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SpaceX Successfully Launches Falcon 9 Rocket

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the how-much-for-a-ride dept.

Space 190

leetrout writes "SpaceX has successfully launched a two-stage rocket, the Falcon 9, into Earth orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. 'Liftoff came after hours of delay, sparked initially by launchpad telemetry problems, then by a sailboat that strayed into a restricted area of the launch range. The day's first countdown was aborted at virtually the last second, due to a problem with the engine parameters, but the launch software was adjusted and a second countdown went all the way to the end.'" Update: 06/04 20:16 GMT by S : Reader mrcaseyj points out Spaceflight Now's coverage, which includes a number of pictures from the launch.

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190 comments

Cool (3, Insightful)

caywen (942955) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463064)

Good news for Obama and his vision for private industry servicing the ISS. Hopefully they won't delay their first ISS mission until 2011.

Re:Cool (5, Funny)

hardburn (141468) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463186)

I don't want to hear anymore about Obama and his socialist plan to move space launching into the hands of private enterprise.

Re:Cool (-1)

flowerp (512865) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463208)

[ ] you know what "socialist" means
[x] you don't

Re:Cool (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32463234)

Whoosh!

That wasn't a rocket...

Re:Cool (4, Funny)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463240)

[ ] you know what "sarcasm" means
[x] you don't

Re:Cool (4, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463290)

[ ] You got the joke.
[x] Whoosh!

Re:Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32463526)

[x] you checked the box
[] you didn't

Re:Cool (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463530)

You say that because you don't understand how much brain power it takes to think this illogically.

Re:Cool (1, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463276)

I don't want to hear anymore about Obama and his socialist plan to move space launching into the hands of private enterprise.

I heard he wants to build a moonbase! You know who else wanted a moonbase? HITLER! They called it National Socialism for a reason! That's why Hitler and Stalin were so so gay for each other. That whole WWII thing, just an act to make us think they weren't in cahoots.

Re:Cool (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463308)

That's why Hitler and Stalin were so so gay for each other.

I thought it was their mutual love of mustaches.

Re:Cool (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463424)

That's why Hitler and Stalin were so so gay for each other.

I thought it was their mutual love of mustaches.

Indeed. In fact, the real reason Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 was because he could no longer contain his jealousy over Stalin's thick luxurious mustache which was so much nicer than his own. If only Rogaine had been available millions of lives could have been saved.

Re:Cool (2, Insightful)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463650)

They called it National Socialism for a reason!

Probably for similar reasons why North Korea calls itself the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea".

Re:Cool (4, Funny)

St.Creed (853824) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463868)

They called it National Socialism for a reason!

Probably for similar reasons why North Korea calls itself the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea".

I knew it! Damn democrats!

Re:Cool (1)

berashith (222128) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464502)

argh, and republicans too... i knew they were in it together.

Re:Cool (1)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463298)

I don't want to hear anymore about Obama and his socialist plan to move space launching into the hands of private enterprise.

OK. Fine. How about this one, then?
"BP announces plans to move into commercial space flight..."

Re:Cool (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463626)

Maybe once they clean up their first mess.

Re:Cool (5, Funny)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463468)

That's only because he knows that private enterprise will be more efficient in eventually allowing humans to travel to his real birthplace!

Shoes for Industry! (3, Interesting)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463472)

Necessity and Incentives Opening the Space Frontier [archive.org]

Testimony before the House Subcommittee on Space

by James Bowery, Chairman

Coalition for Science and Commerce

July 31, 1991

Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Members of the Subcommittee:

I am James Bowery, Chairman of the Coalition for Science and Commerce. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to address the subcommittee on the critical and historic topic of commercial incentives to open the space frontier.

The Coalition for Science and Commerce is a grassroots network of citizen activists supporting greater public funding for diversified scientific research and greater private funding for proprietary technology and services. We believe these are mutually reinforcing policies which have been violated to the detriment of civilization. We believe in the constitutional provision of patents of invention and that the principles of free enterprise pertain to intellectual property. We therefore see technology development as a private sector responsibility. We also recognize that scientific knowledge is our common heritage and is therefore a proper function of government. We oppose government programs that remove procurement authority from scientists, supposedly in service of them. Rather we support the inclusion, on a per-grant basis, of all funding needed to purchase the use of needed goods and services, thereby creating a scientist-driven market for commercial high technology and services. We also oppose government subsidy of technology development. Rather we support legislation and policies that motivate the intelligent investment of private risk capital in the creation of commercially viable intellectual property.

In 1990, after a 3 year effort with Congressman Ron Packard (CA) and a bipartisan team of Congressional leaders, we succeeded in passing the Launch Services Purchase Act of 1990, a law which requires NASA to procure launch services in a commercially reasonable manner from the private sector. The lobbying effort for this legislation came totally from taxpaying citizens acting in their home districts without a direct financial stake -- the kind of political intended by our country's founders, but now rarely seen in America.

We ask citizens who work with us for the most valuable thing they can contribute: The voluntary and targeted investment of time, energy and resources in specific issues and positions which they support as taxpaying citizens of the United States. There is no collective action, no slush-fund and no bureaucracy within the Coalition: Only citizens encouraging each other to make the necessary sacrifices to participate in the political process, which is their birthright and duty as Americans. We are working to give interested taxpayers a voice that can be heard above the din of lobbyists who seek ever increasing government funding for their clients.

Introduction

Americans need a frontier, not a program.

Incentives open frontiers, not plans.

If this Subcommittee hears no other message through the barrage of studies, projections and policy recommendations, it must hear this message. A reformed space policy focused on opening the space frontier through commercial incentives will make all the difference to our future as a world, a nation and as individuals.

Americans Need a Frontier

When Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon, we won the "space race" against the Soviets and entered two decades of diminished expectations.

The Apollo program elicited something deep within Americans. Something almost primal. Apollo was President Kennedy's "New Frontier." But when Americans found it was terminated as nothing more than a Cold War contest, we felt betrayed in ways we are still unable to articulate -- betrayed right down to our pioneering souls. The result is that Americans will never again truly believe in government space programs and plans.

Without a frontier, for the past two decades, Americans have operated under the inevitable conclusion that land, raw materials and wealth itself are fundamentally limited and therefore to be hoarded and controlled -- rather than created. Out of this post-Apollo mentality, a deeply rooted cynicism has led young people into careers as lawyers and financial manipulators rather than farmers, inventors and engineers. It has led to an environmental movement which loathes humanity's natural capacity to transform hostile environments with technology. It has led to cartels, wars over energy and a devastatingly expensive arms race. It has led businesses and investors to remain averse to high risk technology development even as they issue billions in high risk debt vehicles for corporate take-overs. It has led to a preference for real estate speculation over job creating investments, making it nearly impossible for most of those born in the mid-to-late baby boom of the 1950s to establish stable careers, homesteads and equity for retirement, even with two incomes.

In short, the lack of a frontier is leading us away from the progressive values of the Age of Enlightenment, upon which our country was founded, and back to the stagnant feudalistic values of the middle ages. We look to the Japanese for cultural leadership. We forget the rule of law and submit to the rule of bureaucracy, both corporate and governmental; for in a world without frontiers, the future belongs to the bureaucrat, not the pioneer.

No where is this failure of vision more apparent than in our space program where the laws of human nature and politics have overcome the laws of nature and the space frontier as in "Take off your engineering hat and put on your management hat."

First Apollo failed us. Then the shuttle raised and dashed our hopes by failing to provide easy access to space. We now look forward to the proposed space station as the last vestige of a dying dream written of by Werner Von Braun in Collier's magazine during the 1950's, even as its costs skyrocket and its capabilities dwindle into a symbolic gesture of lost greatness.

The pioneering of frontiers is antithetical to bureaucracy and politics. The greatest incentive for opening frontiers is to escape from calcifying institutions. We betray our deepest values when we give ownership of our only frontier to such institutions.

Therefore, these hearings on incentives to open the space frontier are among the most hopeful events in recent history. Those responsible for holding these hearings and acting to create pioneering incentives to finally open the space frontier, are to be commended for their insight, courage and leadership. They are earning for themselves and our entire civilization a place of honor in history.

Incentives Open Frontiers

Over the past few years the Coalition has worked with Congressman Ron Packard and a broad spectrum of other Congressional leaders to introduce and pass a bill providing the most significant incentive for opening the space frontier to date: The Launch Services Purchase Act of 1990. Similar to the Kelly Act of 1925, which created incentives for pioneering aviation, the LSPA seeks to synthesize a commercially reasonable market from existing government demand for launch services. Lowering the cost of access to space through incentives for commercial competition is the most important goal in our space policy because launch costs dominate all others.

Although extensively amended from its original language, the LSPA remains a symbol of pioneering spirit, democracy in action and American values in the one place it counts the most: The Space Frontier.

Congressman Bob Walker's Omnibus Space Commercialization Act of 1991 contains two important provisions which will expand and empower the incentives of the LSPA. The first provision is the return of language in the LSPA to cover the Department of Defense as well as NASA, and to cover all space transportation, not just orbital launch. The second is the substantial funding authorization for launch and payload integration service vouchers under the Department of Transportation. The independence of the Department of Transportation's Office of Commercial Space Transportation creates exactly the kind of checks needed to avoid conflicts of interest. Private investors can trust their capital with such carefully constructed incentives.

Another important provision of the Omnibus Space Commercialization Act is the encouragement of many Federal agencies to participate in space activities. Such variety of funding sources further inhibits the politicization of space by replacing political competition for centralized programmatic control with incentives for performance in technical and commercial competition.

These incentives are helping to open the space frontier because they discriminate on the basis of actual achievement rather than political savvy and psychological appeal. By acting as a market instead of a monopsony or as a source of capital, government funding ceases to control or compete with the initiatives of our citizenry. Instead government rewards viable citizen initiatives with the profits needed to further capitalize space services, while punishing failed management and technology with bankruptcy; conditions virtually impossible to replicate within the space paradigm of the past.

Profit and bankruptcy are as essential to technical progress as mutation and selection are to biological evolution. They are the "invisible hand" that guide private investors to create viable solutions to our needs. Just as mutation and selection led life from water onto dry land, so profit and bankruptcy will remove the earthly limits on life and open to life the limitless ecological range of space.

Distribution of funding in peer-reviewed grants to scientists which patronize commercially competitive companies not only utilizes market forces to optimize infrastructure design and operations, but it also spreads space dollars out to all Congressional districts without multi-year authorizations, technical prejudice or political gamesmanship. This apolitical cashflow creates commercial incentives and it builds solid justifications for the use of our space dollars with a hard-core nation-wide constituency.

But robust justifications and hard-core political constituency pale in significance when compared the explosive energy of Americans challenged by the incentives and freedoms of a frontier.

Americans can best be challenged by the following policy measures:

* Distribute space funding to multiple independent agencies for the funding of unsolicited scientific proposals.

* Require that the experiments be designed to fly on existing commercial services.

* Expose the proposals to review by a patent examiner to ensure the work is genuine science, as defined under intellectual property laws, and therefore not in competition with private sector technology development.

* Require that the principle investigator make the primary procurement decisions free from Federal Acquisition Regulations.

* Minimize abuses and avoid multiyear authorization by keeping grants relatively small.

* As commercial companies establish space operations, support their property rights.

Comprehensive legislative language drafted for discussion by Dr. Andrew Cutler details many of the Coalition's ideas on procurement, property rights and transitional policies. This legislative language is available on request.

Stated simply:

Fly lots of scientific missions using commercial services. Base them on fresh ideas. Let unfashionable ideas find funding. Decentralize procurement decisions. Avoid competition with the private sector by focusing on research rather than development. Enforce new property rights in space as they are defined.

Give Americans a challenge and trust them to react with the resourcefulness and courage of our ancestors who risked everything to cross the oceans to settle a hostile continent. We won't disappoint you.

Conclusion

The space frontier is a hostile environment with unlimited potential that demands our best. We can meet such a challenge only with the strength of our traditional American values -- values uniquely adapted to opening frontiers.

This Subcommittee is in a position of great privilege. The next millennium could witness the restoration of Earth's environment and the transformation of space into an new kind of ecological range, virtually limitless in its extent and diversity. Those creating the incentives that open the space frontier now will be responsible for the fulfillment of this vision which appears to be the ultimate destiny of Western Civilization's progressive tradition.

Re:Cool (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463292)

Hopefully they put a manned capsule on these things so there will actually be people in the ISS to service.

Re:Cool (3, Informative)

nofx_3 (40519) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463444)

They have a capsule tech called Dragon that can hold 7 crew. They actually had a dummy Dragon capsule at the top of the Falcon 9 launched today. I think the life support stuff is still a ways off, but they should be capable of launching crewed missions a few years into the future.

Re:Cool (2, Interesting)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463978)

There have been suggestions that it could be as little as two years off, except that the emergency systems (particularly the ejection mechanism) might not make that mark. As can be seen by the recent delays for the Falcon 9 largely because the flight termination system was awaiting certification, seemingly minor things can lengthen things dramatically.

I think two years is incredibly optimistic, but I would love for SpaceX to prove me wrong.

Re:Cool (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464526)

I think two years is incredibly optimistic, but I would love for SpaceX to prove me wrong.

Indeed. Personally I'm betting they'll miss 2013, but match or beat 2015 which is the incredibly optimistic time scale for Ares-based manned missions to ISS.

Re:Cool (3, Funny)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464226)

they should be capable of launching crewed missions a few years into the future.

Woah, time travel too? I had no idea!
Can they get them back to the present?

Re:Cool (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464456)

Eventually...

Re:Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32463312)

Agreed. Failure to reach orbit still could have been an engineering success (see: all the rockets NASA blew up on the way to the moon). But politically, all space exploration may have been stalled for years. I'm amazed that such a hugely complicated engineering feat worked as expected (after they blew up a few falcon 1's that is).

Re:Cool (1, Informative)

CompressedAir (682597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463334)

They have several demonstration flights this year, but the first "official" CRS cargo carrying flight will be in 2011 if all goes well. That's been the plan for a while, and I should know, because part of my job is to stuff it with stuff.

(I say "official" because there is talk about carrying a few brave payloads on the demonstration flights, but that isn't part of the contract.)

Re:Cool (1)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463766)

Since you're in the *know* ... I have a couple of questions...
1. I'm presuming the flight to the ISS will carry "real" cargo (such as food). Am I in the wrong?
2. How do you think the Russians are going to take this news? Considering they've got such a lucrative deal going supplying the ISS with cargo?

With this all said, I'm glad the launch was a success. Hopefully NASA can start focusing on the Ares 5 heavy lift (or you know... just take an Atlas 5 off the shelf!) for going into HEO and beyond.

Re:Cool (1)

caseih (160668) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464070)

I doubt the Russians are bothered. They don't have any exclusive contracts for resupply other than their obligations and commitments anyway. Both the ESA ATV and Japanese HTV both have flown successful cargo missions to the space station, and are expected to become essential to the resupply of the station over the next few years. I can't remember about the ATV, but the HTV certainly carries a lot more cargo than the Progress freighters and can be attached to the larger ports on the American side of the station, allowing standard racks of equipment to be delivered. Progress and the ATV both us the smaller docking hatches and are more restricted in the kinds of cargo they can carry.

Re:Cool (2, Interesting)

CompressedAir (682597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464162)

1. Correct.
2. Just fine. :+D

The CRS flights are just one more piece to the puzzle. In the post Shuttle world, we'll have Soyuz, Progress, ATV, HTV, Orbital, and SpaceX. The SpaceX vehicle gives us back a large downmass capability which is going away when the Shuttle retires. Upmass we got, downmass not so much.

Re:Cool (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464178)

Several demonstration flights this year? Despite what the SpaceX site says, there was a news story last week [spacenews.com] wherein SpaceX had told NASA that there would be at least an eight-month gap between the first two COTS demo flights. The first, according to the story, is still apparently planned for sometime in July, but an eight-month gap suggests that the C2 flight won't be until at least March 2011. Another story yesterday [spaceflightnow.com] mentions that if things went well today, they would be looking to skip one of the COTS demo flights, specifically one that would have the Dragon approach no closer than 10km from the station, and instead have the grapple mission be the second flight, and that was mentioned as being in the second quarter of 2011.

Re:Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32463370)

You're an idiot on so many levels, only your alt's could possibly mod you up.

Go back to fark w/ your trollisms...

Cool. (0)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463066)

Cool. I don't care for the idea running around in Washington right now that this might justify the elimination of the NASA manned rocket program. But that hardly makes this not cool.

Re:Cool. (4, Insightful)

mbkennel (97636) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463376)

It's not the elimination of the NASA manned rocket program. It's about the descoping of the poorly conceived and poorly executed NASA manned rocket design and manufacturing program; whose significant purpose was employment in Alabama congressional districts. A private contractor will not decide on the mission goals or the payload. One can have robust manned space program without designing the rockets.

In 1965 NASA had to design and build its own microcomputers. NASA does not do so any more; astronauts use standard laptop computers on the ISS.

Re:Cool. (4, Informative)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464068)

Put another way, when was Ares' first orbit?

The article says SpaceX got $278 million from NASA to develop the rocket. Apparently we spent $1.500 billion on Ares in FY10 alone [parabolicarc.com] , and spent $445 million [cnet.com] on a single sub-orbital test flight for Ares in '09.

Re:Cool. (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464438)

I believe it's also the Senator from Alabama that hold's NASA's purse strings, so no money for space flight unless Alabama gets a big chunk.

Re:Cool. (4, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463662)

Huh?
No one wants to killed manned NASA flights, just the boondoggle that is their latest vehicle project. It only serves to keep shuttle makers in business.

Re:Cool. (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464010)

Amusingly enough, the pictures at supersonic speed look like a condom around the Rocket, looks like its preparing to rape NASA the safe way.

Most important launch in decades (5, Interesting)

mrcaseyj (902945) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463080)

What makes this one of the most important rocket launches in history is that, unlike at other rocket companies, the founder, Elon Musk, is determined to make a reusable rocket. The first stage of this rocket has been fitted with parachutes and covered with cork to protect it from the heat of reentry so that it can be recovered and studied in hopes of making them reusable in the future. The success of this launch solidifies the success of Spacex, and thereby dramaitcally increases the chances of huge benefits to humanity from much more affordable space launch. Also, the other rocket companies are probably very worried about losing all their business to Spacex now.

Re:Most important launch in decades (5, Informative)

Monkey_Genius (669908) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463228)

Only the engine cluster is designed to be 'reusable' -it separates from the first stage fuel tank after booster separation. The cork material is thermal insulation for the cryogenic LOX used in the first stage.

Re:Most important launch in decades (4, Informative)

mrcaseyj (902945) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463302)

The cork is for protection during reentry. From the Spacex updates page:

It is important to emphasize that the cork is not needed for ascent and there is no risk to flight even if it all came off. This is for thermal protection on reentry to allow for the possibility of recovery and reuse. While stage recovery is not a primary mission objective on this inaugural launch, it is part of our long-term plans, and we will attempt to recover the first stage on this initial Falcon 9 flight.

