×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Bezos Discloses Failure of Blue Origin Rocket Test Flight

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the discovering-ways-not-to-make-lightbulbs dept.

Space 99

astroengine writes "An experimental suborbital space vehicle developed by Blue Origin, a space startup founded by Amazon.com chief Jeff Bezos, was lost during a test flight last week. During the secretive flight, the vehicle reached an altitude of 45,000 feet and attained a velocity of Mach 1.2. Soon after, things went horribly wrong. 'A flight instability drove an angle of attack that triggered our range safety system to terminate thrust on the vehicle,' said an upbeat Bezos in Friday's statement."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

99 comments

It's rocket science folks (4, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37292680)

Things go boom. Pretty much no one in the business of putting up boosters has managed to do so without create a fair amount of debris and fuss.

Bezos seems to appreciate this. It's a disappointment, for sure but it's just that.

Re:It's rocket science folks (3, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37292706)

Oh, and 45000 feet at Mach 1.2 is the beginning of the real stress zone [wikipedia.org] for the frame. Not too surprising it flopped over there. Of course, there are lots of ways a booster can screw up.

Re:It's rocket science folks (2)

crankyspice (63953) | more than 2 years ago | (#37292966)

Oh, and 45000 feet at Mach 1.2 is the beginning of the real stress zone [wikipedia.org] for the frame. Not too surprising it flopped over there.

Anytime you hit or exceed transonic speeds you're getting into all new worlds of potential hurt. (Ask anyone who worked with us on Prospector 8A: http://www.csulb.edu/colleges/coe/mae/views/projects/rocket/background/ [csulb.edu] :) )

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37293354)

Premature ejaculation metaphor:
"I'm sorry, Honey! Flight instability triggered range safety systems to terminate thrust on the vehicle!"

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#37301096)

Premature ejaculation metaphor:
"I'm sorry, Honey! Flight instability [...]

Why is there any reason to apologise for premature ejaculation? It's a pretty high compliment about how hot she (or he? I don't know your choices) makes you, and as long as you didn't make stains on the blue dress, or are really short of time, there's very little to prevent you from now indulging in a good bout of intercourse.

Unless you're in one of those stupid religious sects that requires sex to only be used for procreation.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37302502)

I didn't know it actually happened. I always assumed it was something that existed only for making feeble jokes...

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#37306774)

Jokes that some people find nervously funny because they know it happens to them, and others find nervously funny because they're afraid it'll happen to them?

And the other half of the population just find the whole subject side-splittingly hilarious.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37308844)

I guess so....

I never made such a joke before now, when the quote seemed so complex a way to describe a failure - like an embarrassed apology.

Of course, to analyse a joke is to kill it.

Re:It's rocket science folks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37292718)

Red rocket. Red Rocket!

Wait. Whut?

Re:It's rocket science folks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37293066)

Nice try, Deadpool. We know it's you.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37292864)

Indeed. And the altitude and speed it achieved before it pranged were pretty cool. I wouldn't even call it a disappointment. It's a learning opportunity.

Re:It's rocket science folks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37292968)

Did you go to a school where all the teachers told you were special?

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37293086)

That was completely unnecessary. Did you go to a school where they did not teach how science worked? Here's a phrase: "Scientific Method". Ring any bells? No?

Can someone explain this to him? I'm discouraged.

Re:It's rocket science folks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37293448)

This is settled engineering. Would anyone be excited if someone built a 737 and it fell apart on take off? No? Of course not. But this space masturbation crap gets a pass? Why?

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37293532)

It'd be different if everyone was building and flying 737s. But if only governments had been doing it until fairly recently, hugely expensive and sometimes they just blew up, and then private companies just started building them for the first time and some company's first demo model crashed, we'd all call it a failure? Seriously?

Re:It's rocket science folks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37293870)

Yes. Because physics and reality doesn't care about your governments or social organizations. Rocketry pushes materials to their limits and sometimes beyond. It's not reasonable to think anyone can do better just because they call it "private" or paint different logos on their thin-walled metal tubes.

The problem is the basic reality of the universe, the forces and energies involved, and the fact that we have only 92 or so elements to play with. This is isn't like software where you can just whip up a new language and CPU architecture depending on the problem.

There simply are no other materials and no other ways of going into space. Period.

The fact that space is utterly empty and hostile is also something else that boggles me, what is so attractive about that?

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37293994)

Sorry, that seems like a complete non sequitur. Are you replying to the right article?

Re:It's rocket science folks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37294334)

Sorry that a simple reply befuddles you. But keep fucking that private space chicken; maybe one day it'll lay a rotten egg.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37294540)

Ok, that was surreal enough. It's not that I was befuddled. It was that the reply didn't have any relation to what went before.

Re:It's rocket science folks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37295034)

Yes, it had.

(Not the same AC).

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295198)

The problem is the basic reality of the universe, the forces and energies involved, and the fact that we have only 92 or so elements to play with. This is isn't like software where you can just whip up a new language and CPU architecture depending on the problem.

There simply are no other materials and no other ways of going into space. Period.

This shows such utter ignorance of the topic that it astounds me. This is equivalent to saying there are only four elements that matter for food, therefore there are only so many ways you can make breakfast in the morning out of a combination of Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen.

Actually, with spaceflight it is precisely like trying to come up with a new language and new CPU architecture, especially with what Blue Origin is doing. They are doing a clean sheet redesign of the DC-X architecture [wikipedia.org] where they are trying new fuels and flight performance techniques as well as trying to get the vehicle to places the original DC-X project never got before.

I can think of literally hundreds of ideas on how to get into space that have not ever been tried or at least haven't been pushed to some point where the technology can be said to have been explored. There is indeed room for innovation in spaceflight where new ideas can be created which haven't been tried before.

In terms of why people and stuff should go into space, all I can say there is if it wasn't for spaceflight activities, you would likely be dead already. The current commercial activity in space-related industries already exceeds many billions of dollars per year, and I'm not talking government-funded projects in space either which is on top of that already existing commercial activity. Then again, I think those who criticize spaceflight are just a bunch of Luddites who hate their own species and wish for extinction.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296948)

There simply are no other materials and no other ways of going into space. Period.

This is a classic example of what Arthur C. Clarke characterized as a "failure of imagination".

It totally ignores the near-infinite (ie, mind bogglingly huge) number of ways of combining those "92 or so elements", fashioning them into different structures, propellants, energy sources, etc and flying them. It's like saying that the problem with computers "is the basic reality of the universe [...] the fact that we only have" 1s and 0s to play with.

Get a grip.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 2 years ago | (#37301348)

you make it sound like 92 Elements is restrictive, it isn't. The science of materials does not rely on one element but of a number of elements in combination to achieve the desired properties and it is not just the combination of elements and the proportions but the treatment of these alloys that determine the properties they have.

