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NASA Space Science

SpaceX Conducts First On-Pad Test-Fire of Falcon 9 109

Posted by timothy
from the still-learning-how-to-stage-launches dept.
FleaPlus writes "On Saturday, SpaceX successfully conducted a launch dress rehearsal and on-pad test firing of their completed Falcon 9 rocket, with the 15-story tall rocket held down to prevent launch (videos). SpaceX is one of several likely competitors (ranging from the upstart Blue Origin to the more experienced Boeing) in NASA's new plans for commercial crew transportation to low-Earth orbit. SpaceX has been cleared by Cape Canaveral for the Falcon 9's first orbital launch next month, carrying a test model of the company's Dragon cargo/crew capsule, although CEO/CTO Elon Musk has cautioned that they're still in the equivalent of 'beta testing' for the first few flights."
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SpaceX Conducts First On-Pad Test-Fire of Falcon 9

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  • by wisebabo (638845) on Monday March 15, 2010 @08:24AM (#31480506) Journal

    ...of getting to space by making incremental improvements in technology (and substantial cost reductions through cutting bureaucracy).

    Let NASA do the high risk/high return investments in fundamentally new technologies (aerospike engines, composite fuel tanks, hypersonic ramjets hell even laser beamed launchers or space elevators!). That, in a nutshell, is Obama's plan isn't it? To me, just a space enthusiast, it sounds good if not ideal. ("ideal" would have been to not have invaded Iraq and instead, COLONIZED Mars. They cost about the same.).

    I just don't want to someday have American astronauts make their first landing on Mars and have to order Chinese food from the restaurant there. (It's okay, they can have the Moon).

    • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday March 15, 2010 @08:54AM (#31480732)

      ...of getting to space by making incremental improvements in technology (and substantial cost reductions through cutting bureaucracy).

      Let NASA do the high risk/high return investments in fundamentally new technologies (aerospike engines, composite fuel tanks, hypersonic ramjets hell even laser beamed launchers or space elevators!). That, in a nutshell, is Obama's plan isn't it? To me, just a space enthusiast, it sounds good if not ideal.

      It sounds about perfect. Of course, the devil is in the details.

      1) Will the bureaucracy actually be reduced? I suspect not.

      2) Will NASA do the research on fundamentally new technologies? I suspect not here either, since that would require handing NASA money year after year with no real return. (when you're getting money to do research, you have a powerful incentive to never actually finish your research)

      3) Will Obama's Congress actually vote out the money to do either of these things? Given past history, there's no "suspect not" here, just a "no".

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Calinous (985536)

        Aye, the times when NASA researches air engines and Jet Propulsion Laboratories builds Mars exploration rovers...

      • by Kjella (173770) on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:15AM (#31480946) Homepage

        2) Will NASA do the research on fundamentally new technologies? I suspect not here either, since that would require handing NASA money year after year with no real return. (when you're getting money to do research, you have a powerful incentive to never actually finish your research)

        With your last remark this sounds like an attack on doing research in general, every researcher has that interest even in the private industry, unless they're stock holders rather than normal wage takers. The mechanism to solve that is exactly the same too, there's not an infinite amount of research money neither in the private nor public sector. Your program is a lackluster like Constellation? It gets axed. It's a huge success like the Mars Rovers? You can bet there'll be another round of grants for those. Oh there's a lot of pork and politics rather than science that decides what gets funded, but that's equally true everywhere. In fact, I'm fairly sure that this happens much more in the applied sciences where they claim the big profits are right around the next bend, only a little more research is necessary...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          With your last remark this sounds like an attack on doing research in general, every researcher has that interest even in the private industry, unless they're stock holders rather than normal wage takers. The mechanism to solve that is exactly the same too, there's not an infinite amount of research money neither in the private nor public sector.

          Nah, I have no objections to research, either public or private. But I don't really expect that an organization dedicated to research is going to be necessarily mo

          • by FleaPlus (6935)

            Note that Constellation wasn't axed because it was "lackluster". It was axed because it was the previous President's program.

            Incorrect. It was cancelled because, as the independent review by the aerospace experts on the Augustine Committee [nasa.gov] found, Constellation offered "little or no apparent value" despite the tens/hundreds of billions of dollars which would be spent on it through 2030.

