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SpaceX Unveils Heavy-Lift Rocket Designs

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the now-comes-the-wedding-night dept.

Mars 248

FleaPlus writes "At the recent Joint Propulsion Conference, SpaceX's rocket development facility director Tom Markusic unveiled conceptual plans for how its current Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 commercial rockets can be evolved into heavy-lift rockets, ranging from a Falcon X capable of lifting 38,000kg to orbit, up to a 140,000kg Falcon XX (more than either the Saturn V or the 75,000kg shuttle-derived rocket Congress currently plans on having NASA spend >$13B building). SpaceX presentations also discuss a new Merlin 2 heavy-lift engine, solar-electric cargo tugs, adapting their current engines for descent/ascent vehicles fueled by Mars-derived methane, and a desire for the government to take the lead on in-space nuclear thermal propulsion while commercial focuses on launchers. In a recent interview, SpaceX CEO/CTO Elon Musk expressed his goal of lowering the price of Mars transportation enough to enable early colonization in 20 years, and his own plans for retiring to Mars."

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They'll need to double that (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155362)

To send Oprah to space

Retiring to Mars sounds like a good idea.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155370)

....your income taxes as a US citizen will be lowering, since you will be out of the country :)

Re:Retiring to Mars sounds like a good idea.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155400)

Your income taxes have already gone down since Bush left office, but keep on trolling, asshole.

Re:Retiring to Mars sounds like a good idea.... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155482)

Can I pin a double-plus-good ribbon on your brown shirt?

Re:Retiring to Mars sounds like a good idea.... (2, Informative)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | about 4 years ago | (#33155420)

Americans are taxed on citizenship, not residency. And, giving up citizenship for tax reasons is not as easy as you might think. However, there is the FEIE: Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, for monies earned outside the U.S. from non-U.S. sources, if you live outside the U.S. for a contiguous year or more. But, you don't have to go to Mars to take advantage of that.

Re:Retiring to Mars sounds like a good idea.... (3, Insightful)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 4 years ago | (#33155672)

Americans are taxed on citizenship, not residency.

That reminds me of an old Monty Python quip: "To boost the British economy I'd tax all foreigners living abroad."

i've got a problem. :( (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155382)

my cock died. can i bury it in your ass?

Re:i've got a problem. :( (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155404)

Would a rooster fit in a donkey?

Re:i've got a problem. :( (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155662)

You came to the right place for that kind of thing. Lots of Linux users who'd doubtlessly oblige you.

Hahaha! (1)

Ironhandx (1762146) | about 4 years ago | (#33155408)

People told me I was crazy when I told them a few years ago I expected to see colonization of Mars within my lifetime.

I'm just so glad to see that someone is still working on it.

Now if the US could get their congress-critters to stop wasting cash on it... NASA should be technology development only. Implementation should be left to others(at least in my humble opinion). I think a lot more would actually happen that way.

Re:Hahaha! (4, Interesting)

jusdisgi (617863) | about 4 years ago | (#33155752)

I'm not sure the distinction is as clear as you're making it. It's not like NASA ever really built rockets. Rockwell International built the shuttle for them. They just set the spec and take bids, like any other government agency. The question is a somewhat less dramatic one: should the government specify the rockets it wants and get aerospace companies to build them, or should it let the aerospace companies build whatever they want, buy the products that fit best and make it work? For what it's worth (not much) my own view of the situation is that launch vehicle tech has progressed to the point where the latter approach is likely to save some cash. But let's not act like it's a difference between some free-market fantasy and a soviet design bureau.

Vision (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 4 years ago | (#33155410)

"I'm planning to retire to Mars"

That, my friends, is vision.

Not, "one day mankind must blah blah blah..." but: 'I'm planning to retire to Mars.'

Re:Vision (5, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | about 4 years ago | (#33155478)

"I'm planning to retire to Mars"
  That, my friends, is vision.

I'd say it's marketese.

But well, anyhow, it's awesome marketese.

Re:Vision (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155556)

I kind of had the opposite reaction. It sounds idealistic, and is likely to scare off investors. If this truly is his dream, he may never accept compromise, even when it's in the best interests of all. But one random sentence is not enough to make that determination.

Re:Vision (1)

jusdisgi (617863) | about 4 years ago | (#33155768)

But one random sentence is not enough to make that determination.

We have a lot more than one random sentence by which to judge Elon's character. And accepting compromise does not appear to be one of his strong suits. He does, however, seem to have excellent goals, and there's no question that he gets things done...

Re:Vision (4, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | about 4 years ago | (#33155602)

Well, I think it is vision. Elon Musk made a fortune with PayPal and could easily have retired to a private island. Instead he re-invested his fortune into Tesla and Space-X -- two companies which, IMHO, are pretty awesome. I applaud the Obama administration for recognizing the awesomeness and redirecting funds from NASA Ares to Space-X. Falcon 9 launched successfully with only $278 million from the govt. There are some other amazing people in the race, like Burt Rutan. These guys couldn't accomplish what they do without some marketing savvy, but they are not cynical con men either, they are hands-on engineers and entrepreneurs and from what I know of them, I admire it.

