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SpaceX's Falcon 9 Appears As UFO In Australia 143

Posted by timothy
from the only-looks-suspicious dept.
RobHart writes "ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Commission) has reported extensively on a bright spiraling light that was seen in Eastern Australia just before dawn. It has just broadcast a report from an Australian astronomer who has suggested that the light was probably the successful Falcon 9 launch, which would have been over Australia at that time on its launch trajectory." Update: 06/05 22:20 GMT by T : Setting aside the literal exhaust fumes, reader FleaPlus says, It's "interesting to look at the reactions from those in Congress who control the purse-strings for NASA (one of SpaceX's biggest customers). The successful launch was congratulated by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL and former astronaut) and Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL), both praised and criticized by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) due to the successful launch being a year later than previously predicted, and blasted by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) for merely replicating what 'NASA accomplished in 1964,' who added that the company's success 'must not be confused with progress for our nation's human spaceflight program.'"
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SpaceX's Falcon 9 Appears As UFO In Australia

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  • by The Bad Astronomer (563217) <thebadastronomer@@@gmail...com> on Saturday June 05, 2010 @04:28PM (#32470696) Homepage
    FWIW, I have a substantial blog post with details [discovermagazine.com], including a rant against the ABC story. :) This was definitely the Falcon 9 second stage, despite the UFO guy's protestations: the timing, position, and appearance all match.
    • by Adambomb (118938) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @04:30PM (#32470712) Journal

      FWIW, I have a substantial blog post with details, including a rant against the ABC story. :) This was definitely the Falcon 9 second stage, despite the UFO guy's protestations: the timing, position, and appearance all match.

      Oh sure, says the Bad Astronomer!

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @04:33PM (#32470742) Homepage

      So despite the nonsense you'll hear from the news sites and the bulletin boards that will claim this is some sort of transdimensional stargate warp ...

      Look, if it's all the same to you, I'll take the transdimensional stargate warp over a measly chemical rocket any day.

      But thanks for playing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PieSquared (867490)
      Oh yea, likely story. Just because there was something that looks like the UFO in the same place at the same time doesn't mean that it was the same thing.

      Far more likely is that the Falcon 9 second stage hit an alien spacecraft, causing it (the alien spacecraft) to spin and spew gas!
  • Fools! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 05, 2010 @04:31PM (#32470718)

    Everyone who watched knows the Falcon 9 was launched in the upwards direction, not the downwards direction needed to reach Australia.

    Also, Australian UFOs spiral in the opposite direction to The Vistors who arrive in the northern hemisphere.

  • DST (Score:3, Informative)

    by LBArrettAnderson (655246) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @04:34PM (#32470746)

    A doubter quoted in the article says "Firstly, the time of the launch was 18.45 GMT, which translates to 4.45am EST, the duration of the flight was 9 minutes 38 seconds - this is a full hour before the reported sightings."
     
    Did he forget that we're on DST right now? He should have looked up the EDT time, not EST.

    • Re:DST (Score:4, Informative)

      by vsage3 (718267) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @04:38PM (#32470786)
      Presumably "EST" refers to Australian east coast time and not American EDT given it was 2:45pm EDT when the launch occurred.
      • Oh... I assumed he was talking about the time when it took off in Florida (I didn't follow it THAT closely, so I wasn't sure if it took off really early or later in the day), although I guess I could have figured it out based on the conversion to GMT.

      • Even so, has anyone checked his work? It's always easy to get off by an hour when there's DST involved.

    • Did he forget that we're on DST right now? He should have looked up the EDT time, not EST.

      We're not on Daylight Savings Time now.

      • I am. If you read the thread you'll realize that I (mistakenly) thought he was talking about the American EDT (in the article they should have used AEST to be more specific).

  • You keep using these words. I don't think they mean what you think they mean.

    from UFO Research NSW Oh. That explains it...

    • by hedwards (940851) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @06:30PM (#32471406)
      I think it's oddly ironic and evidence of how off base Republicans are with science that they can decry this as being unimpressive. Normally they'd be touting this as evidence that NASA needs to be canceled so that the private sector can do it without federal funds.

      Because ultimately this is a big deal, private businesses haven't been able to do this sort of thing nor really was the US government able to without a massive amount of money.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by inf4mia (1583323)

        Timothy is such a luddite for turning this into a Red vs. Blue thing. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) also down played SpaceX's accomplishment. All of the politicians downplaying the achievement are just lamely trying to protect their area's piece of NASA's salted pork.

