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SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon Make It To Orbit 200

Posted by samzenpus
from the up-up-and-away dept.
jnaujok writes "This morning the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon capsule lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 10:43 Eastern time, after an earlier launch had been scrubbed because of a bad telemetry feed. A little over 9 minutes later, the Dragon capsule separated from the second stage into its intended orbit. Part of the COTS (Commercial access To Space) program, this is the first test of the Dragon capsule by SpaceX to prove it can be used to ferry supplies to the ISS. The Dragon capsule will make two or three orbits before returning to Earth about four hours after launch."
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SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon Make It To Orbit

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  • Fucking sweet! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lilith's Heart-shape (1224784) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @12:43PM (#34488512) Homepage
    It's about time the private sector took to the stars.
    • It was a pretty day for it. Cool - clear sky.

      Looked very normal, which was very encouraging. I look forward to seeing more of them.

      • Couldnt launch the shuttle at that temperature. Cocoa Beach was in the low 50s they wont launch the shuttle under 53 degrees.

        • by MachDelta (704883)

          IANARS (rocket scientist), but why won't they launch under 53 degrees when the thing is going to freaking space? I hear that hurtling through the upper atmosphere and into space tends to be quite a bit colder than 53F.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by akgunkel (567825)

            Remember a little thing called the Challenger Disaster?

            From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster [wikipedia.org]

            "Thiokol engineers argued that if the O-rings were colder than 53 F (12 C), they did not have enough data to determine whether the joint would seal properly. This was an important consideration, since the SRB O-rings had been designated as a "Criticality 1" component—meaning that there was no backup if both the primary and secondary O-rings failed, and their failure would destroy

            • by MachDelta (704883)

              Thanks. Here's the money quote that explains it (to me at least):

              ...the amount of damage to the O-rings was directly related to the time it took for extrusion [sealing] to occur, and that cold weather, by causing the O-rings to harden, lengthened the time of extrusion.

              Now it makes sense why ground temperature is important. The boosters have to re-seal themselves after the stress of ignition, and colder temperatures lengthen this process. Too long (too cold) and catastrophic damage occurs. Nifty.

              • by Lifyre (960576)

                Poor construction, quality control, and design flaws that are made worse in the cold don't help either.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Weyland-Yutani - Building Better Worlds

  • This is pretty big. (Score:5, Informative)

    by eobanb (823187) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @12:48PM (#34488568) Homepage
    This is pretty amazing, although as I write this it remains to be seen if the capsule re-enters correctly. If so, SpaceX will probably combine its next two missions into one. The first upcoming mission is to perform an ISS flyby, followed by a docking. If all goes well with today's mission (and I expect it will!) then the mission in spring 2011 will be an unmanned resupply mission to the ISS. It's worth noting, though, that the Falcon 9 / Dragon platform is probably not going to be the one taking us to the moon or elsewhere outside of Earth orbit; it was designed to be cheap and fast to develop, which is exactly why SpaceX was able to fly this mission whilst Orion got cancelled. It would take some really heavy modification to even do a lunar flyby. For now, though, it seems like exactly what we need. If these flights prove to be reliable and inexpensive, then the supply and personnel lines to the ISS are secured, and it'll probably pave the way for Bigelow's space station to launch in a couple years.
    • Personnel and supply lines to the ISS are already secure with Soyuz and Ariane, but perhaps you meant "secured by US owned and launched missions"?

      Soyuz definitely has proven to be reliable over the last 40 years, and Ariane missions have a good track record. Probably reliable as long as you keep paying. But I understand the USA wants US flight capability. Not sure how much cheaper Falcon/SpaceX will be though. I'd be interested to see figures.

      • by ceejayoz (567949)

        The Shuttle has a higher payload to LEO than Ariane and Soyuz - IIRC, it's the only current launch system that can take some satellites up. The Falcon 9 Heavy has a higher payload than all three.

      • by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @01:30PM (#34489278) Homepage

        The Dragon will carry up to seven passengers. Soyuz is good for only three. It's also good to have at least two different kinds of passenger craft. The freight model Dragon also has a much larger capacity than the Progress (though smaller than that of the ATV). It has both pressurized and unpressurized compartments, and I believe it can handle larger (though not heavier) objects than the ATV can. It can also return cargo to Earth. Thus it does not merely duplicate existing capabilities (once the shuttles retire).

        • by FleaPlus (6935) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @01:42PM (#34489472) Journal

          In case it's helpful, the other day I came across a really cool infographic [space.com] which shows the relative sizes and capabilities of the SpaceX Dragon, the Soyuz-launched Progress, China's Shenzhou, Orbital's upcoming Cygnus, Europe's ATV, and the in-progress Orion capsule.

          Each Dragon capsule can deliver more payload to the ISS than Progress, but not as much as the ATV. Unlike the other two disposable craft, however, Dragon is designed to reenter the atmosphere, which will make it the only way to get significant amounts of equipment/material/samples back from the ISS after the Shuttle's last flight.

      • Not sure how much cheaper Falcon/SpaceX will be though. I'd be interested to see figures.

        SpaceX sets the price for a Falcon 9 launch to LEO at about $50 million for 10000 Kg or so payload.

        They've also said that once Dragon is manrated, they'll be able to put astronauts to the ISS for about $20 million per man.

        Ariane 5 puts a bit less than twice the payload to LEO, at $120 million (rather more than twice the cost).

        Best numbers I can get for Soyuz costs are in the $30-40 million per astronaut range. A Pro

    • by Shivetya (243324)

      What impresses me most about their rocket is that multiple restarts are allowed for the second stage, allowing the possibility of correcting errors or changing mission orbits slightly. Truly an impressive effort considering they designed the engines themselves.

    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @01:12PM (#34488986) Journal

      This excites me. At first I was all like "Wait, so whats going on. Who's doing this? US? Europe? Japan? Whos launching stuff now? But then a bit of further reading of the summary, the mention of COTS, put it into perspective. I had not heard of SpaceX before now. The only commercial endeavours into space I had previously heard of were Virgin with its probable Touristy trips up into LEO for a bit, with possible plans to do very expensive trips to the ISS in the future.

      Seeing more companies take up the struggle that is space flight makes me glad, for a number of reasons. For all the reasons capitalism is fraught with problems, its nice if and when competition DOES happen, it'd be nice to know that in maybe 10 years, while space station trips would probably be too expensive, its possible that just getting in orbit might be something one might afford in their lifetime. You know, how right now getting into space is kind of like being a rock star, you have to be severely lucky. Right now, owning a brand new corvette is difficult but if thats what you really want its not impossible for someone with a regular paying job to save up for one. That's what I'd like to see, trips to space, while obviously are always going to be relatively expensive, I want to know that those people who dream of being up there not only have the possibility to - but there will also be jobs related to that field.

      It used to be that if you wanted to work on space technology (in North America), you had to work at NASA. Well it seems I could now apply at a few different companies to work on that kind of stuff. And that's exciting. More jobs in the field means more research, more activity, more growth. And Space exploration is one field that is exciting for Growth. I mean it kind of sucks when NASA's budget gets cut, but if Taxpayer money can go towards other things while Corporate America foots the bill for Space travel, well I have no problems with that.

      So yes. This is good news. Obviously its not quite at the stages that I describe, but we're getting there. Baby steps.

      As a side note, I know some people don't see the idea in space travel, that we should be trying to fix this planet before going and ruining another one. My thoughts on that are like cleaning viruses off of a Hard Drive. It's a lot easier when I'm not on it. If saving Earth requires a massive reduction in human population, then either a nomadic or far away colony is an optimal solution.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        It used to be that if you wanted to work on space technology (in North America), you had to work at NASA.

        Or Boeing or Lockheed Martin or any of the other huge subcontractors NASA has had. It might have been a government contract and not a commercial one, but it's not like NASA has been the only place to work.

      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        It used to be that if you wanted to work on space technology (in North America), you had to work at NASA. Well it seems I could now apply at a few different companies to work on that kind of stuff. And that's exciting. More jobs in the field means more research, more activity, more growth. And Space exploration is one field that is exciting for Growth.

        On that note, it's worth mentioning that SpaceX is actively hiring [spacex.com]. It's not just aerospace/electrical/materials engineering jobs they're recruiting for, either, but also IT staff, technical writers, embedded systems programmers, and so forth.

        Clark Lindsay's (really awesome) site has a list [hobbyspace.com] of several other private space companies which are hiring.

        • Hey, thanks for the hobby space link. I've been compiling a major list of commercial space startups and one metric on that list is companies that are seeking employees. Until now I hadn't heard of either TGV or Tethers.
          • by FleaPlus (6935)

            Sure thing. The list might be a bit dated, though -- I'm not sure how active TGV currently is. I"m fairly certain all the other companies on the list are quite active, though.

      • by dpilot (134227)

        If you hadn't heard of SpaceX until this story, you probably haven't heard of Bigelow, either. (Bigelow is mentioned once higher up on this topic, but no details.)

        There was once a module for the ISS called the TransHab - an inflatable living module. It has piles of space compared to what's in the ISS right now. For some reason that probably had to do with what gets built in what congressional districts, powerful parties took an extreme dislike to TransHab, to the point of writing NASA funding legislation

      • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @03:11PM (#34490990) Homepage Journal
        If you're excited about competition in the commercial space industry, here are some other companies you might want to Google in your spare time:

        Bigelow Aerospace
        Orbital Sciences Corporation
        Armadillo Aerospace
        Masten Aerospace
        Blue Origin
        SpaceDev
        ExcaliburAlmaz
        Interorbital Systems
        XCor
        Scorpious


        Ah hell, like usual, Wikipedia can do a better job than I can [wikipedia.org]. In short, now is a very exciting time to be in the space industry. =)
    • by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @01:39PM (#34489416)

      I think the most exciting thing is using Dragon as part of a beyond-LEO mission, but not necessarily sending it there. The idea of what Buzz calls 'real spaceships' -- large vehicles assembled on orbit or launched on large non-man-rated vehicles that can be refueled on orbit. Dragon et. al. would be the taxis to get you to LEO.

      The fuel costs to this approach would be higher -- Apollo didn't have to burn its engines to get back into Earth orbit, it dropped all its energy during its direct re-entry. However, a large, comfortable refuel-able lunar ferry that astronauts reach in a cheap capsule like Dragon could be much cheaper and more sustainable in the long run, particularly if concepts like orbiting fuel depots get off the ground. Fuel could be launched separately and cheaply by those crazy space gun concepts that subject the payload to 100s of Gs.

      While it all sounds a little farfetched, it seems more likely to happen than getting congress to fund an Apollo class effort. This is how we go other places to stay.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      It's worth noting, though, that the Falcon 9 / Dragon platform is probably not going to be the one taking us to the moon or elsewhere outside of Earth orbit; it was designed to be cheap and fast to develop, which is exactly why SpaceX was able to fly this mission whilst Orion got cancelled. It would take some really heavy modification to even do a lunar flyby.

      Why not? If it can reach GTO, it's 90% of the way to escape velocity and with another 10% on top of that again it can go pretty much anywhere. That's enough for the moon and if you have lots of time even Mars - I think the slowest and most fuel-efficient orbit takes two years. For a manned mission you need something a lot stronger, but then NASA doesn't have that either.

      • It's not just about velocity. You also have to be able to carry enough supplies to keep the crew alive. Also - and this is the kicker - you need to have big enough heat shields to come back down. See, lunar missions do not carry enough fuel to settle into an Earth orbit before re-entry. It's basically a nice three day drop from the moon into the Pacific. You need a massive heat shield to do that. Dragon doesn't have one massive enough.
        • by FleaPlus (6935) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @03:13PM (#34491028) Journal

          It's not just about velocity. You also have to be able to carry enough supplies to keep the crew alive. Also - and this is the kicker - you need to have big enough heat shields to come back down. See, lunar missions do not carry enough fuel to settle into an Earth orbit before re-entry. It's basically a nice three day drop from the moon into the Pacific. You need a massive heat shield to do that. Dragon doesn't have one massive enough.

