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SpaceX Launch Failure Due To Timing Problem 244

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the ironically-he's-an-atheist dept.
FleaPlus writes "Private orbital spaceflight company SpaceX recently announced that last weekend's Falcon 1 rocket launch failure was caused by a collision between the first and second stage of their rocket. This was due to a timing problem, when their brand-new engine design produced residual thrust for 1.5 seconds longer than expected; they're currently working to fix the problem and launch again, perhaps as early as next month. In a recent interview with Wired, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk remarked on their efforts: "Optimism, pessimism, f-ck that; we're going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work.""
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SpaceX Launch Failure Due To Timing Problem

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  • ooohhhh (Score:5, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:39AM (#24508529)
    Silly me. And here I was thinking it was due to a crashing problem...
  • Hell-bent (Score:5, Funny)

    by adpsimpson (956630) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:40AM (#24508531)

    As God is my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work.

    Something tells me that perhaps he doesn't genuinely, really believe that God is his witness... :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rodney dill (631059)
      ...and Mr. Carlson thought turkeys could fly.
    • Re:Hell-bent (Score:4, Insightful)

      by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday August 07, 2008 @08:19AM (#24508873)
      On a side note, nothing says "We're a serious business venture" quite like a CEO who rants and uses phrases like "fuck that" in interviews. Perhaps the rocket stages aren't the only thing that can't hold back when it counts.
      • Re:Hell-bent (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Chris Pimlott (16212) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @08:42AM (#24509165)

        This isn't your average widget company. People don't invest in companies like SpaceX just because of the profit potential, they do it because they desperately and fervently want to see us get our bald monkey asses off this rock. Having a CEO that unabashedly shares this passion is heartening to investors like those. If anything, I expect this "outburst" will help SpaceX more than harm them.

        • People don't invest in companies like SpaceX just because of the profit potential, they do it because they desperately and fervently want to see us get our bald monkey asses off this rock. Having a CEO that unabashedly shares this passion is heartening to investors like those.

          The problem being that the sets 'folks who share that passion' and 'folks who have significant money to invest' have essentially zero overlap. Serious investors invest to make a profit, not to scratch some philosophical itch. Those

          • Re:Hell-bent (Score:5, Informative)

            by Rei (128717) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @10:41AM (#24510817) Homepage

            The problem being that the sets 'folks who share that passion' and 'folks who have significant money to invest' have essentially zero overlap.

            There's pretty much a whole class of dotcom-wealthy geeks in Silicon Valley who are a living contradiction to that statement. Let me tell you, for the most part, it's not movie stars who are plopping $100k down for Tesla Roadsters.

            Investments as far out on the bell curve as SpaceX have always had a hard time finding capital.

            SpaceX's third failure in a row just occurred and they just got a brand new influx of investment capital.

      • by jcnnghm (538570)

        Take a look at this guy, http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/126/a-mighty-wind.html [fastcompany.com]. In a single interview Pickens manages to call Clinton dishonest and John Kerry a "fucking liar", and he doesn't have any problems finding investors.

        Some people are more interested in what you do than what you say, and would prefer to deal with someone that says what they mean. It's kind of like corporate social responsibility, it's a great feel good measure but when it comes down to it, it's a bad investment. Catering to

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by WindBourne (631190)
        Hmmm. I am guessing that you do not know too many CEOs of medium companies, let along major companies. Most have little scruples and cuss like a sailor or dick cheney.
  • Did it have the mortal remains of any famous actors onboard?
    • It's what they use as propulsion material.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by dontPanik (1296779)

      Did it have the mortal remains of any famous actors onboard?

      From TFA

      the ashes of 208 people, including astronaut Gordon Cooper and James Doohan, the actor who played Scotty in the original Star Trek television show

  • Wow (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:44AM (#24508563)

    Optimism, pessimism, f-ck that; we're going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work

    Now that sounds like a man who gets things done.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Or a man who can drive your company in to the ground faster than a failed Falcon 1.
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

        by oliderid (710055) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @09:03AM (#24509433) Journal
        if you invest into spaceX Obviously:
        • You are aware of the risk
        • You don't expect any return on investment in a short/medium term...Or better you don't expect anykind of return at all.
        • You know it will waste large sum of money.
        • You are looking for fun.

        What you need are fanatics investing all their energy in the project and leading the team. Like him. And then it could be a success IMHO. Cold blood/rationnal manager would have left this project already.

        • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Rei (128717) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @10:51AM (#24510951) Homepage

          Its not that there's not the potential for big returns. Quite to the contrary, if they actually get the bugs ironed out and hit their price target, they're going to make an utter mint. The problem is the risk. The private rocketry landscape is littered with the graves of equally ambitious companies. What makes SpaceX interesting is how much capital they have behind them and how far along they are. They actually stand a chance of pulling it off, and I think that's what makes them so interesting. But it's still a very risky investment, because rocketry is a very tough business in comparison to other investments people might throw their money into.

        • While I agree that a certain amount of enthusiasm is necessary for a grand undertaking such as this, it is entirely too easy for a manager to be too enthusiastic, ignoring or minimizing serious issues for the sake of maintaining forward progress.

          James R. Chiles, in his book Inviting Disaster spends an entire chapter ("Doubtless") on this. He shows time and again how overconfident managers willingly blinded themselves to serious flaws in their programs, and were then surprised when those same flaws came to

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
      Actually, it sounds like a man who is altogether too comfortable with profanity and who cares little for the problems faced by his team. Would you like to work for such a man?

      Hint: when he says "I'm hell-bent on making it work", he actually means "I will not be doing any of the actual work myself, but I'm hell-bent on pushing my workers". Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by kipman725 (1248126)
        yeah but he uses the profanity so well, why can't all press releases be like this.
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by e2d2 (115622) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @08:21AM (#24508895)

        And what the fuck is wrong with profanity?

        They are trying to shoot people into space for God's sake and that takes passion. This sometimes manifests itself in profanity.

        Personally I like this attitude much more than the life-less suit who can't relate to the passionate. I prefer Larry Ellison's "I'm gonna kick the fucking door down and take that shit!" to Bill Gates "well, we better see if we can sneak in the back and steal everything". It's much more honest. Both have the same goal, but one isn't delusional about it.

        • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 07, 2008 @09:57AM (#24510229)

          They are trying to shoot people into space for God's sake and that takes passion. This sometimes manifests itself in profanity.

          Personally I like this attitude much more than the life-less suit who can't relate to the passionate. I prefer Larry Ellison's "I'm gonna kick the fucking door down and take that shit!" to Bill Gates "well, we better see if we can sneak in the back and steal everything". It's much more honest. Both have the same goal, but one isn't delusional about it.

          Hell, I'll even settle for Gates' "sneak in the back and steal everything". Even that would be honest.

          But back to the matter at hand. I'll take a "Fuck that. We're going to make it work" in a press release any day, over the mealy-mouthed "We have faith that our current challenge can be overcome" corporatespeak that currently plagues press releases.

          The second stage didn't encounter a challenge, it encountered the first stage, and then blew the fuck up. That's not a surmountable challenge, or even an issue, it's a fixable bug or solvable problem.

          If people said what they meant, and meant what they said, there'd be a lot less failure in the business world.

          Management needs someone who can do for businesspeak what Edward Tufte did for the visual presentation of information. It's not just the PowerPoint that kills astronauts, it's the use of phrases like "the stresses imposed by the frozen deposit upon the RCC were in excess of design parameters" as opposed to "Are you fucking nuts? We never tested for that shit, so none of us has any fucking clue how bad the damage is until someone gets the fuck out there and actually looks at it!" (Challenger), and "The performance of the O-ring under this thermal profile is not guaranteed, but is likely to be adequate" over "Well, I'd bet $50 that nobody dies this time, but I sure as fuck wouldn't want to be flying on it. If you really wanna get the teacher in space in time for the State of the Union speech, it's your call, boss. Don't fuckin' blame me if you kill 7 people." (Columbia).