            That, and Constellation would have been unable to accomplish even ONE of the objectives set forth in Bush's 2004 Vision for Space Exploration:

            http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/55583main_vision_space_exploration2.pdf [nasa.gov]

            The fundamental goal of this vision is to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program. In support of this goal, the United States will:
            * Implement a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and
            beyond;
            * Extend human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon by the year 2020, in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations;
            * Develop the innovative technologies, knowledge, and infrastructures both to explore and to support decisions about the destinations for human exploration; and
            * Promote international and commercial participation in exploration to further U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests.

          • by Teancum (67324)

            There was opposition to Constellation on nearly the day it was announced, from within the Bush administration itself. Indeed, there were so many problems with the design and concept that a substantial number of the NASA engineers working on Constellation set up an independent off-clock (they used the internet and worked from home in a fashion similar to an open source software project) to come up with the DIRECT launch vehicle that would have been in many ways much, much better than even the Constellation

      • by vlm (69642) on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:21AM (#31480992)

        1) Will the bureaucracy actually be reduced? I suspect not.

        You could staff 30 SpaceX companies with the number of people downsized by the shuttle program ending. Or in other words, its not a good time to be an aerospace engineer. (Has it ever been a good time to be an aerospace engineer?)

        Downsize 27000 jobs as regards the shuttle shut down. Note that is a delta, for the industry not just NASA.
        I know its an industry wide figure because NASA only employs 17900 people per wikipedia.

        http://app1.kuhf.org/houston_public_radio-news-display.php?articles_id=1267053819 [kuhf.org]

        SpaceX employs 900 people

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX [wikipedia.org]

        • You could staff 30 SpaceX companies with the number of people downsized by the shuttle program ending. Or in other words, its not a good time to be an aerospace engineer. (Has it ever been a good time to be an aerospace engineer?)

          Downsize 27000 jobs as regards the shuttle shut down. Note that is a delta, for the industry not just NASA. I know its an industry wide figure because NASA only employs 17900 people per wikipedia.

          SpaceX employs 900 people

          Once they start work on man-rating Dragon, we'll get a clue

          • They don't have to "start work on man-rating the Dragon". The Dragon capsule, in fact the entire Falcon 9 rocket system was designed from the get-go to be meet the NASA specs for man-rating.
        • Is that necessarily a bad thing to have 30 companies the size of SpaceX who productively each perform roughly the same amount of work that the one bloated agency milking government largess to do the same thing?

          Yes, I do realize that even comparing Constellation to the Falcon 9 isn't quite comparing the same thing, but it does help that SpaceX is starting from a clean sheet in terms of building up a new organization that is avoiding bureaucracy that even exists in more established private companies like Boeing or Northrop-Grumman. That is called competition, and I think it is a good thing.

          From a public policy standpoint and from the perspective of a company trying to get started in the aerospace business, now is a fantastic time to be an investor in a new aerospace start-up company with thousands of very hungry engineers that have decades of experience. From what I've seen, it is actually a good time to be an aerospace engineering graduate, as there are job opportunities out there.... especially for entry-level engineers that may be willing to work for a relatively low salary to get their feet wet.

          All this said, yeah it would suck to be an employee of one of the major spacecraft firms that are connected to either Shuttle parts production or to the Constellation program. This does disrupt lives, families, communities, and even whole states when substantial shifts occur. That is why it is important to really evaluate the programs carefully before you shut down something like Constellation or the Shuttle program. Still, just because some program or government project is going, does that mean we as taxpayers need to keep that program going just to employ these workers, even if whatever they are making can't possibly be used affordably even once it is completed?

          • by LWATCDR (28044)

            "Is that necessarily a bad thing to have 30 companies the size of SpaceX who productively each perform roughly the same amount of work that the one bloated agency milking government largess to do the same thing?"

            "Yes, I do realize that even comparing Constellation to the Falcon 9 isn't quite comparing the same thing,"
            But you did it anyway.

            I am all for Space X but they have not even flown the Falcon 9 yet. The PR for the Shuttle before and frankly even after it went into service was great as well. It was onl

            • by Belial6 (794905)
              I don't know what your talking about. At 10 years old, I recognized that the Shuttle didn't live up to it's hype on it's first launch when I saw that it was just a plane shaped space ship attached to a rocket for take off. The hype before the shuttle went into service was that it would take off and land like an airplane. I don't know if that was what NASA intended or not, but that was certainly how it was presented to much of the public at the time. Your statement about the shuttle only being questioned
              • by LWATCDR (28044)

                Well I have no idea what you where taught as a child but the Shuttle was never supposed to take off like an airplane. Even the first drawings from back in 72 didn't show it taking off from a runway and by 1976 everybody knew what it was going to look like.
                So no I doubt that you had much idea of what was expected out of the Shuttle program at 10 years old.

