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Space Businesses

SpaceX Gets Operational License For Cape Canaveral 133

Posted by kdawson
from the throwing-big-stones dept.
FiggyOO writes "For those of you who witnessed the launch of SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket, launch 3, you will be glad to hear that SpaceX has received a license to launch from space complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the Florida coast. This Launch complex is just south of launch pads 39A and 39B which have been used to launch the space shuttles, and will continue in that role for a few more years. This launch complex will enable SpaceX to launch the much-anticipated Falcon 9 rocket, which will eventually carry the Dragon capsule. In doing so, SpaceX hopes to fill the void between the end of the shuttle program and the coming of the Constellation. They have already begun moving into the launch complex, including moving a 125,000 gallon liquid oxygen tank on the back of a semi." We've been following Elon Musk's SpaceX for years.
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SpaceX Gets Operational License For Cape Canaveral

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  • Great (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:33PM (#24950301) Homepage Journal

    I hope that I can get to see them launch a successful flight.
    In nothing else it should be a lot cheaper than to launch from Florida than the middle of the Pacific.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Maybe, but there are good reasons for trying to launch at the lower latitudes. The amount of fuel needed to get into orbit is lower meaning that you can launch heavier payloads. Fuel is cheap, but the payloads are what make you money.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by DerekLyons (302214)

        Maybe, but there are good reasons for trying to launch at the lower latitudes. The amount of fuel needed to get into orbit is lower meaning that you can launch heavier payloads.

        That's only true if you are launching from a lower latitude site into a low inclination orbit. The higher your orbital inclination, the less gain you get from latitude regardless of your latitude.

  • Let me just be the first to say OH, THAT LOOKS SAFE! Seriously, I hope he doesn't have to take a corner. And also I hope they drained it first lol.
    • by oldspewey (1303305) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:48PM (#24950543)

      I like how he has a sign on the front bumper that says "oversize load" ... but it is utterly dwarfed by the oversize load he is carrying.

      That one goes in the archives of the department of redundancy department archives right next to "intense blazing fireball" and "Danger! Complete absence of light!"

      • by LoRdTAW (99712)

        It does seem redundant. But the law states that once you go over dimension you need that sign. Most likely he is doing only 3-5 MPH (5-8 km/h). Even if he is running on a private road the trucking company probably leaves the sign on that tractor.

    • What are they going to use to FILL that thing? A huge convoy of tanker trucks? Does it sit by a rail spur? Or are they going to colocate a liquefaction plant?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by lgw (121541)

        LOX isn't that hard to make. I'm sure they make it on site. I really hope no one is crazy enough to try to transport LOX! It's just about the most dangerous chemical that we make in industrial quantities.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          You haven't been paying close attention on the highway. It gets shipped all over the place in semi tankers, a few thousand gallons at a time.

          It may not be "hard" to make, but it costs a lot of energy, and a fair amount of capital investment. The hospital here goes through quite a lot of it, but it's still cheaper to buy it than to make it.

          • by lgw (121541)

            I'm curious: why would a hospital need LOX? Bunches of compressed O2 in tanks, sure, but LOX? Is it just an easier way to handle compressed O2?

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by wronskyMan (676763)
              Yep, not sure about the exact ratio for O2 but LN2 expands about 700x going liquid-gas. Much easier to store large quantities of gas cryogenically (also no swapping out cylinders all the time).
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              More or less. Ours has a pair of really big (but not 125K gallon) LOX storage tanks (along with tanks for liquid nitrogen and, believe it or not, liquid nitrous oxide). Oxygen cylinders are large, bulky, heavy, and of limited capacity. Instead, the hospital sets up a big tank outside, along with a big set of heat exchangers, and pipes the gas throughout the complex.

              There's also an emergency oxygen hookup station where they can connect directly to a LOX tanker if something happens to both their storage in

        • Re:holy damn! (Score:5, Informative)

          by kf6auf (719514) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @07:19PM (#24955163)
          You are correct, but looking at the replies, this thread seems to be in serious need of some information about liquid oxygen.
          Liquid oxygen is (not surprisingly) a very powerful oxidizer and many things will combust in its presence due to the fact that the increase in density overcomes the cold temperature.
          Making liquid oxygen is very easy due to the fact that the boiling point of oxygen is a couple of degrees higher than the boiling point of nitrogen: get pressurized oxygen in a closed system and cool it down with liquid nitrogen until it liquefies. Congratulations, you're done.
          • Re:holy damn! (Score:4, Interesting)

            by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @10:00PM (#24956633)

            Making liquid oxygen is very easy due to the fact that the boiling point of oxygen is a couple of degrees higher than the boiling point of nitrogen: get pressurized oxygen in a closed system and cool it down with liquid nitrogen until it liquefies. Congratulations, you're done.

