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Falcon 9 Prepares For High Stakes Launch 190

Posted by Soulskill
from the take-us-out-of-the-world dept.
happylunarnewyear writes "The first new rocket to be launched from the Cape since 2002 is assembled and upright on Launch Complex 40. Falcon 9 will undergo fueling testing and live firing tests before the launch occurs as soon as next month. The stakes couldn't be higher, either. The much politicized proposal for a change in direction for NASA, which includes scrapping the Constellation program in toto in favor of privatization and a new heavy lift vehicle, veritably rides on this rocket. If the launch goes well, the plan for increased reliance on privatized cargo missions and eventually privatized manned missions will soar with it. However if something goes wrong, those plans will come crashing to Earth along with Falcon 9. Given the stakes, this launch is one of the most important in recent history. From the article, 'President Obama's proposal to shift transport of US astronauts to the space station from government launchers to privatized ones could suffer politically if there's a high-profile problem with the first mission of the Falcon 9, by far the most talked-about newcomer vying for the opportunity.'" Reader FleaPlus contributes related news about NASA's proposed funding for scientific payloads on commercial space flights, which would be a huge boon to researchers.
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Falcon 9 Prepares For High Stakes Launch

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  • by psergiu (67614) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:26AM (#31244814)

    Sooo... the launch of this Falcon rocket is like a punch in the face to the old Constellation program ?

    ;-)

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      I am hopeful but I talked to a friend of mine about the falcon 9.
      He is worried about the reliable of the system. I take his worries very seriously because he is an engineer on the Centaur program aka he is a real rocket scientists. He is also a space nut so he is really looking forward to the test launch and is hoping it goes well.

      • by jgtg32a (1173373)

        He's an engineer working as a scientist?

      • He is worried about the reliable of the system

        I am assuming from this that he has looked over the design details of the Falcon, observed the results of the unit testing of the system, that sort of thing?

        Otherwise, he's providing nothing more than his uninformed opinion. I can get those at Starbucks, and they're worth just as much as his....

      • Yeah, that Saturn V type multiple engine design really sucks. I heard all the Saturn V rockets failed. Plus they use the same engine everywhere first stage second stage even on the Falcon 1 they've tested. They must be such terrible engineers that they can't come up with new ones........
    • Re:Falcon Punch (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:46AM (#31245028) Homepage

      Sooo... the launch of this Falcon rocket is like a punch in the face to the old Constellation program ?

      Not exactly; the Falcon-9 was actually being funded by the old program. The idea was to fund multiple developments, not just one-- the COTS (Space-X and Orbital) to develop new cargo launch vehicles to station, and the Ares to develop exploration vehicles.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Whalou (721698)
      Too bad they were not ready for launch 10 years ago. They could have called it the Millennium Falcon.
      • by jgtg32a (1173373)

        They could call it the "New Millennium Falcon"

      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        Too bad they were not ready for launch 10 years ago. They could have called it the Millennium Falcon.

        I think he's alluded in past interviews that the Millennium Falcon was one of the reasons he chose the name. He's also stated future plans for developing a "BFR" (Big F'ing Rocket) and "BFE" (Big F'ing Engine), a pretty obvious reference to the BFG [wikipedia.org]. This seems to provide some pretty obvious proof that Elon Musk is a huge dork.

  • I don't get it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geegel (1587009) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:31AM (#31244868)

    SpaceX along with Orbital got contracts for delivering cargo to the ISS way before Constellation got canceled and there are plenty of alternatives to send cargo to begin with (Arianne is the first to pop in my mind)

    The real hurdle lies in developing human rated space transport beyond LEO which is with an order of magnitude more difficult. It's nice to see SpaceX launch their rocket, but other than that this is a storm in a teacup.

    • Re:I don't get it... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:36AM (#31244928)

      Falcon 9 was supposed to be a stop gap from the time the Shuttle retired till, at least, 2015 when Constellation may have been usable. Now it's all up to SpaceX, Orbital, et al. to do the heavy lifting.

      SpaceX is also developing a Dragon Crew module to take astronauts into space, but this year-maybe-they'll be testing the Dragon Cargo module and dock with the ISS. If SpaceX is successful, and the test of Ad Astra's VASIMR engine in 2011-2012 go as planned (probably not) we should see some huge developments in space exploration/science/commercialization.

