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Dragon Capsule Could Be 1st Private Craft To Dock With ISS

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the inflection-point dept.

ISS 178

thomst writes "Space News reports that NASA has given tentative approval for SpaceX to combine the two remaining flights designed to prove the Hawthorne, Calif., company can deliver cargo to the international space station, according to William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space operations, although formal approval for the mission is still pending. If NASA does approve the plan, SpaceX's Dragon capsule would be the first civilian spacecraft actually to dock with the International Space Station. According to NASA spokesman Joshua Buck, the current plan calls for SpaceX to launch a Dragon capsule aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on Nov. 30, which would then rendezvous and dock with the space station on Dec. 7 — a day that would live in spaceflight history."

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Dragon Capsule (1, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 3 years ago | (#36881924)

Dragon Capsule,
Strong to save:
When venturing forth,
Bring Burma Shave.

Re:Dragon Capsule (0)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882356)

Dragon Capsule,
Strong to save:
When venturing forth,
Bring Burma Shave.

Smartest remark on Slashdot this week, on more than one level.

Re:Dragon Capsule (1)

melikamp (631205) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884656)

I don't get it.

Re:Dragon Capsule (2, Funny)

RudeDude (672) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882364)

Space is big
Space is dark
Its hard to find
A place to park
Burma Shave

the magic of competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36881930)

At a fraction of the cost! If this doesn't show how competition in the private sector is miles ahead of any State enterprise, I don't know what doeS!

Re:the magic of competition (0)

moronoxyd (1000371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36881962)

Ok, so one example proves that for ANY case?
Math and logic aren't you strong suits, right?

Re:the magic of competition (2)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882056)

Where's the one example? There's no mention here of cost.
Also, how multipurpose is the Dragon? The shuttle was meant as a LEO swiss-army-knife, not necessarily the cheapest, but it could do what was necessary for LEO tasks.

And for all we know, NASA isn't paying that much, in part, because the DRAGON was already funded, and the manufacturers were more interested in recouping part of the cost than the whole cost. if anything it's more of an example of cooperation being financially viable. Two separate goals, one project, each side gets what they want for a bit less than they would have.

Re:the magic of competition (2)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882136)

Cooperation and competition aren't mutually exclusive, even in business relationships. See for example Microsoft and SUSE; they are direct competitors in the OS arena, yet they cooperate on certain things. Microsoft contributes Hyper-V driver code to Linux, code which improves the competitiveness of a rival platform under certain conditions, because it feels it gains more in promoting Hyper-V and getting people to use that than it loses in getting Linux to run at a comparable speed and functionality to Windows under Hyper-V.

Re:the magic of competition (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883176)

Also, how multipurpose is the Dragon? The shuttle was meant as a LEO swiss-army-knife, not necessarily the cheapest, but it could do what was necessary for LEO tasks.

If the Shuttle truly "did what was necessary, "it'd be a whole lot cheaper. The problem as you remark on is that it did a whole lot more than what was necessary and that in turn was a significant driver of its costs.

And for all we know, NASA isn't paying that much, in part, because the DRAGON was already funded

By who? NASA already is the prime funding source. And it's worth noting that a NASA group has already examined SpaceX's finances and determined that a traditional NASA contract to do the same thing that SpaceX did through the launch of the Dragon capsule would be about a factor of ten higher than what SpaceX has spent, either of NASA's money or its own. That ignores that NASA contracts often have a habit of growing in cost by a factor of two or more once the money starts flowing.

Re:the magic of competition (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883248)

Here's a link [transterrestrial.com] to my cost claim. I was in error. The cost calculated was just for the Falcon 9 development (including Falcon 1 development).

Under methodology #1, the cost model predicted that the Falcon 9 would cost $4.0 billion based on a traditional approach. Under methodology #2, NAFCOM predicted $1.7 billion when the inputs were adjusted to a more commercial development approach. Thus, the predicted the cost to develop the Falcon 9 if done by NASA would have been between $1.7 billion and $4.0 billion.

SpaceX has publicly indicated that the development cost for Falcon 9 launch vehicle was approximately $300 million. Additionally, approximately $90 million was spent developing the Falcon 1 launch vehicle which did contribute to some extent to the Falcon 9, for a total of $390 million. NASA has verified these costs.

So by "traditional methodology," it was roughly ten times more costly and even by a more refined approach, it was more than a factor of 4 more expensive. And this ignores any inflation in program costs.

Re:the magic of competition (1)

EraserMouseMan (847479) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882138)

Hooray for government run stuff!!! Right now 0.7% of our taxes go to NASA. Imagine what NASA could do if it was 70%!!!!

Re:the magic of competition (1)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882944)

Watch the rest of our country collapse from massive lack of funding?

Re:the magic of competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883138)

Mostly just defence.

Re:the magic of competition (1, Flamebait)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882406)

At a fraction of the cost! If this doesn't show how competition in the private sector is miles ahead of any State enterprise, I don't know what doeS!

