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SpaceX Boosts Malaysian Satellite Into Orbit

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the congratulations-to-mister-musk dept.

Space 71

Soychemist writes "On the same day that yet another shuttle launch was postponed, SpaceX successfully carried a Malaysian satellite, RazakSAT, into orbit. This is the second successful launch in a row for Elon Musk's space exploration startup. Later this year the company will launch its larger Falcon 9 rocket, which could be used to carry cargo to the International Space Station. RazakSAT was designed by ATSB and carries a high resolution camera. If it is intact, the satellite will take photographs of Earth that could be used to better manage natural resources."Adds xp65: "The satellite was separated from the Falcon 1 about 48 minutes after liftoff at 3:35 GMT (11:35 pm EDT). The orbit is 685 km and 9 degrees inclination. Launch was delayed several times due to a faulty helium valve on the ground and bad weather at the launch site at Kwajalein. This was the fifth flight of the Falcon 1 rocket, with the last two flights being succesful. Later this year the inaugural flight of the larger Falcon 9 rocket is planned from Cape Canaveral."

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sat launch (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28689691)

cool

Horray! (1, Redundant)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#28689753)

Excellent! Go, Space-X!

Re:Horray! (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692799)

Elon Musk is flying payloads while John Carmack is still playing games. Come on John, make us proud...

RazakSAT (4, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28689725)

RazakSAT!
Well, how 'bout that?
Truly a moment to savor.
In the lee of the Earth she's a hairy boar,
But by light she's a hell of a shaver [teamone.de] .
Burma Shave

Quick (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28689731)

Let's start a commercial space station. First, connect a module to the ISS. Then, when those idiots plan to burn it down in 2016 via re-entry, disconnect it and start a new space station with that single module.

747 Sized Orbiting Hull -- For Free (3, Interesting)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690127)

Let's start a commercial space station. First, connect a module to the ISS. Then, when those idiots plan to burn it down in 2016 via re-entry, disconnect it and start a new space station with that single module.

The Space Shuttle external tanks are the close to the size of a 747 hull and have to make it to orbit with the Shuttle. (Otherwise it would run out of fuel!) Also, they contain hydrogen and O2, which evaporate completely, leaving an empty, non-toxic hull capable of supporting atmospheric pressures. Lots of people have proposed using them as the basis of really large space stations.

http://www.freemars.org/studies/torus/ettoru2.html [freemars.org]

Re:747 Sized Orbiting Hull -- For Free (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690249)

Lots of people have proposed using them as the basis of really large space stations.

In his trilogy beginning with Red Mars [amazon.com] Kim Stanley Robinson proposes using them as the basis of a vehicle that could deliver a substantial amount of colonist to Mars and give them enough space to be happy over the long journey.

Re:747 Sized Orbiting Hull -- For Free (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690889)

Yeah, because an inch or two of aluminum is going to shield people really well from ass tons of radiat6ion.

Re:747 Sized Orbiting Hull -- For Free (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691317)

If you store the LOX/LH2 propellants outside the ship, the fuel acts as shielding. Space radiation problems are overrated.

Re:747 Sized Orbiting Hull -- For Free (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693673)

Space radiation problems are overrated.

And how do you arrive at that conclusion? The Apollo astronauts repeatedly saw flashes of light on their trip from cosmic rays impacting on their retinas. This is no trivial amount of radiation. And if you face a strong radiation storm without a very well shielded shelter, the crew won't even reach their destination alive. Literally. You *have* to shield against solar radiation. As for GCR, while it's a lower dose, it's incredibly hard to shield against, but if you don't, your crew has unacceptably high odds of cancer, infertility, and other such problems by the time they get back to Earth.

People aren't studying this issue for the heck of it.

Re:747 Sized Orbiting Hull -- For Free (1)

techess (1322623) | more than 5 years ago | (#28694747)

Is and ass ton like a troy ounce?

Re:747 Sized Orbiting Hull -- For Free (2, Informative)

ankhank (756164) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691511)

> Shuttle external tanks ... have to make it to orbit with the Shuttle.
> (Otherwise it would run out of fuel!)

Yeah, that's why there are so many of them up there in orbit now, one per successful Shuttle launch. They have to keep sending up more fuel to deorbit the damned things so they don't bump into each other.