            Yes, congratulations. Now, for the record, where did you get the pressurized oxygen? You probably bought it from Air Products, BOC, or the like. How did they get it? By fractionating liquid air.

            You can make liquid oxygen by cooling air with liquid nitrogen. In fact, if you just let LN2 sit out in an open-mouth dewar, O2 will preferentially condense into it, and it will gradually "turn into" LOX. But first it has to condense out the water vapor from the air, which generates a lot of heat, which evaporates a lot of LN2. Then it has to condense out the CO2, not that that's terribly significant. To collect a little bit of LOX, you end up boiling off an awful lot of LN2.

            It works out a lot better to filter air, then cool it enough to condense out the water, then maybe cool it enough to condense out the CO2, then filter it again, then cool it enough to condense it, then run it through a big, well-insulated fractionating column to separate the nitrogen (near the top), oxygen (near the bottom) and argon (nearer the bottom). When you start with thoroughly clean and dry air, the process can get pretty efficient. But to get good efficiency, you need a BIG installation, and that costs big bucks. It works out a lot cheaper to let BOC or AP build the facility, and then buy their products.

    • And I love the guy just sitting on the far edge of the bottom of the tank. In my company you get fired for such unsafe behavior :D! I also note he isn't wearing his seatbelt!

      • by Teancum (67324)

        A high resolution version of the image shows that the worker on the bottom of the tank was secured with a safety harness... in essence a seat belt.

        What he is doing there, on the other hand, I can't say. I highly doubt that the tank was moving all that rapidly, and may have been in the range of about 5 mph or so. There are legitimate reasons for having workers move about to watch all sorts of issues that may happen when moving something that large, and what he is doing may in fact be OSHA compliant in term

  • Yay. I might actually have a good reason to go back 'home' (as my dad puts it). Wanna see this kind of stuff in persn.

  • Awesome! (Score:4, Funny)

    by OverlordQ (264228) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:36PM (#24950369) Journal

    Is this so that when it explodes again everybody gets to watch?

    I keed, I keed.

    • by bughunter (10093)

      All the recent failures have been during the separation of the 1st stage from the 2nd stage.

      So if you like, we can strap you to the top of the first stage so you can get a really good look. ;)

  • ...I've ever seen. They didn't even bother to antialias the selection around the legs.
  • ... a construction worker hanging on to the right side of that tank? The resolutions a little too small to tell for sure, but it sure looks to me like some guy wearing one of those orange vests & a hard hat to me.

    Hope he doesn't throw off the balance of that thing. It'd suck to cause it to roll off the truck. (Kidding!)

    • by fredrated (639554)

      Windows picture and fax viewer allows you to zoom, and yes it is a worker riding on an extension on the side. My guess is the placement on the truck wasn't exactly dead center, and the worker is compensating with his weight.

      • by PitaBred (632671)

        Why not look at the high-res version [businesswire.com] and see that there are at least 3 people riding on it? His weight won't change anything. He's certainly there to monitor the move, to make sure it doesn't shift or something.

  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:44PM (#24950483)
    If we must spend public money on a new multipurpose rocket (Ares) system to carry future payloads and capsules then why not fund the SpaceX guys, who at least have had some modicum of success thus far and are well on the way to building a reliable and quality launch vehicle, instead of pouring billions of dollars down the drain to build the Ares design which appears, due to political considerations, to be well on the road to suffering the same design setbacks (and the attendant expensive engineering efforts required to correct them) that beguiled the Shuttle program for many years. If NASA really wants to get the most bang for their buck in the space program then they ought to hire some economist(s) to help evaluate their spending and check claims of "this will save money" when in fact it will not. Projects like the Space Shuttle were interesting from an engineering standpoint but one of the main goals, save money with a re-usable vehicle and launch components, turned out to be a dud (and economists might have been able to tell them that by studying the launch industry and giving their advice before NASA just went ahead with the design).
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 54mc (897170)

      If NASA really wants to get the most bang for their buck in the space program then they ought to hire some economist(s) to help evaluate their spending and check claims of "this will save money" when in fact it will not.

      When has any US government agency ever tried to save money or get bang-for-the-buck?

      • by Amouth (879122)

        i bet the nuke weapons design got the best bang-for-the-buck.. but then again... they did such a large bang that it didn't matter the number of bucks

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Cecil (37810)

          I think you might also be underestimating the number of bucks spent on that particular endeavor.