        Rep. Kosmas: "The successful test launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is a significant step in the development of the commercial space industry. There is no doubt that commercial spaceflight will play an important role in the future of our effort

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by sumdumass (711423)

          Ah,, don't inject truth, reason, and sanity into this. Can't we just bash one party or the other for the hell of it and leave false impressions to the masses? I mean how are we supposed to get our guy elected if we can't get everyone else to believe the fallacious positions we put the opposition in.

          I bet you don't like puppies. Nobody listen to this guy, he doesn't like puppies, or kittens either.

      • I am not surprised that the Republican from Alabama is against SpaceX, seeing how Huntsville is the home of Morton-Thiokol, a major contractor for the solid rocket boosters that were to be used on the canceled program.

        Aside from the fact that Senators never notice federal government waste when the money is being spent in their own state, the is very much a red-blue issue since Republicans are currently looking for anything to call a fail on the current administration

        • by tibit (1762298)

          Morton-Thiokol, the same people who, through their negligence (can't call it any different), killed one shuttle crew? Yeah, a great name to associate yourself with, Republican from Alabama.

      • Once the Stargate was found and the Asgard gave us all their tech, these sorts of events are no longer impressive.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by BigLonn (786463)
        This is bigger than you realize, yes nasa did it in 1964 in what is essentially a lewis & clark type exploration project, the mercury / gemini / apollo series of flights. This is different than 1964 its akin to the opening up of the railway systems in the east that eventually lead to the transcontinental railway. Spacex is just the first company to get there under their own steam. Yes they have government contract, but they developed their own medium lift vehicle powerful enough to launch a man rated sp
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Teancum (67324)

        What is interesting is when I hit Republican candidates for office on private commercial spaceflight.... they are all for it until the word "Constellation" comes up and then try to defend that program as if ATK has completely financed the entire development for that project out of their own pocket.

        Sometimes I don't really know what is going on, and it seems as though politicians will simply bend in the wind if you start to blow back. We'll see, I guess.

        Support for the Constellation program won't survive th

    • by caseih (160668) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @06:34PM (#32471436)

      Gotta love the quotes from the wonderfully progressive Republican party folks including this gem from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL): "[Shelby congratulated SpaceX on what] 'NASA accomplished in 1964,' [and] added that the company's success 'must not be confused with progress for our nation's human spaceflight."

      That's really rich seeing that NASA can't even do what SpaceX has done. Welcome back to 1964, maybe, we SpaceX is now years ahead of the now hopefully defunct Aries I program, despite NASA's extensive experience, which SpaceX is benefiting from. Even more ironic that a Republican senator is unhappy that private enterprise is doing something that a government agency is apparently unable to do. Oh how the Republican party has fallen. They're now caught by their own positions. I mean are they for private enterprise and the free market or not?

      • by Kjella (173770)

        I mean are they for private enterprise and the free market or not?

        They're politicians. They don't even get a passing grade in remedial politics if they can't dodge such obvious attempts at consistency and accountability.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by darjen (879890)

        The Republican party never has been for free markets and never will be. Every single time they win, government still expands by leaps and bounds. It is mostly false rhetoric by leftists trying to prove that free markets don't work. Case in point is the quote from this fine senatorial idiot.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          It is mostly false rhetoric by leftists trying to prove that free markets don't work.

          Two points: Free markets don't exist, and what do you mean by "work"? The existing market conditions are working fine if the goal is to make the rich richer.

      • Re:Congress is happy (Score:5, Informative)

        by confused one (671304) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @07:37PM (#32471850)
        I believe Keith Cowing from http://nasawatch.com/ [nasawatch.com] put it best when he commented on Senator Hutchison and then Senator Shelby's statements:

        Keith's note: This is hilarious. Ares 1-X was a suborbital mission with a fake second stage, a first stage motor different than the final one, and used borrowed avionics. Falcon 9 flew an operational vehicle first time out of the hanagr and put a payload into orbit at a small fraction of the cost that an Ares would require. Falcon 9 has a better chance of closing the gap than Ares 1 will. Apparently the good senator (her staff that is) are utterly unaware of the fact that Ares 1 will not achieve any of its milestones until after Falcon 9 has already done so. Yet we never hear anything from her about that, do we?

