely out of sight, pretty much straight up.

        We cut fins out of plastic and attached them with duct tape. The bottles with the flat area near the neck work best (Schwepps tonic, etc.) Angle the fins very slightly so the rocket will spiral (like an arrow). The real tri

    • Like the AC said, they are still out there. Unlike the AC, if you aren't retarded, you can launch them much further with pressure than by hand.
    • Do they still have those little platic water rockets or have they gone the way of the lawn dart?

      Earlier this year on a trip to San Jose I bought one for me and my son at Fry's (what an awesome place! Fry's I mean, not San Jose).

      It was only about $2. Unfortunately it broke after the first meager launch. Very disappointing for a 4 1/2 year old. So I glued the crack shut and on the next launch it went BANG! (Give me a break, this is rocket science after all!) So I cut off the fins and pump fitting a

  • Go Go GO!!!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raygundan (16760) on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:38PM (#5810321) Homepage
    The more the merrier. NASA is busy launching (or lately, not launching) shuttles that cost roughly 30X the cost of launching a Soyuz, and has cancelled the latest of its "shuttle replacement" programs (the X-33/Venturestar). The sooner somebody else gets their foot in the door, the sooner we can get on with the exciting stuff in space. Cheaper. Some of these nuts will blow themselves up. Some will fail less catastrophically. A few will make it, and it will be a damn good thing to have somebody besides NASA pushing out for a change.

    I heartily welcome and cheer for anybody willing to try. Build it and go, you crazy rich bastards!!
    • Yes, let SpaceX develop an economical "FED EX" or "UPS" of the space shuttle game. It might save our government (and us) lots of money.
      • Do you mean to pass all space shuttling business from NASA to Fedex or UPS? Good idea!

        So, when an austronaut on ISS will buy something on the web using his credit card, he'll have three options for delivering:

        • Next week Ground delivery;
        • Next day Air delivery;
        • Next hour Vacuum delivery.
        • BTW, speaking about Space Postal Services, read this [lenta.ru] (or translate it if you don't speak Russian).

          Briefly, Russians wnat to open Postal Service Station on ISS to make some money in order to help their poor space budget.

    • ...cancelled the latest of its "shuttle replacement" programs (the X-33/Venturestar).

      NASA has cancelled about seven of these shuttle replacement programs over the last 20 years. The cancelled programs were naturally over budget and over schedule by the time they were cancelled. The money wasted would have probably been enough for at least one complete system.

      If any of the proposed replacements had delivered even 10% of what it promised it would still be a major improvement over the shuttle - the first (
      • I agree completely. They are truly split-personality about their design choices. They flog outdated stuff that costs more to use than anyone expected (witness the $5million per flight the shuttle costs), while simultaneously targetting only pie-in-the-sky replacement designs like scramjets and all-composite SSTO lifters that invariably end up aborted in the design stage vastly overbudget.

        If I could personally beat one thing into NASA, it would be TAKE SMALLER STEPS. Build something that's 30% better tha
    • Actually, the US does have cheaper launch vehicles than the shuttle. As the Wired News article says, "The big players in the space-launch business are Boeing and Lockheed in the United States..." These people don't make manned rockets, but if your goal is to put a satellite in orbit, carrying people along for the ride is an enormous waste of money and resources. The big new thing is Boeing's Delta IV. It recently (March 10) put a satellite in orbit for the Air Force. I doubt that these guys are in the bus
  • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:40PM (#5810336) Homepage Journal
    How long before the following happen:

    There's a big Nike swoosh in the night sky

    An errant launch vehicle kills someone (the goverment just gets all somber and hands out taxpayer money, what would a private company do, buy Space Explorer insurance? Bet that's not gonna be cheap...)

    Servers are running in space, immune from meddling DMCA-type laws, sending spam, etc. ("In tonight's news, a SpamHaus missile took out RalskySat I, also the RIAA plans to launch a series of jamming satellites as CD prices top $75 each.")

    People start spamming me with Timeshares over Florida offers...

    • "COKE ADDS LIFE!" (Score:3, Informative)

      by jo_ham (604554)
      This was part of the plot of the Red Dwarf novels.