    • Re:I don't get it... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by khallow (566160) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @12:00PM (#31245186)

      The real hurdle lies in developing human rated space transport beyond LEO which is with an order of magnitude more difficult. It's nice to see SpaceX launch their rocket, but other than that this is a storm in a teacup.

      This "storm in a teacup" is about access to space. Falcon 9 has the possibility of greatly reducing the cost of doing anything in space, including activities beyond Earth orbit. Earth to orbit is an ante that everyone has to pay. It drives the overall costs of a mission since typically the launch costs are planned to consumed 10-20% of the total mission no matter what the cost per kg is supposed to be.

      For example, supposed missions are planned with 10% of total spending going to launch costs. If launch costs were suddenly halved, it wouldn't do much for missions already being constructed. They would just see a 5% drop in overall mission cost. New missions though could plan on those lower costs. How would they exploit it? By increasing the mass of the craft while reducing its cost per kg. In other words, they don't work as hard to reduce the mass of the spacecraft, saving money in the process. There's other effects. More activities become viable, being justifiable at a lower cost. The launch vehicles will operate more often, allowing both a further substantial reduction in price and better reliability of the launch vehicle.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by geegel (1587009)

        Correct me if I'm wrong, but the math doesn't add up. SpaceX got awarded a 1.6 billion dollar contract for 12 flights to ISS, that's 133 million bucks per flight. Ariane 5 has a cost of roughly 120 million bucks for flight. Where is the cheaper part?

        • The 133 is for everything. And the cargo contract was designed to help get USA private space re-launched.
          OTH, The 120 for Ariane is base price. The real launch is about 160-200 million. In the end, EU will fly Ariane and some private space, and America and most likely most of Private Space will fly SpaceX, L-Mart, Boeing, and OSC. Once BA goes up there, I think that will see several launches per month from the American side.
        • by twostar (675002)
          I believe the contract includes nonrecurring engineering costs. Basically the engineering time to meet NASA requirements for docking to the station that wouldn't have been there just to launch into orbit. SpaceX's website puts per launch costs at around $45-50 million.
        • by bughunter (10093)

          The cheaper part is that Musk can afford to take a loss and underbid, because he's got deep pockets. Therefore he can offer a package deal that includes development and testing of a new system. Most major aerospace companies operate on very thin profit margins, and don't have cash reserves like that for R&D.

          Musk, on the other hand, has options.

          I wish him luck.

        • And when you multiple those cost x2 to equate to a low fidelity simulation of the delivery capability of the Shuttle on one flight (one Ariane 5/Falcon 9 flight for less cargo* than the Shuttle can deliver and one Ariane 5/Falcon 9 flight for fewer people)... The question of who is cheaper starts to get really interesting. (Assuming the lower bound of $250 million for a Shuttle flight priced at marginal cost is reasonable.)

          This is one of the things we discovered when we added up the costs of using

          • by holmstar (1388267)
            Based on the SpaceX website, the per launch costs of Falcon 9 are about 45-50 million. That is FAR below the cost of an Ariane 5 launch.
    • Following a string of failed and canceled NASA projects, there is no Shuttle replacement after its retired. Ariane is not a US rocket, and it cannot presently transport crew. Neither can the Japanese H-IIA rocket.
  • Ha ha! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Mr Z (6791) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:35AM (#31244910) Homepage Journal
    What about Falcon 7 [spatula-city.org]?
  • dilemma (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbeaupre (752124) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:38AM (#31244936)

    Given that most rocket systems have a catastrophic launch failure some time during their history, and given that engineers learn from those mistakes to make every subsequent one safer, Falcon has a dilemma. If they are going to suffer a launch failure, is it better to have one on this first launch or a later one? Engineering wise, you want to fail early so you can fix early. But politically and economically, it could be a disaster.

    Just a thought.

    • Re:dilemma (Score:4, Informative)

      by ZankerH (1401751) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:57AM (#31245148)
      SpaceX has already had their share of "catastrophic launch faliures" with the Falcon 1, which had quite some faliures before they managed to get it right. Falcon 1 now uses the same engines, avionics suite and design philosophy as the Falcon 9. It was basically a test for the bigger rockets, and I'd say they have all the experience and data they need to pull this one off.

