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SpaceX Gets Operational License For Cape Canaveral

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the throwing-big-stones dept.

Space 133

FiggyOO writes "For those of you who witnessed the launch of SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket, launch 3, you will be glad to hear that SpaceX has received a license to launch from space complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the Florida coast. This Launch complex is just south of launch pads 39A and 39B which have been used to launch the space shuttles, and will continue in that role for a few more years. This launch complex will enable SpaceX to launch the much-anticipated Falcon 9 rocket, which will eventually carry the Dragon capsule. In doing so, SpaceX hopes to fill the void between the end of the shuttle program and the coming of the Constellation. They have already begun moving into the launch complex, including moving a 125,000 gallon liquid oxygen tank on the back of a semi." We've been following Elon Musk's SpaceX for years.

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133 comments

first piss (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24950287)

it's a frosty one!

Re:first piss (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24950569)

Frankly anyone can get a license to launch from Cape Canaveral. It costs a lot, but that's understandable. For example, I got a license to launch my own ICBM -- Inter-Cuntinental Ballistic Muscle -- I can now reach any whore house in the world! Wahey, thank you, I'll be here all week ... getting modded down.

Fancy Chinese tonight?

Great (3, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950301)

I hope that I can get to see them launch a successful flight.
In nothing else it should be a lot cheaper than to launch from Florida than the middle of the Pacific.

Re:Great (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24950767)

Maybe, but there are good reasons for trying to launch at the lower latitudes. The amount of fuel needed to get into orbit is lower meaning that you can launch heavier payloads. Fuel is cheap, but the payloads are what make you money.

Re:Great (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#24952917)

Maybe, but there are good reasons for trying to launch at the lower latitudes. The amount of fuel needed to get into orbit is lower meaning that you can launch heavier payloads.

That's only true if you are launching from a lower latitude site into a low inclination orbit. The higher your orbital inclination, the less gain you get from latitude regardless of your latitude.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24950825)

Actually, the cheapest place to launch from is anywhere along the equator, because you get more of a boost from the Earth's rotation and thus need less fuel. Not sure if their current atoll launch site is closer to the equator than Kennedy, but I would bet that it is.

On the other hand, Cape Canaveral is a more convenient location in terms of personnel, facilities and transport.

holy damn! (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950313)

Let me just be the first to say OH, THAT LOOKS SAFE! Seriously, I hope he doesn't have to take a corner. And also I hope they drained it first lol.

Re:holy damn! (4, Funny)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950543)

I like how he has a sign on the front bumper that says "oversize load" ... but it is utterly dwarfed by the oversize load he is carrying.

That one goes in the archives of the department of redundancy department archives right next to "intense blazing fireball" and "Danger! Complete absence of light!"

Re:holy damn! (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951469)

What are they going to use to FILL that thing? A huge convoy of tanker trucks? Does it sit by a rail spur? Or are they going to colocate a liquefaction plant?

Re:holy damn! (2, Informative)

lgw (121541) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951913)

LOX isn't that hard to make. I'm sure they make it on site. I really hope no one is crazy enough to try to transport LOX! It's just about the most dangerous chemical that we make in industrial quantities.

Re:holy damn! (3, Interesting)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 5 years ago | (#24952051)

You haven't been paying close attention on the highway. It gets shipped all over the place in semi tankers, a few thousand gallons at a time.

It may not be "hard" to make, but it costs a lot of energy, and a fair amount of capital investment. The hospital here goes through quite a lot of it, but it's still cheaper to buy it than to make it.

Re:holy damn! (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 5 years ago | (#24952237)

I'm curious: why would a hospital need LOX? Bunches of compressed O2 in tanks, sure, but LOX? Is it just an easier way to handle compressed O2?

Re:holy damn! (2, Informative)

wronskyMan (676763) | more than 5 years ago | (#24953617)

Yep, not sure about the exact ratio for O2 but LN2 expands about 700x going liquid-gas. Much easier to store large quantities of gas cryogenically (also no swapping out cylinders all the time).

Re:holy damn! (3, Interesting)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954325)

More or less. Ours has a pair of really big (but not 125K gallon) LOX storage tanks (along with tanks for liquid nitrogen and, believe it or not, liquid nitrous oxide). Oxygen cylinders are large, bulky, heavy, and of limited capacity. Instead, the hospital sets up a big tank outside, along with a big set of heat exchangers, and pipes the gas throughout the complex.

There's also an emergency oxygen hookup station where they can connect directly to a LOX tanker if something happens to both their storage installations.

Re:holy damn! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24953147)

...it's still cheaper to buy it than to make it.

uhh... I don't think you're doing it right

Re:holy damn! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24953401)

Obviously photoshopped...

And he isn't wearing his seatbelt! (1)

Crazy Taco (1083423) | more than 5 years ago | (#24953627)

And I love the guy just sitting on the far edge of the bottom of the tank. In my company you get fired for such unsafe behavior :D! I also note he isn't wearing his seatbelt!

Re:And he isn't wearing his seatbelt! (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954477)

A high resolution version of the image shows that the worker on the bottom of the tank was secured with a safety harness... in essence a seat belt.

