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ISS Space

ISS Captures SpaceX Dragon Capsule 217

Today at 9:56AM EDT (13:56 GMT) the robotic arm on the International Space Station successfully captured SpaceX's Dragon capsule. It's the first time a commercial craft has connected with the ISS, and the first time a spacecraft made in the U.S. has gone to the station since the retirement of the shuttle. The approach was delayed temporarily as engineers worked out bad sensor readings due to light reflected off the ISS's Kibo laboratory. "To work around the problem, SpaceX narrowed the field of view for the laser sensor so that it wouldn't pick up light from the offending reflector. Dragon then returned to the 30-meter checkpoint and moved in for the final approach." If all goes well today, the capsule will most likely be opened tomorrow. Video of the operation is being broadcast live on NASA TV.
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ISS Captures SpaceX Dragon Capsule

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  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:14AM (#40109255) Homepage

    Everyone should be proud that their dream has come true.

    Thank you for your hard work in providing a new capability for space flight.


  • Re:TV (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:28AM (#40109367) Homepage

    If you point your FTA dish at the ISS and can track it you can watch the real feed. If your FTA receiver can do all the different broadcast file types.

    I am controlling the FTA dish with my Ham radio tracker (Alt-Az FTW bitches) and use it to view.

    Problem is I only can watch when they pass in a visible window :-( Dang you line of sight and physics!

    Otherwise point your FTA setup at AMC18 at 105.0deg W. Transponders 39 to 41.

  • by patlabor ( 56309 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:42AM (#40109481)

    Here you go:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzZvyrrpZ88 [youtube.com]

  • Re:Tractor Beam (Score:4, Informative)

    by tqk ( 413719 ) <s.keeling@mail.com> on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:43AM (#40109495)

    If it were me, I would just use the tractor beam and pull it into the hangar.

    We haven't invented tractor beams yet and they don't have a hangar. Any other bright ideas, captain? No, we can't even go to warp to get any, and the Vulcans are not watching.

    As for SpaceX & Dragon && ISS, seriously cool. Keep it up. :-) I for one am cheering for you.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:50AM (#40109547)

    No it wasn't run by NASA... NASA was the customer and gave a list of conditions to be met... However it was ran by Space X and not NASA

  • Re:Hooray. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 25, 2012 @12:05PM (#40109665)

    SpaceX started the Dragon capsule development independent of any contract by NASA, and they flew the first two flights of the Falcon 9 without any government money being spent at all (except for some range protection at the space port... like happens at any airport around the world). I don't know what your problem is here, but the money coming from the government is not the only reason this is being done.

    If it is raining money, you take out a bucket and pick some up. Compared to the over $10 billion that has already been spent toward the Constellation/SLS program and projected $10 billion+ more that they are expecting to spend before something even goes up into the air (2017 at the earliest), is a few hundred million dollars spent on a successful flight to the ISS that is happening now instead of later a waste of money? Had the Ares I funding continued like all of the supporters of Constellation claimed it would do, even with completion of deadlines that were claimed (and never met BTW), it still wouldn't be flying right now and also would have chewed through billions of dollars by now for a rocket that would do even less than the Falcon 9 + Dragon.

    The $1.6 billion for the COTS contract is for 12 flights to the ISS. The money is being put in at the front perhaps with milestones completed, but these are chartered flights just like happens when the U.S. military charters commercial airlines to fly military personnel around the world. Contrast that to a cost-plus contract where there is no upper limit that will be spent by the government and any costs (and financial risks) are carried by the government, not the company doing the flight. That is the big difference here.

  • by adamgundy ( 836997 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @12:21PM (#40109813)

    berthing is *harder* than docking. they are doing it this way because it is a cargo transport, and the berthing ports are much larger than the docking ports.

    if/when Dragon starts carrying people, it will dock.

  • by MattskEE ( 925706 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @12:28PM (#40109911)

    Commercial versus non-commercial is about a company building a standard product which the government utilizes through firm fixed price contracts. SpaceX has a published price for a launch, and that's exactly what they charge. In contrast the traditional NASA approach has been to award cost plus contracts to major contractors and an army of subcontractors and NASA is more of a partner than a customer, building a one-off custom design. In this type of system cost overruns often get billed to the customer (NASA), but with firm fixed price the work is expected to be completed for the agreed upon price and SpaceX has stated that any cost overruns on their NASA programs above the fixed price launch costs will be covered by SpaceX, not NASA.

    Contract vehicles notwithstanding, it also appears that even in NASA's opinion SpaceX is simply more efficient at getting things done than the usual NASA & defense contractor method probably due to reduced management and organizational overhead: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/586023main_8-3-11_NAFCOM.pdf [nasa.gov]

    A big part of SpaceX's efficiency is that they are vertically integrated, doing most of the work themselves. With the non-commercial cost-plus model Congress had the ability to split up subcontracts for the shuttle development and manufacturing across the entire nation, with drastic hits to efficiency.

    Although it may not seem like a totally commercial enterprise with NASA as the major source of SpaceX's revenue (for now), but there are important changes taking place in how NASA is acquiring launch capacity which seem like they have the capability to reduce costs over the past model

  • by fiannaFailMan ( 702447 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @01:06PM (#40110263) Journal

    There is a reason every time something cool is done it's done in America first

    First train? English.
    First commercial train service? Manchester to Liverpool.
    First car? German.
    First TV? Invented by a Scotsman.
    First TV broadcast service? English.
    First freeway/motorway/autobahn? German.
    First satellite? Russian.
    First man in space? Russian.
    First man to orbit the Earth? Russian.
    First woman in space? Russian.
    First moon rover? Russian.
    First space walk? Russian.
    First space station? Russian. (The ISS has a Salyut-derived core)
    First probe to land on another planet? Russian.
    Countless records broken for long duration stays in orbit? Russian.
    Inventor of the jet engine? English.
    Home of first electronic computer? Manchester, England.
    First supersonic airliner? Anglo-French.
    Inventor of the World Wide Web? An Englishman working in Switzerland.

  • Re:Tractor Beam (Score:4, Informative)

    by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @01:50PM (#40110809) Homepage

    The primary problem with the shuttle wasn't that it was reusable.

    1) The shuttle was built to handle both lots of cargo and humans. That meant that it had to have the reliablity of a man-rated craft with the lifting capacity of a heavy lifter.

    2) Not enough funding for a fullly reusable shuttle. Early plans involved a fully reusable shuttle. The shuttle as designed instead was a hybrid which in many respects combined the worst of both reuable and disposable spacecraft.

    2) Two much flexibility in orbital parameters was insisted on. This is frequently not appreciated as a serious problem. The US military insisted that the shuttle be able to take off from a variety of other locations including Vandenberg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vandenberg_AFB_Space_Launch_Complex_6 [wikipedia.org]. They wanted it to be able to launch into a near polar orbit, send out a satellite and land all in a single orbit of the Earth. This was so that if things ever got hot with the USSR we could launch additional spy satellites faster than the Soviets could shoot them down, or could launch single use spy satellites for other purposes . This article http://www.space.com/1438-chapter-opens-space-shuttle-born-compromise.html [space.com] discusses this in detail. There are also other requirements that the military had but it seems that the details remain classified, and it is possible that the public orbital parameters as required by the military were covers for other orbits. But the requirement that the shuttle be able to do absolutely every low Earth orbit that every civilian or military source could possibly want severely constricted the shuttle design in many ways that were never used or infrequently used.

    There's another thing to remember though: the shuttle was the world's first reusable craft whereas there have been a lot of single-use craft. The first model of something will often have more problems. We shouldn't take the problems with the shuttle and make a blanket assumption that reusable craft can't be done efficiently.

  • Re:Tractor Beam (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 25, 2012 @01:55PM (#40110893)

    The funny thing is the Dragon is MORE reusable than the shuttle was. The shuttle's big external tank was not reused.

    This is just from a little searching online, but it appear that on the dragon all but the trunk behind the top capsule are reused. The two lower stages and the top capsule are intended to eventually do fancy vertical landings on actual landing pads. No fleet of recovery ships pulling crap out of the ocean needed. That's pretty awesome.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.