The first one is always free (or cheap).

It's called a loss leader, to bring you in the door. When there are only one or two space "providers", it will become much more expensive to use the "private sector" than it will to let the government fund it.

Plus, we'll end up with the government subsidizing these space corporations that sell us space flight. Exactly what happened with military contractors, energy providers, telecommunications.

"Privatization" is a scam. It does not work, it will never work.

Re:the magic of competition (1)

macpacheco (1764378) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883220)

Scam is all the PORK associated with most investment done by the government.
Scam is the total financial irresponsibility that Washington-DC lives on today.
Of every dollar the US government spends, 40 cents comes from borrowed money.
SpaceX runs on a contract with NASA where SpaceX is responsible for launching, without ANY compensation owed if SpaceX looses money on their business.
Contrary to all thing done by Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, ... Where every time there are overruns they come to the government for compensation (like most defense/space contracts).
Now if your mentality is 100% decided that privatization is a scam, nothing I say will change your mind...

Re:the magic of competition (2)

bberens (965711) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883374)

Privatization is not a scam. However, one of the biggest reasons NASA was overpriced was the procurement process. In order for NASA to spend money they had to spread it around as many Congress Critters' districts as possible, which introduced massive wastes. One of the ways defense contractors win their bids is to similarly "spread the wealth" across as many districts as possible of key Congress members so they can win spending votes. I suspect it is only a matter of time before the private space industry has to play the same game. Until then, hooray for saving some money.

Re:the magic of competition (1)

macpacheco (1764378) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883482)

The people are to blame. Demand fiscally responsible politicians. Demand the end to all pork politics. Force politicians to stop catering to the space / defense lobby.
Electing someone doesn't assure they will be serious. Only people's oversight over their politicians can lead to that.
The Internet has brought an unprecedented level of accessibility to all government spending. It's in our hands.

Re:the magic of competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883608)

All other things being equal, I will continue to vote for the Congress Critter whom I believe is capable of bringing in a disproportionate amount of pork into my district. kthxbye.

Re:the magic of competition (1)

macpacheco (1764378) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884828)

That would be good for you if that pork actually benefits you.
Lots of that pork benefits special interest groups (in your district) that elected that representative, same thing for senators, without actual regard for what the average elector actually needs.
Example, the bridge to nowhere in Alaska.
Besides, it would be way better for the country and all districts if that money was used towards paying the federal debt.

Re:the magic of competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883662)

House members are elected to represent the people living in their district. Bringing money and jobs to the district is a large part of what they are supposed to be doing. Senators are doing the same thing on a statewide basis.

It doesn't provide the federal utopia you wish for, but it is how a representative government works.

Re:the magic of competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883892)

Well, it probably will end since there's no more money anyway.
Does China have a congressmen to corrupt to obtain government contracts?

Re:the magic of competition (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883762)

Riiiight, because SpaceX is a giant, well-funded corporation that can afford to take massive losses on its first few launches in order to lure us away from the competition. Except in this case the competition is Russia who is definitely very expensive, and SpaceX is a (fairly) small startup reliant on NASA funds run by an engineer, not a businessman. So, no, its not a loss leader. They can't afford one. The private sector just really does do things cheaper than the government, due to less bureaucracy, inertia, and congressional district appeasement. Now, if they produce a true monopoly, especially a government given one (the absolute worst form of socialist-capitalist hybrid, bringing the worst of basically everything), then trouble could be coming. I just don't see that, though.

Re:the magic of competition (1)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884006)

Let's look at it this way: I painted my house a few years ago and it needs a fresh coat. I already have a basic understanding of what needs to be done, the layout of the house, and the materials needed to complete the job (as I have done it before). Is it cheaper to paint my own house or to hire a painter to do it? Privatization dictates that it is both cheaper to let the painter do it and that I should also allow him to run it as a bread and breakfast while it is being painted.

Re:the magic of competition (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882546)

That's not magic. They are run by competent people, and it has nothing to do with competition. Heck, they are, in fact, pretty much monopolists in their market niche. They have complete vertical integration -- all of the profits are basically theirs, because they try to make all the custom parts themselves. The big boys are so slow to change, that they'll be using their political clout to get contracts as long as they can while being run over slowly but surely by SpaceX. It's reckoning time for "big" boys and their leadership. I've been saying that for a good while now. I wish there was a way to invest small amounts of money in them...

Re:the magic of competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883184)

It only cost less now because it doesn't do anything. The second they try to launch anything with it will require insurance plus they have to make a profit a top of that.
In the end it will cost more than if NASA just had their own vehicle.

Re:the magic of competition (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883314)

Not the magic of competition... It is that for some things Private Enterprise does better then governments.
And yes some things government can do better then Private Enterprise.