    • by JayAitch (1277640)
      they ought to hire some economist(s)
      Yes I'm sure there is a shortage of bean counters in their organization.
    • by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @02:03PM (#24950701)

      Let's imagine you're working on some kind of open source project, like a program which draws really cool pictures of bumble bees. And for some reason, a giant government agency decides that bumble bee pictures are critical to their success. They drop $10 million on your lap to make your bumble bee picture drawing program into exactly what they need.

      Six months later, your program is somehow no further along than it was. Every working hour has been tied up doing paperwork, reports, meetings. Your work area is aswarm with government suits, each one with a different list of things to be checked off. You begin to wonder if your bumble bee program will ever make any more forward progress.

      Now why, exactly, would you wish this fate upon a company you appear to like?

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What disturbs me is the notion that NASA does not know how to launch rockets (or ULA or Orbital Sciences Corporation) and that a man who knows nothing about rockets (Elon) is somehow smarter than the thousands that support the space program. To criticize NASA, who is responsible for one-of-a-kind missions that do not fail and cannot fail is laughable when you are referring to a startup garage-shop company that has ping-pong tables 10 feet from flight hardware. I support them FULLY. However, they are trading

        • It's not really a question of intelligence so much as motivation and organization.

          NASA's goal is not to launch things into space. Their goal is to obtain greater funding and employ people. Launching things into space is just a technique for doing that. Lately they seem to have discovered that merely preparing to launch things into space works nearly as well for accomplishing their goals, so they don't have to actually launch very much.

          SpaceX's goal is, of course, to make money. It's a lot harder to make mon

          • It's not really a question of intelligence so much as motivation and organization.

            NASA's goal is not to launch things into space. Their goal is to obtain greater funding and employ people. Launching things into space is just a technique for doing that. Lately they seem to have discovered that merely preparing to launch things into space works nearly as well for accomplishing their goals, so they don't have to actually launch very much.

            SpaceX's goal is, of course, to make money. It's a lot harder to make money without putting things into space, so they have a lot of motivation to do so.

            And yet, NASA routinely does launch things into space, and with a success rate high enough that when a mission doesn't succeed, it's headline news. While Space-X routinely doesn't launch things into space, with a success rate so low that when they fail, it barely makes page 8 of the paper. Why is that?

            NASA is not organized very well. They require an enormous amount of people to accomplish very little in the way of results. This is because they are management-heavy and suffer from a lot of micromanagement from their bosses in government.

            Well, in the way of "acomplishing very little," right now NASA has five missions operating on or in orbit around Mars, a mission in orbit around Saturn; spacecraft currently on the way to Mercury, Pluto, the

    • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @02:04PM (#24950717) Homepage

      If we must spend public money on a new multipurpose rocket (Ares) system to carry future payloads and capsules then why not fund the SpaceX guys

      They are.

      ...Projects like the Space Shuttle were interesting from an engineering standpoint but one of the main goals, save money with a re-usable vehicle and launch components, turned out to be a dud (and economists might have been able to tell them that by studying the launch industry and giving their advice before NASA just went ahead with the design).

      At the time the space shuttle program was started (January 5, 1972) economists could not study the "launch industry" because the launch industry, as we know it, did not exist.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CodeBuster (516420)

        At the time the space shuttle program was started (January 5, 1972) economists could not study the "launch industry" because the launch industry, as we know it, did not exist.

        That is a good and valid point, but now that we can study what went wrong with the Shuttle and what we did well, there is really no excuse to make the same kinds of mistakes and mistaken assumptions with the Ares or any other subsequent launch program. We should learn the lessons, what to do and what NOT to do, that the Shuttle program has to teach instead of repeating the same steps and expecting different results.

        • by Abcd1234 (188840)

          We should learn the lessons, what to do and what NOT to do, that the Shuttle program has to teach instead of repeating the same steps and expecting different results.

          So, I can only assume you have evidence or references to suggest that this isn't precisely what NASA has done?

          • The wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] on the Shuttle solid rocket boosters discusses the proposed re-use of Shuttle components (segmented solid rockets with O-rings in this case) in the Ares program. The article itself has references to external sources where this re-use is discussed. The NASA press release [nasa.gov] also mentions the re-use:

            "This vehicle will be carried into space by Ares I, which uses a single five-segment solid rocket booster, a derivative of the space shuttle's solid rocket booster, for the first stage."