Oh, wait, wrong universe. In this one:

"When more than 97 percent of orbital speed is attained, the ET is detached from the Shuttle Orbiter and directed to cross Earth's atmosphere to burn up Skylab-like with remnants falling into a remote section of the Indian Ocean. The ET cannot be returned to Earth for reuse on later launches because it cannot be returned without burning up in Earth's atmosphere, unlike the Boosters which detach themselves early before high speeds are attained. Currently, the ET is just thrown away" (Prado, 1997, p. 1).
http://aeromaster.tripod.com/paper1.htm [tripod.com]

Re:747 Sized Orbiting Hull -- For Free (3, Interesting)

icebrain (944107) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692289)

They deliberately shut down just a hair early to make sure the tank re-enters where they want it to. The shuttle could easily bring the tank all the way to orbit, albeit at a slight payload hit.

Well, that, and there's also the problem of having to recompute the launch trajectory a bit, and having to figure out some way to maneuver the tank after it's jettisoned.

So yeah. It's not done now, but it could have been done relatively easily had it been desired.

Re:747 Sized Orbiting Hull -- For Free (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693409)

Not at "a slight payload hit". To get the ET up to a reasonable altitude where it won't deorbit shortly would take pretty much the entire OMS fuel budget.

There have been some interesting proposals to use the ETs as the backbone of a station, but they've never made it past review.

Re:747 Sized Orbiting Hull -- For Free (1)

srvivn21 (410280) | more than 5 years ago | (#28695129)

Not at "a slight payload hit". To get the ET up to a reasonable altitude where it won't deorbit shortly would take pretty much the entire OMS fuel budget.

According to the link provided by the parent of the post you replied to, the ET is jettisoned at >97% of orbital velocity. Perhaps I am mistaken (it certainly wouldn't be the first time) but that indicates to me a (relatively) small additional fuel requirement to bring the ET fully to orbital velocity.

There have been some interesting proposals to use the ETs as the backbone of a station, but they've never made it past review.

For political or practical reasons? :o)

Re:747 Sized Orbiting Hull -- For Free (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28704681)

Perhaps I am mistaken (it certainly wouldn't be the first time) but that indicates to me a (relatively) small additional fuel requirement to bring the ET fully to orbital velocity.

The OMS only has 305m/s delta-V (getting to LEO generally takes 9-10k, depending on aero drag), and much of that OMS delta-V is needed to deorbit. The Space Shuttle is rated to take 25,000kg payload to LEO. Since the ET has a massive cross section, it'd need to be a high LEO, at least as high as the ISS. The original ET was over 35,000kg. The lightest version available today is a 26,330kg lithium-aluminum version. It holds 730,000kg of propellant, a couple percent of which will remain in the tank even at complete burnout -- say, 20,000kg, which would have to be vented over time once up in orbit. So that's pretty much double the shuttle's rated payload capacity, needing to go to a fairly high LEO orbit.

That said, only part of the shuttle's max payload is dictated by the OMS; with no payload in the payload bay, the SRBs and ET can give it more initial delta-V and loft it up higher. But it's still a major payload for the shuttle to haul around.

For political or practical reasons? :o)

The most powerful "political" force in NASA today is the Space Shuttle Program. Anything to encourage further development of its components would win political brownie points.

Re:747 Sized Orbiting Hull -- For Free (1)

khayman80 (824400) | more than 5 years ago | (#28753917)

I'm sorry for being offtopic, but I don't know how to reach you except via a Slashdot comment.

I just wrote a brief article [dumbscientist.com] on climate change that quotes some of your insightful and helpful comments to me in the past.

I'm scared that this article will be filled up with rude people insulting me, or (MUCH worse) acolytes blindly believing in whatever I say. So if you see any mistakes in my reasoning or have any questions, please leave a comment at the form at the VERY bottom of the page. I'd like for the first couple of people who do that to be polite and capable of disagreeing agreeably. That's why I sent it to you first.

Re:747 Sized Orbiting Hull -- For Free (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691735)

The Space Shuttle external tanks ... make it to orbit with the Shuttle.

The external tank (ET) does not make it into orbit. It is dropped beforehand. The two orbital maneuvering systems' (OMS) engines [howstuffworks.com] , located in pods on either side of the tail, place the shuttle into final orbit.

Re:747 Sized Orbiting Hull -- For Free (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691849)

Oops, forgot the critical bit. The fuel for the OMS engines is stored in INTERNAL tanks, and is not supplied by the ET. The SSMEs do get shut down when the ET is jettisoned.

Re:747 Sized Orbiting Hull -- For Free (1)

Phoghat (1288088) | more than 5 years ago | (#28701833)

Andy Hardy: Hey guys how are we going to raise money to help the orphanage?