      A spacecraft, called the Nova 5, was sent up into space to trigger certain stars to go supernova at precisely the right times so that when the light from each of them reached the earth, it would spell out "COKE ADDS LIFE!" across the night sky - an ad campaign that would supposedly "buy pepsi for good".

      The crew were in stasis on their way to add the final dot on the excalmation mark when the ship's android decided to clean the computer - with hot soapy wat
  • With paypal being charged under the PATRIOT-ACT, it's obvious this guy is just a terrorist. He probably just wants to fly his rocket ship up and drop a bunch of crap on people from space.

    Space is for the government. private space exploration is an invitation to disaster. Hopefully Total Information awareness will keep in eye on these dangerous types.
  • About time! Now instead of posting dupes in ignorance, they check to see if it is a dupe and post it anyway with a note saying so right in the post!
  • Thank the X prize (Score:5, Informative)

    by apsmith (17989) on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:47PM (#5810406) Homepage
    If you're wondering what's up with all these private space ventures lately, the Space Access Society [space-access.org] conference is going on right now. This particular contender is for freight, not human travel (at least at this point), and orbital, not suborbital as in the X Prize [xprize.com] competition, which has also been heating up the last few months, since they got the full $10 million in the bank last October.
  • government space? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KrancHammer (416371) <GunseMatt@NOSpAM.hotmail.com> on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:47PM (#5810408)

    While I am all for free enterprise, I am not yet convinced that the technology exists to make space travel inexpensive enough for any organization that does not have the capability to spend hundreds of millions without seeing a return (like, say government agencies).
    Sure a suborbital flight may be (relatively) cheap, but I am not sure that keeping humans in space for prolonged periods can ever be made safe and cheap.

    • While I am all for free enterprise, I am not yet convinced that the technology exists to make space travel inexpensive enough for any organization that does not have the capability to spend hundreds of millions without seeing a return.

      This, of course, assumes you don't consider scientific knowledge, new technologies and the sheer inspirational wonder of exploration to be returns. ;-)

    • Re:government space? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by superdan2k (135614)
      Can you present some data to back up your "not yet convinced" statement?

      Going to space is old-hat and can be made cheap if we can get around a lot of the b.s. bueauracracy that makes government-run space agencies cost what they do. All basic technology goes down in cost once it's gotten widespread adoption -- this is why technology (esp. computer technology) has been moving so quickly in the last twenty years. Because corporations need to continue to make profits they need to keep making new-and-improved
    • I am not yet convinced that the technology exists to make space travel inexpensive enough for any organization that does not have the capability to spend hundreds of millions without seeing a return (like, say government agencies).

      If the government didn't steal so much of our money and squander it, there'd be more private organizations that could afford to do space research.
      For real space travel (as distinct from dinking about in LEO) to become practical, manned launch costs have to be brought down. NASA
  • by hndrcks (39873) on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:53PM (#5810462) Homepage
    Hey, guys - if your rocket starts to malfunction - can you point it at - say - the Moon? We're looking for water. [slashdot.org]

    • I'm afraid that wouldn't work. Ya see, they're loking for spectrograph traces - and the presence of (70% water) splatted humans would foul the readings.

      Sorry.
  • X Prize (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stratjakt (596332) on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:54PM (#5810469) Journal
    What's the deal with this anyways?

    I mean the purse is 10 million. It seems to me you'd have spent that many times over to develop a rocket ship. So I doubt the winner recoups his investment, let alone makes any profit.

    So I assume it's more about bragging rights? And if so, why not donate the 10 million to charity, and just give out a fancy trophy?

    • If you donate $10mil to charity, no one will know who you are.

      If you spend $xxx mil and win the X-Prize, your name will be in the history books.
    • Re:X Prize (Score:3, Informative)

      by foolish (46697)
      Actually a fair number of the XPrize entrants may not spend $10M in R&D and launch costs to get to their shot... so there is the possibility of it being a net benefit. Plus, first come first serve in terms of possibly being able to sell rides...