Governments are risk adverse. (Great for keeping you city water supply going and clean)
Enterprise thrive on risk. (Great for innovation, and making new things)

The problem is you have to many party liners out there who think Enterprise should do it all or the government should do it all. Or they put the wrong groups to do particular jobs.

Space Travel is Risky, Government has a hard time with that, as people sometimes die and needs to be crippled when that happens because they took too much risk and now need to reevaluate how to reduce risk. Enterprise when someone dies, They will not get crippled they will fix the problem and try again. And yes more people will Die with Enterprise space travel... But more people will also be able to experience it, and enterprise space travel will get safer, over time. Probably faster then government space travel as they will be learning and altering from more mistakes.

Roads, Water Treatment, Natural Gas Distribution and Electrical Power, and I would even agree Internet access should be controlled by the Government (Many of those are currently not in America) as these are known quantities, can be tightly controlled, and regulated well. And well shown if our tax dollars are being well used or not, and span a wide infrastructure and if it were private business owning these areas Local monopolies form.

As for Education and Healthcare those are problematic. Neither Government or Enterprise can really properly run these. I would suggest a highly regulated industry for those.

Unmanned I assume (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#36881936)

Dragon is a few years away from being man rated.

Re:Unmanned I assume (4, Insightful)

JamesP (688957) | more than 3 years ago | (#36881952)

Doesn't matter

If it can be used for cargo, NASA will gladly pay the money

Of course, the more it can be used to send humans the better.

Re:Unmanned I assume (1)

ZankerH (1401751) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882102)

NASA's man-rating program is just bureaucracy. If a man wearing a shirt and pants were to sit down in the Dragon during the first demonstration launch, he'd have had a pleasant flight.

Re:Unmanned I assume (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882316)

Are you implying there was a shirtless, pantsless man standing in there? DON THE TINFOIL HATS, CONSPIRACY THEORIES AHOY!

Re:Unmanned I assume (1)

Verio Fryar (811080) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882508)

Only for the first minutes. Since Dragon is unmanned it hasn't vital support.

Re:Unmanned I assume (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882970)

so put the guy in a suit and launch..

Re:Unmanned I assume (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883246)

I don't see how a business suit would be any better :-)

Re:Unmanned I assume (2)

Issarlk (1429361) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883960)

Their brains require much less oxygen.

Re:Unmanned I assume (1)

ZankerH (1401751) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883390)

It's unmanned, but fully pressurised. Even without additional oxygen, there'd be more than enough air for a single person to last the few orbits demo flight #1 completed before re-entering and landing safely.

Live in space history? (0)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#36881988)

Counting chicken before hatching?
Live as what: the day the first civilian spacecraft docked with ISS or the day the civilian spacecraft brought the ISS down?

Re:Live in space history? (1)

impaledsunset (1337701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882062)

Don't underestimate them.

Re:Live in space history? (0, Offtopic)

necro81 (917438) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882072)

Perhaps a lesson in history is in order:

The Summary: "Dec. 7 — a day that would live in spaceflight history"

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: "December 7, 1941 [wikipedia.org] —a date which will live in infamy"

Re:Live in space history? (2)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882582)

So SpaceX is preparing a surprise attack on the ISS?

Re:Live in space history? (2)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882666)

"Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them - in summer school."

Re:Live in space history? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36884002)

How the hell does a post explaining TFS count as offtopic...

Posting anon to preserve the up mod to the above post.

Re:Live in space history? (0)

caseih (160668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883486)

Such naysaying must mean that you are a Republican, and probably from Texas. :) Just joking, although it seems like the Republican party, which should be supporting SpaceX and the free market's solution to space travel, are the ones who are the most critical.

This SpaceX launch will be historic for sure, and will be successful. From what I have read the plan is to do a flyby of the station to prove the software and maneuvering systems, and then if that's successful just go ahead and dock, which was something they were going to do on the second demo flight. If the first part is successful, why not just dock? Glad NASA is willing to accelerate the process some. If something goes wrong at any point, they'll abort the mission, so the station should be relatively safe.

I'm excited! It was great to watch the first launch, and then the orbital demonstration flight. I'll definitely watch this one too.

WOULD live (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884194)

WOULD, not WILL.

The use of the future conditional indicates full awareness that said chickens are merely hypothetical, and development from the egg stage not guaranteed, and thus any possible egg-basket-spilling dances of joy are premature.

So, no.

Hmmm ... (2, Funny)

KSobby (833882) | more than 3 years ago | (#36881996)

So would the rescue craft be chasing the dragon?

Re:Hmmm ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36884854)

Most slash dotters are not going to get this.

Under a Year between flights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882038)

Not bad going to go from their first orbital flight to docking with the ISS in less than a year.