What he is doing there, on the other hand, I can't say. I highly doubt that the tank was moving all that rapidly, and may have been in the range of about 5 mph or so. There are legitimate reasons for having workers move about to watch all sorts of issues that may happen when moving something that large, and what he is doing may in fact be OSHA compliant in terms of safety regs.

Cape Canaveral (1)

PunkOfLinux (870955) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950321)

Yay. I might actually have a good reason to go back 'home' (as my dad puts it). Wanna see this kind of stuff in persn.

A 125,000 gallon liquid oxygen tank? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24950345)

I hope nobody falls in that or he'll drown!

Re:A 125,000 gallon liquid oxygen tank? (1)

Klaus_1250 (987230) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951575)

How do you intend to drown in liquid oxygen? It is so cold that you've frozen to death before the Liquid Oxygen reached your lips.

Awesome! (3, Funny)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950369)

Is this so that when it explodes again everybody gets to watch?

I keed, I keed.

Re:Awesome! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24950551)

Oh jesus christ people, have a sense of humor.

Re:Awesome! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24950583)

I heard that this guy's eyes are blue: one blew this way and the other blew that way!

Re:Awesome! (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950671)

All the recent failures have been during the separation of the 1st stage from the 2nd stage.

So if you like, we can strap you to the top of the first stage so you can get a really good look. ;)

That's gotta be one of the weakest Photoshops... (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950393)

...I've ever seen. They didn't even bother to antialias the selection around the legs.

Re:That's gotta be one of the weakest Photoshops.. (1)

54mc (897170) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950465)

Looks real to me. The thing's almost definitely empty and likely made out of a light (relatively speaking) material. I don't doubt at all that a semi could carry the thing, as long as you're not too concerned about fuel efficiency. My only real question regarding transportation would be how they got the tank TO the road (ie railroads, boats, or was it built right next to a road?) (Note: I'm still not completely sure if you're trolling or not)

Re:That's gotta be one of the weakest Photoshops.. (4, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950673)

My only real question regarding transportation would be how they got the tank TO the road (ie railroads, boats, or was it built right next to a road?)

Space-X Photo Gallery [spacex.com] has a picture of it being loaded.

Re:That's gotta be one of the weakest Photoshops.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24954519)

I don't know for sure if this is how they did it but there is barge access to the area. That is how they get the ET's in from LA. From there it's a short drive to the pads.

Also around the space center there are ways to get large objects around. So no overhead powerlines, all of the traffic lights are set up not to interfere, ect.

One time someone was moving a large dewar and it rolled off the flatbed and into a drainage ditch. The outer wall was breached and the vacuum in the annulus sucked in a bunch of swamp water. Nice.

That's No Moon! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24950905)

Um, so why doesn't a tank that large have a shadow. Is it made of some space age material I've never heard of?

Re:That's No Moon! (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951045)

It's a sphere. And I'd bet that the ground isn't perfectly flat. The sun is obviously low and to the right of the image, and most of the shadow is falling on the grass beside the road, and hence, "invisible". The leg struts leave shadows properly on the sphere itself, and on the road. I'd bet you $100 right now that this isn't a photoshop (except for the crappy, aliased resizing)

Re:That's No Moon! (4, Informative)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951129)

Replying to myself since I found a nice link with high-resolution versions of the 125,000 gallon tank photo [businesswire.com] , which make it much clearer that it's NOT a photoshop job.

Re:That's No Moon! (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951589)

Your right. The high resolution photo is much clearer. I do understand why the OP might have thought the low res picture looked photo-shopped. The low res picture DID look photo-shopped.

Re:That's gotta be one of the weakest Photoshops.. (4, Funny)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950859)

...I've ever seen. They didn't even bother to antialias the selection around the legs.

Don't be that guy. [xkcd.com] The joke is old!

Re:That's gotta be one of the weakest Photoshops.. (1)

mrdoogee (1179081) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951117)

You can tell from some of the pixels and from seeing quite a few shops in your time?

Re:That's gotta be one of the weakest Photoshops.. (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951323)

Exactly. Foreign meme is foreign, apparently.

Is that... (1)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950479)

... a construction worker hanging on to the right side of that tank? The resolutions a little too small to tell for sure, but it sure looks to me like some guy wearing one of those orange vests & a hard hat to me.

Hope he doesn't throw off the balance of that thing. It'd suck to cause it to roll off the truck. (Kidding!)

Re:Is that... (1)

fredrated (639554) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950775)

Windows picture and fax viewer allows you to zoom, and yes it is a worker riding on an extension on the side. My guess is the placement on the truck wasn't exactly dead center, and the worker is compensating with his weight.

Re:Is that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24951133)

Not the worker compensating with his weight, that's what they make sandbags for. OSHA would have a shit fit if that were the case. Most likely the vehicle is stopped and the driver is checking the tie-downs on his load. Yes, large loads do get tied down, and drivers sometimes get out to check them if they see or feel something that is "not quite right". The larger the load, the more common the checks.

Re:Is that... (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951155)

Why not look at the high-res version [businesswire.com] and see that there are at least 3 people riding on it? His weight won't change anything. He's certainly there to monitor the move, to make sure it doesn't shift or something.

