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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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  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @01:12PM (#29549099)

    Well, getting into space despite the problems and then fixing them for the next launch is better than not getting into space at all; but, yes, the important element of the first launch of any rocket is to find the problems and fix them.

    NASA, for example, had numerous problems on the early Saturn launches which could have lost the launcher and payload (POGO being the most obvious), but redundancy and some good luck saved those flights.

  • by voss ( 52565 ) on Saturday September 26, 2009 @01:54PM (#29549309)

    The difference between NASA and spacex is spacex is doing their test launches without taxpayer money. If a rocket fails it fails on their own dime so they better learn something from it...and they do. Thats why launches 4 & 5 worked fine..duh!

    It should not bother anyone to have failures BEFORE success, how many times did Edison fail with the light bulb? several thousand. How many years did it take the wright brothers to perfect glider control with three different glider models before they created the first airplane (four). The Apollo 1 fire was an example of a catastrophic failure, however it paved the way for later success.

    Now compare that with the challenger and columbia diasters both times NASA knew about the design problem ahead of time and failed to act. Management both times ignored the warnings of the engineers.

    When something doesnt succeed its a failure, if you knew it might fail and you didnt do anything about it thats screwing up

  • In fairness here, it should be pointed out that there was some public money that went into the earlier SpaceX test flights for the Falcon 1. Yes, Elon Musk did put up a whole bunch of his own money and it should be pointed out that neither NASA nor the U.S. Department of Defense put up any money in terms of the R&D on the Falcon 1, but there was some DARPA money spent on most of those early launches with SpaceX.

    The main difference between what SpaceX is doing and what the other rocket companies like Boeing and Lockheed-Martin have been doing is that SpaceX is offering a vehicle for a more or less fixed price... a sort of "cash and carry" if you want to be a customer. Previous government contracts had been on what is called a "cost plus" contract where all of the R&D costs were included and very little financial incentive was in place to drive down the costs involved.

    Essentially, earlier spacecraft development projects had all of the costs paid for by the government, and once the project was completed there was a guaranteed profit at the end (hence the "plus"). Of course that requires an army of accountants to keep track of where every penny goes and leads to bureaucratic bloat on even trying to keep track of where the money is being spent to keep embezzlement from happening on such a project. For example, on each space shuttle booster that is used on the Shuttle program (mind you, not even R&D here, but just production work in this case) has a mountain of paper work that is almost double the weight of the booster itself before it gets shipped to KSC to be attached to the orbiter for the next flight. There are dedicated cargo planes just for shipping this paperwork to Washington D.C. where it gets tossed into warehouses and sits for years afterward. I've had friends who worked for ATK and their only job was just to get signatures on this paperwork.

    While SpaceX still has to deal with a mountain of paperwork, some of that can be culled out through employee trust and more conventional business structures that don't come from a government program. That is the huge difference that SpaceX is offering here, and the fact that SpaceX is still just a few hundred employees.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie