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On Fourth Launch Attempt, SpaceX Falcon 1 Reaches Orbit 518

xp65 writes with the just-announced success of Elon Musk's SpaceX's long efforts to reach orbit with a privately-developed launching craft: "T+0:08:21 Falcon 1 reached orbital velocity, 5200 m/s Nominal Second stage cut off (SECO) — Falcon 1 has made history as the first privately developed liquid fueled launch vehicle to achieve earth orbit!" dbullard adds "This was a completely new vehicle — it's not using any previously developed hardware. All developed from scratch. No government supplied hardware, Russian engines, or old ICBM motors. My hat's off to the employees of Space X — all 550 of them. (Note — no 'cast of thousands,' just 550). They've got video of the entire launch."
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On Fourth Launch Attempt, SpaceX Falcon 1 Reaches Orbit

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  • A toast (Score:2, Insightful)

    To the long years of effort still ahead. May SpaceX be there to participate as man finally reaches for the stars.
    • by YA_Python_dev ( 885173 ) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:16PM (#25188695) Journal

      May SpaceX be there to participate as man finally reaches for the stars.

      Let's bring some women too.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        There are problems with women in space. The catheters they use for space suits are still pretty awkward, and menstruation is apparently very awkward. But heck yes, bring women. They're lighter and take less oxygen/kilo and fewer calories/workload.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by AgentPaper ( 968688 )

          Not only that, but women are better psychologically suited to endurance missions: we're biased toward consensus, flexibility and efficient group dynamics, where men are biased toward rigid hierarchies and a "winner-take-all" mentality at the expense of the group. There were even a set of studies done by the US Navy (can't remember the citation off the top of my head) that recommended that all SSBNs be crewed by female sailors for just that reason - given the tours assigned to ballistic missile submarines,

          • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Monday September 29, 2008 @12:31AM (#25190595)

            we're biased toward consensus, flexibility and efficient group dynamics

            A couple of quotes by women, about women:

            "The chief excitement in a woman's life is spotting women who are fatter than she is."
            Helen Rowland

            "Working with women is a pain in the a**."
            My wife

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by jollyreaper ( 513215 )

          e are problems with women in space. The catheters they use for space suits are still pretty awkward, and menstruation is apparently very awkward. But heck yes, bring women. They're lighter and take less oxygen/kilo and fewer calories/workload.

          No, you just have to convince them that a bigger space station will have better schools for the kids, then the wives will insist the husbands mortgage themselves up to their eyeballs to build it. "Suzanne researched this!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by 14erCleaner ( 745600 )
      Almost fifty-one years after Sputnik, the private sector catches up, sort of. Woo-hoo, Alpha Centauri here we come.
      • Re:A toast (Score:5, Insightful)

        by khallow ( 566160 ) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @09:17PM (#25189223)

        Almost fifty-one years after Sputnik, the private sector catches up, sort of. Woo-hoo, Alpha Centauri here we come.

        "Sort of" is right. The thing to remember is that if SpaceX can deliver the Falcon 9 with the price point they claim, then it will be a game changer. As I understand it, the price of launching things into space by a US company will drop by a factor of 3 or 4. That's new. The Russians and Chinese are in that territory. but they subsidize their rockets. Having the cheapest launcher on the market being mostly unsubsidized. That will be different indeed.

  • Congrats ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fewnorms ( 630720 ) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @07:51PM (#25188473)
    May you be the first of many more private space companies; we sure need you guys.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by damburger ( 981828 )

      Why? So there can be advertising on the face of the moon?

      Why do we 'need' tacky, crappy private space companies firing off rockets that fail 3/4 of the time?

  • Frickin awesome (Score:3, Insightful)

    by marco.antonio.costa ( 937534 ) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @07:52PM (#25188481)

    Elon Musk is friggin' Hank Rearden man.

    Now he is really gonna swim in the money. Tip my hat to all involved. :-)

    • Re:Frickin awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lysergic.acid ( 845423 ) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:10PM (#25188633) Homepage


      i know you meant that as a compliment, but i highly doubt someone like Musk would want to be compared with a protagonist form an Ayn Rand novel.