Once you have the material designed it then takes an engineer to produce a design for a structure that utilises the properties of the materials available.

Sure we don't have unobtanium, atoms are bonded together and there is no unbreakable bond given a big enough hammer and sometimes you get desirable properties in combination with very undesirable ones.

Just look at what has been achieved already with those few elements and what has been built with them. both in nature and designed by man. Our tools for designing are getting better and faster allowing us to proceed much faster with selecting materials and designs and refining designs with simulations to enable weaknesses to be found and designs modified and discarded. As a species we are barely out of the stone age compared to where we may be in a 100, 200 years. Even 20 years should show some considerable advances.

Our design tools and manufacturing processes are so much more advanced than when man first stepped on the moon. It's also a lot cheaper now to produce workable designs which is why private companies can now produce working space craft and launch platforms.

There are 6 billion of us on the planet each with the potential to increase our knowledge as a species and make it available to the rest of us to google. Yes there are limits to what is physically possible but what we think those limits are has to be rethought on a regular basis these days.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Mindflux0 (2447336) | more than 2 years ago | (#37294102)

If that 737 was built for far less than Boeing by a group of students at some college? Then probably yes, everyone would be excited. In this case, a private company building space rockets to replace the richest country in the worlds program? Yes, it's interesting.

Re:It's rocket science folks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37295200)

This is settled engineering.

Notice that we may have to abandon the International Space Station in a couple of months because the Russians just had a rocket "go boom".

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37293340)

I wouldn't even call it a disappointment. It's a learning opportunity.

If private corporations were developing new technology on the edge of the unknown then I would agree. Unfortunately this is not new tech, this science, technology, and research has been around and in use for decades. Delays and failures such as this are a serious blow to the idea that we are ready for space flight based on the for profit model.

We may see better success with incumbent manufacturers who worked with NASA on past scientific and technological research and development. But the quaint libertarian ideology that says the free market is like an all powerful supreme being that will overcome all odds is just that, quaint.

The idea that profits from space tourism will be the driving force behind manned space travel and exploration versus the quest for scientific knowledge with profitable discoveries as a fringe benefit seems to be a long way off in the future and today is a mere pipe dream for billionaires.

Re:It's rocket science folks (3, Insightful)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37293462)

> If private corporations were developing new technology on the edge of the unknown then I would agree. Unfortunately this is not new tech, this science, technology, and research has been around and in use for decades. Delays and failures such as this are a serious blow to the idea that we are ready for space flight based on the for profit model.

Like many things, that's both true and untrue. You're right, the individual pieces are not new tech, and the purpose is also not new tech. If all it took is bolting the right parts together, then, well, anyone could do it, and we'd all have spaceships. The thing is, integrating a machine of that size and designed to work under those conditions is non-trivial even though it *has* been done before. If nothing else, it hasn't been done by this particular team, who has to learn all kinds of things like procurement, QA, integration and how to launch the thing. As we've learned from every space mission back to the 1960's, one error, one bad decision, anywhere in the process of component parts to launch, can result in a prang. Even when NASA does it. Most especially if a company does it who hasn't done it before. Creating and successfully launching a functional spaceship is a process. A really complicated process that's difficult to learn.

So I contend that if they got up to 45K feet and a mach-and-a-half on their first try, that's pretty damned good for a newcomer.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

putaro (235078) | more than 2 years ago | (#37294666)

I don't think that's fair at all. This is a VTOL rocket that takes off and lands all in one piece. I don't know if they'll be able to get it to being a Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) but they're a lot farther along than NASA ever got at that game. The whole vehicle is reusable (like an airplane).

The closest thing to this was the DC-X. DARPA funded it and they got it to the point where it flew for less than 3 minutes and up to 3000 meters (about 10,000 feet). It did not go supersonic.

NASA took over the program and promptly broke the prototype.

Then, NASA and Lockheed Martin poured over a billion dollars into the X-33 project and never got to the point of a finished vehicle.

So, libertarianism to the rescue? Not necessarily. Pragmatism and a desire to actually fly something rather than mess around with paper studies endlessly? I'd say that's more of the driver.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296896)

Mod parent up, he's exactly right.

The Blue Origin design, while one that's been advocated since as long ago as Phil Bono's concepts in the mid 1960s, has never been test-flown at significant speeds and altitudes. Bezos' company really is breaking new ground here. (The design is more like General Dynamics' proposal for the SSX prototype than McDonnell-Douglas's which became DC-X.)

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295374)

I wouldn't even call it a disappointment. It's a learning opportunity.

If private corporations were developing new technology on the edge of the unknown then I would agree. Unfortunately this is not new tech, this science, technology, and research has been around and in use for decades. Delays and failures such as this are a serious blow to the idea that we are ready for space flight based on the for profit model.

Private corporations, ad hoc groups, and even social clubs (such as rocketry groups) can and are developing new technology on the edge of the unknown quite frequently. They simply aren't getting into the news either because they are deliberately trying to stay low-key precisely because of critics like this AC or because not all of those experiments really work out.

I hate to break the news, but "big corporations" rarely do anything at all to develop new technologies in any industry. It goes against their corporate charters to "maximize profits and increase shareholder equity" if they are risking capital on an unknown concept that will result in a loss and a decrease in shareholder equity if they fail. That is a nearly guaranteed way to lose your job as a CEO if you do too much experimentation.

Most experimentation happens by "garage tinkers" or somebody who has a crazy idea and tries for something new. People like Jeff Bezos who have a little bit of money to spare and can afford to spend his own money on technological research because he has no shareholders to worry about can afford to experiment much more and try some much more outlandish ideas. I don't think it should be a shock to see that a whole bunch of the "dot com" millionaires and billionaires are now turning to other areas of society and seeing what else they might do, including getting into rocketry. That they are also making some progress with some of their designs speaks more about persistence than anything else.

That Jeff Bezos has no shareholders to report to also shows why this setback doesn't matter at all and isn't even really a serious blow.... other than the fact that the engineers have discovered something which doesn't work. If anything, that is a good sign as it shows they are trying new ideas and pushing the envelope precisely as this AC claims they are not doing. The problem is when you have an accident and then do the same thing over and over again thinking you will get different results when nothing fundamental has really changed. That was the problem with the Space Shuttle, as it was a proven bad design yet NASA tried to keep making it work. There still are people who insist it should work.

The idea that profits from space tourism will be the driving force behind manned space travel and exploration versus the quest for scientific knowledge with profitable discoveries as a fringe benefit seems to be a long way off in the future and today is a mere pipe dream for billionaires.