OK, so COTS 2 & 3 have been combined into a single mission but thats onyl because they proved their systems in COTS1

Re:Under a Year between flights (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882948)

Personally, I'd be kind of amused if NASA decided to allow the Dragon to dock, NASA's bureaucracy prevented it from carrying actual cargo since it's technically still a 'test', and SpaceX cut a deal with FedEx to symbolically make the first private package delivery to the ISS (with the station's Commander having final authority to approve or refuse anything brought or kept onboard, of course)

It would be interesting to see what kind of stuff the crewmembers themselves would have shipped up if they had more or less carte blanche to do so free of official size, weight, and political considerations (insert scene of Commander looking the other way and devouring a few homemade Rice Krispy treats while the crate of Vodka-infused Belgian chocolate gets unloaded and moved over to the "Russian" side of the station...)

Re:Under a Year between flights (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884098)

Well, they have to test docking, which was the whole point of the COTS 3 flight; so, unless there's a problem I would expect them to at least make the attempt. And, if you're going to test docking, you might as well carry something useful but non-critical along. Something like food, water, spare clothing, and so on; so, if you lose the cargo you know you're not going to impact ISS operational requirements.

SpaceX and Bigelow (1)

bwohlgemuth (182897) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882046)

When SpaceX and Bigelow meet in orbit, that will be an important date in spaceflight. Two wholly private ventures meeting in orbit. Now if someone could just throw enough coin at both of them to undertake a Mars mission...

Re:SpaceX and Bigelow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882920)

Bigelow has already contracted for a SpaceX falcon 9 rocket in 2014. Presumably to carry the first full scale "BA-330" module into orbit..

"Civilian" Spacecraft? (1)

YuppieScum (1096) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882066)

Surely NASA is a "civilian" space agency, and the shuttle therefore a civilian craft?

Perhaps the correct term should be "non-governmental"...

Re:"Civilian" Spacecraft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882082)

Surely NASA is a "civilian" space agency, and the shuttle therefore a civilian craft?

Perhaps the correct term should be "non-governmental"...

Excellent point even though everyone knows what is meant. If I could, I'd mark you as +1, pedantic.

Re:"Civilian" Spacecraft? (2)

YuppieScum (1096) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882238)

Many thanks for your kind words.

By the way, there should be a comma after "point".

Re:"Civilian" Spacecraft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883012)

Heh. ICWYDT

Re:"Civilian" Spacecraft? (2)

djtachyon (975314) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882108)

NASA is a civilian agency as much as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, General Dynamics, etc, are civilian agencies.

Actually... (2)

YuppieScum (1096) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882166)

...Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics are commercial enterprises, which happen to have lots of contracts with both military and civilian agencies of the USA and other governments.

Last time I looked, NASA was one of those civilian USA government agencies...

Put it this way - when was the last time you could buy shares in NASA (paying taxes doesn't count)?

Re:Actually... (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884738)

So perhaps being a governmental object doesn't make one not a civilian, but it's still not civilian in the sense that you or I (probably) are.

Re:"Civilian" Spacecraft? (2)

EraserMouseMan (847479) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882170)

... or civilian-owned. NASA is owned by the Federal government. And the citizens do not "own" the government these days.

Re:"Civilian" Spacecraft? (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882436)

Yes, the shuttle was such a civilian space craft that it received much of its re-design mandates directly from the US Air Force.

The shuttle was a military craft, re-designed to satisfy military objectives. The fact that it was administrated by a combination of civilian and DoD authorities, hardly qualifies it as a civilian craft.

Re:"Civilian" Spacecraft? (3, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882556)

Surely NASA is a "civilian" space agency, and the shuttle therefore a civilian craft?

No, numerous design decisions early on in the program were made strictly to appease the defense dept. Most of them revolved around the mission requirement of launching, grabbing a russian spy sat and placing it in the cargo bay, and landing on next orbit. This requires a ridiculous cross-range capability as the launching site rotates with the earth about 2000 miles east during an orbit. Also the DoD mandated some weird on orbit maneuvering capability which I don't remember (probably some classified anti-asat maneuverability, or maybe it was something to do with the RCS system being stable enough to stick a telescope in the cargo bay for military observational purposes?)

There was also a long cross range capability for military purposes... If a civilian is worried about landing short, just aim at the center of the USA and you're all good. Insane as it sounds, if you want to land at a military base in Japan or Israel, and its a no-go for weather or whatever, you need crossrange to ... somewhere freaking far away. What, Korea or Australia as alternates for Japan, or maybe... diego garcia as an alternate for israel? Unlike F-16s etc we never sold any shuttles to Israel or even landed ours in Japan. But the DoD made us design the vehicle to possibly do it.

The point wasn't to actually steal russian sats, which would be quite the diplomatic incident. The point was to scare them into a higher orbit out of SS range. Same sat higher up means lower resolution and less consumables means its got less lifetime and/or costs more. You only have to scare them once, during design phase, and their sats are crippled until the next generation. Presumably we wouldn't steal our own sats, and they were not going to make a clone of our SS (although turns out they did anyway) so in true cold war deterrence fashion, the end result of building the SS to DoD specs means the russians inherently end up with crappier spy sats than we do.