They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys. (4, Insightful)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950483)

If we must spend public money on a new multipurpose rocket (Ares) system to carry future payloads and capsules then why not fund the SpaceX guys, who at least have had some modicum of success thus far and are well on the way to building a reliable and quality launch vehicle, instead of pouring billions of dollars down the drain to build the Ares design which appears, due to political considerations, to be well on the road to suffering the same design setbacks (and the attendant expensive engineering efforts required to correct them) that beguiled the Shuttle program for many years. If NASA really wants to get the most bang for their buck in the space program then they ought to hire some economist(s) to help evaluate their spending and check claims of "this will save money" when in fact it will not. Projects like the Space Shuttle were interesting from an engineering standpoint but one of the main goals, save money with a re-usable vehicle and launch components, turned out to be a dud (and economists might have been able to tell them that by studying the launch industry and giving their advice before NASA just went ahead with the design).

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (2, Insightful)

54mc (897170) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950541)

If NASA really wants to get the most bang for their buck in the space program then they ought to hire some economist(s) to help evaluate their spending and check claims of "this will save money" when in fact it will not.

When has any US government agency ever tried to save money or get bang-for-the-buck?

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950661)

i bet the nuke weapons design got the best bang-for-the-buck.. but then again... they did such a large bang that it didn't matter the number of bucks

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (2, Insightful)

Cecil (37810) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950965)

I think you might also be underestimating the number of bucks spent on that particular endeavor.

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (1)

JayAitch (1277640) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950567)

they ought to hire some economist(s)
Yes I'm sure there is a shortage of bean counters in their organization.

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (2, Informative)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951003)

Please pay attention, because this is very important: economist [wikipedia.org] IS NOT EQUAL TO accountant [wikipedia.org]

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24954683)

You might actually want to tell that to the OP, not the flippant responder. He seemed to be suggesting the sort of work an accountant would do, not an economist.

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (3, Insightful)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950701)

Let's imagine you're working on some kind of open source project, like a program which draws really cool pictures of bumble bees. And for some reason, a giant government agency decides that bumble bee pictures are critical to their success. They drop $10 million on your lap to make your bumble bee picture drawing program into exactly what they need.

Six months later, your program is somehow no further along than it was. Every working hour has been tied up doing paperwork, reports, meetings. Your work area is aswarm with government suits, each one with a different list of things to be checked off. You begin to wonder if your bumble bee program will ever make any more forward progress.

Now why, exactly, would you wish this fate upon a company you appear to like?

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24954559)

Of course, they merely have to follow NASA NPR 7120.5 rev D for Program and Project Management, then follow NPR 7150.2 NASA Software Engineering Requirements (for Class A software), etc.

http://nodis3.gsfc.nasa.gov/displayDir.cfm?Internal_ID=N_PR_7120_005D_
http://nodis3.gsfc.nasa.gov/displayDir.cfm?t=NPR&c=7150&s=2

As it says at the top of the document "Compliance is Mandatory": This NPR applies to all current and future NASA space flight programs and projects..

Nothing to it. Whip it out in a few seconds.

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24954681)

What disturbs me is the notion that NASA does not know how to launch rockets (or ULA or Orbital Sciences Corporation) and that a man who knows nothing about rockets (Elon) is somehow smarter than the thousands that support the space program. To criticize NASA, who is responsible for one-of-a-kind missions that do not fail and cannot fail is laughable when you are referring to a startup garage-shop company that has ping-pong tables 10 feet from flight hardware. I support them FULLY. However, they are trading reliability and risk mitigation for cost. You cannot cheat the system longterm - maybe shortterm. But eventually, the very things that make a Delta II or an Atlas V reliable are the very things that will increase the costs of a Falcon to those levels. There simply are no free lunches.

Additionally, the world is based on specialization, where I want a part machined I go to a place that does it for a living. I don't try to keep 10 machinists in house and try to make them experts - not cost effective. Our economy is based on the exact opposite of what Elon is trying to do. he wants to build his engines in house and magically have the reliability and performance of the big boys using what amounts to college kids / new hires and a few experts in their management.

Grow up, space if the big leagues, and it will kill people and they will kill people if they aren't careful.

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (4, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950717)

If we must spend public money on a new multipurpose rocket (Ares) system to carry future payloads and capsules then why not fund the SpaceX guys

They are.

...Projects like the Space Shuttle were interesting from an engineering standpoint but one of the main goals, save money with a re-usable vehicle and launch components, turned out to be a dud (and economists might have been able to tell them that by studying the launch industry and giving their advice before NASA just went ahead with the design).

At the time the space shuttle program was started (January 5, 1972) economists could not study the "launch industry" because the launch industry, as we know it, did not exist.

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (2, Insightful)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951085)

At the time the space shuttle program was started (January 5, 1972) economists could not study the "launch industry" because the launch industry, as we know it, did not exist.

That is a good and valid point, but now that we can study what went wrong with the Shuttle and what we did well, there is really no excuse to make the same kinds of mistakes and mistaken assumptions with the Ares or any other subsequent launch program. We should learn the lessons, what to do and what NOT to do, that the Shuttle program has to teach instead of repeating the same steps and expecting different results.

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#24952463)

We should learn the lessons, what to do and what NOT to do, that the Shuttle program has to teach instead of repeating the same steps and expecting different results.

So, I can only assume you have evidence or references to suggest that this isn't precisely what NASA has done?

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#24952959)

The wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] on the Shuttle solid rocket boosters discusses the proposed re-use of Shuttle components (segmented solid rockets with O-rings in this case) in the Ares program. The article itself has references to external sources where this re-use is discussed. The NASA press release [nasa.gov] also mentions the re-use:

"This vehicle will be carried into space by Ares I, which uses a single five-segment solid rocket booster, a derivative of the space shuttle's solid rocket booster, for the first stage."

While it just my opinion, a proposal to re-use substantial parts from the Shuttle program exactly or almost exactly the same as their current configuration does not strike me as "learning the lessons" (or at least not the right ones) from the Shuttle program.

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#24953119)

While it just my opinion, a proposal to re-use substantial parts from the Shuttle program exactly or almost exactly the same as their current configuration does not strike me as "learning the lessons"

Umm, why? Are you saying there's something wrong with the shuttle booster system? I mean, yes, there are problems with the shuttle itself. It's wickedly expensive to maintain, it's tiles are a problem, the insulation on the external tanks is a problem, etc, etc. But since when has the booster system been an issue?

Do you have specific complaints about the shuttle booster system? If so, what are they? Because, in the absence of such complaints, reusing the shuttle booster system is incredibly *smart*. Why waste time designing a whole new system when the existing one will suffice?

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (3, Interesting)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#24953939)

Because, in the absence of such complaints, reusing the shuttle booster system is incredibly *smart*

It might seem that way at first glance, but remember that the parts of the shuttle were designed to work together when put together as the shuttle. For example, excess vibrations from the solid rocket boosters were negligible when attached to the large mass of the main fuel tank and the orbiter, but they become a problem when one attempts to perch a lighter vehicle in a top-heavy configuration on top of a single SRB. The shuttle designers never intended the SRB to be used in this way so they didn't add anything to the SRB to null out the excess vibrations, probably because they didn't need to in the context of the shuttle launch assembly. Now, there are proposals to add heavy counterweights or shock absorbers to the SRB to make it suitable for an Ares-1 launch as covered in a previous Slashdot article [slashdot.org] . I too once thought that this was not a big deal, but reading the threads in that article changed my mind.

While it is difficult to be certain in advance I feel that Ares program funding could have been better spent adapting either the Delta [wikipedia.org] built by Boeing or the Falcon [wikipedia.org] being built by Space-X to manned spaceflight standards rather than attempting to adapt shuttle SRBs. This has been done before when NASA adapted the Titan-II [wikipedia.org] ICBM to carry astronauts during the Gemini program, but with just minor improvements (they used the Titan-II design basically intact from the ICBM profile) to improve safety and make it suitable for manned launches. The shuttle SRB, from the recent reports, seems to be less suitable to start out with and requires more extensive modifications to adapt it to the proposed new role in Ares-1.

As far as I know there have never been manned rockets which employ solid boosters exclusively for the first stage (making the Ares a more radical design then either the Delta or Falcon rockets). In fact the shuttle was the first manned space launch vehicle anywhere to use solid rockets during the launch phase for primary thrust (not counting capsule escape systems used by the Russians on Soyuz or the Americans on Apollo). Solid rockets are powerful and accelerate quickly, but they vibrate and generate very high G forces (from the accelerations involved) whereas liquid fueled rockets produce a smoother acceleration and power curve and can be throttled up or down (much more suitable when soft and squishy humans are riding atop them instead of warheads). The SRBs were appropriate on the Shuttle because of the huge liftoff masses and the need for extra power to get the whole thing moving from a stationary start (the proverbial kick in the pants) but they seem to be less so on the Ares-1.

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (3, Interesting)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954119)

It might seem that way at first glance, but remember that the parts of the shuttle were designed to work together when put together as the shuttle. For example, excess vibrations from the solid rocket boosters were negligible when attached to the large mass of the main fuel tank and the orbiter, but they become a problem when one attempts to perch a lighter vehicle in a top-heavy configuration on top of a single SRB.

Yeah, but that's a newly discovered fact. The shuttle program couldn't have taught them that. So your complaint that they haven't "learned their lessons" isn't supported by this particular issue. Had they known, a prior, that this was going to be a problem thanks to experience with the shuttle, then yes, absolutely I would agree with you, but since they didn't know that in advance, making use of the SRBs made perfect sense at the time the decision was made.

So, do you have any other evidence that they haven't learned their lessons from the shuttle program?

The SRBs were appropriate on the Shuttle because of the huge liftoff masses and the need for extra power to get the whole thing moving from a stationary start (the proverbial kick in the pants) but they seem to be less so on the Ares-1.

On the Ares-1, perhaps. But the final goal, for which Ares-1 is only the first step, is a much larger launch vehicle with a much greater mass, in which case the SRBs may very well be a logical choice.

