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SpaceX Conducts First On-Pad Test-Fire of Falcon 9

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the still-learning-how-to-stage-launches dept.

NASA 109

FleaPlus writes "On Saturday, SpaceX successfully conducted a launch dress rehearsal and on-pad test firing of their completed Falcon 9 rocket, with the 15-story tall rocket held down to prevent launch (videos). SpaceX is one of several likely competitors (ranging from the upstart Blue Origin to the more experienced Boeing) in NASA's new plans for commercial crew transportation to low-Earth orbit. SpaceX has been cleared by Cape Canaveral for the Falcon 9's first orbital launch next month, carrying a test model of the company's Dragon cargo/crew capsule, although CEO/CTO Elon Musk has cautioned that they're still in the equivalent of 'beta testing' for the first few flights."

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109 comments

Thank you GOD! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31480430)

Better than my girlfriends on-pad testing. Damn bloody mess!

Resurrect Kirk, Long Live Picard, TNG Forever! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31480432)

Bring back TNG movies!

firsty post?

Re:firsty post? (0, Troll)

DevConcepts (1194347) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480512)

No. Missed it by that much >| |<
P.S. No LOLspeak allowed here.

Re:firsty post? (0, Offtopic)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480868)

Lol :-)

Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (4, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480506)

...of getting to space by making incremental improvements in technology (and substantial cost reductions through cutting bureaucracy).

Let NASA do the high risk/high return investments in fundamentally new technologies (aerospike engines, composite fuel tanks, hypersonic ramjets hell even laser beamed launchers or space elevators!). That, in a nutshell, is Obama's plan isn't it? To me, just a space enthusiast, it sounds good if not ideal. ("ideal" would have been to not have invaded Iraq and instead, COLONIZED Mars. They cost about the same.).

I just don't want to someday have American astronauts make their first landing on Mars and have to order Chinese food from the restaurant there. (It's okay, they can have the Moon).

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (3, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480732)

...of getting to space by making incremental improvements in technology (and substantial cost reductions through cutting bureaucracy).

Let NASA do the high risk/high return investments in fundamentally new technologies (aerospike engines, composite fuel tanks, hypersonic ramjets hell even laser beamed launchers or space elevators!). That, in a nutshell, is Obama's plan isn't it? To me, just a space enthusiast, it sounds good if not ideal.

It sounds about perfect. Of course, the devil is in the details.

1) Will the bureaucracy actually be reduced? I suspect not.

2) Will NASA do the research on fundamentally new technologies? I suspect not here either, since that would require handing NASA money year after year with no real return. (when you're getting money to do research, you have a powerful incentive to never actually finish your research)

3) Will Obama's Congress actually vote out the money to do either of these things? Given past history, there's no "suspect not" here, just a "no".

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (2, Funny)

Calinous (985536) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480874)

Aye, the times when NASA researches air engines and Jet Propulsion Laboratories builds Mars exploration rovers...

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480946)

2) Will NASA do the research on fundamentally new technologies? I suspect not here either, since that would require handing NASA money year after year with no real return. (when you're getting money to do research, you have a powerful incentive to never actually finish your research)

With your last remark this sounds like an attack on doing research in general, every researcher has that interest even in the private industry, unless they're stock holders rather than normal wage takers. The mechanism to solve that is exactly the same too, there's not an infinite amount of research money neither in the private nor public sector. Your program is a lackluster like Constellation? It gets axed. It's a huge success like the Mars Rovers? You can bet there'll be another round of grants for those. Oh there's a lot of pork and politics rather than science that decides what gets funded, but that's equally true everywhere. In fact, I'm fairly sure that this happens much more in the applied sciences where they claim the big profits are right around the next bend, only a little more research is necessary...

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (2, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481594)

With your last remark this sounds like an attack on doing research in general, every researcher has that interest even in the private industry, unless they're stock holders rather than normal wage takers. The mechanism to solve that is exactly the same too, there's not an infinite amount of research money neither in the private nor public sector.

Nah, I have no objections to research, either public or private. But I don't really expect that an organization dedicated to research is going to be necessarily motivated to develop products. Witness the various X-planes flown over the last couple decades.

As to "infinite amount of research money", what the government hands out like candy is essentially infinite, especially since every congress-critter will want to make sure that his/her district gets a piece of the research pie, whether they're doing something useful with it or not.

Note that Constellation wasn't axed because it was "lackluster". It was axed because it was the previous President's program. And because the congresscritter whose district was going to get a huge chunk of the Constellation budget/jobs changed Parties. Odd how that announcement came just after the guy switched to Republican, isn't it?

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

angelwolf71885 (1181671) | more than 4 years ago | (#31482238)

so by tightening the budget each year by a billion dollars that will motivate them to produce results.. that will just cause delays and feature cuts and we will get a half baked idea like Jupiter project or Atlas heavy lift

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#31485520)

Note that Constellation wasn't axed because it was "lackluster". It was axed because it was the previous President's program.

Incorrect. It was cancelled because, as the independent review by the aerospace experts on the Augustine Committee [nasa.gov] found, Constellation offered "little or no apparent value" despite the tens/hundreds of billions of dollars which would be spent on it through 2030.

That, and Constellation would have been unable to accomplish even ONE of the objectives set forth in Bush's 2004 Vision for Space Exploration:

http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/55583main_vision_space_exploration2.pdf [nasa.gov]

The fundamental goal of this vision is to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program. In support of this goal, the United States will:
* Implement a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and
beyond;
* Extend human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon by the year 2020, in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations;
* Develop the innovative technologies, knowledge, and infrastructures both to explore and to support decisions about the destinations for human exploration; and
* Promote international and commercial participation in exploration to further U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31486150)

There was opposition to Constellation on nearly the day it was announced, from within the Bush administration itself. Indeed, there were so many problems with the design and concept that a substantial number of the NASA engineers working on Constellation set up an independent off-clock (they used the internet and worked from home in a fashion similar to an open source software project) to come up with the DIRECT launch vehicle that would have been in many ways much, much better than even the Constellation and would have maintained the shuttle infrastructure that everybody is complaining about now.

Constellation does not and never has been about preserving the shuttle infrastructure or for that matter even really about getting into space at all. It is a high-tech jobs program that benefits a relatively few political districts and states, but not really much more than that. By the time all is said and done, Constellation has been projected to cost more than $100 billion and perhaps even more... and that is just to get to the Moon. Mars would have been another $100+ and was projected to cost perhaps as much as a half trillion dollars. Shy of a fairy tale dream, that kind of funding is never going to happen for NASA.

Constellation was an unworkable program from the get go, and there were people who knew that back when it was proposed. With Mike Griffin no longer running NASA, Constellation's chief backer is no longer there to defend it.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480992)

1) Will the bureaucracy actually be reduced? I suspect not.

You could staff 30 SpaceX companies with the number of people downsized by the shuttle program ending. Or in other words, its not a good time to be an aerospace engineer. (Has it ever been a good time to be an aerospace engineer?)

Downsize 27000 jobs as regards the shuttle shut down. Note that is a delta, for the industry not just NASA.
I know its an industry wide figure because NASA only employs 17900 people per wikipedia.

http://app1.kuhf.org/houston_public_radio-news-display.php?articles_id=1267053819 [kuhf.org]

SpaceX employs 900 people

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX [wikipedia.org]

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31481376)

Just as an example of how they do things over at SpaceX, two people can make Falcon 9 fuel tank in 19 days.
http://selenianboondocks.com/2010/03/visit-to-spacex/ [selenianboondocks.com]

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481528)

You could staff 30 SpaceX companies with the number of people downsized by the shuttle program ending. Or in other words, its not a good time to be an aerospace engineer. (Has it ever been a good time to be an aerospace engineer?)

Downsize 27000 jobs as regards the shuttle shut down. Note that is a delta, for the industry not just NASA. I know its an industry wide figure because NASA only employs 17900 people per wikipedia.

SpaceX employs 900 people

Once they start work on man-rating Dragon, we'll get a clue to the actual extent bureaucracy is reduced. If NASA essentially requires 10,000 employees (of NASA or SpaceX) just to monitor the man-rating of Dragon (and another 10,000 for each of its competitors), then we won't have lost much bureaucracy, will we?

As far as unmanned cargo flights, no worries at all. But there aren't all that many NASA guys now who spend much time on unmanned cargo flights.

If, in fact, NASA just gets out of the way of the private companies doing the business, then I expect massive reductions in bureaucracy. But the chances of NASA just getting out of the way are slim....

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#31485668)

They don't have to "start work on man-rating the Dragon". The Dragon capsule, in fact the entire Falcon 9 rocket system was designed from the get-go to be meet the NASA specs for man-rating.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (5, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481922)

Is that necessarily a bad thing to have 30 companies the size of SpaceX who productively each perform roughly the same amount of work that the one bloated agency milking government largess to do the same thing?

Yes, I do realize that even comparing Constellation to the Falcon 9 isn't quite comparing the same thing, but it does help that SpaceX is starting from a clean sheet in terms of building up a new organization that is avoiding bureaucracy that even exists in more established private companies like Boeing or Northrop-Grumman. That is called competition, and I think it is a good thing.

From a public policy standpoint and from the perspective of a company trying to get started in the aerospace business, now is a fantastic time to be an investor in a new aerospace start-up company with thousands of very hungry engineers that have decades of experience. From what I've seen, it is actually a good time to be an aerospace engineering graduate, as there are job opportunities out there.... especially for entry-level engineers that may be willing to work for a relatively low salary to get their feet wet.

All this said, yeah it would suck to be an employee of one of the major spacecraft firms that are connected to either Shuttle parts production or to the Constellation program. This does disrupt lives, families, communities, and even whole states when substantial shifts occur. That is why it is important to really evaluate the programs carefully before you shut down something like Constellation or the Shuttle program. Still, just because some program or government project is going, does that mean we as taxpayers need to keep that program going just to employ these workers, even if whatever they are making can't possibly be used affordably even once it is completed?

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31482642)

"Is that necessarily a bad thing to have 30 companies the size of SpaceX who productively each perform roughly the same amount of work that the one bloated agency milking government largess to do the same thing?"

"Yes, I do realize that even comparing Constellation to the Falcon 9 isn't quite comparing the same thing,"
But you did it anyway.

I am all for Space X but they have not even flown the Falcon 9 yet. The PR for the Shuttle before and frankly even after it went into service was great as well. It was only when Challenger blew up did people start looking at it and seeing that it had not really delivered.
But this shut down will throw many thousands of people directly out of work and many tens of thousands more will also end up trying to find new jobs in the communities it effects.
The worse thing that this nation ever did is when it stopped "wasting" money with the Apollo program and moved to the cheaper, more effect, and more commercial Shuttle program.
I fear this will yet another step on the road to no real space program.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31483682)

I don't know what your talking about. At 10 years old, I recognized that the Shuttle didn't live up to it's hype on it's first launch when I saw that it was just a plane shaped space ship attached to a rocket for take off. The hype before the shuttle went into service was that it would take off and land like an airplane. I don't know if that was what NASA intended or not, but that was certainly how it was presented to much of the public at the time. Your statement about the shuttle only being questioned when the Challenger blew up reminds me of all the people that realized Aids was "no longer a gay disease" when Magic Johnson got it.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31485616)

Well I have no idea what you where taught as a child but the Shuttle was never supposed to take off like an airplane. Even the first drawings from back in 72 didn't show it taking off from a runway and by 1976 everybody knew what it was going to look like.
So no I doubt that you had much idea of what was expected out of the Shuttle program at 10 years old.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31487126)

I am all for Space X but they have not even flown the Falcon 9 yet. The PR for the Shuttle before and frankly even after it went into service was great as well. It was only when Challenger blew up did people start looking at it and seeing that it had not really delivered.

While the Falcon 9 hasn't flown yet, the Delta IV by Boeing and the Atlas V, both of them in configurations capable of manned spaceflight, have already flown and with enviable flight records that put the Shuttle program to shame. Orbital Sciences is also ready to launch another vehicle that will achieve orbital flight that can be man-rated, and there are another half-dozen other companies in the USA alone (and another half dozen outside of the USA) that may get there too in the next dozen years or so.

SpaceX isn't the end all to get all, but it is one of the players that will likely be there to get manned spaceflight working. More importantly, SpaceX is sending up the Dragon capsule in spite of funding from NASA, not because of it. There is definitely a private commercial aspect here with the SpaceX Falcon 9 that has an eye for the future by chasing after non-government money as customers.

The problem with Constellation and with the Shuttle program before is that they tried to be all things to all people and couldn't really satisfy any particular spaceflight customer very well. With a diversity in the marketplace and improved launch rates due to lower costs and some real competition, space is finally getting exciting again.

The real question that is to be raised, and I've raised that issue on other forums too, is if the market for space tourism and for privately owned space stations is enough to compensate for the loss in revenue from the government contracts that have been traditionally a part of commercial spaceflight.

Think of it this way: For the past several decades most of the launches into space, and all of the commercial payloads, have been for just a few narrow types of satellites: Communications sats (both like Iridum and the GEO sats that do television broadcasting), Photo reconnaissance satellites (both government and private), weather forecasting satellites, and navigation sats like the GPS system. All of these applications in space are proven and there is a steady market for launch systems to get these kind of devices into orbit. They are cost-insensitive, so far as spending $100k per pound to orbit or more is a reasonable expense considering the kind of cargo involved. If a competitor like SpaceX comes into the market place and offers slightly cheaper flight services, they gobble up that market and everybody loses. In this sense the hope is that SpaceX will get smart and start raising their launch costs so everybody can start making a profit again on launching this particular market.

That has been the status-quo for the past 40 years or so, with NASA doing their own thing on a sort of flags and footprints type missions. How else do you explain the $100 billion dumped onto the ISS over the past couple decades?

The hope, the dream here is that by dropping the cost for access to space in a substantial fashion, that SpaceX and other similar companies are going to open up traveling into space for whole new markets that at the moment are completely untapped. People are willing to pay $30 million to $50 million for a chance to be an astronaut, and spending $150 million for a circum-lunar flight is something that actually has customers right now as well. I'm not talking a dreamy eyed feasibility study, but real customers who have already put money on the table and in some cases already have gone up into space. Any basic economics textbook will tell you that if you drop the cost, that demand rises. If the demand is already there and still unmet even at these insanely high prices, how much larger is this market going to be if you drop the cost for getting into space to 10% of these prices (aka $3 million to $5 million per seat)? Indeed, as the cost of going into space drops, the market potential here expands geometrically.

That is but one untapped market. There are folks like Richard Garriott who has already turned a profit from his trip to the ISS, and now wants to make a return trip to do some follow-up research on some of things he tried the first time he was up there. In other words, the business opportunities he has found by going into space is just tapping the initial market here. There are other ways to make money by going into space that can be done using non-government funding sources and doesn't rely just on the wealthiest individuals in the world taking an exotic cruise. And that is just for folks who want to get into low-earth orbit to make money. Again, reduced costs for access to space will grow here as well if the cost can be reduced.

The trick is for somebody, anybody, to make that bold move for cheaper access into space. The traditional markets for spacecraft have been prohibitively high for doing much of anything else, and it is that price gap between what is currently being done and what could be done if it was much cheaper that has been the problem for the past several decades. It has taken time for private industry to catch up and be able to take the lead now.

Importantly, this doesn't have to be a government run organization, and certainly we need to get rid of the idea that the only way to get into space from America is through NASA. NASA has a role to play for civilian spaceflight, and I'm glad that the agency exists. But a "space program" that is based on five-year plans and a top-down approach from a central planning bureau is not only un-American, it is something that needs to be rethought in the light of what the real strengths of the American Republic can offer.

This is Heinlein vs. Von Braun if you really want to think about it in that light. I know for a fact that Elon Musk has a copy of Heinlein's "The Man Who Sold the Moon" in his office. He has bragged about it and mentioned it in a couple of interviews. Mr. Musk isn't alone with that sort of world view either.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31488142)

I know what the "dream" is but it is the same dream that everybody had for the Shuttle. Did you know that NASA was moving to have PanAm manage the shuttle project before Challenger blew up. I know because I worked for a contractor back then.
The problem with the Shuttle was that Congress kept pushing to get NASA to cut development costs at the expense of operating costs. Everything from the external tank, scraping the space tug, and tiles where all development costs cutting moves. The Constellation is also full of development costs cutting moves like the use of the SRB.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#31483190)

Actually, its currently a terrible time to be an entry-level engineer trying to find an Aerospace job. The fact that the current Obama plan (which I fully support) is still only proposed, no one knows whats going to happen, and none of the established companies are hiring -- most of the job postings are not being actively pursued by Boeing, LockMart, etc. SpaceX has job postings up, and I think they mean to fill them, but they're a small company and they're busy right now so most of those are standing still too.

Combine this with the generally lackluster economy, which has led most companies to go on a hiring freeze anyway, and you get a situation where I know of only one person from my department who's gotten a job offer this year, and the pay was so poor for it that the person was better off staying in school with a stipend and a low cost of living than moving to LA where the job was.

Of course, once the budget passes I expect it will be a much better time, I hope. I was unwilling to work in the pork-filled behemoth that was CxP, but if the new plan survives unscathed there are a lot of interesting and rewarding opportunities.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31486368)

Actually, its currently a terrible time to be an entry-level engineer trying to find an Aerospace job. The fact that the current Obama plan (which I fully support) is still only proposed, no one knows whats going to happen, and none of the established companies are hiring -- most of the job postings are not being actively pursued by Boeing, LockMart, etc. SpaceX has job postings up, and I think they mean to fill them, but they're a small company and they're busy right now so most of those are standing still too.

There are close to a dozen different companies in various parts of the USA that are looking for aerospace engineers that I'm aware of right at the top of my head. If you mean a cushy six figure income working for a government cost-plus contractor that pushes the notion of "waste anything but time" and working for one of the major aerospace firms, I'd have to agree. This isn't the 1960's where folks with high school diplomas could get a job in rocket development simply because they needed warm bodies, and as long as you knew which end of the rocket was the business end and had half a brain you could find work.

One thing that is holding almost everybody back right now is that this is such a monumental policy shift in how NASA is doing things that there is a whole bunch of "wait and see" to find out if existing contracts are going to be continued or not, or if a new group of folks are going to get funding. Still, from nearly everything I've seen in terms of the raw financials about aerospace companies and spaceflight companies in particular, the market for launch services has held steady and in fact is expanding somewhat even during this recession. If anything, the recession/depression for space related companies happened about a decade ago when Iridium and the "constellation" satellite market dried up and launch rates plumeted. Launch rates are higher now than any time since 9/11.

A starving engineer without a family and willing to work insane hours in a small start-up company can certainly find a job right now. I would compare the situation to what software developers have been dealing with for the past couple of decades, and that is indeed a different kind of work environment than has been the case with aerospace engineers in the past.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#31485950)

I would argue that NOW is a GREAT time to be an aerospace engineer. Look, we are about to get MULTIPLE companies with launch capability. We are about to get MULTIPLE space stations over the next 5 years. We are going to the moon before 2020. This is a GREAT TIME to be an engineer. There will be high growth assuming that the neo-cons do not destroy this. As it was, back in the mid 90's, they forced NASA to stop development of Shuttle C as well as a Direct type vehicle. They stopped Transhab (that is now BA). And of course, they stopped VASIMR (thankfully, NASA continued to fund it regardless of what the GD neo-cons wanted).

, No, we are on the edge of a true space race explosion amongst the private companies similar to the net in 1992. Will we see a .com bubble? Most likely. But we will still see MANY MANY companies created and expansion of man to the stars.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (2, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31486542)

No, we are on the edge of a true space race explosion amongst the private companies similar to the net in 1992. Will we see a .com bubble? Most likely. But we will still see MANY MANY companies created and expansion of man to the stars.

Wall Street is looking desperately for that "next big thing" and I also believe that soon money is going to be pouring from the private equity markets into spaceflight in a manner than has never happened before. Will Wall Street overdo that kind of speculation? Just like everything else that they do, but then again I think it will end up being better for the USA in the long run.

The one thing that puts some sanity into spaceflight is that so many companies now have "bent metal" and that they have to meet that one incredibly tough obstacle in order to prove that they are capable of competing: get something into orbit

Any company that can successfully launch their own satellites will likely have gone through a trial by fire that will imply some real engineering talent which must be in place for that to happen in the first place, unlike some of the web companies that was just a dreamer and a URL.

On the other hand, the market for even near-Earth asteroids and lunar exploration is an untapped potential that could yield some very real financial returns that are on the order of trillions of dollars. A market that size is something also hard to pass up.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#31487294)

Exactly. If there is water on the moon, it is actually cheaper for Bigelow to be there. I think that we will be heading there by 2020 (not necessarily with boots on the ground, but at least with a massive project underway that is designed to put a combination of private and public moon base there.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

Necron69 (35644) | more than 4 years ago | (#31482366)

As of last September, SpaceX had about 700 employees (http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/air_space/4328638.html [popularmechanics.com] ). They've done in just a few years and few hundred million dollars, what takes NASA a decade or more, billions of dollars, and tens of thousands of employees.