Re:Vision (1)

mangu (126918) | about 4 years ago | (#33155690)

Elon Musk made a fortune with PayPal and could easily have retired to a private island. Instead he re-invested his fortune into Tesla and Space-X -- two companies which, IMHO, are pretty awesome

I fully agree with that, and I must wonder at the similarity between Elon Musk and Mark Shuttleworth.

Two South African guys who made a fortune in a computer related company only to spend a lot of it on space related stuff. Shuttleworth was one of the first people to pay $20 million to be a space tourist.

Re:Vision (1)

jusdisgi (617863) | about 4 years ago | (#33155790)

Not sure that buying a ride in a Soyuz should be compared to starting a company to build next-generation cost-effective launch vehicles, but OK....

Re:Vision (1)

mangu (126918) | about 4 years ago | (#33156878)

Not sure that buying a ride in a Soyuz should be compared to starting a company to build next-generation cost-effective launch vehicles

Tell me about it the next time when you spend $20 million to do something you believe in, wihtout any immediate return.

Re:Vision (4, Interesting)

tgd (2822) | about 4 years ago | (#33155716)

Musk and Rutan are two very different people. I've seen them both talking about their passions, and have spent some time chatting with Rutan about it ...

Musks vision is going to be the guy who gets equipment in space, gets astronauts into space, and maybe gets people on off to Mars, by providing the technology that governments and other companies use to do it.

Rutan is going to get *me* into space.

I applaud them both. Their "fuck it, I'm doing this" attitude is what will get us off this rock, and maybe kick us, as a species, finally in the direction of doing that permanently.

Re:Vision (1)

Bowling Moses (591924) | about 4 years ago | (#33156068)

"Elon Musk made a fortune with PayPal and could easily have retired to a private island."

Well, close [seasteading.org] . Paypal cofounder Peter Thiel's a board member, don't know about any involvement by Elon Musk.

Re:Vision (4, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 4 years ago | (#33156834)

I applaud the Obama administration for recognizing the awesomeness and redirecting funds from NASA Ares to Space-X.

Quick clarification: The White House hasn't proposed redirecting funds from Ares to SpaceX -- instead, they want to open up the US human spaceflight market to competing commercial vendors, which includes not just SpaceX, but also the United Launch Alliance. Many aren't familiar with the name, but the ULA builds the Atlas and Delta rockets which have launched most national security and NASA science missions for many years now. SpaceX has stated that they actually expect ULA to get more of the commercial crew market than them, at least initially.

Of course, even this is facing a great deal of friction in Congress. As one of the linked articles in the summary states, the current NASA bill in the House of Representatives has the entire commercial spaceflight program struggling with just $150M over 3 years, while the government-designed/operated heavy-lift and crew capsule program gets $13B over that same timeframe.

Re:Vision (1)

Loadmaster (720754) | about 4 years ago | (#33157108)

ULA will always get more business than any other private company because ULA is Lockheed and Boeing. SpaceX is an outsider building a better rocket while ULA is coasting on government cost plus contracts. If that 13B is funneled back to Ares then Boeing gets a sizable chunk since they were building the 2nd stage of Ares. I wouldn't put SpaceX in the same category as ULA. If SpaceX succeeds we could see space open up to companies like Bigelow and Orbital Sciences. NASA going with ULA will change nothing.

Re:Vision (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 4 years ago | (#33157138)

I could be mistaken, but while Boeing and Lockheed certainly get a number of cost-plus development contracts, I believe the DOD's contracts with ULA are all fixed-cost. That's a big part of why ULA tends to be drastically cheaper than, say, Shuttle or Ares costs.

Re:Vision (4, Insightful)

tgd (2822) | about 4 years ago | (#33155694)

That marketese has gotten him a company successfully launching rockets into orbit.

My vision has got me sitting on my couch in my underpants.

Just to put that in perspective.

Re:Vision (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 4 years ago | (#33155706)

Put on pants.

Re:Vision (1)

jusdisgi (617863) | about 4 years ago | (#33155804)

Put on pants.

Why? I say this man has vision!

Re:Vision (3, Funny)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#33155862)

My vision has got me sitting on my couch in my underpants.

I didn't need that vision.

Re:Vision (4, Funny)

Chris Tucker (302549) | about 4 years ago | (#33156138)

The important thing is that those underpants are HIS underpants! Purchased by the efforts of his own labor, and not via a government handout!

Ayn Rand would be PROUD of his underpants. PROUND, I say!

<generic libertarian twaddle shouter>

Re:Vision (1)

mangu (126918) | about 4 years ago | (#33156922)

My vision has got me sitting on my couch in my underpants.

You see my point? You may have a vision, but I can't see any marketese at all in that...

Re:Vision (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155500)

More correctly: "If the government gives me loads of money, I'm going to retire to Mars"

So-called private sector spaceflight relies heavily on the public sector to sink the massive costs. Just as with the banks, its "capitalise the profit, socialise the loss"

Re:Vision (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about 4 years ago | (#33155708)

He doesn't say all about his plans: He really plans on living on the top of the frickin highest building on the whole red planet, to see all the minions whose life depend on his whim, to laugh maniacally and to glare dastardly at the crescent Earth while shouting on a defiant tone : "YOU'RE NEXT, BITCH ! BWAHAHAHAHA !"

