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SpaceX finally makes it to orbit
September 28, 2008 4:52 PM   Subscribe

SpaceX's fourth flight was successful. Scaled Composites' X-Prize winning SpaceShipOne made the first privately funded hop into space. SpaceX just took the next big step and inserted a dummy payload into orbit. Next, they will launch the much larger Falcon 9 and later test out the human-carrying Dragon. CEO Elon Musk also enjoys dabbling in banking and exotic electric cars.
posted by b1tr0t (45 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Latest news is on the webacast page, but that will probably be taken down in a few days.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:53 PM on September 28, 2008


With the forthcoming space elevator, all we need now is our personal jet packs and we'll officially be in the Future.
posted by panboi at 5:06 PM on September 28, 2008


I'm reading about about this stuff right now, so it was really weird seeing all these names on the front page. It's also a little disheartening that in the N years since that book was written, they've only made a couple extra flights. We should be on Mars by now!
posted by DU at 5:09 PM on September 28, 2008


what book are you reading?
posted by b1tr0t at 5:12 PM on September 28, 2008


It would be nice if it could pick up some of the slack after the Shuttle shuts down in 2010.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:14 PM on September 28, 2008


Rocketeers, which I now realize is actually only 3 months old. In my defense, I'm only up to around 2004.
posted by DU at 5:16 PM on September 28, 2008


Future
posted by netbros at 5:26 PM on September 28, 2008


How did Space-X manage to get viable? Was it the mass infusion of cash?
posted by smackfu at 6:15 PM on September 28, 2008


The cash came last month, so it is unlikely to have made much difference in today's launch.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:20 PM on September 28, 2008


Well, I guess fourth time's the charm... Here's hoping their later designs don't have this much trouble.
posted by agress at 6:23 PM on September 28, 2008


A dummy payload?

"To be on the safe side and not give people arriving on the scene that there was a dead person in the suit there was a placard inside the visor of the helmet with the word 'Dummy' (MAKET in Russian). This precaution had been taken at the direct orders of chief designer Sergei Korolev."
posted by mwhybark at 6:32 PM on September 28, 2008


"This precaution had been taken at the direct orders of chief designer Sergei Korolev."

Yeah, he was always a prankster, that Korolev. The shit he used to get up to at the Zvezda Christmas parties...
posted by Naberius at 6:54 PM on September 28, 2008


I love how, in my lifetime, technology has moved forward, and changed the world, at a faster pace than ever in history, allowing us to communicate instantly with almost anyone in the world, giving us a chance for the first time to set up stable communities which can all interactwith one another, telecommuting giving us the opportunity to work from home and reubanization the chance to thrive within walking distance of one's domicile, and yet we still can really only see "the future" in terms of how far and how easily we can travel.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:47 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Elon Musk for president!
posted by autodidact at 8:10 PM on September 28, 2008


Elon Musk for president!

Not much chance of that, but he could be the next governor of California.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:14 PM on September 28, 2008


Ooh, man, Korolev is one of the secret chiefs, I shit you not. Seriously worth reading up on.
posted by mwhybark at 8:32 PM on September 28, 2008


Personal Jet Pack
posted by dirigibleman at 8:40 PM on September 28, 2008


Correction:

It looks like today's flight with the dummy payload pushed the flight with the Malaysia/ATSB payload back in the schedule. My guess is that the customer didn't want to finance another trial flight, and the cash injection from a third party investor allowed SpaceX to run the launch with a dummy payload. Now that they've succeeded, customer confidence is probably back up. Malaysia/ATSB's payload on a Falcon 1 is next, and the first Falcon 9 follows after that.

The cash is unlikely to have had any impact on the engineering of today's flight, but could have been a critical step in keeping the customers happy and ensuring the company's continuing operation.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:45 PM on September 28, 2008


Falcon 1 Flight 4 vehicle carries a payload mass simulator of approximately 165 kg (364 lbs)

Sweet: that's me, a spacesuit, a parachute, a small rocket to decelerate out of orbit, and a case of Dogfish 60 Minute IPA.
posted by exogenous at 8:50 PM on September 28, 2008


By 'dummy load', they mean John McCain is suspending his campaign to help with the launch by being the dummy. The McPayload is due to fall back to earth several hours later, landing in a secret location in Pakistan, roughly between Gatesofhellistan and Osama bin Laden's cave, where he will deal with our greatest enemy in hand-to-hand combat, slaughtering him mercilessly with a plastic MRE spork, before returning to a hero's parade and a naughty behind-the-curtains (and out of sight of Cindy) tongue kiss from Sarah Palin.

Didn't you get the talking points yet?
posted by jamstigator at 8:52 PM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Really? You had to bring that into this thread?
posted by Cyrano at 9:41 PM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Google Ron Paul in Space!
posted by Artw at 9:47 PM on September 28, 2008


As someone who rarely ever follows this type of news, I'm almost surprised that it has taken this long for a privately funded space mission since the technology has been around for so long. So when can we expect the consumer models to show up at Wallmart?
posted by p3t3 at 9:59 PM on September 28, 2008


Rock on Elon, rock on.
posted by Mr_Zero at 10:03 PM on September 28, 2008


re: jamstigator,

Do you honestly believe that McCain could survive a trip into space, much less be able to have enough range of movement in his arms for anything naughty?

Of course, if we're lucky, maybe we could convince him to Maverick himself on a mission to walk on the sun. He's a POW you know, he can handle it.
posted by agress at 10:24 PM on September 28, 2008


At least Sputnik bleeped.
posted by Artw at 10:29 PM on September 28, 2008


Elon Musk:
"Optimism, pessimism, fuck that; we're going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work."
posted by Freen at 10:36 PM on September 28, 2008


At least Sputnik bleeped.

Come on. This is Metafilter and an amazing accomplishment. Even trolls shouldn't shit on this.
posted by Mr_Zero at 10:48 PM on September 28, 2008


Even trolls shouldn't shit on this.

Fuckin' A. Congratulations to SpaceX. Fingers crossed things go as smoothly (in the long run, I'm aware that the first four flights were learning experiences) for Falcon 9 and Dragon.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 11:07 PM on September 28, 2008


By 'dummy load', they mean John McCain is suspending his campaign to help with the launch by being the dummy.

No, I believe the campaign hired someone else to be the dummy.
posted by dhartung at 12:05 AM on September 29, 2008


Well, I guess fourth time's the charm... Here's hoping their later designs don't have this much trouble.

Succeeding on the fourth try is actually a pretty reasonable performance for a launch vehicle.
posted by atrazine at 12:32 AM on September 29, 2008


NO AUTHOR FOUND posted "SpaceX just took the next big step and inserted a dummy payload into orbit."

All that just to elevate some unknown dummy? These pointy-headed scientists should have thought to honor the greatest President ever, George W. Bush.
posted by orthogonality at 4:41 AM on September 29, 2008


How was the first one not "privately funded"?
posted by delmoi at 6:24 AM on September 29, 2008


Excellent news. I hope it starts being profitable for them soon.

On a side note, does anyone know why they went with an oxygen/kerosene engine instead of oxygen/hydrogen? I couldn't find an answer on their website.

I'd always been under the impression that an oxygen/hydrogen reaction was preferable (more bang for your buck), and that the only reason the US used oxygen/kerosene was because of materials difficulties that have been solved since the development of the Space Shuttle. Apparently I'm mistaken, but does anyone have a link explaining why I'm wrong?
posted by sotonohito at 7:08 AM on September 29, 2008


Well, I guess fourth time's the charm... Here's hoping their later designs don't have this much trouble.

Succeeding on the fourth try is actually a pretty reasonable performance for a launch vehicle.


It is, I guess it's more the fact that I've been following SpaceX ever since Musk announced it, and it's been kinda hard watching them get so close and having it fall apart at the end.

In any case, I'm glad they got this one.
posted by agress at 7:18 AM on September 29, 2008


On a side note, does anyone know why they went with an oxygen/kerosene engine instead of oxygen/hydrogen?

I don't know for sure, but there are secondary costs to using hydrogen: Though the specific energy (energy per unit mass) is higher, the density is significantly lower, so you need a bigger fuel tank which cuts into the weight savings somewhat. Plus handling liquid hydrogen at -250 C is significantly harder than either liquid oxygen at -180 C or kerosene at ambient temperature. I bet, in the final analysis, kerosene ends up being cheaper, even if it is less efficient.

(which makes me wonder whether solid fuel wouldn't have been cheaper still)
posted by Popular Ethics at 7:58 AM on September 29, 2008


inserted a dummy payload into orbit [link to definition of escape velocity].

Escape velocity is not relevant to rockets. A rocket could leave the earth's gravity well at a constant 1 mph if so designed.

Escape velocity is effectively about the muzzle speed of guns trying to launch things into orbit. We don't do that much.
posted by CaseyB at 8:13 AM on September 29, 2008


Come again CaseyB? In order to get into orbit with a rocket, gun, or plasma accelomator, you need to have a kinetic energy equal to your gravitational potential energy. That means going fast. Like Mach 3 Fast.
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:22 AM on September 29, 2008


Caveat: I'm talking about orbital velocity which is different, but not unrelated to, escape velocity. You could I suppose leave earth orbit by moving at 1mph until the force of gravity from earth reduces to a point where you only need to be going 1mph to escape, but that would:
a) take a ridiculous amount of fuel (far better to reach orbital velocity first), and
b) have no relevancy to the discussion about an orbital vehicle.

posted by Popular Ethics at 8:58 AM on September 29, 2008


Popular Ethics:

No, CaseyB is right - escape velocity applies only to objects without propulsion of their own (it's even in the article you linked).
posted by uncle harold at 9:00 AM on September 29, 2008


Do you honestly believe that McCain could survive a trip into space

Yeah, come on, send the chimp.

You know who I'm talking about.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:49 AM on September 29, 2008


Re: why they didn't go with solid fuels...solid rockets aren't throttleable, and tend to accelerate much faster than liquid fuels. It's good for the vehicle to throttle back around the time of maximum atmospheric pressure on ascent ("max q") for both the payload and the vehicle itself. Plus, once you turn on a solid rocket, you're going somewhere, cause you sure you ain't turning it off...
posted by zap rowsdower at 10:02 AM on September 29, 2008


They could have used a solid fuel, liquid oxidizer engine to gain throttleability, like SpaceShipOne. Maybe its that liquid fuels allow spacex to test on the pad.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:17 AM on September 29, 2008


Mods: can you change the orbit link in the post to this?
posted by b1tr0t at 6:17 PM on September 29, 2008




I don't really have anything to add to this other than gushing.
posted by crataegus at 1:33 AM on September 30, 2008


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