While I will admit that I hope profits from space tourism will work out in the long run, and that space tourism is definitely an income stream for rocket companies to tap into that hasn't really been exploited in the past, it is hardly the only potential source of income for companies working in space. Already proven income streams for spaceflight include telecommunications (satellite television broadcasts, telephones in very remote areas, long distance data links, etc.), reconnaissance (military and civilian applications like Google Maps), and general "remote sensing" of various kinds. So much of our modern economy depends on spaceflight at the moment that a formal office of space weather has been established just to provide forecasts of upcoming solar storms so backup satellites can be readied or other remedies can be put into place when those flare or other events in space happen.

This represents already billions of dollars in revenue every year, and is established markets. There is also little reason to think that these applications of space are going to go away, and if anything they will be expanded. The issues of space tourism and potentially extra-terrestrial mining operations are merely additional revenue streams to an already successful business model for making money in space. That some companies are using space tourism as the wedge issue to get themselves into competition with other commercial launching companies is only a business plan that is attempting to do something different that hasn't been tried before.

If it is a private individual or company who is spending their own money to develop these ideas, why should you care at all how they are spending their own money or why? As long as they don't blow up on top of your house or don't have one of these rockets plow into your kid's elementary school, it shouldn't matter at all if they are successful with the business plan or not. That is a risk they are taking, and if successful they can and should receive profits from that effort and risk.... especially because this is a huge risk they are taking.

My complaint about government programs is that they are not just taking your money, but mine as well, and usually throwing the money down a massive fiscal black hole that only gets worse because you need dozens of tiers of "watchdogs" and accountants who keep track of how each penny is spent. Governments take money from me and others not voluntarily, but at gunpoint with no option but to comply or lose life, property, or liberty. In that regard, governments ought to be even more risk averse than corporations because they are dealing with money which genuinely can't be risked at all without somebody getting seriously hurt if they fail.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 2 years ago | (#37300766)

Delays and failures such as this are a serious blow to the idea that we are ready for space flight based on the for profit model.

So how many failures has NASA had over the years? I daresay it's averaged at least one a year despite all of their knowledge. As others have said you're often pushing the limits of material science in rocketry and a small anomaly can become a catastrophic failure in a matter of seconds or less.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37293892)

Things go boom.

Right, this is no big deal.

I mean, it's not like anyone else has ever put any suborbital spacecraft up before or anything.

Oh wait...

You know, the more I think about it, I'm not sure it's really in our interest to have private industry have their own space programs. They haven't really been such great stewards of resources here on Earth and I'm not sure it's so great to have them export their corporate agendas to space. There are a lot of ways it can turn out really badly.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Mindflux0 (2447336) | more than 2 years ago | (#37294162)

Things go boom.

Right, this is no big deal.

I mean, it's not like anyone else has ever put any suborbital spacecraft up before or anything.

Oh wait...

Yeah this Bezos guy must be a real dummy. I mean, his first test rocket exploded.

Governments have been doing this for years with expensive, thoroughly tested equipment.

Could you imagine if one of their rockets exploded just last week? Oh... err... wait...

Re:It's rocket science folks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37294256)

Things go boom.

Right, this is no big deal.

I mean, it's not like anyone else has ever put any suborbital spacecraft up before or anything.

It's like riding a bike. Once one person has learned how, everybody should just know how to do it without needing to learn, practice, and fall down once in a while before gaining the experience to do it flawlessly.

Seriously, whenever somebody is new at building something complex like this, there are bound to be mistakes made. The big difference here is that with spaceflight, tiny mistakes can easily lead to complete destruction of the prototype. In other endeavors, a mistake can just lead to the prototype not working; rework it a bit and try again.

The simplest "Hello World" program can fail to compile when written by a beginner. It doesn't matter how many thousands of times other people have written "Hello World" programs.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295548)

It's like riding a bike. Once one person has learned how, everybody should just know how to do it

That's pretty much how science works.

The simplest "Hello World" program can fail to compile when written by a beginner. It doesn't matter how many thousands of times other people have written "Hello World" programs.

I know some people believe Jeff Bezos is out there in his rather large back yard building a rocket himself, but in fact, he is hiring people who one would assume have some experience. I doubt he's working with a bunch of interns.

I don't mean to discount what Bezos is trying to do. Really, when it comes down to it, I'm not comfortable with private development of space. I wish space travel would go the opposite way: Instead of privatizing it, I'd rather see more global multi-nation efforts.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296538)

That's pretty much how science works.

But that isn't how engineering works. Don't confuse the two. Science learns fundemental things about the universe (eg. knowledge about aerodynamics, thermodynamics etc), and engineering applies those things to solve problems. But solving problems like rocket design is astonishingly complex.

Any engineering system is a tradeoff between competing design factors like weight, cost, thrust, payload. Even if you get the balance right, there are still mundane design choices - like whether to go with a one-piece boosters for reliability or to go with partly-assembled boosters for logistics reasons - that have a huge impact on the performance of your system.

Every engineering challange is unique because even if you've done the same product (eg. a ball-point pen) hundreds of times before, you're still trying to make them cheaper or make them work better so that you'll have an edge in the marketplace. If your prototype pen design fails because the plastic walls are too thin, then it breaks during testing and an office drone gets ink all over him. And it happens. For systems with billions of articles in service today. When you push boundaries of engineering performance, expect to have the occasional rocket blow up. If we were only making 'safe' products we knew how to make already because we'd made them exactly the same way before, we would never have made it past the wheel.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295588)

Yeah, I'd rather so much to have a government running stuff that can land on your house where some government bureaucrat say "so sue me.... oh that's right, you can't!"

There is a concept called government immunity which pretty much allows the government to do whatever it wants to whomever it wants. While some may claim otherwise, private corporations and individuals don't have that option. If you are worried about a private company being a "proper steward" or even worried about them taking out your house from a rocket that isn't properly designed, they can and should be taken to task through the government to correct their ways and for you to get just compensation for any harm they may have done to you, your family, your property, or to others you care about.

I'd hardly call governments to be all that good in terms of stewardship of resources or the environment either, and indeed governments which aren't responsive to their citizens have an absolutely horrible track record when it comes to the environment. China and the former Soviet Union come to mind, where their environmental records are absolutely hideous, far worse than all of "big oil" combined. Instead of a selfish corporate agenda where they are worried about their profits, governments have instead political agendas that don't even care about profits at all as they can simply confiscate any wealthy they need and don't have to be held accountable for whatever it is that they do. When governments are held accountable for their actions (such as through open elections where government officials can be replaced by the citizens among other routes) they tend to act a little bit more responsibly, but even then government track records are just as bad if not worse than almost any corporation you can't point to in terms of environmental pollution, lax standards, and even sheer graft and corruption.