Well, we never did a mission like that, never even flew a super long cross range landing, for most of the active flying SS program the USSR no longer existed, it got really popular to put a giant sat with giant optics and long lifetime in geosync instead of little ones in low orbit that deorbit relatively rapidly. So it was all kind of pointless.

Re:"Civilian" Spacecraft? (1)

YuppieScum (1096) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883902)

I concur that the design was compromised by military requirements, and that they flew some military/secret missions.

This doesn't change the fact that the orbiters were owned & operated by NASA.

By your argument, you might as well claim that due to the involvement of von Braun and others, the Saturn 5 was a Nazi rocket ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law [wikipedia.org] )

Re:"Civilian" Spacecraft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36884666)

It was a nazi rocket !
Also it was designed by alien knowledge. All german tech was because Nazis had contact with aliens.

SpaceX vs. NASA vs. Russians vs. Chinese (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882088)

Currently, getting something in orbit costs between 3000 and 10000 dollar per kilogram...
This link shows estimated costs for all current launch systems, ranging from smallest to the biggest.
http://www.futron.com/upload/wysiwyg/Resources/Whitepapers/Space_Transportation_Costs_Trends_0902.pdf [futron.com]

I wonder what SpaceX are aiming at. Is the privatization really going to be cheaper? If so, I wonder where they will be able to cut costs.

Re:SpaceX vs. NASA vs. Russians vs. Chinese (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882132)

I wonder what SpaceX are aiming at. Is the privatization really going to be cheaper?

From their website, SpaceX is planning on selling Falcon9 Heavy launches for $80-125 million per. Since the Falcon9 Heavy has a payload of 53000 kg to LEO, sounds like they'll be charging less than $2400/kg

Yep, looks cheaper than $3K-$10K per kg.

Re:SpaceX vs. NASA vs. Russians vs. Chinese (3, Informative)

bwohlgemuth (182897) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882232)

Also throw in the fact that SpaceX is NOT incorporating reusability into their price points (from what I have seen, the boosters are designed to be recoverable but the cost structure isn't built around that being an expectation for each launch)...and now all of a sudden the price point becomes lower. Musk said recently the propellent costs for a Falcon 9 launch were around $150k. If he can get a 50% reuse rate of of his boosters, that's a hell of a cost savings AND drives the cost to orbit down much lower.

Re:SpaceX vs. NASA vs. Russians vs. Chinese (2)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882872)

If reusability is reliable, it saves costs.

I got the idea that the reusability of the Space Shuttle was a matter of taking the entire thing apart, checking every component, and assembling it again. That's not reusability... that's recycling.

Re:SpaceX vs. NASA vs. Russians vs. Chinese (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883226)

Ite is the SME(Shuttle main egines) that cause the bulk of the work. They have to be pulled torn down inspection and tested for every flight.
Yes the rest of it gets inspected too. But you dont rebuild your car engine every 30k miles either.

Russian buran didnt use SME just bigger boosters.

Now if some one can just make a 1 newton ion engine for space manuvering we will be all set.

Re:SpaceX vs. NASA vs. Russians vs. Chinese (2)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883848)

If you listen to the MIT Open courseware series where they had lots of presenters talk about the designing and building the shuttle, one of the engineers talks about the fact the Shuttle was designed without autocad, just blueprints. He also mentioned that if diagnostics wiring had been included in the main engines they could be tested without removing them from the shuttle.

Re:SpaceX vs. NASA vs. Russians vs. Chinese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883408)

You neglected to include the cost of insurance, ground crew, communications, etc. Traveling to space isn't just the cost of the rocket.

Re:SpaceX vs. NASA vs. Russians vs. Chinese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882172)

They cut the pork that congress insists on adding to every proposed NASA launch vehicle. SpaceX is free to choose the best tech without political interference.

Re:SpaceX vs. NASA vs. Russians vs. Chinese (1)

macpacheco (1764378) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882428)

AMEN TO THAT BROTHER !!!!
Private space launches = PORK FREE SPACE LAUNCHES.
The two biggest costs of anything govt based is PORK and CORRUPTION !
Interesting that a Falcon 9 launch only costs US$ 150k in fuel (propelant) costs.

Re:SpaceX vs. NASA vs. Russians vs. Chinese (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882624)

The big boys cost pretty much the same if they use same propellants. It's all the other works that makes this cost insignificant, even if you have "completely reusable" launcher.

