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Space Science

Falcon 9 Is Now Fully Integrated At Cape Canaveral 82

Posted by timothy
from the neither-cape-ann-nor-cape-cod dept.
RobGoldsmith writes "SpaceX's Falcon 9 is now fully integrated: an update from Elon Musk states 'Falcon 9 is now fully integrated at the Cape! Today we mated the 5.2 m payload fairing to the Falcon 9 first stage. This was the final step in the integration process — one day ahead of schedule.' New images are now available showing the first fully integrated Falcon 9 Rocket. Once the launch mount and erector are complete, SpaceX will transfer Falcon 9 on to the erector and raise it to vertical early in 2009."
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Falcon 9 Is Now Fully Integrated At Cape Canaveral

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  • by Paladin_Krone (635912) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:14AM (#26297331)
    I thought it was proper to erect first, then integrate?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by davester666 (731373)

      50 years of design and the best shape that rocket scientists can come up with is penis shaped?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      I thought it was proper to erect first, then integrate?

      Well thats how NASA does it anyway.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jarik C-Bol (894741)
      Not really, Russia builds its rockets lying down. At one point, and i've not checked to see if they still use it, there integration building was a mile long. and honestly, its easier that way, as you don't have to lift heavy pieces as high, and then place then with precision. you just lift them a *little* and then place them with precision.
      • Re:Out of order? (Score:4, Informative)

        by MtViewGuy (197597) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:09AM (#26299267)

        The R-7 rocket and its descendants the the Russians developed was designed to be assembled on its side because it was easier to assemble the final rocket that way. The only downside to this method is you need big and heavy rigs to move the rocket to the vertical launch position (if you've seen the launch pads at the Baikanour cosmodrome they have a lot of erecting machinery at the launch pad to move the rocket to the vertical position).

        That's why for the Saturn V rocket, NASA decided to assemble the rocket vertically, but that needed a very large building to do this, hence the very tall Vertical Assembly Building (VAB) not only to accommodate the height of the rocket but the overhead cranes to lift the various rocket components.

    • They can do whatever they Falcon want.
  • Spam (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jurily (900488) <jurily@NETBSDgmail.com minus bsd> on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:15AM (#26297339)

    Once the launch mount and erector are complete, SpaceX will transfer Falcon 9 on to the erector and raise it to vertical early in 2009.

    Sounds like some spam I've been getting.

  • Will Elon Musk, second in reality distortion only to Steve Jobs, be able to convince the new president and congress to cancel Ares I / Orion in favor of Falcon 9 / Dragon, even though it's pretty much guaranteed to wipe out a network of pork barrel projects that ensured NASA's funding built up since the sixties? If so, will we be four launches deep into the campaign with nothing to show for the Falcon 9 / Dragon effort in 2015? If not, will Elon & co shrug and sell endless DragonLab missions to the op

    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:31AM (#26297383) Homepage Journal
      I think there is an opportunity for a small aerospace firm (Scaled?) to build a capsule similar to Gemini, or a small Apollo. Maybe you could sell single use capsules for a million bucks a go, ready to integrate with a Falcon 9.

      I also think it should be possible to build an ultra light capsule to fly on a Falcon 1. The mass budget is about 500kg which should be enough in this day and age.
      • by cmowire (254489) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:54AM (#26297473) Homepage

        Um, SpaceX is also working on their own capsule, called the Dragon, to be launched atop the Falcon 9.

      • It seems like I heard Musk say a couple months ago that they're thinking they might launch Falcon 9 this summer. I think maybe this whole thing about integrating it by the end of the year and putting vertical on the launch pad are all about meeting certain milestones to get money from their NASA contract. I think they've got to take it down and finish getting everything ready before they launch. They may be waiting on NASA to get a payload together. Notice that the web site gives no suggestion about a launc

        • by QuantumG (50515) *

          Why would they be waiting on NASA for a payload? This is the Falcon 9 demonstration flight. It'll be launching a payload simulator, just like the last Falcon 1 flight was. If you look at that exact same page you will see that the NASA demonstration flights are not until the 4th Falcon 9 launch.

          • by mrcaseyj (902945)

            I didn't notice that the NASA COTS launches weren't going to be the first. Maybe I misinterpreted what he said. Maybe he was saying the NASA launches would be in the Summer, not the first launch. Wow I also didn't realize that they're planning five Falcon 9 launches this year along with two Falcon 1 launches! They're ramping up quick!

