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NASA ISS Science

SpaceX Dragon Launch To ISS Set For April 30th 127

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the where-no-government-succeeded-before dept.
Spy Handler writes "NASA announced today a tentative April 30th date for SpaceX launch to the International Space Station on an unmanned cargo mission. 'Everything looks good as we head toward the April 30 launch date,' said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations. If successful, SpaceX will become the first private company to launch a space vehicle and dock with the ISS."
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SpaceX Dragon Launch To ISS Set For April 30th

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  • Most Excellent (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Penguinshit (591885) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @04:22AM (#39708413) Homepage Journal
    It's time to turn LEO over to commercial operators and let NASA get back to pushing frontiers. It was right to kill Constellation and Ares.
    • Re:Most Excellent (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Canazza (1428553) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @05:01AM (#39708489)

      This is a *brand new* private market. We need competition. So far who do we have? SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. And even Virgin only go Sub-orbital and is mostly publicity runs.
      There's alot of players missing at the moment. For example: Where's Boeing? One of the biggest Government contractors for aircraft hasn't thought to invest in their own space vehicles?
      I get the feeling that when SpaceX actually has a proper, reliable, regular launch schedule that the market for private space launches will absoloutly boom.

      • Re:Most Excellent (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @05:10AM (#39708505)

        Boeing is in it. They are designing a capsule called CST-100, together with Bigelow Aerospace. There is also a more direct competitor to SpaceX, the Antares rocket built by Orbital Sciences and also scheduled to launch this year. Not to mention many smaller but ambitious players like XCOR that work on upper stage engines with ULA.

      • Arianespace (Score:5, Informative)

        by captainpanic (1173915) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @05:14AM (#39708515)

        The European Arianespace is commercial since 1980. They launch their Ariane rockets on a regular basis. You want competition? You got it.

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

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Rogerborg (306625)

          No, see, it's not proper rocketry unless you read about it in a NASA press release.

          Which is the problem here: why are we hearing about this from NASA? Screw those lumbering dinosaurs and their thousand-dollar hammers, I'd love to see SpaceX, Virgin or any other player just go ahead and send a surprise cheap dumb booster up to the ISS for so little outlay that they can say "Oh hai, say, do you guys you want these supplies or not? Doesn't bother us much either way, we'll just leave them in orbit here in c

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by arth1 (260657)

            Which is the problem here: why are we hearing about this from NASA? Screw those lumbering dinosaurs and their thousand-dollar hammers,

            If they had bought five thousand dollar hand tools instead, tested for space operations, instead of listening to those short-sighted people who want to pinch pennies whenever they see them, we might not have hand tools floating in space [wikipedia.org].

          • by Anonymous Coward

            The big issue for NASA is station safety. Do you really want an untested vehicle near your 100billion dollar station? One that if there is an error in coding could easily ram it?

          • by crutchy (1949900)

            I'd love to see SpaceX, Virgin or any other player just go ahead and send a surprise cheap dumb booster up to the ISS for so little outlay that they can say "Oh hai, say, do you guys you want these supplies or not?

            i guess if you pay for it you probably can, but at the moment nasa calls the shots because it pays the money. that's why spacex is more a government contractor than a commercial enterprise. difference being that a commercial enterprise would be servicing multiple clients. as long as nasa is its only customer, it is the boss, not spacex. if spacex goes space cowboy, nasa may well just say "Oh hai, say, do you guys want to do as we tell you, or do you want us to pay space-y/ruskies instead; we're not averse

            • SpaceX has already put up satellites (on Falcon 1) for people other than NASA. Second flight of Falcon 1 carried a satellite on spec, as I recall.

              In addition, SpaceX already has contracts over the next couple of years to put up satellites for MDA (Canada), SES (Europe), Thaicom (Thailand), NSPO (Taiwan), Asiasat (two launches), CONAE (Argentina).

              Among others.

            • by tsotha (720379)
              It's worse than that. SpaceX relies on all sorts of NASA launch, tracking, test facilities, and the entire regulatory environment associated. Even the SpaceX honchos admit they can't do it without NASA. The only real difference between SpacesX and Boeing is SpaceX designed and built the rocket with their own money and Boeing did it on contract.
              • Yes, just like Grumman, Martin, McDonnell and others relied on NASA back on the 60's, or like all their predecessors relied on NACA [wikipedia.org] in the 30's and 40's. The big difference is that SpaceX is selling launches at a guaranteed price, rather than the usual "cost-plus" contracts that have plagued the space program for decades. And SpaceX is hardly without competition... Orbital is running their first ISS re-supply mission this summer. Frankly, this is a step in the right direction. And when you get down to brass

                • by crutchy (1949900)
                  its a pity space should become the final profitable frontier

                  still, a lot can happen in at least 50 years before space becomes commercialized to the point where you or I could afford a holiday there

                  i wouldn't be surprised if the global economic and political environment is completely different and companies as we know them won't exist
          • by Picass0 (147474)

            >> "...I'd love to see SpaceX, Virgin or any other player just go ahead and send a surprise cheap dumb booster up to the ISS for so little outlay that they can say "Oh hai, say, do you guys you want these supplies or not?..."

            I understand your point and share your frustrations, but rockets pass through controlled commercial airspace as they launch. None of the carriers you mentioned want to get on FAA's bad side. Making feds pissed off is a bad way to kickstart a business.

            The new commercial space car

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            Which is the problem here: why are we hearing about this from NASA?

            Because NASA is going to use them to send supplies to the ISS, and probably a few other things as well.

          • Mod parent up. I found it really striking that SpaceX posts prices [spacex.com] on their website. It remains to be seen how this plays out, but they are talking some serious shit over there at SpaceX. I'd love to see them back it up.

            As for the need for a thousand dollar hammer, I call shenanigans. That hand tools in space link doesn't prove anything except carelessness.

        • by sunking2 (521698)
          Ariane is nothing special, not sure why everyone treats them as if they are. There are a half dozen other commercial launch companies that do the same thing. Commercial space is nothing new. The only thing new is the potential payload including people sometime in the future.
        • by cowdung (702933)

          Sure. But the cost of an Ariane launch is 10000 per Kg whereas the cost of a Falcon 9 is 5000 per Kg.

      • by xplosiv (129880)

        From the article:

        Other companies in the private space race include aerospace giant Boeing, the Nevada-based Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Washington state-based BlueOrigin LLC.

        More [ibtimes.com] info about their private space plans.

      • by crutchy (1949900)
        don't worry, once the financial risk is low enough (after someone else has already put in the high risk hard yards - most likely funded by taxpayers), the cheap knockoffs will begin to appear, ready to kill off the cheapskate idiots who decide to fly with them, probably doing the world a favor.
        • by Teancum (67324)

          Considering that the Chinese have said that SpaceX is flying at a price point cheaper than they can provide launch services, I'm sort of curious who this "cheap knockoff" might be? The Mexican Space Agency?

          • by damburger (981828)
            Citation please. Bear in mind, I want a credible source. Lots of people in China talk shit and don't have any real authority.
            • There was a /. story last year (one year ago today, in fact) mentioning this. Guy from China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., speaking "not for attribution".
            • by Teancum (67324)

              This is but one of several articles about this topic:

              http://nasawatch.com/archives/2011/05/spacex-explains.html [nasawatch.com]

              You can do some web searches on the topic if you want as well to get some other opinions on the topic, but it was in the news awhile back. Or perhaps Aviation Week is a two bit blog that doesn't matter much and is an unreliable source?

              • by damburger (981828)

                Sounds like Chinese whispers to me (pardon the pun.)

                In any case, which Long March rockets is this (supposedly authoritative) guy allegedly talking about? The current ones, or the ones that are in development?

