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NASA Space Transportation

Space Shuttle To Be Replaced By SpaceX For ISS Resupply 297

Posted by timothy
from the how-to-squelch-space-mercantilism? dept.
destinyland writes "Next year SpaceX will perform resupply missions for the International Space Station after the Space Shuttle is grounded, as part of a $3.5 billion NASA resupply contract. 'The fledgling space industry is reminiscent of the early days of the personal computer,' notes one technology reporter, 'when a number of established vendors and startups reversed-engineered Microsoft's DOS and manufactured PCs using the Intel 8080 chip set. We're likely to see a similar industry shakeout in the private space vehicle market segment in the coming decades.'"
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Space Shuttle To Be Replaced By SpaceX For ISS Resupply

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  • by Bill Currie (487) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @06:18PM (#29279577) Homepage

    Yeah, I noticed that too. It was IBM's bios that was reversed engineered, not MS DOS.

  • A Better Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @06:26PM (#29279675) Homepage Journal

    For anyone who would like to read a good article about SpaceX [popularmechanics.com] check out that link. And it's not just SpaceX that will be delivering cargo to the station under COTS, there's also Orbital Sciences.

  • Go SpaceX go (Score:5, Informative)

    by steveha (103154) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @06:55PM (#29279949) Homepage

    I'm happy to read that SpaceX will be taking over resupply. We should encourage private launch companies.

    Having NASA handle all launch needs was putting all our eggs in a single basket, and killed any chance for private launch. It's already expensive and hard to develop a new space launch system; to do it when NASA is offering launches at cut-rate prices was impossible. (NASA has always been embarrassed by how expensive the Shuttle actually was, and never charged anywhere near a profitable amount for flying things on the Shuttle.)

    Once we have several private companies flying things to orbit, we can expect the cost to orbit to come down drastically. And once you are in orbit, you are halfway to anywhere in the Solar System [nss.org].

    NASA is talking about a return to Mars 30 years from now. That's crazy; once we have cheap launch, we can assemble a Mars mission in pieces, rather than launching the whole mission on one giant rocket (as we did the Apollo missions). If you can cheaply and reliably launch dozens of launch vehicles, each ferrying up a tonne of fuel, you could make a Mars mission with lots of gear, lots of fuel, lots of safety margin.
    steveha

  • 8088 not 8080 (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @07:01PM (#29280007)

    The initial IBM PC used an intel 8088, which was an 8086 with an 8-bit (rather than 16-bit) data bus, and trailed the 8080 by several years. IBM wasn't sure that such a wide bus as the 8086 had would catch on...

  • by Orion Blastar (457579) <orionblastar@SLA ... com minus distro> on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @07:04PM (#29280027) Homepage Journal

    It was the Intel 8088 chip not the 8080 chip used in the IBM PC and PC Clones.

    MS-DOS was not reverse engineered, it was originally IBM PC-DOS and Microsoft released the MS-DOS to work with IBM PC clones that had reverse engineered the IBM PC BIOS. MS-DOS used GWBASIC.COM to replace the IBM BASICA.COM that used the IBM PC BIOS and wouldn't work on PC Clones.

    Some say MS-DOS and IBM PC-DOS which was based on 86-DOS/Q-DOS was really a reverse engineered DRI CP/M-86 with some commands renamed to be more user friendly and moved into RAM instead of the floppy disk. DRI later on released DR-DOS to compete with MS-DOS. Anyway DRI lost the DOS wars and when they tried to make a competitor to Windows named GEM, they got sued by Apple and had to change the way it looked.

  • Re:ATV? Progress? (Score:5, Informative)

    by cyclone96 (129449) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @07:06PM (#29280047)

    Disclaimer - I work for NASA.

    I don't think the cost per kg of cargo is a driving factor on this decision. The US government has a vested interest in supporting both SpaceX and Orbital on the COTS contract. If successful the vehicle SpaceX is developing will provide a domestically produced launch vehicle that has shows some promise in having a lot of launch flexibility and much cheaper rides to orbit.

    Additionally, if SpaceX is successful it will provide some negotiation power in getting upmass to ISS (the rides get more expensive when Progress is the only game in town) and will also provide some competition on government contracts to the United Launch Alliance consortium of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

  • Re:Go SpaceX go (Score:5, Informative)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @07:46PM (#29280361) Homepage

    Having NASA handle all launch needs was putting all our eggs in a single basket

    NASA does not handle "all" US launch needs. In fact, NASA buys most of its launches from commercial providers. And the defense and commercial sectors-- both of which, I should remind you, has more funding than NASA-- buy all of their launches from commercial providers.

  • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @08:25PM (#29280601)

    shoddy Slashdot journalism

    A perfect example of a Pleonasm [wikipedia.org].

  • by that this is not und (1026860) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @08:36PM (#29280661)

    The Space Shuttle was designed (badly) as a low cost re-launchable vehicle. However, when it was discovered that it would need to be stripped down to the bare airframe and totally rebuilt for each relaunch that idea sort of fizzled. Then it simply became a funding mechanism for the aerospace industry, which it remained for the remainder of it's use life. Thank goodness most of the airframes are ash now, so we don't have to continue that particular bit of 'earmark' funding any longer.

  • Re:Go SpaceX go (Score:4, Informative)

    by steveha (103154) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @09:01PM (#29280839) Homepage

    I apologize for unclear writing. I didn't mean to imply that NASA was still trying to handle all launch needs. I was referring to the dark days before the Commercial Space Launch Act:

    From the beginning of the Shuttle program until the Challenger disaster in 1986, it was the policy of the United States that NASA be the public-sector provider of U.S. launch capacity to the world market.[4] Initially NASA subsidized satellite launches with the intention of eventually pricing Shuttle service for the commercial market at long-run marginal cost.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_spaceflight#American_deregulation [wikipedia.org]

    Clearly private launch is not killed now, given that SpaceX is taking over resupply of the ISS! But it would have been rather difficult to get SpaceX funded in 1983 or so, would it not?

    My first-ever conversation with Geoffrey Landis [geoffreylandis.com] and it's about my vague, unclear writing? Pardon me, I need to go weep in a corner.

    steveha

  • by angelwolf71885 (1181671) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @10:51PM (#29281443)
    actually the shuttle has gone trough ageist 2 refits in its life time so its actually more likely that it has similar computers to a jet fighter or commercial airline
  • by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @12:19AM (#29281765) Journal
    The 6502 was a remarkable work of engineering. It's a great pity that they never followed up on it.

    Well, there was the 65816, a 16 bit version of the 6502, but it never really caught on.
  • by moosesocks (264553) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @12:23AM (#29281779) Homepage

    Can we debunk this one once and for all? Parisians as a whole don't seem to be any more or less hostile to foreigners than the inhabitants of any other large city.

    Granted, I grew up just outside of New York City, and accordingly have absolutely no expectation for total strangers to give me much more than the time of the day (especially in another language), but such is city life -- Paris gets an unfair rap, and really is a wonderful city. Every locale has its little quirks...

  • by dododuh (806858) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:24AM (#29282077)
    You guys are ten years too late. Back in the 1970s, when computers ran on 8080 processors, the company Micro-Soft [wired.com] (which is what they were called when they were in Albuquerque before the name change to Microsoft and the move to Washington) had an operating system and a basic interpreter that were widely pirated, reverse engineered, and otherwise ripped-off. At the time, I was running an MITS Altair [ucdavis.edu]. This thing started with 256 bytes of RAM, but we eventually upgraded it to, I think, 8k bytes. After loading a few hundred bytes of boot code in using the panel switches, it would suck Micro-Soft's "Disk Basic" boot loader in off the first sector of the 8" floppy drive, then load the OS and BASIC interpreter. It was so nice when we finally burned that first boot loader into a ROM! By 1976, Bill was pissed about people ripping his wares, and he wrote a famous letter [digibarn.com] about it. This may have happened before you were wearing nappies, but you should still be embarrassed about laughing at the author. I now ROFL at your childish and uninformed antics!
  • by Graymalkin (13732) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @02:21AM (#29282339)

    The Shuttle was designed to do a couple of things, build and service a space station, launch a space telescope, launch/retrieve orbital experiments, and carry large military payloads and do all of this affordably through a high launch frequency. It has largely accomplished all of its missions except the affordability part. Yes it is bigger and more expensive than the Dyna Soar++ it was originally conceived to be and accomplished several of its goals a decade late but did largely live up to them. The major issue with the Shuttle which nearly (some might suggest did) ruined the whole program was the Challenger disaster.