I suppose the argument here is that spaceflight is just a bad idea that shouldn't have ever been tried. Then again, mankind should never have left East Africa, or for that matter even crawling out of the ocean was a bad idea in the first place. Yeah, that makes logical sense.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296420)

"Yeah, I'd rather so much to have a government running stuff that can land on your house where some government bureaucrat say "so sue me.... oh that's right, you can't!"

which is exactly why privatized space ventures are doomed, this is why aircraft systems cost so much, product liability insurance.... I will maintain that until a private company can either:

1. Make so much money that they can finance their own product liability insurance OR
2. Have complete protection from the litigation of landing a rocket booster on a school

the whole thing is destined to FAIL....

So if the argument for privatizing space is that it will cost less than the government doing it, I think you are dead wrong. I was a founder of a company back in the 80's that built some of the first "glass cockpits" for yachts - we briefly entertained making some for aircraft until we looked into the cost of that - trust me its phenomenally expensive - when a failure can result in massive property damage or loss of life any business man with half a brain thinks twice -

Seems like the root of all evil is really lawyers and insurance reform... That MUST happen before this even stands a chance of long term success...

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37297648)

Your story doesn't explain why it would be impossible for a company to make a profit from sending rockets into space, and in fact seems to assert that it is impossible to earn a profit from aviation.... a fact that seem to smack as a complete fabrication of fact. There are thousands of companies who make money either by directly selling aviation services, aircraft, or have a major portion of their business rely upon an air transportation network.

Yes, getting equipment certified by the FAA is a real PITA and you do need a team of lawyers to be able to navigate through the red tape that the FAA throws your way. I get that, and for those companies who are even involved in just the supply chain of the aviation industry need to do all kinds of crazy things to get some of their equipment into actual aircraft. My point, however, is that many people do it and are successful at it.

Ditto for companies going into space. As I pointed out, there is an already existing industry which is either based in space or services those who go into space that has billions of dollars in revenue just from this space-based activity. That isn't something minor but rather represents a significant portion of the American economy even today. I am not even talking about government-sponsored projects but stuff that is end-to-end from a private company to an individual consumer of the services provided and has assets which are currently in space which are completely owned by private individuals and making a profit off of that stuff. This isn't science fiction, unless you consider the pages of the Wall Street Journal to be science fiction. These are real companies making real money today.

In terms of protection from litigation, there was some immunity granted to companies who engage in commercial space tourism and fly private passengers into space, where liability is waived on the part of the participants. If you are silly enough to step into a spacecraft and fly into space, you should be completely aware that such activity is dangerous and can cause death or significant disabilities merely by taking the flight. Liability insurance for innocent bystanders, such as somebody on the ground near a launch site, is required by the FAA before a launch license is issued by these companies. This liability includes coverage of "the product" itself in terms of the launch vehicle plus any payload on that vehicle. Furthermore, liability for anything launched from American is covered by the U.S. government to any other country if something from America falls upon them by treaty (which can in turn be taken from the companies doing this stuff by the U.S. government... hence the insurance requirement by the FAA).

My gripe here is really one of freedom. If somebody wants to build a spacecraft on their own dime and fly it into space, that should be their right to do so. The government can and ought to regulate that activity so far as to make sure innocent people are protected and that some basic safety requirements are met by anybody engaging in this activity, but as long as you meet those safety requirements there should be nobody stopping you from going up into space. If you can make a profit doing with such an activity, that is a something you have to decide for yourself as it is your money to do so.

It sounds like you don't care to invest into any current commercial space launch companies. That is entirely your right to do so, and I certainly don't want to force you to make any such investment. Just don't force me into making any sort of investment either or point a gun at my head telling me I can't invest into any of these companies either. I'll stay out of your business as long as you stay out of mine. The assertion that I am flat out prohibited from ever going into space on my own dime if I care to make that effort is something that seems to violate very basic human rights and even goes against almost everything I see myself as being human at all.

I believe that in time private companies can be not just a little bit cheaper but considerably cheaper than government planed and developed spaceflight companies. I base that upon past experience and logic, but we also don't have to accept that on blind faith. Let those companies build their spacecraft as a great many are doing right now, and let's see what they will come up with. Almost every single privately designed and built spacecraft that is being developed at the moment is going to be flight ready before any government vehicle is going to be ready for the same activity in America, so it would seem that the logical thing is to encourage those private companies to continue their already existing efforts along that line and just see what they can pull off. If they can provide a service to send people into space which is substantially cheaper than the government designed vehicle, why should the government designed vehicle development even continue, much less fly if or when it is actually built?

When astronauts are routinely going up to Bigelow space stations for about $5 million each and then NASA sends up a spacecraft which cost over $40 billion to develop and still costs about $2 billion for each flight to send up four crew members (these are all the current cost estimates of the "SLS" program that is NASA's best hope for manned spaceflight), it will be really fun to explain to Congress why it cost 100x the price to send astronauts up on government spacecraft than it does to send them up on private spacecraft. These are not just numbers I've pulled out of my behind either but hard numbers being put forward by the industry.

I declare that this whole thing is destined to succeed, but time will tell. I'd love to make a wager on this if possible. I can't say if a particular company or individual is necessarily going to succeed, but I do think private spaceflight is going to eventually overwhelm government sponsored efforts in a significant way to the point it will be painfully obvious that it was the right way to go. The only way to stop that is to have government official literally kill anybody who develops private spaceflight and to have the military literally shoot out of the skies any spacecraft which fly. Is that what you advocate here?

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 2 years ago | (#37299320)

I really wonder what would happen - I guess I just don't see how a private company is ever going to make money on this, space tourism will make a little off of a select rich few until the day that a major accident happens and people die - then the government will crack down on it. I don't think you can legally build an aircraft past a certain size without the government (FAA) getting involved - I'll bet if I built a jet and went flying someone WOULD shoot me down as you suggest - I grew up on the space coast of Florida watching Saturn V's and space shuttles launch, I worked out at CCAFS launching expendable rockets for 10 years, I sat in Burt Rutan's Space Ship 1 BEFORE it won the X-prize. I would dearly love for space travel to be successful but it is not a trivial venture and I will maintain that if it was going to make any money that we would have seen the privatization a LONG time ago.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37299802)

I really wonder what would happen - I guess I just don't see how a private company is ever going to make money on this, space tourism will make a little off of a select rich few until the day that a major accident happens and people die - then the government will crack down on it.

The question is how would the government crack down on space tourism? Literally banning the ability for individuals to go into space on their own dime? How would they stop it, at least from somebody determined to go up? If not America, there are other countries (notably Denmark and Romania at the moment) who want to get into this game with several other countries willing to get involved too. Bahrain and Qatar are two other countries seriously thinking of getting set up as space ports as well. Is there going to be a coordinated and concentrated effort to block this in all countries simultaneously?