Re:Vision (1)

jusdisgi (617863) | about 4 years ago | (#33155832)

The crescent Earth? You know what Mars looks like from here? Basically like a bright star. It's probably going to be a similar effect looking the other way.

(That was the only part of your comment sane enough to bother replying to)

Re:Vision (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33156238)

Not when you're looking through the giant magnifying glass that doubles as an implement of torture for the antlike peons on the martian ground below :D

Re:Vision (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33157040)

Damn it, Musk, give those people air!

Re:Vision (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 years ago | (#33155770)

"I'm planning to retire to Mars"

In this economy, brother, you're not going to retire at all. You'll be lucky to get out of Cleveland, much less Earth's gravity well.

Did Heinlein invent this bastard? (1)

mrmeval (662166) | about 4 years ago | (#33156146)

Or did he merely predict him?

Re:Did Heinlein invent this bastard? (1)

arcsimm (1084173) | about 4 years ago | (#33156546)

Here's to hoping that Musk gets around to retiring sooner than Delos Harriman.

Re:Vision (1)

bradbury (33372) | about 4 years ago | (#33156808)

Naw... Musk was born in 1971, assuming retirement @ 65 (though he could be retired now) that puts it at year 2036 -- 26 years from now. I would give you very good odds on the realization of full Drexlerian molecular nanotechnology within 26 years. If so, there is a non-zero probability that some post-Internet (i.e. nanotech boom era) entrepreneur will have launched a small rocket of nanobots to Mars with the express purpose of dismantling it for construction of the Mars-orbit layer of the Solar System Matrioshka Brain. Elon should be saying "bye-bye" to his retirement home unless he plans on a much earlier retirement.

Vision is knowing what is *really* possible but everyone thinks is impossible and achieving it. Space X and some of its dreams are only relevant if you believe that real molecular nanotechnology is a pipe dream. If you cannot make that assertion then you have to get into long discussions as to whether the pursuit of some "visions" are really indulging the childhood dreams of particular individuals rather than advancing humanity as a whole.

We knew how to go to the moon and Mars 40+ years ago (if one threw enough money at it). The only thing Space X is bringing to the table is a bunch of engineers who know how to run calculations with spreadsheets rather than slide rulers and a fair number of MBAs who understand principles of engineering successful businesses. Vision? I'm rather dubious.

Re:Vision (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | about 4 years ago | (#33156860)

Your first paragraph broke my English language parser.

Retiring to Mars? (2, Funny)

blair1q (305137) | about 4 years ago | (#33155412)

If he wants to die in a harsh, hostile environment, why doesn't he spend a few $billion retiring to Compton or Afghanistan?

Re:Retiring to Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155536)

Compton lacks the mountainous craters of Mars, Afghanistan though would be a good approximation - just sprinkle ground up iron oxide over a few square miles and it will look about the same. As a bonus, no need for a space suit.

Re:Retiring to Mars? (1)

barberousse (1432239) | about 4 years ago | (#33155964)

What??? Compton (Quebec) is a nice place. That's where I go pick apples every year!

Re:Retiring to Mars? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33156104)

I do believe he is referring to compton, CA. not exactly known to be a nicest collection of neighborhoods. I'm sure you wouldn't want to do any apple picking there, unless you like a not so healthy lead enriched diet.

Re:Retiring to Mars? (4, Interesting)

Caerdwyn (829058) | about 4 years ago | (#33155974)

When you're stranded high up on Olympus Mons

And your suit-gauge shows your O2's all but gone

Open your faceplate and face vaccuum's dawn

And go to your god like a spaceman.

Not bad (1)

zogger (617870) | about 4 years ago | (#33156064)

Not bad for a quickee re-rendition.

Re:Not bad (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 4 years ago | (#33156402)

exceptin' the vacuum part...

Re:Retiring to Mars? (2)

arcsimm (1084173) | about 4 years ago | (#33156564)

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will!

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Re:Retiring to Mars? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#33156478)

Mars is safer. You don't have to worry much about people shooting at you on Mars.

Re:Retiring to Mars? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#33157178)

I think this sort of thing needs to be emphasized. The hazards of Mars are pretty much static. No matter what you do, you'll encounter the same dangers. If you come up with a pressurized habitat, the Mars atmosphere isn't sentient and coming to com up with a way around that to kill you. In other words, the hazards of an uninhabited world are far different and less dangerous from the hazards of an inhabited world where some of the inhabitants are trying to kill you.

Linux eats my cock! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155448)

Linux users are known faggots. Hopefully someone will wise up soon and start throwing them into the fucking ovens.

This guy's got balls. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155474)

Sign me up. What can I do to help?

Re:This guy's got balls. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33156646)

Lick them?

(Hey, you asked!)

Name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155502)

Martians will be unimpressed by the name SpaceX. We must properly convey fear!

Therefore. What should the new name of SpaceX be?

Re:Name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155606)

Martians will be unimpressed by the name SpaceX. We must properly convey fear!

Therefore. What should the new name of SpaceX be?

Space Xe

Re:Name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155696)

I vote for Virgin Galactics. All the power in the universe cannot stop a virgin in space. Just ask River.

