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Video On Hand for the SpaceX Launch That Almost Was (Video) 100

This morning's nixed launch of SpaceX's Dragon capsule to the ISS with the company's Falcon booster was an exciting thing to be on hand for, despite the (literally) last-second halt. Shuttle launches used to cause miles of traffic backups extending well outside the gates of NASA's Cape Canaveral launch facilities; for all the buzz around the first private launch to the ISS, today's launch attempt was much more sparsely attended. In a small set of bleachers set up near the massive countdown clock, there were a few dozen enthusiasts and reporters aiming their cameras and binoculars at the launch site on the horizon. They counted down in time with the clock, and — just like NASA's own announcer — reached all the way to "liftoff." There was a brief flash as the engines ignited, but it died as fast as it appeared. It took only a few seconds for the crowd to realize that it was all over for today's shot. While the company's representatives remain upbeat, pointing out that the software worked as intended to stop a launch before anomalies turn into catastrophes, most of those on hand to see what they'd hoped to be a historic launch were a bit glum as they walked back to the parking lot and the press area — especially the ones who can't stay until the next try. I'm sticking around the area until the next scheduled launch window; hopefully next time the fates (and engines) will align.
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On Hand for the SpaceX Launch That Almost Was (Video)

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  • Re:Cue The Applause (Score:5, Informative)

    by khallow ( 566160 ) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @08:55PM (#40054517)

    Now if only we could secure sufficient funding for NASA and space exploration in general, because no matter whether we had a shutdown or a catastrophe every failed launch is an expensive exercise.

    We already have sufficient funding. NASA could pay for hundreds of Falcon 9 launches per year right now, if that were the goal.

  • Faulty valve located (Score:5, Informative)

    by mikesimaska ( 660104 ) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @10:04PM (#40054771)
    From SpaceX on twitter:

    Inspections found a faulty check valve on engine #5. We are replacing tonight. Next attempt Tuesday, 5/22 at 3:44 AM ET.

    IMO this whole ordeal has been nothing but a positive for SpaceX.

    1. Problem occurs.
    2. Successfully respond.
    3. PROFIT!!
  • by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @10:55PM (#40054951) Homepage

    The implementation may be new (I don't know), but the idea isn't. Hold-down clamps have been around for a while, probably since at least the V-2 (A-4). The idea is to hold the thing down long enough for the engine(s) to build up enough thrust to lift properly, rather than just knock the rocket over.

    The Shuttle had explosive bolts holding the SRBs down so the thing wouldn't blow over, either in a strong wind or when the SSME's lit. I'm not sure that they were strong enough to hold it down once the solids ignited, though (not that additional telemetry is going to do you any good at that point.)

  • Transcript (Score:5, Informative)

    by QuasiSteve ( 2042606 ) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @11:20PM (#40055041)

    *tap tap* is this thing on?


    Title: Scheduled SpaceX Launch Scrubbed at the Last Minute
    Description: The kids whose experiment was scheduled to go into space were disappointed but not crushed by the delay

    00:00) TITLE
    A SlashdotTV title animation appears.

    00:05) TITLE
    The view fades to that of Timothy Lord on the grounds at Cape Canaveral.

    00:05) Timothy
    This is not what anyone saw today on Cape Canaveral.

    00:08) TITLE
    An animation sequence of what was to be the SpaceX Falcon+Dragon launch is shown with "- animated simulation - do not try at home" repeatedly scrolling past in the bottom. Hereafter referred to as "SpaceX animated simulation".

    00:19) Timothy
    Instead it was pretty darn disappointing when today's launch of SpaceX's Dragon capsule was nixed with just seconds on the clock.

    00:25) Timothy
    An early announcement said the abort was based on a high pressure reading in engine number 5.

    00:29) TITLE
    SpaceX animated simulation is shown.

    00:33) Timothy
    Among those disappointed by the launch were some students who were here all the way from Indiana to watch the launch of an experiment they've been working on since last October.

    00:40) TITLE
    A shot of three kids at the Cape Canaveral facilities appears.

    00:40) J.P.
    I am J.P. [last name]

    00:42) Cameron
    And I'm Cameron [last name]

    00:44) Jack
    And I'm Jack [last name]

    00:45) J.P.
    We are from Highland, Indiana.
    We were here to see the Falcon 9 take off, with our experiment, for the International Space Station.

    00:56) J.P.
    Our experiment is: how does microgravity affect the nutritional value of a 92M72 genetically modified soy bean sprout.

    01:08) J.P.
    Astronauts were gonna perform the experiment, and then it was gonna be sent back down to Earth, and we were gonna also perform the experiment on Earth, and compare the results.

    01:21) Jack
    It's an after-school extracurricular club that we have.

    01:25) Jack
    The shirts we got from Pioneer [Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc -- ed.] who gave us a grant to come down here.
    They gave us the seeds, and so they gave us a grant to get some press for the shirts and stuff, and they gave us a grant to come down here - they paid for everything, so..

    01:39) Jack
    I'm not too disappointed because.. it's a space program and things happen, and we have Tuesday to look forward to - whether on TV or we get to come here - and we'll see what happens.

    01:50) TITLE
    SpaceX animated simulation is shown.

    01:55) TITLE
    The view fades back to Timothy on the grounds at Cape Canaveral.

    01:56) Timothy
    The next launch window is Tuesday, about 72 hours from now.
    Hopefully the fourth time's the charm, and we'll actually see both Falcon and Dragon take off.

    02:03) TITLE
    SpaceX animated simulation is shown.

    02:18) TITLE
    A SlashdotTV credits animation sequence is shown. The credits depicted are:
    Camera and narration: Timothy Lord
    Edited by Robin 'Roblimo' Miller
    Opening title by Danielle Attinella
    Animated footage supplied by SpaceX


    And why does the antenna no longer break out of the header bar?

  • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @11:53PM (#40055163)

    I have lots of experience with the Shuttle hold down studs. The way they work is there are 4 conical hold down posts at the base of each SRB that are attached to the pad. A 3 ft long 4 inch diameter inconnel bolt goes through the SRB skirt and hold down post. A nut goes on the top and bottom. The preload in the bolt is over a million pounds. You would need a big torque wrench to get that but instead we use a hydraulic puller that stretched the stud and then you slightly tighten the nut and when you let go of the hydraulics the stud is nice and tight.

    The stud doesn't explode. The top nut has two explosive charges in it. If either one goes the nut is split and the stud shoots out since its under such a high preload. There is a blast container that is supposed to prevent FOD. Each charge is handled by a seperate circuit. We did have a few cases where the studs didn't come out. It turns out there was a unknown failure mode. If the two charges went off with just the right delay you had a situation where the nut halves would bounce off their blast container and come back and hit the stud and the threads could catch just right slowing the stud down.

    It was cool. We did about 30 tests shooting high speed footage with different skew delays in firing the charges.

    But to answer your question. The studs are stronger than the aluminum aft skirt which would probrably be torn if more than one bolt failed to release. This would have been catastrophic.

  • by Skylax ( 1129403 ) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @04:45AM (#40055807)

    The rocket launch animation in the video does not show the Falcon 9 rocket+Dragon but the not yet fully developed Falcon 9 Heavy (SpaceX []) which according to the SpaceX launch manifest will have a first test launch later this year (but I guess late 2013 seems more likely judging from SpaceX's previous track record of delays).


Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!