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ISS NASA Space Science

SpaceX Given Approval For ISS Mission 143

Posted by Soulskill
from the try-not-to-run-into-it dept.
An anonymous reader sends this snippet from an AFP report: "California-based rocket maker SpaceX said that it will make a test flight in late November to the International Space Station, now that NASA has retired its space shuttle program. 'SpaceX has been hard at work preparing for our next flight — a mission designed to demonstrate that a privately-developed space transportation system can deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS),' the company, also called Space Exploration Technologies, said in a statement. The mission is the second to be carried out by SpaceX, one of a handful of firms competing to make a spaceship to replace the now-defunct US shuttle, which had been used to carry supplies and equipment to the orbiting outpost. 'NASA has given us a November 30, 2011 launch date, which should be followed nine days later by Dragon berthing at the ISS,' the company said." SpaceX has an information sheet for the Dragon capsule, as well as an interesting post about the costs involved in their launches.
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SpaceX Given Approval For ISS Mission

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @12:41AM (#37115458)

    As far as I know, NASA doesn't have a factory. Everything they used was made by the likes of Boeing, Lockheed and others. All NASA added was 50 layers of management, to ensure that everything was behind schedule and over budget.

    • by jdpars (1480913)
      Nevermind the engineers who figure out what kind of craft is needed to complete the mission, how it will complete the mission, and what to do when it goes wrong. Boeing, et al. handled all of that, right.
      • by stiggle (649614) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @05:56AM (#37116954)

        NASA are the admin, everything else is sub-contracted out...

        Engineers are sub-contactors from the likes of SAIC ( http://www.saic.com/ [saic.com] ) & Booz Allen Hamilton ( http://www.boozallen.com/ [boozallen.com] ) aswell as the manufacturers (Boeing, ATK, Lockheed Martin, etc).
        Launches are handled by ULA ( United Launch Alliance - http://www.ulalaunch.com/ [ulalaunch.com] )
        In-space operations are handled by USA (United Space Alliance - www.unitedspacealliance.com/ )

        Both ULA & USA are joint operations of Boeing & Lockheed Martin.

        So yes, Boeing, et al. did handle all that :-)

        • Ouch, guess you told him. OTH here is a nice little quote from the Space X career page,
          SpaceX is a US based space technology company founded by its residing CEO and CTO, Elon Musk, the former co-founder of PayPal. The company's goal is to renew a sense of excellence in the space industry by disrupting the current paradigm of complacency and replacing it with innovation and commercialized price points; laying the foundation for a truly space-faring human civilization.
          Notice the back handed insult? The clev
    • by shawn443 (882648)
      Factory or not, NASA bureaucracy or not. NASA has a record of nearly perfect machines accompanied by nearly perfect software. Their scientists deserve at least the same dues as the corporate engineer.
      • by Wovel (964431)

        Nearly perfect machines? Except for 40% of them blowing up and killing the entire crew, I suppose your right. It is dangerous activity, and accidents are inevitable. Using the word perfect in any context (even qualified with nearly) with NASA is absurd.

        Maybe you didn't mean machines (even though you said machines). Maybe you meant missions. 2/135 of them ended with the complete obliteration of the crew. Acceptable for a high-risk exploration machine? I certainly think it is. Anywhere near perfect? N

        • Nearly perfect machines? Except for 40% of them blowing up and killing the entire crew, I suppose your right.

          Compare this to the other nations around the world that have no space programs, it's not (always) because they don't care, it's because they know they couldn't pull it off even if they tried. NASA could be better, but I don't think there's a similar group on this planet that's better than NASA.

          • by ZankerH (1401751)
            Roscosmos and the Chinese National Space Administration would like a word with you, at least as far as manned missions' survival ratio is concerned.
            • Yes, the Russians do manned more reliably, but I've always felt that they were doing manned missions just for the sake of "being there" and not really trying to accomplish much beyond that. CNSA can hardly get credit for following 30 years behind and doing a small volume of missions using "borrowed" technology - per-capita, the Chinese citizens domestically launched into-space ratio is laughably small.

        • I will say that for the shuttle main computers, the software engineering standards are perhaps the highest in the computer industry and really do set the gold standard for software design and review. On average the software engineers developing the guidance system software produce about 4,000-5,000 lines of code per year.... and the rest of the time is spent busting up each other's software and mathematically proving the correctness of the algorithms they've produced. The amount of software generated per programmer may be even less, but it seems like that is about the right figure from what I remember.