            While it

            • by Abcd1234 (188840)

              While it just my opinion, a proposal to re-use substantial parts from the Shuttle program exactly or almost exactly the same as their current configuration does not strike me as "learning the lessons"

              Umm, why? Are you saying there's something wrong with the shuttle booster system? I mean, yes, there are problems with the shuttle itself. It's wickedly expensive to maintain, it's tiles are a problem, the insulation on the external tanks is a problem, etc, etc. But since when has the booster system been an

              • by CodeBuster (516420) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @05:33PM (#24953939)

                Because, in the absence of such complaints, reusing the shuttle booster system is incredibly *smart*

                It might seem that way at first glance, but remember that the parts of the shuttle were designed to work together when put together as the shuttle. For example, excess vibrations from the solid rocket boosters were negligible when attached to the large mass of the main fuel tank and the orbiter, but they become a problem when one attempts to perch a lighter vehicle in a top-heavy configuration on top of a single SRB. The shuttle designers never intended the SRB to be used in this way so they didn't add anything to the SRB to null out the excess vibrations, probably because they didn't need to in the context of the shuttle launch assembly. Now, there are proposals to add heavy counterweights or shock absorbers to the SRB to make it suitable for an Ares-1 launch as covered in a previous Slashdot article [slashdot.org]. I too once thought that this was not a big deal, but reading the threads in that article changed my mind.

                While it is difficult to be certain in advance I feel that Ares program funding could have been better spent adapting either the Delta [wikipedia.org] built by Boeing or the Falcon [wikipedia.org] being built by Space-X to manned spaceflight standards rather than attempting to adapt shuttle SRBs. This has been done before when NASA adapted the Titan-II [wikipedia.org] ICBM to carry astronauts during the Gemini program, but with just minor improvements (they used the Titan-II design basically intact from the ICBM profile) to improve safety and make it suitable for manned launches. The shuttle SRB, from the recent reports, seems to be less suitable to start out with and requires more extensive modifications to adapt it to the proposed new role in Ares-1.

                As far as I know there have never been manned rockets which employ solid boosters exclusively for the first stage (making the Ares a more radical design then either the Delta or Falcon rockets). In fact the shuttle was the first manned space launch vehicle anywhere to use solid rockets during the launch phase for primary thrust (not counting capsule escape systems used by the Russians on Soyuz or the Americans on Apollo). Solid rockets are powerful and accelerate quickly, but they vibrate and generate very high G forces (from the accelerations involved) whereas liquid fueled rockets produce a smoother acceleration and power curve and can be throttled up or down (much more suitable when soft and squishy humans are riding atop them instead of warheads). The SRBs were appropriate on the Shuttle because of the huge liftoff masses and the need for extra power to get the whole thing moving from a stationary start (the proverbial kick in the pants) but they seem to be less so on the Ares-1.

                • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @05:48PM (#24954119) Homepage

                  It might seem that way at first glance, but remember that the parts of the shuttle were designed to work together when put together as the shuttle. For example, excess vibrations from the solid rocket boosters were negligible when attached to the large mass of the main fuel tank and the orbiter, but they become a problem when one attempts to perch a lighter vehicle in a top-heavy configuration on top of a single SRB.

                  Yeah, but that's a newly discovered fact. The shuttle program couldn't have taught them that. So your complaint that they haven't "learned their lessons" isn't supported by this particular issue. Had they known, a prior, that this was going to be a problem thanks to experience with the shuttle, then yes, absolutely I would agree with you, but since they didn't know that in advance, making use of the SRBs made perfect sense at the time the decision was made.

                  So, do you have any other evidence that they haven't learned their lessons from the shuttle program?

                  The SRBs were appropriate on the Shuttle because of the huge liftoff masses and the need for extra power to get the whole thing moving from a stationary start (the proverbial kick in the pants) but they seem to be less so on the Ares-1.

                  On the Ares-1, perhaps. But the final goal, for which Ares-1 is only the first step, is a much larger launch vehicle with a much greater mass, in which case the SRBs may very well be a logical choice.

                  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:32PM (#24954619)

                    Let me summarize my thoughts before I respond:

                    Question: Is it possible to adapt the shuttle components to new vehicles as proposed by the Aries program?

                    Answer: Maybe

                    Question: Is it better or cheaper to adapt the shuttle components instead of starting with fresh or adapting another existing platform (Delta or Falcon for example) which more closely fits the Ares launch profiles?

                    Answer: Probably neither better nor, due to likely unforeseen needs for additional modifications as problems crop up, cheaper. The primary shuttle components were very specialized to the shuttle design so I don't think that the shock absorbers on the SRB will be the last of the kludges required to radically modify their mission profiles.

                    The shuttle program couldn't have taught them that.

                    They should have known from general solid rocket experience what the well known disadvantages of solid boosters are (i.e. vibrations due to imperfectly molded grains of fuel, high acceleration and force but little control over either...once you light it then it goes all out, etc) before going down that road with Ares. The shuttle designers almost certainly knew about the disadvantages of SRB, but they probably also knew that the disadvantages wouldn't come as much into play because the enormous mass of the shuttle would make a few more relatively minor (compared to the large mass of the shuttle) vibrations moot AND they needed the advantages (high thrust right away) because of the large shuttle mass. In short, the shuttle engineers almost certainly knew that flying the SRB as the first stage in a vehicle besides the shuttle probably wouldn't work (if you had been able to ask them back when they designed the shuttle), but they didn't care because they knew that it would work in the special circumstances of the shuttle (they were designing parts for the shuttle not for re-use in other vehicles decades later).

                    So, do you have any other evidence that they haven't learned their lessons from the shuttle program?

                    I am not a shuttle engineer, so I only know what they report in the press and on NASA or JPL public information websites. I strongly suspect that the answer to that question may be "yes" (or more precisely the engineers have learned the lessons, but are being asked by management to re-use the shuttle parts as much as possible for political reasons...it saves money (which is debatable) and it preserves jobs at existing shuttle parts assembly plants), but I cannot prove that of course. I believe that it would be better to make a clean break with the Shuttle, but I know that not everyone else feels that way.

                    But the final goal, for which Ares-1 is only the first step, is a much larger launch vehicle with a much greater mass, in which case the SRBs may very well be a logical choice.

                    Yes, but without the Ares-1, which is intended to launch the crew vehicles for Orion (among other things), the larger Ares is not much use (i.e. the Ares program is really a package deal, both versions have to work and work well for the program to be successful).

                    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

                      Answer: Probably neither better nor, due to likely unforeseen needs for additional modifications as problems crop up, cheaper.

                      It seems you prefer to ignore the sheer amount of manpower and expense that goes into designing and implementing a completely new booster package. With the SRBs, NASA has, what, 20, 30 years of experience launching and refurbishing them? Not to mention the 20 or 30 years of experience ATK has in building and testing them? Oh, and the entire manufacturing and testing infrastructure

                • by David Gould (4938)

                  Because, in the absence of such complaints, reusing the shuttle booster system is incredibly *smart*

                  It might seem that way at first glance, but remember that the parts of the shuttle were designed to work together when put together as the shuttle. For example, excess vibrations from the solid rocket boosters [...]

                  There's also the whole O-ring issue, but I guess that can be solved by operating the thing within its design parameters. (Amazing how many engineering issues that can be said of).

                  What I've been wondering (not a rocket scientist) is, what additional complications/issues might be introduced by changing from 4 segments to 5? Seems if we wanted to really get the maximum design re-use, we should use exactly the same SRB. If the 4-segment SSRB doesn't have the lift capacity we need, we could use two of them and h

                  • We're already used to using two of them in tandem, and it occurs to me that the connector struts would be an easy place to add vibration-dampening bits. 'Zat make any sense?

                    Maybe, but exposed struts and shock absorbers don't sound very aerodynamic and what about the heavy lift version of the proposed Ares (the one that incorporates the shuttle main fuel tank)? Each modification brings more questions which require further modifications and so on...

                  • There's also the whole O-ring issue, but I guess that can be solved by operating the thing within its design parameters.

                    And it was solved, and solved twenty years ago-- there's been well over a hundred flights (with two SRBS per flight) since then.

                    (Amazing how many engineering issues that can be said of).
                    What I've been wondering (not a rocket scientist) is, what additional complications/issues might be introduced by changing from 4 segments to 5?

                    Higher thrust. Longer resonating chamber.

                    Seems if we wanted to really get the maximum design re-use, we should use exactly the same SRB.

                    This is the essential conundrum of real-world engineering. Yes, it's true, if you never change anything you will indeed be running systems that are well understood... unfortunately, you won't get anything any better, either.

                    If the 4-segment SSRB doesn't have the lift capacity we need,

                    You got it.

                    we could use two of them and have that much more payload capacity.

                    Two answers here: cost and complexity.

                    Despite all the analysis slashdot engineers are doing, if everythin

                    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

                      There are a lot of ways that a system that's cheap in principle can become expensive in practice

                      Now *that* is a lesson I suspect NASA learned from the Shuttle program. :)

              • by ckaminski (82854)
                January 28, 1986 to be exact. A little thing called "Challenger."

                To be fair, it HAS been 22+ years since one caused a major problem.

                May I direct you to www.directlauncher.com which has some specific complains about the Ares program.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Teancum (67324)

          There are so many lessons to learn about the Shuttle that I don't know where to begin. One of the problems with a study of the Shuttle and what went wrong is that due to the plethora of mistakes in setting up that launch system, I am afraid that the wrong lessons are being learned.

          Among them is a complete and irrational fear of re-usable manned launch vehicles for Earth to LEO spaceflight. While there may be some problems with the implementation of this idea in the Shuttle, this is IMHO one of the things

          • Among them is a complete and irrational fear of re-usable manned launch vehicles for Earth to LEO spaceflight.

            The point of re-usability is cost savings (and the Space Shuttle was sold to the public on that basis). Does it really matter if parts are not re-usable if overall the launches are cheaper? People tend to naturally equate re-usability with cost effectiveness, as if it was a given, and I think that the Space Shuttle very clearly demonstrated that re-usable is not necessarily cheaper. There is something to be said for the sturdiness and robustness of Soyuz (even if it was achieved through trial and error with

            • by Teancum (67324)

              Since you have given a detailed rebuttal, I want to start out by saying that I think we are roughly on the same page here.

              As far as reusable vehicles are concerned, I think that takes a little bit of research and a whole lot of effort to make a genuinely reusable vehicle. Unfortunately, the Space Shuttle was just part way there and really didn't get the job done. The refurbishing that takes place between typical Shuttle flights is so drastic that it almost is a whole new vehicle when it goes up again. Al

              • I consider a 747 to be almost as technically complicated as the Shuttle, and surprisingly has similar energy requirements if you consider a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney (something that routinely does happen with 747s nearly ever day). rom the current group of spaceflight engineers at NASA.

                A quick calculation will tell you that a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles takes about one quarter of the energy (per kilogram) as getting to orbit.

                But that's a little unfair, of course-- in flying from Sydney to LA, you can use atmospheric oxygen, while getting to orbit requires you carry all the oxygen needed to burn your fuel onboard.

                Getting to orbit takes about fifty percent more energy than flying around the world unrefuelled... To my knowledge, only two aircraft have ever done that, and when you com

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TorKlingberg (599697)
      Is there any reason to believe SpaceX would do a better job than NASA? Other than OMG PRIVATE IS BETTER!!!!11 that is.

      So far they have made a very small rocket that hasn't been able to reach orbit yet. I'm sure they will, and it's great that there is private interest in space flight. However, you can't just dump money dump a big load of cash on a small company and see moon rockets start flowing out.

      It's not like NASA builds everything inhouse anyway. Most of the hardware are built by private companies
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Nyeerrmm (940927)

        While I agree that dumping money beyond the scope of COTS on SpaceX isn't going to make the situation better, I'll explain what I see as wrong with Ares.

        Ares is not what it was supposed to be. It was to be a shuttle derived system capable of returning man to the moon at a reduced cost by using already existing infrastructure. Unfortunately, shuttle-derived seemed to be mostly ignored except enough to keep congress happy, by making it look its cobbled together from shuttle parts. However, they have change

        • by Teancum (67324)

          What is staring at all of these engineering efforts real hard is the ghost of Von Braun and the rocket engineers of Huntsville that built the Saturn V.

          Essentially these engineers are being asked: "if we could do this with 1960's technology, why can't it be done today?"

          What should have been done with the Ares rocket system is a clean-sheet design from the bottom up, using lessons learned from all of the previous spacecraft including the Saturn V and the Shuttle. Instead, they have this backward monster bas

          • by Nyeerrmm (940927)
            So basically all the detriments of working off of an existing design, while it seems almost deliberately avoiding any advantage that can be gained by it. Of course, given that it's NASA, at the congressional level, the two goals are to keep/create jobs in certain districts and to maintain national prestige, both of which entail making the most "high-tech" (read complicated) system possible. Efficiency was never really in the equation.
    • then why not fund the SpaceX guys, who at least have had some modicum of success thus far and are well on the way to building a reliable and quality launch vehicle

      Wait, is this the same SpaceX that has flopped on every one of their attempted launches?

