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NASA Space Science

Intelsat Signs Launch Contract With SpaceX 167

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-a-few-more-decades-now dept.
New submitter jamstar7 writes "Following the success of the Falcon9/Dragon resupply test to the ISS comes the following announcement: 'Intelsat, the world's leading provider of satellite services, and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the world's fastest growing space launch company, announced the first commercial contract for the Falcon Heavy rocket. "SpaceX is very proud to have the confidence of Intelsat, a leader in the satellite communication services industry," said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer. "The Falcon Heavy has more than twice the power of the next largest rocket in the world. With this new vehicle, SpaceX launch systems now cover the entire spectrum of the launch needs for commercial, civil and national security customers."' As of yet, the Falcon Heavy hasn't flown, but all the parts have been tested. Essentially an upgunned Falcon 9 with additional boosters, the Heavy has lift capability second only to the Saturn 5. On top of the four Falcon Heavy launches planned for the U.S. Air Force this year, the Intelsat contract represents the true dawn of the commercial space age."
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Intelsat Signs Launch Contract With SpaceX

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  • Good (Score:5, Informative)

    by captainpanic (1173915) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @04:55AM (#40153313)

    I am quite happy with the commercialization of space flight. I've always thought that the national space agencies were on the wrong path for decades. They always seem to aim for increased security and safety. I think spaceflight has gone over the top: the costs of increased safety are just not worth it. Commercial enterprises are excellent at making a proper risk assessment: certain risks are simply acceptable. This attitude is likely to reduce costs, which is what we need.

    Obviously, NASA or ESA can still ask SpaceX to launch a couple of thousand tons of material into orbit, to assemble a Mars rocket and lander in orbit. :-)

    When launching from Earth becomes easy, the next step can be considered.

    • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rufty_tufty (888596) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:23AM (#40153429) Homepage

      Putting on my strategic management hat I was a little worried when I first heard this news. I should explain:
      In most engineering you have a core group of engineers. Put too many on one project and progress gets slower not faster. Likewise there are only so many good engineers around, adding poor engineers to a group slows the group down disproportionally.
      So the way to be successful is often to have the smallest team you can get away with working on one goal. Even having auxiliary teams that take the technology you develop and apply it to new applications slows the core team down because they need to provide support to the auxiliary teams. No amount of money or clever management or good people can really change this.
      So I was really worried about this particular step of the commercialisation of space because if they get distracted into competing with the entrenched players then they could lose the goal of getting cheap manned presence in space. If they are busy servicing commercial customers will this take their eye off the goal of manned space flight and orbital facilities?
      But then I guess that this commercial offering will keep them honest, accountable and above all visible to their costs so that others have to keep up. That and developing heavy lift is part of the end goal.
      That said I'm a little concerned that on Earth heavy lift is a relatively small part of the transport market. There are very few trucks on the road that carry more than 40 Ton, so why do we need so much spacecraft development focussed on >40Ton.
      I guess the answer to this is that most of the stuff on earth that is >40 Ton of the road is construction equipment and we certaily need a lot fo that in space...

      • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

        by khallow (566160) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:40AM (#40153485)

        So I was really worried about this particular step of the commercialisation of space because if they get distracted into competing with the entrenched players then they could lose the goal of getting cheap manned presence in space. If they are busy servicing commercial customers will this take their eye off the goal of manned space flight and orbital facilities?

        That's not their goal. So you don't have worry about them losing it. And we should be expecting more from these "entrenched players". Some competition will help there. Finally, servicing commercial customers sounds to me a more worthy goal and not at all one incompatible with the others. After all, humans and habitats are payloads that a commercial customer might want launched.

        There are very few trucks on the road that carry more than 40 Ton, so why do we need so much spacecraft development focussed on >40Ton.

        OTOH, there are very few trains or cargo ships that don't carry at least hundreds of tons of payload. And supertankers can go to hundreds of thousands of tons of payload.

        • OTOH, there are very few trains or cargo ships that don't carry at least hundreds of tons of payload. And supertankers can go to hundreds of thousands of tons of payload.

