Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
ISS Space

ISS Captures SpaceX Dragon Capsule 217

Posted by Soulskill
from the congratulations-folks dept.
Today at 9:56AM EDT (13:56 GMT) the robotic arm on the International Space Station successfully captured SpaceX's Dragon capsule. It's the first time a commercial craft has connected with the ISS, and the first time a spacecraft made in the U.S. has gone to the station since the retirement of the shuttle. The approach was delayed temporarily as engineers worked out bad sensor readings due to light reflected off the ISS's Kibo laboratory. "To work around the problem, SpaceX narrowed the field of view for the laser sensor so that it wouldn't pick up light from the offending reflector. Dragon then returned to the 30-meter checkpoint and moved in for the final approach." If all goes well today, the capsule will most likely be opened tomorrow. Video of the operation is being broadcast live on NASA TV.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

ISS Captures SpaceX Dragon Capsule

Comments Filter:
  • Hooray. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 25, 2012 @10:55AM (#40109093)

    That's it. Just hooray.

  • Can someone please post a recording of the approach and capture?

  • Smaug? (Score:5, Funny)

    by MikeMacK (788889) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:05AM (#40109175)
    It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him. Dragons may not have much real use for all their wealth, but they know it to an ounce as a rule, especially after long possession...
  • Today the ISS, tomorrow LV-426! ;) Gratz to SpaceX and the ISS crew.

  • by jthill (303417) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:13AM (#40109241)
    Fucking awesome.
    • THIS!
    • that comment correctly refers to the first porn they film in space, which hasn't happened yet, but will soon because some doofus just raised $40 million for the endeavour on kickstarter

      priorities

  • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:13AM (#40109245)
    Now that Usenet is fading into history, is He monitoring the Slashdot feed? We'll see.
  • by mykepredko (40154) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:14AM (#40109255) Homepage

    Everyone should be proud that their dream has come true.

    Thank you for your hard work in providing a new capability for space flight.

    myke

    • by msobkow (48369)

      Congratulations indeed on passing such a major test of the systems that we've been hearing about for so long! :D

  • by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918.gmail@com> on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:20AM (#40109297)
    After half a century of unsustainable government space endeavors, we may finally see some progress toward receiving actual benefits from space flight, now that the profit motive of the private sector has been (at least partially) restored. The strive for profit will necessarily lead to advancements in space tech, as they have in all other industries where long-term profitability is the primary incentive (Silicon Valley being the prime modern example).
    • by Pumpkin Tuna (1033058) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:32AM (#40109391)

      Profit has always been a motive. Unfortunately, the big aerospace contractors made a profit whether or not they actually did what they were contracted to do. Now companies like SpaceX will profit for actually getting things done, which, as you say, should move things along in the right direction.

      • So, how have the big traditional space contractors like the Rockwell, Boeing, Lockheed, etc., of old, and now United Space Alliance and United Launch Alliance not delivered on their contracts? Saying that it might cost too much by some measure is one thing, but in terms of space launch to LEO you don't get a better record than ULA [youtube.com]. Note, too, that SpaceX is using a significant amount of government infrastructure and personnel to launch and manage its space systems — not to diminish what they're doing

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          So, how have the big traditional space contractors like the Rockwell, Boeing, Lockheed, etc., of old, and now United Space Alliance and United Launch Alliance not delivered on their contracts?

          It's not that they didn't (eventually) deliver. It's that those were done on a cost + basis of if we keep throwing money at it, eventually we'll get it done.

          I believe SpaceX is working under a different model. NASA has said "if you can achieve this, we'll pay you $x for each of this many trips". So the costing is fi

    • by itsdapead (734413) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:56AM (#40109587)

      The strive for profit will necessarily lead to advancements in space tech, as they have in all other industries where long-term profitability is the primary incentive (Silicon Valley being the prime modern example).

      SpaceX, Virgin Galactic et. al. aren't going into space because they are private sector.

      SpaceX, Virgin Galactic et. al. are going into space because they are run by individuals who have made shedloads of money in other ventures and, instead of being good capitalists and starting work on their next shedload, have decided instead to try and realise their childhood ambition of being an astronaut, if only vicariously (has Elon Musk been sighted since the launch? :-) )

      Kudos to them of course - and they may even end up making money - but without that sort of motivation the private sector would, at most, look at ways of making a risk-free buck by launching comms satellites rather than trying to put people into space.

      As others have pointed out, the real test will - unfortunately - come the first time someone gets killed. I'm not sure the private sector could afford a Challenger inquiry.

      • by rufty_tufty (888596) on Friday May 25, 2012 @12:55PM (#40110145) Homepage

        the real test will - unfortunately - come the first time someone gets killed. I'm not sure the private sector could afford a Challenger inquiry.

        I hadn't thought of that. Thanks for spoiling my morning :-(
        Seriously how did we survive these things in the past, how did we react the first time an airplane killed someone or when the first time a gas light exploded. Why are we so different now?
        Are we different now because we can and should know better that these designs have flaws? Would the challenger disaster have been worse if the design had found to not be faulty, or would the public outcry have been worse if the collective result was "Nope we did the best we could, damnded if we know why that went wrong" instead of known flawed design + management overide + unfortunate conditions.
        Maybe they'll be lucky and it will live up to its projections of 1/1000 failures and it will take 3000 launches for the statistics to catch up with them. Maybe something as simple as luck in the nascent stages of space flight makes the differences between the civilisations that colonise their galaxies and those that don't. Maybe that;s another variable in the drake equation?

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Kudos to them of course - and they may even end up making money - but without that sort of motivation the private sector would, at most, look at ways of making a risk-free buck by launching comms satellites rather than trying to put people into space.

        I don't know whether it's true, but I've read that SpaceX is already profitable. And they have a ton of comm sats lined up on the launch manifest on their web site.

        Putting people into space is a much bigger market in the long term.

      • the real test will - unfortunately - come the first time someone gets killed. I'm not sure the private sector could afford a Challenger inquiry.

        Would there be one?
        "Here's the release statement, signed in blood. Sorry for your loss ma'am."
        "Sorry about your billion dollar satellite we chucked into the ocean. Want a coupon for 10% off your next 5 space launches?"
        "Yo, congressional investigators, we don't technically work for you, so kindly GTFO, we've got rockets to launch."

        That's part of the package deal that comes with the private industry. Corporations screwing you over is just part of the game. Sure, NASA will be investigated for pissing awa

  • by shadowofwind (1209890) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:42AM (#40109477)

    If the money that's paying for it is coming from taxes, its not commercial.

    NASA hardware has always been built primarily by private companies like Lockheed Martin.

    In Washington jargon, when you give money to contractors instead of federal employees, its "commercial" or "free enterprise", so they can pretend to be in favor of freedom and against government. But one of the main reasons for it is its a way of evading controls on executive salaries. There's a revolving door where government program managers funnel lucrative contracts to private companies with ridiculously high overhead rates, then afterwards go to work at those companies. Its common to already have a hiring agreement with the company before awarding the contract.

    I'm not suggesting what the situation is with SpaceX, I'm just commenting on "commercial" space development in general. Its commercial if its commercial activity, such as space tourism or putting up satellites that private companies pay for. Otherwise its double-speak.

    In any case, congrats on the engineering achievement, I don't mean to detract from that.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by tukang (1209392)

      There have been articles on how space travel is now sustainable but the sole customer here is the government and this is no more sustainable than all those solar companies that were making billions just a few years ago but are now teetering on the verge of bankruptcy now that gov't subsidies have evaporated (First Solar for example has gone from being a $15B+ to being a $1B+ company in 1 year).

      I think this is a great achievement but let's not fool ourselves, this is not a private venture that's sustainab

      • There have been articles on how space travel is now sustainable but the sole customer here is the government

        Umm, no.

        Trips to ISS, the sole customer is the government.

        Alas, trips to the ISS aren't all there is. SpaceX has contracts for launch of several commsats already, which are generally paid for by private corporations.

        Plus foreign governments and companies, of course.

        So, no, SpaceX isn't a company with one customer.

    • Privately funded (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sjbe (173966) on Friday May 25, 2012 @12:07PM (#40109683)

      If the money that's paying for it is coming from taxes, its not commercial.

      You are correct in a sense. The current primary customer (NASA) happens to be a government agency and that agency does pay with tax dollars. Saying it is commercial is very much a short hand for a more complicated story. SpaceX also already has contracts with private sector companies as well. Furthermore its operations and R&D were funded privately initially to the tune of something like $400 million. Funding from NASA has come from progress payments on launch contracts. The fact that NASA is a government agency is somewhat incidental to the operations of SpaceX. Our company has had the government as a customer (we've sent products into space) in the past but that doesn't mean we aren't a private company or that what we do isn't commercial.

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday May 25, 2012 @12:14PM (#40109755) Homepage Journal

      I'm not suggesting what the situation is with SpaceX

      What does your subject line mean then?

      If NASA buys toilet paper from a commercial vendor, that doesn't turn the toilet paper manufacturer into a government boondoggle.