          Actually, the Dragon's heat shield is pretty massively over-engineered, to the extent that it can survive reentry from both lunar and Martian return velocities:

          http://www.spaceflightnow.com/falcon9/002/100716firststage/ [spaceflightnow.com]

          The Dragon's heat shield will also be put to the test during re-entry. The capsule's blunt end is coated with phenolic impregnated carbon ablator, a resistant insulator used by NASA's Stardust mission that returned comet samples to Earth.

          The ablator, called PICA-X for short, was tested inside an arc jet laboratory at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.

          "It's actually the most powerful stuff known to man. Dragon is capable of re-entering from a lunar velocity, or even a Mars velocity with the heat shield that it has," Musk said.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Why not? If it can reach GTO, it's 90% of the way to escape velocity and with another 10% on top of that again it can go pretty much anywhere. That's enough for the moon and if you have lots of time even Mars - I think the slowest and most fuel-efficient orbit takes two years. For a manned mission you need something a lot stronger, but then NASA doesn't have that either.

        There's two problems with that, both coming from the Dragon vehicle. First, the Dragon vehicle isn't designed for long trips. Second, the near Earth environment is different from deep space. Due to the magnetic field of Earth, it experiences lower radiation than deep space. Also, thermally, it's warmer due to heating from the Earth than deep space at the same distance from the Sun. The Falcon 9 with it's alleged low price per kg should work out well for deep space missions with a bit of orbital assembly.

    • by Shadowlore (10860)
      Actually, it was designed with the intention of taking humans up. The big hurdle in humans is the vibration and "physical displacement of occupants" for launch to space. The engines were designed and built with that in mind, and Musk intends to strap the engines onto larger rockets configurations (Falcon X and Falcon X Heavy IIRC). Musk's goal is Mars and he asserts that the Falcon 9H could, if assembled and launched from LEO, take us there. Last I ran the numbers base don estimated lift tonnage, it could
    • by Teancum (67324)

      It's worth noting, though, that the Falcon 9 / Dragon platform is probably not going to be the one taking us to the moon or elsewhere outside of Earth orbit; it was designed to be cheap and fast to develop, which is exactly why SpaceX was able to fly this mission whilst Orion got cancelled. It would take some really heavy modification to even do a lunar flyby.

      For now, though, it seems like exactly what we need. If these flights prove to be reliable and inexpensive, then the supply and personnel lines to the ISS are secured, and it'll probably pave the way for Bigelow's space station to launch in a couple years.

      The big thing that Robert Bigelow is hoping for is that he can have a "second source" of transportation to his space stations. Reliance upon just one possible source of supply is always a bad thing. That is one of the reasons why Bigelow is working with Boeing on the CST-100.

      As for the Orion, it is still technically under development and in fact there are other options being thrown around to get it flying, including throwing it on top of either an Atlas V or a Delta IV rocket. United Space Alliance has b

  • Cost per pound (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @12:48PM (#34488576) Journal

    First, I find this very exciting. As a child, I thought it would be just a matter of time before I could buy a plane ticket to the moon. That is how space was advertised to us in the early 70's... It has not turned out that way, but I am excited to see some progress.

    What I would love to see is total cost per pound of payload. It seems like NASA hasn't done much to lower than number over the past three decades, and am curious to know what efficiencies Space X has attained. Anyone know where to find this info?

    • Re:Cost per pound (Score:5, Informative)

      by peacefinder (469349) <alan.dewitt@ g m a i l . com> on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @12:55PM (#34488704) Journal

      Pricing [spacex.com]

      SpaceX offers open and fixed pricing that is the same for all customers, including a best price guarantee. Modest discounts are available for contractually committed, multi-launch purchases. A half bay flight of Falcon 9 is available to accommodate customers with payloads in between Falcon 1 and 9.
      Mission Type Price*
      LEO (s/c80% capacity to the customer orbit) $56M
      GTO (s/c3,000 kg)** $49.9M
      GTO (s/c up to 4,680 kg) $56M

      *Standard Launch Services Pricing through 12/31/10.

      Standard prices assumes standard services (see User Guide) and payment in full within the noted calendar period.

      Payments made over time subject to LIBOR +2.5% financing rate. Contact SpaceX for standard payment plan.

      Standard price includes a SpaceX-developed and produced payload adapter and tension-band separation system. Other systems can be accommodated or provided — contact SpaceX for more information.