I know, let's build a space station, and give a show. We can charge $200,000 a ticket and save Sister Mary's kids!

Re:Quick (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690871)

Better still, the day before they plan to de-orbit send a propulsion module to the ISS, hijack it and boost it to a higher orbit and then send a commando astronaut in to disconnect it from NASA communications systems and take the thing over for your own purposes.

Claim that you want to re-cycle it int he name of earth and blame greenpeace.

Be certain to take an air freshener too! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28691775)

Be certain to take a few air fresheners and many bottles of Febreze too! The ISS has something described as a "funky smell."

Re:Quick (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693177)

Someone tried it with Mir: http://www.orphansofapollo.com/ [orphansofapollo.com] . Well, they used their commando money anyway to do it anyway, until the US government stopped them.

Re:Quick (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691619)

Yeah, that's a good idea. [slashdot.org] Aren't you glad you're the first to think of it?

Re:Quick (1)

drgould (24404) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692253)

Let's start a commercial space station. First, connect a module to the ISS. Then, when those idiots plan to burn it down in 2016 via re-entry, disconnect it and start a new space station with that single module.

The biggest problem from a space development point of view is that the ISS's orbit has too high an inclination.

So it's useless as a waystation for flights to geosync orbit, the moon or mars, which is where all the interesting stuff is. Anything you attach to ISS is going to have the same problem.

What you want to do is throw some inflatable modules from Bigelow Aerospace [bigelowaerospace.com] into equitorial or near-equitorial orbit and assemble a private, commercial station.

Fourth post! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28689765)

Imma chargin' malaysia!

Well now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28689793)

...don't we all feel like a bunch of dicks for making fun of this thing yesterday?

Nudists watch out! (0)

kaaposc (1515329) | more than 5 years ago | (#28689795)

Because it "carries a high resolution camera".

Launch video (5, Informative)

jeti (105266) | more than 5 years ago | (#28689953)

The Wired article [wired.com] also embeds the complete launch video.

Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (5, Insightful)

Big Smirk (692056) | more than 5 years ago | (#28689987)

Yes, I know, its good to make fun of NASA and its shuttle program.

I guess it doesn't take long for the public to remember that the space shuttle carries humans and thus is subject to a completely different set of requirements. Loose a Malaysian satellite - who cares, they are insured (BTW the insurance rate is of course based in part on the success/failure rate).

Not to mention the shuttle is in a completely different payload class, and more importantly, it is used with hundreds of thousands of miles on the air frame.

From the bottom of the article "Now 0-for-3, SpaceXâ(TM)s Elon Musk Vows to Make Orbit". While the shuttle has had its failures, its record is slightly better.

Yes, Soychemist, you are an ass.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (2, Insightful)

kaiser423 (828989) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690271)

Well, that whole human rated thing, and the fact that SpaceX launched from Kwaj atoll in the Pacific where the storm that's over Florida isn't.

NO ONE launches satellites into known lightning storms, and if there had been a storm over Kwaj they would have scrubbed also. In fact, they did have to wait for rain showers to pass.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28690399)

NO ONE launches satellites into known lightning storms, and if there had been a storm over Kwaj they would have scrubbed also. In fact, they did have to wait for rain showers to pass.

Not to mention the launch scrub followed by a three-month delay [hobbyspace.com] due to the fact that they were worried about the vibration environment of the launch damaging the satellite and decided to do a new engineering analysis.

Which was the right thing to do, of course. If you're not sure, don't launch.

Nevertheless, when NASA delays a launch to do a safety check, everybody complains how incompetent they are. When Space-X delays, everybody praises them for being cautious.

Still: Good job! Keep up the good work!

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691967)

Nevertheless, when NASA delays a launch to do a safety check, everybody complains how incompetent they are. When Space-X delays, everybody praises them for being cautious.

As I've long said - NASA just can't win. Delay for safety, and they're incompetent. Don't delay, and they're reckless.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (2, Insightful)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28694103)

Nevertheless, when NASA delays a launch to do a safety check, everybody complains how incompetent they are. When Space-X delays, everybody praises them for being cautious.

The difference is that SpaceX's delays have been due to them trying out a totally brand-new rocket design and launch support system. The Space Shuttle, on the other hand, has been around for quite a while, and most of the delays (besides the weather-related ones) are due to the inherent technical finickiness of the Shuttle design. And of course, most of the weather-related delays can be blamed on the fact that it's a ground-based launch system situated in the thunderstorm capital of the US.