Re:Name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155896)

What should the new name of SpaceX be?
Ubuntu. A South-African name, just like Elon Musk, that no one seems to know what it means.

Re:Name (2, Funny)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#33156312)

Off the top of my head with its imposing craglike forehead, denoting intelligence beyond your ability to comprehend,... oh where was I?

How about SpaceXterminate, SpaceXtinction, SpaceXploit? They could be divisions. One kills you, one makes sure you're dead, and one converts the ruins of your puny civilization to, um, something profitable, maybe RC toy cars.

Shiny! (2, Interesting)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 4 years ago | (#33155510)

Two different designs (Falcon X Heavy and Falcon XX), either capable of boosting a Mars Direct type mission on its way...

Which would give us capabilities in space we haven't had since the last Saturn V was launched.

Hopefully, SpaceX won't have problems coming up with the cash (or contracts) required to finish the designs and get them certified, since I'd really like to see the first manned Mars mission in my lifetime. And from the looks of things today, if SpaceX doesn't do it, no-one will.

Re:Shiny! (4, Insightful)

jpmorgan (517966) | about 4 years ago | (#33155584)

Well, what I like about SpaceX is they've turned "rocket science" into "rocket engineering." As an interested outsider, they seem to have a strong focus on modular design, which aids in keeping costs down. It's basic bottom-up design, which usually leads to better and cheaper solutions than the top-down design work that government mandated engineering tends to be.

Design should always be a compromise between what you want and what is practical. The space-shuttle is what you get when you'd rather spend billions than be flexible in your requirements. And the worst part about that is you end up with such a bleeding-edge integrated solution, that you don't get to take anything away from it. You're always starting again from scratch.

Re:Shiny! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33156180)

An excellent point, those "bleeding edge" designs do push the envelope of modern technology, but unfortunately end up on a progressive tangent. Practical, economically viable technological succession is absolutely the way to go; and more often than not, is also easier to build upon and progress gradually.

Re:Shiny! (1)

cmowire (254489) | about 4 years ago | (#33156766)

Doubly so. Notice there are two Falcon 9 boosters. One with 9 Merlin 1 engines, one with 1 Merlin 2 engine.

Re:Shiny! (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | about 4 years ago | (#33155704)

I dunno. A billion dollars to certify the Merlin-2 seems like a lot of money, though if they can turn the Falcon X and XX into reusable systems, that could pay back relatively quickly.

I do have a question, though: aside from the additional 15 ton capacity of the Falcon XX, is there a reason to develop it in addition to the 125-ton payload capacity of the Falcon X? The Falcon X payload exceeds that of the Saturn V, and would allow (mass-wise) a launch of a third of the ISS at one time. Is it the simplicity of six engines in one container instead of nine in three containers?

Re:Shiny! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155860)

It going to cost Washington state 4 billion dollars to build one lousy fucking bridge:

SeattlePI [seattlepi.com]
WS DOT [wa.gov]

By government standards, a billion dollar is hookers-and-blow change.

Re:Shiny! (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#33156554)

They should just drain the lake and reclaim the land, like the Dutch do. Then they wouldn't need a bridge, and Seattle would have more room for expansion.

Re:Shiny! (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#33156236)

I dunno. A billion dollars to certify the Merlin-2 seems like a lot of money, though if they can turn the Falcon X and XX into reusable systems, that could pay back relatively quickly.

The now moribund 2011 NASA budget proposed by Obama back in the spring had budgeted $3 billion over several years to heavy lift propulsion research. And at the time, many people said that was too little for the task. Musk basically is claiming he can do it for a lot less than NASA could. I think he can do it, given that he's already developed three engine designs (the Kestrel, Merlin, and Draco) on half a billion dollars. That's money which also incidentally developed two rockets, the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 and funded a few launches of the Falcon 1.

I do have a question, though: aside from the additional 15 ton capacity of the Falcon XX, is there a reason to develop it in addition to the 125-ton payload capacity of the Falcon X? The Falcon X payload exceeds that of the Saturn V, and would allow (mass-wise) a launch of a third of the ISS at one time. Is it the simplicity of six engines in one container instead of nine in three containers?

At a glance, I'd say SpaceX is presenting these as different choices. There's probably a little value in having both, but my take is that SpaceX proposes to implement only one of them.

Re:Shiny! (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#33156384)

I do have a question, though: aside from the additional 15 ton capacity of the Falcon XX, is there a reason to develop it in addition to the 125-ton payload capacity of the Falcon X? The Falcon X payload exceeds that of the Saturn V, and would allow (mass-wise) a launch of a third of the ISS at one time. Is it the simplicity of six engines in one container instead of nine in three containers?

At a glance, I'd say SpaceX is presenting these as different choices. There's probably a little value in having both, but my take is that SpaceX proposes to implement only one of them.

More reading of the article indicates that I'm probably wrong. It may still be the case that SpaceX doesn't intend to fly the two platforms simultaneously, but these are meant to be examples of a family of vehicles. It's possible, for example, that the Falcon XX is a successor vehicle to the Falcon X, or that they'll use the vehicles for different customer profiles. I don't grok their plans well enough to say what's going on here.

