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SpaceX Cargo Capsule Reaches International Space Station 89

Posted by samzenpus
from the home-sweet-home dept.
Despite having some trouble with maneuvering thrusters a few days ago, SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule has successfully reached the International Space Station. from the article: "Astronauts aboard the outpost used the station's robotic arm to pluck the capsule from orbit at 5:31 a.m. EST as the ships sailed 250 miles over northern Ukraine. Flight controllers at NASA's Mission Control in Houston then stepped in to drive the capsule to its berthing port on the station's Harmony connecting node."
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SpaceX Cargo Capsule Reaches International Space Station

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  • Congrats! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CryptoJones (565561) <akclark@cryREDHA ... com minus distro> on Sunday March 03, 2013 @06:46PM (#43063781) Homepage
    Congrats SpaceX and their NASA Counterparts!
  • TFA was saying that with the demise of the Shuttle, only Dragon now has the reusability aspect. Anyone know if Orbital Sciences' freighter is reusable, or a throwaway?
    • Re:Nice work ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Alex Vulpes (2836855) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @07:02PM (#43063829)
      I think it's a throwaway. Looks like it burns up on re-entry.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cygnus_(spacecraft) [wikipedia.org]
    • Re:Nice work ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ender06 (913978) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @07:03PM (#43063835)
      Orbital Sciences' Cygnus freighter is one time use, so throwaway. Don't understand all the throwaway freighters, it's like throwing away your semi-truck after every shipment.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        it's like throwing away your semi-truck after every shipment.

        Yeah... no.

        • by ender06 (913978)
          Why do you disagree? Not looking to argue, just curious.
        • by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @09:43PM (#43064535)
          I don't see why you disagree. In many cases, the "load" is the trailer. And so, yes, truckers do leave the trailer behind on trips, throwing away the cargo container with shipments. I've seen people in rural Alaska make houses from the containers that things come it. It's cheaper than paying to ship them back once delivered.
          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            I've seen people in rural Alaska make houses from the containers that things come it. It's cheaper than paying to ship them back once delivered.

            In most of the coastal USA you can get a container of varying description delivered for $2-5k, sometimes including long and tall refrigerated units. They might be even cheaper in Alaska, which has few exports that cannot be shipped by pipeline or jet stream. They're literally a problem at some ports.

            • by AK Marc (707885)
              Much of rural Alaska gets one barge a year that doesn't stay long enough to pick up the empties. Either you store them for a year and pay to ship them out (maybe fill them trash), or build with them. No idea what they cost, but they are not uncommonly turned into buildings, or parts thereof.
              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                Well, they're probably pretty cheap any time the population isn't growing, but I only have specific knowledge of what it costs to get them delivered in nocal. They probably still cost money in the midwest, which still exports some stuff in them. They are probably damned near free in LA.

      • Re:Nice work ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Nutria (679911) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @07:14PM (#43063905)

        Don't understand all the throwaway freighters, it's like throwing away your semi-truck after every shipment.

        Truckers would readily throw away their trucks on every voyage if it were insanely expensive and difficult to bring them back in any kind of functional condition.

        And that's exactly why we use single-use rockets.

        • Re:Nice work ... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ender06 (913978) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @07:17PM (#43063917)
          If it's so insanely expensive and difficult, then why is SpaceX working on just that, a reusable rocket? The pie-in-the-sky has always been a readily reusable rocket. That was the idea behind the shuttle. Didn't work out so well, but that was the idea.
          • Re:Nice work ... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Nutria (679911) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @07:46PM (#43064039)

            If it's so insanely expensive and difficult, then why is SpaceX working on just that, a reusable rocket?

            Because it's a worthwhile goal, which IMNSHO SpaceX is working on in the proper method: incrementally from simple, known-working parts.

            That was the idea behind the shuttle. Didn't work out so well, but that was the idea.

            Many at NASA in the 1970s should be flogged for over-promising and under-budgeting a single-stage-to-orbit "truck".

            • Re:Nice work ... (Score:5, Informative)

              by Macrat (638047) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @09:05PM (#43064371)

              Many at NASA in the 1970s should be flogged for over-promising and under-budgeting a single-stage-to-orbit "truck".

              Keep in mind that Congress and the Air Force were back seat designers on the Space Shuttle. It wasn't all NASA's fault.

              • by tsotha (720379)
                The Air Force was a "back seat designer" because NASA forced them to use the shuttle in an attempt to hijack part of the AF budget.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The problem is, re-usability is tough when you are dealing with the extreme requirements of space travel. Noone has proven it to be viable in cost yet, the shuttle shown it was possible though at a expensive cost. SpaceX is not reusable *yet* but their rocket is designed to be. Time will only tell if they succeed. Even Musk acknowledges that it may not be fully reusable (the difficulty of getting the 2nd stage rocket back) as Rocketry is HARD. But you gotta applaud them in their efforts and success will he

            • Get your facts straight. The SpaceX rocket is not reusable, nor is it designed to be. It is a throw-away. However, the Dragon Capsule, which sits atop the Falcon 9 rocket, is designed to be reusable. Nevertheless, the contract with NASA calls for a new caspule each time.

              Having said that, SpaceX *is* working on a rocket where the first stage is reusable. However, that is a few design generations away. They are currently working out the kinks on a test-bed rocket system called Grasshopper. Grasshoppe
              • The SpaceX rocket is not reusable, nor is it designed to be.

                You get your facts straight. Yes it was designed to be reusable, from the beginning.

                The original plan was to put parachutes on the first stage and use a boat to recover it after ocean splashdown. SpaceX did in fact recover a first stage in service of that plan. There's pictures on the SpaceX site of the recovery operation. As it turns out, the impact of even a parachute landing does enough mechanical damage, coupled with the corrosive effects of seawater doing chemical damage, that the original reusabil

          • If it's so insanely expensive and difficult, then why is SpaceX working on just that, a reusable rocket?

            It'll be insanely difficult and expensive right up until SpaceX succeeds with soft-landing a first stage, at which point it will be routine and normal and why isn't everybody doing it?

            But of course, we will first have to suffer through the clowns telling us how the first soft-landing was a failure because they had to make two tries to restart the engines after separation, so it landed with dry tanks instead of the 5% safety margin it was supposed to land with so it was a CATASTROPHIC FAILURE. Nevermind the

      • it's like throwing away your semi-truck after every shipment.

        I don't suppose that your semi-truck needs several months of extensive servicing, refurbishing, checking, and fixing the heat shield after every shipment.

      • Reusability, while a good idea, isn't too important for CRS—because reusable or not, NASA wants a new capsule for each mission.

        CRS may well be Orbital's only ambition in the cargo delivery sphere (normally they launch satellites), while we know for a fact that SpaceX has... other plans.
    • by wbr1 (2538558)
      There are these amazing things.. called wikipedia and google... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cygnus_(spacecraft) [wikipedia.org]
    • Re:Nice work ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by icebike (68054) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @07:08PM (#43063867)

      Actually TFA said "Dragon is the only station freighter that makes return trips", but that doesn't necessarily mean reusability.

      The SpaceX site [spacex.com] claims it is reusable, but I don't know if it actually has been reused to date.
      The last picture on the above linked page shows the condition of the returned vehicle. Its significantly crispy that it might be less expensive
      to simply build a new one. Especially for manned missions coming later.

      There is a comparison of cargo vehicle on Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_space_station_cargo_vehicles [wikipedia.org]
      None mention re-useability explicitly.

      • Re:Nice work ... (Score:5, Informative)

        by ender06 (913978) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @07:21PM (#43063943)
        Dragon capsules are reusable, however, NASA has specifically contracted new capsules for every resupply mission. There's nothing stopping SpaceX from reusing the capsules for other missions, however. I know the demo 1 capsule, that performed a few orbits before returning, and demo 2 capsule, the first to berth with ISS, are both hanging outside mission control at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA.
      • Re:Nice work ... (Score:4, Informative)

        by benjfowler (239527) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @07:39PM (#43063993)

        NASA only ordered new hardware for COTS missions.

        SpaceX has said that Dragon hardware from COTS missions will be refurbished for DragonLab missions. I'd be interested in seeing if refurbishing actually results in significant cost savings or not (I'm not a mechanical engineer, but I guess it depends on how much value is tied up in parts, versus labor).

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Either it will, and they'll keep doing it, or it won't, and they'll use the lessons learned from failing to save money in the next version. Either way, something good will happen.

      • Re:Nice work ... (Score:5, Informative)

        by camperdave (969942) on Monday March 04, 2013 @12:09AM (#43064937) Journal
        That "crispy" look is just soot/ash from the heat shield. You can see several places below the channel for the drogue chute's cord (the diagonal groove) where it has been rubbed off, showing a pristine white underneath. Besides, that picture only shows the bad side of the capsule. Take a look [nasa.gov] at the capsule from a few different [space.com] angles [msn.com]. You see, contrary to popular belief, capsules like this do not traverse through the atmosphere straight on. They "fly" in a tilted orientation. That's why the soot marks are on an angle, and one side of the capsule looks charred, while the other looks barely singed.
    • Re:Nice work ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Animats (122034) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @07:15PM (#43063909) Homepage

      The Dragon spacecraft/capsule is partially reusable. So far, the Falcon boosters are single-use. Space-X hopes to start recovering the first stage boosters, but that isn't working yet.

      Meanwhile, they have 9 Merlin engines per Falcon first stage, one per second stage, and they're building about 400 per year. So they get manufacturing economies of scale. That's more valuable than reusability with heavy refurbishing, which tends to be a labor-intensive custom job. Refurbishing was the big cost problem with the US Space Shuttle - the amount of labor required for each turnaround was very high.

      • Re:Nice work ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ZankerH (1401751) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @07:29PM (#43063965)
        It's really a misnomer to call the space shuttle reusable. "Rebuildability" is more like it. The things had to spend months after each flight being torn apart and having every part inspected over and over and a big chunk of them replaced.
        The key to economic space flight is full and rapid reusability. Payload launchers need to become as reusable as passenger aeroplanes for space flight to become routine.
      • they're building about 400 per year.

        Citation needed.

    • Re:Nice work ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mpthompson (457482) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @08:14PM (#43064165)

      The Dragon's are designed to be reused. However, if I recall correctly, NASA requested that SpaceX use a brand new capsule for each of the 12 scheduled delivery missions. This likely means that SpaceX is building up a stock of used Dragon capsules that can be repurposed to other missions at a reduced price.

      If someone could confirm this, I would like to know if this is because NASA is stuck in the old ways of doing things with capsules, or if there is a legitimate safety/efficiency reason used Dragons could not be recycled for future supply missions.

      • by tibit (1762298)

        It's probably due to considerations for the safety of ISS. If a Dragon were to crack and explosively depressurize, the ISS would be lost.

      • by cwsumner (1303261)

        I wonder if NASA is actually trying to force them to build up a stock of capsules. If they started out by re-using them, there would probably be no stock available for emergencies.

  • Who'd have thought you'd still have harbor pilots in space. Same difference though, I guess.
    • by icebike (68054)

      Yeah, If I was sitting in the ISS, I'd want my guys in control too.
      Still, you have to wonder who would be better at flying this thing, the guys who built and designed it, or guys from NASA?

      • If I was sitting in the ISS, I'd probably want to do it myself.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Still, you have to wonder who would be better at flying this thing, the guys who built and designed it, or guys from NASA?

        That depends. Who's spent more time playing Lunar Lander?

        Serious answer, though, the person with eyes on the item and who is right there with less chance of communication problem is the person who should be trained for the job and then do it.

  • by Smerta (1855348) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @11:12PM (#43064803)
    I sure hope the NYT's John Broder isn't going to cover this story.

    When he's done with the article, Dragon will have caromed off a couple comets, run out of fuel, and started floating backwards towards a black hole or something.
  • A huge move forward for private space flight. The fact they had a major problem and still achieved the goal was a huge move forward for private space missions. Private companies are becoming a viable alternative to NASA.
    • by DigiShaman (671371) on Monday March 04, 2013 @12:46AM (#43065075) Homepage

      The fact Russia didn't ass-rape us over the cost this time is always a viable alternative. They took advantage of the situation of us not having a Shuttle and we (NASA/American public) knew it! Screw those guys. I'll take SpaceX any day of the week over them.

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