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (3, Informative)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954619)

Let me summarize my thoughts before I respond:

Question: Is it possible to adapt the shuttle components to new vehicles as proposed by the Aries program?

Answer: Maybe

Question: Is it better or cheaper to adapt the shuttle components instead of starting with fresh or adapting another existing platform (Delta or Falcon for example) which more closely fits the Ares launch profiles?

Answer: Probably neither better nor, due to likely unforeseen needs for additional modifications as problems crop up, cheaper. The primary shuttle components were very specialized to the shuttle design so I don't think that the shock absorbers on the SRB will be the last of the kludges required to radically modify their mission profiles.

The shuttle program couldn't have taught them that.

They should have known from general solid rocket experience what the well known disadvantages of solid boosters are (i.e. vibrations due to imperfectly molded grains of fuel, high acceleration and force but little control over either...once you light it then it goes all out, etc) before going down that road with Ares. The shuttle designers almost certainly knew about the disadvantages of SRB, but they probably also knew that the disadvantages wouldn't come as much into play because the enormous mass of the shuttle would make a few more relatively minor (compared to the large mass of the shuttle) vibrations moot AND they needed the advantages (high thrust right away) because of the large shuttle mass. In short, the shuttle engineers almost certainly knew that flying the SRB as the first stage in a vehicle besides the shuttle probably wouldn't work (if you had been able to ask them back when they designed the shuttle), but they didn't care because they knew that it would work in the special circumstances of the shuttle (they were designing parts for the shuttle not for re-use in other vehicles decades later).

So, do you have any other evidence that they haven't learned their lessons from the shuttle program?

I am not a shuttle engineer, so I only know what they report in the press and on NASA or JPL public information websites. I strongly suspect that the answer to that question may be "yes" (or more precisely the engineers have learned the lessons, but are being asked by management to re-use the shuttle parts as much as possible for political reasons...it saves money (which is debatable) and it preserves jobs at existing shuttle parts assembly plants), but I cannot prove that of course. I believe that it would be better to make a clean break with the Shuttle, but I know that not everyone else feels that way.

But the final goal, for which Ares-1 is only the first step, is a much larger launch vehicle with a much greater mass, in which case the SRBs may very well be a logical choice.

Yes, but without the Ares-1, which is intended to launch the crew vehicles for Orion (among other things), the larger Ares is not much use (i.e. the Ares program is really a package deal, both versions have to work and work well for the program to be successful).

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (1)

David Gould (4938) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954811)

Because, in the absence of such complaints, reusing the shuttle booster system is incredibly *smart*

It might seem that way at first glance, but remember that the parts of the shuttle were designed to work together when put together as the shuttle. For example, excess vibrations from the solid rocket boosters [...]

There's also the whole O-ring issue, but I guess that can be solved by operating the thing within its design parameters. (Amazing how many engineering issues that can be said of).

What I've been wondering (not a rocket scientist) is, what additional complications/issues might be introduced by changing from 4 segments to 5? Seems if we wanted to really get the maximum design re-use, we should use exactly the same SRB. If the 4-segment SSRB doesn't have the lift capacity we need, we could use two of them and have that much more payload capacity. We're already used to using two of them in tandem, and it occurs to me that the connector struts would be an easy place to add vibration-dampening bits. 'Zat make any sense?

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (2, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954647)

There are so many lessons to learn about the Shuttle that I don't know where to begin. One of the problems with a study of the Shuttle and what went wrong is that due to the plethora of mistakes in setting up that launch system, I am afraid that the wrong lessons are being learned.

Among them is a complete and irrational fear of re-usable manned launch vehicles for Earth to LEO spaceflight. While there may be some problems with the implementation of this idea in the Shuttle, this is IMHO one of the things that at least from a certain point of view that the Shuttle did right. Certainly the Space Shuttle has been able to get more people up into space and do useful things than any other manned space vehicle, including the Soyuz spacecraft (which is often mis-characterized as a "safe" vehicle).

For myself, I think the problem with the Shuttle program is that it should have been treated like an X-project with the intention to try a series of successively improved spacecraft that built on the predecessor and became better over time. As it was, the Columbia (aka the "prototype") was treated as a production vehicle, and the earlier prototypes were pressed into service as improved versions when in fact they were the predecessor spacecraft. I dare any major vehicle manufacturing company to be able to get away with something like that unless they are under a government contract.

There should have been a Shuttle 2.0 program some time ago, and unfortunately neither the U.S. Presidents over the past 20 years, the NASA administrators, nor Congress have had the will to get something like that built. And instead we have Apollo 2.0... and a bad rev of that by engineers who weren't even born when the original was under development.

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (2, Insightful)

TorKlingberg (599697) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951063)

Is there any reason to believe SpaceX would do a better job than NASA? Other than OMG PRIVATE IS BETTER!!!!11 that is.

So far they have made a very small rocket that hasn't been able to reach orbit yet. I'm sure they will, and it's great that there is private interest in space flight. However, you can't just dump money dump a big load of cash on a small company and see moon rockets start flowing out.