      • They are just working out the kinks. The Russians did the exact same thing with their Soyuz program (with real people who met some unfortunate ends while the bugs were worked out) but now they have one of the most reliable launch programs in the world. SpaceX will get there while the Ares is still vibrating itself to pieces in virtual launch simulations.
    • by iamlucky13 (795185) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @06:11PM (#24954411)
      Don't get me wrong, I have great hopes for SpaceX with COTS and commercial opportunities and am quite impressed with their efforts and plans, but you're defining a modicum of success as three failed launches of a rocket that's just barely big enough to get one astronaut in a spacesuit into orbit (but not back again), and then ranking that history above an organization that has conducted 145 successful manned missions involving over 850 crewmen, and plus I don't know how many unmanned missions.

      Ares is not perfect. There is a lot of fair criticism that has been directed at the system. At the same time, however, it is better suited to NASA's plans than the Shuttle, which despite itself being often and fairly (and just as often unfairly) criticized has launched more people into space than every other manned system in the world combined. However, the shuttle was a jack of all trades (in LEO that is) and a master of none.

      I apologize for that digression. Back to why Ares (or perhaps Direct, but that's unlikely due to politics and differing capabilities) is what NASA wants for it's current plans. NASA has a stated and congressionally-supported goal to create a transportation system capable of returning to the moon and, if desired, going onward to Mars.

      SpaceX is very much an unproven operator. NASA is not willing to bank the success of Constellation on that when they have the know-how, technology, and foundational infrastructure to succeed with near certainty. This is not saying NASA isn't interested in SpaceX or that SpaceX isn't cheaper. They very much are, which is why NASA contracted them for under COTS. That alone is almost completely maxing out SpaceX's resources at the present moment. I doubt even Musk himself thinks they could realistically create a system equivalent to Ares 1/Orion by 2015. Yes, SpaceX could potentially save money, but they have a much greater risk of failing, in which case all the money spent on them is wasted. Some would argue that they just need the appropriate resources to succeed. That is delusional. At best, throwing money blindly at them would just lead to another Boeing, Lockheed, or ATK. They would probably succeed, but be no better than what we have currently.

      To be clear, the Falcon 9 is not capable of lifting the Orion capsule and the Dragon does not have the operational capabilities to replace the Orion. Orion has more delta-V, more life support capability, more interior volume, higher fault-tolerance, a much higher re-entry capability, and the ability to dock itself with the ISS as well as reside there for extended durations as a lifeboat.

      It can be pointed out that the Falcon 9 Heavy has about the same lift capability as the Ares 1. This is true, but it's a further development from an unproven rocket whereas the Ares will use shuttle-derived technology and benefit from NASA's technical experience. Furthermore, Ares 1 will develop many of the components used by the Ares V, which is a rocket nothing in SpaceX's current or proposed plans can come close to, and a key to NASA's plans to returning to the moon.

      Of course, others also criticise the whole goal of going to the moon in the first place, but that's another discussion. Suffice to say, the nation is fed up with stagnation in space.

      By the way, NASA has economists, accountants, etc. That wasn't why we ended up with the shuttle we have. Besides, economics is an arguably less precise endeavor than engineering.
  • Very Major Tom to ground control. My kind of video. Beat it Michael Jackson.
    Summary should be tagged Major Nerd Alert:
    SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket, launch 3, space complex 40 (SLC-40), Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, space shuttles, Falcon 9 rocket, Dragon capsule, launch complex, a 125,000 gallon liquid oxygen tank on the back of a semi.
    All that's missing is the Myth Busters.

  • by Spencerian (465343) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:47PM (#24950525) Homepage Journal

    There's a lot of good to this.

    One: NASA uses public property to allow private commerce, encouraging it in fact. (I remember they were quite impressed with SpaceShipOne.)

    Two: NASA keeps private rocketry from injuring themselves or others by using an wide, secure area intended for rocket flight

    Three: The location is a tourist area, giving the business an opportunity to gain needed funds from spectators.

    Robert Goddard hardly had any of this and was still working out the whole liquid-rocket thing as well. Good luck, guys. And no smoking by the LOX tank.

    • by zappepcs (820751)

      Indeed! Better than that is the fact that a nod from NASA has to be the clincher in some fund raising deals. Florida is a good place to launch from for obvious reasons, I'm glad they will get to use the facilities there... saving quite a bit of money in the process.

