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Space The Military Science

SpaceX Awarded First Military Contract 140

An anonymous reader writes "Ars reports that commercial space company SpaceX has gotten its first launch contracts from a military organization. The United States Air Force has hired SpaceX to launch the NASA DSCOVR satellite aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, and several other satellites aboard a Falcon Heavy. (The Heavy isn't finished yet, and SpaceX currently has no place to launch it, but the contract gives them three years to do so.) 'According to the mission requirements, the Falcon Heavy must carry its payload up to an orbit of 720 km and deploy a COSMIC-2 weather- and atmospheric-monitoring satellite, up to six auxiliary payloads (probably microsats), and up to eight P-POD CubeSat deployers. The rocket should then restart and continue all the way up to a 6,000 x 12,000 km orbit and deploy the ballast, more science experiments and more microsats.'"
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SpaceX Awarded First Military Contract

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  • Re:NASA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jythie ( 914043 ) on Friday December 07, 2012 @03:29PM (#42218705)
    Yeah, it is somewhat easier to do things economic when a government institution has already done decades of legwork for you.

    Though yeah, not being sattled down with requirements for who to buy what from does SpaceX, but really it just puts them in the same spot as all the other commercial launch outfits, so they will likely become just as much a part of the problem as all the others.. their newness and geek attention is unlikely to change this.
  • by Strider- ( 39683 ) on Friday December 07, 2012 @05:42PM (#42220191)

    Given how expensive it is to lift anything to space, lifting ballast to space is a sin. Lift another satellite in its place.

    Ballast is always a necessity in rocketry. In order for the thing to fly in a straight line, the thrust vector must be aligned with the vehicle's centre of mass. The upshot of this is that if your spacecraft (Rocket and payload) doesn't have the center of mass precisely down the centerline, you need to add ballast weights in order to keep the thing from coming apart. If you look closely of an image of the shuttle at launch, the exhaust from the main engines (not the solids) is on an angle compared to the rest of the vehicle. As the fuel is burned off and the SRBs jettisoned, the center of mass changes, and the engines will gimbal to keep things on course.

    On traditional rockets, the same thing is accomplished by adding weights so the whole thing is balanced. Back in the day, the way that most amateur radio satellites got launched was as ballast on a launch with some larger payload. That's getting tougher and tougher in the modern era due to competition for that space, and also, to put it bluntly, it's a lot easier to certify a lump of concrete for flight than it is to certify a satellite built by a bunch of guys you don't necessarily trust, sometimes int heir basement.

    Launching a big lump of nothing also makes sense, given that this is really just an all-up test of the launch platform. Are you going to entrust a $500,000,000 payload to an unproven launch vehicle? If they did and it went boom (which tends to happen in rocketry a lot), we'd here no end of their choice of an untested vehicle. If the test passes, then there is more confidence in the subsequent launches being safe enough.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead