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Space

SpaceX's Fourth Launch Attempt RSN 71

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the houston-we-have-a-boredom dept.
jcgam69 writes "SpaceX's Falcon 1 is on the pad in the South Pacific Kwajalein Atoll ready for its fourth launch attempt, according to a blog post over the weekend from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. The countdown is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 23, between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. PDT, though the launch window will extend through Thursday if need be."
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SpaceX's Fourth Launch Attempt RSN

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  • Not Today... (Score:5, Informative)

    by crymeph0 (682581) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @04:04PM (#25127357)

    From an email I received this morning from the SpaceX news mailing list:

    The static fire took place on Saturday [20 Sep 2008, CA time], as expected, and no major issues came up. However, after a detailed analysis of data, we decided to replace a component in the 2nd stage engine LOX supply line. There is a good chance we would be ok flying as is, but we are being extremely cautious.

    This adds a few extra days to the schedule, so the updated launch window estimate is now Sept 28th through Oct 1st [CA time].

    • Saturday, with luck (Score:5, Informative)

      by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @04:23PM (#25127631) Homepage
      Space.com says launch on Saturday [space.com] at the earliest ( Sept. 28 )

      Good luck to them! Space-X has already won the stick-to-it award for persistence-- now let's hope they win the "great-success-after-hard-work" award.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CraftyJack (1031736)
      On the one hand, their whole approach to this endeavor screams failure. They have insisted on relearning the lessons of the past 60 years the hard way. Predictably, they've paid for it. I simply don't think a private corporation can afford the learning curve.
      However, I truly hope they pull it off. I fear that failure by SpaceX would dry up entrepreneurial space efforts in a big way.
      • Re:Not Today... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by lysergic.acid (845423) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @09:44PM (#25130585) Homepage

        well, first off, all of NASA's research and technology should be freely available in the public domain. that would make it much easier for commercial space travel to take off. i mean, why are we funding public research if it's not going to be public?

        i wonder if the patents NASA is auctioning, or has auctioned, off would make SpaceX's task easier. i mean, i don't care if private corporations start taking over space exploration or if space travel is commercialized. it doesn't even matter if private corporations profit from tax-funded research--so long as _everyone_ has access to that research and is allowed to do the same.

        but now it's like if we'd taken all the money used to fund NASA over the past few decades and instead just given it to a handful of private corporations. they alone get to profit from research paid for by the American public and then charge everyone else for access to the technology that our tax dollars already paid for. it's almost like the situation with the telecoms where the infrastructure we paid for is being privately controlled and we're charged extortionate rates to use.

        • The problem is, affordable documentation can never make up for experience. In order for there to be useful transfer between NASA and the general public, there would need to be a boat load of extra documentation written by the entities doing the development. We aren't just talking technical documentation here, or blueprints etc, we are talking proper development documentation - eg 'we tried this but disregarded it because of this, we also tried this and it didn't work because of this'. That would raise th
        • well, first off, all of NASA's research and technology should be freely available in the public domain.

          Uh, NO. I don't want space technology developed with my tax dollars made freely available to the governments of Iran or North Korea (unfriendly governments who are trying to develop / have developed nukes), let alone Cuba or Venezuela for that matter. It's one thing to share it with US companies / individuals who are specifically trying to compete in the private space industry in this country, but this

        • Yes, let's make all that advanced rocket design public information so anyone can build intercontinental ballistic missiles!

          BRILLIANT!

          Hey, Bin Laden come on out we've got free rocket designs! Still got any of those oil millions left to build one?

          Hey Pyongyang, want to make better rockets? Here you go!

          • I would like to add, I think it's equally stupid for NASA to not help commercial ventures like this get a leg up on research, and also to rent all this research to the highest bidder.

            • by Morty (32057)

              NASA's research is available to the public, both in scientific publications and via NASA FOIA [nasa.gov]. NASA is helping SpaceX specifically -- NASA granted them an IDIQ contract worth up to US$1 billion [nasa.gov]. What more did you have in mind?

              [Disclosure: I do IT at NASA as a contractor. However, the above is based on publicly available information. I speak for myself, not for NASA.]