Re:Shiny! (1)

cmowire (254489) | about 4 years ago | (#33156920)

Well, notice that there are two Falcon 9 cores listed. There's the one with a single Merlin 2.

Given the systems approach that SpaceX has, I suspect that the Falcon X Heavy is slotted the same as the Falcon 9 Heavy -- there if you need it to attract NASA or some customer before the Falcon XX is ready. I'm assuming that the Falcon X's core diameter is sized around some constraint (factory size, transportation, etc) and the Falcon XX is designed under the assumption that funding to exceed said constraint was provided.

I think it's all about options and incremental development. They don't have to qualify the heavy configs until they need them and that's the hard part.

Re:Shiny! (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | about 4 years ago | (#33156464)

I expect that SpaceX could do it with less money than legacy contractors, but a billion dollars to certify the Merlin 2 is twice what was spent to develop two rockets, three engines, and a capsule. That would have to be R&D that pays off either very fast, or over a very long time. Proven reusability would probably allow for both.

Another thought crossed my mind after my post about the Falcon X and XX. Perhaps the XX will be a sequel product, especially if the Falcon X is intended to use largely the same manufacturing dies as the Falcon 9. The first stage diameter would be larger to accommodate six engines instead of three (hex cluster, or five surrounding one?), so a logical development path is Falcon 9 -> Falcon X, using experience with the Falcon 9 rocket body to get experience with the Merlin-2, and then Falcon X -> Falcon XX, using the Merlin-2 to get experience with the Falcon XX rocket body.

Re:Shiny! (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#33156680)

I expect that SpaceX could do it with less money than legacy contractors, but a billion dollars to certify the Merlin 2 is twice what was spent to develop two rockets, three engines, and a capsule.

The thing to remember here is that SpaceX isn't just developing the engine, they probably also are certifying it for manned NASA missions. There's the cost right there.

Re:Shiny! (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 4 years ago | (#33157066)

but a billion dollars to certify the Merlin 2 is twice what was spent to develop two rockets, three engines, and a capsule.

Note, by the by, that Merlin 2 will be the most powerful rocket engine ever built at 1.7 million pounds thrust. The F1 in Saturn V was only 1.5 million.

In other words, it's taking us to places we've never been before, engineering-wise. I'd expect it to be expensive....

Re:Shiny! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155750)

And yet, you have missed the fact that he is not pushing Mars Direct. The reason is that it makes ZERO sense. Basically, it will be a build a train in space, then push it with nerva. Sadly, So many ppl have it wrong about Saturn V. It was built that way, because it was OUR shortcut to the moon. Basically, USSR had done a number of shortcuts to get ahead of us. For example, when our first mission went up, it was loaded with Science packages. USSR put up a radio. When they were finally able to put up real science, it was several years later. They did a publicity stunt, just like we did with the moon. Now, People like Musk are trying to rectify that problem and do things right. Sadly, the God Damn republicans want to push Ares V style solutions that are funded by a central committee to waste money. The interesting thing, is that the republicans share so much in common with the Chinese on this approach.

Re:Shiny! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33157156)

Sadly, the God Damn republicans want to push Ares V style solutions that are funded by a central committee to waste money.

Ummm, last I knew Demo-critters were in charge of both houses, and every committee, oh, and the White House, so what does it matter what the Republi-critters want?

Re:Shiny! (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 4 years ago | (#33155772)

The Merlin-2 at 1.7M lbs of thrust... More powerful than a F-1. That is fucking awesome.

Nuclear Thermal? (3, Interesting)

jpmorgan (517966) | about 4 years ago | (#33155524)

I like nuclear thermal as much as the next /.er, but is there really any point in thermal rockets beyond attaining orbit?

Personally, I'd rather see the money go into a space-borne power reactor and rely on VASIMR or other electric engines for the transit. As SpaceX and Musk should know, a modular system is a lot more flexible, and we know a lot more about how to design and build power reactors than nuclear thermal rockets. More to the point, you'd need a gas-core reactor to match the specific impulse of current VASIMR prototypes, and gas-core reactors are ENTIRELY theoretical.

(If you don't know, specific impulse is the rough analogue of how 'fast' a engine is in space, although it actually bears more in common with fuel economy than power).

Re:Nuclear Thermal? (5, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | about 4 years ago | (#33155634)

I like nuclear thermal as much as the next /.er, but is there really any point in thermal rockets beyond attaining orbit?

For one thing there's the slight problem that you die during the transit through the Van Allen belts if you don't have a high-thrust engine or very large radiation shields.

And nuclear thermal rockets kind of suck ass for attaining orbit since you have to ensure that they land somewhere safe if they fail during launch; NASA's test plans for the early models involved polar launch where the flight path was designed to dump it in Antarctica or a remote part of the ocean if something went wrong.

Re:Nuclear Thermal? (5, Informative)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#33155812)

As 0123456 indicated [slashdot.org] , there are both a need for high thrust engines in space and huge risks with the use of nuclear-anything propulsion on Earth. In addition to passage through the Van Allen belts, we also need to consider the Oberth effect [wikipedia.org] . When you're trying to leave a gravity well (such as Earth's), then thrust deep in the well has a higher effective ISP than equivalent thrust higher up the well.