It's not like NASA builds everything inhouse anyway. Most of the hardware are built by private companies and bought by NASA. Also, what's wrong with Ares exactly? Of course there are people complaining, but that doesn't mean much.

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (2, Informative)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 5 years ago | (#24952963)

While I agree that dumping money beyond the scope of COTS on SpaceX isn't going to make the situation better, I'll explain what I see as wrong with Ares.

Ares is not what it was supposed to be. It was to be a shuttle derived system capable of returning man to the moon at a reduced cost by using already existing infrastructure. Unfortunately, shuttle-derived seemed to be mostly ignored except enough to keep congress happy, by making it look its cobbled together from shuttle parts. However, they have changed every component so that they are having to re-engineer every component.

For instance, the current architecture has everything but the manned component on the massive Ares V. In order to make it powerful enough to do that, they had to add an extra segment to the SRBs. That doesn't sound too hard, except it changes all the combustion thermodynamics and fluid flow in the engine, forcing a complete redo of the design. Granted, the experience from the original SRBs will make them safer, but putting the LEM with the Orion capsule and launching only the Earth Departure Stage (EDS) on the V would have reduced the thrust needs. Similarly, the huge amount of thrust needed also made it so that the external tank is now 5.5 meters rather than 4.5 for the shuttle. This means thats the Michoud plant in New Orleans will have to be completely retooled, (with the roof raised or floor lowered as well) for something that's supposedly 'just the same.' The retooling will take 2 years, helping cause the gap thats gotten so much press, and also requiring massive layoffs that will be followed by massive hirings. If it weren't for the fact that the engineers and floor hands are going to require money in the meantime, this would be a great plan.

And of course, they keep underestimating the thrust needs; they recently had to add an extra engine to Ares V, and everytime I see something about Ares I, the Orion capsule is way over mass-budget. Granted, I can tell you immediately that my idea of moving the LEM to the capsules LV has issues with having to man-rate a larger vehicle, but its more for illustration that there were other architecutres that work around the issues. I really feel mostly that the current architecture is fine if you were starting from scratch, but it seemed to ignore any idea of working off of what we already have to get the best, cheapest system while minimizing the flight gap. If only Jupiter could get a chance...

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954833)

What is staring at all of these engineering efforts real hard is the ghost of Von Braun and the rocket engineers of Huntsville that built the Saturn V.

Essentially these engineers are being asked: "if we could do this with 1960's technology, why can't it be done today?"

What should have been done with the Ares rocket system is a clean-sheet design from the bottom up, using lessons learned from all of the previous spacecraft including the Saturn V and the Shuttle. Instead, they have this backward monster based on an improvised design with goals that have absolutely nothing at all to do with manned spaceflight.

I've been handed projects that were just this awful. In a couple of situations I developed prototypes that were so powerful that I was told to run with the prototype and turn it into the production version directly. In another case, I had a simply awful design handed to me by a genuinely incompetent engineer and told to simply make it work. Over time these kind of projects can be made to work, but at substantially more cost (time + resources) and they still seem to exhibit flaws that came from the original design that never seem to be worked out. This seems to be exactly what NASA is experiencing with the Ares system.

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24953073)

Is there any reason to believe SpaceX would do a better job than NASA? Other than OMG PRIVATE IS BETTER!!!!11 that is. So far they have made a very small rocket that hasn't been able to reach orbit yet. I'm sure they will, and it's great that there is private interest in space flight. However, you can't just dump money dump a big load of cash on a small company and see moon rockets start flowing out. It's not like NASA builds everything inhouse anyway. Most of the hardware are built by private companies and bought by NASA. Also, what's wrong with Ares exactly? Of course there are people complaining, but that doesn't mean much.

Wait, so why doesn't NASA both develop their own vehicle, and also fund Space-X to develop their Falcon-9 and Dragon, betting that they'll be able to solve their problems? I mean, it doesn't make sense to bet the entire space program on Space-X, since they've never actually successfully flown a rocket, but their projections are good enough that it makes sense to put at least a down payment worth of funding their way, hoping that they'll make good.

Oh... that's exactly what NASA is doing.

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (1)

jfruhlinger (470035) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951065)

then why not fund the SpaceX guys, who at least have had some modicum of success thus far and are well on the way to building a reliable and quality launch vehicle

Wait, is this the same SpaceX that has flopped on every one of their attempted launches?

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951171)

They are just working out the kinks. The Russians did the exact same thing with their Soyuz program (with real people who met some unfortunate ends while the bugs were worked out) but now they have one of the most reliable launch programs in the world. SpaceX will get there while the Ares is still vibrating itself to pieces in virtual launch simulations.

SpaceX can't do what NASA wants (4, Interesting)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954411)

Don't get me wrong, I have great hopes for SpaceX with COTS and commercial opportunities and am quite impressed with their efforts and plans, but you're defining a modicum of success as three failed launches of a rocket that's just barely big enough to get one astronaut in a spacesuit into orbit (but not back again), and then ranking that history above an organization that has conducted 145 successful manned missions involving over 850 crewmen, and plus I don't know how many unmanned missions.