      FYI, Musk invested much of his profits from PayPal in Tesla Motors. considering the altruistic goals (echoing the company's namesake) of the company to ultimately bring affordable electric vehicles to market, not to mention the various philanthropic projects funded by the Musk foundation, i really don't think it's appropriate to label him as the archetypal Randian objectivist.

      he seems more like someone who's made his millions, and is now trying to use that wealth to better society rather than a staunch capitalist obsessed with acquiring money and power.

      • Re:Frickin awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

        by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:16PM (#25188699) Homepage Journal

        The Space Review has an article on the motives of entrepreneurs:

        http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1216/1 [thespacereview.com]

        The author, Bob Clarebrough, suggests that the "economic rational" motives proclaimed by Adam Smith are really only surface effects of the greater motivation: passion and vision.

    • SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had a few words for his critics last month: "Optimism, pessimism, f-ck that; we're going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work."

      I guess he showed them!

  • YES!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @07:54PM (#25188501) Journal

    I've been waiting for their success for the past 5 years or so, and I'm absolutely ecstatic.

    They have a couple more Falcon 1 flights scheduled for this year, with their first Falcon 9 flight next year. The Falcon 9 is considerably larger, and is the vehicle SpaceX plans to use for delivering cargo and crew to the International Space Station.

    I imagine that there's been a number of announcements waiting in the wings for SpaceX's first successful flight. Perhaps we'll be hearing soon about a more formal arrangement between SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace with their private space station plans?

  • grats! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by savuporo ( 658486 )
    Nothing but congratulations ! Elon was completely at loss of words in the webcast, and it seemed like the entire gang is going to have one hell of a party ASAP !
  • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @07:55PM (#25188517)

    I would say I'm even more impressed by this than by China's manned spaceflight.

    This is something new and very interesting. It's relatively trivial for a nation of over a billion people and a strong centralized government to develop a space program. But a privately funded orbital rocket. That's a game changer.

    Congratulations to China and especially congratulations to the groundbreaking team at SpaceX!

  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:05PM (#25188593) Journal

    A few days ago the Washington Post had a pretty interesting discussion/interview with Elon Musk, the CEO/CTO/founder/funder of SpaceX. Some juicy tidbits, which are even more exciting in the context of today's launch success:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2008/09/24/DI2008092402502.html [washingtonpost.com]

    Washington, D.C.: If and when you manage to get all the Falcons and Dragon [wikipedia.org] up and running, what's next? Further incremental improvements on these or something more revolutionary? Also, where do you stand on the value of the various X-prizes (and equivalents)?

    Elon Musk: Still a long way to getting *all* the Falcons and Dragons flying. We need to get F1 to orbit for one thing :) Then F9 [wikipedia.org], F9 with Cargo Dragon, F9 with crew Drago and F9 Heavy. My interest is very much in the direction of Mars, so a Mars lander of some kind might be the next step. ...

    Stillwater, Minn.: Mr. Musk, first of all, I've been following SpaceX via your website since before Flight 1, and I hope to join you all someday (I'm an undergrad ChEg at Notre Dame). Talk about the inherent advantages of your rockets over those designed by Lockheed Martin and Boeing (reusability, smaller size = significantly smaller cost, redundancies on the Falcon 9, etc.)

    Elon Musk: The full answer for why SpaceX is lower cost is too long for this forum and I don't like to give soundbite answers if they are incorrect. The cost of a single use rocket is:

    * Engines
    * Structures
    * Avionics
    * Launch operation
    * Overhead

    We are better on every one at SpaceX vs competitors -- by a factor of two vs most international and four vs domestic. That is before reuse is considered, which could ultimately be a 10X or more additional reduction. ...

    Cocoa Beach, Fla.: Congress mistakenly took the first step towards extending the shuttle program. Anyone in the know is aware that this is impossible given the cost of re-certification. Why then is this being supported at any level. Why isn't Congress saying anything about privatizing our space effort?

    Marc Kaufman: Congress has put up some money for privatizing the space effort, and SpaceX has indeed been the main beneficiary. I think that Congress and NASA are waiting for a successful launch before going more deeply into expanding the privatizing.

