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SpaceX Successfully Launches Falcon 9 Rocket 190

leetrout writes "SpaceX has successfully launched a two-stage rocket, the Falcon 9, into Earth orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. 'Liftoff came after hours of delay, sparked initially by launchpad telemetry problems, then by a sailboat that strayed into a restricted area of the launch range. The day's first countdown was aborted at virtually the last second, due to a problem with the engine parameters, but the launch software was adjusted and a second countdown went all the way to the end.'" Update: 06/04 20:16 GMT by S : Reader mrcaseyj points out Spaceflight Now's coverage, which includes a number of pictures from the launch.
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SpaceX Successfully Launches Falcon 9 Rocket

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  • Cool (Score:4, Insightful)

    by caywen ( 942955 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:11PM (#32463064)

    Good news for Obama and his vision for private industry servicing the ISS. Hopefully they won't delay their first ISS mission until 2011.

    • Re:Cool (Score:5, Funny)

      by hardburn ( 141468 ) <hardburn&wumpus-cave,net> on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:18PM (#32463186)

      I don't want to hear anymore about Obama and his socialist plan to move space launching into the hands of private enterprise.

      • by Jawnn ( 445279 )

        I don't want to hear anymore about Obama and his socialist plan to move space launching into the hands of private enterprise.

        OK. Fine. How about this one, then?
        "BP announces plans to move into commercial space flight..."

      • Re:Cool (Score:5, Funny)

        by clarkkent09 ( 1104833 ) * on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:42PM (#32463468)
        That's only because he knows that private enterprise will be more efficient in eventually allowing humans to travel to his real birthplace!
      • Shoes for Industry! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:42PM (#32463472) Homepage Journal

        Necessity and Incentives Opening the Space Frontier [archive.org]

        Testimony before the House Subcommittee on Space

        by James Bowery, Chairman

        Coalition for Science and Commerce

        July 31, 1991

        Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Members of the Subcommittee:

        I am James Bowery, Chairman of the Coalition for Science and Commerce. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to address the subcommittee on the critical and historic topic of commercial incentives to open the space frontier.

        The Coalition for Science and Commerce is a grassroots network of citizen activists supporting greater public funding for diversified scientific research and greater private funding for proprietary technology and services. We believe these are mutually reinforcing policies which have been violated to the detriment of civilization. We believe in the constitutional provision of patents of invention and that the principles of free enterprise pertain to intellectual property. We therefore see technology development as a private sector responsibility. We also recognize that scientific knowledge is our common heritage and is therefore a proper function of government. We oppose government programs that remove procurement authority from scientists, supposedly in service of them. Rather we support the inclusion, on a per-grant basis, of all funding needed to purchase the use of needed goods and services, thereby creating a scientist-driven market for commercial high technology and services. We also oppose government subsidy of technology development. Rather we support legislation and policies that motivate the intelligent investment of private risk capital in the creation of commercially viable intellectual property.

        In 1990, after a 3 year effort with Congressman Ron Packard (CA) and a bipartisan team of Congressional leaders, we succeeded in passing the Launch Services Purchase Act of 1990, a law which requires NASA to procure launch services in a commercially reasonable manner from the private sector. The lobbying effort for this legislation came totally from taxpaying citizens acting in their home districts without a direct financial stake -- the kind of political intended by our country's founders, but now rarely seen in America.

        We ask citizens who work with us for the most valuable thing they can contribute: The voluntary and targeted investment of time, energy and resources in specific issues and positions which they support as taxpaying citizens of the United States. There is no collective action, no slush-fund and no bureaucracy within the Coalition: Only citizens encouraging each other to make the necessary sacrifices to participate in the political process, which is their birthright and duty as Americans. We are working to give interested taxpayers a voice that can be heard above the din of lobbyists who seek ever increasing government funding for their clients.


        Americans need a frontier, not a program.

        Incentives open frontiers, not plans.

        If this Subcommittee hears no other message through the barrage of studies, projections and policy recommendations, it must hear this message. A reformed space policy focused on opening the space frontier through commercial incentives will make all the difference to our future as a world, a nation and as individuals.

        Americans Need a Frontier

        When Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon, we won the "space race" against the Soviets and entered two decades of diminished expectations.

        The Apollo program elicited something deep within Americans. Something almost primal. Apollo was President Kennedy's "New Frontier." But when Americans found it was terminated as nothing more than a Cold War contest, we felt betrayed in ways we are still unable to articulate -- betrayed right down to our pioneering souls. The result is that Americans will never again truly believe i

    • Hopefully they put a manned capsule on these things so there will actually be people in the ISS to service.
      • Re:Cool (Score:4, Informative)

        by nofx_3 ( 40519 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:41PM (#32463444)

        They have a capsule tech called Dragon that can hold 7 crew. They actually had a dummy Dragon capsule at the top of the Falcon 9 launched today. I think the life support stuff is still a ways off, but they should be capable of launching crewed missions a few years into the future.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          There have been suggestions that it could be as little as two years off, except that the emergency systems (particularly the ejection mechanism) might not make that mark. As can be seen by the recent delays for the Falcon 9 largely because the flight termination system was awaiting certification, seemingly minor things can lengthen things dramatically.