      Reflight insurance offered at 8.0% of Standard Launch Services Price.

      **SpaceX reserves the right to seek a non-interference co-passenger

      Rebates to Standard Launch Services Pricing are considered on a case-by case basis to address (i) inaugural launches, (ii) short turn around opportunities and (iii) multiple launch service procurements.

      Performance
      Launch Site: Cape Canaveral AFS Kwajalein

      Mass to Low Earth Orbit (LEO): 10,450 kg (23,050 lb) 8,560 kg (18,870 lb)
      Inclination: 28.5 degree 90 degree (polar orbit)

      Mass to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO): 4,540 kg (10,000 lb) 4,680 kg (10,320 lb)
      Inclination: 28.5 degree 9.1 degree

      For further information, contact us at FalconGuide@spacex.com.

      • That's full retail price...only suckers pay that. I found a few sweet coupon codes online

        10% off to new customers: GAGARIN
        Free upgrade to first class: IKNOWELON
        Kids fly free!: WESLEY

        Be smart shoppers, people!
    • by holmstar (1388267)
      IIRC, the cost to launch mass to LEO using the Space Shuttle is $10k per pound. With falcon, it would be closer to $2.5k per pound.
  • by AJWM (19027) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @12:49PM (#34488584) Homepage

    COTS is cheap (or commercial) off the shelf, not as the summary has it cheap access to space, which would be CATS.

    Huge congrats to SpaceX on their achievements in both, though.

    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @12:55PM (#34488696)

      Generally you're right, COTS is Commercial Off The Shelf, but in this case it is referring to the NASA program - "Commercial Orbital Transportation Services".

      • by AJWM (19027)

        You're right, of course, I just knew the summary had it wrong. I should have said COTS != cheap access to space, except that commercial-off-the-shelf will hopefully lead to cheap access to space.

      • by JWW (79176)

        I think NASA did some acronym wrangling here to make sure the acronym stayed the same as what they use for purchasing other commercial services, but was still fitting for indicating it was a rocket launch. Well done on their part IMHO.

      • I'm guessing next will be the Commercially Underfunded Transportation to Space program, or as businessmen call it, CUTS.

    • COTS = Commercial Orbital Transportation Services

  • CNN has video up (Score:4, Informative)

    by FleaPlus (6935) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @12:49PM (#34488588) Journal

    The official SpaceX video (which includes things like a view from the rocket itself) hasn't been released yet, but CNN has posted NASA's video here:

    http://edition.cnn.com/2010/US/12/08/space.flight/ [cnn.com]

    Ongoing updates will be posted to SpaceX's twitter account [twitter.com]. The Dragon capsule is expected to orbit the Earth a few times and then land off the California coast about three hours after the launch [spaceflightnow.com], and SpaceX has announced that they're doing a press conference an hour or two after the landing.

    • To be specific, if all goes according to plan (here's hoping) then the reentry burn should start about 1:15 PM EST. The press conference is supposed to take place somewhere between 3:02 and 4:02 PM EST. All in all, this launch is damn exciting.
      • http://twitter.com/SpaceXer [twitter.com]

        "SpaceX is the first commercial company to reenter a spacecraft from space!"

      • Update, it looks like NASA is planning a press conference around 3:30 PM EST, or 12:30 PST, or 20:30 GMT, for anyone interested in tuning in. The conference is supposed to broadcast on NASA's public and media channels on NASA TV. I think you can tune in here [nasa.gov], but am not certain how it works since I can't access video from work.

        Also, the Dragon capsule seems to have splashdowned on target in the pacific ocean. Recovery teams are currently working on snagging the capsule as well as recovering the first sta
    • by FleaPlus (6935)

      Also, it looks like a rip of SpaceX's camera stream has been posted on youtube:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-ci9xIgNZM [youtube.com]

      This one includes both a ground camera and cameras streaming from a couple points on the rocket itself. Besides the launch at T-0 (one minute after video start), other highlights are stage separation at T+3 minutes and Dragon deployment at T+9:30.

  • I just finished book #4 last night. One left. Great series. And when I woke up this morning and read that Dragon was in orbit... I daydreamed a little.