Re:SpaceX vs. NASA vs. Russians vs. Chinese (1)

macpacheco (1764378) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882928)

Obviously the maintenance on any reusable launcher will always be expensive.
That's why I believe the only truly affordable launch system will include some kind of aircraft that flies high and fast, sort of the first stage of the launch system.
This way at least half of the launch weight will land nice and easy, that part of the system will then be completely reusable.
The actual space capsule for re-entry is always the tricky part, since heat shielding is an extremely difficult technology.
Also we need to wait another 10 or so years to take full advantage of Carbon Nanotubes. When used to the maximum extent, CNTs should at least half the structural weight of aircraft and space vehicles, bringing about a huge leap forward in air and space technology.
That's one major investment that government should throw money into, developing CNT technology.

Re:SpaceX vs. NASA vs. Russians vs. Chinese (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882722)

Of course, the privates only got into business after the government spent lots of money developing the technology. I wonder if we would have put so much as a man in space if we were completely dependent on private funding.

Re:SpaceX vs. NASA vs. Russians vs. Chinese (1)

Phaeilo (1851394) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882204)

Maybe they'll start charging passengers for in-flight meals. If it works at 10 km altitude it should work at 300 km. :D

Re:SpaceX vs. NASA vs. Russians vs. Chinese (4, Insightful)

tibit (1762298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882602)

I wonder where they will be able to cut costs.

To put it bluntly: everyfuckingwhere. They got one thing very, very right: distaste for subcontractors. They figure they can control quality and leadtimes better if they do things in-house, and they don't have to support other companies' profits. It's simple, but it works wonders. There are plenty of simple business strategies that work very well out there, it seems.

ESA's Jules Verne was civilian (1)

macson_g (1551397) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882178)

ESA's Jules Verne [wikipedia.org] was civilian, although not private.

Offtopic much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882478)

The European ATV program was entirely developed using governmental funding & thus is no different from the shuttle or Soyuz

Why don't you try to post something informative and/or ontopic next time...

Re:ESA's Jules Verne was civilian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883456)

NASA is by definition a civilian agency.

Re:ESA's Jules Verne was civilian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883792)

The space shuttle was civilian, although not private...

Elon Musk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882600)

If the Dragon can be even half as successful as the (unfortunately now defunct; probably a victim of monopolist big oil like all the other true breakthroughs) "250" miles, and (cheap for what you get) $100k+ Tesla roadster, Elon Musk has yet another winner on his hands.

Now if this technology thing doesn't work out for Mr. Musk, he can always go and hawk the supposed superiority of SlapChop food grinder on late night television.

Re:Elon Musk (1)

CompMD (522020) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883278)

Dude, the Tesla Roadster is no longer in production because Lotus (who made the body) ceased production of the body.

Far better than the Shuttle, if its reliable (5, Interesting)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882604)

Proving reliability will be the main task of cargo delivery. 13 unmanned flights of the Dragon would be enough to do that. For perspective: that's twice as many unmanned test flights as the Shuttle, Apollo and Gemini had among them. However, first SpaceX must deliver. (That doesn't mean that none of those flights must fail. But they better come up with some very good analysis if one does. Especially, whether the crew could have bailed out or not.)
Reuse is a non-issue both in terms of cost and material. First of all: The Dragon is as reusable as the Shuttle. But: it requires a much smaller (probably non-reusable) rocket to get into space. What you see under the bottom line is not what you reused, but what you didn't.

Launching an 80t Space Shuttle (plus fuel and payload) wastes 2x90t in solid rocket boosters (plus fuel). Those could in theory be reused 20 times, but weren't (it's too costly to do). But even if those numbers had been reached, it would amount to 9t per flight. (In practice, it's on the order of 40t per flight). Then, you have to account for the external tank - 26.5t. The empty Falcon 9 weighs on the order of 30t - including tanks and engines to launch a 3t (or so) Dragon (plus fuel and payload).
So yes, the reuse quota is worse - but the amount of waste is less.

The shuttle also wasn't exactly maintenance free. Especially the SSME (main engines) had its turbo pumps replaced regularly and the engines themselves as well. 46 SSME were produced for 135 flights at a cost of $45mio per engine or $15mio per flight (plus cost for spare parts, disassembly, reassembly, check-ups of the engines after each flight etc. - no idea how much that cost, but given the labor-intensity of those tasks, it must have been millions for each flight). Add to that the cost of the solid rocket boosters, handcrafted tiles to replace the old ones etc ...

But worst of all: The shuttle weighs 100t (with max payload) and carries only minuscule amounts of fuel itself. It can't reach higher orbits. In fact, the orbit that the Shuttle can reach is so low that the friction of the atmosphere necessitated regular lifting maneuvers that can now finally be reduced by 70-80% (fuel comprised a large part of the payload that the ISS has required so far) - by lifting the whole station into a 100km higher orbit (which is a trivial orbit to reach for any spacecraft, except for the Shuttle).
It's even worse for Hubble. It's in such a low orbit, that observations with it have been described by astronomers as akin to riding a bicycle over a cobble-stone road while trying to hold a telescope steady. And that's before you consider that it regularly has to deal with a huge planet getting into its field of view during observations. It could never reach its full potential (and you've seen what it did despite that!) And that wasn't at all necessary. The KH-11 spy satellites that have very similar dimensions and exactly the same optics as Hubble were flown into space using a Titan IIIE missle - which could have brought the telescope into a much higher and reasonable orbit.

For any regular rocket reaching a somewhat higher orbit is no problem because you get rid of the 2nd stage when you're in orbit. You can even replace the payload by a 3rd stage(*) - but the Shuttle itself is the second stage (minus the external tank, weighing about 1/3 of the shuttle) and has a hard time getting rid of itself.

(*) Yes, you can do that with the shuttle, but the results are laughable compared to the insanely huge rocket you're launching to do that. What's the point of launching a 2600t Shuttle in order to place the same amount of payload into a geostationary orbit as a 300t Soyuz rocket? Most of all: what's the point of risking the lives of 7 people to do what is regularly done with unmanned rockets?

Re:Far better than the Shuttle, if its reliable (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883714)

Apples and oranges:

Dragon max payload: 13,228 lbs
Soyuz max payload: 17,100 lbs
Space Shuttle max payload: 53,600 lbs

It shouldn't be one or the other, and I don't think you can really compare them. We are likely to have the needs for a variety of missions, and each vehicle will have its particular strengths depending on the mission. And, I have to agree - if you can send up supplies on an unmanned rocket (like Progress), by all means, do so.

But, we have shot ourselves in the foot by getting rid of the Space Shuttle, instead of complementing it. With the shuttle, we had a sledgehammer to do everything from driving rebar to hanging pictures. With Dragon, we'll have a tack-hammer to hang pictures, and absolutely nothing more.

If the mission only calls for crew, or crew + small payload, or a simple docking mission to ISS, or a high orbit mission, Dragon (or Dream Chaser, etc.) should be used for that mission. If the mission calls for adding or replacing a module on ISS (could still happen), carrying modules of the next 'spaceship' to ISS to be assembled there to go to Mars (instead of trying to launch the next vehicle from Earth (thereby restricting it's payload by what it takes to launch it)), servicing satellites in LEO, or returning a payload to Earth (which is valuable, and which you cannot do any other way), the Shuttle should be used. In the end, we'd likely use Dragon 85% of the time, and have 1 or 2 Shuttle missions a year, and that's okay. You take the hybrid on weekdays to work, and the SUV with the family on the weekend.

Don't get caught up in cost; innovation has a cost associated with it (and usually pork / ulterior motives, but that's another issue). The SRB / external tank combination on the Shuttle was a deadly result of compromise. Had the boosters been 1 solid welded piece (even if you kept the solid fuel, which was another compromise), STS-51L would have been a success (and we'd have gotten a much better view of Halley's comet), but nobody wanted to pay for it.

Re:Far better than the Shuttle, if its reliable (2)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884078)

To answer an anonymous American coward:

a) Please use metric units. We've lost one Mars mission because of that silliness (and others) already.

b) The payload of the Shuttle is mostly irrelevant. It brought an average of 11.6t into orbit. That's 25500 coconuts or something - far short of the maximum payload and in order to reach that average, it must have flown with no more than a few thousand pineapples mass in its cargo bay on a lot of occasions. Besides, ten Falcon Heavy will cost as much as a single Shuttle launch and each having a payload of one sperm whale or a dozen elephants - if there is an unexpected 50% cost overrun with the Falcon Heavy, that is.

c) When the Shuttle was used for transport duty, they put seven shaved apes into danger who had little else to do than twiddling their thumbs and pressing a button to lower the landing gear. (Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration. But damn it, if you want to get dead stuff into orbit, you don't bring people along for the ride unless you *really* have to.)

Re:Far better than the Shuttle, if its reliable (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36884402)

a) Please use metric units. We've lost one Mars mission because of that silliness (and others) already.

No the problem was unlabeled units. "Metric" units are meaningless.

mTorr and kPa are both "Metric" units for pressure but 1 Torr != 1 kPa.

Re:Far better than the Shuttle, if its reliable (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884160)

But, we have shot ourselves in the foot by getting rid of the Space Shuttle, instead of complementing it. With the shuttle, we had a sledgehammer to do everything from driving rebar to hanging pictures. With Dragon, we'll have a tack-hammer to hang pictures, and absolutely nothing more.

The analogy breaks down because all we're doing is hanging pictures. I never understood the point of the expensive tool that does everything poorly (or as in your analogy, are used for the wrong purpose just because they can) rather than a collection of specialized tools that do their assigned task very well.

And keep in mind that once you count the total cost of Shuttle operation, each launch has cost about $1.5 billion. Even worse, those prices hold with the only flight schedule proposed, two launches per year. Dropping the Shuttle buys a lot of Buck Rogers.

