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Space Science

Falcon 9 Is Now Fully Integrated At Cape Canaveral 82

RobGoldsmith writes "SpaceX's Falcon 9 is now fully integrated: an update from Elon Musk states 'Falcon 9 is now fully integrated at the Cape! Today we mated the 5.2 m payload fairing to the Falcon 9 first stage. This was the final step in the integration process — one day ahead of schedule.' New images are now available showing the first fully integrated Falcon 9 Rocket. Once the launch mount and erector are complete, SpaceX will transfer Falcon 9 on to the erector and raise it to vertical early in 2009."
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Falcon 9 Is Now Fully Integrated At Cape Canaveral

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  • by cmowire ( 254489 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:17AM (#26297573) Homepage

    Oh, no, the shuttle did take advantage of the weight. It's just not hundreds of tons. And they needed to make the tank even lighter to send the ISS up.

    I suspect the big reason why the shuttle tank's paint took up so much weight is that the paint is going on rough insulation, not a slick metal skin. And the tank is also fairly huge, given it holds liquid hydrogen.

    So I suspect that the weight cost for painting something like the Falcon 9 isn't nearly as bad, given it's an aluminum skin. And there may be some engineering reasons too.

  • by pgfuller ( 797997 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:43AM (#26297663)
    You are out by several orders of magnitude - 600lbs / 272kg was the weight saving from not painting the ET. Later structural design changes reduced the ET weight by a more significant 17,000lbs.
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Friday January 02, 2009 @05:05AM (#26297939) Homepage Journal

    I expect they've cut a deal with someone for that ballast. There's lots of people who are willing to "hitch a ride to orbit" no matter how low the odds are of the vehicle making it. Not that I think this launch will fail.. but, ya know, it'll be fun to watch either way :)

  • by Richard W.M. Jones ( 591125 ) <`rich' `at' `'> on Friday January 02, 2009 @05:55AM (#26298113) Homepage

    if a engine, or even a few, fail on the falcon 9, it can still complete its mission, the other engines just have to burn a bit longer.

    The failure(s) on the N1 [] was in the complex pipework leading to the 30 engines. This caused the whole rocket to fail (3 or 4 times IIRC - the Wikipedia article has more details).

    Also even if a engine itself fails, you have to remember that the failure is not necessarily a clean shutdown, but likely a large explosion, taking out adjacent engines.


  • Re:Out of order? (Score:4, Informative)

    by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:09AM (#26299267)

    The R-7 rocket and its descendants the the Russians developed was designed to be assembled on its side because it was easier to assemble the final rocket that way. The only downside to this method is you need big and heavy rigs to move the rocket to the vertical launch position (if you've seen the launch pads at the Baikanour cosmodrome they have a lot of erecting machinery at the launch pad to move the rocket to the vertical position).

    That's why for the Saturn V rocket, NASA decided to assemble the rocket vertically, but that needed a very large building to do this, hence the very tall Vertical Assembly Building (VAB) not only to accommodate the height of the rocket but the overhead cranes to lift the various rocket components.

  • by Spotticus ( 1356631 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:19AM (#26299369)
    The failures of the N1 were more related to lack of sufficient funding, poor quality control and lack of any test stands (The first time the N1 fired it's 30 engines was during its first flight attempt). There was nothing inherently flawed in the approach they Soviet's took, it's just that the engineers were forced to do it on the cheap The first flight failed due to the engine control system shutting down all engines on the first stage after a problem was detected with one of the engines (an engine fire). Second flight was almost the same problem, except one of the first state engines exploded after it ingested a wrench that someone left in the fuel line. During the third flight an unexpected interaction between the engine thrust and prevailing winds resulted in a roll that exceeded the command authority of the rocket and it broke up. The Last flight almost successfully completed it's first stage burn, but a few seconds before shutdown the N1 was designed to shutdown 6 engines to keep thrust within design limits. The shutdown resulted in unexpected pressure transients, the fuel lines ruptured and the vehicle broke up.
  • by cmowire ( 254489 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:37PM (#26301473) Homepage

    32 chambers, not engines. Not the same thing.

  • by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Friday January 02, 2009 @04:06PM (#26303567)
    The N1 had several problems. Namely they did not do much testing. This was due to budget and time schedule pressures. The engines [] were very advanced, working at extreme pressures for their time and had teething problems (they were the first staged-combustion LOX/Kerosene engines ever made, the USA still has not made one native LOX/Kerosene engine even today, the only staged-combustion USA engine is the Space Shuttle Main Engine which uses the easier to get working LOX/Hydrogen combination). The engine designer was used to making aviation engines rather than rocket engines which did not help either. It took another iteration to get the engine working properly. So engines exploded a lot more than they should, setting off a chain reaction in the whole structure. Then manufacturing defects in piping meant it had catastrophic vibration issues, leading to broken pipes not to mention things like loose bolts due to shoddy quality control getting into the fuel intakes and so on. Last but not least, they decided midway along testing to completely change the control system with an analog computer which was bugged and took a long time in fixing. In short, each test flight was flying a completely different vehicle, making it hard to isolate and fix issues.

    Compare that with SpaceX which did a separate 9 engine first stage testing with a full burn prior to launch and uses more advanced digital flight control systems and you see the problem is not quite the same. Heck, the Saturn I did not have any launch failures, and it used 8 first stage engines [].

The optimum committee has no members. -- Norman Augustine