    Oh cmon, nobody else has read Neal Asher? :(
    • by geegel (1587009)

      You're the reason for which I love /.

      Took a quick look over the Wikipedia page, then googled "Neal Asher t" and followed the suggestion. Heavy lecture is about to happen

  • while driving to work this morning. I was like, Fuck Yeah!

    This was accomplished by Elon Musk using only a few hundred million$ of Paypal money. Now imagine what Bill Gates could be doing with the billions he's supposed to be giving away.
    • Correction, this was accomplished by an extraordinarily talented team of engineers and technicians hired and paid by by Musk. let us not forget the worker bees that prop up the queen of the hive. That said, yes, if it wasn't for Musk's vision, this bird wouldn't be flying.
    • This was accomplished by Elon Musk using only a few hundred million$ of Paypal money.

      To be fair, the government kicked in a huge portion as well, as part of their Commercial Orbital Transport System (COTS) initiative.

      • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

        Hopefully I'm not being too pedantic, but thats a bit of mischaracterization -- its more like NASA purchasing some flights and putting up some of the money in advance.

        While the advance funding did make it possible to accomplish this, I think its important to frame it this way as it creates different expectations from the legacy cost-plus contracting methods.

    • What do you mean "supposed to be" [wikipedia.org]?

      It seems that a lot of his wealth is already flowing and the guy is probably a couple decades from his death and he intends this funding to last 50 years after his death.

      And while I agree that what SpaceX is doing is of great importance, I think that Bill's contributions to education is a much more worthy cause to invest in. Let SpaceX make their money, let Bill focus on the human element.
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @01:06PM (#34488876) Journal

    I didn't get around to making this a separate submission, but I figure folks might be interested in another SpaceX-related news item from an interview with Elon Musk. As some of you know, Congress has mandated that NASA construct a super-heavy lift rocket (at least 75mt payload) by 2016. This is expected to use cost-plus contracts, utilize as many Shuttle components/workers as possible, and is expected to cost at least $10B.

    SpaceX has another (IMHO much better) proposal [aviationweek.com], though, which would be to build a 150mt rocket that's essentially an upgrade of the rocket which was launched today. This rocket would be able to lift heavier payloads than the Saturn V. SpaceX proposed to do this with a $2.5B fixed-price contract, where SpaceX eats any cost above this amount. Some remarks from Musk on this:

    http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/12/06/5600599-spacex-gets-set-for-next-giant-leap [msn.com]

    He's even starting to think ahead to the next giant leap -- the development of a super-heavy-lift rocket, more powerful than the Apollo era's Saturn 5, which could put 150 metric tons of payload into Earth orbit. Musk said facilities in Utah, Alabama, Ohio, Florida and other places around the country could be involved in the project, and he's willing to build the rocket for $2.5 billion. "Anything above that, SpaceX will pay for," he promised. ...
    Musk said his $2.5 billion figure for a super-heavy-lift rocket was based in part on the concept that 80 percent of the money Congress is expected to devote to heavy-lift development would go toward the standard cost-plus method for funding spacecraft development, with 20 percent going to the kind of fixed-price, milestone-based approach that is being used for the NASA program that's funding SpaceX's effort. "I find myself in this bizarre position where people are saying, 'You couldn't possibly do it for such a low amount as $2.5 billion,'" he said. "And actually, I have trouble trying to figure out how we'd spend so much money. In order to get to $2.5 billion, I'd have to assume that a whole bunch of things go horribly wrong during the development process."

    • by Shadmere (1158007)
      Talk like that make me all tingly inside.
    • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @01:31PM (#34489302) Homepage Journal
      And, just to round off the fleet, SpaceX has already drafted up plans for a Heavy Lift launcher (see here [spacex.com]) that could compete directly with ULA's Delta IV Heavy, the Arianne V, and whatever the Russians will be using for a heavy launcher in the next few years.
    • NASA is seriously hampered by the fact that its purse strings are controlled by a senator who runs the state where the solid rocket boosters are made. Therefore, No SRBs - no money for NASA.