Re:Most important launch in decades (4, Informative)

mrcaseyj (902945) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463368)

Also on the Spacex updates page you can see the parachutes mounted in the interstage, implying that the entire first stage will be parachuted down. I would think the engine cluster would sink without the fuel tanks for buoyancy.

Re:Most important launch in decades (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463586)

Only the engine cluster is designed to be 'reusable' -it separates from the first stage fuel tank after booster separation.

Considering that the engines are probably 90% of the cost of the first stage, that makes sense; empty fuel tanks are cheap compared to rocket engines.

Re:Most important launch in decades (1)

flitty (981864) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463264)

What? You do know that ATK's Rockets that are used for shuttle launches are called "Reusable Solid Rocket Motors", right?

Re:Most important launch in decades (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32463514)

ATK's Rockets that are used for shuttle launches are called "Reusable Solid Rocket Motors"

Kind of an oxymoron there considering they are lost into the ocean and gone forever - reusable?

Another oxymoron that comes to mind: "Compassionate Conservative"
yeah .. right!

Re:Most important launch in decades (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463704)

Simply not true [wikipedia.org] . Follow the link - it includes a great picture of the jettisoned SRB floating in the ocean just prior to recovery.

Re:Most important launch in decades (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464500)

Which all points to the folly of making "reusable" the goal. We don't want reusable, we want cheap. The SRBs cost more to re-use than to build from scratch, sadly enough. As long as SpaceX is free from government procurement rules and congressional earmarks, however, I'm sure they'll do well on "cheap".

Re:Most important launch in decades (4, Informative)

680x0 (467210) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463720)

ATK's Rockets that are used for shuttle launches are called "Reusable Solid Rocket Motors"

Kind of an oxymoron there considering they are lost into the ocean and gone forever - reusable?

See this page [nasa.gov] for pictures of NASA ships doing the impossible: towing recovered solid rocket boosters back to Kennedy Space Center.

Re:Most important launch in decades (2, Informative)

fredmosby (545378) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463516)

But most of the cost of solid rocket motors is the fuel, so making them reusable doesn't save much on launch costs. This would be a reusable liquid fueled rocket, where most of the cost is the rocket motors.

Re:Most important launch in decades (2, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463656)

But most of the cost of solid rocket motors is the fuel, so making them reusable doesn't save much on launch costs.

From what I remember, NASA would probably save money if they stopped recovering the SRBs and just built new ones each time. They're basically just big metal tubes which require a lot of refurbishing before they're ready to fly again, so there's a substantial cost to reusing them.

Re:Most important launch in decades (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32463282)

Huge benefits to humanity? Really? I don't think so.

The hugest benefit to mankind is OIL, making EVERYTHING possible.

Rockets? Since 1957, you Space Nutters have had FIVE decades to show us these "benefits". Besides stoking the imagination of dreamers and deluded petulant children like GameboyRMH, there's precious little it has accomplished. Does it make clothes? Food? Materials?

Nope. Not denying the uses of communication satellites and weather satellites and a few fun probes, but let's face it, very little would be different today without access to space.

Now, watching people get old, weak, infirm, dumb, slow and weak from aging is a daily horror for everyone on this planet.

Wake me up when these rich dreamers remove advanced glycation endproducts [wikipedia.org] from adult humans safely, cheaply and repeatably.

Where was the fanfare when the molecule LJ001 [esciencenews.com] was shown to destroy all viruses? You want "huge benefits" to mankind? There's one right there! Suddenly a white metal tube filled with kerosene just seems like the silly toy it is.

You want to explore? Explore the workings of a cell. I think you'll find it immensely more challenging than Space Nuttery, and much more rewarding.

_We don't understand how matter arranges itself into US._

And you want pictures of rocks floating in a vacuum?

We live short lives, we get sick easily, we are fragile. This is what you want to colonize space with? Guess what, *we* won't. Maybe our modified descendents will, *if* there's enough energy !!!

Re:Most important launch in decades (4, Informative)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463474)

Since 1957, you Space Nutters have had FIVE decades to show us these "benefits". Besides stoking the imagination of dreamers and deluded petulant children like GameboyRMH, there's precious little it has accomplished. Does it make clothes? Food? Materials?

Look at that thing that's attached to your keyboard and mouse. The computer. The impetus for it's development was space. ICBMs can't fly in the atmosphere - they go into space. The little computers in your car that do everything from running the engine to your mp3 player? An offshoot. The ceramics that make the light turbines possible? Ditto. Better methods to monitor patients? Better ways to test materials? Better ways to model materials?

The space race did three things

  1. it gave us a different "war" instead of fighting each other on the ground - a race in space.
  2. it gave us a different way to look at ourselves and our planet. That picture from the moon's surface makes it different. We're all in it together.
  3. it forced us to miniaturize, harden, and perfect computers and electronics for harsh environments. Your home computer gets the benefits. Transistors are now much cheaper than even staples.