SpaceX's launch procedures are designed to be as efficient and timely as possible, with a number of automated safety checks. Heck, even for yesterday's launch it turned out that there was a malfunction in the helium-loading equipment, which was quickly fixed and just resulted in a delay of a few hours. For the Shuttle, I imagine a malfunction like that could easily result in a delay of days.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (1)

Paranatural (661514) | more than 5 years ago | (#28702869)

SpaceX is also using a brand-new rocket, recently designed and based off of all the technical expertise gained through decades of experience because of the groundwork NASA laid.

The shuttles are the first and only shuttles ever designed, and are decades old.

Just to make sure we have the car analogy: This is like complaining the owner of an original Model T won't drive in the same conditions the owner of a F150 will.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28694141)

Not to mention the launch scrub followed by a three-month delay [hobbyspace.com] due to the fact that they were worried about the vibration environment of the launch damaging the satellite and decided to do a new engineering analysis.

From the same site you cited, it's interesting to note that the delay was so long because SpaceX was prohibited by ITAR regulations from simply adjusting the satellite:

http://www.hobbyspace.com/nucleus/?itemid=13078 [hobbyspace.com]

Technicians discovered the satellite and the Falcon 1 upper stage rocket share a nearly identical vibrational mode, which could set up a damaging resonance. SpaceX is bound by ITAR restrictions from assisting with any technical problems on the foreign-owned payload, so the company delayed the launch to add some vibration isolation equipment between the rocketâ(TM)s upper stage and the payload adapter.

âoeThe easiest thing would actually be to make some adjustment to the satellite . . . but thatâ(TM)s not allowed,â Musk says.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (1)

jeti (105266) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690337)

The Falcon 9, which shares most of its technology with the Falcon 1, is going to be rated for human transport. The goal for it is to service the ISS in combination with the Dragon space capsule. The cargo version of Dragon will be used for a few years before SpaceX introduces the manned system.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (1)

Macrat (638047) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690957)

The cargo version of Dragon will be used for a few years before SpaceX introduces the manned system.

By that time, the ISS will have been de-orbited.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691333)

Not necessarily. ESA and the Russians want the station up until at least 2020.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693815)

By that time, the ISS will have been de-orbited.

Their current schedule, while IMHO overly ambitious, is to have an empty Dragon dock with the ISS in 2010, with crew delivery to follow on later missions.

SpaceX certainly aims to beat Ares 1 for a tiny fraction of the development and per-launch costs. And they may well succeed.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (1)

Gunnut1124 (961311) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691117)

Correct me if i'm wrong, but don't the "human-rated" flights of the space shuttle have similar failure ratios to the "non-human rated"... I know that a lot more satellites have gone up than people, and I think Richard Feynman called NASA on this fallacy back during his research after Challenger [wikipedia.org] .

NASA mitigates risk with about the same degree of effect in both human and non-human flights. The added engineering and checks are simply due to the antiquated and flawed design of the shuttle (I'm a fan of the shuttle, but it's a bad idea). If they used something like their satellite launch rockets to lift men, they could gain efficiency by not having to work in multiple directions at once... Seems logical to me.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (1, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691207)

Yes, I know, its good to make fun of NASA and its shuttle program.

I guess it doesn't take long for the public to remember that the space shuttle carries humans and thus is subject to a completely different set of requirements. Loose a Malaysian satellite - who cares, they are insured (BTW the insurance rate is of course based in part on the success/failure rate)

You just answered your own question: If a rocket isn't safe enough to carry humans, it's not safe enough to carry a billion-dollar satellite without paying a large fraction of a billion dollars in insurance premiums.

'Human-rating' is mostly bogus: the primary difference between a satellite launcher and a 'human-rated' launcher is that there's no abort system on a satellite launcher so if you're going to lose the payload anyway you might as well just crash and burn. A human-launching system needs to ensure that it will fail nicely so the crew can escape... something with the shuttle, of course, has singularly failed to do.

Lastly, I believe the total development cost of the Space-X launcher is a small fraction of the cost of a single shuttle launch, so they expected a few failures in development.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692003)

You just answered your own question: If a rocket isn't safe enough to carry humans, it's not safe enough to carry a billion-dollar satellite without paying a large fraction of a billion dollars in insurance premiums.

'Human-rating' is mostly bogus: the primary difference between a satellite launcher and a 'human-rated' launcher is that there's no abort system on a satellite launcher so if you're going to lose the payload anyway you might as well just crash and burn. A human-launching system needs to ensure that it will fail nicely so the crew can escape... something with the shuttle, of course, has singularly failed to do.

