Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Space Technology

SpaceX Lands Falcon 9 Rocket At Cape Canaveral (planetary.org) 373

Rei writes: At 8:40 PM today, SpaceX successfully launched and relanded the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral, as well as delivering to orbit the last portion of ORBCOMM's communication satellite constellation. This also marks SpaceX's return to flight and the first launch of the "Full Thrust" Falcon 9 v1.1 with densified (extremely chilled) propellants. The company will now shift its efforts toward catching up on its backlog, investigating and refurbishing its landed first stage, and preparing for the maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket this spring. Congratulations to everyone at SpaceX!
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

SpaceX Lands Falcon 9 Rocket At Cape Canaveral

Comments Filter:
  • by Goldenhawk ( 242867 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @10:09PM (#51162841) Homepage

    I actually cheered out loud. I've been a space fan since the shuttle program began. This is great news, and great progress.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bovius ( 1243040 )

      For enthusiasts, the most relevant part of the live feed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

    • by cahuenga ( 3493791 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @10:33PM (#51162947)
      "There is no joy like nerd joy!"
    • My son and I watched the live webcast and cheered ourselves horse when it landed. What a beautiful sight.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 21, 2015 @10:10PM (#51162845)

    How many times can they reuse the rocket?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 21, 2015 @10:23PM (#51162899)

      No one knows, this booster will probably be dissected to see just where the wear/tear occurs. After that, SpaceX will probably have to mod/update future boosters to ensure it can fly multiple times. It may be that the cost to mod/upgrade/refurbish will be more expensive than just rebuilding, but we'll have to see.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @11:49PM (#51163193) Homepage

        No one knows, this booster will probably be dissected to see just where the wear/tear occurs. After that, SpaceX will probably have to mod/update future boosters to ensure it can fly multiple times. It may be that the cost to mod/upgrade/refurbish will be more expensive than just rebuilding, but we'll have to see.

        Actually I think SpaceX got a pretty good idea, they've tested burn/reignite cycles staticly and found the engines can be reused 40 times [aviationweek.com], since that's likely to be the most expensive component that'll probably be their target. And if the reliability stays high there's a good chance that 1 in 40 launches will require a full burn, no reuse booster so there's no waste. They've said the first stage is roughly 70% of the cost and just refueling the rocket costs about 0.3% of a full launch, so the cost savings potential is huge.

        • I'm more curious of the structural integrity of everything else. How can they assure that structure is sound for relaunch? Can they convince the insurance company to not raise the premium to the point of canceling out the cost savings?
          • by dex22 ( 239643 ) <plasticuser.gmail@com> on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @12:39AM (#51163371) Homepage

            Insurance is 10%, paid by the payload owner. Fuel is 0.3%. 70% is the 1st stage.

            This is huge.

          • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @12:43AM (#51163387)

            If nothing else I'm sure they could do "liability only" insurance for early re-launches, which should be relatively cheap since they're launching the things out over the ocean. I'm sure there's plenty of people who would be eager to get their uninsured payloads into orbit at half or less of the launch cost, considering that for many satellites the launch is by far the most expensive part. Even if they had to pay in advance and just take their chances they stand a good chance of coming out ahead.

            As such, I imagine the insurance agencies would be more than happy to step in quickly, and be the ones that rake in the profit. They play the long game after all, with a scrupulous eye to the odds.

            • by TWX ( 665546 )
              I'm thinking of the following business plan... new rockets are used for manned launches. first-generation-used rockets are used for space station restocking and other very critical non-crewed launches, and depending on how the reliability proves, possibly a couple more reuses. After that it's less critical launches that are the lowest cost, and as stated, might not be insured or would have a higher premium.

              Now that they've proven they can do it with LEO, I want them to continue to go bigger. Could yo
      • "It should be in a museum!"
      • They already test fire all rocket engines multiple times before launch. They've fired these kinds of engines through multiple simulated full-length launch duration burns on the ground. They already have a very good idea of whether or not it is feasible to use them, and obviously the mechanical side indicates that it warrants recovery of the hardware. So the "we'll have to see" part is pretty much already been determined.

      • by Gavagai80 ( 1275204 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @06:27PM (#51167823) Homepage

        According to SpaceX this booster will be reused for static fire tests, then retired to a museum.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Wrong question, unless you are thinking of failure rates. With a bit of luck, these should eventually go down to a number small enough to not matter.

      The right question is how much effort and wow much cost in parts they have to invest to re-use it _after_ they have optimized parts for durability.

      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        Knowing structural issues is handy since reuse might be achievable more than once, and knowing when a given rocket should be retired so that it doesn't result in a launch failure on its upteenth use.

        It would not be unreasonable to destructively test this unit, or now that the rocket is essentially paid for, to launch it again with a dummy payload, and even to possibly keep refurbishing and launching to see how long it is good for, depending on the cost, and to prove that they can continue to reliably set
    • by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning AT netzero DOT net> on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @12:21AM (#51163303) Homepage Journal

      How many times can they reuse the rocket?

      I read that the engines are being designed for about 10-20 flights before performing major overhauls of the engines. That means the intention is to literally take the lower stage core, bring it directly to the integration building like it came fresh from the factory, and put it together with another rocket several times in a row with only a cursory inspection of the engines themselves.... at about the level that jet engines get between flights at a typical major airport for an airliner.

      At about 10 flights, they plan on performing a major tear-down and overhaul of the engines, but I don't know how many flights they think can be pushed out of them. I would guess they are hoping at least for about 30-50 flights before the engines are simply retired. It is a far cry from the RS-25 (aka the SSME for the Shuttle program) that had to be rebuilt completely after each flight.

      In the meantime, SpaceX plans on sending the rocket to New Mexico for some extensive testing where the engines are going to be pushed to see if the anticipated engineering limits are going to hold true to actual engine performance where the rocket is going to be flown into space (aka above 100 km) as a part of those tests. Mostly straight up and down testing though and not with the intention to put something into orbit. The launch pad in New Mexico has already been built, but SpaceX didn't want to build another test vehicle when they figured they would simply get one of the recovered cores to perform the testing.

      I guess SpaceX got their test platform today :)

      • >In the meantime, SpaceX plans on sending the rocket to New Mexico...
        >I guess SpaceX got their test platform today :)

        Are you sure about that? I would have suspected that the first one would be dissected and studied in detail to inform ongoing production decisions. It is after all the very first data source they have on the effect of real-world stresses. And now that they've landed one it's good odds they can get another one pretty quickly to test to destruction.

        Then again, I suppose a lot of analys

    • by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @12:50AM (#51163415)

      > How many times can they reuse the rocket?

      More than once.

  • Solid ground landing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HairyNevus ( 992803 ) <hairynevus@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Monday December 21, 2015 @10:13PM (#51162851)
    I wonder how much of this was due to learning from the past misses and updating to version 1.1, and how much was from deciding to land on the ground and not on a barge at sea. Hell, learning from past misses and deciding not to land on a barge might be the same thing.
    • by Mateorabi ( 108522 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @10:18PM (#51162879) Homepage
      I didn't think either of the barge failures were due to the relative motion of the landing site? Wasn't one insufficient hydraulic fluid in an open-loop system, the other a sticking valve not responding quickly enough and making the control loop unstable?
      • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @10:21PM (#51162893)

        There were some comments made about the entire barge being pushed down into the water by the force of the rocket landing.

        That said I don't think the barge was ever the target landing location. I think the barge was necessary to get regulatory approval to come in over the land. Prove you can hit your target first where you won't hurt / destroy anything then you can try it here.

        • by cmeans ( 81143 )
          That sounds reasonable, but didn't Blue Origin make their first landing on land...didn't even bother with a water landing first.
          • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 21, 2015 @11:33PM (#51163151)

            Yeah, but the New Shepherd was launched essentially straight up and came straight back down, all in the middle of the desert. Falcon 9, going orbital and coming back near population, had significantly higher range safety considerations.

            • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @01:31AM (#51163577)

              Just to be clear, the Falcon 9 first stage went nowhere close to going orbital - altitude accounts for only about 5% of the energy difference between orbit and the Earth's surface, the rest is kinetic energy, or speed. And Stage 1 only got up to what, 5800km/h? That's only 1.6km/s. Meanwhile Low Earth Orbit velocity is 7.8km/s. Stage 1 barely reached 20% of the necessary speed, which translates to barely 4% of the necessary kinetic energy. It's job is mostly just to get above the efficiency-robbing atmosphere and give Stage 2 as much of a boost as its fuel budget allows. Most of its energy is wasted fighting aerodynamic drag and providing a support force against gravity. It's Stage 2 that can really pour on the speed, and it did, reaching 7.22m/s at an altitude of 630km (orbital speed falls with increasing altitude)

            • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @03:44AM (#51163811) Journal

              Yeah, but the New Shepherd was launched essentially straight up and came straight back down [...]

              "The Rockets go up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department," says Wernher Von Braun.... [youtube.com]

          • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @12:10AM (#51163257)

            Blue Origin was also a much, MUCH smaller rocket. Each of the nine engines on the Falcon 9 first stage is about 50% more powerful than the single engine propelling New Shepard. New Shepard is actually more akin to SpaceX's Grasshopper test rocket - which made several low-altitude flights and ground landings, without problem. SpaceX just didn't bother sending it up on a suborbital launch because, well, they've already proven that they can do orbital launches, and suborbital is pretty much pointless save for bragging rights. Blue Origin only did it because they were starting to seem like vaporware, and to nab a record on a technicality.