          In that sense, perfection is perhaps the appropriate word to be used, but it is in certain contexts. That said, the overall spacecraft design for the Shuttle did have some incredibly huge and sadly fatal design flaws, so I agree with your general sentiment that perfect is perhaps a bit overstated. The problem with spaceships is that you can't fix bugs with software that your hardware engineers couldn't resolve. There is this little thing called physics that must be dealt with and can't be brushed aside. Then again, that is why the Shuttle program was a couple of decades late in being canceled.

        • by danlip (737336)

          Not to mention that they failed to check their units on the Mars Climate Orbiter software [wikipedia.org].

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          Maybe you didn't mean machines (even though you said machines). Maybe you meant missions. 2/135 of them ended with the complete obliteration of the crew.

          They meant machines, and the way you evaluate the record of the machines is failures/missions. Not failures/machines.

          You wouldn't say the PDP-11 was a bad machine because 99.9% of them are defunct, or that Toyota Tercels were unreliable because 95% of them are in the scrapyard. You'd talk about MTBF, or miles driven. It's the work you get out of the machine before failure that counts. Especially when the chance of failure occurs when you use it, not as a consequence of its existence.

          Think about it: If

    • by DJRumpy (1345787)

      This sounds like the opinion of someone without any age under their belt. Although NASA subcontracts for 'parts' and equipment, they are pretty much a top down organization, much like Apple in that respect. It doesn't mean they aren't in full control of their projects. Without NASA, we wouldn't have been the first on the Moon. A feat still unrepeated for over 40 years. They had a unique style to getting things done in the beginning. Something that got lost over the years under regulation and administration

      • "Although NASA subcontracts for 'parts' and equipment, they are pretty much a top down organization, much like Apple in that respect. It doesn't mean they aren't in full control of their projects. Without NASA, we wouldn't have been the first on the Moon."

        The contractors in the Apollo program did a lot of their own engineering. I remember watching a documentary about the LEM, and how Grumman had to solve a lot of challenges, flowing change requests up to NASA. Sure NASA was heavily involved, but it wasn't like all ideas originated from the top.

        I don't intend this post as a knock against NASA, just your perception of them.

        • by k6mfw (1182893)

          I find it interesting is to listen to those still living (though Aaron Cohen died last year) who were major players in the Apollo program. Although Schmitt is among one of the speakers, I consider major players are those that stayed on the ground, it takes non-astronauts to make major decisions and get resources from Congress and the President. Though I myself have not watched this yet. I did watch some others about Shuttle by Dale Myers, Aaron Cohen, and Chris Kraft. Much of the history I knew but how the

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Funny thing, sure seems like a manufacturing facility at JPL where they're building the next Mars Rover. Lots of guys and gals twisting wrenches, running milling machines, lacing cables, etc.

      Sure, NASA contracts out a lot: federal law prohibits "competition with industry", so if there's an industry supplier, the law requires that we use it, rather than build it ourselves.

      And, it's not like NASA stamps out tens or hundreds of the same widget: everything is a prototype.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @12:45AM (#37115476) Homepage

    Space-X may be the future of space travel. They designed that thing. It's not a NASA design, and it didn't go through NASA's process of spreading everything out among contractors spread across the US.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Just to be clear, this isn't "NASA's process", it's the new normal for just about everything which requires Congressional approval. If a gear doesn't touch all 40+ states during manufacture, it probably won't get built.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        doesn't touch all 40+ states during manufacture

        Hooray American geography classes!

    • Yeah, they could go with the lowest bidder no matter where they were located!

      • by crutchy (1949900)
        spacex will eventually subcontract the russians when they figure out how much they (don't) make from their dragon
        • by stiggle (649614)

          SpaceX make their money on the Falcon launch system, not the Dragon capsule as their are limited customers at the moment wanting to put people into orbit.

    • Sure they designed their hardware but they have also relied on using the past 40+ years of NASA's and the participating contractors successes and failures as their starting point. It's not like they developed a warp engine or anything. At most they have made minor improvements on existing concepts and models.
  • I remember they pushed them up when the Shuttle retirement was announced.
    • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @01:12AM (#37115592)
      Apparently the ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle and JAXA's H-II Transfer vehicle can also resupply the ISS [wikipedia.org], so the Russians do not have a lock on unmanned missions to it. I wonder when Dragon will be ready for human "payload"?
      • by TWX (665546)

        I wonder when Dragon will be ready for human "payload"?

        That's what I'm wondering too. I know that getting something man-rated is a lot more difficult than just cargo-rated. I'd bet that many of the systems require for human use will be installed on the demonstrator even if it's going up with a bunch of cargo, just to prove those systems work, and to assist in achieving certification for use for people. What I wonder, though, is how many launches, how many non-launched capsules, and how many years would b

        • There was one accidential vacuum exposure during training and equipment testing. He survived. Turns out humans don't explode like in the movies.
          • by Teancum (67324)

            There was a suicide which took place in a ground-based vacuum chamber. It wasn't pretty and rarely gets talked about... in part because of the circumstances involved. Just like several astronauts who died for mundane causes like a plane crash or auto accident are not listed on the space memorial wall.... even if those deaths happened during "training". Perhaps that may change some day.

            • Just like several astronauts who died for mundane causes like a plane crash or auto accident are not listed on the space memorial wall.... even if those deaths happened during "training". Perhaps that may change some day.

              Everybody dies.

          • by caseih (160668)

            Then there was this tragedy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soyuz_11 [wikipedia.org]

        • According to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_(spacecraft) [wikipedia.org], in 4-6 years. Figure ten at the outside. I'd bet that could be accelerated to 2-3 years if NASA actually had the authority to tender a cash contract up front to get it flying next in two years with a moderate safety margin.
        • by Teancum (67324)

          That's what I'm wondering too. I know that getting something man-rated is a lot more difficult than just cargo-rated.

          Tell me when realistic human rating standards ever get established for spaceflight in America. At the moment, the only standard that I'm aware of is if the NASA administrator or one of his deputies simply declares that a spacecraft meets "man-rating" because that is what it was designed to do. So far, not a single spacecraft (including the Space Shuttle) ever met that human-rating requirement that was anything other than an arbitrary decision.

          Oh, there are "man-rating" standards.... so stringent that NASA

          • Tell me when realistic human rating standards ever get established for spaceflight in America. At the moment, the only standard that I'm aware of is if the NASA administrator or one of his deputies simply declares that a spacecraft meets "man-rating" because that is what it was designed to do.

            NASA Standard NPR 8705.2B “Human-Rating. Requirements for Space Systems.” [nasa.gov]

            • by adamgundy (836997)

              that's just one. there are dozens of NASA 'human rating' standards documents that are expected to be followed, plus (possibly) some standards that are unofficial or just in the heads of certain managers.

              SpaceX say they have adhered to every *published* NASA human rating requirement. they keep asking if there's anything else that's not published..

              BTW the space shuttle did not follow several of those standards, but was 'waived'.

              • SpaceX knows that it has one thing left to do....

                It has to create an abort system, their plan is to load it will small thrusters on the capsule that will engage and take it away from the rocket. This system will work at any point in launch and will also serve as a landing method for the moon and maybe Mars.

    • I don't think it matters what the price is. All of the alternatives to Dragon (and NASA is almost certain to go with 2 options) are planned for the Atlas V, which is expensive enough that without a significant increase in flight rate I can't see it beating the Russians on price. The point is not to find the lowest cost provider, but to enable reasonably priced domestic providers.
  • by Narmacil (1189367) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @12:59AM (#37115536)

    SpaceX Update [spacex.com]

    This goes more into what's been going on running up to the launch, and has some great pictures of the rocket/capsule/facility in hawthorne (I took one of them :P)

    • by ender06 (913978)
      Narmacil, what department are you in? I'm currently interning in Avionics for my second summer.
      • by Narmacil (1189367)

        Launch Ops Represent!

        but seriously, avionics is always rollin in at 10am like they're too cool for school, what's with that?

        Are you over in intern land or with the mass of avionics?

        • by ender06 (913978)
          I am over in intern land, done on Friday though. We prefer the 10 to 10 kind of schedule, just like we're still in college.
        • Thanks to both you guys. I got to stand feet away from the Dragon capsule that went to space and back an hour after watching the last shuttle launch. Pretty. Farking. Awesome. Keep up the amazing work.

        • by stiggle (649614)

          So are we going to get more "nominal" jokes this time around? :-)

    • I'm entering my final year of high school and my goal is to work at SpaceX after college. Could you send me your email to ctownskier@gmail.com so I could ask you for some advice?
  • Obama was right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wisebabo (638845) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @02:54AM (#37116178) Journal

    Sending NASA back to the drawing boards to develop breakthrough technologies for deep space exploration is what it should do, let private enterprise do what has already been proven. Breaking the power of the aero-industrial complex with their legions of lobbyists and congressmen in their pockets took guts to do. This is a giant leap in the right direction.

