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NASA Space Transportation

Space Shuttle To Be Replaced By SpaceX For ISS Resupply 297

destinyland writes "Next year SpaceX will perform resupply missions for the International Space Station after the Space Shuttle is grounded, as part of a $3.5 billion NASA resupply contract. 'The fledgling space industry is reminiscent of the early days of the personal computer,' notes one technology reporter, 'when a number of established vendors and startups reversed-engineered Microsoft's DOS and manufactured PCs using the Intel 8080 chip set. We're likely to see a similar industry shakeout in the private space vehicle market segment in the coming decades.'"
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Space Shuttle To Be Replaced By SpaceX For ISS Resupply

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @07:16PM (#29279569)


  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @07:18PM (#29279579)

    I love how journalists rewrite history. So now the personal computer industry was founded upon stealing DOS from Microsoft and building PCs from 8080 chips?

    Wow. Just wow.

  • oh no (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ascari ( 1400977 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @07:20PM (#29279599)
    Let's hope their wrong. Doesn't anybody remember how crappy the first PC clones were? And compatibility, compaq gear didn't work with tandy, whcich didn't work with... etc. etc.Not what you'd want to experience when you're trying to dock to a space station made by another manufacturer.
  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @07:23PM (#29279627) Journal

    This is a great idea. Since NASA has lost the last 40 years on good scientific research but no exploration

    Seriously, what it is with the insane, ingorant NASA hate around here these days. No exploration? What about spirit and opprtunity?

    Don't they count?

    And when it comes to rocketry, sure, the shuttle is getting a little long in the tooth, but is there any other vehicle capable of either servising Hubble, or bringing anything down?

  • Re:oh no (Score:2, Insightful)

    by magsol ( 1406749 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @07:26PM (#29279673) Journal
    But this is how the computer industry got going. Sure, those first few PC clones and Compaqs and Tandy graphics were horrendous in retrospect, but at the time they were leaps and bounds ahead of anything designed up until that point. If the space industry is going to be successful in the private sector, it will have to grow out of its infancy first, and that means (unfortunately) making mistakes along the way.
  • Wait a second? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @07:28PM (#29279697)

    'The fledgling space industry is reminiscent of the early days of the personal computer,' notes one technology reporter, 'when a number of established vendors and startups reversed-engineered Microsoft's DOS and manufactured PCs using the Intel 8080 chip set.

    What, exactly, is it about the space industry today that is supposed to be reminiscent of those false memories of the early days of the personal computer? All the startups reverse engineering Space-Shuttle-compatible launch vehicles in their garages and undercutting the United Space Alliance on price?

    Its hard to figure out which is worse, the analogy proposed or the recollection of history that it is in part based on.

  • There is no money to be made directly from space exploration.

    If mars had large wooded forests and a magic crystal that was trivial to turn into some paradigm shift technology, then yeah.

    NASA's exploration allows us to better understand the universe, and gives focus to companies to develop RnD to accomplish goals. That RnD and it's results is the market payoff, and why the space program actually more then pays for itself.

    Satellite launches? sure, that can go private.

  • SpaceX is awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by voss ( 52565 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @07:37PM (#29279783)

    Theres a can-do attitude that NASA lost long ago.

    Elon Musk is an amazing dude. At a time where rich people are not popular, here is a reason that people
    should become rich , he uses his paypal money to do the stuff he wants to do like electric cars and spaceships
    and in doing the stuff that makes him happy benefits us all.

  • Re:ATV? Progress? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @07:50PM (#29279891)

    Hard for it to be more expensive than the shuttle.

  • by yurtinus ( 1590157 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @08:04PM (#29280025)
    Conspiracy theories are fun and all, but I think the more obvious explanation will suffice here-- We simply haven't had motivation to push our space programs as we have in the past. Certainly there have been innovations and rocket scientists dreaming up new and better propulsion systems, but there has been no grand scale programs to put them to the test. With any luck, China and India will be pushing their own space exploration programs to spur on a new space race, but short of that a lot of Americans simply don't care.
  • by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @08:10PM (#29280071)

    I explored Paris via Google Maps, but it's just not the same as being there.

    No, but it *is* about the same as looking at someone else's holiday photos.

    Don't forget the #1 rule of manned space flight: *you* don't get to go. And if you're stuck on earth, does it really matter if the pictures you're looking at were taken by man or machine?

  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @08:20PM (#29280161) Homepage Journal

    does it really matter if the pictures you're looking at were taken by man or machine?

    What do you mean, an african or european man?

  • I can see the moon from my front porch. I can't see Paris. So, which is closer?

  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @08:57PM (#29280443) Homepage Journal
    1.6Gdollar;12launches;10ton_metric/launch ? dollar/kg = 13333.3 dollar/kg

    Here come the parasites.

    Could turn into a buy-off of a threat to big aerospace.

    If NASA were serious they'd cut out all their launch technology development and just put up a $2000/kg bounty for reaction mass delivered to orbit, by any domestic system, at the desired inclination and altitude, starting immediately. Grab it with a tug later.

    You can always use reaction mass.