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by PeterBrett (780946)

            Management needs someone who can do for businesspeak what Edward Tufte did for the visual presentation of information. It's not just the PowerPoint that kills astronauts, it's the use of phrases like "the stresses imposed by the frozen deposit upon the RCC were in excess of design parameters" as opposed to "Are you fucking nuts? We never tested for that shit, so none of us has any fucking clue how bad the damage is until someone gets the fuck out there and actually looks at it!" (Challenger), and "The performance of the O-ring under this thermal profile is not guaranteed, but is likely to be adequate" over "Well, I'd bet $50 that nobody dies this time, but I sure as fuck wouldn't want to be flying on it. If you really wanna get the teacher in space in time for the State of the Union speech, it's your call, boss. Don't fuckin' blame me if you kill 7 people." (Columbia).

            You got those shuttles wrong way round. Just sayin'.

      • It's called passion. (Score:3, Informative)

        by JonTurner (178845)

        General Patton would have disagreed. He understood the problems faced by his "team" and inspired them to overcome incredible odds. Sometimes a little profanity can be inspiring, if not used gratuitously.

        >>Would you like to work for such a man?
        Yes, actually I would. Because that sort of man, and the people who work for him, are going to do great things! That's real passion, which is sadly lacking from most corporations. He's not just your average CEO coasting toward a golden parachute and a retirement

    • Optimism, pessimism, f-ck that; we're going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work

      Now that sounds like a man who gets things done.

      He sounds like the lovechild of D. D. Harriman [wikipedia.org] and Henry Rollins.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by deshkanna (730038)

      This was the thing I liked the most in the article...

      Wired.com: Your whole mantra is "cheaper and more reliable." But so far you're zero for three, which is anything but cheap and reliable, and guys like GlobalSecurity.org's John Pike say the reason it has taken billions of dollars and tens of thousands of people to successfully launch rockets is physics, not some new design or economic model.

      Musk: Guys like John Pike have existed since the dawn of time, and if you listen to people like that then things wil

  • by Alzheimers (467217) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:45AM (#24508569)

    Personally, I blame Newton.

  • Literature (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671)

    "Optimism, pessimism, f-ck that; we're going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work."

    Wow, it's like listening to Ahab rant about getting Moby-Dick. Hopefully this will have a better outcome.

  • by SanderDJ (1004445)
    "produced residual thrust for 1.5 seconds longer than expected" Cut back on the Viagra next time?
  • "Optimism, pessimism, f-ck that; we're going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work." I can't find a reference to that quote in the wired article or on google.
  • by jacquesm (154384) <j @ w w .com> on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:53AM (#24508653) Homepage

    And I fully expect them to be a major player in the future of commercial space travel.

    They've done some absolutely amazing things in the last couple of years on a budget that makes all the governments combined look pretty silly. They remind me of Reid Malenfant and his outfit (only a bit more realistic), and I don't think any issues that crop up during this test stage are going to slow them down for long.

    Maybe the 21st century will see some serious space exploration after all, instead of all those 'feel good' missions. $/kg to orbit is the only significant number for the next two decades or so, once there is enough construction capability up there to start hauling stuff inbound it should get interesting indeed.

    • by samkass (174571) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @08:04AM (#24508753) Homepage Journal

      While I share your enthusiasm, maybe we should wait until they have at least one successful launch before holding them up as the template for success and the future of space flight. So far they're just a really, really expensive fireworks company.

      • by jacquesm (154384) <j @ w w .com> on Thursday August 07, 2008 @08:13AM (#24508807) Homepage

        In spaceflight you're on a very long trajectory (pun intended) where lots of stuff has to be tested, alone and in combination. The only way to be 100% sure that everything works is to do an all-or-nothing launch, which due to its very nature is a public event. Trouble is to be expected when you combine that large a number of components. ALL space programs have had their failures, there is absolutely no reason to expect commercial space flight to be an exception.

        What you can expect is a slow decrease of these failures as more and more of the failure modes of the equipment are revealing themselves under different circumstances. This is even true for regular commercial aircraft today, and it is one of the major reasons for accident investigations.

        SpaceX has just had a mishap that would have been hard to test for on the pad (I'm not knowledgeable enough in the field to comment on the exact differences between testing on the pad and a launch, but I suspect there are still numerous differences, caused by atmospheric pressure, the effects of acceleration etc). This failure, when dealt with is not going to cause another launch to go bad, the real question is how many more such issues are lurking under the grass. It would be nice to know if this failure would have been preventable, 1.5 seconds doesn't sound like much but during the critical period of separation it's like an eternity.

        • by sabre86 (730704)

          SpaceX has just had a mishap that would have been hard to test for on the pad (I'm not knowledgeable enough in the field to comment on the exact differences between testing on the pad and a launch, but I suspect there are still numerous differences, caused by atmospheric pressure, the effects of acceleration etc)

          My understanding from the article is that the regeneratively cooled [wikipedia.org] version of the Merlin takes longer to shutdown than the ablatively cooled one, because there's a longer path for the fuel to follow after it leaves the tank. All rocket engines have a shutdown "tail" where the thrust drops off over time, so you can't presume that engine is no longer generating thrust instantly after you shut off the fuel flow. They didn't model the tail to be long enough because the pressure in the chamber during the unanti

      • Not quite the pessimistic attitude you are showing here.

        SpaceX is building real hardware and "getting it up there". I would call that a bit better than a typical fireworks company.

        Besides, the problem with this last launch was more of things bumping into each other when they shouldn't have. It is also a situation where they made several changes to their rocket and were testing them all out at the same time. While the $10 million or so that it costs for them to send up a Falcon 1 rocket is expensive enough to not want to do repeated testing, it does make it more complicated to call something like this an "operational flight" when not all components have been tested in actual flight conditions.

        If they can get another rocket shipped to Kwajalein and launched in less than a month, that will speak far more about SpaceX's capabilities than can possibly be said about snarky remarks like being a fireworks company.

        They are certainly a whole lot closer to bringing down the cost of rocketry than companies like Rocketplane Kistler who haven't even really launched any hardware or even tested it in things like wind tunnels or a launch stand.

        All this said, SpaceX does need to deliver something to orbit real soon. It looks like the Malasyian government is getting quite nervous about being the next customer to send something up, given the track record for SpaceX to put things into orbit. They simply must get this next launch if they are to keep some of their customers.

    • by drooling-dog (189103) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @08:32AM (#24509025)

      They've done some absolutely amazing things in the last couple of years on a budget that makes all the governments combined look pretty silly.

      I, for one, don't mind not coming back alive as long as the tickets are cheap...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by damburger (981828)

      To be blunt, a serious outfit would know how long their damn engine burns for.

      The reason they've done everything on such a small budget is because they cut through the red tape that holds government agencies back. Unfortunately, some of that red tape was obviously important for quality control.

      In any case, they aren't doing that well at reducing cost - Falcon 9 for instance is 5 million dollars per flight more expensive than Proton (albeit it with a slightly bigger capacity) and Proton has the longest and b

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jacquesm (154384)

        I'm sure all your multi-stage rocket designs flew picture perfect the first time out :)

        there is a reason why soviet tech is cheap, it's old and it's development has been paid for in the past (no comment on how it was paid for).

        So, any new development will be 'more costly' at face than old tech, but over time those costs should come down significantly. What is more surprising is that the difference between the old tech and the new one is as small as it is.

        • by damburger (981828) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @09:29AM (#24509839)

          My first multi-stage was a lawn dart (coincidentally, it failed to stage too, but I damn well knew how long the first stage would burn for. It said so on the engine packet...) my second one flew perfectly. Sure, Musks are bigger but he has a lot more money than me.

          The launch market won't care for novelty though - 20 tonne satellites are Serious Business and people sending them up are likely to be quite cautious about embracing a potty-mouthed newcomer in favour of the old Russian stalwart. If nobody is buying his launcher how can he bring the price down?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chris Burke (6130)

        To be blunt, a serious outfit would know how long their damn engine burns for.

        Yeah, maybe. Maybe not. Everything you would call a serious outfit had many more failures than Space X has had so far.

        Yes they need to pull it together. Yes they need a successful launch or it will call into question their whole business plan.

        No having three failures, and miscalculating an engine parameter, does not prove they aren't a serious outfit. Because no serious outfit has entirely avoided these mistakes.

        So, for all Mu

  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:57AM (#24508677)

    "Would you consider that a launch problem or a design problem?"