      You might also check out the ERPS proposal for a series of similar federal prizes...

      http://www.erps.org/papers/isdc2003.html

      neat stuff, with escelation of prize monies the closer to orbit they git. keep in mind the Xprize is not a orbital infrastructure, but
  • by bittmann (118697) on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:55PM (#5810482) Journal
    What this fellow seems to be promoting is nothing more than a "Big Dumb Booster"-based launch system. He's not worried about building a reusable launch vehicle a-la X-Prize [xprize.org], or an orbiter/re-entry vehicle, or a hypersonic jet engine. Kerosene, LOX, and a good pumping system...not necessarily elegant, but could be pretty effective.

    Big thrust, low weight, "cheap" to manufacture, limited exposure to the "risky" science of re-entry (leave that to the folks worrying about the payload)...

    These guys may be on to something.
    • The first stage is actually reusable and pump-fed. The second stage is a pressure-fed expendable.

    • Frankly, big dumb boosters may be the sensible way.

      Single stage to orbit means you're lifting a huge amount of (by the time it gets up there) completely useless metal all the way up, and fetching it back all the way down. Semi-staged stuff like the shuttle drops a lot of its scrap metal, but there's all the engineering complexities of designing fuel tanks etc so that they can drop out of the sky into a highly corrosive environment (the sea) and yet be reusable.

      It does make quite a lot of sense to design a
  • You don't want the government shutting you down for violating the Homeland Security Act [slashdot.org]
  • by Milo77 (534025) on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:57PM (#5810498)
    If only Bill Gates would get a bee in hif bonnet about putting a man on mars in 10 years, I would start purchasing the software put out by his company just to support the endeavor. Maybe I am a sell out...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, Gates pisses his money away on charities and AIDS prevention in the third world and crap like that.

      He should spend it on something utterly useless and idiotic like a rocket ship to the moon.
      • I'm not sure why this AC was rated funny - I think her point is quite insightful. Why would somebody be willing to give Bill Gates money to explore space, if they're not willing to give him money right now when he's using his money for these very important projects?

        Remember, Bill Gates has single-handedly donated more money to the UN AIDS research fund than the entire US government. And he's done so willingly, whereas the US government has done so grudgingly.

        Of course, I give my money to a man in a peng [com.com]
      • He should spend it on something utterly useless and idiotic like a rocket ship to the moon.

        What fucking good is preventing AIDS and assisting people today if you're not doing something to ensure that humanity has a chance at being around millenia from now? Face it, we're going to have to get off this rock eventually for one reason or another; could be an asteroid, could be massive solar changes that render earth's climate uninhabitable to us, could be the realization that we've already fucked this planet

    • While I can't say I'd buy their software in order to support a M$ space program, I'd be pretty happy to see Billy boy fire himself as far into space as possible.

      Think we can get him to take Ballmer with him?

    • Yay! So he could blow himself with his rocket, because of a stupid BSOD freezed the NT server controlling the engines.
      Ballmer would blame it on Evil, communist open-source software.

      Yes, the world would be a better place after that.
      • So he could blow himself with his rocket

        You seem to overestimate the length of Bill Gates' "rocket". Or perhaps the flexibility of Bill Gates' neck?
        • LOL :)

          Sorry for the grammar (hey I'm french after all: you know, the ones who eat frogs and snails and bath once a year; hey, I guess we're just too busy running after our food and surrendering to everybody out there, to actually learn english)
          As you no doubt have guessed, I meant "blow himself up with his rocket".

          • Hey, no problem. If you were to read my French, you'd probably come across drastically worse typos than that. Besides, perhaps for the French the idea that one could blow himself with his rocket is not as strange and hard to believe as for Americans...

            God I wish I were in Bourdeaux or Marseilles or Paris right now...
    • "If only Bill Gates would get a bee in hif bonnet about putting a man on mars in 10 years"

      Though, I am sure he day dreams about blasting a certain Finnish programmer off the face of Earth.

      "I would start purchasing the software put out by his company just to support the endeavor."

      Yes, let's all fund a SOFTWARE company to build rockets. That would be A LOT more efficient than funding, say, NASA.

      The rockets can run on IIS and be manipulated with Internet Explorer and scheduled events via Outlook. Instead o
      • Yes, let's all fund a SOFTWARE company to build rockets. That would be A LOT more efficient than funding, say, NASA.

        And we all know how efficient NASA has been over the last two decades. Why, the space shuttle is ever so much more efficient than a regular ol' rocket booster....

        Max
    • If only Bill Gates would get a bee in hif bonnet about putting a man on mars in 10 years, I would start purchasing the software put out by his company just to support the endeavor. Maybe I am a sell out...

      If the trip took more than 3 months, all of the astronauts on the ship would go insane and kill each other after after Clippy popped up on screen one too many times and proclaimed "It looks like you're writing a letter!"
  • by skreuzer (613775) <`gro.eriwatem' `ta' `rezuerks'> on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:57PM (#5810506) Homepage
    Former PayPal owner Elon Musk is dead
    • Wow, he's going to die some time in the future!?! What a newsflash!

      This just in: Skreuzer expected to die in future. More on this story as it develops.

      You'd better be careful about making wild predictions like that, you never know when someone is going to turn out to be an immortal.
  • by Superfreaker (581067) on Friday April 25, 2003 @02:59PM (#5810525) Homepage Journal
    I think his server just went into orbit.
  • then you would pay them to launch your payload and then never hear anything from them again.

    "What payload are you talking about? We have no record of this."

  • I just want to see him improve the response of servers running ridiculously slow flash menu systems by a factor of three.. now that would be amazing!

    ---
    The biggest difference between time and space is that you can't reuse time. -- Merrick Furst
  • Organ transplants are best left to the professionals
  • /. on web (Score:1, Redundant)

    by madshot (621087)
    well.. I hope their rocket engine works better than their webpage..
  • Specically, the private sector race to the moon. An excellent read.

    I was suprised that a couple of these private companies are launching later this year.
  • "We will beat them all to orbit," said T. P. Ruddygore of Big Tyme Space Endeavors & Travelling Faire Of Wondrous Misfits. "All that tinkering with rocketships this and fuel oxygen ratios that... Bah! That newfangled rot will get them a one way ticket to oblivion."

    Ruddygore then announced his partner in the space business, Larry Fineburg, owner and operator of the Fineburg Rubber Company in Hope, Arkansas.

    Both Ruddygore and Fineburg were evasive on the precise nature of the launch technology behind

  • I am anxious to see more of these private space startups. After all, it's how the Fantastic Four got their super powers. It's just a matter of time...
  • All this from a guy who couldn't keep his last million dollar investment on the road [redherring.com]

    But I'm sure he has things figured out this time.
  • I read the Wired piece while I was waiting for the SpaceX site to load.
  • by Some Dumbass... (192298) on Friday April 25, 2003 @04:53PM (#5811549)
    "Flying is easy... it's the landing that's hard."

    As long as they're only claiming that they can get stuff into space, I'm inclined to believe them. All you need for that is a powerful rocket and some good mathematicians. But when some random rich guy claims that he can bring stuff back safely when even NASA is having problems with that... that's when I stop buying it.
  • ... because once you have built up that enormous weapons industry, what are you going to tell all those engineers to do? Keep churning out more weapons? From the days of Krupp weapons have spread everywhere the producing country doesn't want them to.
    Nah, take some of that enourmous defense budget and tell them to go to mars instead. It's why we have a space industry in the first place ... governments want to keep arms/aerospace companies ready to produce lots of arms without the bad effects of excess produc
  • by ehiris (214677) on Friday April 25, 2003 @05:36PM (#5811901) Homepage
    Do they have the bubble wrap handy?
  • It seems like quite a few groups have gotten to the "engine test in the desert" phase. Not too many have actually flown something around. Don't think I'll get my hopes up until I see some of that from these guys.
  • From the flash file [spacex.com]:

    "Ethernet Local Area Network connects computers and the vehicle to the ground."

    From this we can ascertain:

    - They're only gonna be able to put stuff into orbit at 2000m altitude [ethermanage.com], since they are using Ethernet media.

    - They would have to simulaneously provide an amphibious vehicle with an attached Ethernet transciever to circle the globe below.

    - The satellites they put into orbit will require propulsion to compensate for the severe friction that would occur at 2000 m altitude.

    - They

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