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SpaceX Cargo Capsule Reaches International Space Station 89

Despite having some trouble with maneuvering thrusters a few days ago, SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule has successfully reached the International Space Station. from the article: "Astronauts aboard the outpost used the station's robotic arm to pluck the capsule from orbit at 5:31 a.m. EST as the ships sailed 250 miles over northern Ukraine. Flight controllers at NASA's Mission Control in Houston then stepped in to drive the capsule to its berthing port on the station's Harmony connecting node."
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SpaceX Cargo Capsule Reaches International Space Station

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  • Re:Nice work ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @07:08PM (#43063867)

    Actually TFA said "Dragon is the only station freighter that makes return trips", but that doesn't necessarily mean reusability.

    The SpaceX site [spacex.com] claims it is reusable, but I don't know if it actually has been reused to date.
    The last picture on the above linked page shows the condition of the returned vehicle. Its significantly crispy that it might be less expensive
    to simply build a new one. Especially for manned missions coming later.

    There is a comparison of cargo vehicle on Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_space_station_cargo_vehicles [wikipedia.org]
    None mention re-useability explicitly.

  • Re:Nice work ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @07:15PM (#43063909) Homepage

    The Dragon spacecraft/capsule is partially reusable. So far, the Falcon boosters are single-use. Space-X hopes to start recovering the first stage boosters, but that isn't working yet.

    Meanwhile, they have 9 Merlin engines per Falcon first stage, one per second stage, and they're building about 400 per year. So they get manufacturing economies of scale. That's more valuable than reusability with heavy refurbishing, which tends to be a labor-intensive custom job. Refurbishing was the big cost problem with the US Space Shuttle - the amount of labor required for each turnaround was very high.

  • Re:Nice work ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ender06 ( 913978 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @07:17PM (#43063917)
    If it's so insanely expensive and difficult, then why is SpaceX working on just that, a reusable rocket? The pie-in-the-sky has always been a readily reusable rocket. That was the idea behind the shuttle. Didn't work out so well, but that was the idea.
  • Re:Nice work ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 03, 2013 @07:47PM (#43064043)

    The problem is, re-usability is tough when you are dealing with the extreme requirements of space travel. Noone has proven it to be viable in cost yet, the shuttle shown it was possible though at a expensive cost. SpaceX is not reusable *yet* but their rocket is designed to be. Time will only tell if they succeed. Even Musk acknowledges that it may not be fully reusable (the difficulty of getting the 2nd stage rocket back) as Rocketry is HARD. But you gotta applaud them in their efforts and success will help to reduce cost further while failure will keep costs at the same level (which is currently already low). So it only makes sense for them to push for re-usability. Unlike the shuttle, their rocket doesn't have a high initial cost. The shuttle couldn't fallback on one time usage launches because of the extreme cost of building a single one but SpaceX can though re-usability is still a major goal for them. If they can't get re-usability to work with their current design, I'm sure they will definitely choose the cheaper option while working towards the future.

  • Re:Nice work ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mpthompson ( 457482 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @08:14PM (#43064165)

    The Dragon's are designed to be reused. However, if I recall correctly, NASA requested that SpaceX use a brand new capsule for each of the 12 scheduled delivery missions. This likely means that SpaceX is building up a stock of used Dragon capsules that can be repurposed to other missions at a reduced price.

    If someone could confirm this, I would like to know if this is because NASA is stuck in the old ways of doing things with capsules, or if there is a legitimate safety/efficiency reason used Dragons could not be recycled for future supply missions.

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