Lastly, I believe the total development cost of the Space-X launcher is a small fraction of the cost of a single shuttle launch, so they expected a few failures in development.

I dunno. This isn't really news, because private entities have long been sending satellites into space. It's not really a hard problem anymore. Sea Launch [wikipedia.org] tends to be the ones sending satellites into space these days. And they've been at it for many years now. Though, their future is a bit uncertain, so having an alternative would be good.

And yes, there is an abort mechanism on these vehicles. Except in a "human rated" one, abort means returning them safely to earth. Aborting a satellite launch means blowing it up into little pieces. Sea Launch is useful here since the pieces are unlikely to land on someone's head miles away. You can't let the vehicle crash and burn, or even fall in large pieces because of the danger to the surroundings. Sure if it falls within a containment zone, it's easy, but you really want to avoid sending debris crashing through the roof of someone's house 20 miles away.

And yes, the insurance premiums are huge - even if the launch goes successfully, there's always a chance for space junk to screw your satellite up requiring a deorbit immediately. However, the launch success rate is high enough that people are willing to insure...

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693905)

What's exceptional about SpaceX is that it's essentially a from-scratch system. They were able to take advantage of all that we've learned that we've done wrong with rocket design over the past century -- hence their impressive performance and low cost. Sea Launch just launches slightly modified Zenit rockets, which are modified Energia boosters. The Pegasus by OSC is closer to being a fully privately developed rocket, but they were fully funded by NASA (instead of just winning a COTS contract but mostly relying on private customers, like SpaceX) and its engines are modified versions of existing engines by ATK (the manufacturer of the Space Shuttle SRBs and many NASA spacecraft kick stages). Also, the Pegasus design is unfortunate in that it can't evolve much beyond where it stands right now, as it has low Isp but has to be light enough to be air-launched. And all of its design choices put together make it a rather expensive system.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 5 years ago | (#28694009)

And yes, there is an abort mechanism on these vehicles. Except in a "human rated" one, abort means returning them safely to earth. Aborting a satellite launch means blowing it up into little pieces.

Which isn't an abort mechanism.

An abort mechanism would be a big parachute to return your satellite to Earth for relaunch, as you can do with a human crew in a capsule; if you have such a thing, then you need to ensure that your launcher will give you the opportunity to use it when something bad happens. If you don't, then you just blow it up because your payload is trash, anyway.

Similarly, if you can still get your humans into a safe orbit if two engines fail, then having a two-engine-out capability on your human-rated launcher makes sense. If your satellite can't get to the correct orbit if two engines fail, then adding a two-engine-out capability is pointless... the payload will just become more space junk.

These are the kind of changes you might have to make to 'human-rate' an unmanned launcher: and they're essentially trivial compared to the cost and complexity of designing a 'human-rated' launcher from scratch.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (1)

alnjmshntr (625401) | more than 5 years ago | (#28696195)

Falcon 1 contains something of an abort mechanism. Half a second after launch a diagnostics check is done and if anything looks wrong the mission is aborted and the rocket remains on the ground. This protects the payload from being destroyed if the rocket does not fire exactly as expected.

Not only that... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692247)

...but all those private space programs got a huge boost from the decades of NASA doing experiments in the first place.
To the point where I think even nowaday, nobody would care to even think about investing in space exploration.

Re:Not only that... (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28694261)

...but all those private space programs got a huge boost from the decades of NASA doing experiments in the first place.

And that's precisely how it should be: NASA exploring the frontier and pioneering new technologies, and after those technologies have been initially tested private industry then takes them and makes them into cost-effective systems. It's amazing that it took so long for this to happen, but I'm glad that a company like SpaceX is finally doing it. Of course, NASA hasn't still quite gotten the message, and is still keen on trying to compete with the already-existing launch systems with their Ares I.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 5 years ago | (#28693873)

I dont think they're really making fun of the shuttle here, its expressing frustration... and even then barely more than just expressing the facts. Anyone who pays much attention knows that the Florida weather patterns are bad for launches this time of the year, and SpaceX will face the same problems whenever it gets around to launching the Falcon 9 from Florida.

As you say the Falcon 1 and the Shuttle are so different its hard to make comparisons. Ones still a highly experimental new low-cost launcher for small satellites and the other is a legacy piece of hardware thats being pushed to its limits to meet international agreements and give us a strong base for the largest human community in space.

Giving SpaceX a hard time about its launch record isn't particularly fair either. Rocket engineering is hard. There's only so much you can test on the ground before you actually launch it, and its very hard to get something right the first time. Each launch had a different specific failure that was corrected and improved upon. While they're 2 for 5 so far, the fact of the last two being two successful launches in a row gives me as much confidence as if they had only launched twice and were 2 for 2.

The fact that the Shuttle launched successfully the first time is a testament to the skill of those who designed it, and the technical skill of it should stand out even for those who disagree with the overall architecture. Because its so much more expensive than somehting like a Falcon 1, you really can't afford to lose any, so you have to spend a lot more money getting it absolutely right the first time... though I can't say for sure, I'd guess that the cost of the failures for Falcon 1 would have been pretty comparable to the engineering cost to design it absolutely right the first time.

Even those of us who are very supportive of NewSpace development, the new entreprenurial groups such as SpaceX and Bigelow, don't dismiss the achievements and accomplishments of NASA. We wouldn't be were we are without Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, SkyLab, the Shuttle and the ISS. Personally, I even find the 'but we're still just hanging around in LEO' arguments off, because while it may not be as flashy, the hanging around in LEO is providing valuable science on what it takes to actually live in space. I'd even make the argument that Apollo was an abberation of Cold War politics and that just finally getting to the moon now is actually about on schedule (I think von Braun's original plan was to do it around 2000); if anything you might argue Apollo slowed us down because it was funded at an unsustainable level, but made everyone say we already went to the moon, Mars is the only next step, when in actuality there was a lot more less-sexy work that needed to be done.

The place where we disagree is the future of NASA... the idea of NASA developing their own unique launch vehicles instead of leveraging what commercial vehicles have done. It would be like the military refusing both proposals for the new tanker planes because they don't like having their vehicles based on normal commercial ones. Launching to orbit is done... it was pioneering government work in the 60s, but at this point its a matter of fine-tuning and efficiency, and NASA should be getting out of the launcher business. There's well document profit potential in building launchers, and its counterproductive to have the government as a competitive member. Where NASA should be working is on the frontiers... doing the life science work, developing the scientific probes, creating the spacecraft that take us from LEO to Mars and the asteroids. But since the goals of congressmen deciding funding aren't necessarily exploration and development, but rather keeping jobs in their state, the space program isn't so much about how to do it best, but how to keep people employed in various districts best.

Re:Comparison to Space Shuttle invalid (1)

Phoghat (1288088) | more than 5 years ago | (#28701861)

Not to mention that the Shuttle as in existence now, bears no relationship to the shuttle that was envisioned.

The phrase "Close enough for government work" does not exist for no reason. And oh yeah, shuttles blow up real good too.

US$30,000 toilet seats (3, Funny)

Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) | more than 5 years ago | (#28689997)

In a blow to the domestic economy, American defense contractors have re-adjusted their bids. In light of new competition, next generation shuttle toilet seats will now only cost US$20,000. It's all Elon's fault.

Re:US$30,000 toilet seats (1)

ijakings (982830) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690381)

As long as they dont launch meatloaf onto the ceiling, im all for them.

The future of space business (2, Interesting)

snot.dotted (627646) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690319)

Wow, that video of the launch was awesome! There's still stuff that can make my jaw drop. Its a testament to the technical prowess of the USA and the engineers working at SpaceX, this really is the future. On a side note, with more commerical players sucessfully entering the low earth orbit launch business, space junk pollution will come a real big problem in the next decade. Time to launch a space garbage truck!

Green angle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28690499)

...that could be used to better manage natural resources

Awww... a cute environment angle. All science stores have to have them now I guess.

Re:Green angle (3, Interesting)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 5 years ago | (#28690745)

Awww... a cute environment angle. All science stores have to have them now I guess.

You jest, but I work in satellite remote sensing -- and all the research funding is for environmental monitoring and geoscience (and it always has been, since the 1970s or thereabouts). The primary mission for these sorts of payloads is, in fact, environmental monitoring. Nothing cute about it.

Re:Green angle (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697253)

You jest, but I work in satellite remote sensing -- and all the research funding is for environmental monitoring and geoscience (and it always has been, since the 1970s or thereabouts). The primary mission for these sorts of payloads is, in fact, environmental monitoring. Nothing cute about it.

Uuum, I disagree. Forgive me if I am picking nits, but I too work in the space industry (namely launch analysis and verification). I work very closely with ULA to help ensure that a given payload will make it to orbit. To state that all research funding in general or in remote sensing specifically comes from environmental monitoring is simply false. Granted, a lot of geosci and enviro-sats are developed and launched. However, the U.S. government funds a ton of research in this area for detecting certain occurrences that are not of an environmental science nature. These are most commonly referred to as spy satellites and there are plenty of examples of them on orbit right now.