And this is all in addition to the benefit of now being able to say: Nuke it from orbit - it's the only way to be sure! [google.com]

Yo (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463590)

Well, that is pretty cool, that universal virus destroyer. I mean really, it is. But you could have put all that up as an article instead of dumping on a space thread. Both have their place.

If you did and it was rejected, no probs. Wait a week, re-write it, try it again.

Re:Most important launch in decades (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32463346)

Why do we want a reusable rocket? Didn't we learn from the Space Shuttle that reusable spacecraft cost just as much to launch as rebuilding a new craft every time?

Re:Most important launch in decades (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463632)

Didn't we learn from the Space Shuttle that reusable spacecraft cost just as much to launch as rebuilding a new craft every time?

Considering that a shuttle orbiter alone costs over $2,000,000,000 while a single shuttle launch costs around $150,000,000, the answer would have to be no. Most of the cost of the shuttle program is fixed costs like maintaining KSC which have to be paid regardless of whether the shuttle flies and don't change much with increased flight rates up to a dozen or so per year.

Re:Most important launch in decades (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464186)

A reusable system could be cheaper, if you could launch it once a week instead of 1-2 times a year. The shuttle ended up having too many maintenance problems to make that kind of schedule possible, but that doesn't mean it can't be done.

Re:Most important launch in decades (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32463372)

What also makes this different is that the founder, Elon Musk, is crazy: http://www.autoblog.com/2010/05/30/teslas-elon-musk-says-hes-broke/2 (I'm sure this success will help him out though). I guess you'd have to be to spend your $1.5B on not one but THREE hugely ambitious high tech startups (SpaceX, Tesla motors, and his solar company). I wish more billionaires would take risks like this. But I guess, like his car company's namesake, you have to have some insanity in you to really push things forward.

The other billionaires are the crazy ones. (5, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463954)

Actually, the crazy ones are the ones who hold on to their wealth. Money is for spending, it has no other worthwhile purpose.

Re:The other billionaires are the crazy ones. (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464216)

Billionaires don't hold on to their wealth, though. It's always invested into something--that's how they became billionaires in the first place. If you kidnapped a billionaire and demanded half his fortune for ransom, he'd have difficulty getting it to you because most of it isn't in assets he could immediately liquidate.

Re:The other billionaires are the crazy ones. (2, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464522)

But if you invest your money only to keep it, you haven't spent it. Most billionaires have their money in these kind of investments (real estate, stocks, bonds, things like that). Using the money to start a technology company, on the other hand, is spending it. I approve. I think everyone should spend all their money this way (you know, to the extant it's possible I mean, obviously you have to buy food and other essential things).

Anyway, just to elaborate on my earlier point: Most people don't make these kind of risky investments because they are afraid to lose their money. They have failed to realize that money has no intrinsic value and is only good for spending. It's crazy to get caught up worrying about money, and yet most people seem to think the opposite (especially in the US).

Re:Most important launch in decades (1)

bjaustin (1223668) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463576)

The success of this launch solidifies the success of Spacex, and thereby dramaitcally increases the chances of huge benefits to humanity from much more affordable space launch. Also, the other rocket companies are probably very worried about losing all their business to Spacex now.

The successful launch - on the first attempt, no less - is a great achievement but these statements are rather premature. Musk said himself that he'll consider SpaceX a failure if it doesn't achieve a fully reusable rocket, which is essential to their operation. There's a lot to do there - especially with recovering the second stage.

Also, other companies like United Launch Alliance are probably worried since any competitor to the field is going to only make things more difficult to them but the U.S. has been losing launch market share for years to the Russians and Ariane. But I wouldn't expect to see payload customers beating down SpaceX's door Monday morning. One in a row is not a track record that is equivalent to the Atlas V or Delta IV launch vehicle families and most will not be willing to risk an expensive satellite or two until further reliability is demonstrated, even with a factor of 2 reduction in dollars/pound to orbit that SpaceX is aiming for.

Very exciting (4, Interesting)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463118)

I'm making a note here -- huge success!

Hopefully this will reinvigorate the US market for launch vehicles. The satellite-manufacturing spin-off company of the research centre where I work currently launches most if not all of its payloads on decommissioned Russian ICBMs. I hope that in a couple of years, SpaceX's stable of launchers will be a practical and economical alternative!

Re:Very exciting (2, Funny)

Speare (84249) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463280)

I'm making a note here -- huge success!

... Even though you broke my heart, And killed me. And tore me to pieces. And threw every piece into a fire. As they burned it hurt because I was so happy for you!

Re:Very exciting (1)

DeadJesusRodeo (1813846) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463408)

... Now, these points of data make a beautiful line. And we're out of beta. We're releasing on time! So I'm glad I got burned- Think of all the things we learned- for the people who are still alive.

Does the last Atlantis pilot read /. ? (3, Funny)

nullchar (446050) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463144)

The Associated Press quoted the pilot of the shuttle Atlantis' last scheduled flight, Dominic Antonelli, as saying he was impressed by the Falcon 9 and would gladly climb aboard if and when the time comes.

"Yes, absolutely. But I'm not that picky. I think I'd probably climb on just about anything," he said last month.

I figure we slashdotters would climb on just about anything too...

Re:Does the last Atlantis pilot read /. ? (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463940)

Why am I not shocked and surprised to see that Dominic Antonelli, Lieutenant Commander, USN, is a Naval Aviator?

Sailors will be sailors...

It was almost flawless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32463146)

It was almost flawless, despite the earlier countdown abort. The countdown abort worked like a nice PR stunt (intentional or not, that is not relevant now), because it has shown, that the whole system cab be quickly primed for another countdown.

Re:It was almost flawless (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463354)

Well, they had explicitly demonstrated that ability earlier when they did the launch pad test-firing. Being able to do that in the first place is a big advantage of liquid fueled rockets over solid fuel. But yeah, it's definitely cool being able to see that a real last-second abort works just like it did in the tests. Major kudos to the operations team (who I believe, like the previous test, are SpaceX employees which marks a break from traditional launches), and of course to the engineers and machinists and everyone else.

Very Cool (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463202)

I tried to watch it from here in Orlando, but too many clouds were in the way. Went back inside and watched the feed - very impressive.

As a kid I dreamed that I might one day visit the moon, or maybe even mars. That's not going to happen, but hopefully somebody will get it all worked out in time for my grand-kids maybe.

Video? (1)

molo (94384) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463274)

Does anyone have a link to launch video? Thanks.

-molo

Re:Video? (3, Informative)

Afforess (1310263) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463328)

The video for the launch is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP5gykvTBpM [youtube.com]

Re:Video? (1)

molo (94384) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463434)

Thanks for the link. I was hoping for one without the "buffering.. ", but it was good enough to get the idea. Thanks.

-molo

Re:Video? (1)

insufflate10mg (1711356) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464590)

If you watch the above-linked video, at approximately 0:11 you will see a giant monster about to eat the Falcon 9. (This is no lie, check for yourself.)

Giant wasp from outer space? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32463286)

I laughed at the feeble attempts of the giant alien wasp to stop the launch [cnn.com] at T -5 or so. Was that you, K'breel, or one of your minions?

Impressive recovery (4, Interesting)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463352)

Earlier today they had a launch abort at T -0:00:00. I happened to watch the webcast on the SpaceX site; the countdown got to zero and my impression was that ignition was underway when the launch was aborted.

Had they used solid rockets, they'd have been SOL at this late stage.

Also, finding the cause and then being able to launch inside 1.5 hours is rather quick. ISTR early Shuttle launches where the slightest setback resulted in putting the clock back to T -12h.

And was the countdown off, or was the webcast not properly synchronized? I saw liftoff taking place at T -0:00:02.

Re:Impressive recovery (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32463456)

Loss of SpaceX craft: a few million $$
Loss of Space Shuttle: a billion+ $$

Space Shuttle is also a little larger and a little more complex. I'm using "little" in the loosest possible way. Comparing SpaceX to Shuttle is like comparing F-150 with Peterbuilt (there you go, a truck analogy :)

Re:Impressive recovery (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463700)

Space Shuttle is also a little larger and a little more complex. I'm using "little" in the loosest possible way. Comparing SpaceX to Shuttle is like comparing F-150 with Peterbuilt (there you go, a truck analogy :)

All the more reason to not screw around with shuttle launches for routine maintenance trips.

Re:Impressive recovery (2, Insightful)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463716)

To be fair, comparing reboot on the shuttle to this is a little unfair, since STS launched for the first time with people on board. Nonetheless, quite impressive.

As far as the liftoff occurring early -- I see it too. The stream was laggy, so that could be it, but it also seemed like the engines were running rather hot (second stage engine cutoff was early but it nailed its target orbit), so it could be that the sensors detected that it was dangerous to continue to hold it down and let go early.

Re:Impressive recovery (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464048)

Launching the first time with folks on board shows poor project management. It means you put PR ahead of good engineering and costs. If you have to blow up a couple rockets to cut costs and improve reliability that is the way to go.

Re:Impressive recovery (1)

bored (40072) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464120)

Or it could mean that you have designed a system that requires a human in the loop to be reusable. Which is pretty lame too..

Re:Impressive recovery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32463764)

Depends how long the ignition sequence is. It might take 2 seconds to get to full throttle for liftoff.

The Saturn V, with it's huge F-1 engines, started its ignition sequence at T -0:00:07

Re:Impressive recovery (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464298)

"And was the countdown off, or was the webcast not properly synchronized? I saw liftoff taking place at T -0:00:02."

Engine start takes place at T-0. For the first few seconds clamps hold the rocket down to the pad until the engines rev up to full power for liftoff.

Re:Impressive recovery (1)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464370)

I saw liftoff taking place at T -0:00:02.

Yes, I was puzzled by that too. The rocket had clearly left the ground before the on-screen countdown timer reached zero.

Video of the launch (1)

RCourtney (973307) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463386)

CNN has a nice video [cnn.com] of the launch which shows everything up to the 2nd stage ignition. Apparently the Dragon capsule was put into orbit, which was the ultimate milestone of the launch. Congratz, SpaceX!

Re:Video of the launch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32463622)

The Space-X [buffering.....] page also ha[buffering....]d a nice web feed of the lau[buffering....]ch. :)

It was actually somewhat better after the first abort - I think a bunch of people left after that and didn't clog up the tubes for the second attempt.

Utterly useless cheering (2, Informative)

NervousWreck (1399445) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463454)

WHOOHOO YEAH!!!!

(maybe the NASA cuts won't eviscerate spaceflight after all)

Excellent! (2, Insightful)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463482)

Well done Elon, Here's hoping you can stay afloat a little longer to get us back into space!

Space Slut (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32463568)

FTA: "Yes, absolutely. But I'm not that picky. I think I'd probably climb on just about anything," he said last month.

I "dated" a gal like that back in college. Sometimes having low standards pays off.

Hrmmm (1)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463584)

So does it just orbit for a while and coming crashing back down to earth in a few months / years?

Re:Hrmmm (1)

georgewilliamherbert (211790) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463814)

Yes; about 2 years in orbit is the estimate.

This test capsule had no functional heatshield (apparently), so it will burn up high in the atmosphere when it comes down.

Re:Hrmmm (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463828)

Yes, although crashing back down just means it'll burn up in the atmosphere. No risk to anyone on the ground.

Estimates for orbit lifetime are about 1 year from what I've seen. What brings them down is that there is still a tiny bit of atmosphere in low orbits, and this provides enough drag to slow things down slowly but surely.

Odd-looking roll (3, Insightful)

david.given (6740) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463848)

During the second stage burn, the vehicle appeared to start to rotate, gradually accelerating as the burn continued. Does anyone know if this was part of the planned ascent profile, or something gone wrong?

It's hard to tell due to the angle of the rocketcam camera, but it didn't appear to be rolling around the vehicle's axis --- which makes it more of a tumble. OTOH, that might have been an optical illusion. I gather that the Dragon demonstrator that was being launched didn't have any propulsion, so this could have been planned to spin-stabilise it, but... it did look odd.

I don't want to put any dampeners on the launch, though. For a first launch of a prototype rocket, it's still a fantastic achievement to get to orbit first time.

Re:Odd-looking roll (1)

St.Creed (853824) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463930)

I thought it looked funny too. Commentator didn't say anything about it except that it was going really well, so I assume it was planned. I was thinking the same as you - spin-stabilizing it. Still, I'd like to know more.

Re:Odd-looking roll (2, Informative)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#32463932)

Considering how well they hit their orbit, and that they hit it early (engine appeared to cut-off before the official time), it had to be an on-axis roll. Otherwise they would have been wasting their thrust and would have taken longer to achieve the desired orbit.

I'd guess that it was something expected but not necessarily on purpose.

Re:Odd-looking roll (4, Informative)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464114)

From Elon Musk's press telecon, as transcribed by flatoday.net:

"We achieved a "near bulls-eye" on the orbit. There was a little more roll than was expected. It didn't affect the mission. It is something to be investigated and refined. We're very happy with the second stage performance."

This isn't a spin-stabilized spacecraft, so I'd call what I saw more than just a "little roll"... still, damned impressive that the launcher can make an orbital bullseye while having that much uncontrolled spin.

Obviously (3, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464422)

This just proves how far CGI has gotten. They've been able to shut down the California sound stage.

Re:Obviously (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464544)

Now now, everyone on Slashdot knows the fake moon landings were filmed in a soundstage on Mars, not in California!

Beautiful Launch - pics and video (1)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464680)

I work on the Cape. Here are some pics my friend took. Here [facebook.com] . Here is my crappy iPhone video: here (launch starts around 2:40) [facebook.com] .

Light gas space cannon? (1)

freefrag (728150) | more than 4 years ago | (#32464722)

Could someone tell me if there is anything wrong with using a light gas cannon as the first two stages of a rocket as John Hunter [quicklaunchinc.com] proposes? Is the amount of propellant needed to fire the gun more than would be required by a traditional kerosene/LOX motor? It sounds to me like a space cannon would be an inexpensive way to launch non-living cargo mass. Has nobody invested in this sort of project because the space gun people all went to work for Saddam Hussein?
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