    Those initial steps taken by Congress regarding extending the shuttle program are a reflection of just how strongly people feel about the five-year gap, during which there are no current clear alternatives to paying Russia for Soyuz transport. Extending the shuttle could close some of that gap, and could also allow some very expensive and promising equipment--now absent from the rest of the shuttle manifests- to be delivered to the station. One grounded, $1.5 billion piece of equipment in particular has become very controversial because scores of institutioins and national space agencies helped pay for it. ....

    Urbana, Ill.: Right now you have two rockets based on the same first-stage engine (Merlin). To launch Falcon 9 Heavy, you'll need 27 of those engines to fire simultaneously. Do you have any plans to develop a larger engine in the future so that such clustering is not necessary?

    Elon Musk: Yeah, I think there is an argument for a really really big Falcon engine or BFE, as we call it :)

    That would be equal or greater to the thrust of 27 Merlin 1C engines. Would be exciting to see that fire! ...

    Calistoga, Calif.: Elon, Your business plan emphasis low man power as cost savings method, how does NASA documentation requirements impact your man power requirements? In other words, how many of SpaceX staff are on board solely to deal with NASA

    • by Sentry21 ( 8183 ) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:20PM (#25188719) Journal

      Elon Musk: Depends on how common. If we can make reusability work well, I think we can get the cost per person to orbit down to a few million dollars within eight to ten years. If reusability works well and demand is strong, so that we can distribute overhead over a large number of launches, it could one day get to under $1M.

      This strikes me as one of those quotes that people are going to laugh at 30 years from now, like the oft-repeated quotes on how someday computers will be 'only a few tons' and 'take up only one room'. At least, I hope so.

      • by Chandon Seldon ( 43083 ) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @09:11PM (#25189173) Homepage

        The amazing shrinking transistor is a whole different kettle of fish from chemical rocket propulsion. Spaceflight may get cheaper, but there certainly won't be any price reduction like a 1960's supercomputer to the 1990's scientific calculator.

        There could be a major breakthrough in (non-chemical) propulsion, but if so we're still looking at the "vaccuum tube" era where those "only a few tons" predictions were entirely appropriate and even optimistic.

  • Congrats on putting a nice crack in the mismanaged, overpriced, overpoliticised, goverment monopoly. Good Luck!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      the mismanaged, overpriced, overpoliticised, goverment monopoly

      What monopoly? The U.S. government didn't do anything to prevent these guys from their commercial enterprise...they didn't do anything anti-competitive.

      Sure NASA has problems, but they need to fix the problems, not mothball the whole agency!

      Private industry will never replace public endeavor. THEY HAVE DIFFERENT GOALS. Sure both are going to space, but one is going to make money, the other is going for more altruistic reasons...you know...sci

  • Inspiring (Score:3, Interesting)

    by localman ( 111171 ) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @08:29PM (#25188805) Homepage

    I've seen plenty of launch videos before, but watching this and hearing them cheer when the stages separate... well, it warmed my heart. It's a beautiful example of bright people getting together to do something that people thought was unreasonable my many. That is one very small organization to break free from the surface of our little planet. Congrats to them.

  • by veriti ( 903165 ) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @09:31PM (#25189331)
    To achieve a full orbit, the velocity must be 7.8 km/s or about 23 Mach. 5200m/s is not enough to stay in orbit. It more like suborbital flight.
  • YouTube link (Score:3, Informative)

    by bbn ( 172659 ) <baldur.norddahl@gmail.com> on Sunday September 28, 2008 @10:07PM (#25189635)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=To-XOPgaGsQ [youtube.com]

    This shows the fourht launch.

    The video on spacex.com is for previous launches. I suppose they are all getting drunk now, instead of updating the website.

  • by rew ( 6140 ) <r.e.wolff@BitWizard.nl> on Monday September 29, 2008 @03:10AM (#25191333) Homepage

    Why does the space shuttle orbit earth in about one and a half hour? Because low earth orbit takes you around the earth in about 1.5 hours.

    Orbital speed is over 7000 m/s and 5200 is simply not enough.

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