        As for Sen Shelby's comments, It would seem that SpaceX is better equipped to do what "NASA accomplished in 1964" than the NASA of 2010 can accomplish - and do so faster - and more cheaply. Ares 1 would cost much more and be ready later than Falcon 9.

      • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

        Of course "SpaceX is now years ahead" of the Constellation program. SpaceX started years before the Aries program, used 30 year old technology, and has a much simpler goal: LEO and GEO. They fucking better be years ahead, specially as the Aries program has lost its funding.

        I guess you forgot that the Constellation system was supposed to take us back to Luna and then on to Mars and not just the ISS which is the primary target of the Falcon 9 system.

        Comparing the Constellation system to the Falcon system is l

        • Re:Congress is happy (Score:5, Informative)

          by Captain Nitpick (16515) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @10:22PM (#32472572)

          SpaceX started years before the Aries program, used 30 year old technology

          I guess you forgot that the Constellation system was supposed to take us back to Luna and then on to Mars and not just the ISS which is the primary target of the Falcon 9 system.

          You are misinformed. The Ares I rocket is just a LEO launcher. It is an extended space shuttle solid rocket booster with an upper stage powered by a single Saturn V motor. The technology in it dates to the mid-1970s or even earlier.

          The Ares V is a heavy-lift booster that outclasses anything built. Or it would if they'd actually try building one. It is a STS External Tank with five motors off the Delta IV under it and two STS SRBs attached to it. The upper stage is powered by the same Saturn V derivative motor used on the Ares I.

          Both programs started development circa 2005 (SpaceX was only founded in 2002). SpaceX has delivered a working launch vehicle. NASA has launched what was literally a slightly modified SRB out of the Space Shuttle inventory as the Ares I-X, and is unlikely to launch the real thing until 2017. The Ares V hasn't even begun to leave the drawing board.

          SpaceX has a working satellite launcher that can be made man-rated. The Constellation program has nothing.

          • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

            Or it would if they'd actually try building one.

            They would have except for Obama de-funding the program. I guess you forgot about that.

            Let's see:

            SpaceX has delivered a 1960s era liquid fuel rocket designed for LEO. NASA has delivered a 1970s era test vehicle as part of a program to develop a 2010s era launch system.

            SpaceX has an almost working satellite launch vehicle. NASA was developing a system for sending people to Luna and Mars.

            Yeah, SpaceX has gotten very far using NASA's old technology.

            • by Gravatron (716477)
              Nasa's system was far over budget, far behind schedule, and no making up any sort of ground. 9 billion and all they had was a SRB. They were years away from orbit, and decades from the moon.

              Meanwhile, for a fraction of the cost, Space X put a test vehicle in orbit. They will be able to put a man in orbit in a few years time. Ares can't say the same.

              Ares is and always will be a vehicle designed primarily to save jobs, not to preform space exploration.
            • They would have except for Obama de-funding the program. I guess you forgot about that.

              You're kidding, right?

              Obama has proposed removing funding for the Constellation Program in the 2011 budget. The budget cuts haven't taken effect and are still being argued over. The reason NASA hasn't built them is that NASA is years behind schedule.

              Let's see:

              SpaceX has delivered a 1960s era liquid fuel rocket designed for LEO. NASA has delivered a 1970s era test vehicle as part of a program to develop a 2010s era launch system.

              SpaceX has an almost working satellite launch vehicle. NASA was developing a system for sending people to Luna and Mars.

              In five-ish years, SpaceX designed, built, and flew a prototype two-stage rocket. In five-ish years, NASA put a guidance system on an existing STS SRB, and launched a fake second stage.

              And you are still confusing two separate launchers. The Ares I is a LEO launc

        • by goodmanj (234846) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @11:09PM (#32472802)

          Comparing the Constellation system to the Falcon system is like comparing an over the road semi-articulated tractor trailer to a day-cab straight truck.

          Hooray, a truck analogy. Lemme fix that for you. It's like comparing a fusion-powered antigravity freighter to a day-cab straight truck. The antigravity freighter is much more impressive, but the straight truck actually exists.

          • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

            And, the only reason it does not exist is because of Obama.