            I think they should launch some cheap bulk supplies on the test flight instead of a dummy load. Maybe a large quantity of oxygen for the space station or even just some water o

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by QuantumG (50515) *

              I expect they've cut a deal with someone for that ballast. There's lots of people who are willing to "hitch a ride to orbit" no matter how low the odds are of the vehicle making it. Not that I think this launch will fail.. but, ya know, it'll be fun to watch either way :)

              • Actually (Score:4, Interesting)

                by WindBourne (631190) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:28AM (#26299457) Journal
                I am more interested in seeing if they recover this rocket. IIRC, they have not been able to recover the falcon I's. I am surprised that they do not choose to launch several more 1's and get the recovery correct. But have to make the 2010 deadline.

                On a side note, I do wish that he would pull in a partner or two and get the escape tower built. It would be nice to see human rated by the time the shuttle is over.
                • by mrcaseyj (902945)

                  I noticed another comment that makes me think they are not going to launch right away. On their update page for December 29 they say "Whether measured by weight or by cost, the majority of the Falcon 9 being assembled is actual flight hardware." I guess if some of it isn't actual flight hardware then then they're going to have to take it apart and put it back together again before flying.

                  They've admitted that the first stages have been burning up (or at least getting overcooked). Last I heard Musk said they

              • Amateur radio satellites [amsat.org] have a long and successful history of exactly that - being smart ballast for other launches. As long as our sat is the right size and weight and passes flight worthiness tests, we get to replace the chunks of concrete or whatever else they were going to use.

                Our newest birds are large enough to require their own launch, so we've got to come up with $LOTS_OF_MONEY to launch the big birds.

        • Not Reusable (Score:4, Insightful)

          by mrcaseyj (902945) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:50AM (#26297687)

          Reusability isn't mentioned on their Falcon 9 page anymore. I originally got excited about SpaceX because I thought reusability would be the breakthrough in space launch we need. But unfortunately Musk said they haven't come up with a way to protect the boosters from reentry yet. They're looking at aerodynamic methods to keep the heat shielded top of the booster coming down first. Some engineers say they're crazy to think they can make them reusable.

          But even if they can't get them reusable, I think it would be a great advance if they can just make them 1/4 or even 1/2 the cost. I don't think Musk started SpaceX because he thought it was the best way to make money. He probably did it in part for the fun of it, but I think primarily he's truly driven to make it cheaper. Falcon 1 has proven Musk a capable entrepreneur. I hope so much that he can get Falcon 9 into orbit.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by cmowire (254489)

            I think he was quite smart in designing the Falcon boosters for reuse but not actually building that into the business model, leaving it as an eventual improvement.

            Especially given that he has yet to recover any Falcon 1 first stages, even though they were supposed to be reused.

          • Reusability isn't mentioned on their Falcon 9 page anymore. I originally got excited about SpaceX because I thought reusability would be the breakthrough in space launch we need.

            They have something much better than reusability. They have repeatability in the sense that they can do incremental development with less regression between versions than other rocket builders.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by dj245 (732906)
            What continues to amaze me about the SpaceX folk is not really the technology and engineering anymore, although that is impressive. What is great about their organization is the project management. They continually deliver on their claims on time (or ahead of schedule) and mostly stick to the budget. They are making steady steps toward being a massive player like Lockheed. Very few companies run this smoothly.
          • by Xiroth (917768)

            I don't think Musk started SpaceX because he thought it was the best way to make money. He probably did it in part for the fun of it, but I think primarily he's truly driven to make it cheaper. Falcon 1 has proven Musk a capable entrepreneur. I hope so much that he can get Falcon 9 into orbit.

            From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

            In 2001, Musk had plans for a "Mars Oasis" project, which would land a miniature experimental greenhouse on Mars, containing food crops growing on Martian regolith. He put this project on hold when he di

          • by dlgeek (1065796)
            Actually, if you read the "Falcon Luner Capability Guide" linked at the top of the Falcon 9 Page, there's the line "Missions to Trans Lunar Injection will have an additional charge of $10M since the second stage is nonrecoverable." (Page 8, section 3.3.4).

            Seems to be a minor detail, but does still hint to the Falcon9 as being re-usable.
          • by goodmanj (234846)

            I originally got excited about SpaceX because I thought reusability would be the breakthrough in space launch we need.

            You're about 20 years behind, there. The big lesson of the Space Shuttle is that reusability isn't the holy grail we thought it would be.

            In some cases, recycling makes sense. But sometimes, a reuseable spacecraft is as bad an idea as a reuseable condom -- and for pretty much the same reasons.

    • by Aglassis (10161) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:41AM (#26297409)

      If the Ares I design is to be replaced, it would be by the Delta IV Heavy, not the Falcon 9 Heavy. The Delta IV Heavy is already flying, its payload fairing size is an almost perfect fit for the Orion spacecraft, and it uses the RS-68s that are planned to be used on the Ares V. NASA would also be extremely skeptical of the Falcon 9 Heavy because it would be using a total of 27 Merlin engines in its first stage! The failures of the N1 rocket (with 30 engines) would make any high engine rocket a tough sell. The Falcon 9 may work, but I'd be very surprised if the Falcon 9 Heavy is ever built. Man-rating a rocket like that would be well-nigh impossible.

      • by cmowire (254489) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:51AM (#26297453) Homepage

        Please read my comment again.

        I said Ares I / Orion replaced by the Falcon 9 / Dragon. Not the Falcon 9 Heavy being used to lift the Ares I.

        And actually, it's not even necessary to launch the Ares I design on the Delta IV Heavy, just an Atlas V [selenianboondocks.com], according to some.

        I suspect there's a longer-term plan to swap out the 9 Merlins on the bottom of the Falcon 9 with two bigger rockets. Except that nobody inside of SpaceX is going to breathe a word about it until the right time.

        • by khallow (566160) on Friday January 02, 2009 @05:23AM (#26297995)

          Jon Goff is a great rocketry blogger. He pushes the orbital propellant depot hard and this is why. Once you have it going, it boosts the capabilities of your launch infrastructure considerably. Since you no longer have to launch fuel with lunar missions, you can fit a lot more vehicle on smaller rockets. The Ariane 5 is another rocket that can carry an unfueled Orion or propellant. Another important aspect is that this approach is highly scalable. You can use the same tricks to fuel other big missions, manned or not. It's a shame that NASA has done almost nothing with this concept.

          I suspect there's a longer-term plan to swap out the 9 Merlins on the bottom of the Falcon 9 with two bigger rockets. Except that nobody inside of SpaceX is going to breathe a word about it until the right time.

          It would be a natural continuation in the sequence of engine designs they've done. My take is that they're focusing on launching falcon 9 right now. They need that to go well. But there's no reason they couldn't have bigger engines on the drawing board.

          • Why all know that they are thinking that way. Elon has spoken of the BFR a number of times 5 years ago. In addition, he has constantly pointed out that their test site is BUILT for it (though I do not think that the neighboring towns are going to care for it).

      • by strack (1051390) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:19AM (#26297581)
        yes, the falcon 9 heavy *does* use 27 engines in total. thats the freaking point. if a any one of the few engines on a delta IV fails, the rocket is a goner. if a engine, or even a few, fail on the falcon 9, it can still complete its mission, the other engines just have to burn a bit longer. its engine redundancy, in the fine tradition of rockets like the saturn 5, which had no failures, despite a engine failure mid-flight on apollo 13.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          if a engine, or even a few, fail on the falcon 9, it can still complete its mission, the other engines just have to burn a bit longer.

          The failure(s) on the N1 [wikimedia.org] was in the complex pipework leading to the 30 engines. This caused the whole rocket to fail (3 or 4 times IIRC - the Wikipedia article has more details).

          Also even if a engine itself fails, you have to remember that the failure is not necessarily a clean shutdown, but likely a large explosion, taking out adjacent engines.

          Rich.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Spotticus (1356631)
            The failures of the N1 were more related to lack of sufficient funding, poor quality control and lack of any test stands (The first time the N1 fired it's 30 engines was during its first flight attempt). There was nothing inherently flawed in the approach they Soviet's took, it's just that the engineers were forced to do it on the cheap The first flight failed due to the engine control system shutting down all engines on the first stage after a problem was detected with one of the engines (an engine fire).
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by goodmanj (234846)

            Also even if a engine itself fails, you have to remember that the failure is not necessarily a clean shutdown, but likely a large explosion, taking out adjacent engines.

            Falcon 9's design includes armored enclosures for the engines, to keep them from taking out their neighbors if they blow up.

            I agree that 27 is a whole lot of engines, but if you're going to cite the N1, you'd better also mention Soyuz, which has 32ish engines firing at launch, depending on how you count, and is one of the most reliable man-r

            • by cmowire (254489) on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:37PM (#26301473) Homepage

              32 chambers, not engines. Not the same thing.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by goodmanj (234846)

                Like I said, "depending on how you count": counting engines on shared-turbopump engines like Soyuz is a little tricky.

                Still, any way you count, Soyuz has a ridiculously large number of "parts with fire in them that could explode", which is the key parameter here, and it seems to do just fine.

                In fact, since Falcon 9 heavy can lose one or more turbopumps and keep going, a failure mode that would doom a Soyuz, you could claim that Falcon might be *more* reliable.