    Let the industrial learning curve do the rest.

    Of course, if they did that, launch services would become so affordable, there would be private space stations and they'd lose their mandate for big bucks operational budgets and have to go back to science.

  • by iocat ( 572367 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @09:24PM (#29280597) Homepage Journal
    Just to add to the horse-shit, there was a key difference between the early computer industry and the nascent private space industry. Two guys in a garage could start a small hardware or software company and have a shot of success. Getting a rocket to orbit or manned flight takes a few more resources than maxxing out your credit card to buy an Altair or even an Apple II.
  • Re:oh no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snuf23 ( 182335 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @09:27PM (#29280607)

    Really? Those crappy PC clones were leaps and bounds ahead of the Macs, Amigas and Atari STs available at the time?
    It was not about being better. It was about being affordable and compatible with the software you ran on computers at your work place.

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @09:33PM (#29280639) Homepage

    So while STS is a system capable of servicing Hubble, the overall value of such a service is debatable.

    Not really. The really important thing about the Hubble servicing mission - and the various service and resupply missions to the ISS - is learning how to WORK in space. If we're planning on anything long term, we must have the capability to routinely get up out of bed, out the door and fix whatever broke (remember Murphy?).

    Obviously, we aren't there yet. It took years of training and planning to fix the Hubble. It took years of training and planning to fix the solar cells on the ISS. We've got to get to the point where we can go 'oops, the widget broke, need to go out and replace it' without spending months choreographing every move. It's routine and boring but it's exactly what we need to do to STAY in space. That's why ISS is important and that's why the Hubble resupply missions were critically important.

    Even if you're correct and it's cheaper to just chuck the old one and launch Hubble II.

  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @09:34PM (#29280653) Journal
    The first three settlements in what is now Southern California were never heard from again. But look at the place now...
  • The shuttles have taught us a great deal about what you need to be designing into a SHUTTLE rather than a single use rocket. The costs, maintenance, and safety issues that crop up over the 20-30 year life span of a launch platform designed to be re-used. There are things you learn over the long term. Who would have thought that foam insulation around the liquid fuel tanks would be more dangerous because it is light weight than it would be if it were heavier? It took many many launches before we learned it (in a worst case scenario, sadly). Point is, that's just the one big glaring example. There are countless other reliability and availability lessons learned.

    We already knew we could make a rocket get into space. We needed to make it almost commercially reliable and cheap. We're not there yet, but a long way closer, yes?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @09:49PM (#29280767)


    to = let's go to the movies.
    too = there are too many of them.
    two = there are only two of them, not three.

    there = let's go there.
    their = it is their house.
    they're = they are going to the house.

    seriously people. 3rd grade stuff here. learn these 6 simple things or be doomed to look like an idiot when you write.

  • by that this is not und ( 1026860 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @09:57PM (#29280811)

    What we really need, and will soon get, is a space race with the Chinese.

    They'll of course, use the interest payments from the Obamabonanza Loans to pay for their program. The US will be funding both sides of the 'race.'

  • by jamstar7 ( 694492 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @10:19PM (#29280939)

    There is no money to be made directly from space exploration.


    Bound to be plenty of stuff we can make that are just better when made in microgravity, like ultrapure crystals & medications, foamed metals, stuff like that...

  • by witherstaff ( 713820 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @10:27PM (#29280985) Homepage
    Musk also manages to take a long term view on a project. Being the first private individual to control a space fleet could make him the richest man in the world. Now there's vision.
  • Re:Go SpaceX go (Score:3, Insightful)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @10:46PM (#29281101) Homepage

    Plus you'd have to have the cost of launches come down a LOT to make dozens of rockets cheaper than one or two expensive ones.

    That's just it. I'm saying that the cost of launches is going to come down a LOT.

    Besides, it would be really, really hard to do an Apollo-style Mars mission, where you just build one freaking huge rocket and it carries everything up. It would be much better to use a heavy-lift launcher to put some kind of Mars travel spacecraft into orbit, then lots of cheap small launchers to ferry up fuel and supplies for it.

    I'd really like to see us return to the moon this way, too. Build an Earth/Moon shuttle, fuel it up, and have it travel back and forth from the moon, never itself landing. Once you have that reusable shuttle, you can amortize its cost over multiple trips... eventually going to the moon could become routine and inexpensive.

    By all means, I'm cheering for SpaceX to have great success, but them doing so doesn't accelerate the timetable for manned Mars missions, IMHO.

    Not just SpaceX. Cheap access to space, caused by the innovations of SpaceX and the other companies; and even by the competition between those companies. I think cheap access to space is a game changer, and I expect the game to change dramatically before that proposed 2037 launch date for a Mars mission.


  • Not quite... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @11:39PM (#29281385)

    Leaving aside the gross inaccuracies about the history of the personal computer in TFA, there's one giant shrieking difference between the "Fire in the Valley" days and the current commercial space rush: startup costs. Any number of early personal computer companies really were started by a couple of guys in a garage with a few thousand dollars. There may very well be some space industry parts vendors who still start this way. But no one starts a private launch company without a ton of money up front.

    It's still exciting, but not in the way the early personal computer days were. Back then, you could look at, let's say, Wozniak and Jobs and think, "That could be me!" No one at my pay grade is having that thought about SpaceX.

  • by SL Baur ( 19540 ) <steve@xemacs.org> on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @12:39AM (#29281621) Homepage Journal

    The 8080 chip was what grown up hardware enthusiasts were using in their S-100 computers. The kiddies had the weaker, cheaper 6502 parts.

    Don't diss the 6502. It was a wonderful chip for its time and although it ran at slower clock speeds than later 8080s and Z80s, it still ran code faster because very few clock cycles were wasted. The instruction set was remarkably well done.

    If you've never read through Woz's Sweet 16 interpreter, which fit in just a bit over a page of memory (about 270 bytes) and emulated a 16 bit architecture CPU, you have not experienced True Programming.

    The 6502 was a remarkable work of engineering. It's a great pity that they never followed up on it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:32AM (#29281825)

    How, exactly, would NASA have done something "interesting" if the same amount of money the Shuttle program has consumed had been sent to the private sector? Seems to me the remaining budget for "interesting" would have been the same, except that some private sector CEOs would have gotten richer, especially since this would have happened in the middle of the IPO insanity of a few years back.

    The Shuttle taught us a lot. It taught us what works and, equally importantly, what doesn't work in a reuseable space vehicle. Most importantly, it taught us to never let White House budget idiots have influence over the design of a spacecraft, which occurred back in the early 70s when it was being designed. Go check on that. It's an interesting and somewhat tragic story--tragic because those design changes were pretty much directly responsible for the destruction of 2 shuttles.

    So instead of taking those lessons and doing something useful with them, we're back to using expendable launch vehicles. When NASA does that we complain, and when the beloved privated sector does the exact same thing on a smaller scale with a higher failure rate, we somehow call that a "success".

    Welcome to Corporate America. Please check your science and engineering at the door.

    BTW, the private sector should be permitted and encouraged to get into space. Monopolies on any kind of transportation do nobody any good. It's just that, when left to do things correctly and not harassed by shortsighted politicians and an idiot press that knows less about space engineering than they do about computers, NASA usually does OK. The trouble is that nobody has left them alone since the Apollo program regarding human space flight, and the results have been more than tragic. They've cost many of us an entire lifetime of any real achievement in space.

  • by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:33AM (#29281829) Homepage

    But you know that they were twiddling their thumbs. They had nothing to do. The shuttle was a craft looking for a mission. It was a mistake from the start. It never possessed the ability to go anywhere and so it merely soaked up all the dollars that should have been sent to the private sector so that NASA could do something interesting.

    Why is the private sector some sort of magic bullet for NASA's problems? If you'll recall, the shuttle was built by a consortium of private contractors. If SpaceX is successful, they become the next Lockheed (or more likely, as with Scaled Composites, they'll be flat-out purchased by Lockheed or Boeing). Big whoop there.

    I'm also more than a little bit troubled by the existence of enormous companies that exist solely to provide goods and services directly to the government. Seems to blur the line between public and private, while offering the advantages of neither.

    In any event, rather than throwing money at private contractors, NASA could have funded more science missions. Instead of servicing the Hubble, couldn't we simply have built another?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @04:18AM (#29282571)

    I agree. I've been to Paris, and the people there were perfectly nice to me.

    I think this is an example of selection bias. A few loudmouths went to Paris, acted like jerks, and then came back and told everyone around them how horrible the Parisians were. Meanwhile, normal people went and were treated normally, and didn't say "gee, the people in Paris seemed nice".

    I witnessed an American tourist giving a really abusive attitude toward a hotel manager. She had come a day early; her reservation was for the following night. "Madame, I am sorry, we simply don't have any rooms available tonight." "But I have a reservation!" "Your reservation is for tomorrow night." "THAT'S NOT MY PROBLEM!" He wound up calling her a cab to take her to some other hotel. I'll bet she told her friends she was horribly treated.

    The worst treatment I received in Paris was when we weren't sure how to eat some prawns. We had never before received prawns with the head, legs, etc. still attached and we weren't sure what to do. I asked the waiter as politely as I knew how, "how does one eat this?" He showed me how simple it is: you just grab the head, pull, and *pop* it comes off. I thanked him. He showed me again. I thanked him again, with a little less enthusiasm. And then he just stood there, with this smug little smile on his face, pulling the heads off of all the prawns, as if we were too stupid to do it for ourselves, even when shown. Well, somehow we survived this incredibly abusive mistreatment, and I can't say I lie awake at nights worrying about it.

    If you take the trouble to learn even a few words of French -- such as "merci", for "Thank You" -- the French people really appreciate it. They don't expect you to speak perfect French. (Although, a lot of the people I did meet didn't speak any English; if you can't speak any French, you will be limited to pointing at things. But you can actually get around pretty well that way if you have to. Just please learn a few polite phrases.)

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @10:11AM (#29284983)
    SpaceX has launched two Falcon 1's successfully to orbit. They've also had three failures that didn't fail due to red tape.

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