    In 1985 there were a record nine Shuttle missions. At that rate the Shuttle is fairly economical to fly as a lot of fixed costs get amortized over a larger number of launches. The economic efficiency of a launch vehicle is directly related to launch frequency. A big portion of launch cost is personnel costs, they're getting paid whether you do one or ten flights in a year. The key to the Shuttle being successful as a platform was/is a high launch frequency. Both NASA and the DoD had a number of satellite and space probe launches scheduled on the Shuttle which helped pad out NASA's manned space science missions (Spacelab, etc). These were all in addition to the long term plans like the space telescope and a space station. The Shuttle isn't cheap but is very capable, a single mission can replace several smaller scale missions that taken together would cost more than a Shuttle launch. The Challenger disaster ruined the Shuttle's scheduling and set NASA back by at least a decade.

    The DoD was set to launch a number of spy satellites (including an early missile warning system) as well as the GPS Block II satellites on the Shuttle in 1986. With the Shuttle fleet grounded after Challenger the DoD had to kick their Complementary Expendable Launch Vehicle program into high gear. Originally meant to be a compliment to the Shuttle to cover tight last minute scheduling conflicts the program was repurposed to be a Shuttle replacement for a lot of DoD missions and became the Titan IV. The Delta II was developed to launch the GPS satellites and went on to be a fairly successful family of ELVs. The NASA missions intended to be launched on the Shuttle were all pushed back or canceled outright and the number of flights were cut back. In the late 80s and 90s a lot of would-be Shuttle business was instead taken up by the likes of the Delta II and Titan III. The as-designed space station was canceled its components later rolled into the ISS which became an international effort.

    The Shuttle is not a perfect design but it is not the abject failure its detractors cast it as being. The Saturn was designed to be and was built as a racehorse, it was meant to get the Apollo stack to the Moon and that was about it. The Saturn was not very economical to build or launch and would have made a terrible workhorse. The Shuttle was a realization that cost to orbit was a bigger issues than getting more mass into orbit. If a smaller launcher can get half the mass into orbit at a third of the cost then more science can get done per dollar. The Shuttle was approaching the sweet spot of capability and affordability when the Challenger disaster happened. The program never really recovered economically from Challenger which meant one of the Shuttle's two main features was non-existant.

  • by SL Baur (19540) <steve@xemacs.org> on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @02:28AM (#29282365) Homepage Journal

    The 6502 was succeeded by the 65816 (a commercial failure) as was pointed out by camperdave, and was made by MOS Technology. The 8 bit Motorola CPU was the 6800.

    Motorola 68k boxes were the first viable commercial Unix machines, not that anyone marketed them particularly well.

  • by S-100 (1295224) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @03:58AM (#29282733)
    The Phoenix BIOS was not the first - that credit probably goes to Compaq. The legal method was for one team to analyze the published IBM BIOS, and write a functional description of each particular BIOS call. Then a team that had not been given access to the IBM BIOS source would write equivalent code.
  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:16AM (#29283653)

    You guys are ten years too late. Back in the 1970s, when computers ran on 8080 processors, the company Micro-Soft [wired.com] (which is what they were called when they were in Albuquerque before the name change to Microsoft and the move to Washington) had an operating system and a basic interpreter that were widely pirated, reverse engineered, and otherwise ripped-off. At the time, I was running an MITS Altair [ucdavis.edu]. This thing started with 256 bytes of RAM, but we eventually upgraded it to, I think, 8k bytes. After loading a few hundred bytes of boot code in using the panel switches, it would suck Micro-Soft's "Disk Basic" boot loader in off the first sector of the 8" floppy drive, then load the OS and BASIC interpreter. It was so nice when we finally burned that first boot loader into a ROM! By 1976, Bill was pissed about people ripping his wares, and he wrote a famous letter [digibarn.com] about it. This may have happened before you were wearing nappies, but you should still be embarrassed about laughing at the author. I now ROFL at your childish and uninformed antics!

    Yes, but that wasn't MS-DOS. MS-DOS did not exist until Microsoft contracted with IBM to supply the OS for IBM's new PC (which Microsoft already had a contract to supply a Basic and a C compiler for). Microsoft bought the rights to what would become MS-DOS off of another company that had developed it as QDOS.
    So, what you were using was something completely unrelated (except for the fact that it came from the same company) to what would later be MS-DOS. What Bill Gates was pissed about was people ripping off his (and Paul Allen's) Basic compiler. The original posters were correct and you are incorrect.

  • Re:A lot of faith (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @08:28AM (#29284457)

    "They are putting a lot of faith in an organisation that has exactly one successful orbital launch of a dummy spacecraft to their credit."
    Exactly TWO successful orbital launches (one dummy, one operational). Do more research before talking.

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