        • by eth1 ( 94901 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @11:25PM (#51163133)

          That said I don't think the barge was ever the target landing location. I think the barge was necessary to get regulatory approval to come in over the land. Prove you can hit your target first where you won't hurt / destroy anything then you can try it here.

          I read some comments by Elon [spacex.com] from earlier today that mentioned the F9 could get the payload/2nd stage to 100km and 5000m/s and land back at the launch site, OR to 100km and 8000m/s and land on a sea platform. So it sounds like the barge/platform might still be in the cards at some point.

          • by TWX ( 665546 )
            I think Elon Musk was hiding its real purpose, to serve as his offshore secret lair with his mistress, a genetic clone of Jill St. John...
          • Unless they get a private island, the barge is going to stay for heavier payloads. The burnback maneuver will cost far less if you don't need to fly back where you came from.

          • Yeah, that was my first thought when I heard they were landing it back at the Cape. You're using a lot of excess energy doing that.
            • You burn a lot of energy to send the rocket at high velocity in one direction,
            • then you have to burn more energy to stop it from moving it in that direction,
            • then you have to burn even more energy to get it moving in the other direction,
            • then you have to burn yet more energy to get it to stop moving again.

            The sea platform landing only has the first two energy burns, so shou

            • I suspect a solid foundation landing platform built in the ocean in the future.

            • A surprising amount of the work can be done by aerodynamics. If you tilt the falling booster at high speed, the air resistance pushes it sideways

        • by Teancum ( 67324 )

          That said I don't think the barge was ever the target landing location.

          I think the barge may still be used in the future. This particular launch of the Orbcomm satellites also happens to be the least massive (meaning the smallest payload) ever flown on a Falcon 9 to date with the highest margins on fuel load with a number of enhancements that actually even improved performance for the rocket compared to previous launches. Due to the large margin and reserve fuel available, it made a terrestrial landing possible.

          If in the future a customer wants to have more mass flown to orb

        • by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @02:41AM (#51163719) Homepage Journal

          The barge is required for recovery after GTO. You can only do a return-to-launchpad for lightweight GEO deliveries. Lightweight GEO deliveries will require the barge, as will heavy GEO deliveries. Return to launchpad is going to be pretty rare, typically only for end-of-life rockets running high risk or lightweight payloads. Just a guess but I'd say 70%+ of recoverable launches will be on a barge.

      • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @10:31PM (#51162939) Journal

        With airplanes, a carrier landing is quite a bit more difficult than landing on land. You can land with a stuck rudder OR with a stuck elevator OR you can land on an aircraft carrier. I wouldn't want to try to land on an aircraft carrier with a stuck rudder.

        I don't know the details of the SpaceX controls, but I suppose it's possible that a glitch like a stuck valve would be easier to work around with a larger landing zone, and one that's not moving. In theory, with the stuck valve they might have had the option of manipulating the controls differently to land 300 yards away and upright.

        • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @11:03PM (#51163059)

          The reason that a carrier landing is harder is because the runway is shorter. With a vertical landing vehicle, it's a non-issue.

          That said, I'm pretty sure that Space X's position is - if something's stuck, you can't land.

          • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2015 @01:59AM (#51163659) Journal

            It appears you've never landed an aircraft. You did mention ome of three major challenges, though.

            > The reason that a carrier landing is harder

            There are at least three reasons that a carrier landing is harder .

            1. The runway has been relocated, so you have no approach landmarks. The first thing is that you actually start lining up for landing many miles from where you intend to touch down. To land in Baltimore, you might learn that you need take a right at Atlantic City, NJ. With a carrier, your turns and altitude changes are never in the same place. This one doesn't apply so much to the rocket.

            2. Wave motion (AGL keeps moving). The magic to a smooth landing is to make it so that you reach EXACTLY zero altitude at precisely the same moment when your forward motion puts you at the beginning of the runway, at the same instant that your lateral adjustment, with wind, puts you in the middle of the runway, while at the same instant you have ceased lateral motion against the wind and brought the yaw exactly parallel to the runway, at the same time roll goes to zero, while maintaining proper flare (pitch). In other words, the craft is moving in six dimensions* and you try to hit just the right mark in all six dimensions at precisely the same time. It's awfully tough to hit zero AGL at exactly the right time when the ground is moving up towards you, then down away from you. Too difficult for me to try in real life. SpaceX has had much trouble with this. They had the rocket perfectly vertical, and they were able to reach 0 AGL, but they couldn't do both at the same time - touch down while the vehicle was vertical. It's much easier to do that of zero AGL remains constant, rather than having the ocean move the barge up and down.

