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Space Science

SpaceX Announces Dragon As First Falcon 9 Payload 83

BJ_Covert_Action writes "SpaceX announced recently that it would be integrating a stripped-down test version of its own Dragon cargo capsule as the payload for its first Falcon 9 test launch. The Falcon 9 rocket is currently scheduled to launch on November 29 of this year if everything goes according to plan. However, Elon Musk admits that launch day will likely slip to sometime early next year. The Falcon 9 is the heavy launch vehicle designed by SpaceX to be used as a cheap, commercial alternative to existing United States launch platforms. Having launched a few successful light missions with the Falcon 1 rocket, SpaceX is going to launch the Falcon 9 as its next milestone in commercializing the space industry. Utilizing its own cargo capsule as the first Falcon 9 payload will effectively give SpaceX double the tests for one launch slot on the Cape Canaveral range. The capsule that will be used is a test version of the full Dragon capsule that encompasses primarily the structure and a few components of the full version. It served originally as a ground test platform for the Dragon design team and now will double as an orbital testbed. If nothing else, the announcement upped the ante in the commercial space market by showing the SpaceX is capable and willing to push the envelope on its development schedules. It should serve as a proper motivator for other commercial competitors such as Orbital Sciences with their Cygnus capsule, which is also under development."
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SpaceX Announces Dragon As First Falcon 9 Payload

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  • Space station supply (Score:5, Informative)

    by amightywind ( 691887 ) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @11:38AM (#29548623) Journal

    This makes sense. Falcon 9 is uninsurable without a successful launch, so it cannot be used to launch a valuable satellite payload. Furthermore, NASA's space station supply contract is potentially far more lucrative than participating in the competitive market for satellite launch services. Good luck to them. They are going to need it

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @12:34PM (#29548929) Homepage
    You're forgetting the "Aeronautics" part of NASA. They do an awful lot of in atmosphere research (often in conjunction with the FAA and other agencies such as NOAA.) They have a multi decade history of doing quite a bit of basic, low key, often boring things that could be fobbed off to another governmental agency but would likely just get subsumed in the flotsam of fiefdoms and budgets.

    From your original article, the biggest problem isn't NASA, it's the shortsighted, braindead, slimy, backhanded, hypocritical, nonsensical, bat-shit-insane, idiocratic and just plain old corrupt congress.
  • by ClayJar ( 126217 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @11:28AM (#29566277) Homepage

    Which, given the fact that fairings don't particularly represent a difficult design or development problem, indicates that something (major) is wrong at SpaceX.

    So, you're saying that fairings are, to use the phrase, "not rocket science"? It's certainly true that a fairing design and implementation is not nearly as difficult a nut to crack as designing a new liquid-fueled engine completely from scratch, but fairings and fairing separations aren't something so inherently mundane that they can be ignored.

    The aerodynamics are not so trivial you can just say, "Eh, that looks about right..." and be at an energy-optimal solution. Additionally, while it's trivial to overbuild a solution that will protect the payload during ascent, reducing the mass of the fairing system is not so easy. (Like most things in engineering, the first bits are easy, with additional improvements coming with greater and greater effort.) Having additional time to shave off a few more kilograms from the fairing is certainly a net positive.

    Now, as for fairing separation incidents, there have not been many, but a quick check does turn up three of note in the last decade or so:

    I cannot speak to the failure potential of a new fairing design on a new launch vehicle as compared to existing fairings on well-traveled vehicles, but if I were to go with a "feeling", I would certainly doubt that it is less.

    (By the way, your ad hominem song and dance routine was hardly mature. Will you be coming to Geowoodstock next year up in your area? I'm thinking of possibly heading up for the event and some cold water diving next year, and I wouldn't mind betting a batch of my homemade chocolate chip cookies on SpaceX -- perhaps you can bet a family-restaurant-level dinner? I don't drink, so it shouldn't be expensive.)

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday September 28, 2009 @01:39PM (#29568473) Homepage

    Bzzt, sorry! If you don't have a direct ancestor, you're not taking an evolutionary approach, and you have to debug full systems integration from scratch. None of their failures would have occurred if it were an evolutionary rocket -- the salt/metal incompatibility failure would have occurred on the parent rocket, the separation kick would have occurred on the parent rocket, and the slosh roll risk would have at least been hinted at by the parent rocket.

    there's nothing particularly revolutionary or new about it's design, construction, or manufacture.

    Examples: hybrid isogrid/balloon tanks for a "best of both worlds" combination of high payload fraction and ease of handling on the ground; one of the first rockets to use friction-stir welded tanks; an level of automated production unprecedented for orbital rocketry; an almost unreal turnaround time on aborted launches, and the highest performance gas generator cycle engine ever built.

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