    - Chris Knight

    • "Falcon 1? Wow! Isn't that the rocket that's raining debris all over Europe?"

      -Chris Knight, slightly modified

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by xalorous (883991)

      :)

      Real Genius shows us the kind of ingenuity that this country has all but lost. It's all about first to market, business plans and IPO's now.

      Anyway, Elon Musk and Richard Branson remind me of D. D. Harriman in R. A. Heinlein's Future History short stories, especially, "The Man Who Sold the Moon."

  • by Stoutlimb (143245) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:59AM (#24508705)

    If NASA had that attitude, we never would have had a decade of stagnation after the first Shuttle accident. We'd have a moon colony by now. The problem is that the people at top too often see these kind of events as a signal to stop, where it really should be a sign that they're almost there. Remember when the Delta rocket flew and then fell over and burst into flames because of failed landing gear? LANDING GEAR! Something trivial to engineer (compared to the rest), and the project is shelved because of that failure. They should have kept going.

    Argh. Enough of my ranting, you people get the idea. I just wish the pointy haired bosses did.

    • Risk. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BitterOldGUy (1330491) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @08:14AM (#24508813)

      If NASA had that attitude, we never would have had a decade of stagnation after the first Shuttle accident. We'd have a moon colony by now. The problem is that the people at top too often see these kind of events as a signal to stop, where it really should be a sign that they're almost there. Remember when the Delta rocket flew and then fell over and burst into flames because of failed landing gear? LANDING GEAR! Something trivial to engineer (compared to the rest), and the project is shelved because of that failure. They should have kept going.

      Argh. Enough of my ranting, you people get the idea. I just wish the pointy haired bosses did.

      if Musk et al. has an accident where someone dies, I bet the FAA and others will be introducing some delays in his schedule. And I'm sure they'll some public outcry that he's flying over people and putting them in jeopardy - whether or not it's true.

      We've lost our sense of adventure, the acceptance of risk and, well, we've become a society that's so bent on being safe that we're afraid to take any warranted risks: we've become a society of pansies.

    • If NASA had that attitude, we never would have had a decade of stagnation after the first Shuttle accident

      NASA made the error of designing the shuttle in a top-down manner, which is a clear design procedure mistake. According to their engineering estimates the shuttle has about 1:100 chance of failure per flight, which means a high-profile shuttle disaster every few decades or so. The public and politicians are not willing to put up with that and NASA has no options to fix this, given that redesigning the

    • by g0dsp33d (849253)
      If NASA had that attitude we'd probably have thousands of blown rocket husks laying about the island of Florida's thousand of craters.

      Considering where NASA had to start from, I think their management style has worked best to get us where we are now. Which style will lead us best forward remains to be seen.
      • by roystgnr (4015)

        If NASA had that attitude we'd probably have thousands of blown rocket husks laying about the island of Florida's thousand of craters.

        Well, the government's first orbital rockets did tally up eight Vanguard husks [wikipedia.org] from eleven launches. I'm very glad we did have Elon Musk's attitude back then, because "never say die" appears to be a big part of how we got to the Moon in the next decade from such inauspicious beginnings. I hope we still have the same attitude now, because it's going to be necessary if we're

    • by Forbman (794277)

      Delta Clipper/DC-X, you mean?

    • by Guysmiley777 (880063) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @09:22AM (#24509715)
      It was the Delta Clipper or DC-X. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DC-XA [wikipedia.org]

      I remember seeing video of one of the test flights and being absolutely pole-axed. "It just fucking took off vertically, hovered cross-range and LANDED again!?!"

      Apparently it wasn't really the crash that ended the program, it had already had funding pulled before that flight. Still, it was a very Buck Rogers kind of vehicle.
    • by baffled (1034554)

      ..too often see these kind of events as a signal to stop, where it really should be a sign that they're almost there.

      If anything, it's a sign something went wrong. Though it's not actually a sign at all - it's a consequence.

      But I share your enthusiasm. And really, we need to simply step back and ask what we're willing to sacrifice before replacing the engineering team, or killing the project. And sticking to those standards.