Second, because of the risks of operating nuclear rockets in Earth's biosphere, it makes sense, that if you're eventually going to have a nuclear powered rocket to orbit, that you try it somewhere else first and generate a reliability record. Space is the "somewhere else".

Re:Nuclear Thermal? (1)

jpmorgan (517966) | about 4 years ago | (#33156488)

An interesting point, I wasn't aware of the Oberth effect. However, theoretically a VASIMR engine can operate over a range of specific impulse and thrusts, and can tune its thrust/Isp ratio to take maximal advantage of the Oberth effect over its entire flight path.

Now I know why the VAriable Specific Impulse is such an important aspect to be part of its name.

Re:Nuclear Thermal? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#33156726)

However, theoretically a VASIMR engine can operate over a range of specific impulse and thrusts, and can tune its thrust/Isp ratio to take maximal advantage of the Oberth effect over its entire flight path.

For most applications, that means as much thrust as you can get at the start of the mission (or at the point when you're deepest in the gravity well, if you're doing a flyby) subject to whatever acceleration constraints are imposed by your payload (don't want to jelly the astronauts!). That advantage goes to nuclear thermal. VASIMR simply isn't comparable on the high thrust end.

Re:Nuclear Thermal? (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 4 years ago | (#33155816)

You still have to throw those cute nuclear and electric motors out of Earth atmosphere. Thermal rockets are still the most practical way, and it seems that nuclear has a LONG ways to go to be possible, much less affordable.

And of course the concept of nuclear on the launch pad will frighten the Luddites. Maybe even me.

Re:Nuclear Thermal? (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 4 years ago | (#33156980)

I like nuclear thermal as much as the next /.er, but is there really any point in thermal rockets beyond attaining orbit? Personally, I'd rather see the money go into a space-borne power reactor and rely on VASIMR or other electric engines for the transit. As SpaceX and Musk should know, a modular system is a lot more flexible, and we know a lot more about how to design and build power reactors than nuclear thermal rockets. More to the point, you'd need a gas-core reactor to match the specific impulse of current VASIMR prototypes, and gas-core reactors are ENTIRELY theoretical.

I was pretty surprised at this as well, particularly since Tom Markusic (SpaceX's rocket development facility director and the guy who did the presentation) has a fairly extensive research background in electric propulsion and plasma thrusters:

http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=tom+markusic [google.com]

How about mining asteroids? (2)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | about 4 years ago | (#33155572)

Who are going to be the customers?

For space exploration to begin in earnest, we need it to be economically profitable, beyond LOE and geostationary. Has there been a study on the economic feasability of mining asteroids or something else (i.e. 4He on the moon)?

Re:How about mining asteroids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155654)

Perhaps we can send American Fundementalists and Saudi Wahhabist to Mars, in much the same way that England disposed of the Puritans.

It won't make money, but sometimes money doesn't matter.

Re:How about mining asteroids? (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | about 4 years ago | (#33155786)

That may not be a good idea. Read The Mechanical Sky by Donald Moffitt.

Re:How about mining asteroids? (3, Informative)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#33155930)

For space exploration to begin in earnest, we need it to be economically profitable, beyond LOE and geostationary. Has there been a study on the economic feasability of mining asteroids or something else (i.e. 4He on the moon)?

Yes, and as I understand it, the problem is that costs are a few zeroes greater than revenue. Something like SpaceX's new rocket can lop a zero off the costs, but we're going to need more than that before space mining makes economic sense. If they can lop off a second zero, say via high reusability and a launch rate of thousands of rockets a year, that might do.

Re:How about mining asteroids? (2, Informative)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#33156768)

Asteroid mining could be very profitable. According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] , "At 1997 prices, a relatively small metallic asteroid with a diameter of 1 mile contains more than $20 trillion US dollars worth of industrial and precious metals." Of course, the value of the metal would go down as that one asteroid would add a huge amount to the supply, but still it would be a lot of money. A $1 trillion+ profit on a mission costing $10 billion would be a pretty good profit.

Also, "all the gold, cobalt, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, osmium, palladium, platinum, rhenium, rhodium and ruthenium that we now mine from the Earth's crust, and that are essential for our economic and technological development, came originally from the rain of asteroids that hit the Earth after the crust cooled." So there's potentially a lot of valuable minerals out there waiting for us to exploit them.

Dear Elon: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155586)

GET YOUR ASS TO MAHHHS!!!

Merlin engine!!! (1)

StarTux (230379) | about 4 years ago | (#33155588)

Great news! The Merlin powered the famous Spitfire, Hurricane, P-51D fighters amongst many other Allied airplanes! Legendary!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolls-Royce_Merlin

Oh wait..You mean a rocket engine?.

Re:Merlin engine!!! (1)

Sovetskysoyuz (1832938) | about 4 years ago | (#33156246)

Rolls-Royce should go after them for trademark infringement.

Falcon XXX (0, Offtopic)

spoonist (32012) | about 4 years ago | (#33155626)

More like Falcon XXX.

Did you see the shapes of those things?

Re:Falcon XXX (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 4 years ago | (#33155718)

That isn't a rocket project. It's something to do with drilling and shooting money. Can't tell for sure. The pages of the press release were stuck together.

Re:Falcon XXX (1)

cmowire (254489) | about 4 years ago | (#33156792)

Hey, nobody likes a pocket rocket that comes apart after launch.

Edit page (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155668)

Accidental Public Confession
make a to do

send a pm

add to watchlist

drop watch

go to watchlist

Not necessarily confined to a villain confessing a crime, sometimes it's just information someone had wanted to keep secret, or information that someone wasn't ready to share yet.

Type 1: The villain has the goody-goody face on, but someone has provoked him into a moment of rage, at which point the anger does the talking and the confession of the dastardly deeds spills out along with all the vitriol. Different from an Engineered Public Confession because the villain's mental state has rendered him/her temporarily unaware/uncaring that there's an audience. The audience may or may not have any idea there's going to be a confession.

Type 2: The most unfortunate kind of Accidental Public Confession comes from someone blithely blurting out something they thought the other party already knows.

Type 3: "Is This Thing Still On?" Somebody doesn't realize there's a live microphone to pick up their confession. See also some examples in Did I Just Say That Out Loud.

See also You Just Told Me for when the confessor is tricked into believing the other person already knows, and Engineered Public Confession for when the hero secretly arranges and records/broadcasts the confession. I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You is a variation of this.

Type 1:

        * Monsters Inc - the Corrupt Corporate Executive reveals his plan to capture all human children and scare them shitless for a lifetime to solve the city's power issues. Fortunately, a protagonist has the whole thing on record and reveals it to the authorities.
        * Sideshow Bob, as mentioned above, does this, but there's also that bit in Order Of The Stick where Vaarsuvius, faced with Elan and his evil twin Nale and no way to tell them apart, gives a little speech that culminates in a flat assumption that Nale just isn't smart enough to pull off a good con—at which point Nale blurts out "Oh, yeah? So, what, you think you could have come up with something more clever than Nale did?" Vaarsuvius blasts him with lightning and replies, "Apparently."
        * In Bob And George, the Helmeted Author disguises himself as George, and blows up Proto Man's weapons cache, with Proto Man still inside. Still acting as George, he's questioned by Dr. Light, who doesn't seem shocked or even at all concerned with what's happened, prompting Helmut to scream, "BUT I JUST (BLEEP)ING VAPORIZED HIM!!!" Cover blown.
        * Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic: "How dare you accuse me of petty theft?! What my daughters and I have planned is nothing less than high treason!"
        * "A Few Good Men": Col. Nathan R. Jessup angrily admits to ordering the code red in this famous speech.

Type 2:

        * From Kinky Boots: Lauren, who has been falling in love with Charlie but makes nice with his wife anyway mentions with sincere appreciation that he put his house up for mortgage in order to save the factory. Nicola didn't know, and is less than pleased he kept it from her. Lauren is mortified; she had no idea Charlie hadn't discussed it with Nicola first.
        * The Little Mermaid: Triton calls Sebastian about Ariel being in love. Sebastian thinks he knows that she is in love with a human, and blurts it out.
            Sebastian: I tried to stop her, sir! She wouldn't listen! I told her humans were bad! They are bad, they are...
            Triton: Humans? What about humans?!
            Sebastian: Humans? [chuckles] Who said anything about humans?
        * Happens in Real Life all the time. Don't tell me I'm the only person who ever does this...
                    o It can be exploited, with a little skill, too. If you just pretend to know something a person won't tell you, they will feel compelled to talk about it. If you pretend you're in the know long enough, bam! You know everything.
        * Done in Life Unexpected: The female lead Cate thinks her fiance discovered her cheating on him and tries to talk him out of leaving her. When in fact the fiance is blissfully unaware of the unfaithfulness at the moment. The truth reveals and chaos ensues.
        * Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Happens to Buffy in the episode "Angel" where she accidentally reveals what she's been writing in her diary when she thinks Angel has read it.
        * Full Metal Alchemist: This is how Ed finds out that Maes Hughes is dead in the manga.
        * Bones: Dr. Goodman reveals to the rest of the squints that Booth has a kid in the episode "The Man in the Fallout Shelter", thinking that they, who work with Booth every day, would already know this. They, of course, do not.
        * In Paper Mario: Tubba Blubba's Heart keeps going on and on, assuming Mario has learned things he has not. Mario denies knowing every last one of them, which doesn't stop him from rambling on and on about all his secrets.

Type 3:

