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Space Science

SpaceX Tries Out Its New SuperDraco Rocket Engine 118

cylonlover writes "SpaceX, the California company that is developing the reusable Dragon spacecraft, recently test-fired its new SuperDraco engine. Presently, the Dragon capsule is equipped with less-advanced Draco engines, which are designed for maneuvering the spacecraft while in orbit and during reentry. The SuperDraco, however, is intended to allow the astronauts to escape if an emergency occurs during the launch."
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SpaceX Tries Out Its New SuperDraco Rocket Engine

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  • Re:Impressive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by v1 ( 525388 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:35PM (#38906275) Homepage Journal

    Usually they do this by adding a small module for docking. IIRC the space shuttle specifically had to carry along a docking module in the front of the cargo bay if they wanted to dock the shuttle. In that case the module was on the craft not the station. I suppose they could just make a little extension module for it.

    But remember the current setup is an international standard that everyone is designing around. So your idea may just plain be suggested too late. Imagine the amount of testing that goes into such a critical system as a docking apparatus? It's probably one of the most difficult and critical things up there. Not only does a failure risk BOTH vessels and all the crew aboard both, but it has to be able to handle mechanical stress between two very large masses. So I bet they're not too enthusiastic about redesigning it once they've got something they're satisfied with.

  • Re:Impressive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by demachina ( 71715 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @04:05PM (#38906741)

    SpaceX is specifically avoiding patenting any of their innovations because they are well aware the Chinese would just use the patents as a guide to copy and steal their technology. Assuming they can keep their networks secure and they don't have any rogue employees selling their secrets they have a reasonable chance of keeping their less obvious, more technical, innovations from the Chinese at least for a time. SpaceX's fairly compact operations and work force along with avoidance of third party suppliers also reduces somewhat the potential for secrets being stolen.

    Never really understood why clueless western politicians let China in to the WTO when it was so obvious that IP theft was at the core of their plan to bury the west.

  • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @05:35PM (#38908171)
    But cost is what's keeping more ambitious plans on the drawing board. As Heinlein said, once you're in LEO you're halfway to anywhere in the solar system. We've known how to get to LEO for 60 years now, but we don't do it very often because it costs so damn much. If SpaceX can actually get the cost per kg as low as they plan, it's going to have more effect on human spaceflight than anything we've done since Apollo.
  • Re:Impressive (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @05:52PM (#38908411)

    On this first mission they will only "berth" with ISS, rather than docking. (They'll fly up close enough so that the ISS manipulator arm can grapple the Dragon capsule and haul it in.) If that goes well, they'll be allowed to actually dock with ISS on the next flight.

    I had understood that they were planning on carrying some ISS consumables up this flight, on the assumption that they'll succeed.

    If they do succeed, they've delivered their first cargo to ISS. If they fail, nothing really important lost (the cost of the consumables is peanuts next to the cost of the launch).

    They are also, as I understand it, planning on delivering a couple small satellites to orbit on the same launch....

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