How's that for reduced bureacracy?

Necron69

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31485218)

As of last September, SpaceX had about 700 employees (http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/air_space/4328638.html [popularmechanics.com] ). They've done in just a few years and few hundred million dollars, what takes NASA a decade or more, billions of dollars, and tens of thousands of employees.

How's that for reduced bureacracy?

Necron69

Of course, they did have the benefit of the NASA's prior experience, for both what to do and what not to do. After all, much of what NASA does and produces is in the public domain and what little else, barring ITAR restrictions on some schematics [wikipedia.org] , doesn't have the same security implications as the DoD, CIA, and NSA to complicate an FOIA. Don't get me wrong SpaceX has done a remarkable job developing their own launch vehicles quickly and efficiently, but it is easier if you aren't the first and can learn from those who came before.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

Kirijini (214824) | more than 4 years ago | (#31482376)

1) Will the bureaucracy actually be reduced?

Nasa is a government agency. By definition, it is a bureaucracy. By definition, all its employees are government officials... aka, bureaucrats. That includes all the scientists and engineers, in addition to their managers.

The tone of your post suggests you disapprove of middle management, red tape, and government administration.

You need to realize that the more a government agency contracts out its tasks, the more and more the agency becomes comprised of the red tape machine, and less and less of it are people who do the agency's work. To the extent that privatization or contracting out "reduces" the size of an agency, it means that whats left is the clerical management everyone hates.

Will the bureaucracy be reduced? Yes, because the space shuttle program involved massive amounts of contracting, with NASA supervising and running the program. The new plan calls for NASA "buying rides" from private companies - this means the companies can eat the management costs and personnel burden of developing and maintaining the rockets.

Hopefully, the actual number of people at NASA won't change, though their jobs should. They can move away from administration and contractor compliance, and doing the real work of NASA - aeronautics and space research. From middle management to scientists and engineers.

But they'll still be bureaucrats.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#31486148)

Nasa is a government agency. By definition, it is a bureaucracy. By definition, all its employees are government officials... aka, bureaucrats... You need to realize that the more a government agency contracts out its tasks, the more and more the agency becomes comprised of the red tape machine, and less and less of it are people who do the agency's work.

Sure, you can't necessarily reduce the proportion of bureaucracy at NASA, pretty much by definition. However, what you can do is reduce portion of bureaucracy in the aerospace industry as a whole, allowing the same number of bureaucrats to help facilitate a much larger amount of aerospace activity. Also, the transition from cost-plus contracts (where profits are guaranteed but there's massive amounts of paperwork) to fixed-price contracts (where the company takes greater risk but with MUCH less bureaucracy, paperwork, and overall cost involved) will help substantially.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#31484968)

While not certain about the bureaucracy reduction (I suspect that Bolden holds potential), think about NASA in the aeronauticals RD world. How much RD do they do? LOADS. They do it in conjunction with private companies, but still, they are the main RD ppl. And I think that once we have enough private space going to Space with Cargo and Humans, then we will see loads of cutting edge RD on going to the moon/mars/asteroids/etc.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#31485914)

2) Will NASA do the research on fundamentally new technologies? I suspect not here either, since that would require handing NASA money year after year with no real return. (when you're getting money to do research, you have a powerful incentive to never actually finish your research)

Robert Braun, the new NASA Chief Technologist (and well-regarded expert in aerospace and planetary exploration technologies) gave a talk last week which gives a good overview on how NASA's research on "fundamentally new technologies" will work out:

http://spacepolicyonline.com/pages/images/stories/Braun_-_NASA_OCT_March_9_ASEB.pdf [spacepolicyonline.com]

Addressing your concerns, the new plans are much more return-oriented in the immediate future than the old plans, with hundreds of "early stage innovation" projects with a 6 month-2 year duration starting in 2011, 10-20 "game changing technology" projects with 2 year duration, and 3-8 "crosscutting capability demonstrations" with 3 year project duration, and in-space demonstrations of technologies like in-orbit propellant depots and in-situ resource utilization by 2014.

Here's a list of the topics (not all-inclusive) the new technology programs are planning on researching and producing results on in the next few years (not including exploration tech demos, which make up an equally large part of the budget). It's also worth noting that almost all of these topics would have been ignored by NASA under Constellation:

Early Stage Innovation
-Computational Materials Design, Nanotube Based Structural Materials, High Bandwidth Communications, Lightweight Low Transit Volume Space Structures, Non- Chemical In-Space Propulsion, Coatings and Adhesives, Flexible Power Arrays, Microwave/Laser Power Transmission, Energy Storage Systems, Space Robotic Assembly and Fabrication, Formation Flying Spacecraft Systems (Swarm Operations), Nonconventional Access to Space, Print Manufacturing and Rapid 3D Prototyping, Extreme Environment (Temperature/Radiation) Sensors and Mechanisms, Climate Sensors, Planetary Entry Decelerators, Reliable and Affordable Exploration Systems, Advanced Radiation Shielding Materials (Techniques and Systems), Safe Despin/Detumble Approaches for Large Non-operational Spacecraft, Material/Structural Concepts to Mitigate Impact of Small Debris, and Precision Timing and Navigation Using Only Celestial Objects

Game Changing Technology
-Advanced lightweight structures and materials, advanced in-space propulsion, nano- propellants, lightweight large aperture antennas and telescopes, power generation/transmission, surface robotic construction, energy storage, high bandwidth communications, and small satellite subsystem technology

Crosscutting Capability Demonstrations
-Optical communications, aerocapture, supersonic and hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerators, formation flying, advanced in-space propulsion

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (0, Troll)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480834)

Ah, that's Old School scientific driving forces right there: fear, xenophobia and racism. You forgot about them stealing all the hot Martian women [wikipedia.org] if they get here first though.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (2, Insightful)

dziban303 (540095) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481002)

Exactly what is racist or even xenophobic about his statement? He said, in effect, he doesn't want the Chinese to beat us there--he didn't say "I hate and fear those chinks". So is it no longer okay to root for your own team?

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (2, Informative)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481900)

Yeah, I'm actually Asian American (with both parents being Asian). So while I might be (overly) nationalistic I don't think I'm being racist. And while I'm not living in China, I'm living in a country right next door.

By the way, since African Americans can say the "N" word without opprobrium, can I use the "C" word. ;)

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481958)

Exactly what is racist or even xenophobic about his statement?

The act of choosing to write it?

So is it no longer okay to root for your own team?

Well, if you like. Let's give it a try: I'm really glad that I'm British, because that means I'm not a Yank.

I get your point. There's nothing remotely xenophobic about saying how I wake up every day praising the Flying Spaghetti Monster that I'm not American.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 4 years ago | (#31484388)

Nationalism: those people in $COUNTRY are bad, evil people, and so we deserve to win!

Patriotism: those people in $COUNTRY are people just like us, equally deserving, but I hope we're the ones that win!

