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Second stage propulsion performing as expected.
May 22, 2012 12:51 AM   Subscribe

SpaceX's Falcon9 rocket carrying Dragon capsule to dock with the ISS, has launched successfully.

Previous launch attempt on Saturday.

See spacex tag for previous posts.
posted by egor83 (67 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Falcon9 has reached the orbit and deployed solar arrays successfully.
posted by egor83 at 12:57 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well done, SpaceX!
posted by BeeDo at 12:58 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Watching the folks in mission control high five and hug and fist-pump is really really great. So much pride, and rightfully so.

Space. is. hard.
posted by disillusioned at 12:58 AM on May 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dang, we never got hugs at NASA.
posted by BeeDo at 1:00 AM on May 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


BeeDo. You should have. The expansion of human capacity should always, at least, get a hug.
posted by ZaneJ. at 1:01 AM on May 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


They get to wear t-shirts too!
posted by BeeDo at 1:07 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great-looking launch, hope the luck holds up.

Science Friday interviewed Elon Musk last Friday, interesting to hear his optimistic take on what the next decades will bring.
posted by Twang at 1:07 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Very pretty. I love how the second-stage engine bell goes from zero to white hot in just a few seconds. Rocket scientist: know your materials!

I'm not sure how I feel about the chief engineer's moustache, though. It somehow doesn't seem entirely...nominal, you know?
posted by The Tensor at 1:08 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, dammit! I was going to watch this and I completely forgot! I need to start setting alarms for things, or something.
posted by dirigibleman at 1:11 AM on May 22, 2012


I used to work around the corner from the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. We were forced to wear a nice shirt and tie every day (to do cubicle work) and the SpaceX guys would waltz into the Quiznos with jeans and Star Wars t-shirts. If there's one reason I'd want to work at that job again it would be to use the "But they wear sandals to work and STILL get space ships built!" argument for casual Fridays.

Anyway, this is great!
posted by Defenestrator at 1:17 AM on May 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


dirigibleman, webcast record is still available on their webpage, just rewind it a bit.

Launch is around 2:19:30.
posted by egor83 at 1:20 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a hell of a thing.

Does anyone know when the docking attempt is scheduled?
posted by loquacious at 1:42 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


From this article:

Thursday May 24th - approaching station and maneuvering, Friday May 25th - docking, May 31st - return trip to Earth.
posted by egor83 at 1:46 AM on May 22, 2012


dirigibleman, webcast record is still available on their webpage, just rewind it a bit.

Hey, it worked! Thanks.
posted by dirigibleman at 1:46 AM on May 22, 2012


Logged in to a dozen hosts after my shift ended compiling a list of available patches... I watched this launch in another browser window... Opera on Linux is fairly nice. I knew this would be posted shortly after I wrapped up my own operations and walked the half mile to my car in the mornings darkness.

The launch was great.

I also get to wear jeans and t-shirts to work.

Though... I'm only a Konsole jockey.... it would be damn nice to build rockets.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 1:47 AM on May 22, 2012


Every time I watch a countdown to a rocket launch, I'm struck anew by how hard it actually is. A million complex things, all working as they're supposed to, when they're supposed to.

Great job, SpaceX.
posted by Ickster at 1:50 AM on May 22, 2012


I'm generally for private ownership, but I see nothing but trouble coming from the situation of private citizens having the technology and capability to launch rockets capable of carrying a heavy payload into space. If you can put a rocket into orbit, you also have a ballistic missile you can drop on pretty much any city you want. Yeah, I know, second amendment rights and all, but still. It doesn't make me feel safer.
posted by three blind mice at 2:04 AM on May 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Despite all the war, poverty, and famine we have inflicted upon ourselves, it's moments like these that make me proud to be part of the human race. Well done SpaceX.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 2:06 AM on May 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


See monkey run.
See monkey play.
See monkey shape stone tools.
...
See monkey alloying bronze.
...
See monkey build rocket.

We've come a long way for a bunch of monkeys.
posted by egor83 at 2:09 AM on May 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm generally for private ownership, but I see nothing but trouble coming from the situation of private citizens having the technology and capability to launch rockets capable of carrying a heavy payload into space. If you can put a rocket into orbit, you also have a ballistic missile you can drop on pretty much any city you want. Yeah, I know, second amendment rights and all, but still. It doesn't make me feel safer.
That's kind of ridiculous. 9/11 was done with ordinary passenger jets, you don't really need a rocket. What made cold war ballistic missiles so dangerous wasn't so much the rockets, but the nuclear bombs strapped to the tips.

Seriously, how much damage do you think a falling rocket would actually do? I don't see why a dragon capsule crashing in some city, for example, would be any more dangerous then a medium sized aircraft doing the same thing.

Also, the fact the rockets are privately owned does not mean that the owners can just launch stuff whenever and whenever they feel like it. You still need government approval (I don't know if you get it from NASA or the FAA)

It is kind of embarrassing for NASA though. They certainly could/should have been able to design something like this themselves, to replace the shuttle, which was always a dumb idea.

I think this does show an example of how the "Private Enterprise" can sometimes to something more efficiently then a bloated bureaucracy - rather then pleasing a bunch of different constituents and creating a program that would create pork in the districts of tons of different congress people, SpaceX only had to do one thing: Get their project working as cheaply as possible.

At the same time, though in terms of overall efficiency, private enterprise might not be more cost effective at all. There were probably a few other companies trying to do the same thing. Most of those companies will probably never see a return on their investment, especially now that SpaceX has done it - although having a couple competing companies would be good for everyone. So, even though it looks very efficient when you only look at the winners, it's not necessarily clear that overall it's a more efficient use of resources.

(And you wouldn't want, say, schools to be run that way, where entrepreneurs take huge risks and 9/10 schools fail - because each kid deserves a minimum standard of education, while space travel is not a right - at least so far)

Of course, the people who do make the investments are also probably doing it mainly because it's an awesome way to spend their money. If Elon Musk simply wanted to make as much of a return on investment as possible, there are a lot of other things he could have done with the money.

There is also the "National Pride" aspect. It seems like if the government does something like build a huge rocket, that's something every American can take pride in. If the rich former CEO of PayPal does it, well, is that really something that everyone feels they can share the glory? Or is it still kind of embarrassing that the US government, which has been hitching rides from the Russians will now be hitching rides from some private company?
posted by delmoi at 2:35 AM on May 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm generally for private ownership, but I see nothing but trouble coming from the situation of private citizens having the technology and capability to launch rockets capable of carrying a heavy payload into space. If you can put a rocket into orbit, you also have a ballistic missile you can drop on pretty much any city you want.

True, but if we've survived the Cold War, we'll probably survive this as well.

We technically already have semi-private orbit-capable rockets with SeaLaunch for almost 20 years now.

And as far as I know there aren't any other private launch facilities, yet. SpaceX can't launch without a government controlled launch facility. These rockets aren't solid-state, always ready MX missiles. They take ages to prepare and launch. They're not suitable for weapons use. It would be extremely difficult to prepare and shoot a liquid fueled rocket into even a suborbital flight without people noticing those preparations no matter where your launch facility was.

As screwed up as the global business scenario is - it's probably generally accepted as common sense that wiping out a city with a nuke on a ballistic missile isn't very profitable or good for business in the long term.

It certainly would do very little for customer relations or shareholder value.

I guess it remains to be seen if Elon Musk harbors supervillain fantasies. PayPal is pretty evil, I suppose. Maybe he wants to wipe out Silicon Valley.

Honestly you should probably be much more worried about a million other things like an intentionally or accidentally released engineered virus, or catching drug resistant TB, or a bacterial outbreak in the food supply. Or global warming.

As far as existential threats go commercial space flight is probably down on the list a few pages below plagues of locusts or death by mosquitos.
posted by loquacious at 2:47 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is also the "National Pride" aspect. It seems like if the government does something like build a huge rocket, that's something every American can take pride in. If the rich former CEO of PayPal does it, well, is that really something that everyone feels they can share the glory?

I'd say yes. We live in a country where people can make great fortunes and do great things with it. Elon Musk did not do either in South Africa.