      Godspeed, SpaceX. They earned this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770)

      The alleged dilemma would only arise if there was a decision that makes a failure more likely now and less likely later. In practice I expect they do their damndest to avoid it both now and later, but somewhere there'll be a flaw sooner or later. As for what is best, a baseline that works is clearly better. Yes shit can happen because of a bad tweak or poor QA or external damage but having a design you know it basically working is a helluva lot easier than one that is not.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by khallow (566160)
      Keep in mind that SpaceX can learn from launch successes too.
      • by dtmos (447842) *

        Keep in mind that SpaceX can learn from launch successes too.

        True, but any engineer will tell you that you learn far more from your failures than your successes. Failures teach you what technical parameters -- including those that you may have overlooked or considered unimportant, like O-ring behavior at low temperatures and the effects of foam striking tile -- are required for successful operation. They also give you a clue about margins of safety: Without a failure, one can theorize but never truly kno

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      For SpaceX I would wager that launch #2 is the best one for them to have a catastrophic failure on with the Falcon 9. If they can get this first launch to its target safely and successfully, then everyone will turn towards Orbital to watch their maiden launch in 2011. That will give SpaceX the breathing room it needs to blow something up, collect data, and rehash the design.

      Then again, SpaceX really does have a team of badass, top of the line engineers. If any company can pull off a HLV launch record wit
    • Most new rocket systems fail on their first launch (e.g. Delta III, Delta IV Heavy, Ariane 5) it is rare that they do not fail on the first launch. SpaceX is doing a lot of testing, but things can still go wrong.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:39AM (#31244946)

    How is Space X launching a Falcon 9 under a government contract (that previously included helping with development costs) any different than a Delta or Atlas rocket launch under a government contract?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sgage (109086)

      I, too, don't understand the hoopla. What is wrong with Atlas and Delta, both of which are configurable for all sorts of capacities? There they are, they work fine. I don't see how the future of US launch capacity is on the shoulders of Falcon. Surely I'm missing something here?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's about the cost. Falcon 9 is almost an order of magnitude cheaper than anything else out there. They are also one of the few who have list prices for their launches. I commend them for that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ZankerH (1401751)
        Surely you're missing the projected launch costs. SpaceX has the most cost-efficient launcher out there, and they also have had several successful launches with the Falcon 1, which is effectively a smaller version of the 9, sharing the same engines, materials etc. If they succeed with the Falcon 9, this will be nothing short of a revolution in the low earth orbit launch market.
      • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @12:02PM (#31245200)

        What is wrong with Atlas and Delta, both of which are configurable for all sorts of capacities? ..... Surely I'm missing something here?

        Falcons cost about $10M

        Delta 4 cost about $140M to $180M. Ariane 5 about the same.

        Space shuttle launch costs about $1500M

        All lift "about the same amount", but the costs vary by well over two orders of magnitude.

        Standard slashdot car analogy, is that as commuter vehicles, both a KIA and a Ferrari will transport roughly one driver and a briefcase, but there is over two orders of magnitude difference in cost.

        • by compro01 (777531) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @12:36PM (#31245628)

          Where are you getting that $10M figure from?

          SpaceX's site [spacex.com] says $44-49M.

          • by vlm (69642)

            Where are you getting that $10M figure from?
            SpaceX's site says $44-49M.

            My mistake, I was reading about the falcon 1.

            Point still stands, its cheap compared to its competitors.

        • by DarthVain (724186)

          Yes and the concern is getting your KIA to do 200mph. Which would you rather be in?

          It might be 2 orders of magnitude cheaper, but is it equally safer?

          Russian Cosmonaut: "Dey Amerkins 'ave fired a missile at ISS!"
          Russian Ground Control: "It is just payload, do not worry!"
          Russian Cosmonaut: "ORLY!"

          But seriously good luck to them, at that price it opens up all sorts of options, particularly the participation of private industry in areas that used to only be realistically available to large nations.

          • by hardburn (141468)

            Nobody made significant plants to human-rate an EELV until fairly recently [wikipedia.org], and those plans are still barely more than a feasibility study. Falcon 9 was intended to carry a crew module from day 1.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Powys (1274816)
          "You know we're sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn't it?" -Armageddon
        • Where are you getting the $1500M figure from? The marginal cost is on the same order as the Delta and the Ariane.

          Further, they don't lift "about the same", at least not to ISS. The Falcon, Ariane, and Delta have roughly the same gross capacity as the Shuttle's net capacity - but the actual net capacity of the expendables is sharply reduced by the need to provide free flight capacity for their payloads.

          Or, to put it in an automobile analogy;

          • The Shuttle is an eighteen wheeler that can drive directly to the
    • by khallow (566160)
      The valid comparison is Falcon 9 to the Shuttle, Ariane 5, and Soyuz. All three are government owned rockets (though Soyuz and Ariane 5 have been commercialized and Ariane 5 might have a private stake). And the idea of putting astronauts up on a commercial launch vehicle is revolutionary.
      • by compro01 (777531)

        The Falcon 9 isn't very comparable to the Ariane 5. It's got about 2/3s to half the lifting capacity.

        Falcon 9 will lift 10 tonnes to LEO or or 4.5 to GTO.

        Ariane 5 will lift 16-21 tonnes to LEO or 6-10 to GTO.

        The competitive Falcon 9 heavy (which will be one of the (if not the) biggest rockets outside the super-heavy stuff if/when it gets done) is still in development.

        • The competitive Falcon 9 heavy (which will be one of the (if not the) biggest rockets outside the super-heavy stuff if/when it gets done) is still in development.

          Note, for the record, that the Falcon 9 Heavy consists of a Falcon 9 plus two extra Falcon 9 first stages in parallel.

          In other words, about 99% of Falcon 9 Heavy will be tested when the first Falcon 9 flies - all that'll be left is software and the physical disconnects between the three Falcon 9 first stages.

          Not that software is necessarily a sma

    • I believe Delta and Atlas were made to government order. Falcon, however, was not.
      • Delta and Atlas were fully funded by the feds. Falcon was mostly funded by Musk. Falcon 9 is 100% new. Delta/Atlas are one offs from many decades ago. BIG difference.
        • The Delta IV and Atlas V first stages and engines are essentially new (RS-68, RD-180). Sure the second stage uses the RL-10 Centaur engine, but there is not that much in common between those rockets and their predecessors. Especially Delta IV.
          • The RD-180 was developed by Russia in early to mid 80's, while the RS-68 is from early 90's. All pretty old.
            • No, RD-180 was designed specifically for the Atlas program. It is based on the RD-170 engine from Energia, but it first flew in Atlas III in like 2000. Also, 20 years is not a long time in the space launch industry. Not that old when you have improved R-7 rockets based on the one that launched Sputnik and Gagarin still in use today.

              RS-68 was a pretty new design that used less parts, and an ablative nozzle to decrease costs, which is unlike most engines previous to it. RD-180 is a staged combustion engine

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @12:31PM (#31245558)

      It's more the nature of the contract.

      Delta and Atlas were developed using cost plus methods with a high degree of government involvement and oversight in the creation of the vehicle requirements. The EELV's (Delta and Atlas) were government projects in the same way as a new fighter aircraft, or ship is procured.

      COTS (the contract SpaceX is operating under) is completely milestone based, you successfully complete X, we pay you Y. If you fail you get nada, zero. SpaceX is more like how the goverment buys tickets for employees on commercial airliners. Falcon X is not a goverment project

    • by Somegeek (624100)

      One of the obvious differences that others have mentioned is cost, but the reason is more important. The others were developed under government contract and on huge government budgets. This results in rockets that cost over 100 million USD to launch. SpaceX is a private company developing their own technology primarily using their own money, allowing them to develop vehicles that cost significantly less to launch.

    • Falcon 9 was developed with Human Ratings. The others were not. In fact, Falcon 9 may actually be the first LV designed with human launch being the biggest part of it in nearly 40 years.
      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        Falcon 9 was developed with Human Ratings. The others were not. In fact, Falcon 9 may actually be the first LV designed with human launch being the biggest part of it in nearly 40 years.

        Actually, when you consider that the Space Shuttle and Soyuz don't meet NASA's human-rating standards, one could potentially argue that the Falcon 9 will be the first human-rated rocket in the history of mankind. ;)

        • Actually, I believe that they met them of the time. That was why I did not say the first one. But, you may have a good point. My guess is that SpaceX will likely be found guilty of some issue no matter how much they work at it. Sad, but the safety council will probably want to hold something (politics and all). Funny thing, is that Constellation was already headed towards KNOWN compromises.
  • The use of "in toto" is in toto-ly stupid. This is not a legal paper, so don't use Latin. "Completely" would have sufficed.

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @12:16PM (#31245368) Homepage

      Oh is that what that meant?