Ares is not perfect. There is a lot of fair criticism that has been directed at the system. At the same time, however, it is better suited to NASA's plans than the Shuttle, which despite itself being often and fairly (and just as often unfairly) criticized has launched more people into space than every other manned system in the world combined. However, the shuttle was a jack of all trades (in LEO that is) and a master of none.

I apologize for that digression. Back to why Ares (or perhaps Direct, but that's unlikely due to politics and differing capabilities) is what NASA wants for it's current plans. NASA has a stated and congressionally-supported goal to create a transportation system capable of returning to the moon and, if desired, going onward to Mars.

SpaceX is very much an unproven operator. NASA is not willing to bank the success of Constellation on that when they have the know-how, technology, and foundational infrastructure to succeed with near certainty. This is not saying NASA isn't interested in SpaceX or that SpaceX isn't cheaper. They very much are, which is why NASA contracted them for under COTS. That alone is almost completely maxing out SpaceX's resources at the present moment. I doubt even Musk himself thinks they could realistically create a system equivalent to Ares 1/Orion by 2015. Yes, SpaceX could potentially save money, but they have a much greater risk of failing, in which case all the money spent on them is wasted. Some would argue that they just need the appropriate resources to succeed. That is delusional. At best, throwing money blindly at them would just lead to another Boeing, Lockheed, or ATK. They would probably succeed, but be no better than what we have currently.

To be clear, the Falcon 9 is not capable of lifting the Orion capsule and the Dragon does not have the operational capabilities to replace the Orion. Orion has more delta-V, more life support capability, more interior volume, higher fault-tolerance, a much higher re-entry capability, and the ability to dock itself with the ISS as well as reside there for extended durations as a lifeboat.

It can be pointed out that the Falcon 9 Heavy has about the same lift capability as the Ares 1. This is true, but it's a further development from an unproven rocket whereas the Ares will use shuttle-derived technology and benefit from NASA's technical experience. Furthermore, Ares 1 will develop many of the components used by the Ares V, which is a rocket nothing in SpaceX's current or proposed plans can come close to, and a key to NASA's plans to returning to the moon.

Of course, others also criticise the whole goal of going to the moon in the first place, but that's another discussion. Suffice to say, the nation is fed up with stagnation in space.

By the way, NASA has economists, accountants, etc. That wasn't why we ended up with the shuttle we have. Besides, economics is an arguably less precise endeavor than engineering.

Re:They ought to divert Ares funding to these guys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24954451)

All of SpaceX's rockets have exploded. This does not qualify as a, "modicum of success."

However, NASA's Saturn rockets which sent people to the moon as well as their Delta rockets which are used to launch satellites regularly are pretty successful, which just goes to show that they have plenty of experience in the area.

Also, Ares is capable of delivering a much greater payload to a higher orbit than anything SpaceX has AFAIK.

Cool video. (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950519)

Very Major Tom to ground control. My kind of video. Beat it Michael Jackson.
Summary should be tagged Major Nerd Alert:
SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket, launch 3, space complex 40 (SLC-40), Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, space shuttles, Falcon 9 rocket, Dragon capsule, launch complex, a 125,000 gallon liquid oxygen tank on the back of a semi.
All that's missing is the Myth Busters.

Re:Cool video. (1)

angelwolf71885 (1181671) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951983)

yah the myth that Falcon 1 can rise from its 3 previous ashes and reach orbit.. it would be a 3 hour long show with MANY MANY explosions and possibly Adam and Tory hurting them selves lol

New Goddards? Let's hope so. (4, Interesting)

Spencerian (465343) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950525)

There's a lot of good to this.

One: NASA uses public property to allow private commerce, encouraging it in fact. (I remember they were quite impressed with SpaceShipOne.)

Two: NASA keeps private rocketry from injuring themselves or others by using an wide, secure area intended for rocket flight

Three: The location is a tourist area, giving the business an opportunity to gain needed funds from spectators.

Robert Goddard hardly had any of this and was still working out the whole liquid-rocket thing as well. Good luck, guys. And no smoking by the LOX tank.

Re:New Goddards? Let's hope so. (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950605)

Indeed! Better than that is the fact that a nod from NASA has to be the clincher in some fund raising deals. Florida is a good place to launch from for obvious reasons, I'm glad they will get to use the facilities there... saving quite a bit of money in the process.

Perhaps this is also a nod toward a corporate stratum that might well avoid the problems that have plagued the NASA program for over a decade? Sort of like in the movies when the good cops turn the other way and let vigilantes do the work that they are hindered from doing because of the laws and such?

Re:New Goddards? Let's hope so. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24954205)

Again, NASA funded SpaceX with millions of dollars. If that's just a nod...

Re:New Goddards? Let's hope so. (2, Informative)

Danny Rathjens (8471) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950727)

The operational license they received was from the United States Air Force, actually.

Re:New Goddards? Let's hope so. (1)

goodben (822118) | more than 5 years ago | (#24952673)

This will not be launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, but rather Cape Canaveral Air Force Base. They are adjacent and the Air Force provides some services for NASA, but the pads they are talking about belong to the Air Force.

Re:New Goddards? Let's hope so. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#24952999)

One: NASA uses public property to allow private commerce, encouraging it in fact. (I remember they were quite impressed with SpaceShipOne.)
 
Two: NASA keeps private rocketry from injuring themselves or others by using an wide, secure area intended for rocket flight.

Cape Canaveral belongs to the USAF, not NASA.
 
 

Three: The location is a tourist area, giving the business an opportunity to gain needed funds from spectators.

Um, how? It's not like you can charge admission to see something visible for a hundred miles. Range safety regs keep everyone so far back that you might as well watch it from the veranda of a hotel on the Indian River where you can keep your cooler handy. Not to mention that one of the few problems SpaceX doesn't have is lack of cash.

Coming through (1)

Kenoli (934612) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950547)

Beep beep

private sector/government (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950593)

I can't wait private sector upstage hugely inefficient government NASA

Re:private sector/government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24951127)

I can't wait private sector upstage hugely inefficient government NASA

I'd love to see it. We need cheap space launch capability.

So far, Space-X has launched three times, and failed three times. The key point, though, is it hasn't stopped them; they're still keeping on going.

If NASA-- an agency for which a 98% success rate isn't good enough-- had a project with three very public failures in a row, would they keep working on the project? Would they be allowed to?

NASA has become a very risk-averse agency. That's not NASA's fault-- it's ours.

The key to success is, when you fail, to pick yourself up and to keep on going.

My Friends, Romans, Countrymen (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24950633)

I am a P.O.W.

PatRIOTically,
John McCain

If SpaceX comes through, Orion is dead.. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950663)

Boy that Dragon capsule sure is interesting.

It's gonna be awful tough for NASA to ask Congress to fund the development of a government space capsule for billions of dollars when SpaceX has one for sale a lot cheaper.

Re:If SpaceX comes through, Orion is dead.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24950773)

NASA will still develop Orion for going back to the moon. This is a LEO (Low Earth Orbit) only spacecraft that SpaceX is designing. Nice flame bait though.

Read the NASA fine print. (2, Informative)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951353)

Ah, but read the fine print. The Orion currently developed is for LEO only in the first cut, which is "block 1". Block 2 is a next release, for lunar use, and therefor a second design phase. Dragon could do the same thing.

Re:If SpaceX comes through, Orion is dead.. (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950781)

NASA has already spent billions on the development of Orion. Do you suppose Congress is going to vote to throw all that work away rather than continue development.

Re:If SpaceX comes through, Orion is dead.. (1)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950839)

Ah yes, the fallacy of the sunk cost.

It amazes me just how bad the government is at finance. They routinely make boneheaded financial moves (saving a dollar today by spending ten dollars tomorrow, etc.) that no individual or family would ever make.

Re:If SpaceX comes through, Orion is dead.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24951377)

Let's not celebrate individuals too thoroughly, plenty of people file for bankruptcy every year. Your comment is complete hyperbole.

Re:If SpaceX comes through, Orion is dead.. (2, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951565)

Lots of people in the US (everyone?) sign up for inflated cell phone service which subsidizes the initial purchase price of the phone. Hell, I do as well since I can't find a carrier with unsubsidized plans.

People suck at finance.

Re:If SpaceX comes through, Orion is dead.. (1)

Locklin (1074657) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954795)

X is very usefull... If your name is Nixie Nox

(I like the sig)

Re:If SpaceX comes through, Orion is dead.. (1)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 5 years ago | (#24952451)

Do you suppose Congress is going to vote to throw all that work away rather than continue development?

Why not? Congress did it with the Superconducting Super Collider... [wikipedia.org]

Re:If SpaceX comes through, Orion is dead.. (2, Funny)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951379)

Aside from the small fact they are build with completely different purposes in mind. It would be like pitching to the army to replace their tanks with machine-gun-equipped motorcycles.

Re:If SpaceX comes through, Orion is dead.. (1)

MrWarMage (787105) | more than 5 years ago | (#24953251)

Oh, you mean like in this gem [imdb.com] ?

"When a man doesn't have less on..."

Re:If SpaceX comes through, Orion is dead.. (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#24952543)

Yes, because Orion and Falcon 9 have the exact same requirements and specifications...

BOOM!!! (1)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950853)

...including moving a 125,000 gallon liquid oxygen tank on the back of a semi.

You'd be better off rear ending a pinto!

X! (3, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 5 years ago | (#24951325)

SpaceX proudly brings us back to when a nice big capital "X" on the end was the way to go for making words seem edgy, hip, and futuristic. We've well and truly escaped the reign of those posers, the prefix lowercase "e" and his redheaded spawn the little "i".

Re:X! (2, Funny)

verbamour (1308787) | more than 5 years ago | (#24953259)

Nah, SpaceX is so Baby Boomer (trying to pass as Gen-X). They need to grasp the next younger form.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present SpaceY.

Re:X! (1)

verbamour (1308787) | more than 5 years ago | (#24953277)

and while I'm at it, am I the only one old enough to parse this as "space don't care"?

Omnidroid! (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#24952445)

"Mr. Syndrome, your Omnidroid is here."

YOU FAIL I?T (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24953551)

Epr.. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24953779)

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