              • Well if all of NASA's research is freely available, then what is it they are proposing to auction off?

                I'm fully aware NASA is helping and encouraging private space flight firms, although I couldn't name any specifics so left it off my comment. But not everything NASA does is freely available. Some of the work they do is classified for national security reasons, and FOIA won't get you those papers. For good reason, although there is an awful lot of dangerous information out there that is easy to get.

                Perhaps

          • so if we hide this info then no one can build ICBMs without our consent? that's a rather ignorant way of trying to promote national security.

            i mean, where do you stop? should we keep nuclear physics from being taught/researched because it can be applied to nuclear weapons? or put a ban on the export of biology/chemistry research because they could aid in the development of bio/chemical weapons?

            • You'd have a hard time building nuclear weapons just from learning the physics of them. I know this because I am a physicist by training with engineering study also, and a life long hacking history. If you're going to outlaw a field it would be engineering you'd want to outlaw.

              However, making easily available the technological knowledge to build ICBMs is like posting a list of user ids and passwords in a public place. While security through obscurity is not solution to security, public advertisement is sure

      • They've tripped over some previously known issues before, yes. However, it's not like large aerospace companies and NASA don't do the same thing all the time as well. And the total money input into SpaceX for the Falcon 1, (cancelled 5), and 9 vehicles so far is less than it would take to finish the paper studies part of any traditional aerospace companies' new launch vehicle.

        Imperfect, yes, but no worse than many others, and much much cheaper.

      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        They have insisted on relearning the lessons of the past 60 years the hard way.

        Actually, it's more that they're starting from scratch, taking advantage of the lessons learned from the past 60 years. When mistakes have occurred, they've fixed the bug and tried again. Nothing that I've seen suggests any problems inherent to what they're doing.

        I simply don't think a private corporation can afford the learning curve.

        What is your reason for this belief?

        • They have insisted on relearning the lessons of the past 60 years the hard way.

          Actually, it's more that they're starting from scratch, taking advantage of the lessons learned from the past 60 years. When mistakes have occurred, they've fixed the bug and tried again. Nothing that I've seen suggests any problems inherent to what they're doing.

          To be fair, learning by doing really is the best way to learn, and as long as they are learning from each of their failures, they're doing good. If they can survive the bad PR, they're gaining experience that should, in the long run, be very very valuable.

          If you're not free to fail, you're not free to learn. It's the learning the lessons and keeping on after failure that's hard, but they seem to be able to do that, so I'd say, good job; keep it up.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GooberToo (74388)

        To be fair, this is not their failing. That type of experience simply doesn't exist much any more. This is a fact which has constantly repeated it self over time.

        Lacking experience is the constant component which simply disappears. This can be observed in many technical areas.

        o Military contractors are constantly relearning lessons well known since WWII and Korea.

        o It now takes 20%-40% longer to build aircraft which have changed little since the 60s. This is believed to be directly attributable to both the

  • by onkelonkel (560274) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @04:05PM (#25127381)
    Listen, lad. I built this kingdom up from nothing. When I started here, all there was was swamp. Other kings said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show 'em. It sank into the swamp. So, I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So, I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp, but the fourth one... stayed up! And that's what you're gonna get, lad: the strongest castle in these islands.
    • Listen, lad. I built this kingdom up from nothing. When I started here, all there was was swamp. Other kings said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show 'em. It sank into the swamp. So, I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So, I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp, but the fourth one... stayed up! And that's what you're gonna get, lad: the strongest castle in these islands.

      Good reference there. I was thinking more along the lines of an ancient rap....

      We like the rockets, the rockets that go boom! We're Tina and Buffy and we like tha boom.

