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Space Science

SpaceX Announces Dragon As First Falcon 9 Payload 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the are-they-saying-it's-mythical-and-spews-fire dept.
BJ_Covert_Action writes "SpaceX announced recently that it would be integrating a stripped-down test version of its own Dragon cargo capsule as the payload for its first Falcon 9 test launch. The Falcon 9 rocket is currently scheduled to launch on November 29 of this year if everything goes according to plan. However, Elon Musk admits that launch day will likely slip to sometime early next year. The Falcon 9 is the heavy launch vehicle designed by SpaceX to be used as a cheap, commercial alternative to existing United States launch platforms. Having launched a few successful light missions with the Falcon 1 rocket, SpaceX is going to launch the Falcon 9 as its next milestone in commercializing the space industry. Utilizing its own cargo capsule as the first Falcon 9 payload will effectively give SpaceX double the tests for one launch slot on the Cape Canaveral range. The capsule that will be used is a test version of the full Dragon capsule that encompasses primarily the structure and a few components of the full version. It served originally as a ground test platform for the Dragon design team and now will double as an orbital testbed. If nothing else, the announcement upped the ante in the commercial space market by showing the SpaceX is capable and willing to push the envelope on its development schedules. It should serve as a proper motivator for other commercial competitors such as Orbital Sciences with their Cygnus capsule, which is also under development."
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SpaceX Announces Dragon As First Falcon 9 Payload

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  • Space station supply (Score:5, Informative)

    by amightywind (691887) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @10:38AM (#29548623) Journal

    This makes sense. Falcon 9 is uninsurable without a successful launch, so it cannot be used to launch a valuable satellite payload. Furthermore, NASA's space station supply contract is potentially far more lucrative than participating in the competitive market for satellite launch services. Good luck to them. They are going to need it

    • This makes sense. Falcon 9 is uninsurable without a successful launch, so it cannot be used to launch a valuable satellite payload.

      Which is irrelevant, it's actually fairly unusual for a booster (even in it's test phase) to not carry a commercial or government payload. This sounds more like, after the debacle the Falcon I has been to date, nobody is willing to risk their payload even for the reduced prices (sometimes even free) that such launches usually charge. This seems especially true given a) the lat

      • after the debacle the Falcon I has been to date

        I admit I haven't kept up with SpaceX completely, but how has Falcon 1 been a debacle? Haven't they had at least two successful launches shortly after completing the rocket design, and running a few tests?

        It seems somewhat of an overstatement to say the Falcon 1 was a debacle because they had problems during testing. Tests which were designed to find...well...problems.

        • by Teancum (67324)

          There were payloads on some of the earlier Falcon 1 flights that ended up being a sort of embarrassment to SpaceX when the vehicles failed to reach orbit. Most of these payloads were flights to customers who could not have been able to afford a conventional launch, so it was mostly a free ride for what might have been successful but no guarantee on its success. A couple of satellites designed by the U.S. Air Force Academy cadets were on those flights. It was furthermore unfortunate that when the test fli

      • This sounds more like, after the debacle the Falcon I has been to date, nobody is willing to risk their payload even for the reduced prices (sometimes even free) that such launches usually charge.

        Actually, the situation is that there are two complementary reasons in play. By using the static test Dragon capsule, they get valuable engineering data about the dynamics of the integrated system that they can use to make any adjustments in advance of the first Dragon COTS launch.

        The other factor influencing the decision is that the Falcon 9/Dragon configuration does not use the payload fairing. By using the static test Dragon capsule for the Falcon 9 demo launch, they can extend development of the paylo

        • If a fairing posed particularly difficult design and development problem - you'd have a point.

          • "This gives us the best flight data in advance of our first COTS mission," Musk said. "It also removes the (payload) fairing from the schedule critical path and allows us to spend more time on making the fairing lighter and more reliable."

            Source: SpaceX doubles down on inaugural Falcon 9 mission [spaceflightnow.com]

            • Which, given the fact that fairings don't particularly represent a difficult design or development problem [1], indicates that something (major) is wrong at SpaceX. They're putting a good spin on it, but that doesn't change the basic nature.

              [1] My mistake, I acted as if you actually knew this rather than just cutting and pasting words you don't understand.

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by ClayJar (126217)

                Which, given the fact that fairings don't particularly represent a difficult design or development problem, indicates that something (major) is wrong at SpaceX.

                So, you're saying that fairings are, to use the phrase, "not rocket science"? It's certainly true that a fairing design and implementation is not nearly as difficult a nut to crack as designing a new liquid-fueled engine completely from scratch, but fairings and fairing separations aren't something so inherently mundane that they can be ignored.