                Yes, it's ridiculous to compare the reliability

            • by Muad'Dave (255648)
              I've launched single stage Estes-powered rockets with that many D engines. I can say with some certainty that it was a spectacular (and deadly to a few tomato plants) failure.
        • by Cally (10873)

          if a engine, or even a few, fail on the falcon 9, it can still complete its mission,

          That's not entirely true, is it? It's only true for failure modes where the lost engine just shuts down. If a pressure pipe lets go or propellant leaks or, well, any of the hundreds of other failure modes that lead to a very big bang and bright light in the sky, the entire vehicle's toast, just as with more conventional designs.

      • by QuantumG (50515) *

        Only slight problem being that Boeing are not interested in selling NASA the Delta IV Heavy at the price NASA wants to pay. They had their chance to bid on ISS resupply and they turned their nose up at it because it wasn't a cost plus contract.

           

  • by Anonymous Coward

    One could say that Elon Musk is just about to have his first erection. Good for him!

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      One could say that Elon Musk is just about to have his first erection. Good for him!

      I don't know who Elon Musk is, but this is the first comment that I've understood.

  • Interesting Question (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman @ g m a i l . c om> on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:10AM (#26297549) Homepage Journal

    Here's a question for those of you who know more about the details of space engineering than I: One of the changes made to the STS during the early days of flight was that the main tank was left unpainted. This gave the Shuttle launch stack its trademark rust-orange color. By making this simple change, NASA realized they could shave off hundreds of tons of launch weight, thereby increasing available payload. (Not that the shuttle ever used it, but that's another issue.)

    Yet I can't help but notice the shine of a fresh coat of pain on the Falcon rocket. They even went through the trouble of stenciling "SpaceX" in large letters along the length of the craft. Is there any particular engineering reason why rockets are still covered in paint, or is this entirely an aesthetics issue?

    • by cmowire (254489) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:17AM (#26297573) Homepage

      Oh, no, the shuttle did take advantage of the weight. It's just not hundreds of tons. And they needed to make the tank even lighter to send the ISS up.

      I suspect the big reason why the shuttle tank's paint took up so much weight is that the paint is going on rough insulation, not a slick metal skin. And the tank is also fairly huge, given it holds liquid hydrogen.

      So I suspect that the weight cost for painting something like the Falcon 9 isn't nearly as bad, given it's an aluminum skin. And there may be some engineering reasons too.

      • American Airlines used to fully paint their birds. Back in the oil crisis of late 70's, crandell asked employees how to save money. My dad was one of the pilots who suggested losing most of the the paint and doing much smaller amounts of it. They figured that added something like 1-2% to the bottom line.

        Spacex will likely drop the paint job down the road unless it is found that it helps against the salt in the air as well as in the ocean upon landing.
    • by goodmanj (234846) on Friday January 02, 2009 @04:03AM (#26297729)

      In addition to the factors already mentioned:

      Extra weight on a spacecraft is more problematic the longer the weight sticks around during launch, because the faster the extra weight ends up going, the more energy (i.e. fuel) is needed to accelerate it -- and the more fuel is needed to accelerate that fuel, and so on.

      The shuttle external tank is carried almost all the way to orbit. Every pound of weight saved on the tank is roughly equal to an extra pound of payload, so leaving it unpainted makes a lot of sense.

      But the Falcon 9 rocket's fancy paint job is on its first stage. This drops off long before orbit is reached, so it doesn't impact the cargo capacity nearly as much.

    • by BigGerman (541312)
      This is Space-Two-Oh design. Aesthetics, marketing and product placement mean a lot more than engineering.
  • by pgfuller (797997) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:43AM (#26297663)
    You are out by several orders of magnitude - 600lbs / 272kg was the weight saving from not painting the ET. Later structural design changes reduced the ET weight by a more significant 17,000lbs.
  • Did you notice how the image with the 2 hands in the upper left of their website is the same as for Slashdots "Social Networking" category, as for example in the facebook-breastfeeding news?
  • Whoa! Did Spectrum HoloByte just become a NASA contractor or what? (Damn Hercules card is acting up again, so I can't RTFA.)
  • The summary could mention what "Falcon 9" is. I'm half thinking it's some kind of new launch-pad technology.
  • Integrated? (Score:3, Funny)

    by linebackn (131821) on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:00PM (#26300287)

    Integrated? Does that mean it can no longer be uninstalled?

  • Looks like they had some parts left over.
  • ...do things like explain WTF is Falcon 9.

  • This is the first time we've seen a rocket stacked horizontally in broad daylight. Looks like he ran out of credit before the concrete & roof was finished.

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