                • i am, off course not speaking for the GP, but i personally was confused a bit by the pictures of the shuttle on top of its transport-747, before i really got deep into space-stuff. Coupled with the fact that smaller rockets can be air-launched into space, i must have somehow thought the shuttle could do the same from its carrier-747.

                  This was all before i really started studying space stuff though, no such delusions anymore (and before i got a solid grip on physics, the only way a shuttle could do a 747 laun

            • by Teancum (67324)

              I am all for Space X but they have not even flown the Falcon 9 yet. The PR for the Shuttle before and frankly even after it went into service was great as well. It was only when Challenger blew up did people start looking at it and seeing that it had not really delivered.

              While the Falcon 9 hasn't flown yet, the Delta IV by Boeing and the Atlas V, both of them in configurations capable of manned spaceflight, have already flown and with enviable flight records that put the Shuttle program to shame. Orbital Sciences is also ready to launch another vehicle that will achieve orbital flight that can be man-rated, and there are another half-dozen other companies in the USA alone (and another half dozen outside of the USA) that may get there too in the next dozen years or so.

              Space

              • by LWATCDR (28044)

                I know what the "dream" is but it is the same dream that everybody had for the Shuttle. Did you know that NASA was moving to have PanAm manage the shuttle project before Challenger blew up. I know because I worked for a contractor back then.
                The problem with the Shuttle was that Congress kept pushing to get NASA to cut development costs at the expense of operating costs. Everything from the external tank, scraping the space tug, and tiles where all development costs cutting moves. The Constellation is also f

                • by Teancum (67324)

                  The Shuttle never was going to be the low-cost launch vehicle, and the Challenge accident mostly emphasized that the Shuttle was an experimental aircraft that didn't meet any sort of human safety standard. It certainly doesn't meet the current human spaceflight standards that NASA is trying to push on the rest of the spacecraft building agencies.

                  Oh, BTW, Ares I also doesn't meet that standard and specifically had to get a special waiver exemption just for the design to get approval to get as much as has be

                  • by LWATCDR (28044)

                    As I said we are being sold the same dream as before.
                    Maybe SpaceX will work out well. The have done a lot of work and should be proud of what they have done. The problem is that I don't feel the are advancing the state of the art which is what we really need.
                    I think the Ares 1 is the totally wrong way to go. I would have liked to see what I call a Saturn 1NT be built.
                    It would only kinda be like the old Saturn 1b in size and purpose but would with out a doubt a part of the Saturn family.
                    Replace the old massi

          • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

            Actually, its currently a terrible time to be an entry-level engineer trying to find an Aerospace job. The fact that the current Obama plan (which I fully support) is still only proposed, no one knows whats going to happen, and none of the established companies are hiring -- most of the job postings are not being actively pursued by Boeing, LockMart, etc. SpaceX has job postings up, and I think they mean to fill them, but they're a small company and they're busy right now so most of those are standing sti

            • by Teancum (67324)

              Actually, its currently a terrible time to be an entry-level engineer trying to find an Aerospace job. The fact that the current Obama plan (which I fully support) is still only proposed, no one knows whats going to happen, and none of the established companies are hiring -- most of the job postings are not being actively pursued by Boeing, LockMart, etc. SpaceX has job postings up, and I think they mean to fill them, but they're a small company and they're busy right now so most of those are standing still too.

              There are close to a dozen different companies in various parts of the USA that are looking for aerospace engineers that I'm aware of right at the top of my head. If you mean a cushy six figure income working for a government cost-plus contractor that pushes the notion of "waste anything but time" and working for one of the major aerospace firms, I'd have to agree. This isn't the 1960's where folks with high school diplomas could get a job in rocket development simply because they needed warm bodies, and

        • I would argue that NOW is a GREAT time to be an aerospace engineer. Look, we are about to get MULTIPLE companies with launch capability. We are about to get MULTIPLE space stations over the next 5 years. We are going to the moon before 2020. This is a GREAT TIME to be an engineer. There will be high growth assuming that the neo-cons do not destroy this. As it was, back in the mid 90's, they forced NASA to stop development of Shuttle C as well as a Direct type vehicle. They stopped Transhab (that is now BA).
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Teancum (67324)

            No, we are on the edge of a true space race explosion amongst the private companies similar to the net in 1992. Will we see a .com bubble? Most likely. But we will still see MANY MANY companies created and expansion of man to the stars.

            Wall Street is looking desperately for that "next big thing" and I also believe that soon money is going to be pouring from the private equity markets into spaceflight in a manner than has never happened before. Will Wall Street overdo that kind of speculation? Just like everything else that they do, but then again I think it will end up being better for the USA in the long run.

            The one thing that puts some sanity into spaceflight is that so many companies now have "bent metal" and that they have to meet t

            • Exactly. If there is water on the moon, it is actually cheaper for Bigelow to be there. I think that we will be heading there by 2020 (not necessarily with boots on the ground, but at least with a massive project underway that is designed to put a combination of private and public moon base there.
      • by Necron69 (35644)

        As of last September, SpaceX had about 700 employees (http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/air_space/4328638.html [popularmechanics.com]). They've done in just a few years and few hundred million dollars, what takes NASA a decade or more, billions of dollars, and tens of thousands of employees.

        How's that for reduced bureacracy?

        Necron69

      • by Kirijini (214824)

        1) Will the bureaucracy actually be reduced?

        Nasa is a government agency. By definition, it is a bureaucracy. By definition, all its employees are government officials... aka, bureaucrats. That includes all the scientists and engineers, in addition to their managers.

        The tone of your post suggests you disapprove of middle management, red tape, and government administration.

        You need to realize that the more a government agency contracts out its tasks, the more and more the agency becomes comprised of the red tape machine, and less and less of it are

        • by FleaPlus (6935)

          Nasa is a government agency. By definition, it is a bureaucracy. By definition, all its employees are government officials... aka, bureaucrats... You need to realize that the more a government agency contracts out its tasks, the more and more the agency becomes comprised of the red tape machine, and less and less of it are people who do the agency's work.

          Sure, you can't necessarily reduce the proportion of bureaucracy at NASA, pretty much by definition. However, what you can do is reduce portion of bureaucracy in the aerospace industry as a whole, allowing the same number of bureaucrats to help facilitate a much larger amount of aerospace activity. Also, the transition from cost-plus contracts (where profits are guaranteed but there's massive amounts of paperwork) to fixed-price contracts (where the company takes greater risk but with MUCH less bureaucracy,

      • While not certain about the bureaucracy reduction (I suspect that Bolden holds potential), think about NASA in the aeronauticals RD world. How much RD do they do? LOADS. They do it in conjunction with private companies, but still, they are the main RD ppl. And I think that once we have enough private space going to Space with Cargo and Humans, then we will see loads of cutting edge RD on going to the moon/mars/asteroids/etc.
      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        2) Will NASA do the research on fundamentally new technologies? I suspect not here either, since that would require handing NASA money year after year with no real return. (when you're getting money to do research, you have a powerful incentive to never actually finish your research)

        Robert Braun, the new NASA Chief Technologist (and well-regarded expert in aerospace and planetary exploration technologies) gave a talk last week which gives a good overview on how NASA's research on "fundamentally new technolo

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Rogerborg (306625)
      Ah, that's Old School scientific driving forces right there: fear, xenophobia and racism. You forgot about them stealing all the hot Martian women [wikipedia.org] if they get here first though.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dziban303 (540095)
        Exactly what is racist or even xenophobic about his statement? He said, in effect, he doesn't want the Chinese to beat us there--he didn't say "I hate and fear those chinks". So is it no longer okay to root for your own team?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by wisebabo (638845)

          Yeah, I'm actually Asian American (with both parents being Asian). So while I might be (overly) nationalistic I don't think I'm being racist. And while I'm not living in China, I'm living in a country right next door.

          By the way, since African Americans can say the "N" word without opprobrium, can I use the "C" word. ;)

        • by Rogerborg (306625)

          Exactly what is racist or even xenophobic about his statement?

          The act of choosing to write it?

          So is it no longer okay to root for your own team?

          Well, if you like. Let's give it a try: I'm really glad that I'm British, because that means I'm not a Yank.

          I get your point. There's nothing remotely xenophobic about saying how I wake up every day praising the Flying Spaghetti Monster that I'm not American.

          • by lgw (121541)

            Nationalism: those people in $COUNTRY are bad, evil people, and so we deserve to win!

            Patriotism: those people in $COUNTRY are people just like us, equally deserving, but I hope we're the ones that win!

            There's nothing inherently Xenophobic in rooting for the home team.

      • if they get here first though

        Wait, you're already there? And there are hot Martian women? Hot damn! I would have expected a lower /. id though.

        --
        if you were blocking sigs, you would still have to read this

    • Slowly driving down the cost? A Falcon 9 launch will cost 1/10th that of anything from United Launch Alliance (the unholy combination of Lockheed Martin and Boeing's launch businesses), with a heavier payload to orbit. A Falcon 9 launch will cost very nearly 1/50th that of a Space Shuttle launch. Either way you look at it, an order of magnitude reduction in cost to orbit. In less than a decade with a work force so small they still qualify for small business status.

      I wouldn't call that slow...

      • by Rei (128717)

        The reduction in price *per kilogram* isn't that dramatic (1/4th the Shuttle rate, ~2/5ths non-shuttle US rates, 2/3rds to 3/4ths non-discounted** Russian rates), but yes, it's more than just an incremental improvement. Assuming that they can keep their price targets. Of course, from what I understand, their price targets assume no reuse, but they're looking into reuse, so that does give them some potential to even beat those targets.

        ** -- The Russians sometimes offer special deals on experimental craft o

  • 15-stories? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Henriok (6762)
    I know americans have problems with units for length but really "15 story tall"? Exactly how tall is a story? I don't even know how tall a 15 story tall house is, or even that it's 15 stories tall. Does that include the ground floor or basement? Or the top floor? A penthouse, it that one or two stories and included in this measurement? Can you use "story" to measure something lying down or is everything "1 story long"? The height of a story must differ from house to house so how many stories tall is a 15 st
    • by mrsquid0 (1335303)

      A story is typically about three meters.

    • by GooberToo (74388)

      Exactly how tall is a story?

      Each story is roughly 10 feet. So a 15 story building is roughly 150 feet tall.

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Or, in laymans terms, "Half a Godzilla".

      • by hanabal (717731)

        my building has 14ft ceilings. add a bit between levels and you have 15ft per storey. So how tall is a 15 storey rocket again?

        • by c6gunner (950153)

          150 feet. Did you not hear him the first time?

          You know MY library of congress is way bigger than YOUR library of congress ...

        • The only kind of place I've seen such tall ceilings have been in tropical climates, and never more than a couple of stories high.
          • by hanabal (717731)

            well I'm in Scotland. wouldn't quite call it tropical and the building is 9 storeys tall

        • by GooberToo (74388)

          The average story is 10 feet with the average ceiling 8 feet. Period. So since you didn't understand the first time, a 15 story building is on average 150 feet tall.

          • by hanabal (717731)

            the point is that there is a lot of variability on storeys. I understand there is an "average" storey height. But then you have to define mean or median. the median might very well be 10 ft but the mean will definitely be more than 10ft, likely closer to 12 ft seeing as most high rises have 12ft or more ceilings.

            Also the article didn't say "15 average storeys tall", it said "15 storeys tall". I know this sounds pedantic but storey as a height unit is really bad. All it gives is a rough idea that it is reall

            • by hanabal (717731)

              also 54m is approximately 177ft. so using this supposed 10ft per storey it should be almost 18 storeys, not 15

            • by GooberToo (74388)

              the point is that there is a lot of variability on storeys

              Of course there is. My initial answer made that pretty clear. Using the word, "roughly", very clearly means its not an exact measurement. Its a mechanism which allows someone to relate to scale without using an actual scale or image. Nothing more, nothing less. You're problem is, and many others, you keep trying to use it as an exact measurement when it was never intended to be used as such. The simple fact remains, most people can't relate to large numbers, and humans in general are extremely bad at estima

              • by hanabal (717731)

                I do actually enjoy this conversation. It is enlightening on some weird level. I don't have an issue with the idea of using comparisons, but storeys for some reason doesn't sit well with me. Your point of 3 stories making no difference is a good one and I fully agree. In fact I'll go further and say that personally if you said 10 storeys I wouldn't be able to visualise much difference. going the other way, if the article said 20 storeys I'd likely imagine the same basic height (really tall). All I could see

    • Does that include the ground floor or basement?