There's nothing inherently Xenophobic in rooting for the home team.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31482088)

So is it no longer okay to root for your own team?

No, not as long as they're white.

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481016)

if they get here first though

Wait, you're already there? And there are hot Martian women? Hot damn! I would have expected a lower /. id though.

--
if you were blocking sigs, you would still have to read this

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

angelwolf71885 (1181671) | more than 4 years ago | (#31482078)

you do know the MOON would be a " WET LAB " for testing the feasibility of landing on mars right? i would rather have another Apollo 13 happen close to home rather then around mars besides that colonizing the moon could be useful for population growth and vacations but i guess colonizing under the sea would be a good start too

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31482392)

and substantial cost reductions through cutting bureaucracy

Private development with agency oversight is the model used by a lot of military projects so I wouldn't get my hopes up in terms of cost reductions or trimmed bureaucracy. Aside from that, how often does the federal government ever reduce bureaucracy?

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | more than 4 years ago | (#31483170)

Slowly driving down the cost? A Falcon 9 launch will cost 1/10th that of anything from United Launch Alliance (the unholy combination of Lockheed Martin and Boeing's launch businesses), with a heavier payload to orbit. A Falcon 9 launch will cost very nearly 1/50th that of a Space Shuttle launch. Either way you look at it, an order of magnitude reduction in cost to orbit. In less than a decade with a work force so small they still qualify for small business status.

I wouldn't call that slow...

Re:Great! Keep (slowly) driving down the cost... (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31485078)

The reduction in price *per kilogram* isn't that dramatic (1/4th the Shuttle rate, ~2/5ths non-shuttle US rates, 2/3rds to 3/4ths non-discounted** Russian rates), but yes, it's more than just an incremental improvement. Assuming that they can keep their price targets. Of course, from what I understand, their price targets assume no reuse, but they're looking into reuse, so that does give them some potential to even beat those targets.

** -- The Russians sometimes offer special deals on experimental craft or converted ICBMs they're trying to get rid of that beat SpaceX's price per kilogram. But their regular prices are higher.

space fight (-1, Troll)

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15-stories? (1, Interesting)

Henriok (6762) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480802)

I know americans have problems with units for length but really "15 story tall"? Exactly how tall is a story? I don't even know how tall a 15 story tall house is, or even that it's 15 stories tall. Does that include the ground floor or basement? Or the top floor? A penthouse, it that one or two stories and included in this measurement? Can you use "story" to measure something lying down or is everything "1 story long"? The height of a story must differ from house to house so how many stories tall is a 15 story tall house? No one knows how tall a 15 story tall house is, or that it differs from a 12 or 22 story tall house. Intuitively they are just "tall houses" and a 12 story tall house may very well be taller than a 15 story tall house. Insane! Can anyone translate this into some sane unit? And please, keep reports on scientific and technical issues scientific and technical.

Re:15-stories? (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480848)

A story is typically about three meters.

Re:15-stories? (4, Funny)

b0dge (1720126) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480966)

A story is typically about three bears. Fixed.

Re:15-stories? (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481274)

Unless there are dupes.

Re:15-stories? (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480870)

Exactly how tall is a story?

Each story is roughly 10 feet. So a 15 story building is roughly 150 feet tall.

Re:15-stories? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31480894)

Or, in laymans terms, "Half a Godzilla".

Re:15-stories? (1)

hanabal (717731) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481250)

my building has 14ft ceilings. add a bit between levels and you have 15ft per storey. So how tall is a 15 storey rocket again?

Re:15-stories? (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481648)

150 feet. Did you not hear him the first time?

You know MY library of congress is way bigger than YOUR library of congress ...

Re:15-stories? (1)

ericspinder (146776) | more than 4 years ago | (#31482048)

The only kind of place I've seen such tall ceilings have been in tropical climates, and never more than a couple of stories high.

Re:15-stories? (1)

hanabal (717731) | more than 4 years ago | (#31482118)

well I'm in Scotland. wouldn't quite call it tropical and the building is 9 storeys tall

Re:15-stories? (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 4 years ago | (#31483078)

The average story is 10 feet with the average ceiling 8 feet. Period. So since you didn't understand the first time, a 15 story building is on average 150 feet tall.

Re:15-stories? (1)

hanabal (717731) | more than 4 years ago | (#31483272)

the point is that there is a lot of variability on storeys. I understand there is an "average" storey height. But then you have to define mean or median. the median might very well be 10 ft but the mean will definitely be more than 10ft, likely closer to 12 ft seeing as most high rises have 12ft or more ceilings.

Also the article didn't say "15 average storeys tall", it said "15 storeys tall". I know this sounds pedantic but storey as a height unit is really bad. All it gives is a rough idea that it is really tall. According to wikipedia the height is 54m. Now 54m is more specific, I know how tall it is and it only used 3 characters.

Re:15-stories? (1)

hanabal (717731) | more than 4 years ago | (#31483332)

also 54m is approximately 177ft. so using this supposed 10ft per storey it should be almost 18 storeys, not 15

Re:15-stories? (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 4 years ago | (#31483548)

the point is that there is a lot of variability on storeys

Of course there is. My initial answer made that pretty clear. Using the word, "roughly", very clearly means its not an exact measurement. Its a mechanism which allows someone to relate to scale without using an actual scale or image. Nothing more, nothing less. You're problem is, and many others, you keep trying to use it as an exact measurement when it was never intended to be used as such. The simple fact remains, most people can't relate to large numbers, and humans in general are extremely bad at estimating distances. Most people in the modern world have seen tall buildings. As a "story", on average, is roughly 10 feet (3 meters), it makes for pretty easy math to estimate and give a relative size.

At the end of the day, you're needless rattling makes you appear needy and brainless; only able to understand literal black and white, in bold print. And contrary to saying, "that's wrong", "its 18 stories, not 15", and other idiotic bullshit, it doesn't change anything. In the grand scheme of things, a 15-18 story building, in height, gives a good idea of how tall the rocket it, without regard for the specific building used for comparison. Either way, its big, and in most people's imagination, the difference of 3 stories one way or the other doesn't change anything. And if it does for you, then you don't understand the most basic concepts of estimation or relative comparison.

Re:15-stories? (1)

hanabal (717731) | more than 4 years ago | (#31483842)

I do actually enjoy this conversation. It is enlightening on some weird level. I don't have an issue with the idea of using comparisons, but storeys for some reason doesn't sit well with me. Your point of 3 stories making no difference is a good one and I fully agree. In fact I'll go further and say that personally if you said 10 storeys I wouldn't be able to visualise much difference. going the other way, if the article said 20 storeys I'd likely imagine the same basic height (really tall). All I could see in my mind is a really tall thing. Your point about 3 stories not changing anything is true and further shows that storeys are a bad thing to compare with.

my rattling might be needless but how does it make me appear brainless? the black and white and bold print statement is also interesting. Even to be more pedantic I never said "that's wrong". The point was 18 or 15 or maybe even 10 can be right, which shows that it is silly to use storeys. And I have to disagree in that it does not give a good idea of how tall the rocket is.