Or is it still kind of embarrassing that the US government, which has been hitching rides from the Russians will now be hitching rides from some private company?

Wayyyyyy less embarrassing to hitch rides from a private business. It's like the USPS contracting privately-owned tractor trailers or something.
posted by codswallop at 2:58 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why would anyone be "embarrassed" at buying Soyuz seats from the Russians? It is an INTERNATIONAL Space Station. Everyone does their part.

Would you rather the US and Russia be fighting?
posted by BeeDo at 3:11 AM on May 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Commercial space flight will never take off until people recognize that what really drives humanity is pornography. That's what drives the Internet. That's how video rentals got started.

The first commercially viable exploration of space will begin with SpaceXXX; the porno space program. The warm dark of space is waiting. The rocket is ready, good for go, ready for blast off. Propel my phallic rocket into space! The video will be transmitted back to Earth, for a fee.

I had a girlfriend once who was sexually amazing, except as we got into it, she kept saying "T minus 10", "T minus 5"... and eventually she would say "blast off", which paradoxically kicked in emission control.

But a rocket blast is like an orgasm.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:12 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, that was disappointing.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:13 AM on May 22, 2012


Well done SpaceX, well done USA! You guys rock! Go go go!
posted by Tom-B at 3:41 AM on May 22, 2012


As screwed up as the global business scenario is - it's probably generally accepted as common sense that wiping out a city with a nuke on a ballistic missile isn't very profitable or good for business in the long term.
Plus, if you already have the nuke, what do you need the missile for? Just put the nuke on a truck, or a boat, and drive it in. With the cold war, the US/Russia wanted to be able to wipe each-other off the map, or at least completely neutralize the other party, not just blow up a city.
I'd say yes. We live in a country where people can make great fortunes and do great things with it. Elon Musk did not do either in South Africa.


Huh? Why should the average person care that a handful of people are able to become mega rich?

Also, Most countries have at least a handful of billionaires these days, such as Mexico's Carlos Slim (34x Musk's net worth), Ukraine's Rinat Akhmetov (8x), Nigeria's Aliko Dangote (5.5x), Romania's Iosif Drăgan (0.5x) (Oh, and Singapore's Eduardo Saverin with about 1x as much net worth),

According to this page there about 4 people in South Africa who have more money then Musk.

Those guys didn't happen to be as interested in investing in space travel as Musk, but they could certainly have afforded to do it.

Of course, it's not too suprising that it would happen here, as we have pretty much the only customer for such a service, NASA.
posted by delmoi at 3:45 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why would anyone be "embarrassed" at buying Soyuz seats from the Russians? It is an INTERNATIONAL Space Station. Everyone does their part.
Yeah, the international space station, but the only way to get there (until now) was to ride on Russian rockets.

Also, if you look at the history, it's basically Mir-2. The original base unit for Mir-2 was destroyed at launch, and the core module on ISS is based on the replacement unit.

The US contribution was basically money, which helped keep the project going during the breakup of the soviet union. And of course over the years lots of modules have been added, from many different countries, including the US.

Anyway, it has nothing to do with Russia and the US "Fighting", just that in the context of the 20th century "Space Race" which we supposedly "Won" by going to the moon, most of the practical manned space tech in the world now is Russian, and now we have this thing made by a private citizen, so his company can make the money that we had been paying the Russians.

That said, we have a lot of great scientific data from Hubble, the various mars probes, and so on. From a practical perspective, there isn't even really that much value in putting people into space anyway.
posted by delmoi at 4:00 AM on May 22, 2012


I'm missing something, I'm sure, but when I click the main link and then "LIVE WEBCAST" all I get is the 53-minute video of the aborted liftoff from a couple of days ago. Where can I see the actual successful liftoff?
posted by mediareport at 4:31 AM on May 22, 2012


Delmoi, you are simply wrong. Ten minutes of your time could provide quit a few examples of "practical space tech" by people who are not Russians. Have you seen the Amine Swingbed project? The Canadian manipulator arms? The ISS combustion facility? The SSHDTV cameras? That's NASA, CSA, ESA, and JAXA for you.