      American article. On this side of the pond, the ground floor is the "first floor", so it would be included as one of the fifteen stories tall.

    • Simple really - 15 stories is about 5 Libraries of Congress tall.
      • by Dan9999 (679463)
        tall is usually associated with storeys (not stories), but you make a good point that stories are associated with a Library of Congress, the only problem is the math. If tall were out of the picture it sounds like one Library of Congress has 3 stories in it.
    • by strack (1051390)
      why a story is about 15 libraries of congress tall.
    • Re:15-stories? (Score:5, Informative)

      by vlm (69642) on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:13AM (#31480918)

      I know americans have problems with units for length but really "15 story tall"? Exactly how tall is a story?

      How tall are you? A story is a bit taller than that, to account for ceiling mounted HVAC ducts and lighting. Intuitively its going to be about 10 feet per story, to one sig fig. Or about 3 meters. So, figure around 150 feet, or around 45 meters.

      I agree that it is about as annoying as specifying all computer related measurements in "libraries of congress".

      It would have been much more interesting if the journalist compared it to the size of a common launcher, like a space shuttle stack. Its 25% taller than a ready to launch shuttle stack or whatever it turns out to be.

      • by Henriok (6762)

        Intuitively its going to be about 10 feet per story, to one sig fig. Or about 3 meters. So, figure around 150 feet, or around 45 meters.

        As it turns out the Falcon 9 is 54 meters tall. That would be 18 stories tall according to your intuition. Your approximation was 20% off. But hey.. give of take three stories. What's that among friends?

        • by vlm (69642)

          Like I wrote "to one sig fig". I'm pleased as punch that my estimate was correct.

          I wonder if the 54 meters counts the payload, maybe the itty bity lightning rod at the top, etc. Or is there a standard payload shroud that all payloads must live within for aerodynamic consistency reasons, in which case I guess it would be fair to count the shroud as part of the launcher.

          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            This image [space.com] linked to from the article shows the design of the falcon 9 + payload, and compares it to the Soyuz and the Shuttle.

            That 54m is the total height including the payload capsule and the nosecone.

            But really, who gives a shit about how tall it is? Look at that picture and the stats, and you see the real comparison, the thing is way smaller than the shuttle stack (pile? Jenga game? what do you call a non-stacked stack?). Mass is much lower, but so is payload capacity -- about 16% the mass, and 43% of

        • by Teancum (67324)

          Intuitively its going to be about 10 feet per story, to one sig fig. Or about 3 meters. So, figure around 150 feet, or around 45 meters.

          As it turns out the Falcon 9 is 54 meters tall. That would be 18 stories tall according to your intuition. Your approximation was 20% off. But hey.. give of take three stories. What's that among friends?

          Which is precisely why the complaint was issued, as there isn't a standard "metric" for whatever you can call a story. That is about the same as calling a foot to be the average size of the feet from the first 12 men that walk out of church on Sunday (one of the early legal definitions of a foot BTW). Instead, we have a foot to be precisely defined (by law) as 304.8 millimeters, which in turn is based on the distance of a certain number of wavelengths of a legally defined frequency of light.

        • Might be a problem if you live on the 17th floor.

    • by Machupo (59568)

      Americans enjoy non-precise measurement... it hearkens back to measuring length in units of a Monarch's apendage [wikipedia.org]

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:05AM (#31480842)

    Whens the IPO for spaceX?

    I check finance.google.com and its all BS paper shuffling worthless shells of a company. All either struggling, dying, living off the government teat, or all of the above. Its like watching a bad season of survivor and the only ones left on the island are the biggest crooks and cheats so you wish none of them would win.

    On the other hand, I'd like to invest in a company doing something interesting, like spacex. Even if they fail, I'd much rather throw away $$$ on a cool rocket than a bunch of thieving financial industry crooks.

    I found one article from Dec 2007 stating they might IPO in the next two years, aka Dec 2009

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN0344600420071204 [reuters.com]

    So, wheres the IPO? I was reading slashdot in the Redhat IPO era and I suspect the combined slashdot readership would probably enjoy buying some SPACEX even more so than RHAT.

    If 50K slashdotters alone, each bought $1K of SPACEX at an IPO, that would be enough for one Falcon 9 launch right there.

    • Any article pre-September 2008 (i.e. Lehman Bros. FAIL) will not take the recession/market crash into account. Naturally, the SpaceX guys probably thought of an IPO until the credit markets froze ca. Q2-Q3 2008.

    • by deander2 (26173) *

      I found one article from Dec 2007 stating they might IPO in the next two years, aka Dec 2009

      http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN0344600420071204 [reuters.com] So, wheres the IPO?

      i don't know the specifics of spacex's tech, financials or crookism. but if i owned a company that in 2007 had planned a 2009 IPO, i probably would have postponed it regardless of how awesome/straight-forward my company was. i don't know if you remember, but we had a slight stock market hiccup 'round then. =P

    • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday March 15, 2010 @10:37AM (#31481846)

      Whens the IPO for spaceX?

      I suspect Musk doesn't intend to do one. He doesn't really need the money now (though that may change when it comes time to man-rate Dragon), and giving up control of his company to someone who is only concerned with the quarterly bottom line may not appeal to him.

      Frankly, though I'd love to own some of SpaceX, I'd prefer to leave it in the control of a guy who isn't afraid to risk some of his own money for long-term gain. And don't see that it's too likely to stay that way once an IPO happens....

      • by barzok (26681)

        I'd prefer to leave it in the control of a guy who isn't afraid to risk some of his own money for long-term gain. And don't see that it's too likely to stay that way once an IPO happens

        Especially since once the IPO happens, his primary duty is a fiduciary one, to the stockholders - not the actual advancement of the technology or whatever else he wants to do with the company.

        • by dkf (304284)

          Especially since once the IPO happens, his primary duty is a fiduciary one, to the stockholders - not the actual advancement of the technology or whatever else he wants to do with the company.

          That actually depends on the company's own rules. Most public companies have "make a profit" as their basic rule, yes, but typically do so by pursuing a particular line of business (e.g., making and launching rockets). If you disagree with the line of business of a particular public company, well, you don't need to hold the stock; you're free to sell to someone else. And as long as the board are following the company's rules and aren't trying to screw over the stockholders (no, taking a risk on the line of

          • by TheSync (5291)

            If you disagree with the line of business of a particular public company, well, you don't need to hold the stock

            For some reason. many people feel it is much more enjoyable to simply buy stock and then bring a stockholder lawsuit...

            Being a public company is a pain. SARBOX, stockholder lawsuits, trying to appease 100 stock rating agencies, etc. It is difficult for public companies to be truly innovative.

      • by khallow (566160)
        Dragon looks like it'll be adequately funded by NASA's COTS program (unless that gets changed by Congress, of course). Another potential need is the Falcon 9 Heavy or a Saturn-class heavy lift vehicle. Then we get to possible take over targets. Here, I don't really have a clue. There are a variety of potential customers and services that could be vertically integrated in, but most of them seem very unproven. Maybe investing in some of the commercial services left over from the former Soviet bloc. There are
        • I suspect that April 12th launch will be pushed hard, AF will give the go ahead, and NASA will award COTsD to SpaceX on the 15th at the Obama Florida meeting. I have to say that I HOPE that the meeting is useful. We need more information and IDEALLY, for Obama, or better yet, Bolden, to say that we going to the moon/mars.
          • by khallow (566160)
            I agree. The timing is pretty chancy and could put a lot of pressure on the Falcon 9 launch crew. If I were running things at SpaceX, I'd try to make the deadline, but I'd put a couple of decision making times in the schedule so that if I didn't like how things were going and/or the deadlines got too tight, I'd punt the launch till some time after the April 15 meeting.
          • by FleaPlus (6935)

            I suspect that April 12th launch will be pushed hard, AF will give the go ahead, and NASA will award COTsD to SpaceX on the 15th at the Obama Florida meeting.

            IMHO, I'm not so sure that would be a good idea and would be grossly unfair to the other competitors. Much of the reason for going with the new plans is to promote a competitive marketplace in spaceflight and transition away from the political favoritism which dominated programs like Constellation. Having the President single out a particular competitor like SpaceX would be somewhat contrary to that notion.