                China's rocket fleet currently uses hypergolic propellants, which are expensive to buy, use, and clean up. Their next generation use LOx/RP-1 like sensible people, and will utilize the industrial base of modern China rather than legacy ICBM manufacturing from the 1970s.

                I'm fairly skeptical of this claim

                • by Teancum (67324)

                  It may be that the Chinese business leaders being quoted here were more upset that their profit margin was going to be cut on future flights and become something of a cost war between themselves and SpaceX rather than necessarily being unable to meet the price that SpaceX has been publishing on its websites for the cost of Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launches. It is remarkable at how much cheaper SpaceX has made launches already with their price point something that is generally viewed within the launch industry

          • by gmhowell (26755)

            Considering that the Chinese have said that SpaceX is flying at a price point cheaper than they can provide launch services, I'm sort of curious who this "cheap knockoff" might be? The Mexican Space Agency?

            Probably. Did you ever see the documentary about it [southparkstudios.com]?

          • by crutchy (1949900)
            yeah, according to spacex (not exactly a credible source), and the chinese "officials" were commenting on prices published on spacex's website, not their actual launch costs (yet to be determined, probably even by spacex)

            when they start launching for revenue, or when they start trying to drum up investment from sources other than rich dick swingers trying to impress their rich dick swinging friends, those prices will skyrocket because otherwise they will go bankrupt (think kistler)

            their first payload
            • by Teancum (67324)

              American rocket builders have all but given up trying to seek private commercial spaceflight launches, even though America was where the concept originated. I am not talking about joy rides such as the "space tourism" flights done by the "rich dick swingers" (I presume such a reference is to Richard Gariott who is rich but not really a swinger and his dickhood is of personal opinion that I disagree with even if you may think he is one), but rather for businesses that already are making a profit off of acti

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          don't worry, once the financial risk is low enough (after someone else has already put in the high risk hard yards - most likely funded by taxpayers), the cheap knockoffs will begin to appear, ready to kill off the cheapskate idiots who decide to fly with them, probably doing the world a favor.

          Given that the massively expensive space shuttle destroyed itself and killed the crew about one time in sixty, a 'cheapskate' doesn't have to try too hard to kill their crew less often.

          • by robot256 (1635039)
            I think the point about the shuttle is just the opposite: SpaceX is cheaper *because* they are more reliable, not in spite of it. If you build the thing without cutting corners up-front, you save a bundle in the long term, which is what SpaceX is getting right where so many others got it wrong. The only way to get cheaper is if you designed a rocket with the *intent* to blow up 1 in 100. Even the Soyuz capsules, which have almost no redundant systems whatsoever, have a reputation as being reliable.
            • Even the Soyuz capsules, which have almost no redundant systems whatsoever, have a reputation as being reliable.

              And, oddly enough, have had loss-of-crew accidents twice, just like Shuttle (which translates to a higher percentage loss rate, since there have been fewer Soyuz missions than Shuttle missions, in spite of Shuttle being developed a decade later).

        • Well let's hope they aren't knocking off the space shuttle -- you might recall that 33.3% of them exploded catastrophically, killing all their crew members.

      • by caseih (160668)

        All American rockets today that can deliver payload to orbit are made by private companies. They just happen to be under contract for government agencies like the air force, or even NASA. None of these rockets are man-rated, though, which is something SpaceX is gunning for in a big way. I'm definitely excited. Even if they are the only ones who can do it for a while, that's okay too. It's unlikely that a monopoly situation will lead to prices any higher than they are now!

      • You forgot Blue Origin [blueorigin.com] (run by Amazon's Jeff Bezos) and the quaintly named but feisty Armadillo Aerospace [armadilloaerospace.com]. Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop Grumman -- I believe those companies have been contracting to NASA and the defense department for years but prefer to suck the government's massive teats by going through NASA, the DOD, and all those other agencies. In fact, Northrop more or less purchased Scaled Composites [space.com].

        These new companies are fresh faces on the scene that has been dominated by aerospace heavy weights for

        • by Teancum (67324)

          What I love about Armadillo Aerospace is that they are one of the few companies whose budget for rocket fuel is larger than the budget for the construction of the vehicles they fly. They also are not afraid to admit they've gone down a blind alley and try something completely different, like completely different fuels, injector systems, and pretty much every part of their rockets. Of any group of rocket developers around today, I'd dare say they have more experience actually using rocket engines and comin

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by lxs (131946)

      Bad idea.
      Why?
      Two words: Space junk.

      The Invisible Hand has a bad record for picking up after itself.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        It's just a matter of time you know... if enough people go there, it's just a waiting matter before:
        - space hippies go collect garbage (and re-invent the cradle2cradle concept, making nice new stuff from spacejunk);
        - greenpeace goes there with big solarsail-made-into-banners;
        - Al Gore will say he invented space and then make a movie about how terrible the whole spacejunk problem is;
        - We will see spacejunk-sceptics;
        And when they are all up in arms, here on /. we will d
      • Space junk is a bit different to the normal polluting behaviour though, since it will directly and literally impact the polluter's future operations. Also, its not like publicly funded endeavours have that great a record when it comes to space junk either.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      I wonder what the insurance is for something like that? A dent in the ISS must cost an arm and a leg to fix.

      • by sconeu (64226)

        It's OK. Flo told them that they could just plug "snapshot" into their spaceship and get a huge discount!

  • The deeper problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zippo01 (688802) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @04:58AM (#39708485)
    The failure of NASA, speaks to a much deeper issue growing in US culture. People only care that it works, not how or why it works, and make no effort to understand. This is also why the US is falling behind as the world leader in tech. This is the same thing that causes us to buy cheap products from china, that break, and instead of fixing them, we just buy more. It makes me sad.
    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      Hi, you're using one of those Freedom Eagle brand computers made in Omaha? Flip it over, read the Made in China sticker, then lead by example, please.
      • by zippo01 (688802)
        Indeed, hence the failure and the mindset of the failure. I would gladly by American made, but I can't find any.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually what makes westerners, you and me included, to buy new items instead of fixing them is the just cost of repair. Let's say a reasonably well-performing nondescript toaster from your local hypermarket costs $50 or $100 for a "high end" one. Let's also suppose that you get $20 an hour. You basically have three choices:

      1. Find out what is broken, get a replacement part, and replace it yourself.

      Sounds easy, but if it's anything except the heating element, you need more than a multimeter to figure out wh

      • by arth1 (260657)

        Option 4: Do NOT buy or repair your toaster oven until you can afford a much higher quality replacement.

        This seems to me like the soundest decision, but with consumerism, people want instant gratification and the quality converges to the lowest that producers can get away with.

        • by dpilot (134227) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @07:01AM (#39708793) Homepage Journal

          How do you buy a much higher quality toaster? On occasion I have tried to buy higher quality appliances. Price is no indicator. Brand is only a weak indicator. Reviews are only a weak indicator, because product lines are constantly being churned, even if the name has remained the same.

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            Look at the warranty. Anything less than 5 years is cheap crap, 10 years is good. Some German and Japanese manufacturers offer them.

        • Why a toaster when you have a blowtorch?
        • by tompaulco (629533)
          Option 4: Do NOT buy or repair your toaster oven until you can afford a much higher quality replacement.
          Unfortunately, in my experience, the premium items break down just as frequently as the cheap crap, but are more expensive to repair, either professionally or DIY because they make the repair parts cost 50% of the price of a new unit.
          As an example, I have a Maytag washing machine which cost about $1100. Maytag is the one with the commercials of the repairman sitting around doing nothing because nobody
          • by arth1 (260657)

            As an example, I have a Maytag washing machine which cost about $1100. Maytag is the one with the commercials of the repairman sitting around doing nothing because nobody ever calls in. Well, it has broken down on me about 5 times. Twice, it has been the circuitboard, which has to be replaced in its entirety and costs well over $100. The most recent item was a cracked outflow pump housing. How did it crack? Why, pennies got into the housing.