        * Also from Kinky Boots: Charlie's wife Nicola confronts Charlie when she discovers that Charlie has mortgaged the house rather than sell the ailing shoe factory he inherited from his father. When Nicola screams and kicks out Lola the Drag Queen, Lola scampers, and drops the prototype boot. Purely by accident, the dropped boot lands on the factory's PA system switch. So the entire staff hears Charlie's impassioned speech, wherein he tells Nicola that he can't just abandon the factory because he grew up knowing these people. Charlie shouts that he doesn't actually enjoy making people redundant, and that he has to try saving the factory. He tells her that if she can't get that, then she may never get Charlie Price. This has the result of the entire factory gaining new respect for the kid they scoffed at for trying to help the factory with no idea how to make shoes.
                    o This troper got the impression that Lola did it intentionally as a way of discreetly getting the workers' waning support back.
        * The famous "coming out" episode of Ellen: the title character accidentally whispers "I'm gay" into the microphone of the airport PA system.
        * In one scene in Chalk, Suzy Travis walks into a classroom and confesses to headmaster Eric Slatt that she had an erotic dream about him. Eric Slatt stares at her with a shocked expression on his face, and slowly moves aside to reveal the (switched on) microphone of the school's PA system.
        * An example from Yes Prime Minister. When the Sir Humphrey (the original The Humphrey) gives a standard (that is, vague and uninformative) radio interview to the BBC about unemployment, he has a conversation with the interviewer afterwards, and confesses that the government could probably reduce unemployment by eliminating welfare, unaware that the conversation is still being recorded. Not a standard example, since the broadcast wasn't live, and the BBC apparently wanted to blackmail Humphrey with the tape. When Jim Hacker finds out, he berates Humphrey with "Always treat every microphone as though it were on!"
        * South Park has the boys engineering confessions this way, including having a totally not Mickey Mouse boss explain how he exploits the Jonas Brothers into selling sex to preteen girls.
        * In the origin story of Mr. Crocker, Timmy goes back in time to try and stop little Denzel from accidentally saying to a large crowd his secret of godparents. Turns out that his drawing Denzel away from the podium and a live mic being near-by causes the incident when Timmy himself lets out the reveal, causing Crocker's loss of memory, his strange appearance and his obsession despite the pink-clad boy's attempts.
        * Subverted in The West Wing where President Bartlett makes a rather snarky comment about his opponent on a camera that was still live - of course, he knew it was live when the did it. As CJ says admiringly, "That was old-school."
        * In the Gossip Girl episode "Enough about Eve", Vanessa has a hidden microphone and gets Blair to confess to her machinations to be the one giving the freshman toast.
        * Fullmetal Alchemist: This is how the people of Liore find out that their religion is just a scam.
        * Stargate Universe: in "Space", "There is nothing sexier than a widower."
        * Leverage in The Homecoming Job.
        * Happens at the end of The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. Julian Grendel, the antagonist, reveals his diabolical plan involving a Condom Factory front operation to Ford Fairlane, while standing backstage at an event. During his tirade, Zuzu Petals stands behind him with a microphone, which broadcasts the confession to a crowd outside.
                    o "I even pissed in the punch bowl!"

SpaceX's design sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33155988)

The Republican backed plan will cost way more, take way longer to develop/build, and will do less. It's an awesome plan. You'd think SpaceX wants to go to space quickly, cheaply, and reliably. Who wants that? I sure as hell don't. The government can't do anything right which is why only the government can waste money, I mean, build a better rocket.

I don't always travel by rocket... (4, Funny)

RevWaldo (1186281) | about 4 years ago | (#33156088)

...but when I do, I prefer Falcon Dos Equis.

Stay orbital, my friends.

.

'Bout damn time (1)

Diagoras (859063) | about 4 years ago | (#33156750)

Mars in 20 years? Sounds good to me. Let's do this.

I am going to order one myself. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 4 years ago | (#33157130)

I am going order a space tug for myself and going to name it the Millennium Falcon, as soon as I can borrow some cash fro Jabba the Hut. Should start looking for a co-pilot soon.

Re:I am going to order one myself. (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | about 4 years ago | (#33157218)

Waaaaaah. Grrrrrrr. Whhhhhaaahaha. GRRRRR.

References available upon request, of course.

Good Luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33157222)

I really do wish all the new space cowboys the best of luck. I think they will need it.
Rutan / Branson will be doing Low Earth Orbit pretty soon too and both projects have seen catastrophic setbacks.
The explosion at the Scaled Composites lab scared a few and I'm surprised at the tone of Musk's claims given the past performance of his rockets.
I am a big admirer of the American space programs and I hope that NASA (and others) are helping out a bit to at least gain the minimum requirements of being able to supply the International Space Station after their Shuttle retires this year.
If this doesn't work out maybe China will show everyone how to make a real rocket.

SpaceX Needs Financial Independence (2, Insightful)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | about 4 years ago | (#33157236)

First off, I have to say that SpaceX announcing they have the intention and potential designs for a Saturn-class lifter is some of the most exciting news I've heard about space in my lifetime (yes, I'm a post 70's child).

However, there is one key thing that SpaceX needs as they develop as a company. First, and foremost, SpaceX needs to get its LEO business to become lucrative and profitable. If that company can develop enough profit to start breaking away from NASA prize money and other political tie-ins, then they will be set. I have not doubt in my mind that the engineers at SpaceX can deliver what they advocate in this article if they are given the money and opportunity to do so. However, I also have little doubt that folks at the various NASA labs could do the same thing. The key advantage that SpaceX has, over NASA, however, is that it has the potential to be independent of Congress fucking about in it's vehicle designs. That, above all else, is what makes SpaceX special.

If SpaceX can break it's ties from the government through contracts and cheap launches, then we will be to Mars in my lifetime. However, if they get roped into the political games that so many defense contractors and other space companies do, then America is screwed for a mission to Mars. Right now, the single greatest threat to space explorations is the United States Congress. It really is that simple.
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