  • I'm all for learning from my mistakes, but how much do these things cost to build and launch? You have to admire the dedication though - sinking that kind of money from your own pocket into something like this takes some guts. If he pulls it off, he might have something.
    • by doug (926)
      Aren't they underwritten by the US Gov't? I seem to remember that NASA or DOD was shoveling them money. Considering the number of failures, I just hope that it isn't a cost-plus scheme like so many federal projects. I'm not saying that no private money is going into this, just that the sting of failure is lessened by public largess.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by crowtc (633533)
        I did some research and I guess these things cost like 10M each. Musk supposedly dumped 100M of his own money into the company, but they've apparently got contracts with NASA and the DOD to toss stuff into space. I'm guessing they're not exactly strapped for cash - this may be a throw-away rocket to them.
        • They sell launches for $7.9 million each, or $9.1 million for the extended version. I'm sure they cost less than that to build. Price quoted down at the bottom of this page: http://www.spacex.com/falcon1.php [spacex.com]

          Prices include insurance and launch range fees, so no hidden costs.

          They're not precisely throwaway, either, since the stages are designed to be recovered, refurbished, and relaunched.

          • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

            by Martin Blank (154261)

            They're not precisely throwaway, either, since the stages are designed to be recovered, refurbished, and relaunched.

            Does the price include the cost of the Super Glue needed after the last three attempts? :)

            (It's a joke. Really it is. I want these guys to succeed, and I've watched two of the three launch attempts.)

      • Somewhat (Score:3, Informative)

        by WindBourne (631190)
        They did pay for the first 2. The last one and this one are on Spacex's dime. As to the # of failures, EVERY group that has started with rockets has a number of failures up front. Once they have their first couple of successes, then it tends to be with new versions (though the shuttle says otherwise).
    • by Hatta (162192)

      sinking that kind of money from your own pocket into something like this takes some guts.

      If you have that kind of money to throw around, what else are you going to do with it? Losing 100 million isn't going to affect his standard of living at all, so essentially there is no risk on his part. Money is like RAM, if it's not used, it's wasted.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FleaPlus (6935)

      I'm all for learning from my mistakes, but how much do these things cost to build and launch

      SpaceX charges $6.7 million for them. They apparently make a profit at that price, so the actual costs are presumably somewhat less than that.

      It should be noted though that in general the per-launch costs (fuel, materials, etc.) tend to be quite low compared to the costs of paying the salaries of people in the company. One of the reasons SpaceX's prices are so low compared to the competition is because they designed from the get-go to minimize the number of people required to build and launch their rockets.

      • by zmollusc (763634)

        I think the number of people required to build and launch rockets(or indeed perform any function) is always affordable, it is the layers of management ( with its associated support staff, offices, expense accounts, travel etc ) that cost money.

  • it is delayed a week (Score:3, Informative)

    by Danny Rathjens (8471) <slashdot2&rathjens,org> on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @04:10PM (#25127455)

    The static fire took place on Saturday [20 Sep 2008, CA time], as expected, and no major issues came up. However, after a detailed analysis of data, we decided to replace a component in the 2nd stage engine LOX supply line. There is a good chance we would be ok flying as is, but we are being extremely cautious. This adds a few extra days to the schedule, so the updated launch window estimate is now Sept 28th through Oct 1st

    http://www.spacex.com/updates.php

    • by Kamokazi (1080091)

      week=7
      28-23=5
      5=7
      ???

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Danny Rathjens (8471)

        launch window=oct 1 - sep 28= 4 days
        oct 1 - sep 23 = 9 days
        28 - 23 = 5 days
        (9+5)/2 = 7 days. :)

        Just messing around, though. Obviously if I meant exactly 7 days I would have said 7 days rather than a week. There is an implied margin of error when you use larger units. :)

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by dullnev (999335)

        week=7
        28-23=5
        5=7
        ???

        week=7
        28-23=5
        5=7
        Profit!!!

        (fixed it for ya)

  • They should use a trebuchet. Can't be any worse than what they've tried already,
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @04:17PM (#25127545)

    So do all those very combustible looking trees fold over at launch like those ones in Thunderbirds?

  • "What goes up, better doggone stay up!"
  • Just a suggestion.
    "As it turned out, a very small increase in the time between commanding main engine shutdown and stage separation would have been enough to save the mission."

    If the residual thrust was the problem I would think that an accelerometer would act as a good safeguard. Heck I would thing that the INS could provide this input.

    • by Nit Picker (9292)

      Is the use of an accelerometer to control second stage separation the norm? (I am neither a rocket scientist nor a rocket engineer, but I would like to know.)

      Also, are ullage motors normally used for stage separation engine starts, or are they reserved for engines starts after a longer weightless perion?

      • by bucky0 (229117)

        I would think accelerometers aren't used. Another point of failure and all.

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          Well the INS has an accelerometer and if it fails then you are in a world of hurt. I would assume that they are redundant.
          What I would suggest would be something like this.
          waitX secs
          check accelerometer.
          If still getting thrust wait a bit more.
          If wait time is getting too long stage anyway and hope for the best.
          There has to be an optimum time to stage and a last chance time to stage.
          But it is just an idea.

      • Ullage is used for stage separation too. The Saturn V had big'uns. The motors didn't separate the stages, they provided a little acceleration to settle the fuel at the back (bottom) of the tank before the stage ignition.

        You see them on each stage here.
        http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b2/Saturn_v_schematic.jpg [wikimedia.org]

        • by Nit Picker (9292)

          Ullage is used for stage separation too. The Saturn V had big'uns. The motors didn't separate the stages, they provided a little acceleration to settle the fuel at the back (bottom) of the tank before the stage ignition.

          You see them on each stage here.
          http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b2/Saturn_v_schematic.jpg [wikimedia.org]

          So is the lack of an ullage motor on the Falcon 1 second stage likely to cause problems?

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            The second stage fires relatively soon after the first stage is done burning, so there's little time for propellants to move forward in the tanks. The Saturn had a relatively longer gap between first and second stage burnouts so ullage motors were included. The later Saturns actually removed the ullage motors from the second stage, since that one lit off just under 5 seconds after the first stage burned out.

  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @04:43PM (#25127857) Journal

    Not relevant to TFA, but to the /. crowd:

    Unix/Linux admin and software engineer positions open at the L.A. facility. https://spacex.com/careers.php [spacex.com]

    The subject line is a ripoff of a ST:TNG episode. I'm not with SpaceX. I'm still trying.

  • They could use a few cues from Cid circa FFVII [wikipedia.org] and avoid potential catastrophe by rechecking the oxygen tanks BEFORE initiating the launch sequence, lest they have another rocket [lordyuanshu.com] sitting in the middle of nowhere due to a lack of funding.
  • RSN? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    What does that mean? It's not defined in the summary or the article and google returns crap for "define:rsn" and "spacex rsn".

    If it's "Real Soon Now" as acronymfinder suggests, then the summary writer and editor both suck.

    • Re:RSN? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @06:11PM (#25129005) Homepage

      If it's "Real Soon Now" as acronymfinder suggests, then the summary writer and editor both suck.

      Naw, it actually stands for "Retarded Spinning Narwhal", a complicated and beautiful acrobatic maneuver that some rocket ships can perform just as they leave the atmosphere. "Narwhal" as a comparison to the long and pointy nature of the ship and a reference to the animal's aquatic dexterity, "Spinning" which describes what the move consists of, and "Retarded" for both the crazy-looking pattern of multi-axis rotation and a jibe at the people who'd risk their lives and a multi-million space craft doing such a dangerous trick just to show off.

      I have to say I'm pretty surprised that SpaceX would attempt a RSN on what they hope to be their first successful launch. Most firms and more so pilots would like to make sure the ship will make it to space and back safely a few times before trying it. On the other hand, a well-executed RSN is one hell of a way to announce their success, a giant space-born banner reading "We're here, we're in space, get used to it!"

      The more you know! [wordpress.com]

    • by fdrebin (846000)

      What does that mean?

      It means "soon" but in a nonspecific way. As in "we're working on it, honest". Or "Johnny, take out the trash! ...OK, mom, Real Soon Now".
      Could also be used sarcastically.
      A little like Duke Nukem Forever, but not nearly so much so.

      To my knowledge, initially coined and/or made popular by Jerry Pournelle back in the days of Byte magazine. He'd use the term in reference to someone saying they were working on fixing or releasing something.

      /F

  • Minor point, but at approximately 8 deg 43 min N, 167 deg 44 min E would Kwajalein not be in the Northern Pacific or at least Central Pacific?
  • So they're the ones who've been creating all those forum spam accounts!

  • What is this, an Issac Asimov novel?

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