      Perhaps this is also a nod toward a corporate stratum that might well avoid the problems that have plagued the NASA program for over a decade? Sort of like in the movies when the good cops turn the other way and let vigilantes do the work that th

      • by Teancum (67324)

        One thing missing from the grandparent list:

        Florida is set up to deal with civilian flights. They are used to tourists, publicity, and showing off to the world, unlike SpaceX's previous launch site at Vandenberg AFB in California. Military restrictions on being able to visit the base, perform tests, and crazy launch windows that kept getting SpaceX bumped when they tried to set up a schedule all force SpaceX to move somewhere else.... which is why they move to the middle of the Pacific for the Falcon 1 la

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Danny Rathjens (8471)
      The operational license they received was from the United States Air Force, actually.
    • by goodben (822118)

      This will not be launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, but rather Cape Canaveral Air Force Base. They are adjacent and the Air Force provides some services for NASA, but the pads they are talking about belong to the Air Force.

    • One: NASA uses public property to allow private commerce, encouraging it in fact. (I remember they were quite impressed with SpaceShipOne.)

      Two: NASA keeps private rocketry from injuring themselves or others by using an wide, secure area intended for rocket flight.

      Cape Canaveral belongs to the USAF, not NASA.

      Three: The location is a tourist area, giving the business an opportunity to gain needed funds from spectators.

      Um, how? It's not like you can charge admission to see something vi

  • Beep beep
  • I can't wait private sector upstage hugely inefficient government NASA

  • Boy that Dragon capsule sure is interesting.

    It's gonna be awful tough for NASA to ask Congress to fund the development of a government space capsule for billions of dollars when SpaceX has one for sale a lot cheaper.

    • NASA has already spent billions on the development of Orion. Do you suppose Congress is going to vote to throw all that work away rather than continue development.

      • Ah yes, the fallacy of the sunk cost.

        It amazes me just how bad the government is at finance. They routinely make boneheaded financial moves (saving a dollar today by spending ten dollars tomorrow, etc.) that no individual or family would ever make.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MightyYar (622222)

          Lots of people in the US (everyone?) sign up for inflated cell phone service which subsidizes the initial purchase price of the phone. Hell, I do as well since I can't find a carrier with unsubsidized plans.

          People suck at finance.

          • by Locklin (1074657)

            X is very usefull... If your name is Nixie Nox

            (I like the sig)

            • by MightyYar (622222)

              Heh - I've read that book to my daughter so many times that I have it mostly memorized. I scared some poor mother at the swing set by reciting it.

              But where else are you going to get a mention of the world wide web from Dr. Seuss? :)

          • Given that the cell phone service doesn't get any cheaper if you bring your own phone, getting the provider to subsidize your phone purchase is the smart financial move.

            • by MightyYar (622222)

              A smarter move would be buying the cheapest phone you can find and using an unsubsidized plan. That is not an option because consumers overwhelmingly flocked to carriers that offered "free" (no initial outlay) phones. Gillette did this way before cell phone carriers, and Nintendo used it quite successfully as well. People are really bad at making long-term financial decisions, so the market is full of "no or low up-front cost" products.

      • Do you suppose Congress is going to vote to throw all that work away rather than continue development?

        Why not? Congress did it with the Superconducting Super Collider... [wikipedia.org]

        • by Teancum (67324)

          While I'll admit that the SCSC was a classical example of big science, this is indeed one of the best examples of partisan politics in America and why long-term planning is nearly dead for anybody in the U.S. Federal Government. If it can't be built in 8 years (while the president who proposed the idea is still in office or nearly so), it won't be built.

          When it was being cancelled back in 1993, I thought then and still think it was a major mistake by Congress, and only time will tell how bad of a decision

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by compro01 (777531)

      Aside from the small fact they are build with completely different purposes in mind. It would be like pitching to the army to replace their tanks with machine-gun-equipped motorcycles.

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      Yes, because Orion and Falcon 9 have the exact same requirements and specifications...

  • ...including moving a 125,000 gallon liquid oxygen tank on the back of a semi.

    You'd be better off rear ending a pinto!

  • X! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @02:53PM (#24951325) Homepage Journal
    SpaceX proudly brings us back to when a nice big capital "X" on the end was the way to go for making words seem edgy, hip, and futuristic. We've well and truly escaped the reign of those posers, the prefix lowercase "e" and his redheaded spawn the little "i".
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by verbamour (1308787)

      Nah, SpaceX is so Baby Boomer (trying to pass as Gen-X). They need to grasp the next younger form.

      Ladies and gentlemen, I present SpaceY.

    • and while I'm at it, am I the only one old enough to parse this as "space don't care"?

  • "Mr. Syndrome, your Omnidroid is here."
  • I've seen my fair share of oversize loads on the road in my years of a truck driver, but that one take the gold crown of them all.
  • by DragonTHC (208439)

    falcon 9 rocket, dragon capsule?

    This article reads more like an episode of thunderbirds are go!

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