      NASA has also been seriously hampered by internal politics, which has caused a whole bunch of things to go horribly wrong. *cough* Griffin's "Stick" *cough*
      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        NASA is seriously hampered by the fact that its purse strings are controlled by a senator who runs the state where the solid rocket boosters are made. Therefore, No SRBs - no money for NASA.

        Yup, it's problematic. SpaceX can address the political issues a little bit by building their large tanks in Louisiana and involving Alabama's Marshall Spaceflight Center. Hopefully not -too- much involvement from the latter, considering MSFC's atrocious track-record [wikipedia.org] of consistent failures for the past 30 years. There's

        • I don't think we have to worry about Musk ever doing business with ATK, or any other company for that matter, for SRB's. None of the Falcon designs integrate SRB's into the design. When putting together a rocket, that kind of capability is something you design into the system from the ground up. You don't just slap solid rockets on the side of a booster that wasn't designed for them. Furthermore, it seems like SpaceX rather enjoys building their own rockets. They didn't subcontract the nozzles. They didn't
    • by mosb1000 (710161)

      Yes, but that requirement is designed specifically to benefit congressional districts where shuttle parts are made. They would never accept this 2.5B fixed price contract because they want the government to spend 10B in their districts.

  • by shadowfaxcrx (1736978) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @01:08PM (#34488910)

    Who the hell is writing the live launch blog?

    "One day I will go back to space. Like, without using pills."

    • by tgd (2822)

      Who the hell is writing the live launch blog?

      "One day I will go back to space. Like, without using pills."

      Mom!?

  • by Toze (1668155) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @01:09PM (#34488932)
    I think I speak for all of us when I say "EEEEEEEEE!" and do a little dance.
  • Space is becoming something accessible through private channels. Not that there's anything wrong with governmental space programs, but those are best when they're cutting edge, when they're doing things that no private company could hope to do. When the private sector takes over the everyday, to-and-fro, supply and shuttling capabilities, perhaps NASA will be driven to explore more advanced technologies.

    This is a big step towards space travel being an everyday thing. Once initiatives like this become
  • Piggyback Payload (Score:5, Informative)

    by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @01:37PM (#34489384) Homepage Journal
    Hmmm, here's an interesting little bit of info. Apparently the NRO bolted a few cubesats to the side of this rocket as well. They deployed successfully according to Spaceflightnow's [spaceflightnow.com] live blog update. I can't find much information on the little guys (and probably won't since they are NRO) but wikipedia [wikipedia.org] confirms that there was a secondary payload on this test. Apparently some government offices already feel that the Falcon 9 is worthy enough to carry their goods.

    Also, pretty pictures of the launch. [spaceflightnow.com]
    • by Toze (1668155)
      There's a thought. Cubesat with a broadcast antenna + Wikileaks = deny access to this, suckers.
    • Actually many cubesats are just made by universities that beg everybody for launches. I know we made one as a grad student/senior project, though it was a more "risky" one since it had a deployable panel. They are perfect for demo launches like this because there is no primary payload that might be affected by it, and the launcher guys don't care as long as it acts like ballast.
  • Boy, am I confused! We used to talk about Cape Canaveral, then it was the KSC, now we are back to the Cape. So Cape Canaveral belongs to the Air Force, and KSC belongs to NASA, but ALL? of the launch pads are AF? Including the Shuttle, i.e., 39A and 39B?

    • by robot256 (1635039)
      As far as I know, the equipment on the pads is owned and operated by NASA but the land itself is owned and secured by the Air Force. All the shuttle pilots are Air Force too, only the specialist astronauts are NASA employees. It's really not that surprising when you think about it.
    • by slew (2918) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @03:09PM (#34490932)

      Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (the airforce base just north of Cocoa Beach on the east coast of florida on a strip of land which is ultimatly called Cape Canaveral).

      Kennedy Space Center (the nasa facility just to the north west of Cape Canaveral Air force station on nearby Merritt Island).

      Here's a helpful map from the wikipedia... [wikipedia.org]

      As you can see, Launch Complex 39 (located about 1/2 way between the two) and is technically part of the Kennedy Space Center.