    • If NASA had that attitude, Congress would drag them in for testimony and then cut their funding. Don't forget that Musk is playing with private funds, while NASA is not.
  • by Hozza (1073224) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @08:05AM (#24508757)

    I hate to say this, but the CEO has an attitude problem.

    He needs to do some reading up on the reviews of NASA after the two shuttle disasters. In both cases overconfidence, and management overruling/ignoring the views of engineers were found to be major factors.

    If he keeps running "hell-bent" towards his goal he's never going to reach it.

    • by Splab (574204)

      So because he backs up his team of engineers, who says they should have nailed the problem you put him up with pointy haired bosses who overrules their engineers?

      Having a boss that is hell bent on making a goal is nice, especially when he understands the risks involved and doesn't go flag someone up the posts for getting it wrong.

      I think YOU have an attitude problem.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by apathy maybe (922212)

      Fuck off?

      Honestly, what attitude problem are you talking about?

      Swearing is never a problem and never indicates anything except that the person swears.

      Being "hell-bent" doesn't mean that he is going to overrule or ignore the engineers. Heck, with that attitude it would make sense to listen to the engineers. Because they are the actual ones who are going to have to do the work.

      So yeah, the only "attitude problem" I can see is the same that any CEO has, "my workers will do X". What army gave them the right to

      • by Splab (574204) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @08:27AM (#24508947)

        Also the GP clearly haven't read the interview.

        The guy is smart, he listen to his engineers - in fact he refuses to elaborate on the problem until they are absolutely sure its what caused it. He might come off as someone a bit eager to get his product flying (and staying airborne), but comparing him to the fucktards that killed people in NASA launches where they where advised against it is just not right.

        From the interview:
        Musk: Patience is a virtue, and I'm learning patience. It's a tough lesson.

      • Being "hell-bent" doesn't mean that he is going to overrule or ignore the engineers. Heck, with that attitude it would make sense to listen to the engineers. Because they are the actual ones who are going to have to do the work.

        Well, NASA was "hell-bent" on getting a launch in on a cold day in January. That didn't turn out so well.
    • by timster (32400)

      Nonsense, this is not a manned program. He needs to read up on early rocket development, like the launch history of the V2 which failed over and over again, as a reminder that this stuff is hard and error is part of the process.

  • "I'm hell-bent on making it work." Then he will succeed, because as everyone knows the Road to Hell is paved with good inventions!

  • Space flights have often lead to mid-air explosions, even with successful, well-known launchers.

    Although i hope theses companies will succeed (for the progress of science), I wonder if it is really ready for commercial flights. The first flight which ends up with the death of a customer will scare away all potential customers and stop investment for 10 years...
    • >> The first flight which ends up with the death of a customer will scare away all potential customers and stop investment for 10 years... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_notable_accidents_and_incidents_on_commercial_aircraft

      • by delt0r (999393)
        Yet NASA stops dead in its tracks for years if the shuttle goes boom. And how would they have handeled the PR issues if one of the moon walkers dropped dead on national TV.

        The data indicates that even one death in a US based space program is a disaster of enormous proportions requireing a complete halt on all maned operations.

        Imagine if we did that with car crashes?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ksempac (934247)
        Good objection, but airlines are a little different from space travel for several reasons :
        - First, even though there have been a lot of airlines accidents, the numbers are pretty low compared to the number of flights per day. Notice also that the first accident was on 1922, 8 years after the first commercial flight. I think that space travel has a much higher accident/flight ratio. (I admit i don't have numbers to prove it : Wikipedia says that about 4% of people who went to space died inflight, but that
        • by tirerim (1108567)

          Space travel does have a very high accident rate. It's not the early launches, either: the actual numbers are 18 deaths out of 430 people who have been to space (though many of those people have gone multiple times); 14 of those are accounted for by the two Space Shuttle disasters. The Shuttle in particular has a failure rate of 1.6%, 2 out of 123 launches.

          But that's still not a reason to prevent commercial spaceflights. People do dangerous things all the time, and as long as they understand the risks,

  • by segedunum (883035) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @08:38AM (#24509133)

    Optimism, pessimism, f-ck that; we're going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work.

    I take it he's also going to kick Bishop Brennan up the arse as well for good measure?