The other issue is this is a technical website talking about a technical topic. It would be suitable and in fact preferred for it to talk using a technical language.

Re:15-stories? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480878)

Does that include the ground floor or basement?

American article. On this side of the pond, the ground floor is the "first floor", so it would be included as one of the fifteen stories tall.

Re:15-stories? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480886)

Simple really - 15 stories is about 5 Libraries of Congress tall.

Re:15-stories? (1)

Dan9999 (679463) | more than 4 years ago | (#31483740)

tall is usually associated with storeys (not stories), but you make a good point that stories are associated with a Library of Congress, the only problem is the math. If tall were out of the picture it sounds like one Library of Congress has 3 stories in it.

Re:15-stories? (1)

strack (1051390) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480912)

why a story is about 15 libraries of congress tall.

Re:15-stories? (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480918)

I know americans have problems with units for length but really "15 story tall"? Exactly how tall is a story?

How tall are you? A story is a bit taller than that, to account for ceiling mounted HVAC ducts and lighting. Intuitively its going to be about 10 feet per story, to one sig fig. Or about 3 meters. So, figure around 150 feet, or around 45 meters.

I agree that it is about as annoying as specifying all computer related measurements in "libraries of congress".

It would have been much more interesting if the journalist compared it to the size of a common launcher, like a space shuttle stack. Its 25% taller than a ready to launch shuttle stack or whatever it turns out to be.

Re:15-stories? (1)

Henriok (6762) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481284)

Intuitively its going to be about 10 feet per story, to one sig fig. Or about 3 meters. So, figure around 150 feet, or around 45 meters.

As it turns out the Falcon 9 is 54 meters tall. That would be 18 stories tall according to your intuition. Your approximation was 20% off. But hey.. give of take three stories. What's that among friends?

Re:15-stories? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481770)

Like I wrote "to one sig fig". I'm pleased as punch that my estimate was correct.

I wonder if the 54 meters counts the payload, maybe the itty bity lightning rod at the top, etc. Or is there a standard payload shroud that all payloads must live within for aerodynamic consistency reasons, in which case I guess it would be fair to count the shroud as part of the launcher.

Re:15-stories? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31486322)

This image [space.com] linked to from the article shows the design of the falcon 9 + payload, and compares it to the Soyuz and the Shuttle.

That 54m is the total height including the payload capsule and the nosecone.

But really, who gives a shit about how tall it is? Look at that picture and the stats, and you see the real comparison, the thing is way smaller than the shuttle stack (pile? Jenga game? what do you call a non-stacked stack?). Mass is much lower, but so is payload capacity -- about 16% the mass, and 43% of the payload to LEO. So it goes with rockets.

Re:15-stories? (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31482180)

Intuitively its going to be about 10 feet per story, to one sig fig. Or about 3 meters. So, figure around 150 feet, or around 45 meters.

As it turns out the Falcon 9 is 54 meters tall. That would be 18 stories tall according to your intuition. Your approximation was 20% off. But hey.. give of take three stories. What's that among friends?

Which is precisely why the complaint was issued, as there isn't a standard "metric" for whatever you can call a story. That is about the same as calling a foot to be the average size of the feet from the first 12 men that walk out of church on Sunday (one of the early legal definitions of a foot BTW). Instead, we have a foot to be precisely defined (by law) as 304.8 millimeters, which in turn is based on the distance of a certain number of wavelengths of a legally defined frequency of light.

Re:15-stories? (1)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 4 years ago | (#31482230)

Might be a problem if you live on the 17th floor.

Re:15-stories? (1)

Machupo (59568) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481194)

Americans enjoy non-precise measurement... it hearkens back to measuring length in units of a Monarch's apendage [wikipedia.org]

Re:15-stories? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31481324)

So, how long is a fistcock?

Re:15-stories? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31481394)

African or European?

Whens the IPO for spaceX (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480842)

Whens the IPO for spaceX?

I check finance.google.com and its all BS paper shuffling worthless shells of a company. All either struggling, dying, living off the government teat, or all of the above. Its like watching a bad season of survivor and the only ones left on the island are the biggest crooks and cheats so you wish none of them would win.

On the other hand, I'd like to invest in a company doing something interesting, like spacex. Even if they fail, I'd much rather throw away $$$ on a cool rocket than a bunch of thieving financial industry crooks.

I found one article from Dec 2007 stating they might IPO in the next two years, aka Dec 2009

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN0344600420071204 [reuters.com]

So, wheres the IPO? I was reading slashdot in the Redhat IPO era and I suspect the combined slashdot readership would probably enjoy buying some SPACEX even more so than RHAT.

If 50K slashdotters alone, each bought $1K of SPACEX at an IPO, that would be enough for one Falcon 9 launch right there.

Re:Whens the IPO for spaceX (1)

magus_melchior (262681) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481526)

Any article pre-September 2008 (i.e. Lehman Bros. FAIL) will not take the recession/market crash into account. Naturally, the SpaceX guys probably thought of an IPO until the credit markets froze ca. Q2-Q3 2008.

Re:Whens the IPO for spaceX (1)

deander2 (26173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481834)

I found one article from Dec 2007 stating they might IPO in the next two years, aka Dec 2009

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN0344600420071204 [reuters.com] So, wheres the IPO?

i don't know the specifics of spacex's tech, financials or crookism. but if i owned a company that in 2007 had planned a 2009 IPO, i probably would have postponed it regardless of how awesome/straight-forward my company was. i don't know if you remember, but we had a slight stock market hiccup 'round then. =P

Re:Whens the IPO for spaceX (3, Interesting)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481846)

Whens the IPO for spaceX?

I suspect Musk doesn't intend to do one. He doesn't really need the money now (though that may change when it comes time to man-rate Dragon), and giving up control of his company to someone who is only concerned with the quarterly bottom line may not appeal to him.

Frankly, though I'd love to own some of SpaceX, I'd prefer to leave it in the control of a guy who isn't afraid to risk some of his own money for long-term gain. And don't see that it's too likely to stay that way once an IPO happens....

Re:Whens the IPO for spaceX (1)

barzok (26681) | more than 4 years ago | (#31482218)

I'd prefer to leave it in the control of a guy who isn't afraid to risk some of his own money for long-term gain. And don't see that it's too likely to stay that way once an IPO happens

Especially since once the IPO happens, his primary duty is a fiduciary one, to the stockholders - not the actual advancement of the technology or whatever else he wants to do with the company.

Re:Whens the IPO for spaceX (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 4 years ago | (#31483376)

Especially since once the IPO happens, his primary duty is a fiduciary one, to the stockholders - not the actual advancement of the technology or whatever else he wants to do with the company.

That actually depends on the company's own rules. Most public companies have "make a profit" as their basic rule, yes, but typically do so by pursuing a particular line of business (e.g., making and launching rockets). If you disagree with the line of business of a particular public company, well, you don't need to hold the stock; you're free to sell to someone else. And as long as the board are following the company's rules and aren't trying to screw over the stockholders (no, taking a risk on the line of business isn't screwing over; thieving from the company is) then they're doing their duty.

In other words, if SpaceX goes public then you'd be stupid to buy their stock if you didn't support them building rockets. That's what they do, and they're totally open about it. Arguing that you didn't know otherwise when you bought would just make people thing you're crazy, lazy and thick.

Re:Whens the IPO for spaceX (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#31482232)

Dragon looks like it'll be adequately funded by NASA's COTS program (unless that gets changed by Congress, of course). Another potential need is the Falcon 9 Heavy or a Saturn-class heavy lift vehicle. Then we get to possible take over targets. Here, I don't really have a clue. There are a variety of potential customers and services that could be vertically integrated in, but most of them seem very unproven. Maybe investing in some of the commercial services left over from the former Soviet bloc. There are some satellite services companies (mapping, communications, spacecraft construction, etc) that might be a good fit. Build your satellite or space probe using SpaceX's space design division (acquired from someone like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumann, Aerospace Corp, or Ball Corp) and launch it on a Falcon 9 or Falcon 9 Heavy.

They might need improved launch services. The United Launch Alliance has two separate lines of launch vehicles. The Delta lineage is particularly weak, but their launch and payload integration services are top of the line. SpaceX might need them (or something like them) to be a proper prime contractor (means company can make contracts directly with the federal government) for many military or NASA payloads.

Re:Whens the IPO for spaceX (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#31485120)

I suspect that April 12th launch will be pushed hard, AF will give the go ahead, and NASA will award COTsD to SpaceX on the 15th at the Obama Florida meeting. I have to say that I HOPE that the meeting is useful. We need more information and IDEALLY, for Obama, or better yet, Bolden, to say that we going to the moon/mars.

Re:Whens the IPO for spaceX (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#31486584)

I agree. The timing is pretty chancy and could put a lot of pressure on the Falcon 9 launch crew. If I were running things at SpaceX, I'd try to make the deadline, but I'd put a couple of decision making times in the schedule so that if I didn't like how things were going and/or the deadlines got too tight, I'd punt the launch till some time after the April 15 meeting.

Re:Whens the IPO for spaceX (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#31486750)

I suspect that April 12th launch will be pushed hard, AF will give the go ahead, and NASA will award COTsD to SpaceX on the 15th at the Obama Florida meeting.

IMHO, I'm not so sure that would be a good idea and would be grossly unfair to the other competitors. Much of the reason for going with the new plans is to promote a competitive marketplace in spaceflight and transition away from the political favoritism which dominated programs like Constellation. Having the President single out a particular competitor like SpaceX would be somewhat contrary to that notion.

Re:Whens the IPO for spaceX (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31482096)

Right now SpaceX is entirely being financed by private investors, and the IPO isn't something that is even being discussed. Yes, it is one of the financing options and it very likely will be the "exit strategy" for the investors once the company gets going, but don't hold your breath yet.

I think for Elon Musk, one IPO at a time is going to be what he is worrying about at the moment. Tesla Motors is poised to "go public" in the next six months to a year, and the necessary SEC paperwork is being filed to get that to happen. Originally Tesla was going to stay completely private but the business of making automobiles is chewing up enough money that a public offering is needed. If SpaceX is going to have an IPO, I would suspect that it would happen some time after Tesla has its IPO.

The Reuters article that you are citing here was likely to be some speculation and feeler from Elon Musk over which company to take to IPO first, debating if it should be Tesla or SpaceX. With the feud happening in Tesla with the dismissal of Martin Eberhard and the federal loans that are being used to develop the next model vehicle for Tesla (and a production vehicle already finished and in the portfolio), Tesla looks like a much better candidate for this kind of financing.

All that really matters from this perspective is that eventually SpaceX may go public in the future. If you want to be a small investor into a company like SpaceX, simply wait your time.

Re:Whens the IPO for spaceX (1)

Rolgar (556636) | more than 4 years ago | (#31482784)

When you are building up a company, you start with private financing, either through one rich guy as in the case of many of these private space ventures, or through venture capitalists.

These guys have taken a large risk, and to make that risk worth it, they want to earn many times that when they have the IPO. The highest payout will come when the company has gone from high risk to sure thing. So when the company is able to launch weekly, with a profit every launch, the market will have a good idea of what the market capitalization (# of stock*stock price=cost to buy the company) should be. The company should provide a decent rate of return with a higher than usual risk premium (a series of crashed rockets might cause the stock to tank for a while) will give the investors a good idea of what the company is worth. Then, the initial investors have to decide if the short term gain of selling the company is worth losing control of their creation plus the long term income they could have by holding the company. Venture capitalists almost always go IPO. I have no idea what percentage of billionaire created companies are held privately. In Kansas, I sometimes hear that Koch is the largest privately owned company in our state. It's difficult to compare the size of the company to others because they aren't required to release financial documents for SEC compliance since they aren't publicly traded on the stock market.

Venture Capitalists Fund Innovation (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31483294)

These guys have taken a large risk, and to make that risk worth it, they want to earn many times that when they have the IPO.

Like it or not, venture capitalists fund innovation. They are not selling manufactured financial instruments that add no value (a generous description of recent history), they are paying the payroll and paying for the equipment at new companies with new ideas. They may expect a 10x or greater return but they know that historically nine out of ten of the ventures they finance will fail. In short, one experiment has to return 10x to pay for itself and the nine failed experiments.

As an engineer my emotions say it is wrong that the VCs get so much of the payoff compared to engineers and other workers but when I force myself to think rationally I realize that my paycheck was secure during years of development and that paycheck came from the VCs' pockets. Same for all the cool equipment I got to geek out over. I took no risk. This was true for the companies that I worked for that were part of the 1/10th that succeeded and the 9/10ths that did not. When I think about it rationally there is some fairness to the system. Is it the ultimate system, probably not, but I can't think of another realistic system(*) that will be somewhat efficient and tolerant of risk. The current system is after all the "winner" of a darwinian process going back millennia.

(*) OK being a parasite and basing your company on industrial espionage is probably far more efficient than anything else but parasites have to be quite benign (small in this case?) or far less common than hosts.

Re:Whens the IPO for spaceX (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#31485070)

Not for a LONG LONG time. Musk is IPOing Tesla and just wants to get out with his money form it. However, Solar City and SpaceX are going to be the two big winners for him. When this goes IPO, he will walk away with 10's (note the s) of billions or more on this.

Gut feeling says that it will not IPO for over another 3-5 years. In fact, I think that Solar City will be the next IPO. Solar City will probably generate a 100 million or so for him, which he will re-invest into SpaceX. That will combine with other private investment as well public grants/loans for building more. In fact, I am going to guess that the next investment will be a Tug/Fuel Depot. OTH, it may be the BFR, but I do not think so. The tug/fuel depot would allow him to send ppl/cargo around leo and on to the moon quickly.

Re:Whens the IPO for spaceX (2, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31487358)

Besides, Elon Musk wants to be an astronaut, and take a flight in his own Dragon capsule at some point in the not too distant future.

Unfortunately like D. Delos Harriman, he is likely going to be blocked by a series of lawsuits from doing so until after the company is so firmly profitable that his loss from an accident would be irrelevant to the bottom line. That is not the case that the moment with SpaceX.

I'd have to agree with you that the IPO for SpaceX is at a minimum of 5 years away. That SpaceX is going to need the IPO is true, particularly if Elon decides to go ahead and make his Saturn V-type heavy lifter vehicle that he has been dreaming about and talked about from time to time.

Well, that would take trying to find a market for such a heavy lifter vehicle too, but being able to send up the ISS in about 2-3 payloads would be something real cool, wouldn't it?

The preliminary work on an engine similar to the Saturn F1 has already started quietly at SpaceX, but I have no idea if or when it will ever see the light of day. Keep in mind that the test stands at McGregor that SpaceX now owns were originally built to test the F1 engines for the Saturn V, if that gives you an idea of what kind of dream Elon may have for the future.

Falcon 7 (1)

DIplomatic (1759914) | more than 4 years ago | (#31480978)

Ha ha! DRESS rehearsal! (Phil Ken Sebben) [wikipedia.org]

Spelling Correction (3, Funny)

greyline (1052440) | more than 4 years ago | (#31481316)

It is spelled iPad, not On-Pad. Get it right, people!

Re:Spelling Correction (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31483636)

They're test-firing the Falcon 9 on an iPad?

Holy crap. I mean, I was a little dissappointed by the iPad, but geeze these guys must be seriously pissed* to actually get one and then vaporize it with a rocket engine! Get a grip, fellas. Not everything Apple does is going to be awesome.

* Maybe in both American and British senses.

This is NOT the first firing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31481572)

This is the 2nd firing, the submitted cleverly left that out. The first firing was aborted due to a software glitch not opening a valve and the engines started to go up in flames. If this had been ARES the submitter would have included that - but his submissions are always slanted.

http://spaceflightnow.com/falcon9/001/100309hotfire/

Re:This is NOT the first firing! (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | more than 4 years ago | (#31483008)

Stupid anonymous troll Constellation partisan. The engines did not "start to go up in flames." The article explicitly says that. The spin start system didn't operate as expected. It was a completely nominal abort, something SpaceX is quite good at by now, given their experience with the Falcon 1. Unlike bullshit stacks like the Delta IV or the Ares which have (or would have had, if the project wasn't made of fail) solid fuel boosters, SpaceX builds solely liquid-fueled rockets; abort is a simple matter of closing valves, which is precisely what they did. Then they burped the engine to clear out the lines of the fuel that was on the downstream side of the valves.

All as-designed and as expected.

Unlike the Ares, which was not going to have any hold-down test firing capability at all.

Stupid troll.

Re:This is NOT the first firing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31483398)

Who said I was pro Ares? Thanks for making stuff up!

I just said that if it had been Ares, that it would have been pointed out. I can't stand biased articles and submissions - Ares, SpaceX, or otherwise.

It was a software glitch
http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/spacex-new-rocket-engine-test-100315.html

"Flames at the launch pad erupted when computers cut off an engine test of the Spacex Falcon 9 rocket."
http://www.wesh.com/news/22794602/detail.html

Re:This is NOT the first firing! (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31483884)

Who said I was pro Ares? Thanks for making stuff up!

It was just an inference of the motivation for your flagrant lies. I mean, it's possible you're just an idiot, so yeah, GP was jumping to conclusions.

I just said that if it had been Ares, that it would have been pointed out. I can't stand biased articles and submissions - Ares, SpaceX, or otherwise.

Well you flagrantly misrepresented what the article you linked to said in a way that says anti-SpaceX bias, so...

"Flames at the launch pad erupted when computers cut off an engine test of the Spacex Falcon 9 rocket."

As the first article you linked to explicitly explained, this was a normal clearing of fuel that was in the lines after shutoff, not the engines about to catch fire as you claimed in the first post.

"The engines did not ignite and there was no engine fire." That's a direct quote from the article you linked, and a direct contradiction of what you said. So...

Re:This is NOT the first firing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31485314)

I concede on the engine fire, I had not seen the embedded link in the first article, only the one from the orlando site. So thanks

Still, my point was that if the first firing had failed on a NASA vehicle it would have been (correctly) called out for it, while anything NewSpace is fine and dandy and they can do no wrong. My "flagrance" is a result of this submitter always spinning his submissions and having conveient omissions (the first failure in this case).

The first failed test fire was a result of "growing pains" (inexperience). The test enviornment did not suffice for the real enviornment. They will get better and better over time.

The failure, Musk, admitted, might have been avoided.

"We had tested everything on the vehicle side exhaustively in Texas, but didn't have this ... valve on our test stand there," Musk said. "Definitely a lesson learned to make sure that *everything* is the same between test stand and launch pad on the ground side, not just on the vehicle side."

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_space_thewritestuff/2010/03/musk-chalk-up-spacex-falcon-9-aborted-test-to-growing-pains.html [orlandosentinel.com]

Re:This is NOT the first firing! (2, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31487614)

Still, my point was that if the first firing had failed on a NASA vehicle it would have been (correctly) called out for it, while anything NewSpace is fine and dandy and they can do no wrong. My "flagrance" is a result of this submitter always spinning his submissions and having conveient omissions (the first failure in this case).

I would have to disagree in this case. NASA has had launch aborts on very public launches, including the Space Shuttle. They weren't decried as catastrophic or the end of the mission and loss of vehicle. It was merely an abort that forced a recycle of the launch. For the Shuttle, that implies a 24-hour turn around at a minimum to perhaps a week in delaying the launch for the next attempt. This abort for the Falcon 9 was no different, and if anything this test firing also tested that abort procedure in an excellent fashion. What is interesting about the Falcon 9 is that this abort, fix, and re-attempt can happen in as little as 10 minutes for SpaceX, as has been demonstrated already with the Falcon 1.

SpaceX needed some test data from lighting up the engines on the pad. Instead of one test, they got two, which to me sounds like SpaceX got a bargain including seeing an error condition they hadn't seen previously at the test stands in McGregor. Some heads rolled and some procedures are being changed as a result of that mess up too, so all wasn't lost in the effort, and the engineers have data from two launch attempts already to compare before the real thing happens.

Hopefully the engineers at SpaceX will make use of that data in a positive way to get the Falcon 9 off the launch pad without a hitch.

Re:This is NOT the first firing! (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#31485612)

You know, it really is too bad that our current focus is on Lithium ion batteries. It must make your drugs go up in costs.

not certified yet (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#31482662)

SpaceX has been cleared by Cape Canaveral for the Falcon 9's first orbital launch next month,

No it hasn't.

from http://www.spaceflightnow.com/ [spaceflightnow.com] : "Between now and launch, engineers will install the rocket's flight termination system charges that would destroy the vehicle if it flew off course and threatened the public. "

They haven't installed and tested the equipment to allow the Air Force RSO to destroy the rocket in the event of a guidance failure. I doubt the Air Force would have signed off on the launch until that is complete. They're using an Air Force pad; so, they have to follow Air Force rules in addition to NASA flight rules

kalla pathar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31482988)

yes, this launch will be more dahkah and blackah than any other. yes.
THANKS

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