      I thought the summary was saying that the Constellation program had been canceled in Dorothy's little dog. Which makes sense to me; I never saw how a heavy-lift rocket could possibly fit inside a little terrier.

      • I thought the summary was saying that the Constellation program had been canceled in Dorothy's little dog. Which makes sense to me; I never saw how a heavy-lift rocket could possibly fit inside a little terrier.

        Neither did the Vl'hurgs:

        For thousands more years the mighty ships tore across the empty wastes of space and finally dived screaming on to the first planet they came across---which happened to be Earth---where due to a terrible miscalculation of scale the entire battle fleet was accidentally swall

  • by FlyByPC (841016) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @11:59AM (#31245176) Homepage
    ...NASA's facility is being used for the launch of a new rocket. If it works well, NASA stands to lose funding. If it doesn't (especially if it fails catastrophically), NASA comes out ahead?

    I'm glad I'm not anywhere near the Cape right about now, y'know? Just saying.
    • Just the opposite. If this works and CONgress approves of Bolden's plan, then NASA will get an increase. If Falcon 9 fails, then NASA and Bolden will have a VERY DIFFICULT time arguing to CONgress to kill Constellation. As it is, the 1999, and 2002 CONgress did a great deal of damage to NASA, but may have helped make the case. the neo-cons of the time forbade NASA to develop transhab or VASIMR. Thankfully, NASA spun those off into separate companies and helped fund one of them. Bigelow and Adastra are now
      • Ironically, Bigelow and Adastra are two of the companies that they're talking about contracting with for this "new", advanced, ground breaking technology.
        • They are the important ones. BA will give us the private space stations and Mr. B wants to be on the moon. They devote a lot of effort to not just figuring our the station, but how to land and protect these on the moon. Hopefully, they are working with the other companies esp. Blue Origin, L-Mart, and Boeing (all with stakes on landing on the moon).
    • Losing funding for launches doesn't mean you lose funding for everything. Also, they have facilities and expertise that make them valuable to whoever may assume launch functions. If I own an arena, I might stand to make more money just leasing out the venue and providing concessions instead of trying to create the entertainment value as well
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by confused one (671304)
      Umm... It's an Air Force facility located adjacent to the NASA facility.
    • by FleaPlus (6935)

      ...NASA's facility is being used for the launch of a new rocket. If it works well, NASA stands to lose funding.

      Incorrect, NASA's actually getting a funding increase under the new plans.

  • False Hopes. (Score:4, Informative)

    by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @01:09PM (#31246226) Homepage Journal
    To be clear, while the summary does say that Falcon 9 could launch as early as next month (March 22 to be exact) neither SpaceX, nor NASA have that date reserved as a planned launch date. This Spaceflightnow article [spaceflightnow.com] summarizes both Elon Musk's and the chief launch supervisor's remarks regarding expectations of an early launch date. They discuss the fact that it is very likely that Falcon 9 will not be prepped for launch until April or May this year. If that indeed does prove to be the case, it would not be a slip or a launch date failure, it would be part of the overall Falcon 9 launch plan. Quite frankly, it takes a LOT of groundwork and very precise timing to launch something the size of the Falcon 9 successfully. That said, SpaceX's launch crews want to get in all the practice they can to get the rhythm and motions of a successful launch op down.

    To finalize this primary point with a quote from the spaceflightnow article:

    "People should not think that the rocket is going to launch on whatever the first countdown day is," Musk said in an interview last month. "They shouldn't think of any day that we have planned as launch day, but it is simply an aspiration for the first day that we will try to do a countdown."

    That said, this is, indeed, a very exciting launch for the space industry. The spaceflightnow article has some good techie info on the connections made between the rocket and the transport vehicle, as well as some info regarding the anchoring mechanisms for the rocket when it is hoisted.

    Furthermore, I do feel it necessary to point out that this:

    However if something goes wrong, those plans will come crashing to Earth along with Falcon 9.

    ...is a friggin' sensationalist claim that has no place in science reporting, either on a primary site or on a news aggregation site. Should the first Falcon 9 fail, they will learn from it and launch better designs in the future. Orbital still is working on its Taurus rocket. The EELV program (Atlas and Delta) are still pushing strong in the commercial market. If the first Falcon 9 flight fails, it will not be the end all be all of either Obama's current NASA vision, nor America's role in the space program. So please, keep the hyperbole out of the damned summaries guys.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      This can't be said enough. Falcon 9 Flight 1 is in no way a single point failure for the administration's budget proposal. Whether its a success or failure it demonstrates why the new plan is in fact the right way to go.

      First, SpaceX has judged that at this point its cheaper to fly the rocket than to suffer from the 'failure is not an option' mentality. Yes, an explosion looks bad, but quite frankly, after a certain point its cheaper to just launch the thing than to waste engineer hours trying to find mo

    • If that indeed does prove to be the case, it would not be a slip or a launch date failure, it would be part of the overall Falcon 9 launch plan.

      That's pretty Orwellian, or like something out of Dilbert. "We're planning on a launch potentially as early as March or April, but if plans change and launch date slips it won't really be a slip because we'll be right on schedule according to the revised schedule".

      Furthermore, I do feel it necessary to point out that this:

      However if something goes wrong, th

      • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

        It's still sensationalist even for SpaceX alone. Musk is still funding SpaceX largely from himself and private investors; the COTS money was supposedly helpful but not absolutely necessary. He has said that they can afford four F9 failures before a successful flight, and since its still largely privately funded development, the political risks are minimized -- congress can only cancel COTS, not Falcon 9 development.

        Musk understands that at a certain point its cheaper to risk blowing up a rocket with a dumm

    • by FleaPlus (6935)

      ...is a friggin' sensationalist claim that has no place in science reporting, either on a primary site or on a news aggregation site. Should the first Falcon 9 fail, they will learn from it and launch better designs in the future. Orbital still is working on its Taurus rocket. The EELV program (Atlas and Delta) are still pushing strong in the commercial market. If the first Falcon 9 flight fails, it will not be the end all be all of either Obama's current NASA vision, nor America's role in the space program. So please, keep the hyperbole out of the damned summaries guys.

      I totally agree. I'm a huge fan of SpaceX and have a lot of hope for them, but even if they suddenly disappeared into the ubiquitous ether the new NASA plan would still be going strong. As you mentioned, there's quite a few other companies getting fixed-price milestone-based funding from NASA to develop launch vehicles and spacecraft for crew. A quick summary:

      Launch vehicles:
      * SpaceX Falcon 9 (vehicle mentioned in summary): medium development risk, low-cost
      * Lockheed/ULA Atlas V: low-risk (development risk

  • We will be fine (we will be fine)
    Falcon 9* (Falcon 9)
    Even though NASA say
    "Way out of line" (out of line)
    We will be fine (we will be fine)
    Falcon 9 (Falcon 9)
    Even though NASA say
    "Way out of line" (out of line)

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3130681292715811054&hl=en# [google.com]

    You're welcome, NASA TV!


    *post would make way more sense if del tags were allowed. Harumph!
  • by cmholm (69081) <cmholm&mauiholm,org> on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @01:41PM (#31246808) Homepage Journal

    Delta and Atlas are reliable because the time/money have been put into anal retentive engineering. The 1950's/60's customer was in enough of a hurry that they were willing to push the schedule with money and man hours. They also realized that pushing the schedule on developing flaming tubes of fuel was a recipe for BOOM!, and gritted their teeth through the mistakes.

    Hopefully, SpaceX has learned enough from Falcon 1 that they can minimize the boom factor on Falcon 9, but given the size of their engineering staff (CAD/CAM or no), I wouldn't count on it.

  • If the Federal government makes a strategic decision based on the outcome of one rocket launch, the only thing it demonstrates is that the Federal government should be cancelled.
  • Reader FleaPlus contributes related news about NASA's proposed funding for scientific payloads on commercial space flights, which would be a huge boon to researchers.

    Well, to be more precise, it's actually the commercial suborbital flights. For the curious, here's the text of my submission the summary is referring to:

    Suborbital Science Gets Boost From NASA

    This past week NASA announced that it would provide $15M/year for 5 years (pending Congressional approval) for launching science payloads [nature.com] on commercial suborbital spacecraft, which provide a more cost-effective and productive way to perform many types of research. The announcement was made at the first Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference, where a few hundred scientists and rocket builders gathered to get a better understanding of each others' needs and capabilities. In addition to space tourism flights, several companies [newspacejournal.com], like John Carmack's Armadillo Aerospace, Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, XCOR, and Virgin Galactic, are competing for the lucrative scientific market to fly payloads for fields like microgravity biology/chemistry, atmospheric science, astrophysics, and space technology tests.

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