I think your fear here is completely unfounded, and that time has passed since the creation of the FAA-AST in terms of a "big government agency" swatting this down. We'll see when the first fatality happens with private manned commercial spaceflight (it will eventually happen, I'll admit that), but I don't think it would be anything different than what happened with Challenger, Columbia, or for that matter with any fatal aviation accident. A board of inquiry will certainly be called and a particular kind of spacecraft will have their flight worthiness certificate pulled until the cause of the accident is determined. I don't think it will shut down the entire industry.

BTW, Virgin Galactic has already sold more than 1000 tickets with their vehicles. I'd say that is more than a "few rich people".

I don't think you can legally build an aircraft past a certain size without the government (FAA) getting involved - I'll bet if I built a jet and went flying someone WOULD shoot me down as you suggest

I don't know what the formal size limits are for experimental aircraft, but I think the largest problem is that you can't use it for commercial service under an experimental permit.... which puts an economic limit on how large of an aircraft you can operate. I know John Travolta has his own Boeing 737 with an airstrip and hanger on his homestead, and there are several other people that I've heard about owning rather large aircraft. It isn't as off the wall as you are suggesting and I don't think somebody would shoot you down merely for flying a very large aircraft. The FAA and perhaps even the USAF may insist upon a flight plan and you sticking to it in a populated area or near "sensitive sites", but that is the case now even for commercial airliners or chartered air flights.

I grew up on the space coast of Florida watching Saturn V's and space shuttles launch, I worked out at CCAFS launching expendable rockets for 10 years, I sat in Burt Rutan's Space Ship 1 BEFORE it won the X-prize. I would dearly love for space travel to be successful but it is not a trivial venture and I will maintain that if it was going to make any money that we would have seen the privatization a LONG time ago.

There are a number of reasons why commercial spaceflight hasn't taken off until now, and in this case the government intervention is a huge issue. Perhaps the most significant was the Conestoga rocket [wikipedia.org] lead by none other than Deke Slayton (part owner, part spokesman for the group putting it together) which was the first privately built spacecraft to reach space..... well before SpaceShip One. What killed this program as well as Jim Benson's private spaceflight efforts was a deliberate or coincidental (depending on who you talk to) pricing scheme by NASA on the Space Shuttle for about $2000/kg to orbit. It made their business case completely untenable and investors bailed on most of the private spaceflight projects for the next two decades as a result even though no more than about a half of a payload bay of the Space Shuttle (equivalent) was ever launched under this program before the whole program was cancelled by NASA after the Challenger disaster. It wasn't for a lack of customers, as there was a huge backlog of people wanting to fly private payloads into space.... NASA just couldn't get them on board together with the other payloads that NASA and the Air Force wanted to send up first.

Boeing with the Delta series and Lockheed-Martin with the Atlas series of rockets have been sending privately financed payloads for years. Their largest problem lately is that they are too expensive for some of their customers when Russia and the ESA have been able to launch payloads at a much cheaper price, with China and even Japan getting into the commercial spaceflight game. Again, you claim here that private commercial spaceflight is unprofitable, but a proven track record from well established companies proves otherwise.

There have been other private attempts to go into space with an attitude of government be damned, although the X-Prize was the catalyst for change which really got the ball going. Most significantly, the FAA Office of Commercial Spaceflight (FAA-AST for historical reasons) was finally established as an independent space certification authority separate from NASA, and the Commercial Spaceflight Act was passed by congress which established the laws under which commercial space tourism could operate under inside of the United States. These events are particular significant as it established legitimacy for the concept that private individuals could indeed go into space. Previously the bureaucracy in Washington DC was essentially saying "no" to anybody who suggested the idea.... more because they thought the idea was absurd and nobody but NASA could build a spacecraft. There was a "giggle factor" where official Washington thought you were stupid or crazy to even consider such a venture so they wouldn't even give you a straight answer.... until somebody was in space and earned their astronaut wings.

What is frustrating me here is people like you, Dolphinzilla, and others who would go out of their way to stop this from happening as a matter of policy. It may be successful, it may not be. Why not give some of these folks a shot at least to try and see if it can work? If it can't be successful, we'll see. It isn't your money being used (mostly) to get this to happen, so you really have no stake in the game other than as a sideline cheerleader or detractor. What government money is being spent here is statistical noise even for government space budgets, which I admit are abysmally low too.

There are legitimate reasons why private spaceflight hasn't happened before, and why it is happening now. Some of it is technological, some of it is the people coming into the field, and some of it is the government finally giving a shot to private individuals to at least try to reach for the stars. On the other hand, it is letting me tell the story about private spaceflight so others can hopefully see this thread too. Perhaps.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 2 years ago | (#37359258)

You know that satellite launch vehicles are built and operated by private companies today, right?
You know you can buy satellite launch insurance pretty much off-the-shelf at companies like Lloyd's of London, right?

Don't let those notions get in the way of your philosophy or anything.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37298814)

I suppose the argument here is that spaceflight is just a bad idea that shouldn't have ever been tried.

Spaceflight is a great idea. But private corporations shouldn't be the ones doing it.

Because in the end, we're going to be the ones paying for it either way. If a private corporations creates some disaster, they declare bankruptcy and form under a different name and when someone goes after them they say "but that company doesn't exist any more!" We've seen it with so many polluting companies in the northeast that it's a cliche. Private industry is never held accountable for the damage they do.

If you believe, as I do, that ultimately the government is us, then I trust us to be the ones doing spaceflight more than I trust a legal golem whose only goal is to profit at any social cost.

I want space to be colonized by people, not corporations. And the only way to do that is by having governments do it. There are some things that are just too important to leave to capitalism.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37298960)

I would love to see you point to a single private commercial spaceflight company who has declared bankruptcy and then proceeded to reorganize itself with the same investors to go out and do the same thing. That may have happened with other companies, but I have never, I repeat never have seen it happen with spaceflight.

Your absolutes here just astound me to no end.

I also don't think you understand capitalism at all, or for that matter economic theory either. Please convince me otherwise.

I will admit that some corporations are out of control and act as a government unto themselves. The solution there is to chop those companies down to size and increase competition. I am all for busting up big corporations and to encourage entrepreneurial development as much as possible. That is in fact happening with spaceflight, where people of relatively meager means are developing some amazing machines and are putting forth new ideas in the industry and creating brand new organizations, including for-profit corporations. Getting government into the picture only causes these small companies to go bankrupt while the government confiscates their markets and gives it to the big corporations you claim to hate.

Government more often than not increases barriers to trade and creates monopolies for the benefit of a few well connected people. Getting the government out of the game entirely leaves the opportunity for mere mortals to get into the game and be involved.

In addition, almost any government spending steals money at gunpoint from those least able to afford it and gives that money to some of the wealthiest and most politically connected "friends" of the government officials. This is especially true for spaceflight where the end result is that this money goes into the coffers of big companies that can perform the contracts that those companies have written for themselves anyway. Why else do you think most of the big aerospace companies all have a legal office located in Washington DC? If you hate these big companies, you really don't want to see more government spending on spaceflight. That is precisely why it has taken 40 years for us to return to the Moon. Waiting on the government is going to take us another century or more to get there.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37300264)

I would love to see you point to a single private commercial spaceflight company who has declared bankruptcy and then proceeded to reorganize itself with the same investors to go out and do the same thing.

