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Third Falcon 1 Launch May Be This Afternoon 76

ElonVonBraun writes "The web is abuzz with rumors that SpaceX will attempt its third rocket launch today. In the past two days, they have also done successful tests of their bigger, stronger rockets. When the launch does happen, sometime during this five-day window, there will be a webcast. Betting odds are that they will do it around 4PM PST."
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Third Falcon 1 Launch May Be This Afternoon

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  • Re:Rocket Science (Score:5, Informative)

    by Free the Cowards ( 1280296 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @11:25AM (#24447845)

    They've also going with an approach in their falcon 9 which alows them to lose engines and still accomplish the mission, enhancing reliability.

    Just a note on this, engine-out capability is nothing new. Except for a few seconds at certain critical stages of flight, the Saturn V first stage could lose an engine with no consequences to the mission. And in fact it did so on two Apollo flights (6 and 13), with the former resulting in a different orbit due to losing two engines, and the latter causing no problems. The Shuttle is also capable of reaching orbit after an engine failure, although it's much less likely to be able to make the originally planned orbit. This happened once (STS-51-F) resulting in an "abort to orbit", and did not impact the mission work.

    Of course, this capability is still tough to achieve and it can definitely be a good thing to have.

  • Re:Rocket Science (Score:4, Informative)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Saturday August 02, 2008 @11:43AM (#24447963) Homepage

    (And of course the Falcon is hardly unique in this respect; any modern rocket will benefit similarly. What is interesting about the Falcon is that it exists outside of what I'll call the military-industrial complex, for lack of a better term.)

    Hardly. A good chunk of their budget has come from USAF/NASA/DARPA contracts.

  • by mrcaseyj ( 902945 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @12:40PM (#24448481)

    Elon Musk's brother Kimbal has a page with a little info here []

    There is some discussion here [] also has a discussion area for Armadillo Aerospace where actual members of the team and even John Carmack sometimes respond to posts.

    Where else do people go to discuss SpaceX?

    Please join me in begging SpaceX to seed a torrent of their broadcast quality video of the launch. Mod me up to +5 so someone there will be more likely to see this plea.

  • Re:Rocket Science (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @12:48PM (#24448561) Homepage

    It's not a case of "private versus public". Orbital has their own custom rockets, too, but they're not particularly cheap. SpaceX has a custom version of a Russian Zenit that they launch, and again, while their prices are a bit low, it's nothing to write home about. And even most of our "government" rockets were built and are operated by private companies on a basis where lowering operations costs means more profit for them.

    The big deal about the Falcon is that it's largely "from scratch". Rocketry has been heavily burdened with history, in that we have a case where nobody wants to invest the large amount of money it would take to start from scratch when you can adopt an existing system and adapt it. Another big issue is the design route they chose. Rocketry is mostly about labor costs, so they set about looking at how much they could possibly reduce labor at each step of the way -- as few people needed as possible to build it, to transport it, to launch it, and so on -- without compromising on the amount of payload you can get out of the launch. They came up with some rather interesting solutions. One of my favorite is their adoption of a hybrid approach between conventional rigid tanks and balloon tanks. Rigid tanks can support their own weight during launch, but are heavier, and thus reduce payload. Balloon tanks would collapse if not pressurized, and so are more expensive to handle, but they reduce a lot of weight and thus increase payload capacity. SpaceX took a hybrid approach: their tanks are rigid enough to support themselves on the ground, so the rocket is easy to transport, but not rigid enough to withstand the forces of launch without being pressurized. It's a "best of both worlds" approach.

    SpaceX has really demonstrated some impressive things so far, including nearly making it to orbit on their second launch (all but for either a bump or a baffle, both of which have been remedied) on a rocket that's almost completely designed from scratch (which is a much bigger deal than it sounds, given all of the new systems). My favorite, which I'm sure impressed potential clients, was the ability to hold down the rocket, abort just seconds before launch, reinspect and refuel the rocket, and then relaunch within hours of the abort. That's darned impressive.

    I am not without concerns, of course. Mainly, on the Falcon 9. They've demonstrated quite a few successful test firings, including their recent tests of a full compliment of 9 engines. But they've not yet seen an engine failure, and it looks like they don't plan to simulate one. On the Soviet N1 moon rocket, they had the problem where one engine failure would lead to damaging the surrounding engines, ultimately dooming the rocket. The Falcon is designed to reduce this risk, but I'll feel a lot more comfortable about it once I actually see it happen in practice. Apart from that, I like the design. The ability to hit your launch target after losing one engine, if achievable, will be quite impressive and should significantly boost reliability. And their performance is nice, too. And if their stages prove recoverable, like they hope, that should help with improving prices all the more.

  • Major failure!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by ashitaka ( 27544 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @11:40PM (#24453039) Homepage

    About 2 minutes after launch signal was lost from the vehicle.

    Announcers just said there had been "an anomaly on the craft" and to check their website for details.


  • Apparently the two stages of the rocket failed to separate after the 1st stages "Main-engine cut off", and the rocket ended up plunging into the Pacific Ocean.

    As for what caused the rocket to stay together at a point it should have come apart (intentionally), that will be the major focus of the engineering investigation. The new Merlin-C engine (1st stage engine) did a fantastic job.

    If only SpaceX can get the 2nd stage to work, they might actually have a real working spacecraft.

  • Re:UH! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @02:52AM (#24453959) Homepage

    This was a stage separation problem [], one of the most common types of launch failures in orbital rocketry. The length of time of the scrubbed launch had nothing to do with it, just like the previous launch's "bump" and "slosh" had nothing to do with its prior abort, either. Quit attributing failures to false causes.

    And by the way, don't forget that this is, for the most part, a "from scratch" launch system. Picture the atrocious failure rates early in the US space program. Developing a new launch system is very hard work.

    So, as the record stands, SpaceX had one corrosion issue, and two stage separation issues. Good to know that this wasn't another corrosion issue; it was another case of a problem on stage separation, which they hadn't yet mastered. I wonder if their attempt to fix the "bump" from last separation is what led the stages to stick together.

    On the upside:
      * SpaceX modified their Merlin engine to be regeneratively cooled and get more power since their last launch, introducing a new element of risk. This regeneratively cooled engine is what is to power the Falcon 9, so they wanted to get it test flown. The new engine performed flawlessly.
      * SpaceX has two more finished rockets lined up for launch. We should know their launch dates soon.
      * The Falcon 9 rocket has finished its static test firing series without a single failure. Its schedule shouldn't be delayed by this.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"