Aside from payloads that monitor military operations, the government also develops a lot of proof of concept payloads and launches. The is also quite a bit of R&D funding dumped into satellites and remote sensing by private companies for all sorts of things; such as testing a new communication method's ability to throughput a certain type of remote sensing data. In fact some of this research even comes at the university level for nothing more than a, "Let's do this cool proof-of-concept work to help industry and give our students experience" reason.

To say that satellite remote sensing is ALL funded for environmental monitoring is just plain false. (Don't forget that the name 'satellite' does not imply Earth orbits, any spacecraft that orbits another body is also a satellite and these include LRO, Cassini, The Mars Recon. Orbiter, and Venus Express. Each of these satellites are also remote sensing satellites used for applications other than simple environmental monitoring).

If you tire of the idiocy of /. space stories... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28690775)

... head on over to nasaspaceflight.com forums. On Slashdot, dozens of knuckle-dragging ignorant twats spout complete bullshit and get modded up by the handful of asskissers allowed to have mod points.

On NSF, actual industry insiders (sadly, none from SpaceX yet) actually post intelligent informed commentary, news, history and information. Uninformed comments like, LOL SPACEX BETTAR THAN NASA LOL get exposed for the ignorant lazy idiocy that they are.

Slashdot's site is crap (THANKS FOR CRAPPY WEB2.0 BULLSHIT, MALDA)
Slashdot's "editors" are dumber than my old shoes
Slashdot's cumulative "wisdom" is pathetic

Re:If you tire of the idiocy of /. space stories.. (1)

holmstar (1388267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28694413)

Here you go little troll... have some food.

Show me the money :) (1)

johnnyR (211170) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691045)

A huge step forward, SpaceX is showing it can be done privately, more will follow, when there is $$$$ to be made people will be there. Remember the old saying, if there was oil on the Moon the EXON flag would have been planted first!

Next step: Project Orion (1)

sponglish (759074) | more than 5 years ago | (#28691475)

What we need is a bootstrap launch of Project Orion. Use the nuke propulsion to orbit the steel plates, shock absorbers and what-not needed to build a score of Orions in orbit. Then in short order we could have a fully equipped lunar base; a real space station in Earth orbit; and Orions heading out to Mars and the asteroid belt.

All it would take is one, or at the most two launches from Earth using the cleanest 20 kiloton bombs we can devise, and we could be on our way to building a generation ship to explore the nearest planet bearing stars.

Re:Next step: Project Orion (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#28694297)

1) Orion launched from the surface is essentially a no-go; the amount of contamination and then the EMPs is simply unworkable.

2) Orion is obsolete; it's been superceded by better atomic bomb-based designs that are more efficient, lighter weight, and expose the crew to less radiation and shock. For example, Medusa. The paradigm is inversed -- instead of being pushed by the bombs, you're pulled. The spacecraft trails way behind a "parachute" that the bombs are detonated under. The tethers and "chute" itself provide a very long compression stroke, there's a significant distance between the bombs and the crew, and since structures are in tension instead of compression, they can be built lighter. And the whole craft need not be built as large (although it still can be).

3) If you don't care about spewing dangerous amounts of radiation out the back, why not just go with something like a nuclear saltwater rocket? If you're not familiar with the design, it involves a concentrated, enriched uranyl nitrate solution kept in a tank broken up into channels by neutron absorbers. When it gets injected into the "combustion" chamber, it reaches criticality and rapidly expands out the nozzle.

4) Realistically though, if what you care about is *getting off the surface*, and you want to go nuclear, you need a nuclear-thermal rocket, wherein a closed fission reactor in the chamber heats up hydrogen and expels it out the nozzle. Kind of tricky to have such a small, lightweight reactor release so much power in a safe, controlled manner, but it should be workable. As for cost, who knows. Before we can get to that point, though, I'd think we'd at first want to master nuclear-thermal aircraft engines, as the engineering constraints on them aren't as extreme.

5) The most radical cost reduction methods for getting off the surface don't involve fission or fusion at all (except possibly in power plants); they're electric. Some here are big fans of space elevators, but honestly, the material constraints are not only extreme, but they may be outright impossible. I personally favor the Launch Loop design, wherein a rigid tube maintains a vacuum and magnetically levitates and accelerates an iron ring inside of it, whose centrifugal force suspends the structure as a giant ramp. Craft can accelerate magnetically using the energy from the rapidly spinning iron ring.

6) For cargo, there may be some merit to the "giant gun" approach, whether traditional, light gas, ram accelerator, rail, coil, or whatnot. For humans, the G forces required to have a reasonable length track pretty much rule out this approach.

'better manage'? (0, Offtopic)

toby (759) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692359)

Ya know, the best way to 'manage' natural resources is to leave them the fuck alone. Better yet, stop calling them 'resources' and start calling them our heritage or a term that reflects the irreplaceability and sacredness of everything we are currently destroying as fast as we can.

If this satellite helps us leave the Amazon and every other piece of threatened Nature alone, well great, but we already know who's destroying it (our lifestyle is funding it) and where (everywhere), why (greed), and how (corruption, lack of enforcement). In a nutshell the "First World", as usual, is the enabler.

For more information see http://amazonwatch.org/ [amazonwatch.org]
Donate if you actually give a shit.

Re:'better manage'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28693291)

Dude, your post alone required the removal of 5 acres of rain forest. People who *really* give a shit don't post online.

Re:'better manage'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28693569)

Seriously - have you ever posted on a topic that you know more than Jack Shit about?

Re:'better manage'? (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 5 years ago | (#28694115)

Ya know, the best way to 'manage' natural resources is to leave them the fuck alone

Excellent idea. So, you're suggesting that all of the humans in the world are rounded up into spots on the planet that do not have natural resources (like, dirt, plants, or water - you know, resources), and have them stand perfectly still until they die. Of course, 6 billion rotting corpses will impact the local natural resources... hmmm. Maybe make some sort of oven or something to cook them all in, and the very last person who's daring to breath (and use up those natural oxygen resouces!) can make sure that the carbon sequestration is working right before killing himself, too. But, man... where to operate all of those disposal facilities? Whaddya do with billions of people?

Yeah, that would be a bit dramatic, wouldn't it. I know... let's force sterilization on everyone that doesn't see things exactly your way, and then you can be free of any further ethical fussiness. Well, except that the ones you keep alive (who will continue to insist on doing things like drinking water, urinating, and eating stuff that grows in the dirt) may actually give birth to some kids that, again, won't see things your way. You'll have to decide how to dispose of them, too.

Oh, and don't forget the ants. They are forever re-arranging the local natural resources. Piling up dirt over here, moving organic debris from one place to another, respirating... the nerve! And beavers. Don't forget the beavers. You're going to have to decide how you're going to certify specific beavers as being sufficiently thoughtful about what streams they back up, which local grasses and small mammals they drown, and which beautiful trees they knock down just so they can have a snack and build a new house - one that's no doubt a big, rodent version of an evil McMansion. The beavers that aren't towing the line? Kill 'em. Likewise with birds that pluck the wrong grasses out when making nests. Birds are notorious for not keeping Earth Mother Gaia first and foremost in their minds when they reproduce, poop on things, and eat seeds that could be making new plants. The bastards.

Woah, they lost Scotty!? (1)

Civil_Disobedient (261825) | more than 5 years ago | (#28692657)

From the Wired article:

Before that breakthrough, the company lost a Malaysian satellite deployment system along with the ashes of actor James Doohan, who played Scotty on Star Trek, and an inexpensive NASA satellite.

That's what I get for not reading every day [slashdot.org] .

Re:Woah, they lost Scotty!? (1)

cbhacking (979169) | more than 5 years ago | (#28724133)

Only a small portion of the ashes were aboard. The organization that does these services only uses a little bit, knowing full well that the trip may not succeed.

"Yes"! (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 5 years ago | (#28696527)

  Milestones. "licks finger, chalks imaginary blackboard"

    Way to go, SpaceX. Kudos to the team.

SB
 

Do You Need To Be Stupid Around Here? (1)

reallocate (142797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697205)

>> On the same day that yet another shuttle launch was postponed...

So, the private sector can now control the weather? Storms in Florida are keeping the Shuttle on the pad this week. If Elon Musk was launching a vehicle with people and it was storming at the launch site, he'd postpone, too. Go ask him what would happen to his fortune if he launched his first manned vehicle on a stormy day and lost the crew.

In terms of manned flight, the private sector is 40 years behind.

reusability (1)

strack (1051390) | more than 5 years ago | (#28700469)

so are they gonna reuse the first stage? did they put a parachute on it this time, unlike last time?
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