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SpaceX Falcon 9 Blasts Off From California 97

An anonymous reader writes "SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket completed a successful first launch today, taking off from California and putting a Canadian science satellite in orbit. 'The beefed-up Falcon 9 that blasted off on its maiden flight from Southern California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying a small Canadian government communication and research satellite, went through a seemingly picture-perfect countdown and performed on ascent as engineers hoped. The changes to the rocket are aimed at improving capacity and reliability, while simultaneously speeding up manufacturing. Historically, the initial launch of a new rocket has as much as a one-in-two chance of failure. Early this month, Elon Musk, the company's founder, chief executive and chief designer, seemingly tried to play down expectations by sending out a Twitter message emphasizing that the revamped rocket 'has a lot of new technology, so the probability of failure is significant.''"
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SpaceX Falcon 9 Blasts Off From California

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  • by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Sunday September 29, 2013 @04:23PM (#44987321)

    I take it you are not an inventor.

  • by Art Challenor ( 2621733 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @05:18PM (#44987567)

    At the risk of enraging automatic supporters of bloated government programs like the old Space Shuttle, it doesn't surprise me that lean, privately funded space-exploitation outfits do so well.

    I'm impressed by Elon Musk and his organizational and marketing abilities. That said, to give all credit to the success of the program to privatization is a little silly. The company is significantly funded by goverment funds albeit through progress payments on contracts.

    Privatization didn't work that well with the Apollo lander. That was contracted to Grumman (simlar to the SpaceX contracts). Original LEM contract $350 million, final cost $2.2B

    More reasonably, what you're seeing is a maturing of the technology. Submarines, once the unique province of governments, are now widely available from private vendors. Computers likewise.

    Someone has to put in the "bloat" of basic research and it's rare for a private organization to invest in technology that will only yield results in 15+ years, if ever.

  • by notanalien_justgreen ( 2596219 ) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @06:09PM (#44987791)

    Thank you for pointing this out. People astound me with how ignorant they are of NASA contracts. Private industry has been involved in every NASA project, including the bloated ones that break the budget (LEM, JWST, etc.).

    Slashdotters love to drool over SpaceX successes, but just ignore all of Lockheed Martin's bloated contracts. The big step isn't private versus public, it's smart versus dumb.

  • Rocketry is something that is sitting on such a fine line between success and failure that just a tiny mistake that would be ignored in most other human endeavors is likely to destroy the vehicle when trying to put something into orbit. For example, the first Falcon 1 rocket simply disintegrated because a simple three cent nut was made out of the wrong kind of metal and fell off at a most inappropriate moment. The salty air + moisture from sitting just a few hundred feet from the Pacific Ocean at the time didn't help either.

    Another problem is that to improve technology, you need to experiment and try new things. Far more often experiments tend to be failures rather than success as you try these new ideas... hence if you are using new technology, especially for the first time like SpaceX was doing today, the likelihood of failure would actually increase and not decrease. Only when it has been used many times and has been "proven" can you even remotely say that the likelihood of failure would drop.

    And no, in spite of nearly a century of rocketry and nearly a trillion dollars spent by everybody involved, we still are just beginning to understand the technology and what it can do. There still are some amazing ideas that have yet to be tried.

  • by ron_ivi ( 607351 ) <sdotno@cheapcomp ... m ['exd' in gap]> on Monday September 30, 2013 @03:53AM (#44990055)
    For a rocket, economies of scale kick in after you have *a* successfull one.

    Suddenly your costs go from "damn, we need to figure out something new, build it, and test it" to "cool, let's do it again".

    And the latter is far cheaper.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner