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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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  • Hooray. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 25, 2012 @10:55AM (#40109093)

    That's it. Just hooray.

  • Re:Hooray. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by egamma ( 572162 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ammage]> on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:13AM (#40109239)

    I will be mourning the death of publicly-funded space travel. Now, we hand it over to the pirates, slave-traders and privateers of our own era.

    Citation please. Who has SpaceX robbed or committed violence against? Who has SpaceX enslaved? Which government has authorized SpaceX to attack foreign shipping during wartime?

  • by jthill ( 303417 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:13AM (#40109241)
    Fucking awesome.
  • Re:Hooray. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:25AM (#40109335)

    the u.s. space program has always been in the hands of pirates, slave-traders, and privateers: their names are lockheed martin, boeing, northrop grumman etc. at least now spacex will operate a different model that doesn't include open-ended contracts inevitably milked for all their worth with convenient "cost overruns".

  • by Pumpkin Tuna ( 1033058 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:32AM (#40109391)

    Profit has always been a motive. Unfortunately, the big aerospace contractors made a profit whether or not they actually did what they were contracted to do. Now companies like SpaceX will profit for actually getting things done, which, as you say, should move things along in the right direction.

  • by shadowofwind ( 1209890 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:42AM (#40109477)

    If the money that's paying for it is coming from taxes, its not commercial.

    NASA hardware has always been built primarily by private companies like Lockheed Martin.

    In Washington jargon, when you give money to contractors instead of federal employees, its "commercial" or "free enterprise", so they can pretend to be in favor of freedom and against government. But one of the main reasons for it is its a way of evading controls on executive salaries. There's a revolving door where government program managers funnel lucrative contracts to private companies with ridiculously high overhead rates, then afterwards go to work at those companies. Its common to already have a hiring agreement with the company before awarding the contract.

    I'm not suggesting what the situation is with SpaceX, I'm just commenting on "commercial" space development in general. Its commercial if its commercial activity, such as space tourism or putting up satellites that private companies pay for. Otherwise its double-speak.

    In any case, congrats on the engineering achievement, I don't mean to detract from that.

  • Re:Hooray. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ToadProphet ( 1148333 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:44AM (#40109499)

    The only way we will get in space big time is if there is profit to be made by being up there

    Maybe we need to change this? It's a rather sad statement that profit trumps all and is the only valid motivation for expanding our horizons.

  • Re:Hooray. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mycroft16 ( 848585 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:48AM (#40109537)
    Why? Publicly funded space travel isn't over. NASA has stated, just a few weeks ago, that their goal is Mars. The SLS and Orion are still progressing nicely towards their big tests. No mourning needed.
  • by itsdapead ( 734413 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @11:56AM (#40109587)

    The strive for profit will necessarily lead to advancements in space tech, as they have in all other industries where long-term profitability is the primary incentive (Silicon Valley being the prime modern example).

    SpaceX, Virgin Galactic et. al. aren't going into space because they are private sector.

    SpaceX, Virgin Galactic et. al. are going into space because they are run by individuals who have made shedloads of money in other ventures and, instead of being good capitalists and starting work on their next shedload, have decided instead to try and realise their childhood ambition of being an astronaut, if only vicariously (has Elon Musk been sighted since the launch? :-) )

    Kudos to them of course - and they may even end up making money - but without that sort of motivation the private sector would, at most, look at ways of making a risk-free buck by launching comms satellites rather than trying to put people into space.

    As others have pointed out, the real test will - unfortunately - come the first time someone gets killed. I'm not sure the private sector could afford a Challenger inquiry.

  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Friday May 25, 2012 @12:14PM (#40109755) Homepage Journal

    I'm not suggesting what the situation is with SpaceX

    What does your subject line mean then?

    If NASA buys toilet paper from a commercial vendor, that doesn't turn the toilet paper manufacturer into a government boondoggle.

    SpaceX is commercial in the sense that they offer a product for a price. When you have government contractors who charge "some base amount plus whatever else cost overruns demand the price to increase to" then, yeah, it's a quasi-government entity. SpaceX will eat cost overruns, if they happen, but that's bad for profitability so they try to ensure it doesn't (with good engineering and business acumen). That isn't to say that fleecing government agencies doesn't show good business acumen, but it's also not a private sector endeavour.

  • Re:Hooray. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Friday May 25, 2012 @12:24PM (#40109851) Homepage Journal

    If you think that "robbing or committing violence" didn't come into it, try not paying your taxes and see what happens.

    It's one thing to evade taxation which is used to pay for services that the people have voted for. It is quite another to evade taxation which is used to pay money to private corporations - whether that's Boeing or SpaceX.

