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SpaceX Launch Not So Perfect After All 272

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-have-a-problem dept.
First time accepted submitter drichan writes "Those of us who watched the live feed of last night's Falcon 9 launch could be forgiven for assuming that everything went according to plan. All the reports that came through over the audio were heavy on the word "nominal," and the craft successfully entered an orbit that has it on schedule to dock with the International Space Station on Wednesday. But over night, SpaceX released a slow-motion video of what they're calling an 'anomaly.'"
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SpaceX Launch Not So Perfect After All

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  • Re:An (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:14PM (#41589779)

    It may work. It may won't. Too early to say, though.

    What I don't like is the fact that space is becoming increasingly privatised.

    At first the government did the work, and quickly.

    Then it contracted out some work to a few agile aerospace businesses, and things worked OK for a short while. (*)

    Then contract costs shot up, progress slowed, and it became another corporate welfare scheme.

    Then Musk came along and said, "Hey, I've got rich from founding the world's worst consumer bank, how about I give you the first few hits for free?" and hired a few experienced people.

    Libertarians rode the back of this and shouted about how much better it would be to privatise space. But in fact we're just right (*) here again, with SpaceX substituted for Boeing.

  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:15PM (#41589783) Homepage Journal
    – Both Saturn V and the shuttle launch system were designed to handle failure of at least one engine
    – The entire engine didn't actually explode, as some sources have reported; the onboard computers were still sending data from it (SpaceX believes it was just the aerodynamic casing (fairing) that exploded, due to the pressure release of the engine)
    – This doesn't mean the Falcon 9 system is necessarily less safe than NASA systems; on two occasions, Saturn V rockets experienced a similar loss, with similar (i.e., nil) impact to the mission's success

    So, y'know. Rejoice nerdily about the fact that the failsafes worked, rather than worrying about commercial technology being inferior.
  • Re:An (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @06:35PM (#41591197)

    The reason why you can have a fixed price contract in this situation is that NASA isn't really defining any requirements; also not changing them midstream; but also that there is little development risk. The rocket from SpaceX isn't really anything innovative, which is actually a good thing, not a bad thing.

    Where fixed price contracts don't work is when you have a significant amount of development risk, and you end up having to build that into the cost of the contract, meaning that you often don't end up with low price bids. Europe's ESA for example pretty much only works from Fixed Price contracts, which builds in the cost of that risk into the project, inflating the bid cost, and you end up with Europe overall, not really committing to many projects, because they get sticker shock.

    Who can say which method is better overall.

  • by adri (173121) on Monday October 08, 2012 @06:44PM (#41591263) Homepage Journal

    .. can we please have those scrapbooks scanned and placed online? pretty please?

  • by Cassini2 (956052) on Monday October 08, 2012 @08:03PM (#41591867)

    Surprisingly, if failure is measured in terms of human deaths, fairly high failure rates are tolerable in many branches of engineering. It was assumed that about 5 people would die in the construction of a tall sky scraper. Now, with massive changes in safety, it is possible to build a sky scraper with no deaths. However, injuries still happen.

    Similarly, mining regularly kills people. They have reduced their deaths per year from several thousand (1907) to averaging 6/year (2001-2005). See government records for details. []

    Manufacturing regularly hurts people, with occasional fatal accidents. Same with forestry.

    Space travel is relatively safe compared to some of the shit jobs out there, particularly in places with lax safety records, like China. It helps that the average astronaut trainee doesn't actually make it into space.

  • Re:An (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FeatureSpace (1649197) on Tuesday October 09, 2012 @10:04AM (#41595961)

    You are exaggerating.

    First of all, US government solicitations can be vague or specific. When they are vague, it is intentional in order to encourage a wide variety of proposals. Have a look at: []

    Now here is where you are very wrong. Bids and proposals are anything but "a very vague description of a project and associated budget". Maybe years ago, in some areas of the US Government this was true. Maybe its still true in a handful of areas. But right the majority of DoD proposals are very specific. I've composed, won and lost SBIR proposals. Vague SBIR proposals are rarely awarded.

A rock store eventually closed down; they were taking too much for granite.