If the mission only calls for crew, or crew + small payload, or a simple docking mission to ISS, or a high orbit mission, Dragon (or Dream Chaser, etc.) should be used for that mission. If the mission calls for adding or replacing a module on ISS (could still happen)

Here's how I see it. NASA has designed its missions to require as many of the peculiar features of the Shuttle as it could get away with. There are several rockets currently in operation which could launch the masses of the components put up by the Shuttle. The heaviest ISS blocks weren't launched by the Shuttle but by Russia's Proton rocket. Sacrifice a little fairing size and you can put up as many modules as you want without needing the Shuttle.

Re:Far better than the Shuttle, if its reliable (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884206)

The KH-11 spy satellites that have very similar dimensions and exactly the same optics as Hubble were flown into space using a Titan IIIE missle - which could have brought the telescope into a much higher and reasonable orbit.

It bears remembering that if this had happened we could never have installed the correction lenses for the misshapen mirror, and Hubble would've been pretty much completely useless.

Re:Far better than the Shuttle, if its reliable (2)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884368)

Sure.
But for the $8bn that the launch and service missions cost alone - without taking the cost of the upgrades or the telescope hardware into account - they could have build a fleet of at least half a dozen of those telescopes on the ground with proper optics, pay for their operation and launch costs and gotten away cheaper than they did with Hubble.

How many company logo's will be painted on it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36882616)

Will they put Nascar to shame?

and thus (0)

Sprouticus (1503545) | more than 3 years ago | (#36882960)

give rise to the space-inductrial complex. And the rise of the space lobby.

It still amazes me that anyone with sense would endorse the privatization of any government entity when it has shown time and time again to become a syphon for government money. Until lobbying by corporations is eliminated I would take the inefficiency of NASA over private companies any day.

Mind you, Im not sayiing they private companies shouldnt exist. Unlike the prisons and military, there is a place for private spaceflight orgs providing other private organizations with launch vehicles. But government....no way.

Re:and thus (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883710)

Mind you, Im not sayiing they private companies shouldnt exist. Unlike the prisons and military, there is a place for private spaceflight orgs providing other private organizations with launch vehicles. But government....no way.

I'm unclear why it's okay for NASA to pay Boeing/Rockwell for an orbiter and Thiokol/Allianet for boosters (aka how they've been operating the manned space program since the 80s), but if they go with one company (SpaceX) for an entire system instead, this is suddenly a bad idea?

Re:and thus (2)

samcan (1349105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883810)

I think there are two different approaches to looking at the problem of corporations lobbying governments: you can blame the corporations, or you can blame the governments.

Let's look at blaming the corporations. On the one hand, we don't want our legislators being bought with nice trips to Tahiti and such. However, can we truly prohibit companies from speaking their views (assuming they aren't bribing legislators)? As we're a country founded on freedom of speech, it seems strange to say that some entities *cannot* speak. (I will not subscribe to the theory that corporations are people, though.)

Let's look at blaming the governments. Shouldn't we expect our legislators to remain above reproach? And if they don't, shouldn't we vote them out? Finally, let's say we managed to stop all lobbying by corporations. Couldn't our legislators be bought other ways by other people?

While I'm not saying we should have companies buying gifts for legislators as a way to influence votes, I think we should blame our legislators for not resisting. Imagine a legislator caught in a sex scandal. Us blaming the corporations would be like the legislator blaming the prostitute for asking him if he wanted sex. As citizens, we should expect our legislators to exercise some self-control, whether the situation involves prostitutes or trips to Tahiti.

Re:and thus (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 3 years ago | (#36883920)

give rise to the space-inductrial complex. And the rise of the space lobby.

God, wouldn't that be great?

Re:and thus (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884440)

It still amazes me that anyone with sense would endorse the privatization of any government entity when it has shown time and time again to become a syphon for government money.

As opposed to being a government entity which is a siphon for government money? Even in such a situation, you have a diminishing of government power. The private entity can be sued and its leaders held accountable for criminal actions. Why are you amazed again?

correction to be more accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883162)

it would be "berthed"... not "docked". There is a difference!

You break it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36883352)

you buy it.

Assuming the Russians let them... (2)

alispguru (72689) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884010)

The ISS is run by an international partnership, under various Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs). Any bets that the Russians won't submit lots and Lots and LOTS of "safety concerns" documents, to maximize the time they are the sole means of access to the ISS?

or we can stop (0)

nimbius (983462) | more than 3 years ago | (#36884328)

trying to create a privatized golden calf of the space age, recognize good engineering when we see it, and just use the damned soyuz.

Re:or we can stop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36884826)

We are recognizing good engineering. The Falcon 9 costs between 50-60M per launch with 7 astronauts. Soyuz carries, what, 3? And the Russians charge 60M per seat. Soyuz has a great track record, but so does Atlas and Delta, and nothing will ever get a track record if you never try it. Should we just use Soyuz forever? No more rockets just Soyuz from now on? Space technology must now stop because nimibius says so.

I don't think comments can get much more shortsighted than yours.

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