                The aerodynamics are not so trivial you can just say, "Eh, that looks about right..." and be at an energy-optimal solution. Additionally, while it's trivial to ove

      • You don't know what you are talking about. The Delta IV Heavy was launched with a dummy simulator. LMCO had retired enough risk for the Atlas V with Atlas III that they really didn't need a test flight. Falcon I did carry payloads, though I am not sure a University of Colorado student project really qualifies.

        My point that ISS resupply is sole source is valid, and you have said nothing to refute it. One has only to point to the bankrupcy of Sea Launch to see that the commercial market is highly competive, e

        • You don't know what you are talking about. The Delta IV Heavy was launched with a dummy simulator.

          That's one flight... There was more than one.

          LMCO had retired enough risk for the Atlas V with Atlas III that they really didn't need a test flight.

          That's one booster. There is more than one booster.

          My point that ISS resupply is sole source is valid, and you have said nothing to refute it.

          Facts only fail to refute your claims when you ignore them. But then, that seems to be pa

      • by Rei (128717)

        Debacle? Since when is this (3 failures, then two successes) unusual for a *brand new, non-evolutionary launch stack*? Nobody willing to risk payloads? SpaceX has been flooded with new private launch contracts recently.

        What are you talking about?

        • Debacle? Since when is this (3 failures, then two successes) unusual for a *brand new, non-evolutionary launch stack*?

          If the Falcon I was 'non-evolutionary', you'd have a point.

          • by Rei (128717)

            Okay, what's its direct ancestor?

            • Any number of other boosters - there's nothing particularly revolutionary or new about it's design, construction, or manufacture.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Rei (128717)

                Bzzt, sorry! If you don't have a direct ancestor, you're not taking an evolutionary approach, and you have to debug full systems integration from scratch. None of their failures would have occurred if it were an evolutionary rocket -- the salt/metal incompatibility failure would have occurred on the parent rocket, the separation kick would have occurred on the parent rocket, and the slosh roll risk would have at least been hinted at by the parent rocket.

                there's nothing particularly revolutionary or new ab

    • Potential Payload (Score:2, Interesting)

      by drbuzz0 (1638167)
      My understanding is that they will be launching the Dragon as basically a test item, not a fully capable version of the capsule intended to dock with the space station. The first Falcon-1 launch carried a "mass simulator" - basically a chunk of metal to act as ballast. The reasoning is, as mentioned, it's uninsurable on the first launch and there is a high probability of failure on the first full launch of a new space vehicle.

      Still, I can think of one group that would love to send up a ton of cargo, e
    • by Teancum (67324)

      I wouldn't call the SpaceX Falcon 9 as "uninsurable", but it certainly would be a risky move to try and be on the first launch. SpaceX also has a rather poor record on what should be test flights too, where several payloads were lost on the Falcon 1 flight attempts before SpaceX got all of the bugs worked out.

      Originally, the targeted payload on this flight was just going to be a dummy payload such as the "RatSat"... basically a hunk of aluminum that would be set up to simulate a "typical" payload for futur

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 26, 2009 @10:41AM (#29548633)

    I didn't read the article, but wouldn't it make more sense to transport smaller lizards or even some amphibians?
    I know dragons are fun and can light your space-cigarettes with their fire-breath, but lets be practical here.
    Think, people... THINK!

    • I was thinking they should just send the skin of the dragon [youtube.com] Gunney doesn't test the skin's effectiveness against cosmic rays or other radiation, but the skin should stop the random bit or space debris! All we need is a tailor to make us a set of dragonskin large enough for for the ISS!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dangitman (862676)
      Oh, yeah, what are you gonna do? Release the falcons? Or the dragons? Or the falcons with the dragons in their mouth, that shoot dragons at you?
  • by Covalent (1001277) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @10:44AM (#29548655)
    ...an African falcon or a European falcon?
  • by Xin Jing (1587107) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @11:04AM (#29548771)

    I originally wanted to post this here http://science.slashdot.org/story/09/09/25/2328247/NASAs-Space-Plans-Take-Another-Hit [slashdot.org], but an unknown error prevented me from doing so. My commentary is still relevant for this article:

    I think that NASA should be stripped down and restructured. All manned missions and support operations with a military application should be converted to their respective military counterparts, the whole thing headed up by Joint Chiefs of Staff. From Wikipedia, "their primary responsibility is to ensure the personnel readiness, policy, planning and training of their respective military services for the combatant commanders to utilize." The President and Secretary of Defense can tap the manned space capability of the respective military branches, and the JCS maintains training, policy and readiness. Oversight for military applications already has a process, which would remain in place.

    NASA would be reduced or redesignated from it's current role to that of managing and conducing operations for unmanned space missions such as deep space probes and telescopes, establishing rules, standards and accident reviews for commercial space activities just like the FAA. NASA would also continue to provide tenantship to fixed orbital platforms such as the ISS, in conjunction with other participating nations. Every manned application is auctioned off to civilian corporations that meet specific minimal requirements. NASA would become the space analogy of the FAA, allowing a vacuum to exist allowing other responsible and qualified fair trade entities to step in and compete for the best possible road to commercial space business.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @11:34AM (#29548929) Homepage
      You're forgetting the "Aeronautics" part of NASA. They do an awful lot of in atmosphere research (often in conjunction with the FAA and other agencies such as NOAA.) They have a multi decade history of doing quite a bit of basic, low key, often boring things that could be fobbed off to another governmental agency but would likely just get subsumed in the flotsam of fiefdoms and budgets.

      From your original article, the biggest problem isn't NASA, it's the shortsighted, braindead, slimy, backhanded, hypocritical, nonsensical, bat-shit-insane, idiocratic and just plain old corrupt congress.
      • the biggest problem isn't NASA, it's the shortsighted, braindead, slimy, backhanded, hypocritical, nonsensical, bat-shit-insane, idiocratic and just plain old corrupt congress.

        While congress needs to take its fair share of the blame, they don't have the market cornered on shortsighted, braindead, slimy, backhanded, hypocritical, nonsensical, bat-shit-insane, idiocratic and just plain old corrupt behaviour. Let's give NASA its due.
        • We knew long ago that the shuttles were due to be retired. Development o
        • NASA isn't blameless, certainly. But it's hard to create rational programs that span decades and cost billions of dollars when you get your funding jacked around constantly. Not to mention the specific bits of mismanagement that Congress loves to tack on to funding bills.

          It's a wonderfully dysfunctional system.
      • From your original article, the biggest problem isn't NASA, it's the shortsighted, braindead, slimy, backhanded, hypocritical, nonsensical, bat-shit-insane, idiocratic and just plain old corrupt congress.

        It's not just Congress - it's the Administration. (Remember NASA is part of the Executive Branch.) It's not NASA's job to have a Vision, it's NASA's job to work within and in support of the policies of the Administration and the Goverment.

        NASA has floundered for decades because sucessive Administr

      • by edumacator (910819) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @01:29PM (#29549525)

        braindead, slimy, backhanded, hypocritical, nonsensical, bat-shit-insane, idiocratic and just plain old corrupt congress

        Why did you use all those extra words? Just saying congress would have been enough.

    • I think that NASA should be stripped down and restructured. All manned missions and support operations with a military application should be converted to their respective military counterparts, the whole thing headed up by Joint Chiefs of Staff.

      Done!

      NASA doesn't do any manned military space. It's the civilian space program.

      In fact, there is a military space program, run by the pentagon, and the military space program has a considerably larger budget than NASA does. For some reason, though, it doesn't get the endless armchair quarterbacking that the much smaller NASA programs do. (Possibly because the military space applications don't send humans into space, and don't send probes to other planets, and human spaceflight and planetary exploration

      • I would categorically disagree with you, sir.

        NASA has been in the manned military business for years. One of the stipulations (aka limitations) that the Pentagon placed on the Space Transportation System program was for the Space Shuttle to have low-earth orbit capability for satellite retrieval. Why would the Pentagon want to retrieve satellites or impose such a directive on the 'civilian' STS program, knowing it would sentence that vehicle to a vehicle lifespan shortening harsher environment with a narr

        • Also, please show some references for the US military's own manned space program.

          US Air Force Space Command - much of their ballistic mission capability was transferred to AF Global Strike Command. The USAFSC's space mission is defined as:

          "Spacelift operations at the East and West Coast launch bases provide services, facilities and range safety control for the conduct of DOD, NASA and commercial launches. Through the command and control of all DOD satellites, satellite operators provide force-multiplying e

          • by Teancum (67324)

            The Air Force indeed had a manned spaceflight program. Richard Truly [wikipedia.org] was one of those pilots that was a part of the first "class" of astronauts assigned directly to the U.S. Air Force under the Manned Orbiting Laboratory [wikipedia.org] program. That he did end up flying the Space Shuttle and became the administrator of NASA later on is sort of telling of the links between the military and NASA.

            This was not some Air Force pilots who migrated over to NASA but a full-fledged military astronaut program and completely indepe

        • That was DOD's. NASA provided the launch vehicle, and the crew, but it is NOT a manned military space. Basically, all they did was retrieve a sat, and they have launched others. They were doing nothing more than simply transporting sats.

          OTH, a manned military space system would be the MOL had we launched it in the 60's [wikipedia.org] or one of the many Chinese Manned Space stations system that are scheduled to start launch in 2010. [space.com]
          • USSR did have manned military space systems. In particular, Almaz and all of the early Salyut systems [wikipedia.org] were actually military missions.
            • by Xin Jing (1587107)

              I guess it all comes down to semantics. You say DoD doesn't do manned space missions, I say they do. They pay for them!

              If the bill is paid for by DoD, the payload and/or tasking is classified, but the crew and launch vehicle are all NASA, then what is it? It's NASA doing military!! NASA was (at that time) in the best position to execute a manned US space mission. How can you confirm that DoD employed NASA to conduct several missions which had classified segments up to and including satellite retrieval,

              • You say DoD doesn't do manned space missions, I say they do. They pay for them!

                My bad, that entire sentence was incorrect. It should have read:

                You say NASA doesn't do military manned space missions, I say they do. The DoD pays for them!

        • I would categorically disagree with you, sir. NASA has been in the manned military business for years. One of the stipulations (aka limitations) that the Pentagon placed on the Space Transportation System program was for the Space Shuttle to have low-earth orbit capability for satellite retrieval.

          Are you aware that the Air Force withdrew out of the shuttle program over twenty years ago?

          You're right that, by congressional mandate, the shuttle was mandated to be a vehicle that would meet requirements to launch both NASA and the Air Force's payloads-- and even then, the Air Force built their own shuttle launch pad at Vandenberg (SLC-6) and had every intention to do their own shuttle launches, with their own dedicated Air-Force crews and their own Air-Force shuttles. As it turned out, though, they pul

          • by Xin Jing (1587107)

            I also am talking about now. As I indicated elsewhere in this subthread, all of my statements are supported by two specific facts:

            1. The STS program, maintained and operated by NASA, was required by the Pentagon to have low-orbit satellite retrieval capability.

            2. The DoD employed NASA to conduct classified missions.

            One such mission was STS-53 to carry "a classified primary payload for the United States Department of Defense" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STS-53#Mission_highlights [wikipedia.org].

            Another such mission was ST

            • I also am talking about now.

              We apparently have different ideas of the meaning of the word "now." The most recent of the launches you list was seventeen years ago. That's not what I call "now."

              Once again. When congress approved the space shuttle program, they mandated there would be a single launch vehicle, which would be used by both the Air Force and NASA (and, for that matter, for commercial launches.) The Air Force would have their own vehicles, and their own launch site.

              After the first few shuttle flights-- but before the Ai

              • by Xin Jing (1587107)

                Point taken on my selection of STS missions showing DoD involvement with NASA. I believe I underscored that extensively because your initial comment was that "NASA doesn't do military". I may have hit the same nail repeatedly, but I'm hoping we can agree that NASA has a history of doing DoD dirty work.

                With that issue clarified, I'd now like to draw your important attention to this:

                http://www.space.com/news/050810_dod_launcher.html [space.com]

                "WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Defense has signed off on NASA's plan

                • Point taken on my selection of STS missions showing DoD involvement with NASA. I believe I underscored that extensively because your initial comment was that "NASA doesn't do military".

                  I'm sorry, but my comment was a response to your statement that NASA should be reformed by moving military missions to the military. Congratulations. This was done. It was done decades ago.

                  With that issue clarified, I'd now like to draw your important attention to this:

                  http://www.space.com/news/050810_dod_launcher.html [space.com]

                  Let me summarize this for you:

                  1. The White House mandated that the Department of Defense must coordinate with NASA on new vehicles.
                  2. The NASA response was that they'll continue to buy expendable launch vehicles from the same launch providers they buy them from now, except if any new providers come up, they may buy f

    • China currently does this, but it is so that they can hide their budgets from the foreigners. While it allows for a number of things (quick progress), it also prevent systems from being used for mankind's use. Worse, it means that ALL OF THE SYSTEMS are logical targets in a war. OTH, NASA would not be that kind of a target (even though USSR has actually painted a laser on a shuttle's window several times back in the 80's).

      As other have pointed out, NASA does a great deal more than just manned space. They
      • "Worse, it means that ALL OF THE SYSTEMS are logical targets in a war. OTH, NASA would not be that kind of a target ..."

        Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is co-located with Kennedy Space Center. CCAFS is still an active military space port facility. Plus, while NASA may be a "civilian" agency, it's still a government agency. If someone decides they need to start taking out US space capabilities, I highly doubt the "civilian" distinction is going to matter to them, even if the attacker was of the fair-minded type. (To say nothing of the type that prefers high-profile civilian targets.)

        Just sayin'.

    • by Teancum (67324)

      NASA was established to provide a civilian spaceflight option for the U.S. government. The civilian component was incredibly crucial at the time NASA was established, as all previous experience had been gained through military contracts. It is true that DoD participation and links continued (and still continue) within NASA, but most of what NASA does is unclassified and meets the needs of a civilian spaceflight program.

      Take out that civilian aspect of NASA and you lose the heart and soul of what NASA is s

    • by mark0978 (1052438)

      I think auctioning things off would be a huge mistake. Better to use prizes to encourage competition:

      • First company to land a probe on the moon gets X number of billion dollars.
      • First company to send people around the moon and return them safely gets 2X billion dollars.

      NASA would have a certain amount of dollars to put up as prizes, and would be in charge of the objectives, just not how they were accomplished.

      The prizes could be substantial and would still be less than the $90 billion NASA will squan

  • Dragons! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Shadyman (939863)
    Suggested tag: ThereBeDragons [wikipedia.org]!
  • I had no idea SpaceX had some such a long way since 2002. It seems they really have it together and best wishes. The case for a streamlined and slimmed down NASA is almost overwhelming now...look, if my baboos in India can send science to the moon, is seems logical that private companies can do even better. Yea, progress...
  • If I were a VC like Paul Allen or the Google boys, I would be contacting SpaceX and offering to fund the escape tower. Get it started so that come the end of 2011, human flights can start. Also contact Bigelow Aerospace and help get them building. With relatively little money, private space systems can really be profitable. In fact, I would bet that for less than what Allen put into Charter Cable, he can help get this started, be a part of it, and then GET OUT.
    • by Teancum (67324)

      SpaceX does seem to have plenty of venture capital, so I do think that this particular angle is being investigated. Due to the successful launches of the Falcon 1, SpaceX has been able to get most of the money it needs for day to day operations, although the government contracts also seem to be helping out quite a bit. Being guaranteed nearly $2 billion in revenue with signed contracts is certainly a huge carrot to dangle in front of potential investors on any project or company.

      I think the main issue now

  • It says it has a maximum of 29,610 kg LEO capability - which would make it higher than any other rocket and half the launch cost of Ariane, so why don't they go to town with this and put everyone else out of business?

    • First, it is falcon 9 HEAVY that has the ~30K kg. The falcon 9 has under 12K KG depending on what press release you read.

      Ideally, the feds will not allow one company to put others out of business. We need MULTIPLES of these to compete against each others. I would not mind paying a bit for ULA's private entry for at least a flight every 2 years or so. Once they lower their price to the same as SpaceX or lower, then give them the majority. Basically, we need more flights and more competition.
      • by Teancum (67324)

        The Ariane is hardly made by a private company, so I highly doubt they would go "out of business" regardless of the price of the Falcon 9.

        Still, SpaceX is going to be putting a huge amount of pressure on companies like ULA. From what I've read and heard, Boeing may be trying to break into the commercial spaceflight business with something more along the lines of what SpaceX is doing but using its own engineering experience and financial strength. Certainly there will be some competitors against SpaceX if

  • Its quite a bit of extra money lost from the test capsule if the Falcon 9 blows up or fails. So it show a lot of confidence in there rocket to had the capsule to the test launch. They've only got a year or so, before SpaceX is supposed to be supplying the ISS. They can't afford many failures. I wish then the best of luck.

    ---

    Space Craft [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

    • I suspect that more than confidence that this is about he is at the end of what he can spend. My guess is that if falcon 9 is successful, he will follow up with the next one within 3-4 months. I believe that with falcon 9's launch, he gets some good money from NASA, but it is on the first real launch of dragon that he makes LOADS of money. I would also guess that if falcon-9/dragon is successful on this trip, then congress/NASA will throw money at him for COTs-D.
      • by Teancum (67324)

        NASA has been involved with the development of the Falcon 9 at many of the stages, and there have been numerous design reviews that have happened as well... as per the COTS contracts.

        In terms of the financial situation of Elon Musk, I should point out that Tesla Motors has been sucking him dry recently, and only his direct intervention seemed to turn that company around from a financial point of view. This has also caused SpaceX to be somewhat anemic and stretching Mr. Musk out in a number of other ways th

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