            I hate to tell you, but at $1100 you're still in the cheap consumer territory - you've paid for features, not quality. Higher end consumer washers are more in the $2000 range.

            You won't find a $1100 Maytag at a professional cleaner or tailor's - they need quality, and are willing to pay for it. Consumers aren't, and when comparing items, will either pick the cheaper, the one with more features, or the one that looks best.

            But how can that be? They've been in the business 100 years.

            I hate to tell you this too, but Maytag went out of business in 2006, after consumer

      • My Mom and Dad are still using the toaster they got as a wedding gift, and they'll be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year.
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Actually what makes westerners, you and me included, to buy new items instead of fixing them is the just cost of repair.

        That's why repair is a hobby (DIY). That way your time is basically free and you're doing it for fun or experience. (It's just like people who admin Linux machines for fun).

        Now, a toaster is actually a very simple product and a poor example - anyone competent with electricity can rapidly fix it.

        Take something that doesn't cost a lot more - say a computer monitor - you can pick up a 20" or

    • by crutchy (1949900)
      "People only care that"... it's profitable.

      there, ftfy
    • The failure of NASA, speaks to a much deeper issue growing in US culture.

      What failure in NASA? Not providing Buck Rogers for your entertainment and amusement? (As opposed to actually getting on with the hard and mostly boring bits, which they have done.) Failing to meet some abstract standard of cost and performance? (Which borders on the ludicrous - it's like complaining about the low performance and high cost of a 8008 in 1971. There's simply no track record on which to base such a standard.)

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Basically, you're remembering a golden era that never existed

        The young are prone to doing that. We who have been around a while know how bad the past sucked; we were there.

  • Why all the hype?! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by erroneus (253617)

    I glanced over the article... hoping to find some pictures.. didn't find any. Boring. Then I read some of the words. Someone was in there whining "the space station is moving faster than a bullet!!!" Yeah? So? It's orbital space. That's how it works and speed is "relative." That's why it's not such a big deal to negotiate an exit from a freeway moving at 70MPH... the other cars are moving at that speed too! I'm not saying that docking to something in orbital space is child's play, but to talk about

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Here is an article with pictures. http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/04/frr-sets-april-30-dragons-first-flight-fully-prepared-iss/

    • by joh (27088)

      I'm not saying that docking to something in orbital space is child's play, but to talk about the station's speed relative to the earth is ridiculous and irrelevant. Only two things seem relevant to me. The first is the speed of the two objects relative to each other. The second is the possibility of space junk getting in the way.

      All this stuff is interesting but it's not rocket science... well... okay, so it IS rocket science... but rocket science is not so new and awesome any more you know?

      Those two objects are not just moving in a straight line, they're in a orbit. This means the one object moving faster than the other (to close up to it) can't be and won't be in the same orbit as the other object. Getting one object near enough to another with no or very little relative motion between them (rendezvous) requires some totally non-intuitive ways of maneuvering.

      Not that this is the hard thing about that mission. What SpaceX did here is building a launcher and a spacecraft to get into orbit and

    • by AikonMGB (1013995)

      I've been saying it for a while now.. rocket science is easy. It, and the associated orbital mechanics, are governed by a relatively small handful of equations, and most problems have been solved already. Rocket engineering, on the other hand, is still a very tricky and complicated business.

    • by crutchy (1949900)

      rocket science is not so new and awesome any more you know

      ...just (still) ridiculously expensive, and getting moreso with ever increasing legalities and lack of trust in government and companies (increased political instability and lack of shareholder confidence).

      the risk of significant R&D investment by any company far outweighs the benefits. its much cheaper to ripoff little innovators who can't defend their IP rights.

      if courthouses were only allowed to be in space, we would have a huge space transportation industry funded by big corporate clients of

    • ... but rocket science is not so new and awesome any more you know?