            3. The landing area is much smaller. Factors 1 and 2 can easily cause the landing to occur 40 feet to far to the right, or 400 feet to far down the runway. An ocean-going landing area isn't big enough to allow any margin of error.

            > The reason that a carrier landing is harder is because the runway is shorter. With a vertical landing vehicle, it's a non-issue.

            The best way to really understand this is to try landing a model helicopter smoothly. Not a drone that flies itself when you let go of the stick, but an old-fashioned model heli. If you can't try that, imagine a perfect, frictionless air-hockey table - the puck glides absolutely perfectly across the table. The lightest feather touch will send it to the other side of the table because there is no friction. That's hover - there is no friction keeping you in the same spot over the ground. Your job is to position the puck at an exact spot on the table and keep in there by tossing pebbles at it.

            • by Alioth ( 221270 )

              Six degrees of freedom, not six dimensions. Still only the boring old 3 dimensions.

            • take a right at Atlantic City, NJ

              I'm not putting you in charge of navigation. You're supposed to take a left toin at Albuquerque.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          The engines are two or three times too powerful to hover. It has to aim for velocity and altitude to reach zero at the same time. There is simply no room to fudge factor for sticky valves. That caused it to not be vertical when it reached zero altitude, and all a bigger landing area would have done was keep the broken bits from falling into the water. But yeah, the barge landing would be harder and would have been good to see if it weren't for that struts thing.
          • by TWX ( 665546 )
            Wouldn't that depend on if the guidance system is programmed to allow it to land other than specifically on its intended target pad? If it's allowed to be off a certain amount then the rocket might not have had to come in sideways/angled to try to meet that landing target while having a valve issue in the process of maneuvering...
    • by eth1 ( 94901 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @10:31PM (#51162937)

      I wonder how much of this was due to learning from the past misses and updating to version 1.1, and how much was from deciding to land on the ground and not on a barge at sea. Hell, learning from past misses and deciding not to land on a barge might be the same thing.

      Landing on the barge the first few times was a good idea in spite of the wiggly landing pad in case they were way off target - they wouldn't hit anything but water.

      They showed they could get it within the radius of the barge consistently, so now it makes sense to land it on a solid platform where it's easy to go get it.

  • by trybywrench ( 584843 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @10:15PM (#51162861)
    Hats off to you guys, I was cheering so loud my kids thought something was wrong with me haha.
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @10:17PM (#51162873) Journal

    Everybody knows you wait until the first service pack comes out before launching.

  • Great job SpaceX! My wife and I kept the kids up to watch and we were cheering like we won the Super Bowl! Awesome!!!

  • Congratulations (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GodGell ( 897123 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @10:28PM (#51162925) Homepage

    Wow, what a sight to behold. It was pretty hard to stay quiet while watching that streak of light come down with everybody cheering. Probably the first "USA! USA!" chant I've ever heard that was both entirely well-deserved and not even a little bit sarcastic. An historic occasion indeed. :-)

    Congratulations SpaceX, this is like that 4th launch where everyone suddenly went from doubt to astonishment.

    • You live in such a sad, caustic world if you've never had an occasion to celebrate your own kind.
      • by GodGell ( 897123 )

        You live in such a sad, caustic world if you've never had an occasion to celebrate your own kind.

        What are you talking about?

  • Here's a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • I've watched it land 4-5 times now and every time it's just as fantastic, I get all giddy inside. YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Congratulations to Elon and co. A feat of engineering!

  • Hopefully it will be one of many such successful launches and recoveries in the year(s) to come, It'll be nice to get some video of day landings as well as while I'm sure a night launch/landing is great for those actually witnessing it on the ground you can't really see much on video. I'm also curious as to how closely to center it landed on its pad, would it have been successful if they had gone for a ocean platform landing or did a larger pad make all the difference.

    • I'm also curious as to how closely to center it landed on its pad, would it have been successful if they had gone for a ocean platform landing or did a larger pad make all the difference.

      Check out the landing image [livestream.com]. I believe the appropriate phrase is "nailed it!"

  • And congrats to SpaceX, this is a very important step in the right direction!

  • by siphonophore ( 158996 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @11:46PM (#51163187)

    1. How Native American lands in Florida were used without permission to
    2. Help elites leave the planet to create a poor-free utopia while
    3. Destroying the environment as they leave.

    Won't SOMEONE think of the children!!

Writing software is more fun than working.

Working...