            • by Gravatron (716477)
              It was still many years away from achieving what space X did this week. Killing it was a great idea.
            • No. The reason it does not exist is because the Ares-I kept running into delays and cost overruns, as well as performance issues that continually forced them to remove capabilites for Orion. The reason it _shouldn't_ exist is that it's a _terrible_ program that, had it been allowed to continue, would quite probably have killed NASA and never gotten us out of LEO anyway. Even the Ares-I would not have been operational during Obama's presidency, even presuming he stays in office until 2016.
              I used to be a fan

      • Re:Congress is happy (Score:5, Interesting)

        by goodmanj (234846) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @11:04PM (#32472790)

        Normally I'm all for Republican-bashing, but in this case I think it goes to something more primal than Republican luddism.

        Whether a congressman approves or disapproves of Space-X has nothing to do with his/her party, beliefs, or political position, and everything to do with, "Do I have a NASA manned spaceflight center in my district?"

        Space-X has gotten jeers from Florida, Alabama, and Texas; cheers from just about everywhere else. At least Florida and Texas have a role to play in a privatized spaceflight arena. Alabama, on the other hand, is watching the Marshall Space Flight Center evaporate like a puddle of liquid oxygen, and is going to fight like hell to keep ol' Werner von Braun's playground alive.

        • by chrb (1083577)

          Whether a congressman approves or disapproves of Space-X has nothing to do with his/her party, beliefs, or political position, and everything to do with, "Do I have a NASA manned spaceflight center in my district?"

          The Republican line is that private industry is always better than government organisations. They are happy to see the people's money being given to Lockheed-Martin, Haliburton, Boeing etc. in exchange for regular flight R&D. But when Obama suggests that the provision of space flight R&D should move from a government organisation towards private corporations, then some Republicans start proclaiming that government run organisations achieve better results than private industry. This is obviously a co

          • by goodmanj (234846)

            My point is that in either party, regional interest trumps political positions. You can call it hypocrisy if you like, but you should never be surprised when politicians behave this way.

            On the Democrat side, take for example Ted Kennedy. Proponent of alternative energy, opponent of expanded oil drilling, but when they wanted to build a wind farm in *his* back yard, he fought it tooth and nail until the day he died.

        • Lockheed Martin assembles Atlas rockets at Decatur, Alabama. But hey, who cares uh? Better to fund a rocket proposed by ATK - a company from Utah.
      • As opposed to NASA who's Ares I-X rocket is where NASA was in 1957.

        spacex for better or worse, has made slow but steady progress towards a manned orbital launch platform and will be ready
        years ahead of Ares.

  • and nobody outside Australia knows about it, and we all think it is just some UFO flyover when they launch a rocket in to space.
  • Some perspective: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by OpenGLFan (56206) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @07:02PM (#32471622) Homepage

    Some perspective: I used to live in Huntsville, AL, and I currently live in Austin, TX.

    Shelby's just trying to protect the funding of of the Marshall SFC NASA group in Huntsville, AL. In their defense, the HSV group kicks a lot of ass, and is a welcome outpost of science and engineering in Alabama.

    KBHutchinson is just an ignorant asshole.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Regardless, he sounds like an ignorant ass. I really do hate both political parties. They are both filled with buffoons, just left buffoons and right buffoons.
    • by goodmanj (234846)

      Same deal with KBHutchinson, she's trying to protect Johnson Space Center. She could also be an ignorant ass too, I dunno.

      I gotta feel bad for Alabama, though. I could be just an ignorant Yankee, but from here, it looks like if you take away Huntsville, Alabama's up an economic creek without a high-tech paddle.

  • ...over the key word "Probably"....

    Amazing how we can get to space but don't know how...

  • SpaceX is trying to make rocket launchs come off an "assembly-line". This alone would be an impressive feat. Comparing this to a 1964 launch would be like comparing the 8086 cpu to modern quad core. My amature opinion on the launch: I don't think spacex has been totally successful as mentioned by quite a few other posts. They keep spiraling out of control, they need better rocket/jet rudders or something to improve their out of atmosphere control.
    • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @08:46PM (#32472174) Journal

      Comparing this to a 1964 launch would be like comparing the 8086 cpu to modern quad core.

      Bwahahahaha!!!! That is rich, fucking hilarious even. No, it is not like that at all, or at least not like you mean.

      A private company succeeded in launching its first sub/low orbital rocket and it was only a year late. There are no truly innovative technologies used in the Falcon 9. It is comparable to a Titan III rocket, first launched in 1965.

      The most innovative part of the Falcon 9 is that both stages are "designed" to be reusable, but that capability is not certain but rather hoped for and has yet to be demonstrated.

      Literally, this is the equivalent of a private company demonstrating its new single core, 32 bit, RISC processor. It is old technology that has been mastered repeatedly by others and is nothing special.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by asaz989 (901134)
        Actually, it is special. It's cheap. Which was the whole point, from the beginning.
        SpaceX isn't aiming to do anything new, they're aiming to do the same thing for less than half the price (per kilogram, Falcon 9 Heavy compared to the Ariane 5).
        • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

          It is still a two trick pony: Satellites to LEO, and satellites to GEO. It does not take the place of the shuttle and most especially does not take the place of the Constellation program.

      • The microprocessor (e.g. 8086) was crap compared to a mainframe, or even minicomputer, processor. Only in the 1990s did microcomputers add features (e.g. superscalar processing) which supercomputers had been using since the 1960s. What made the microprocessor special was that it was cheap. It meant everyone could have a computer, rather than it being the preserve of government laboratories or mega corporations.

        SpaceX is selling the Falcon 9 at a price lower than even 2nd hand Russian military rockets. If

  • Politicians (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Saturday June 05, 2010 @08:23PM (#32472050)

    Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) for merely replicating what 'NASA accomplished in 1964,' who added that the company's success 'must not be confused with progress for our nation's human spaceflight program.'"

          The bit he left out was the fact that America as a "nation" has lost the space race altogether. Unless of course you count buying seats on Soyuz spacecraft as part of the "American manned space program"... Yes America put a man on the moon - but what have they done SINCE then, Shelby - while YOU were in office? In fact, while Elon Musk was busy building a billion dollar company (PayPal) that many people use every day, all you did was suck up taxpayer dollars feeding off of society and pretending to be important. Then Mr. Musk goes on to found another visionary company while you just whine and bitch and believe that you actually contribute to society. Truth is that Shelby can be replaced instantly by someone just as mediocre.

          SpaceX has demonstrated it can now lift useful, heavy payloads into orbit. This is the beginning of a business model - one that never worked for NASA. Instead of whining about how America did this a long time ago he should realize that this is not costing the taxpayer anything at all AND is the beginning of regular self funding, sustainable space flight. A boon to ALL of humanity.

    • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

      Exactly who did we lose the space race to?

      • by Muad'Dave (255648)

        Sadly, we've lost the space race to all those 'desperately needed' 'entitlement' programs that are killing the whole world economy [foxbusiness.com]. Instead of spending a dollar on space research to help all of mankind, we've spent the dollar to breed and feed a mouth that will be hungry again tomorrow.

    • Obama is trying to develop a viable space program that works and we can actually afford. The first part of that is a lowering
      the cost to get stuff to orbit. Spacex will be part of that plan

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by goodmanj (234846)

      Here's another way of looking at it. Kind of a Republican way, though Sen. Shelby would hate to admit it.

      The achievements of NASA are not the only things the U.S. has accomplished. For all its weaknesses, the U.S. is the only country on Earth where some random dude from South Africa can come, get an education, become a citizen, start a company to revolutionize the way the world buys stuff, sell it for bajillions, and then start launching rockets into orbit, partly because it's awesome, partly as a steppin

    • by evilviper (135110)

      Yes America put a man on the moon - but what have they done SINCE then,

      Hmmm... Numerous Mars Rovers and other probes, Hubble space telescope, Spitzer space telescope, New Horizons on it's way to intergalactic space, put up and assembled a massive space station, etc.

      Yeah, nothing...

  • by ozbird (127571) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @08:37PM (#32472118)
    Cat: I hate to go all technical on you, but: All hands on deck, Swirly Thing Alert!
  • would be consistent with the increasing roll rate apparent in the onboard video as the second stage approached burnout. Haven't gone to YouTube yet to review, but it was clear that although the vehicle made it to orbit and may have made it through the intended insertion window, attitude (roll axis) control was not happy. I hope SpaceX will discuss what happened...purely as a matter of engineering curiosity, I wonder if it was a problem with roll G&C or whether a nozzle/bell burn asymmetry put a torque

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