      Maybe not so new. Still awesome though.

    • Hang on a second...First you're mad that the article didn't have any pictures and was just full of words. Now you're mad that those words aren't complicated enough? At war with your inner child perhaps?
  • by Covalent (1001277) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @07:10AM (#39708827)
    Orbital flight is great. So is docking with the ISS.

    But my hope is that the future of private space is a private space station that does what a space station really should: Serve as an rotating orbital way station (e.g. see 2001). If you store fuel there, NASA can purchase fuel for fast-track missions to Mars, Europa, whatever. Let SpaceX raise money via space tourism and charging for the fuel. People can LIVE there (artificial gravity eliminates many problems) and train for Lunar or Martian missions there (closer to the rotating hub there are natural low-gravity zones). People can also increase their gravity on the return trip from these missions so as to be able to return to earth.

    This would make the space station a usable thing for MANY missions, not just an extremely expensive orbital platform. It would also facilitate our permanent colonization of other worlds. And (best part) it can be done with existing tech.
    • The ISS is not some multi-billion dollar toy. It is a serious science station. A lot goes on there that we groundlings never hear a thing about. Here's a small list [wikipedia.org].
      • by Teancum (67324)

        While I will admit that the ISS is doing some very impressive things, is it really worth the $100 Billion price tag to get it built? That is roughly the cost of about 4-5 nuclear powered aircraft carriers, and certainly more than has ever been spent on the entire cost of exploring Antarctica since Americans first went to that continent combined.

        Then again there are several members of congress that would like to simply splash the thing into the Pacific Ocean and forget it ever existed in the first place. I

    • by damburger (981828)
      I really don't see how spinning round an enormous space station (radius has to be on order 100s of metres for the occupants not to get sick from the rotation) where much of the mass is given over to providing one of the very conditions you go to space to escape will facilitate interplanetary space travel. It certainly won't facilitate easy fuel transfers. If you think it will, ask someone to do donuts in your car whilst you try to fill it up with petrol.
  • I call shotgun seat.

  • Reality check (Score:5, Insightful)

    by damburger (981828) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @09:18AM (#39709997)

    A little perspective is needed here.

    SpaceX is doing something that the US managed during the Gemini program, the USSR perfected in the 1970's with the Salyut stations, and the Chinese have just done. The first two of those national programs did so without any help or prior knowledge to draw on, and the Chinese had less help from the Russians than is commonly acknowledged.

    SpaceX has had their hand held every step of the way by NASA, and have benefitted greatly from NASAs expertise, experience and technology - as have all commercial space launch companies in the US. The people running these companies freely admit this, but the libertarian fanboys simply refuse to, and demand NASA "get out of the way". This is like a teenage, entirely dependent on his parents income to live, demanding they "get out of the way" of his life.

    Secondly, the "commercial" label is quite a stretch. These companies are offering a service that is almost exclusively used by a government agency (the very one that fanboys want to die right now quickly please) - they are not catering to a market. The artificial generation of demand that they are exploiting is pure Keynesian. No wonder the space libertarian crowd don't want to talk about this aspect of it.

    It is nice that the US is working towards a Shuttle replacement, regardless of how it achieves this - but it is wrong to take this as a sign of the Ultimate Capitalist Triumph In Space, or as a cue to tear apart NASA in the name of ideology.

    The reality at present is this; you can support the Libertarian Party, Ron Paul, and any other markets-above-all nuts - OR you can support the continued presence of the US in space. You cannot do both, at least not honestly.

    • by Penty (3722)

      SpaceX has over 40 booked launches for the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, that qualifies for commercial in my books. It's one of the reasons they are looking for an additional launch site.