      The common confusion is that in 1963, Congress, in their infinite wisdom, renamed Cape Canaveral to Cape Kennedy. However, as it turned out, they didn't have the full authority to do that. Apparently the Cape's official name on international maps was under the juristiction of some international maritime treaty (UN, IHO?), so it could only be named Cape Kennedy on US-specific maps. Of course most of the US govt went along including the US Board on Geographic names (which means it got into some US official maps), but eventually everyone conceded and changed the name back in 1973 due to local pressure (there's actually a town called Cape Canaveral on the southern part of Cape Canaveral) and to avoid general confusion.

      If you think naming of a place is just a silly argument, tell that to the people who live in New Amsterdam (aka New York), or are visiting Danali national park and looking at the "big-one" Mt Denali (or Mt McKinley to Ohio-ans), or maybe google Sea of Japan naming dispute to witness a naming dispute of international consequences...

      When you see all those reporters at a morning launch, they often get a closer view and may actually be on the cape, rather than on KSC, so that may only add to the confusion.

    • Cape Canaveral is a geographic feature. It is the site of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Adjacent is Merritt Island, the site of NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Spacecraft are launched from both the station and the center.

    • by Strider- (39683)

      The actual geographic feature is named Cape Canaveral. It was temporarily changed to Cape Kennedy, but eventually reverted to Canaveral. The NASA installation there is named "Kennedy Space Center" while the US Air Force launch complex is Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and is immediately adjacent to KSC.

      The western counterpart to CCAFS is Vandenberg Air Force Base. Due to geography, polar orbiting spacecraft can't be launched from Florida without either overflying land at low altitude (risky) or by doi

  • If they keep this up, in another 10 or 20 years, America will be a spacefaring nation.
  • Could it possible change intercontinental flying times? Instead of 20 hours to get to Australia from Washington DC, could you jump on a "Space Craft" - get into low orbit and get across in an hour or two.

    Granted, the price point and that kind of technology are a ways off. But one could dream...
    • Instead of 20 hours to get to Australia from Washington DC, could you jump on a "Space Craft" - get into low orbit and get across in an hour or two.

      It's certainly theoretically possible. Making it cost-effective is a whole 'nuther issue.

      So, how long will it be before FedEx takes a serious look at the possibilities - "When it absolutely, positively has to be there in an hour"?

    • by robot256 (1635039)

      Sure it will reduce the time of flight, but if you think the security lines for airplanes are long...

      Actually, you could do this pretty easily by taking something like SpaceShipOne [wikipedia.org] and sticking it on a Falcon rocket first stage. Rocket halfway up to orbit, then glide down semi-ballistically.

    • by joh (27088)

      Could it possible change intercontinental flying times? Instead of 20 hours to get to Australia from Washington DC, could you jump on a "Space Craft" - get into low orbit and get across in an hour or two.

      Granted, the price point and that kind of technology are a ways off. But one could dream...

      Well, if you have a fully reusable craft and lots of flights it's basically just all the fuel you're burning through for that, although even this would be expensive enough.

      And then you'd have a REALLY uncomfortable flight with a high-g launch, a bit of weightlessness just long enough to make you vomit and a rather uncomfortable and nerve-wrecking reentry and landing.

      Surely fascinating but I can't really see the business case here.

    • If all goes well with Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, SpaceShipThree is supposed to be a point-to-point suborbital system.

  • Dragon has landed! (Score:5, Informative)

    by FleaPlus (6935) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @03:34PM (#34491372) Journal

    Update: The Dragon has successfully made a soft landing in the Pacific! This makes it the first-ever commercial spacecraft to return from orbit, and the first American capsule splash-down since 1975. A recovery vessel has already arrived at the capsule and is currently attaching floatation devices to it. NASA and SpaceX are doing a press conference as early as 3:30pm EST, which will presumably be broadcast both on NASA TV and SpaceX's website.

    SpaceX has also released a video [youtube.com] pointing out a window of the Dragon capsule while in orbit. They apparently also have video of the descent and presumably more video from inside the capsule which will soon be available.

    For more updates:

    http://twitter.com/SpaceXer [twitter.com]
    http://spaceflightnow.com/falcon9/002/status.html [spaceflightnow.com]

  • I have high hopes on them. The best of luck!

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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