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SpaceX Plans Drone Ship Landing On January 17th ( 115

Rei writes: With the world's first successful low-speed landing of an orbital rocket's first stage complete, SpaceX looks to continue that success by attempting its second landing — this time, on their new drone ship in the Pacific. While SpaceX has announced plans to turn their successfully-landed rocket, reportedly flight-ready, into a a museum piece, the stage they recover next may be SpaceX's first chance to prove the mudslinging of their competitors wrong and show that Russia's worries are well founded. That is, if they can successfully pull it off.
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SpaceX Plans Drone Ship Landing On January 17th

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  • ...has become Musk's secret hideout down in Baja?

    Makes me wonder if his wife is going to play Tiffany Case in the remake of Diamonds are Forever...
    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      They have three now - "Just Read The Instructions", "Of Course I Still Love You", and this one, whose name has not yet been announced (it's built from a barge called the Marmac 303). It's not clear what they're planning with Just Read The Instructions at this point, it may be permanently retired.

      • Two. One of the Marmac 300 series barges went back to the owner and the modifications were moved to another one which has been seen in the port of San Pedro, California.
        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          That would be the Just Read The Instructions then that went back to the owner; it had been taken out of service and replaced with the Of Course I Still Love You.

          • The new one might remain JRTI, or could get another Iain Banks spaceship name like Very Little Gravitas Indeed.
      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        I guess "RTFM" wasn't considered an acceptable name...
  • Mudslinging?! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I got baited into clicking on the mudslinging link in the summary and I saw no such thing. The worst I saw is X's competitors just mentioning the engineering hurdles that X will have to overcome to have a reusable vehicle. How is that mudslinging?

    • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Friday January 08, 2016 @10:58AM (#51261785) Homepage Journal
      Because you will be shocked at what happens next!
    • Re:Mudslinging?! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday January 08, 2016 @11:47AM (#51262143) Homepage

      Submitter here. I actually tried to come up with a better word but couldn't. They're really "slinging" doubt, but "doubtslinging" isn't a word. I thought of "FUD", but that implies a point of view, that the other side is deliberately trying to scare people off with misinformation, and that would be taking things too far.

      Some of you with better English language skills than I can surely come up with better phrasing that's not overly wordy.

    • It's lying with statistics.

      Essentially, it is an argument that the sunk costs of infrastructure and the factory are greater than those of the rocket, and that building a rocket 30% larger that can return undamaged is more expensive than the ULA plan of ejecting the engines alone and having them descend under a hang-glider and then be caught mid-air by a helicopter.

      Because of their analysis, I am thinking of asking for a brand-new airliner every time I take a flight :-)

      The full economics of re-use can't be a

      • I'm not sure that the second stage could be returned, first it's single Merlin vacuum engine only has 934kN thrust which I don't think would be enough to de-orbit without burning up. Now what might be really interesting is just parking them in orbit, 8 or 9 vacuum rated engines with fuel and oxidiser tanks might be handy. The Merlin vacuum is rated for multiple restarts, refuel enough of them and a Lunar, Martian or L5 mission get a leg up without too much added cost.

        • No, the second stage really gets to orbit and is beyond propulsive re-entry. It would need a heat-shield and would have to dissipate a lot of speed through heat and ablation. SpaceX has a really good phenolic heat shield technology which they use on Dragon, it's capable of direct ballistic re-entry from Moon or Mars transfer orbits, and can be re-used after the lower-energy re-entry from LEO. But obviously lifting one and the other necessary components reduces the payload weight to orbit.

          Musk continues to t

          • Others have mentioned bringing the engines to space for reuse in orbit. This is not a practical plan because of the weight of the fuel which would have to be lifted to feed them. The various electric propulsion schemes make more sense once you're in space because there is less mass to be lifted.
        • From what I've heard they've given up on second stage return with the Falcon 9/Heavy program. I would imagine it is technically possible but it probably decreased the effective payload too much to be viable. They've already pushed the height of the rocket to the max withing the current rocket diameter to get the (impressive) return to launch site capability. They do intend for full reusability when (hopefully) they build the Falcon X with its significantly more efficient Raptor engines.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Landing is cool. But how are they going to get the drone ship to fly in the first place? Is it like the Helicarrier in The Avengers?

  • I promise you that the US Navy has a great interest in drone ships. Among other considerations, a drone ship can easily be built in such a way that waves do over its decks such that it has very low visibility. One idea is to tow such a vessel to withing a hundred miles or so of a potential target and then release it. It could easily get closer without being noticed and could deliver missiles or other aerial drones quite quickly to the troubled area. These drone ships are capable of going a distan

A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours. -- Milton Berle