      • by damburger (981828)

        We are talking about manned spaceflight. I am well aware that SpaceX has attracted commercial clients for satellite launches; that you can make money putting communication satellites up is not news.

        But their flagship program, the one that is being discussed here and touted as evidence that the glorious Invisible Hand will take us all to the stars, is what I am saying is completely dependent on NASA, and I'm, right.

        Furthermore, the development of SpaceX launch technology, whilst commercial in its operation,

        • by Penty (3722)

          And your point is? Elon Musk has never been shy about the help they got from NASA and all the pioneers that went before. Since SpaceX is selling launches they are now more than "just" an engineering company. If all they were doing was NASA related activities I'd agree with you; but that is not all they are doing.

          If you are looking for big dreams Mr. Musk's stated goal is to retire on Mars. You can't get much bigger than that.

          • by damburger (981828)

            My point is, it isn't likely. More likely is a successful but unremarkable existence as a LEO launch service provider.

            Launching satellites, and even manned spacecraft, IS just engineering. That is not meant in a dismissive way, by the way. I just object to the ideological spin (only a fraction of which emanates from Musk himself.

            • by Penty (3722)

              An engineering company would not be gearing up for volume production of their primary product. They would be shopping around trying to sell their design after having proven it.

            • The definition of "just engineering" depends on what the goal of engineering is. Musk's stated goal with SpaceX is to make life multi-planetary, and he has identified the most crucial enabler of that goal as rockets that are rapidly and completely reusable (IOW, what the shuttle was supposed to be). They are already selling launches (Falcon Heavy) for less than $1000/lb to LEO, but the big break will come when they crack the reusability barrier. That will open up a whole new range of possibilities and marke

            • I think this is in fact an ideological development as much as a commercial development. For this launch, SpaceX can claim the glory or the blame depending on the success / failure of the mission. NASA, for its part seems perfectly willing to share all their expertise in exchange for a guaranteed rate for space launches -- an accountability that their traditional funding patterns seem to lack entirely. And, if the mission fails, NASA can always blame SpaceX and keep themselves nice and squeaky clean.

              Persona

      • So then, we're not actually entering an era of commercial space - we've been there for decades... Because Boeing, McDonnell-Douglas, etc... have frickin' well blown up more private launches than SpaceX has booked - and they've flown successfully an order of magnitude more.

    • by Bigby (659157)

      As a libertarian-leaning person myself, you are right on so many levels. SpaceX is entering into a heavily subsidized field. But the jury is still out on what they do after get through the POC. That will be new ground.

      Will the "international government" allow for colonization on the moon? Mars? If they do these and issue Moon/Mars property rights, they could actually create quite a tourism market. Rich people would spend oodles of money on a day or two luxury vacation on the Moon.

      But until the concept

  • Why do people in spaceflight always resort to hyperbole when describing docking maneuvers? Example from this article:

    Then there is the complicated matter of latching on to the space station, which Musk described as moving faster than a speeding bullet. "I think it is important to appreciate that this is pretty tricky," Musk told reporters. "The public out there, they may not realize that the space station is zooming around the Earth every 90 minutes, and it is going 17,000 miles (27,000 kilometers) an h

    • by BMOC (2478408)
      oops, I forgot about the mir re-supply crash. But IIRC, that crash was during a manual docking from the station due to some other complications.
    • We can't get computers to drive autonomously on earth, but we can program computers to automatically dock with the space station, that tells me it's EASIER than driving.

      Your analogy immediately took a nosedive when you compared driving a car with parking a spacecraft. Computers are already somewhat decent at parking cars. However, if a computer had to navigate a spacecraft safely through a congested orbit of spacecraft piloted by humans it would likely be just as bad as it would be driving a car.

      Put simply, you've overlooked the reason computers can't drive cars autonomously - it's impossible to predict with 100% certainty what the humans driving around the computer will

  • Yep, Apr-30 MY B'Day :)

Two is not equal to three, even for large values of two.

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