Again, it is an international effort. We all share, so we all win. Don't get so hung up on a temporary reduction in the number of Earth-to-orbit transport vehicles.
posted by BeeDo at 4:37 AM on May 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Robot arms, scientific experiments and tv cameras is difficult stuff, but it's not Rocket Science.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 4:43 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well no, that's the point. The rocket part is covered. Soon it will be covered by several vendors again, starting with today's Dragon launch.
posted by BeeDo at 4:48 AM on May 22, 2012


It is kind of embarrassing for NASA though. They certainly could/should have been able to design something like this themselves, to replace the shuttle, which was always a dumb idea.

The Columbia and Challenger disasters were embarrassing for NASA. A private company doing what NASA's been doing for decades? Not so much.

The Shuttle was a fine idea as originally envisioned: a space truck for hauling cargo to a low earth orbital infrastructure. Then the Nixon administration nixed everything in that infrastructure except the Shuttle. Then Congress decided not fully fund the project, so NASA needed the Air Force, which demanded, in retrospect, lots of needless changes. It was a classic case of building something new to save money and then not funding it (as detailed in this awesome comment by eriko), which made the Shuttle more expensive in the end.

If we're talking embarrassing (and I don't think we should, there's no point), then it could be noted that these test flights of Dragon were supposed to occur between 2008 and 2010. Also, Dragon's navigation system was tested on Shuttle flights.

So yes, Space X was able build a cheaper rocket and launch it, using NASA's previous in building rockets, their explicit help and money. That isn't embarrassing for anyone, that's the way the system is supposed to work i.e. government doing research that private companies can capitalize on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:06 AM on May 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm generally for private ownership, but I see nothing but trouble coming from the situation of private citizens having the technology and capability to launch rockets capable of carrying a heavy payload into space.

I'm sure there's nothing to worry about with private space operations. The Weyland-Yutani Corporation is a responsible corporate citizen.
posted by birdherder at 5:12 AM on May 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


delmoi, thank for putting it into perspective!

Akhmetov is 8x Musk's networth... Damn, if we could use at least some part of the resources that are wasted for sports, entertainment, vanity, political infighting and shit like that, we'd be colonizing Jupiter moons by now. At least.
posted by egor83 at 5:32 AM on May 22, 2012


Video of the launch and early flight (courtesy of NASATelevision) - seriously, what am I missing at the SpaceX site? Shouldn't this video be obvious there?

Anyway, it looks awesome. Check the closeup of the burning engines in flight at 1:16, and the onboard camera shots starting at 3:42. Amazing, exciting stuff. That it's done by a bunch of people in t-shirts makes it even better.
posted by mediareport at 5:32 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


mediareport, seems they're changing the page right now. I got today's recording just a couple minutes ago, but now I'm getting the Saturday's film too.
posted by egor83 at 5:35 AM on May 22, 2012


Yeah, the international space station, but the only way to get there (until now) was to ride on Russian rockets.

Well, that's only been true for 9 months. And it's still true, actually -- the Dragon isn't human qualified.

Good on SpaceX for a successful launch, but the key part of this is the docking and cargo delivery.

So yes, Space X was able build a cheaper rocket and launch it, using NASA's previous in building rockets, their explicit help and money.

And, as of right now, there's no way a Falcon 9/Dragon is cheaper. We've dumped a ton of money into SpaceX , and so far, what we're netting is we're about to deliver 520kg of cargo to the ISS and bring 660kg back. These are very unimpressive numbers (STS would bring on the order of 10,000kg) but this is a test flight, and given that it is a test flight they brought forward, this is still an impressive performance, provided they do successfully dock and the Dragon held pressure.

Falcon 9's flyaway cost may be cheaper, but we don't full know its per kilogram cost, and if ULA has to price in the development costs and SpaceX doesn't, then, well, how do you really compare costs? Now, if SpaceX's plans on making it reusable actually work, and the refurbishment costs don't kill them, then the equation changes dramatically in their favor.

However, what utterly killed cost efficiency on STS was the turnaround costs for the reusable parts (which was basically everything but the ET.) For reusable to work, you can't be doing the equivalent of a D-check after every flight.

Look at commercial aircraft. What's the turnaround? You empty the blackwater tanks, you fill the potable water and fuel tanks, you drop off and pick up pax and cargo, and one of the pilots walks around with a checklist and does a set of critical component spot checks. 45-60 minutes later on a narrow body, you're heading back out.

If they had to take the thing apart after every flight, commercial air transport would never happen. But that's basically what they had to do with STS. So, that's the killer part of reusable, and so far, it hasn't been beaten. Right now, SpaceX isn't even trying, the Falcon9 is currently a single use booster.

And I still have real questions about the claimed performance, and none of the launches, nor any of the currently planned ones, have anywhere near the claimed maximum mass to LEO or GTO. One thing about the ULA launchers is that they were required to prove performance, so we have a very good idea about what they can carry, and if I'm comparing F9 to them, I need the same data. So far, Dragon + 550kg, or the next flight, which is two 142kg sats to a MEO (750km) transfer orbit, isn't anywhere near the claimed 9,900kg to LEO or 2,400 to GTO. The fact that they don't have a high-energy cryogenic second stage make GTO esp. difficult for them -- a specific impulse of 310s just doesn't compare to the 464s of the RL10B-2 in the D4 and A5 second stages, and when you're getting to orbit, it's not about height, it's about velocity.
posted by eriko at 6:28 AM on May 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


(I kinda liked this cartoon (german): "Isn't the progress of humanity magnificent? Soon we will have homeless people on the moon!")
posted by ts;dr at 6:56 AM on May 22, 2012


It seems to me that Virgin Galactic is a better example of private enterprise than SpaceX. They're actually creating a product (rides) and selling it to the public. SpaceX is selling their product to the government, which should have been able to do the job itself, had it not been for all the political interference.

That said, hooray for SpaceX. If private enterprise can drive the costs down now that the research has been done, that's a good thing.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:57 AM on May 22, 2012


Yay space!
/bows to libertarian space overlords.
posted by Artw at 7:22 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's like the USPS contracting privately-owned tractor trailers or something.

You mean like this?
posted by achrise at 7:45 AM on May 22, 2012


All this time later, even with the full benefits of all that previous NASA R&D and practical experience, the private sector's just now barely succeeding at low-earth orbit in more time than it took NASA to get to the moon. If anyone ought to be embarrassed, it ain't NASA in my book. But congrats to SpaceX, all the same.

That isn't embarrassing for anyone, that's the way the system is supposed to work i.e. government doing research that private companies can capitalize on.

I don't necessarily agree that privatizing the profits from public spending ought to be viewed "the way it's supposed to work," anymore than universal single-payer health care and a minimum guaranteed annual income represent the way it's supposed to work, but hey, at least this particular private sector contribution to society isn't likely to give anyone cancer or kill/main anyone's dog.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:46 AM on May 22, 2012


Scotty was onboard, or his remains at least.
posted by bouvin at 7:54 AM on May 22, 2012


If you've got the ability to do anything useful, terrorwise, with an intercontinenal ballistic missile with a convential explosive payload then you don't need to launch the payload into space. Strap the teck on dozens of unmanned drones and you'll be a lot more effective for a lot less money. Really it's amazing UAVs aren't seeing wide spread use as drug mules and assiniation weapons for unconvential forces. It would seem all the pieces are available off the shelf for anyone even semi motivated.
posted by Mitheral at 8:05 AM on May 22, 2012


I think this does show an example of how the "Private Enterprise" can sometimes to something more efficiently then a bloated bureaucracy

Bloated Bureaucracies are bad.

Private enterprise has no monopoly on avoiding them; call you cable company if you want to learn more.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:06 AM on May 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't necessarily agree that privatizing the profits from public spending ought to be viewed "the way it's supposed to work,"...

NASA actively does this sort of thing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:41 AM on May 22, 2012


I'm generally for private ownership, but I see nothing but trouble coming from the situation of private citizens having the technology and capability to launch rockets capable of carrying a heavy payload into space.