          I think two years is incredibly optimistic, but I would love for SpaceX to prove me wrong.

          • I think two years is incredibly optimistic, but I would love for SpaceX to prove me wrong.

            Indeed. Personally I'm betting they'll miss 2013, but match or beat 2015 which is the incredibly optimistic time scale for Ares-based manned missions to ISS.

            • Re:Cool (Score:4, Funny)

              by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @06:38PM (#32464764) Homepage
              But. But.If it's a dummy capsule then why can't we ...

              Oh nevermind, we'd never get enough politicians in the thing to make it worthwhile.
              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by Chris Burke ( 6130 )

                But. But.If it's a dummy capsule then why can't we ...


                Oh nevermind, we'd never get enough politicians in the thing to make it worthwhile.

                You might call 7 politicians launched into space not worthwhile, but I call it a start. ;)

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          they should be capable of launching crewed missions a few years into the future.

          Woah, time travel too? I had no idea!
          Can they get them back to the present?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      They have several demonstration flights this year, but the first "official" CRS cargo carrying flight will be in 2011 if all goes well. That's been the plan for a while, and I should know, because part of my job is to stuff it with stuff.

      (I say "official" because there is talk about carrying a few brave payloads on the demonstration flights, but that isn't part of the contract.)

      • Since you're in the *know* ... I have a couple of questions...
        1. I'm presuming the flight to the ISS will carry "real" cargo (such as food). Am I in the wrong?
        2. How do you think the Russians are going to take this news? Considering they've got such a lucrative deal going supplying the ISS with cargo?

        With this all said, I'm glad the launch was a success. Hopefully NASA can start focusing on the Ares 5 heavy lift (or you know... just take an Atlas 5 off the shelf!) for going into HEO and beyond.
        • by caseih ( 160668 )

          I doubt the Russians are bothered. They don't have any exclusive contracts for resupply other than their obligations and commitments anyway. Both the ESA ATV and Japanese HTV both have flown successful cargo missions to the space station, and are expected to become essential to the resupply of the station over the next few years. I can't remember about the ATV, but the HTV certainly carries a lot more cargo than the Progress freighters and can be attached to the larger ports on the American side of the s

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          1. Correct.
          2. Just fine. :+D

          The CRS flights are just one more piece to the puzzle. In the post Shuttle world, we'll have Soyuz, Progress, ATV, HTV, Orbital, and SpaceX. The SpaceX vehicle gives us back a large downmass capability which is going away when the Shuttle retires. Upmass we got, downmass not so much.

          • The space station was constipated?

            Constipation station?

      • Several demonstration flights this year? Despite what the SpaceX site says, there was a news story last week [spacenews.com] wherein SpaceX had told NASA that there would be at least an eight-month gap between the first two COTS demo flights. The first, according to the story, is still apparently planned for sometime in July, but an eight-month gap suggests that the C2 flight won't be until at least March 2011. Another story yesterday [spaceflightnow.com] mentions that if things went well today, they would be looking to skip one of the COTS

    • by blair1q ( 305137 )

      Correct. NASA is redundant as a launch-services company. It should turn its attention to regulation and oversight of flight safety and space access, rather than production and operation of vehicles. It's the possessor of a massive amount of intellectual property, and it should manage that for the nation's maximum profit, but otherwise it should look at getting out of the science business as well.

    • Re:Cool (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dogmatixpsych ( 786818 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:42PM (#32466464) Journal
      It is good news. This also points out some of the inconsistencies in politics. Apparently it's okay to privatize space flight but not health care and social security etc...
  • by mrcaseyj ( 902945 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:12PM (#32463080)

    What makes this one of the most important rocket launches in history is that, unlike at other rocket companies, the founder, Elon Musk, is determined to make a reusable rocket. The first stage of this rocket has been fitted with parachutes and covered with cork to protect it from the heat of reentry so that it can be recovered and studied in hopes of making them reusable in the future. The success of this launch solidifies the success of Spacex, and thereby dramaitcally increases the chances of huge benefits to humanity from much more affordable space launch. Also, the other rocket companies are probably very worried about losing all their business to Spacex now.

    • by Monkey_Genius ( 669908 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:22PM (#32463228)
      Only the engine cluster is designed to be 'reusable' -it separates from the first stage fuel tank after booster separation. The cork material is thermal insulation for the cryogenic LOX used in the first stage.
      • by mrcaseyj ( 902945 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:27PM (#32463302)

        The cork is for protection during reentry. From the Spacex updates page:

        It is important to emphasize that the cork is not needed for ascent and there is no risk to flight even if it all came off. This is for thermal protection on reentry to allow for the possibility of recovery and reuse. While stage recovery is not a primary mission objective on this inaugural launch, it is part of our long-term plans, and we will attempt to recover the first stage on this initial Falcon 9 flight.

      • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

        Only the engine cluster is designed to be 'reusable' -it separates from the first stage fuel tank after booster separation.

        Considering that the engines are probably 90% of the cost of the first stage, that makes sense; empty fuel tanks are cheap compared to rocket engines.

    • by flitty ( 981864 )
      What? You do know that ATK's Rockets that are used for shuttle launches are called "Reusable Solid Rocket Motors", right?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by fredmosby ( 545378 )
        But most of the cost of solid rocket motors is the fuel, so making them reusable doesn't save much on launch costs. This would be a reusable liquid fueled rocket, where most of the cost is the rocket motors.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by 0123456 ( 636235 )

          But most of the cost of solid rocket motors is the fuel, so making them reusable doesn't save much on launch costs.

          From what I remember, NASA would probably save money if they stopped recovering the SRBs and just built new ones each time. They're basically just big metal tubes which require a lot of refurbishing before they're ready to fly again, so there's a substantial cost to reusing them.

    • by blair1q ( 305137 )

      I'd be very leery of reusing these things (yes I know the shuttle boosters were reused). Making them sturdy enough to survive multiple uses has got to cost you mass that could go into fuel and payload. Recycling them is a great idea, though.

      • by blair1q ( 305137 )

        wait. nemmind. these are liquid-fueled, not solid.

        yes, liquid-fueled rocket engines are a mass of pumps and tubes that require enormous expense to forge, and come in only one type: honking tough.

        they're all but impossible to break, so yes, there would be a lot of reusable parts on them that would survive many launches, descents, recoveries, and refurbs.

  • Very exciting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PeterBrett ( 780946 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:14PM (#32463118) Homepage

    I'm making a note here -- huge success!

    Hopefully this will reinvigorate the US market for launch vehicles. The satellite-manufacturing spin-off company of the research centre where I work currently launches most if not all of its payloads on decommissioned Russian ICBMs. I hope that in a couple of years, SpaceX's stable of launchers will be a practical and economical alternative!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Speare ( 84249 )

      I'm making a note here -- huge success!

      ... Even though you broke my heart, And killed me. And tore me to pieces. And threw every piece into a fire. As they burned it hurt because I was so happy for you!

  • by nullchar ( 446050 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:16PM (#32463144)

    The Associated Press quoted the pilot of the shuttle Atlantis' last scheduled flight, Dominic Antonelli, as saying he was impressed by the Falcon 9 and would gladly climb aboard if and when the time comes.

    "Yes, absolutely. But I'm not that picky. I think I'd probably climb on just about anything," he said last month.

    I figure we slashdotters would climb on just about anything too...

    • Why am I not shocked and surprised to see that Dominic Antonelli, Lieutenant Commander, USN, is a Naval Aviator?

      Sailors will be sailors...

  • I tried to watch it from here in Orlando, but too many clouds were in the way. Went back inside and watched the feed - very impressive.

    As a kid I dreamed that I might one day visit the moon, or maybe even mars. That's not going to happen, but hopefully somebody will get it all worked out in time for my grand-kids maybe.

  • by molo ( 94384 )

    Does anyone have a link to launch video? Thanks.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:25PM (#32463286)

    I laughed at the feeble attempts of the giant alien wasp to stop the launch [cnn.com] at T -5 or so. Was that you, K'breel, or one of your minions?

  • Impressive recovery (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hcdejong ( 561314 ) <hobbes&xmsnet,nl> on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:33PM (#32463352)

    Earlier today they had a launch abort at T -0:00:00. I happened to watch the webcast on the SpaceX site; the countdown got to zero and my impression was that ignition was underway when the launch was aborted.

    Had they used solid rockets, they'd have been SOL at this late stage.

    Also, finding the cause and then being able to launch inside 1.5 hours is rather quick. ISTR early Shuttle launches where the slightest setback resulted in putting the clock back to T -12h.

    And was the countdown off, or was the webcast not properly synchronized? I saw liftoff taking place at T -0:00:02.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 )

      To be fair, comparing reboot on the shuttle to this is a little unfair, since STS launched for the first time with people on board. Nonetheless, quite impressive.

      As far as the liftoff occurring early -- I see it too. The stream was laggy, so that could be it, but it also seemed like the engines were running rather hot (second stage engine cutoff was early but it nailed its target orbit), so it could be that the sensors detected that it was dangerous to continue to hold it down and let go early.

      • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

        Launching the first time with folks on board shows poor project management. It means you put PR ahead of good engineering and costs. If you have to blow up a couple rockets to cut costs and improve reliability that is the way to go.

        • by bored ( 40072 )

          Or it could mean that you have designed a system that requires a human in the loop to be reusable. Which is pretty lame too..

        • by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 ) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @02:08AM (#32467188)

          STS was designed with a lot of astronaut input, and it was designed so you had to have people on board -- landing gear could not be controlled automatically. Astronauts want nothing more than to keep flying, and to feel like they're pilots and not cargo. Having a spacecraft be designed by the military test-pilot variety of astronaut is often just asking for trouble.

          Amusingly, John Young, the commander for STS-1 has recently said that it was foolish to be on that flight.

    • "And was the countdown off, or was the webcast not properly synchronized? I saw liftoff taking place at T -0:00:02."

      Engine start takes place at T-0. For the first few seconds clamps hold the rocket down to the pad until the engines rev up to full power for liftoff.

    • I saw liftoff taking place at T -0:00:02.

      Yes, I was puzzled by that too. The rocket had clearly left the ground before the on-screen countdown timer reached zero.


    (maybe the NASA cuts won't eviscerate spaceflight after all)
  • Excellent! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ZonkerWilliam ( 953437 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:44PM (#32463482) Journal
    Well done Elon, Here's hoping you can stay afloat a little longer to get us back into space!
  • So does it just orbit for a while and coming crashing back down to earth in a few months / years?
    • Yes; about 2 years in orbit is the estimate.

      This test capsule had no functional heatshield (apparently), so it will burn up high in the atmosphere when it comes down.

    • Yes, although crashing back down just means it'll burn up in the atmosphere. No risk to anyone on the ground.

      Estimates for orbit lifetime are about 1 year from what I've seen. What brings them down is that there is still a tiny bit of atmosphere in low orbits, and this provides enough drag to slow things down slowly but surely.

  • Odd-looking roll (Score:4, Insightful)

    by david.given ( 6740 ) <dg@@@cowlark...com> on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:13PM (#32463848) Homepage Journal

    During the second stage burn, the vehicle appeared to start to rotate, gradually accelerating as the burn continued. Does anyone know if this was part of the planned ascent profile, or something gone wrong?

    It's hard to tell due to the angle of the rocketcam camera, but it didn't appear to be rolling around the vehicle's axis --- which makes it more of a tumble. OTOH, that might have been an optical illusion. I gather that the Dragon demonstrator that was being launched didn't have any propulsion, so this could have been planned to spin-stabilise it, but... it did look odd.

    I don't want to put any dampeners on the launch, though. For a first launch of a prototype rocket, it's still a fantastic achievement to get to orbit first time.

    • I thought it looked funny too. Commentator didn't say anything about it except that it was going really well, so I assume it was planned. I was thinking the same as you - spin-stabilizing it. Still, I'd like to know more.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 )

      Considering how well they hit their orbit, and that they hit it early (engine appeared to cut-off before the official time), it had to be an on-axis roll. Otherwise they would have been wasting their thrust and would have taken longer to achieve the desired orbit.

      I'd guess that it was something expected but not necessarily on purpose.

    • Re:Odd-looking roll (Score:5, Informative)

      by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:38PM (#32464114)

      From Elon Musk's press telecon, as transcribed by flatoday.net:

      "We achieved a "near bulls-eye" on the orbit. There was a little more roll than was expected. It didn't affect the mission. It is something to be investigated and refined. We're very happy with the second stage performance."

      This isn't a spin-stabilized spacecraft, so I'd call what I saw more than just a "little roll"... still, damned impressive that the launcher can make an orbital bullseye while having that much uncontrolled spin.

  • Obviously (Score:3, Funny)

    by SnarfQuest ( 469614 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @06:03PM (#32464422)

    This just proves how far CGI has gotten. They've been able to shut down the California sound stage.

    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      Now now, everyone on Slashdot knows the fake moon landings were filmed in a soundstage on Mars, not in California!

  • I work on the Cape. Here are some pics my friend took. Here [facebook.com]. Here is my crappy iPhone video: here (launch starts around 2:40) [facebook.com].
  • Nice pictures (Score:2, Interesting)

    by solid_liq ( 720160 )
    For such an expensive rocket launch, you'd think they'd at least have a professional photographer with professional lenses. Those pictures are terrible. Look at the flames; there's no detail. They obviously used cheap lenses. I'm an amateur photographer, but I have professional equipment because I'm too picky to have my pictures look as bad as their launch pictures do. I'm glad the launch succeeded, but you'd think they'd want better pictures for examining the launch and for PR.

Information is the inverse of entropy.