            • Hmmm. I can see your point. BUT, the issue is, there is nobody else bidding for COTs-D. OSC will not do it, and it was not open to Boeing or L-Mart. As it is, I suspect that a new round of competition will be coming that will focus on heavy lifters. I would not be surprised to see 3 awards on that.
    • by Teancum (67324)

      Right now SpaceX is entirely being financed by private investors, and the IPO isn't something that is even being discussed. Yes, it is one of the financing options and it very likely will be the "exit strategy" for the investors once the company gets going, but don't hold your breath yet.

      I think for Elon Musk, one IPO at a time is going to be what he is worrying about at the moment. Tesla Motors is poised to "go public" in the next six months to a year, and the necessary SEC paperwork is being filed to ge

    • by Rolgar (556636)

      When you are building up a company, you start with private financing, either through one rich guy as in the case of many of these private space ventures, or through venture capitalists.

      These guys have taken a large risk, and to make that risk worth it, they want to earn many times that when they have the IPO. The highest payout will come when the company has gone from high risk to sure thing. So when the company is able to launch weekly, with a profit every launch, the market will have a good idea of what t

      • These guys have taken a large risk, and to make that risk worth it, they want to earn many times that when they have the IPO.

        Like it or not, venture capitalists fund innovation. They are not selling manufactured financial instruments that add no value (a generous description of recent history), they are paying the payroll and paying for the equipment at new companies with new ideas. They may expect a 10x or greater return but they know that historically nine out of ten of the ventures they finance will fail. In short, one experiment has to return 10x to pay for itself and the nine failed experiments.

        As an engineer my emot

    • Not for a LONG LONG time. Musk is IPOing Tesla and just wants to get out with his money form it. However, Solar City and SpaceX are going to be the two big winners for him. When this goes IPO, he will walk away with 10's (note the s) of billions or more on this.

      Gut feeling says that it will not IPO for over another 3-5 years. In fact, I think that Solar City will be the next IPO. Solar City will probably generate a 100 million or so for him, which he will re-invest into SpaceX. That will combine with ot
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Teancum (67324)

        Besides, Elon Musk wants to be an astronaut, and take a flight in his own Dragon capsule at some point in the not too distant future.

        Unfortunately like D. Delos Harriman, he is likely going to be blocked by a series of lawsuits from doing so until after the company is so firmly profitable that his loss from an accident would be irrelevant to the bottom line. That is not the case that the moment with SpaceX.

        I'd have to agree with you that the IPO for SpaceX is at a minimum of 5 years away. That SpaceX is g

        • Hmmm. Yeah, I totally agree with the assessment of his ability to fly. All of the other investors will say no.

          Actually, if he is smart, he will go SLOW on the BFR. What he really needs to do is focus on getting multiple endpoints developed. IOW, he will help push BA as quickly as possible. BA has done a poor job of Marketing themselves. They need help on that. For starters, they should be pushing to add a greenhouse unit, as well as replacement for CAM to the ISS. It is weird that they have not pushed th
  • Ha ha! DRESS rehearsal! (Phil Ken Sebben) [wikipedia.org]
  • by greyline (1052440) on Monday March 15, 2010 @09:51AM (#31481316)
    It is spelled iPad, not On-Pad. Get it right, people!
    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      They're test-firing the Falcon 9 on an iPad?

      Holy crap. I mean, I was a little dissappointed by the iPad, but geeze these guys must be seriously pissed* to actually get one and then vaporize it with a rocket engine! Get a grip, fellas. Not everything Apple does is going to be awesome.

      * Maybe in both American and British senses.

  • SpaceX has been cleared by Cape Canaveral for the Falcon 9's first orbital launch next month,

    No it hasn't.

    from http://www.spaceflightnow.com/ [spaceflightnow.com]: "Between now and launch, engineers will install the rocket's flight termination system charges that would destroy the vehicle if it flew off course and threatened the public. "

    They haven't installed and tested the equipment to allow the Air Force RSO to destroy the rocket in the event of a guidance failure. I doubt the Air Force would have signed off on the launch until that is complete. They're using an Air Force pad; so, they have to follow Air Force ru

  • although CEO/CTO Elon Musk has cautioned that they're still in the equivalent of 'beta testing' for the first few flights.

    An awfully flippant comment for someone who aspires to launch astronauts to the Space Station Freedom. If a Falcon 9 crashes in the next few months it will be curtains for Obama's new "plan". The political backlash will be tremendous.

    • Not flippant. Merely accurate. Example: Ariane 5 is one of the most reliable launchers in the market today, but the first flights were failures. Delta IV Heavy, same thing.

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