This was partially covered by earlier posts but it bears repeating: it's a private company, not a private citizen, and SpaceX doesn't launch a vehicle without a government license, and any payload SpaceX launches is subject to multiple levels of government oversight.

The FAA is the agency responsible for launch and re-entry licenses, and both the State Department and DoD have insight into any payloads launched by an American citizen or company.

I should also add, that oversight applies to American space activity anywhere on the globe. If you're an American entity launching a satellite on a foreign launcher, you're still subject to oversight. In fact, you have even more process to go through due to very strictly enforced ITAR (Internation Traffic in Arms Regulations) that pretty much classify anything to do with launch vehicles, spacecraft/satellites, etc as equivalent to munitions. Those regulations applies to information about space systems as well, not just actual physical objects. There's a reason why SpaceX only hires US citizens: ITAR.

In short, there is already a massive number pages in the Federal Code regulating all this stuff. Mr. Joe Q. Public can't just launch an ICBM from out behind the barn.
posted by resplendentoops at 9:10 AM on May 22, 2012


You mean The Astronaut Farmer isn't a documentary?
posted by fragmede at 9:50 AM on May 22, 2012


I guess it remains to be seen if Elon Musk harbors supervillain fantasies. PayPal is pretty evil, I suppose.

I prefer to think that Musk is already in the atoning-for-his-sins stage of supervillainy. After unleashing PayPal on the world, SpaceX and Tesla are his attempts at proving that he isn't, deep down, a monster.

Note to Mr. Musk: Nice work, but you'll have to build a lot of rockets.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:05 AM on May 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Delmoi, you are simply wrong. Ten minutes of your time could provide quit a few examples of "practical space tech" by people who are not Russians. Have you seen the Amine Swingbed project? The Canadian manipulator arms? The ISS combustion facility? The SSHDTV cameras? That's NASA, CSA, ESA, and JAXA for you.
When I say Practical Space Tech I mean tech that can actually get you into space - not stuff that gives you something to do while you're up there. All of that stuff is nice, but it won't have any way of getting into space without being lifted there on Russian rockets, until this Dragon Capsule is ready for everyday use anyway. All that nice tech isn't actually needed for the ISS to operate
And, as of right now, there's no way a Falcon 9/Dragon is cheaper. We've dumped a ton of money into SpaceX , and so far, what we're netting is we're about to deliver 520kg of cargo to the ISS and bring 660kg back. These are very unimpressive numbers (STS would bring on the order of 10,000kg) but this is a test flight, and given that it is a test flight they brought forward, this is still an impressive performance, provided they do successfully dock and the Dragon held pressure.
See, that's exactly the problem with the shuttle idea. You don't need to carry 10,000kg of stuff with your astronauts. There's no point. You can launch that stuff separately. That's what Russia did with their space stations. That way, you can plan for a more reasonable failure rate (like 1/100 or something) and save a lot of money on the heavy lifter. For the astronauts you have a lighter, smaller craft that's also less expensive.
posted by delmoi at 11:10 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


All of that stuff is nice, but it won't have any way of getting into space without being lifted there on Russian rockets

The ESA (ATV/Ariane 5) and JAXA (HTV/H-IIB) would disagree with you. With the Shuttle retirement, the only top-level ISS partner who didn't have a cargo supply solution operating was the US. That is being rectified with the SpaceX Dragon and Orbital Cygnus under the CRS program.
posted by resplendentoops at 11:30 AM on May 22, 2012


Glad to see this and hoping the rendezvous and capture goes smoothly. As others have noted above, SpaceX is standing on the shoulders of NASA - no shame for either side. I just hope that they can stay committed (and solvent) through the inevitable problems, as this is rocket science.
posted by bitmage at 11:58 AM on May 22, 2012


delmoi:

Of course, it's not too suprising that it would happen here, as we have pretty much the only customer for such a service, NASA.
"

Wait? There's no MASA?
posted by stratastar at 12:13 PM on May 22, 2012


You don't need to carry 10,000kg of stuff with your astronauts.

You do if you're going anywhere other than LEO, but you're right that the cargo bay was far too large.
posted by eriko at 1:30 PM on May 22, 2012


Excellent!
posted by Kevin Street at 5:59 PM on May 22, 2012


if you're going anywhere other than LEO
Then most of the mass you need in LEO is fuel, which is almost the poster child for "can be launched separately". And since fuel is infinitely divisible, you don't even need a heavy lifter, or necessarily want one. It's not clear whether you get better cost-per-pound savings from having a bigger rocket or from sending the same mass on smaller rockets with a higher flight rate.

The shuttle cargo bay is without peer for the task of bringing things back down from orbit, which might be a frequently useful task some day, but sadly not any time soon.

Really, though, the huge design flaw in the shuttle wasn't anything that the engineers did wrong, or even anything fundamentally wrong with the awkward design requirements they were given, it's simply the fact that they weren't given much room to iteratively improve it. In the long run we want all our rockets to be reusable. Elon Musk claims SpaceX will be a "failure" if it never manages to move from building new rockets for every launch to just refueling the old ones. But in the short run the technology isn't mature enough yet, and it certainly wasn't mature enough in the 70s, to want to lock ourselves in to one design. Even the materials science wasn't good enough yet - compare the evolution of the external tank (where shape optimization and alloy changes added literally tons more performance) to the stagnation in the system components that weren't being replaced. If anything we got lucky with the shuttle - it never got to the flight rate it should have, but designing such a machine at full scale and full performance from scratch and having everything work in the first version was almost miraculous.
posted by roystgnr at 6:46 PM on May 22, 2012


The shuttle cargo bay is without peer for the task of bringing things back down from orbit, which might be a frequently useful task some day, but sadly not any time soon.
The original idea was to use them to bring spy satellites up and back down. Remember, in the 60s and 70s they worked with regular film, which they would drop to earth. But with CCDs, that aspect became completely pointless.
posted by delmoi at 9:59 PM on May 22, 2012


SpaceX Dragon Completes Flyby Of Space Station Ahead Of Docking Attempt
posted by zombieflanders at 9:24 AM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is just so damn cool and exciting!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:37 AM on May 24, 2012


Scotty was onboard, or his remains at least.

Not counting the previous transporter malfunction.
posted by XMLicious at 6:17 PM on May 24, 2012


What's next:
"FRIDAY MORNING - Final Approach, Dragon Grapple

Around 2:00 AM Pacific/5:00 AM Eastern NASA will decide if Dragon is GO to move into the approach ellipsoid 1.4 kilometers around the space station. If Dragon is GO, after approximately one hour Dragon will move to a location 250 meters directly below the station. Dragon will then perform a series of maneuvers to show systems are operating as expected. If NASA is satisfied with the results of these many tests, Dragon will be allowed to perform the final approach to the space station.

Sometime around 6:00 AM Pacific/9:00 AM Eastern, astronauts on the space station will grapple Dragon with the space station's robotic arm and the spacecraft will attach to the station."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:50 PM on May 24, 2012


Live UStream feed of the docking attempt (SpaceX feed on their site isn't live yet).

The one thing that really strikes me listening to the live channels, today and at the launch, is how the SpaceX controllers sound like they can barely believe their luck in getting to do what they're doing. There's a constant underlying tone in their voice that basically telegraphs 'omfg this is so cool' every time they speak. I think it's a real reflection of the first steps into space by, essentially, civilians. The people on the radios over the years have been mostly speaking with clipped military diction and carefully masked emotion for decades. Now it's a bunch of excited people in t-shirts and jeans in California.

So cool.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:54 AM on May 25, 2012


Things are proceeding intentionally slow, but having a live feed of spacecraft in space as the Earth spins below is amazing.

Humans may be really nasty to each other times, but damn we can do amazing feats also, stuff that just takes your breath away.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:19 AM on May 25, 2012


NASA vs SpaceX mission control rooms
posted by homunculus at 7:44 PM on May 26, 2012


ISS astronaut, upon seeing inside SpaceX Dragon vehicle first time: "It looks sci-fi."
posted by homunculus at 11:38 AM on May 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Splashdown for SpaceX Dragon spacecraft
posted by homunculus at 12:01 PM on May 31, 2012


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