          You've cracked it... we need a rocket train!

      • by tibit (1762298)

        Because it's much less risky to get it all up there in one piece than to do space assembly. For now, at least. Even simple "assembly" tasks such as orbital rendezvous and docking require utmost care. Doing actual assembly as in humans or robots bolting things together is way harder.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I've always thought that the national space agencies were on the wrong path for decades. They always seem to aim for increased security and safety. I think spaceflight has gone over the top: the costs of increased safety are just not worth it. Commercial enterprises are excellent at making a proper risk assessment: certain risks are simply acceptable. This attitude is likely to reduce costs, which is what we need.

      If you're going to send people into space then reducing risks is your primary objective. Astronauts spend years in training and are a very specialized group. If you play it lose with their lives you're not going to have many 'volunteers', and the time between missions will always be increasing.

      Since the shuttle was the primary means for getting people into space and delivering goods to the space station safety had to be paramount. Doing it with unmanned rockets reduces all the costs associated to the del

      • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

        by slippyblade (962288) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:52AM (#40153535) Homepage

        If you play it lose with their lives you're not going to have many 'volunteers', and the time between missions will always be increasing

        I'd have to go out on a limb here and say... no. Even if their was a 25% failure rate (which is obscene and not within the realm of feasibility) I guarantee that you'd have volunteers lined up to man the missions. Would they be as "highly qualified" as a NASA astronaut or Russian cosmonaut? No. But do they really need to be? The commercialization of space will do the same thing that it has done to every other sector and lower the skill requirements to accomplish tasks. Hell - if things go right they'll be lining colonists up at the gate in the next few decades - and I'll be in line even if I only had a 75% chance of surviving.

        • by El Torico (732160)

          Even if their was a 25% failure rate (which is obscene and not within the realm of feasibility) I guarantee that you'd have volunteers lined up to man the missions.

          Would you be willing to take a commercial air flight if the failure rate was 25%? 15%? 5%? How many pilots would fly with those failure rates? How many companies would send expensive cargoes with those failure rates?

          Hell - if things go right they'll be lining colonists up at the gate in the next few decades - and I'll be in line even if I only had a 75% chance of surviving.

          Yes, they'll have a lot of volunteers, but how many of those volunteers will have the necessary physical capabilities and specialized skills? Those that do will be too valuable to risk unnecessarily. Besides, where can we put a colony? There simply isn't anyplace that compelling.

          • es, they'll have a lot of volunteers, but how many of those volunteers will have the necessary physical capabilities and specialized skills?

            Then let the market set the rate. If I can get a job at SpaceX Asteroid mining Co that has a 95% survival rate but pays about twice as much as a similar mining job on Earth, or one that has a 50% survival rate at Joe Bloggs Space mining co but pays 20x the ammount because of the money they saved on the rocket by cutting corners then let Joe Bloggs see if he can get anyone to work for him. If not he needs to increase his pay or improve his rocket.
            i agree when the Government is putting people in orbit they sh

          • Don't be silly, commercial airflight and space flight have nothing in common.

            Would I board a jet knowing that there was a 25% chance of death? fuck no.

            Would I board a manned mission that was worthwhile (ie. moon base, mars base) knowing there was a 25% change of death? fuck yes, you'd have to have the odds upwards of 75% before I'd even bat an eye. The potential benefit to humanity as a whole is well worth the sacrifice.

            FYI I'm 6"4, in excellent physical shape with no medical conditions that would preclude

          • by drerwk (695572)

            Would you be willing to take a commercial air flight if the failure rate was 25%? 15%? 5%? How many pilots would fly with those failure rates? How many companies would send expensive cargoes with those failure rates?

            Would I pay to take a 1/20 risk of death for no benefit other than getting from one place to another? No. Would I take a 1/20 risk for a sufficient reward, sure.

            Read about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klondike_Gold_Rush [wikipedia.org]
            About 100,000 people went, 30,000 to 40,000 arrived, 15,000 to 20,000 became prospectors, and no more than 4,000 became rich. The article estimates that it cost about $1,000 to attempt to reach the Klondike, which for 100,000 people represents more money than was extracted in gold in the

          • Would you be willing to take a commercial air flight if the failure rate was 25%? 15%? 5%?