Why don't you add "...whose name begins with the letter "L""?

Friend, avoiding responsibility for liability is one of, if not the primary reason for the existence of corporations. To believe for some reason that corporations involved in the development of space will somehow act more nobly is too much a stretch for even a fabulist like myself.

If you hate these big companies, you really don't want to see more government spending on spaceflight.

I don't mind corporations getting rich from spaceflight. I just don't want them doing it at the expense of the rest of us. Considering the rapidly growing "intellectual property" regime, it is doubtful that any technology developed through a privately-funded space program will ever reach as you say, "mere mortals".

I believe in the exploitation of space. I don't mind that the government will contract with big corporations to exploit space, making them very wealthy. But I want everything discovered in space, and all technologies developed thanks to government contracts, to belong to the people through the government. And in case you haven't read the U.S. Constitution, the government is us.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37300394)

And in case you haven't read the U.S. Constitution, the government is us.

And in case you haven't read the U.S. Constitution, developing space or even building transportation systems isn't even an enumerated power delegated to the United States Congress, essentially making all of those contracts with "big corporations" unconstitutional. Certainly building mines or doing anything in space other than simply gazing at it is unconstitutional.... other than perhaps setting up new American states in space on additional territory claimed by America.

Yeah, I've read the U.S. Constitution lately, have you?

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37300490)

And in case you haven't read the U.S. Constitution, developing space or even building transportation systems isn't even an enumerated power delegated to the United States Congress, essentially making all of those contracts with "big corporations" unconstitutional.

So, by your thinking, it was unconstitutional for the US to build the Hoover Dam, and the TVA. To fund the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Louisiana Purchase. The purchase of Alaska. The Interstate Highway System. All unconstitutional by your learned reading of the founding documents.

And yet, those the Constitution gives the power to judge these things didn't find anything wrong with those projects. Or Social Security. Or Medicare. Or NASA, the Gemini, Apollo missions, the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. And the scores of congresses, with majorities from across the political spectrum, duly elected by the People, also found those projects to be within the scope of the Constitution, or there would have been hell to pay.

I have no doubt that you know more than every Supreme Court for the last 200 years. It must be a heavy burden to be the only one in US history to have a factual understanding of the framework of our nation.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37301108)

You are putting words into my mouth, but I will note that the U.S. Constitution enumerates only a few very specific things over which the U.S. Congress has any authority over which it may act. Either that document has any meaning at all or it is a worthless scrap of paper which needs to be discarded with yesterday's trash. Most of that authority is spelled out in Article I, Section 8 although a few other things are found elsewhere in that document.

As to if members of Congress have exceeded that authority, I will be the first to admit that they have. It doesn't matter if nine grumpy old men in robes say it is legal or constitutional, they can and have been wrong.... or did you miss reading about the Dred Scott decision [wikipedia.org]? Yeah, that was a stellar case of legal reasoning which was beneficial to our republic.

Just because members of congress are elected by the people doesn't give them the authority to do anything they please. There are rules and laws under which even members of congress must act, and the process to change the constitution is very clear. If Congress wants additional authority not granted in the constitution, they can and indeed have asked for this authority from the states through the amendment process to extend their authority.... if "we the people" were willing to give it to them. The ability to tax our incomes is one of those explicitly granted authorities which was extended by amendment. Good luck with changing the constitution to get that happen for trivial things, as it requires justifiably many more people in agreement to get something like that to happen. It isn't impossible as amendments have been ratified even recently like the 27th Amendment, but it takes a great consensus for that to happen.

BTW, I do consider the TVA to be patently unconstitutional, but that is besides the point. I can actually read the document in question and I do understand the language of the framers having read plenty of 18th and 19th century documents as well. The language we are using has changed a bit in the past couple of centuries, but not enough so that the words of this document are not understood. There are explicit limits in the scope of federal authority, and philosophically I think that is a pretty good thing too.

Too much control of our lives from just a few people is ultimately a bad thing, and that is precisely one of the objectives in setting up the American Republic that no single tyrant or even group of people in a tyrannical legislative body could ever have 100% control over our lives. If you want to live under the rule of a king or dictator, there are plenty of places in the world you can move to in order to have that privilege. I don't want a king or dictator, and think the government needs to stay out of our lives on almost every issue. There are a few basic things such as much of what is in the U.S. Constitution that I think is proper for a government, such as setting up an army, establishing a navy, building roads, and establishing a postal system. I'm not for a complete elimination of government, but that authority ought to be sparse and very limited.

I have nothing against government sponsored scientific inquiry, but you are advocating for far more than that. I just don't think the government ought to be in the business of building spaceships, and that it is foolish to try and build a new one when there are plenty of commercial options available to get the job done without having to build a competing design. Certainly the exploitation of space is not something ever envisioned by the framers of the U.S. Constitution, although they did envision that America would expand its borders and that new territory could be included that would be extended to private individuals to pursue their dreams. There certainly isn't a reason to think that territory would have to be limited to just the Earth. It was a successful pattern of development in terms of creating cities and farms as America grew westward, and there is no reason that same pattern can't be used to move up as well. Most of that development happened due to private individuals having the initiative to try something new and for the most part keeping the government away from their lives.

Re:It's rocket science folks (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296968)

I'm not sure it's really in our interest to have private industry

If you'd just left it that, you would have conveyed your real meaning much better. Good writing is all about conciseness, however stupid the message.

Re:It's rocket science folks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37295458)

True, but if this had happened to NASA all the libertarian types would be out screaming about how government can't do anything right again. Since it was a private company, it's ok with them though.

I got to tour there once. (2)

Conrthomas (1993390) | more than 2 years ago | (#37292692)

I find this article especially interesting, as I did a job shadow at Blue Origin last year as a part of my requirement to graduate High School. One of the Employees showed me around the test facilities and showed me the various systems in place to try to prevent this kind of failure from happening. It's unfortunate that this happened, but as the employee told me, most of this is chump change for Jeff Bezos, and Blue Origin is in all reality a pet-project of his. Cool fact though, the Blue Origin Building in Kent, WA is home to an original Bell X-1 as well as the original model of the Starship Enterprise that was used in the episode where the Enterprise gets destroyed, I believe. All sorts of other cool things there too.

Re:I got to tour there once. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37292838)

Cool fact though, the Blue Origin Building in Kent, WA is home to an original Bell X-1 as well as the original model of the Starship Enterprise that was used in the episode where the Enterprise gets destroyed, I believe.