    So, do you think SpaceX isn't better than Boeing or even NASA developing things themselves? SpaceX does things about 10x cheaper than the others, so isn't 10% violence better than 100% violence? How about if SpaceX becomes like Greyhound and NASA goes away completely?

    it doesn't mean it won't turn into another Boeing.

    They have completely different goals. SpaceX intends to replace NASA. Boeing indend(ed) to suck at the NASA teet in perpetuity.

  • Re:Mixed blessings (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 25, 2012 @12:42PM (#40110025)
    Disclaimer I work in aerospace also.

    Private sector space exploration is a mixed blessing without regulatory oversight

    People that think like you are exactly the reason government contracts are so expensive. The "oversight" you speech of is having more managers and people with MBAs. The "oversight" that don't really know much of anything and add 20-50% cost overhead to any project. The "oversight" adds no real value what so ever because they are NOT QUALIFIED to provide oversight. Remember the "oversight" was exactly the reason for the Columbia disaster , the manager types/overhead overruled the engineers.

    The FAA does wonders for ensuring consistent manufacturing and engineering policies, as do the various ISO industrial process certification programs for industrial centers.

    ISO certifications ,remember the whole Office Open XML ISO debacle.

    SpaceX removed the overhead , made hard requirements that don't change and the cost is down. Big example of removing overhead the CEO is also the Chief Designer , unlike other aerospace companies where they have advance degrees in management.
    Most of the large aerospace companies were originally started by engineer types but the suits took over and the companies just got more expensive along with less innovation.

  • Re:Hooray. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rufty_tufty ( 888596 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @12:43PM (#40110031) Homepage

    It's the difference between:
    NASA: We want a shuttle
    Boeing/etc: Right give us $5billion and we'll go build one for you.,
    NASA: Here's $5 Billion
    BOeing./etc: Thanks but we had need some more
    NASA: okay
    Boeing/etc: Nope still more and if you don't give it to uss you'll have wasted all the moey you threw at us
    NASA: okay, well while you're doing that we need to change the requirements
    Boeing/etc: Oh, few more billion please, and did i mention it doesn't work very well so we'll want a few more billion.

    SpaceX: we want to develop manned flight, look here's us launching a satellite. Anyone interested?
    NASA: cool, hey we want that, need some funding?
    SpaceX: Sure if you're offering it to us.
    NASA okay, well if you can deliver a Falcon 9 and meet the design targets for your Dragon we'll give you $500 Million to build them
    SpaceX: Done, can we have our money now?
    NASA: Cool you've had a successful launch. We'll pay you for the next launch now then

    If you don't see the difference between these two models then I'm somewhat worried. Not that I blame NASA or Boeing or anyone else, it's just what happens when this much money is in play. the only way to fix that is to get the cost down.
    If anything this distraction of manned flight has taken them away from their initial goal of developing cheap satellite launch capability. Not that I think they mind but still it shows that they had a business plan without NASa that still exists. See Biglow as well for uses of this manned capability they plan to use.

  • Re:Mixed blessings (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @01:01PM (#40110217)

    Agreed, but NASA is well justified in their paranoia, until a less partial regulatory body steps in.

    If there is one thing abundantly clear about this century's history, you simply can't trust industry to be self-regulating.

  • Re:Hooray. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @03:27PM (#40112255) Journal

    I will mourn it the way I mourn the death of DARPANET several trillion private dollars of investment later.

  • Re:Hooray. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jamstar7 ( 694492 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @03:48PM (#40112517)

    Why? Publicly funded space travel isn't over. NASA has stated, just a few weeks ago, that their goal is Mars. The SLS and Orion are still progressing nicely towards their big tests. No mourning needed.

    Although I think the SLS would be an awesome rocket, I ain't holding my breath... we'll be lucky to see that thing fly by 2025, if ever. In the meantime, Falcon Heavy and others will already have captured the heavy lift market. So really, why bother?

    NASA's goal is Mars. Too bad the politicians will never let them get there with a manned mission. They keep on cutting the budget unless the projects involved produce pork in key Congressional districts. They killed Ares and Constellation. They'll kill SLS once the Falcon Heavy/Dragon proves itself.

    It can't be stressed enough that Boeing, Lockheed, aren't really aerospace companies anymore, they're funding sinks. The only reason they survive is government cost-plus contracts with built-in overruns to boost profits. They forgot how to deliver a space vehicle as a product if they ever knew how to begin with. SpaceX isn't selling NASA the vehicles, they're selling the lift capacity. How they generate said capacity isn't under NASA scrutiny other than safety concerns. Yes, they're using NASA launch facilities for the time being to send their rockets up, but expect that to change when the money starts coming in. And it will, now that they've demonstrated their capabilities. A lot of businesses who were holding back to wait and see will now start trickling forward to put their cash on the barrelhead for lift capacity. The glory days are just ahead.

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