            Fortunately, our ancestors were a bit braver than you, or I'd be typing this from a tree or a cave in Africa.

            • by El Torico (732160)
              The point I was making is that in order for commercial space flight to be successful, it has to be as safe as reasonably possible.
              BTW, I spent a year in Iraq and had didn't leave my job after my COB was rocketed and mortared (other contractors did), so I think I've adequately proven my bravery.
      • by trout007 (975317) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @06:40AM (#40153729)

        The death rate of climbing Mt Everest is 1.3%. And that is just climbing a mountain. How much cooler is going into space? 10X?

        Now at this point in my life where my family is depending on me 1.3% is too high. But when kids are older and I can be more selfish 5% doesn't sound that bad. Like everything else it's a personal decision.

        http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_death_rate_on_mt._Everest [answers.com]

      • by strack (1051390)
        if one or more spacex rockets explodes on its way to the space station, the launch escape system will kick in and save the crews life. wheres the space shuttles launch escape system? nowhere! you know why? its because the space shuttle sucks. and now its dead. and now spacex will achieve what the shuttle could for a fraction of the cost. and more safely. or better yet, it will achieve much more than the shuttle could ever do, for the same budget. and do things that should have been started 30 years ago.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by amstrad (60839)
          You're an idiot.

          First, launch escape systems only work if activated prior to an explosion. It won't save the lives of astronauts after the fact, the abort has to be done prior to the catastrophic event.

          Second, of course the the Space Shuttle had Launch abort system. It had "Abort to Landing Site", "Transoceanic Abort Landing", "Abort Once Around", and "Abort to Orbit". Only Abort to Orbit was used in the program (STS-51-F):

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

          Additionally, there

          • by strack (1051390)
            those launch abort modes dont mean shit in a challenger type accident. a capsule that detaches and fires retrorockets to get away from a disintergrating rocket does. and launch escape systems work fine before or after a explosion. hell, the astronauts and their cabin survived the initial blast intact in the challenger disaster, and they only died when the cabin hit the water after it broke off. i wonder why they didnt unstrap, crack open the hatch, and parachute to safety in their full pressure suits, while
    • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khallow (566160) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:56AM (#40153553)
      From what I've heard, there's no trade off between reliability and cost. The cheaper vehicles will probably be the more reliable ones as well, due to learning effects from increased launch frequency.

      What I think was going on with NASA was overengineering parts for a ride with over a 1% loss rate. One can spend a lot of money making a nearly perfect part or process more nearly perfect. But if the overall system is unreliable and remains unchanged despite the improvement, then that expenditure is effectively wasted.
      • From what I've heard, there's no trade off between reliability and cost. The cheaper vehicles will probably be the more reliable ones as well, due to learning effects from increased launch frequency.

        That's the theory. (Along with it's handmaiden, "simpler is safer than more complex".)

        To date however, there's no evidence that either is true. The Russian Soyuz family of launchers (and the R7 family they're derived from) are cheap, relatively simple, and the oldest and most flown design in the world

        • So what you have here is:
          simpler older system vs newer more complex system
          The Falcon however is simpler and newest.

          So let's see.

    • Re:Good (Score:4, Insightful)

      by EdgePenguin (2646733) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @06:21AM (#40153631) Homepage

      "Commercial enterprises are excellent at making a proper risk assessment" - like assessing the risk of a loan or mortgage defaulting, for example?

      SpaceX is doing well, but lets please drop this ideological bullshit about markets being some magic diving mechanism. They aren't - they are a clumsy metaphor for the random noise generated by transactions. Not magic.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Random noise? That's the sound of the "Great River" of the Continuum. Your lobes are probably too underdeveloped to hear it.
      • by roman_mir (125474)

        like assessing the risk of a loan or mortgage defaulting, for example?

        - of-course.