Which Enterprise?

Re:I got to tour there once. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37293160)

The one from the Star Trek, not the aircraft carrier.

Re:I got to tour there once. (2)

arcsimm (1084173) | more than 2 years ago | (#37293574)

That doesn't thin out the field much.

Re:I got to tour there once. (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37295620)

Since the original USS Enterprise model NCC-1701 (no bloody A, B, C, or D) is currently in the Smithsonian, I highly doubt that Jeff Bezos got access to that model. While there were several models created for the subsequent starships, I'd have to guess either the -A or the -D models, both of which were blown up at various times in more than one episode and movie. Then again, I think every Starship Enterprise eventually met a gruesome end of some sort where it blew up or was whacked real good in a way that caused substantial death or damage to both ship and crew.

It makes for wonderful drama to blow things up, so I'd have to agree it doesn't really thin out the field.

Velocity != Mach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37292724)

Speed of sound varies with altitude. Velocity is not the same as Mach number. Sheesh.

Re:Velocity != Mach (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | more than 2 years ago | (#37292764)

No one said they. Read carefully.

It was traveling at 1.2 times the speed of sound at the time.

Re:Velocity != Mach (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37292912)

Well, I said that in my second post - wasn't thinking through it carefully. It's something that usually comes up every time Mach number is brought up here.

Bahahahahhahaaaaaa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37292768)

To boldly go where man went four decades ago... What is the attraction? I don't get it.

Re:Bahahahahhahaaaaaa (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37292808)

Obviously we should abandon everything, because almost everything has been done before. I mean, who the heck needs new, faster PCs. We should just optimize the heck out of old software to make it faster, right?

Re:Bahahahahhahaaaaaa (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37293890)

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying... (Eye roll).

Re:Bahahahahhahaaaaaa (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | more than 2 years ago | (#37292816)

Yeah, why dont they just license the tech from NASA, or get some of off-the-shelf components and just fly away.

Re:Bahahahahhahaaaaaa (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 2 years ago | (#37359878)

Because what they're doing hasn't been done before, and that's the way technology advances. If there was off-the-shelf hardware that did what Blue Origin is trying to do, don't you think they'd use it?

Guess what. These people are pretty smart.

Re:Bahahahahhahaaaaaa (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 2 years ago | (#37293156)

Yeah, like why did European people come back to America after Columbus' discovery? What is the attraction?

Re:Bahahahahhahaaaaaa (1)

swooshiain (1981922) | more than 2 years ago | (#37294954)

Other bodies in our solar system are chock-full of precious resources that will be sorely needed in the not-too-distant future - and I include minerals and land in that category. Makes sense to work on getting there before it's urgent.

Re:Bahahahahhahaaaaaa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37295064)

To boldly go where man went four decades ago... What is the attraction? I don't get it.

First time around, the US Government did it to show up the Russians and to learn how to put ballistic missiles on target. (And vice versa!)

Now that governments are done with the proof-of-concept, private citizens who still believe in the idea of putting other humans on other worlds are cashing in on a return on their respective governments' investments.

"Secret" not "Secretive" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37292774)

The flight was not "secretive", the flight was "secret". The people involved were being secretive in order to keep it secret.

secretive
adjective
having or showing a disposition to secrecy;

I seem to recall... (2)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37292852)

...that this is the way science works. You try something, learn from the results, and then change your plans accordingly. Nothing to see here.

Re:I seem to recall... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37294110)

What happened is news. Particularly if you take in interest in the privatization of space travel. Though I agree that it isn't very surprising news.

Re:I seem to recall... (1)

sl3xd (111641) | more than 2 years ago | (#37294218)

Nothing to see here.

I have to disagree. If there's something flaming, flying, tumbling out of control, and blowing up, there is most definately something worth seeing.

Re:I seem to recall... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37294820)

...that this is the way science works. You try something, learn from the results, and then change your plans accordingly. Nothing to see here.

This is not science, it's technology. Science is finding out how things work and what the rules are. Technology is using that knowledge to develop new stuff. That may sound picky but it's an important difference and a common mistake.

Discovering that some kinds of stone break smoothly if you hit them hard enough is science. Developing a way to make a flint handaxe with a sharp edge is technology. Producing them in their thousands is industry.

Re:I seem to recall... (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296200)

...that this is the way science works. You try something, learn from the results, and then change your plans accordingly. Nothing to see here.

Except this isn't rocket science.

Its rocket engineering. Engineering is about ensuring things like this don't happen. Obviously they will, but it shouldn't be dismissed like that as being part of "science". As others have said, this sort of technology isn't new, and in 2011 you're generally *not* firing something and wondering what might happen. You aren't testing the science, you're testing your engineering and your digital models and simulations.

Re:I seem to recall... (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37297822)

Engineering is trying to design something so it doesn't blow up. The science is trying to figure out why it went boom in spite of your best efforts to the contrary.

Engineers use science to develop their products, but the quest for a better product doesn't necessarily require a perfect understanding of how everything works. Far too often engineers simply throw stuff together with a wink and a prayer and see if the thing works.

A careful engineer does try to understand underlying principles to whatever discipline they are working in and refine ideas in incremental and testable ways... often through experimentation as well when the problem domain isn't completely understood. A bleeding edge engineer will be designing stuff where the principles for which it works simply aren't known so it takes a good scientist to figure out what the heck an engineer has just created because it just smashed all previous operational theories into dust.

With a good engineer, science follows the engineering and not the other way around. It is a very rare theoretical scientist who comes up with a working theory before an engineer has developed the device to which the theory would explain.

f=ma is the only "science" they are using (1)

rocket rancher (447670) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296758)

...that this is the way science works. You try something, learn from the results, and then change your plans accordingly. Nothing to see here.

dude. f=ma is the only "science" they are using here, and that has been established for a long, long time. [wikipedia.org] What Blue Origin is doing is engineering, not science.

Re: f=ma is the only "science" they are using (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37296894)

C'mon, don't be disingenuous. This is not throwing a rock, it's turning on a very complicated machine that has to work in very difficult conditions. A Trebuchet is F=MA. A rocket is a lot of other things besides.

Re: f=ma is the only "science" they are using (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37297944)

That is why Tsiolkovskii [wikipedia.org] went and developed the rocket equation [wikipedia.org], as it does require a bit more than Newton's second law of motion. Not much though and this is considered a "special case" of Newton's law.

Most of rocketry is pretty simply. The nozzle must be made out of some exotic materials to withstand the exhaust temperatures, of which alloys of Niobium [wikipedia.org] are commonly used. If you are working with solid fuels, the trick is to get the fuel to burn evenly and in a controlled manner with the draw-back that you can't throttle the burn nor stop the burning once it starts. Liquid fueled vehicles have that added control (some rockets can go down to 50% max thrust or even lower), the ability to stop and restart the engines, and other advantages with the complication that you have to build a really good pump which pushes the fuel into the ignition chamber.