      SpaceX is commercial in the sense that they offer a product for a price. When you have government contractors who charge "some base amount plus whatever else cost overruns demand the price to increase to" then, yeah, it's a quasi-government entity. SpaceX will eat cost overruns, if they happen, but that's bad for profitability so they try to ensure it doesn't (with good engineering and business acumen). That isn't to say that fleecing government agencies doesn't show good business acumen, but it's also not a private sector endeavour.

      • I'm not suggesting that its a boondoggle. I'm suggesting that the use of the word "commercial" is misleading.

        Government contracts I have worked on never went over budget, the contract size was fixed from the outset. But it was still mostly a matter of semantics and accounting that we were private and not government employees.

        Lockheed Martin is a private company that has private customers besides the government. When the name NASA went on their products, this was political as much as anything. So why don

    • I don't think it is fair to classify them based on who is paying for the ride.

      Lockheed Martin never had a goal of standing on their own, they always relied on the government to pick up the tab.Space X seems to be going from the direction of "We take the risk" more so than true defense contractors.

      Space X also can provide services to other commercial and national interests. They certainly do not have the cost structure the truly government funded launches used.

    • by MattskEE (925706) on Friday May 25, 2012 @12:28PM (#40109911)

      Commercial versus non-commercial is about a company building a standard product which the government utilizes through firm fixed price contracts. SpaceX has a published price for a launch, and that's exactly what they charge. In contrast the traditional NASA approach has been to award cost plus contracts to major contractors and an army of subcontractors and NASA is more of a partner than a customer, building a one-off custom design. In this type of system cost overruns often get billed to the customer (NASA), but with firm fixed price the work is expected to be completed for the agreed upon price and SpaceX has stated that any cost overruns on their NASA programs above the fixed price launch costs will be covered by SpaceX, not NASA.

      Contract vehicles notwithstanding, it also appears that even in NASA's opinion SpaceX is simply more efficient at getting things done than the usual NASA & defense contractor method probably due to reduced management and organizational overhead: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/586023main_8-3-11_NAFCOM.pdf [nasa.gov]

      A big part of SpaceX's efficiency is that they are vertically integrated, doing most of the work themselves. With the non-commercial cost-plus model Congress had the ability to split up subcontracts for the shuttle development and manufacturing across the entire nation, with drastic hits to efficiency.

      Although it may not seem like a totally commercial enterprise with NASA as the major source of SpaceX's revenue (for now), but there are important changes taking place in how NASA is acquiring launch capacity which seem like they have the capability to reduce costs over the past model

    • From a comment in latimes:

      From the comments, a lot of people have been wondering exactly what "private" means here. With most "non-private" NASA contracts, NASA has direct control over the overall design of the vehicle and uses cost-plus contracts with companies (with massive amounts of red tape) to actually build it; cost-effectiveness is actually undesirable for contractors under those contracts since it means they get less money and there's a strong desire to funnel out work to politically-important congressional districts to maintain political support when cost overruns occur. In this new "private" paradigm NASA pays fixed-cost for the cargo delivered and it's up to the company to determine the best way to meet those goals, and the company is also permitted to commercially sell their services to other customers. It sounds like a small difference to some, but as we've seen it ends up being a one or two orders-of-magnitude more cost-effective for the taxpayer.

    • So, let me know if i get this right...

      Any airline that operates charter plane services to the government isn't a commercial entity?

      Any freight company that ships equipment for the government isn't a commercial entity?

      Any paper company that sells supplies to the government isn't a commercial entity?

      You are missing the main difference between the contract SpaceX is operating under compared to Boeing, Lockheed, etc.

      SLS is a fully funded government rocket whose design, construction and operation is at

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:47AM (#40109529) Journal

    Is using the robotic arm the only way the Dragon spacecraft will be allowed to dock with the ISS? It seems to be cumbersome and to take a long time.

    Or is this only being done now for safety reasons and, with more experience, a direct approach and docking will be allowed?

    • by Narishma (822073)

      Yes, this is the only way to dock the Dragon, as well as the Japanese HTV [wikipedia.org] and the upcoming Cygnus [wikipedia.org] spacecrafts.
      The European ATV and the Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecrafts use an automatic docking system. The Shuttle used to dock manually but without the use of the robotic arm.

  • Mixed blessings (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wierd_w (1375923) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:57AM (#40109593)

    (Disclaimer: I work in aerospace)

    Private sector space exploration is a mixed blessing without regulatory oversight.

    The FAA does wonders for ensuring consistent manufacturing and engineering policies, as do the various ISO industrial process certification programs for industrial centers.

    Government sponsored engineering tends to be a total money and resource sink, and what comes out tends to look like the engineers went out of their way to make things needlessly cryptic and arcane to justify their bills.

    Essentially, the equivalent of a 500 line "hello world!", which ignores normal OS window classes, allocates and frees its own memory, and has an integrated kernel runtime to make sure nobody is snooping on the secret sauce from outside of userspace.

    Private designs tend to shy away from uniqueness, and toward stringent use of the KISS principle, but may excessively use protected engineering documentation and practices. (Imagine somebody writing their own application API on top of the perfectly functional standard one for their target, and locking that bitch down so tight that its like watching a snuff film, then using it religiously to keep people from "copying" their ideas. Nevermind that all their competitors are also working from the KISS handbook on the actual engineering, and that the differences are all almost entirely process related. Fit form and function is conserved.)

    Oversight helps to keep these proprietary engineering toolbases under control, and helps ensure interoperability of critical systems, like runway boarding ramps on the aircraft's skin, type of fuel used, and standard cabin pressures.

    Without the unifying influence of such oversight, no airplane in the sky would follow any standards except internal OEM ones. An airbus and a boeing offering would not use the same cabin pressure (just to throw something out there), because one of them would get the brightt idea to lower it 5psi so they could fly a little higher and reduce skin stresses as a competative edge.

    Space vehicles, being radically new to private industry, would be especially vulnerable to marketing and PR drones dictating on the engineering so that the vehicle stands out from the crowd, even though that is a terrible thing for interoperability.

    So, while I like the leaner design implementations that come out of private companies, I strongly advocate oversight and regulatory compliance for safety and interoperability reasons.

    Otherwise the specs on a private spaceship will be a countless mess of cross-referencing NDA laden proprietary internal standards docs, and as an engineer for a company that does outsourced work from the big boys, I only have so much goddam space on my desk for binders full of proprietary specifications so I can read somebody's engineering properly. "Torque bolts to LES####" is fine and dandy if you work for learjet. For the rest of us, I'm happy to get an AME or NAS number that I can look up instead of calling your support line, talking with a string of bobbleheads behind desks who are more concerned over weather or not I might discuss what's in a spec for tightening bolts with "unauthorized" people, and if I am indeed authorized to know the secret of the bolt tightening in the first place. I'm an engineer. Just give me the damn spec, your corporate crap smells up my day.

    Regulatory oversight makes things magically simpler, because it forces LES#### to be compliant with a standard AMS#### or similar regulatory body that I don't have to suck a dick to get my hands on.

    I'm thrilled that the dragon heavy lifter works. It opens all sorts of doors for much cheaper orbital deployments, and the soyouz capsules were starting to have unreliable failure rates from excessive use and improper maintenance downtimes. This will work wonders.

    But for FSM's sake, institute some damned industry regulations!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Disclaimer I work in aerospace also.

      Private sector space exploration is a mixed blessing without regulatory oversight

      People that think like you are exactly the reason government contracts are so expensive. The "oversight" you speech of is having more managers and people with MBAs. The "oversight" that don't really know much of anything and add 20-50% cost overhead to any project. The "oversight" adds no real value what so ever because they are NOT QUALIFIED to provide oversight. Remember the "oversight" was exactly the reason for the Columbia disaster , the manager types/overhead o

      • by wierd_w (1375923)

        Agreed, oversight is also a mixed bag. And yes, I despise MBAs. They are the fuckers making the byzantine 3 ring circus I have to deal with to get a specification for a fucking hydraulic port, or some similar crap.

        However, things like the ASME, while I curse that they demand money out of me and don't keep good records of purchases, are a fantastic thing for standardization otherwise.

        The initial private craft design specs that spacex and co. Develop are de-facto standards, rather than broadly designed stand

    • by robot256 (1635039)
      Right now, anything launching to the ISS undergoes the regulations of "We're NASA and we're paranoid, so shut up and show us every last detail or we won't let you near our launchpad or station". There is plenty of room to relax that standard and still remain safe and efficient.
    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      The FAA Office of Commercial Space (AST, don't ask me how the acronym and the name line up...) is attempting to do just that.

      Its really a quite nice arrangement, because the FAA has been working on this since when the concept of private space flight had an extremely large 'giggle factor', and they have been working back and forth with the commercial providers to ensure that the regulations make sense and won't be too restrictive, while still maintaining safety.

      Plus everyone I've met from AST has been really

  • by StefanJ (88986) on Friday May 25, 2012 @12:23PM (#40109837) Homepage Journal

    . . . who hopes that there's an inflatable, spring-loaded Xenomorph puppet poised behind the capsule's hatch?

    "Heh - heh. You'll find a complimentary set of new underwear for the crew in Bin 13."

We are Microsoft. Unix is irrelevant. Openness is futile. Prepare to be assimilated.

Working...