    Ironic that people (used to?) claim that Obama was a socialist. Sure he spent taxpayer money to save the auto industry. Now it is being paid back although admittedly projections are that the government will lose 1.5 Billion upfront. Still, considering how many Millions of jobs were directly and indirectly (suppliers, communities) saved, that $1.5 Billion was well spent. And that's not even considering the taxes these now highly profitable enterprises (record sales and growth) are returning to the treasury and will be doing so (hopefully) for many years to come.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Teancum (67324)

      I wish I could take credit for this quote, but I have to give the credit to some other person:

      Democrats don't think capitalism works below the sky, Republicans don't think it works above

      That about sums up the problem here. I've raised the issue in Republican political discussion forums thinking that maybe somebody might get a clue that Republican congressmen are two faced on this particular issue. Such discussion threads usually go like a lead balloon and die a premature death as nobody responds or even sees a problem... or worse yet defends Republican congressmen for their actions to support a

      • by ultranova (717540)

        I've raised the issue in Republican political discussion forums thinking that maybe somebody might get a clue that Republican congressmen are two faced on this particular issue. Such discussion threads usually go like a lead balloon and die a premature death as nobody responds or even sees a problem... or worse yet defends Republican congressmen for their actions to support a central design bureau with a command economy structure because it benefits their own districts.

        Questioning Republican policies on Re

        • by amliebsch (724858)

          Or questioning the precepts of statism on Slashdot, for that matter...

        • by Teancum (67324)

          Questioning Republican policies on Republican forums is like questioning the existence of God on Rapture Ready forums.

          The thing is, if you question the existence of God on a religious forum of some kind, I promise that you will get at least one if not a dozen replies, and if you start to reply defending your position it can turn into a flamefest royale. Ditto of you start to proclaim that Ronald Reagan was a tax and spend liberal or that we must return to a 90% tax bracket for the wealthy on Republican forums.

          Instead, all I get when I mention the space policy of Republicans in Congress on these forums is a dead silence, o

      • by k6mfw (1182893)

        That about sums up the problem here. I've raised the issue in Republican political discussion forums thinking that maybe somebody might get a clue that Republican congressmen are two faced on this particular issue. Such discussion threads usually go like a lead balloon and die a premature death as nobody responds or even sees a problem... or worse yet defends Republican congressmen for their actions to support a central design bureau with a command economy structure because it benefits their own districts.

        ..."central design bureau" sounds like what they had in Soviet Russia. Since it is many Republicans pushing the SLS, Space Launch System or what some call "Senate Launch System." I say we call it the Socialist Launch System!

    • by am 2k (217885)

      And that's not even considering the taxes these now highly profitable enterprises (record sales and growth) are returning to the treasury and will be doing so (hopefully) for many years to come.

      Considering that large companies don't pay taxes in the US, the direct return on that is probably very low.

    • let private enterprise do what has already been proven. Breaking the power of the aero-industrial complex with their legions of lobbyists and congressmen in their pockets took guts to do.

      In other words, let private industry do what has already been proven - but only if it's the right private industry.

  • Look at the posts here that whine about government taxes paying for a space programme now being entered by private American companies. See their total lack of a vision for America and humanity? See their commitment to destroying what is perhaps America's - and humanity's - greatest achievements and endeavors? See them demanding we do nothing but the purely private business that would never have gone to space, or if it eventually did (after much loss of life and limb) would never have shared any of what it s

    • Corporations are a creation of the state -- they're an entitlement for the corporation's owners to limited liability for their actions. There's nothing at all libertarian about them.

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        When you libertarians destroy the government, the anarchy you create is immediately filled by the expanding corporate power we use government to protect us from. Corporations are very libertarian, the way that chickens are very egg.

        • Your assumption seems to be that the vast majority of corporations' power doesn't derive from their close cooperation with the state, and that's an assumption we don't share.

          • by Doc Ruby (173196)

            No, it is perfectly clear that we agree that's where corporate power comes from. What you don't seem to realize is that without the government, corporations will not be limited to the power they derive from the state, but rather will consume all powers the state now keeps for itself, and the even greater remaining powers that we still manage to limit the US government to. That's corporate anarchy. That's what drowning the government in a bathtub will give us: warlords bathing in blood, calling themselves CE

  • by hey (83763)

    The name "Dragon" sounds a bit ... Chinese. Our biggest rival. I don't think they'd call their spaceship "Eagle".

  • which should be followed nine days later by Dragon berthing at the ISS

    Dragons roost- they do not 'berth'.

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