In other words, that "very complicated machine" is really just a glorified liquid pump that just has to be optimized to be light weight and not break down when moving a massive amount of material. It is the pumps which are most likely to fail and cause problems during the flight, particularly given the fact that they often use cryogenic fuels (liquid Hydrogen needs to be at 252.87C) and other extreme environments that require some special engineering. You also have to be able to steer the vehicle in some fashion, so that also requires a gimbal of some sort that can ever so slightly move the direction of the thrust compared to the current flight direction of the vehicle. The rest of the complexity is either monitoring this whole system or software to be able to direct the order of events to get it all to work in an efficient fashion.

Basically most rocket engineers are glorified hydrological engineers just building fancier pumps and storage devices. I'm not saying it is very easy, but the basic principles aren't really all that complicated. Automobiles are far more complicated and a desktop computer beats that complexity several times over.

Re: f=ma is the only "science" they are using (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37298028)

P.S. There should be a minus sign on the temperature of the liquid Hydrogen

While he may have burned money doing this... (2)

IDarkISwordI (811835) | more than 2 years ago | (#37292924)

...it is valuable research for the next test flight. The stuff their working on is really somewhat innovative because it hasn't been explored much by NASA, RKK or ESA. Their vehicle is intended to be entirely reusable, albeit as a suborbital craft as well but it will be an impressive marit with ideas that stem from some of the earliest space-flight ideas. Should be interesting to see when the time comes that Virgin and Blue Origin are competing for customers.

I hope (1)

joh (27088) | more than 2 years ago | (#37292954)

the Amazon tablet will be more lucky. When I read 'A flight instability drove an angle of attack that triggered our range safety system to terminate thrust on the vehicle,' sounds exactly what HP needed to do.

Patent issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37292960)

Maybe Jeff forgot to buy out the patent on Non-exploding rockets?

You 7ail it?! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37293180)

Let's keep to good to write you Any parting shot, FreeBSD used to irc.easynews.com Fuck The Baby GNAA on slashdot, Sure that I've 40,000 coming are having trouble sales and so on, Alike to reap need to join the so that their Every day...Like is ingesting can no longer be bunch of gay negros fly...don't fear against vigorous I don't want to disgust, or been sure that by the To have regular and suggesting the above is far We stronGly urge Why not? It's quick declined in market Don't walk around consider worthwhile would be a bad Of business and there are appeared...saying are looking very GNAA and support as those non gay, systems. The Gay project. Today, as Expulsion of IPF Baby take my members are the mundane chores is the worst off 'I have to kill house... pathetic. gig in front of don't want to feel

POGO PROBLEM? (1)

JavaManJim (946878) | more than 2 years ago | (#37293764)

POGO oscillation used to be a problem with rockets. Wonder if those POGO sputters from the Blue Origin picture were the problem or not? One might think that today's rockets like Blue Origin are so sophisticated that they are happy with POGO oscillation. The Wiki article is below. Would appreciate any knowledgeable insight on this.

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

Re:POGO PROBLEM? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37293880)

No, those are just normal shock diamonds you see on most rocket/jet exhausts. The instability they're talking about is almost definitely some difference between their aerodynamic models and the actual vehicle that caused their control system to not work like it should have.

That's strange... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37293934)

We're endlessly told by all the libertardians on slasdot that private companies don't have such failures and that only government run space programs do. Either this story is false, or the libertardians are talking out of their asses.

Re:That's strange... (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37297008)

We're endlessly told by all the libertardians on slasdot that private companies don't have such failures [...] Either this story is false, or the libertardians are talking out of their asses.

Third option: you're making shit up (ie, a strawman) and you're the one talking out of your ass. Or in other words, [citation needed].

Re:That's strange... (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37298082)

No, what was said is that it will be cheaper to be using private companies, who have a built-in incentive to minimize such failures and a reason to reduce cost. Governments don't care about cost because they can just confiscate it from somebody else (usually you and me) if they start to run out of money and therefore have no incentive at all to reduce costs. Ditto for quality, but quality of the product follows because it is mainly a way to reduce costs as low quality stuff is always more expensive in the long run.

Every AMZ share ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37293986)

pays for Bezo's follies.

Don't buy AMZ.

'Nough said.

--/

Brings to mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37294072)

"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down
That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun

Real trickle down economics! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37294926)

This is the real trickle down economics - waiting for a billionaires rocket to fall in your back yard and selling it for scrap!

Thank Republican tax cuts for encouraging this!

Re:Real trickle down economics! (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37298156)

With Niobium currently going for about $50/kg and Titanium going for about $3/kg, the scrap metal value of several metric tons of the stuff would be worth the effort to call up a scrap metal company to haul it out of your yard and potentially could buy you a new automobile. That is on top of the insurance claim you could file against the "billionaire" or whoever dropped the thing onto your house where you could also sue for damage.

If you live outside of the country where the launch happened, there is an international treaty where the "host country" promises to reimburse any damages done by spaceflight (presumably taking a pound or two of flesh from the company who did the screw-up). Every single spacefaring nation has signed this treaty, so unless the company is doing something like launching a rocket from Monaco or Tuvalu you are pretty much covered. Most of these small countries have also signed the treaty because they get to collect the potential damages if one of these big countries makes a mistake.

Invisible hand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37297464)

But the wonderfulness of the unquestionably more efficient and sexy "free market" is supposed to profitably soar above the base and twisted pension bound public sector world. Invisible Hand! Why hast thou forsaken me?

With the benefit of advances in every science and disciple required to make this machine, it failed to do what people have already done 50 years ago. It failed at the exact point where reality begins. At least the PR department is still functioning. Unimpressive.

Many Shareholder Want Bezeos to Go Boom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37299762)

Amazon.com has nothing to do with experimental rocket vehicles.

Why should Amazon.com shareholders pay for the exploits of Mr. Bezeos which have nothing to do with Amazon.com's business?

Answer: If Mr. Bezoes wants to play in the "Space Business" he has no right to use the momies from back accounts of Amazon.com to squander their money, not his, for his infantile dick suching butt fucking exploits.

Mr. Bezeos needs to be removed from this Earth! [literal sense intended]

--//--

Experimental Homosexual Culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37299838)

Mr. Bezeos latest exploits beg the question of why Amazon.com shareholders must pay for this homosexula exploits.

Well dear me. Such just speaks volumes of the Amazon bylaws that allow such to happen.

How do the atternies think of this ... are they mad ... ase they sad ... are just collecting pay checks?

Wonder of Wonders. LoL

Does this mean that the legel department at Amazon is a buch of homos with their fearless leader Bezoes out for world domination like the Nazis'.

Well indeed.

--//--

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...