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Space The Military United States

SpaceX Files Suit Against US Air Force 176

Today Elon Musk announced that SpaceX has decided to challenge the U.S. Air Force's restrictions on rocket launches related to national security. Such launches are done with a Russian rocket right now, and that contract is not up for competition with other rocket makers, like SpaceX. Musk says the company has exhausted other options to become part of the bidding process. "We're just protesting and saying these launches should be competed. And if we compete and lose, that's fine, but why were they not even competed?" He also said it's the "wrong time to send hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kremlin," referencing events in the Ukraine.

At the same press conference, Musk announced that SpaceX's recent attempt to soft-land a rocket booster stage was successful. It landed and was in "healthy condition" immediately afterward. Unfortunately, they weren't able to recover it because it landed in the middle of a rough storm, which eventually destroyed the stage. The storm was rough enough that the Coast Guard wouldn't even send a boat out to help recover it. Musk said, "We'll get much bigger boats next time." SpaceX also plans on landing the stage on shore at some point, which makes recovery easier. Musk made this prediction: "I expect we will be able to land a stage back at Cape Canaveral by the end of the year."
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SpaceX Files Suit Against US Air Force

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  • Russian Engine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @03:18PM (#46843601) Homepage

    "Such launches are done with a Russian rocket right now"

    more correctly, the launches are done with an American rocket, using a Russian engine (RD-180).

    see: http://www.forbes.com/sites/lo... [forbes.com]
    http://www.parabolicarc.com/20... [parabolicarc.com]

    (the article [techcrunch.com] has it right; the summary is inaccurate).

  • Beta Sucks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 25, 2014 @03:36PM (#46843765)

    "I'm not sure what world he lives in, but unless he's reusing his reusable rocket, he failed."

    Uh, you do, you know, realize that there was never, you know, any plan to, you know, reuse the first stage even if it was recovered? And that, you know, the actual, like, goal of launching the rocket was not to recover the first stage, but, you know, to launch the payload into space to, like the space station?

    Back in the real world, rather than whatever wacky alternate reality you live in, the goal of the recovery test was to perform a fake 'soft landing' over the sea to prove that such a thing was possible, and ensure that, if they screwed up, no-one would get hurt. That goal was successful. They only wanted to recover the stage so they could take it apart and see what had happened to the hardware in the process.

  • by raydobbs ( 99133 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @03:39PM (#46843781) Homepage Journal

    The problem with this plan is that Russia and its leader don't want goodwill from the United States. They want a monster that can be slain with saber-rattling like in the old Cold War days - even if they have to manufacture one out of an ally. Putin isn't interested in who dies in the process in his quest to cement his legacy as the greatest leader of the NEW Soviet Union that ever was - we (not just the United States, but the International community at large) can't be so foolish as to just ignore it. The only way he can get what he wants to have us in a position of weakness - and giving his nation the only means to get to and return from the International Space Station is about the best leverage that we can give him.

    Its not a matter of *if* the relationship between the United States and Russia goes bad, its *when* it goes bad if Putin remains in power.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:06PM (#46843983)

    We need goodwill now.

    "If I be real nice to him maybe he won't hit me again! It's all my fault!"

    Is such thinking any less heartbreaking on an international scale? No.

  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:08PM (#46844001)

    Funny how successful it is ... but it couldn't be recovered.

    This was a TEST, in case it's not terribly clear.

    Specifically, it was a test of the rocket's ability to fly back from a launch, and hover over the ocean (the previous attempt to do this, without the landing legs, spun out of control).

    It was hoped that the rocket could be recovered, so they could evaluate the condition of the rocket after reentry.

    The design test - reentry plus hover over the ocean - worked just fine. Hence the test was successful.

    The bonus part - recover the first stage - failed because of stormy seas. They couldn't reach the rocket before it sank.

    Note that the design intention for the F9R is that it do the rocket thing, then brake to a landing and land on a pad back at the launch complex.

    It is likely that they'll repeat this test at least once more (mostly because they're scheduled to do another launch next month, and aren't going to change the launch profile at this late date), then try to land the thing on the ground on later launches.

    Note also that after they've worked out the problems with landing the first stage, they plan to start working on recovering the second stage (which will be REALLY interesting, since it'll essentially have the flight profile of a FOBS (Fractional Orbit Bombardment System), and might make several Space Defense Commands wet themselves.)

  • by Loki_1929 ( 550940 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:28PM (#46844137) Journal

    Are you saying that if they put out contracts for competition, nobody would build anything? Seems absurd on its face. Sure, there's no reason not to build the thing if you have a guaranteed payday, but there's plenty of reason to do it without the guarantee. I'd even be okay with the government footing a small portion of the bill for a handful of serious designs in competition with one another just to get more companies interested. But to simply hand the whole thing over to someone with a fat check and an unlimited credit card for the overages? Ridiculous.

  • by Loki_1929 ( 550940 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:43PM (#46844235) Journal

    We need goodwill now. Money is of no concern when you're thinking of the results of what could happen if Russia and USA blood goes bad.

    So we're supposed to just throw all our money down the shitter to keep Russia from getting sad/angry? What are they going to do? Their economy is already collapsing and they've proven once before that you can't pose a real, sustainable military threat to much of anyone if you don't have the economy to keep it going. If we isolate Russia, their economy will take a dive and Putin will end up on the wrong side of pissed off Russians. They'll have a hard winter, then they'll come asking for money telling everyone they've changed their ways.

    We're pretty dumb, so we'll give them some money and the cycle will restart. We don't need to buy their stupid rocket engine in no-bid contracts. Let the best solution win.

  • by Loki_1929 ( 550940 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:47PM (#46844263) Journal

    Elon Musk is a billionaire. Tesla builds electric tanks that are somehow street legal. SpaceX builds rockets and launches things into outer space. You sit around at home scratching your ass and tossing out criticism.

    Musk 3
    You 0

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @05:44PM (#46844691) Journal
    I wish that I had NOT commented already, so that I could have modded you down. DARPA dropped it because they did not want it. NASA picked it up, and then offered up a contest. The X-33 won, while MD, and then Boeing, decided to NOT fund it. X-33 was mostly funded by L-Mart, which is why they won the NASA funding.

    The ones that really dropped DC-X was MD/Boeing since they never would fund it.

    Now, OTOH, look at SpaceX. They are acting like our companies from the 40's-70's. They are out about long-term massive profits. Boeing, MD, L-Mart, etc are ran by GOP MBAers and they are all about short-term, lets-feed-on-gov-teat-for-everything, kind of companies.
  • by mbkennel ( 97636 ) on Friday April 25, 2014 @05:55PM (#46844755)


    There are certain companies whose core competency is engineering around the government procurement process.

    Then there's SpaceX, whose core competency is rocket engineering.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard