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Space Earth Transportation Science Technology

On Fourth Launch Attempt, SpaceX Falcon 1 Reaches Orbit 518

Posted by timothy
from the pure-congratulations dept.
xp65 writes with the just-announced success of Elon Musk's SpaceX's long efforts to reach orbit with a privately-developed launching craft: "T+0:08:21 Falcon 1 reached orbital velocity, 5200 m/s Nominal Second stage cut off (SECO) — Falcon 1 has made history as the first privately developed liquid fueled launch vehicle to achieve earth orbit!" dbullard adds "This was a completely new vehicle — it's not using any previously developed hardware. All developed from scratch. No government supplied hardware, Russian engines, or old ICBM motors. My hat's off to the employees of Space X — all 550 of them. (Note — no 'cast of thousands,' just 550). They've got video of the entire launch."
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On Fourth Launch Attempt, SpaceX Falcon 1 Reaches Orbit

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  • Re:Cost (Score:5, Informative)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:02PM (#25188571) Homepage Journal

    To develop? That's proprietary.

    Want to buy a launch? $7.9 million [spacex.com].

  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:05PM (#25188593) Journal

    A few days ago the Washington Post had a pretty interesting discussion/interview with Elon Musk, the CEO/CTO/founder/funder of SpaceX. Some juicy tidbits, which are even more exciting in the context of today's launch success:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2008/09/24/DI2008092402502.html [washingtonpost.com]

    Washington, D.C.: If and when you manage to get all the Falcons and Dragon [wikipedia.org] up and running, what's next? Further incremental improvements on these or something more revolutionary? Also, where do you stand on the value of the various X-prizes (and equivalents)?

    Elon Musk: Still a long way to getting *all* the Falcons and Dragons flying. We need to get F1 to orbit for one thing :) Then F9 [wikipedia.org], F9 with Cargo Dragon, F9 with crew Drago and F9 Heavy. My interest is very much in the direction of Mars, so a Mars lander of some kind might be the next step. ...

    Stillwater, Minn.: Mr. Musk, first of all, I've been following SpaceX via your website since before Flight 1, and I hope to join you all someday (I'm an undergrad ChEg at Notre Dame). Talk about the inherent advantages of your rockets over those designed by Lockheed Martin and Boeing (reusability, smaller size = significantly smaller cost, redundancies on the Falcon 9, etc.)

    Elon Musk: The full answer for why SpaceX is lower cost is too long for this forum and I don't like to give soundbite answers if they are incorrect. The cost of a single use rocket is:

    * Engines
    * Structures
    * Avionics
    * Launch operation
    * Overhead

    We are better on every one at SpaceX vs competitors -- by a factor of two vs most international and four vs domestic. That is before reuse is considered, which could ultimately be a 10X or more additional reduction. ...

    Cocoa Beach, Fla.: Congress mistakenly took the first step towards extending the shuttle program. Anyone in the know is aware that this is impossible given the cost of re-certification. Why then is this being supported at any level. Why isn't Congress saying anything about privatizing our space effort?

    Marc Kaufman: Congress has put up some money for privatizing the space effort, and SpaceX has indeed been the main beneficiary. I think that Congress and NASA are waiting for a successful launch before going more deeply into expanding the privatizing.

    Those initial steps taken by Congress regarding extending the shuttle program are a reflection of just how strongly people feel about the five-year gap, during which there are no current clear alternatives to paying Russia for Soyuz transport. Extending the shuttle could close some of that gap, and could also allow some very expensive and promising equipment--now absent from the rest of the shuttle manifests- to be delivered to the station. One grounded, $1.5 billion piece of equipment in particular has become very controversial because scores of institutioins and national space agencies helped pay for it. ....

    Urbana, Ill.: Right now you have two rockets based on the same first-stage engine (Merlin). To launch Falcon 9 Heavy, you'll need 27 of those engines to fire simultaneously. Do you have any plans to develop a larger engine in the future so that such clustering is not necessary?

    Elon Musk: Yeah, I think there is an argument for a really really big Falcon engine or BFE, as we call it :)

    That would be equal or greater to the thrust of 27 Merlin 1C engines. Would be exciting to see that fire! ...

    Calistoga, Calif.: Elon, Your business plan emphasis low man power as cost savings method, how does NASA documentation requirements impact your man power requirements? In other words, how many of SpaceX staff are on board solely to deal with NASA

  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:12PM (#25188657) Journal

    Nice One! Although the press release says this time around it carried a "payload mass simulator" which I'm guessing means "nothing we're gonna sweat over getting blowed up" - no satellites or

    When I was watching the webcast, Musk kept on joking about a "RatSat" when congratulating his employees after the successful launch. It sounded like they just had a metal cylinder with a drawing of a rat on the side.

    Scotty's ashes or such.

    You probably already know this, but just in case, the previous SpaceX rocket only carried a symbolic portion (1 gram or so) of "Scotty's" ashes. Assuming the family is still interested, they'll probably just try launching again on a future flight.

  • Re:Cost (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kjella (173770) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:14PM (#25188675) Homepage

    Looks like the prices are going to drop big if they manage to do what they intend though, from the same page they plan to go from $7.9M for 420 kg now to $9.1M for 1010 kg in 2010. Still not exactly cheap for my paycheck but I guess lower than the competition.

  • by JonTurner (178845) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:17PM (#25188705) Journal

    SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had a few words for his critics last month: "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 guess he showed them!

  • by Pantero Blanco (792776) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:39PM (#25188887)

    No one is waiting around for these clowns to get their act together finally. Given their pathetically incompetent history the fact that they finally managed to not fuck up once again is certainly due to pure dumb luck.

    Dream on if you think anyone is going to let these nimrods anywhere near something as valuable as the International Space Station.

    Both NASA and its Russian counterpart had several failures, some of which claimed lives. What makes you think these guys are any worse?

  • by vbraga (228124) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:39PM (#25188891) Journal

    considering that no other private space-flight company has ever achieved an orbit in space

    That's not true: Orbital Sciences [orbital.com] been doing this from a long time. SpaceX is the first creating all the stack, from the motors to the launch vehicle. United Launch Alliance [ulalaunch.com] also has Delta and Atlas too.

    Spaceflight is not limited to governmental agencies since a long time.

  • by strack (1051390) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:40PM (#25188913)
    165kg is just the weight of the dummy module to put into orbit you moron. if you took the 5 seconds itd take to go and check the spacex website, youd see it can actually put around 1 tonne into orbit. and thats before any sort of reusuability is taken into account. so next time, think before you open your moron mouth.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:44PM (#25188963)

    Interesting that you mention clustering the engines as being a problem, considering what they went through getting one to work. Their failures were:

    1. Corrosion.
    2. "Slosh" in the second stage.
    3. Stage separation timing.

    Not a single failure can be attributed to the engines, which have performed beautifully. I can only conclude that you are every bit as much an idiot as you appear to be.

    Sleep well.

  • by marco.antonio.costa (937534) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:57PM (#25189061)

    Well, we can point out to the availability of credit practically free of charge from the Federal Reserve since 9/11 - that's a governmental intervention.

    The Community Reinvestment Act that mandated banks extend loans to high risk individuals in 'need' while giving them the ability to repackage those high-risk mortgages and sell them in the market as a consolation prize - that's a governmental intervention.

    Maybe you should stop quoting Joseph Stiglitz's buzzwords and start educating yourself on what actually IS a free market before blabbering nonsense about it.

  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:59PM (#25189081) Journal

    Also, in case other readers aren't sure what I'm referring to:

    http://www.nasa.gov/offices/c3po/home/spacex_9enginefire.html [nasa.gov]

    August 1, 2008 - Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX ) conducted the first nine engine firing of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle at its Texas Test Facility outside McGregor on July 31st. A second firing on August 1st completed a major NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) milestone almost two months early.

    At full power, the nine engines consumed 3,200 lbs of fuel and liquid oxygen per second, and generated almost 850,000 pounds of force - four times the maximum thrust of a 747 aircraft. This marks the first firing of a Falcon 9 first stage with its full complement of nine Merlin 1C engines . Once a near term Merlin 1C fuel pump upgrade is complete, the sea level thrust will increase to 950,000 lbf, making Falcon 9 the most powerful single core vehicle in the United States.

    âoeThis was the most difficult milestone in development of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and it also constitutes a significant achievement in US space vehicle development. Not since the final flight of the Saturn 1B rocket in 1975, has a rocket had the ability to lose any engine or motor and still successfully complete its mission,â said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. âoeMuch like a commercial airliner, our multi-engine design has the potential to provide significantly higher reliability than single engine competitors.â

    âoeWe made a major advancement from the previous five engine test by adding four new Merlin engines at once,â said Tom Mueller, Vice President of Propulsion for SpaceX. âoeAll phases of integration went smoothly and we were elated to see all nine engines working perfectly in concert.â

  • Re:A toast (Score:5, Informative)

    by smoker2 (750216) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @09:15PM (#25189201) Homepage Journal
    Where do you get this crap from ?
    The military didn't invent mechanically propelled vehicles at all. The first steam engine was used for pumping water out of private mines. Richard Trevithic was the inventor IIRC, and James Watt improved the efficiency. The first trains were built privately in order to win competitions. Diesel invented his engine privately, Daimler Benz were a private company. Steam ships were initially merchantmen, and when Brunel invented the screw propeller he had to put on a "tug of war" between a paddle steamer and a screw driven ship, just to convince the navy that it worked.
    Car analogies are bad enough without posting "authoritatively" on such a basic subject that you clearly know nothing about.

    Oh, re: your sig. Actually it indicates a deeper issue with the viewer, quite apart from the fact that any personal association with child porn is a crime (unless you are a child involved).
  • Re:To paraphrase (Score:2, Informative)

    by andy_t_roo (912592) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @09:21PM (#25189251)
    As long as the record was 0kg in orbit (via non-goverment means) getting anything there is a "giant leap" -- sputnik 1 was only 83.6 kg, and there are not many people who wouldn't recognise that that was a significant step.
  • Re:Cost (Score:5, Informative)

    by jelle (14827) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @09:27PM (#25189301) Homepage
    You do know that NASA's satellite launches are almost always done with rockets from outside contractors, don't you? That means that NASA may well (and will) hire SpaceX instead of the current contractor for launch missions, if their capabilities, reliability, and price makes sense.

    For those very rare occasions that NASA uses the space shuttle to launch, the reason for it is usually that none of the available commercial solutions will work (payload size, of launch assist from astronauts, etc). And even then, the space shuttle is serviced and prepped by many contractors...

  • by Insanity Defense (1232008) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @09:29PM (#25189315)

    Number three wasn't stage seperation timing. It was how long the engine would continue to produce thrust. Even as a sceptic I stared slack jawed at the screen when I read this. How the fuck did they let that get through?

    Actually it was separation timing. They had it timed to be after the predicted end of thrust but the prediction and therefore the timing was wrong.

    How did it get through? The extended thrust period was caused due to the difference in air pressure at the altitude at the end of burn and the sealevel (or nearly) that they did the original test burns at. With the lower air pressure more reaction mass was able to bleed through the system, end result longer thrust than predicted.

    To lose 3 consecutive craft before getting the bugs out is regrettable but understandable.

    Failures during development are expected.

  • by veriti (903165) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @09:31PM (#25189331)
    To achieve a full orbit, the velocity must be 7.8 km/s or about 23 Mach. 5200m/s is not enough to stay in orbit. It more like suborbital flight.
  • Re:A toast (Score:5, Informative)

    by dlenmn (145080) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @09:32PM (#25189341) Homepage

    The first mechanically propelled vehicles were military ones, made by governments. Troop trains, steam ships, and so forth. There were very few of them and they were very expensive.

    That's a nice theory, but that doesn't make it true. Look at the history of the development of the steamship, railroad, or car. Most of the early development was by people looking to make a buck or simply to tinker, and development was not payed for by the military (although financing often came from government officials, because being rich often meant having a government position). Of course, that's not to say that the military was never involved, but they often became involved at a later stage once the technology had proved itself to some extent. See:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steamboat#Early_development [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rail_transport#Steam_power_introduced [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_automobile#Eras_of_invention [wikipedia.org]

  • MOD PARENT UP (Score:2, Informative)

    by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @09:42PM (#25189429)
    I was talking out of my ass.
  • YouTube link (Score:3, Informative)

    by bbn (172659) <baldur.norddahl@gmail.com> on Sunday September 28, 2008 @10:07PM (#25189635)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=To-XOPgaGsQ [youtube.com]

    This shows the fourht launch.

    The video on spacex.com is for previous launches. I suppose they are all getting drunk now, instead of updating the website.

  • Re:Cost (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rei (128717) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @10:44PM (#25189857) Homepage

    Rocket launch prices don't scale linearly with payload mass. Launching small payloads is very expensive per unit mass. The Falcon 1 variants are a direct competitor to the Pegasus family, but at 1/3rd the price. *Assuming* they can keep their prices down (or even drop them, such as with reuse). This is always a tricky aspect; often what happens is that issues that came up in development or a market that failed to materialize increase prices. Whether that will happen with SpaceX, only time will tell.

    One thing I find encouraging is, as Musk notes, how much simpler the Falcon is than the Pegasus. The Falcon is a standard two-stage liquid-fuelled rocket designed ground-up for simplicity and bulk production. Pegasus is partially made of hardware borrowed from earlier rocket programs. You're looking at five stages. The first has to be man-rated, since you drop the rocket from a plane. You have to maintain the plane. The first rocket stage is effectively a hypersonic aircraft, complete with flight surfaces. And so forth. So, I think there's a good shot of them staying cheaper than Pegasus, probably by a good margin.

    Also, I just in general like the approach they've taken with the Falcon series; there are a lot of clever design choices. My favorite: the cross between balloon tanks and rigid tanks. Balloon tanks are very light but very flimsy tanks that rely on internal pressure to keep stable. This gives you a better payload fraction but makes them hard to handle on the ground without damaging them; you have to transport them inflated, for example. Rigid tanks are heavier, but easier to handle. The tanks on the Falcon are rigid enough to not have to be transported under pressure, but not to withstand the forces of launch without their internal pressure. It's a "best of both worlds" type situation.

  • Re:Cost (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rei (128717) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @10:50PM (#25189899) Homepage

    Do remember that Musk is also wrapped up in solar power (SolarCity) and electric cars (Tesla Motors).

  • Re:Frickin awesome (Score:3, Informative)

    by jacquesm (154384) <j.ww@com> on Sunday September 28, 2008 @11:49PM (#25190295) Homepage

    correction, not ALL people. Some do, and it's great that they do.

    Examples ?

    Elon Musk gets an honorary mention today (not just for spacex)
    Eckart Wintzen (dutch guy, sadly deceased)
    Dean Kamen (not too sure about him though)
    Nicolette Mak
    Anousheh Ansari

    I'm sure there are many many more.

  • by Walpurgiss (723989) on Monday September 29, 2008 @12:45AM (#25190679)
    I apologize in advance for feeding the troll, but you can't forget Lisa Nowak.
    http://www.metro.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=36260&in_page_id=34
  • Re:Cost (Score:5, Informative)

    by SL Baur (19540) <steve@xemacs.org> on Monday September 29, 2008 @02:12AM (#25191115) Homepage Journal

    These clowns have only managed to get 25 percent of their ships to sub orbit and you are babbling about that being some sort of 'accomplishment'???

    The US, Soviets/Russians, Chinese have similar numbers at a similar stage of development.[1]

    This is a huge advancement. Space just isn't for the elite any more and it is about time! W00t! And hats off to the SpaceX engineers.

    [1] How do American children count down? 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-0 shit. - joke from the 1950's.

  • by rew (6140) <r.e.wolff@BitWizard.nl> on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:10AM (#25191333) Homepage

    Why does the space shuttle orbit earth in about one and a half hour? Because low earth orbit takes you around the earth in about 1.5 hours.

    Orbital speed is over 7000 m/s and 5200 is simply not enough.

  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Monday September 29, 2008 @04:22AM (#25191601) Journal

    Orbital speed is over 7000 m/s and 5200 is simply not enough.

    After the second stage shut off at 5200 m/s they apparently coasted for a while and then tested a restart of the second stage until they got to their final velocity.

  • by peacefinder (469349) * <alan.dewitt@gmLISPail.com minus language> on Monday September 29, 2008 @02:21PM (#25196125) Journal

    The assertion that over-regulation cause the current financial problems is not well supported by the facts. See this rebuttal [prospect.org].

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