        The risk of defaulting on mortgages and other types of loans is absolutely negligible if there is a government guarantee behind the loan and also if the mortgage is given with free money printed by the Fed.

      • by Gothmolly (148874)

        Mr. Toohey would be proud.

      • by jbeaupre (752124)

        I don't see any mention of markets or magic in his post. And the other two parties to the loan and mortgage debacle, private citizens and the government, didn't do much better (what, they didn't know anything?). Given that the government and citizens got raped in the bailout while banks have made huge profits would seem to indicate they did a fantastic job of assessing their risks.

      • by khallow (566160)

        "Commercial enterprises are excellent at making a proper risk assessment" - like assessing the risk of a loan or mortgage defaulting, for example?

        They got the bonuses and someone bailed them out. Sounds to me like they got the right outcome whether or not the risk assessment was "proper".

        SpaceX is doing well, but lets please drop this ideological bullshit about markets being some magic diving mechanism. They aren't - they are a clumsy metaphor for the random noise generated by transactions. Not magic.

        Clumsy ideological bullshit that works, mind you. If you want to regulate it, or replace it with a state enterprise, you should, as in the mortgage example you gave, be mindful of unintended consequences. What you consider "proper risk assessment" may not be what you are rewarding those parties for.

    • by trout007 (975317)

      I am a true believer in free markets. But you are making a mistake assuming a particular commercial enterprise is going to be successful at making a risk assessment. The reason a free market is superior is because it uses the power of natural selection. Those individual companies that have been successful to their customers and owners to date will survive. Those that fail for whatever reason will die. The thing with risk assessment is there is no test you can do ahead of time to prove something will be succ

    • That is why you need to have a proper balance between commercial enterprise and government.

      Governments are structured to make sure nothing goes wrong, any time something goes wrong in the government there is hell to pay.
      Commercial Enterprise are structured to take risks, when something goes right they are rewarded.

      I disagree with the statement that "Commercial enterprises are excellent at making proper risk assessments". Commercial Enterprise left to its own devices will have the product safe enough so the

      • Governments are structured to make sure nothing goes wrong, any time something goes wrong in the government there is hell to pay.

        Anytime something goes wrong in the government, they check to see whether they can cover it up. If not, then there is hell to pay.

    • by hemo_jr (1122113)
      Since the Space Shuttle was first implemented, several successor systems were proposed that were considered significantly safer (notably the X-30 and x-33 VentureStar). But all were scrapped. One reason that was given, new technology just on the horizon would be even safer. The end result was that the U.S. government did not implement any of these inherently safer projects, but rather kept patching the inherently less safe shuttle program.
    • by tibit (1762298)

      I think that you're entirely wrong in your assumption that SpaceX is somehow cutting corners safety-wise. They are not. Commercial bureaucracies, like those of the members of the Space Launch Alliance, are simply very inefficient at what they do. SpaceX does no more and no less than they'd do, safety wise, but is much better at it. They use engineers with same training, employ the same standardized part qualification and testing processes, etc.

      I'd posit that bureaucratic long-drawn processes have to decreas

    • They always seem to aim for increased security and safety

      The first time SpaceX kills a crew of astronauts, you'll be amazed at how NASA-style "security uber Alles" paralysis comes flooding back. There will be another lost decade of wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth, just as if another Shuttle had been lost.

      Humans are ultimately pussies. No other way to spin it.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:17AM (#40153399)

    The statement "The Falcon Heavy has more than twice the power of the next largest rocket in the world" is true but somewhat misleading. Both the USA [wikipedia.org] and Russia [wikipedia.org] have had rockets in the past with more than twice the power that the "Falcon Heavy" will.

    Also, since this is in development, maybe the comparison should include other systems in development. Russia has a rocket with similar capabilities as the Falcon Heavy [wikipedia.org] scheduled for launch at the same time, and China has a system under development" [wikipedia.org] which has a lower low-earth orbit capability but similar lifting capability to geostationary orbit that is scheduled to launch a year later.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think the chinese one will be completed once the others have been completed and they have had time to "Evulate" their designs lol

    • by necro81 (917438)

      The statement "The Falcon Heavy has more than twice the power of the next largest rocket in the world" is true but somewhat misleading. Both the USA and Russia have had rockets in the past with more than twice the power that the "Falcon Heavy" will.

      A Saturn V sitting on the lawn of Johnson Space Center doesn't count, neither do Shuttle orbiters on display at various museums.

    • by afidel (530433)
      25k and 40k kg to LEO are a bit far short of the 53k kg of Falcon 9 heavy. Also I hope they get a bunch of launch contracts for Falcon 9 so they can fund the $1B they need for Merlin 2, it will be the first engine to produce more thrust than the F1 from the Saturn 5.
    • Space-X has a new engine in the design phase that will have 1.7 millon lbs of thrust. The Merlin-2 engine will be more powerfull than the Saturn-V's F1 engine was. The Falcon-X heavy will use 3 of these engines per core, or 1.5 times the lift of the Saturn-V. The Falcon-XX heavy would use 6 of these engines per core, for a total of 18 engines. It would have over THREE times the lift of the Saturn-V rocket! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_%28rocket_family%29#Merlin_2_and_super-heavy_lift_concepts

    • by jamstar7 (694492)

      The statement "The Falcon Heavy has more than twice the power of the next largest rocket in the world" is true but somewhat misleading. Both the USA and Russia have had rockets in the past with more than twice the power that the "Falcon Heavy" will.

      Mentioned in the blurb:

      Essentially an upgunned Falcon 9 with strapon boosters, the Heavy has lift capability second only to the Saturn 5.

      One should note that you could put up 10 Falcon Heavy launches for less than the cost of 1 Saturn 5 in 2012 dollars, roughly c

  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:56AM (#40153557)

    This might sound strange, but guys like Intelsat avoid building satellites that can only be launched by one kind of rocket if in any way possible. Most geostationary satellites today cluster around 6 tons. This is the limit for the Russian Proton rocket (launched from Baikonur), the Ukranian/Russian/American SeaLaunch (using a Zenit rocket) and was the limit of the Ariane5 GS (which has been upgraded to the Ariane 5 ECA with about 10t. But ESA has a hard time finding customers for passenger satellites in the 2-3t range to make launches worthwhile.)

    What does that have to do with SpaceX and the Falcon Heavy? Well, ESA is about to decide whether to develop a new smaller rocket - the Ariane 6 ( capable of lifting 3-8t to GTO) - or improve the Ariane 5 to the point that it can deliver about 12t to GTO. (With the idea of launching two of the popular 6t satellites at a time, which would instandly make the rocket much more economical)

    In the latter case, SpaceX will have a much easier time to find heavy satellites for its rocket. Having a competitor is actually important in this business. You don't commit on the order of a billion dollars in building a satellite, just to find out that your only way to launch it is no longer available or recently had an accident (e.g. SeaLaunch or failures of the maiden flights of Ariane 5 GS and Ariane 5 ECA that also failed) and you have to wait several years to get another launch opportunity.

    If ESA goes for the Ariane 6, SpaceX will most likely have to resort to launching several satellites at a time and compete with all the other guys that are also capable of launching "smaller" satellites. Which is bad for SpaceX and the industry in general. At the same time, ESA will find out that the old Ariane 5 will suddenly be in much larger demand for 8-10t satellites (as will be Falcon Heavy).

    Lets hope they are reasonable ... or somebody comes up with something roughly similar to the Falcon Heavy.

    • by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @06:45AM (#40153749) Journal
      Well, just to point out, the delta IV-H already takes 13 tonnes to GEO. As such, FH, along with DIV-H, will likely double the size of sats to 10-12 T.
      And Astrium is working on the 5ME,Though, SLOWLY is the word. I did notice that earlier this year, the ESA coughed up another 100M euros for it. However, Astrium/ESA suffers the same issues as old space: lots of money to accomplish anything. IOW, 100M Eu is more of a study than actual work being done.

      Regardless, I think that the new norm will become 10-12T for sats. And with FH charging about 1/3 of Delta and 1/2 of China, Russia or ESA, I suspect that the prime launch system will become FH.
      • by tp1024 (2409684)

        The list wasn't complete. And there really is no point even thinking about the Delta IV Heavy when it comes to commercial launches because of the cost. ($400mio or is it more already? It's at least twice as expensive as an Ariane 5. And that's not counting any of the money paid to the ULA just to keep the Delta IV available for military launches or its development cost.)

    • by Teancum (67324)

      The funny thing about SpaceX is that their rockets seem to be ever increasing in size. SpaceX still technically has their Falcon 1 in their product catalog and will sell one to you if you absolutely insist, but almost every time they seem to be dealing with customers and responding to the market demand, the size of their rockets seem to continue to get larger.

      SpaceX started with the Falcon 5, which grew into the Falcon 9 by adding four more engines and a much larger payload faring. Now SpaceX just announc

      • by tp1024 (2409684)

        Well, actually the Falcon 5 (way back when) has always been meant as a stepping stone to the Falcon 9 and eventually Falcon 9 Heavy. (That was before they developed the Merlin 1D and started referring to it as Falcon Heavy, increasing its mass and payload by about 50%.)

        However, Falcon 5 was abandoned, most likely for lack of customers. It was a rather bold move to concentrate on building the Falcon 9 and the Dragon right away, but obviously justified in retrospect. (I thought they'd need it to practice, esp

    • What would change about ESA to make it at all cost-competitive with SpaceX?

      • What would change about ESA to make it at all cost-competitive with SpaceX?

        Maybe put all their money in a PayPal account?

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @06:18AM (#40153623) Journal
    The means that SpaceX will use to lower their price is to have enough launches that their fixed overhead becomes a minor issue. Right now, launches have a high fixed costs due to too few launches. SpaceX's plan is that FH launches once every 2 months and that F9 launches monthly or even twice a month. That allows them to drop not just the launch pad, but also their launch crew (who are typically on a salary, not hourly), as well as manufacturing costs.

    To take this a step further, SpaceX intends to have 8 launches next year, and 12-14 in 2014. That allows them to have their QA under control as well. With this high of a rate, SpaceX will likely not need a back-up for the FH WRT launching sats. OTOH, if we are to go to the moon, we really need two or more systems of similar sizes. Or simply constrain the loads to the smaller of the LVs.
    • With Musk's target about $500,000 round-trips to Mars, he's going to have to learn how to launch every day. For about 5 years straight.

  • "On top of the four Falcon Heavy launches planned for the U.S. Air Force this year (...)"
    Uhm, what? Falcon Heavy's first flight is scheduled for 2013 and it will be a test flight, I doubt it will carry any commercial cargo. Maybe the planning for the US Air Forces launches was done this year, that can be true, but I'm certain that no Falcon Heavy will lift-off in 2012.
    • by Teancum (67324)

      I'd have to agree with you on this issue. The official SpaceX manifest [spacex.com] doesn't suggest anything about USAF launches at all (that may be legitimate in terms of trying to keep official secrets, but it isn't listed there). There are technically scheduled four more Falcon 9 launches for this year, with OrbComm claiming to be the next customer stepping up to the bat even before NASA gets another run to the ISS with another Dragon spaceship.

      It wouldn't surprise me to see a Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg though

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @07:47AM (#40154061) Journal

    Am I mistaken or will the Falcon Heavy have 27(!) engines going at liftoff? (3 x the nine engines of a Falcon 9).

    I guess they really have the control systems for such a large number of engines licked (in a previous thread I noted that back in the 60s the Russian Moon super-rocket N-1 had 30 engines. It failed, repeatedly.)

    So are large numbers of small rockets preferable, efficiency wise, to a few large ones (think the five F-1s of the Saturn V first stage). Or they cheaper in aggregate? Or are they more reliable? (less superhigh pressures in the turbines, I dunno). Or if they fail is there the simple fact of more redundancy (I read that if any one of the Falcon 9s engines conked out it could still make it to orbit. Except right at lift off).

    Or did Space-X just not have the funds to develop a really big engine (In which case couldn't they have licensed the design for the F-1 or J-1 from NASA?). Not knocking them, it's still an INCREDIBLE achievement, just wondering.

    To quote an Airforce General: "A new plane doesn't make possible a new engine, a new engine makes possible a new plane.". So it's great to see an (obviously) flight worthy new rocket engine!

    • by tekrat (242117)

      My guess is that they are using their existing engines, just more of them. That's more cost-effective, since you don't have to develop a whole new engine as you scale up.

      Of course, this means more moving parts, therefore, more to go wrong at launch time -- but again, if one engine fails out of 27, no big deal.

      If I recall -- Apollo 13 had an engine fail in the second stage and they considered aborting, but managed to slip into orbit. A failure in one of the first stage F-1's would have been disasterous becau

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Ideally one big motor is the way to go. But their are reasons for using more than one. The Falcon 9 has an engine out capability so having on of the motors fail is not game over. Also they did it for production reasons. They use the same motor with some minnor modifications for both the first and second stage which saves money. You have one production line for both motors and one stock of most of the parts for the motors.
      The Falcon 9 is interesting because it is not the most "efficient' design but the most

    • by tp1024 (2409684)

      It's cheaper to have smaller engines, when done right. First, they only need one type of engine. Most rockets use a different kind of engine for each stage. Those engines are build painstakingly by hand. ESA needs a Vulcain 2 engine every two months. Even steps that could be automated are simply not worth the investment at that rate.

      If you build 10 or 28 engines per rocket, launching on the order of 10 rockets or more per year, you'll need another engine every day or every other day of the week. That's when

    • So are large numbers of small rockets preferable, efficiency wise, to a few large ones (think the five F-1s of the Saturn V first stage). Or they cheaper in aggregate? Or are they more reliable?

      In general, smaller numbers of larger engines are the preferred choice. It's more reliable, and cheaper to design and manufacture. (All that extra plumbing and thrust structure runs up the cost and weight.)

      Or did Space-X just not have the funds to develop a really big engine (In which case couldn't they hav

  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @07:48AM (#40154065) Homepage Journal
    so you don't have to use the NASA icon for every SpaceX story.... of which there's gonna be many in the future
  • ... the Intelsat contract represents the true dawn of the commercial space age.

    That's right, folks, it's Morning in America!

    • That's right, folks, it's Morning in America!

      Well, they do have a Marshall Islands test site to avoid harassement by the EPA.

  • From TFS: On top of the four Falcon Heavy launches planned for the U.S. Air Force this year, the Intelsat contract represents the true dawn of the commercial space age.
     
    Only if you somehow handwave away the decades we've already had of private companies contracting with other private companies for launch services.

  • announced the first commercial contract for the Falcon Heavy rocket.

    And she'll make .5 past light speed....

  • The various press releases are forgetting something. The Falcon Heavy is third in lift capability behind the Saturn V and the Energia [wikipedia.org] . Granted, the Energia only had two flights before the collapse of the Soviet Union made it too expensive to operate, and on one of the the payload malfunctioned after separation and deorbited itself almost immediately, but in both cases, the booster functioned just fine. It was capable of lifting 100 metric tons to LEO (which was more than enough to give the Buran [wikipedia.org], the S
  • I just looked again at SpaceX's announcement and saw that they claim the Heavy will put 53 tons in LEO or "more than 12 tons" into GTO.

    Well unless the "more than 12 tons" is a lot more than 12 tons, it means you're only getting 1/4 the payload into GTO that the same launch vehicle can put into LEO. That's terrible! (to me). Wasn't it Heinlein who said get to earth orbit and you're halfway to anywhere? Seems like you're only a quarter of the way. Also, GTO (Geo-sync Transfer Orbit?) isn't even all the wa

  • Really? What about the center core propellent cross-feed? That sounds like a major piece that cannot have been launch tested yet. AFAIK there is no other rocket that has ever had it either so there must be some element of risk. All that mass transfer could go wrong in any number of ways I suppose.

If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong. -- Norm Schryer

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