  • I haven't RTFA, but are these things timed individually?

    Call me crazy, but shouldn't each part be communicating with the other parts so that they can synchronize?

    • Re:Timing? WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

      by X0563511 (793323) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @08:48AM (#24509245) Homepage Journal

      Bottom stage detached, continued burning. Less mass against the thrust, it accelerated and pushed on the top stage (but not perfectly centered as it would when still attached).

      I'm sure they do communicate, but after detaching that's gone.

      Basically the thruster(s) dieseled - continued running for a moment after fuel/whatever was cut.

      • by Yvan256 (722131)

        If the bottom stage detached shouldn't the stage above it be already ignited and doing its own thrust, hence pushing the bottom stage out of the way at the same time?

        I'm not a rocket surgeon, though.

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          Me either. I think perhaps the detached stage being right-up-in-your-business with the next stage may have interfered with it's thrust, but not being a rocket scientist I think I'm reaching far past my understandings.

        • So close... (Score:5, Informative)

          by ClayJar (126217) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @11:37AM (#24511577) Homepage

          Actually, that's basically what happened. The Kestrel engine on the second stage ignited, and the exhaust from it pushed the first stage away. The problem is that the second stage is designed to have the exhaust expanding into the vacuum of space, and having the first stage right there meant that the exhaust was contained within (or perhaps I should say, was redirected by) the interstage. Normally, the first stage and second stage are pneumatically pushed apart just before the second stage fires.

          The exhaust was only in contact with the second stage for a very short period of time, but that was sufficient to "roast" the second stage enough to cause failure, either due to direct thermal effects or the forces created by the expanding exhaust (or to a combination of those factors).

          By the way, the nozzle of the Kestrel engine is radiatively cooled. Before the sloshing doomed flight two, it was cool (figuratively only!) to see the bell glowing brightly. Some people watching with me thought it was failing until I explained that it's supposed to look like that. ;)

    • Re:Timing? WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 07, 2008 @09:28AM (#24509797)

      I AM a Rocket Scientist.

      Traditionally, no, they wouldn't be timed individually. That's kind of a silly thing if you asked me.

      Typically you should wait until the first stage stop accelerating the rocket before dropping it. A sensor typically detects that condition and initiates seperation. To be safe, it may wait a beat or two before taking action to make sure the booster isn't just "chuffing". Or the sensor could have just been faulty, initiating seperation too soon.

      If the booster begins accelerating again (as in blows up) or gives a last burst of unexpected glory, that's just bad design or manufacturing issue. If it's a solid-fuel booster, that could happen from time to time, but if the motor is liquid fueled it should just cut off fuel and be done with it.

      Now, you could put the stages on their own timers, but there are risks. Usually the problem is a failed booster, and the timer on the upper stage fires with the rocket pointing the wrong way.

    • by Pontiac (135778)

      Call me Crazy but shouldn't they have done a test run on a new engine design before launching a commercial payload? Maybe you get a big discount for sending your payload on the untested rockets.

    • New Engine (Score:3, Informative)

      by iamlucky13 (795185)
      Yes, the events are synchronized. Main engine cut-off occurs 1.5 seconds before the stage separation pyros fire.

      When engine cut-off occurs, valves close to shut off fuel from the pumps. However, there is still fuel left in the lines that finishes burning resulting in a little residual thrust. In their previous test flight, this finished within that 1.5 seconds. However, this launch used a new engine design.

      The previous engine design was ablatively cooled. This means the engine nozzle is kept from melt
  • "Optimism, pessimism, f-ck that; we're going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work." Wow, I admire his grit.
  • Incredible resolve (Score:3, Insightful)

    by caywen (942955) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @10:52AM (#24510963)
    I think it shows the kind of incredible resolve it takes to do rocket science. I think it's the same resolve the Apollo program had, and I think it's infectious. It's one thing to be balls to the wall but have no demonstrative ability to execute, but remember that Flight 2 actually did make it up there. And that NASA and the US Government have enough confidence in their ability to give them major contracts. For those invoking the Ahab thing, I just don't see that. 5-1 odds they nail it in Flight 4.
  • ...is blaspheme, if I wanted my rocket to lift off successfully.

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