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How NASA and SpaceX Get Along Together

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the good-luck-folks dept.

ISS 110

mblase writes "SpaceX and NASA have been working hard to make this weekend's launch happen — and that has meant navigating the cultural differences between this small, young startup and the huge veteran space agency. The relationship involves daily calls and emails between people who live in two different worlds: age versus youth, bureaucracy versus a flat startup-like structure, and a sense of caution versus a desire to move forward quickly. But they both have an almost religious belief in the need for humans to venture forth into space, a geeky love for rockets, and technical know-how — plus, they both need each other to succeed." The launch is scheduled for 4:55AM EDT (08:55 GMT) tomorrow morning. NASA TV will begin coverage at 3:30AM EDT, and there will be a press conference at 8:30AM. SpaceX's press kit (PDF) has mission details. The rendezvous with the ISS is scheduled for day 4 of the mission after a series of maneuvering tests to ensure the Dragon capsule can approach safely. It carries 1,200 pounds of supplies for the people aboard the ISS, and it carries 11 science experiments designed by students.

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'BOUT TIME !! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40045387)

Now let's see some kids !!

Shame about the Wine in space. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045407)

I liked the idea of Wine in space above many of the other experiment that made it to the mission. (I bet many of the Astronauts would like it too)

Re:Shame about the Wine in space. (5, Funny)

BanHammor (2587175) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045469)

I don't think that many austronauts are Linux tinkerers.

Re:Shame about the Wine in space. (1)

ESL Atlanta (2586821) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046665)

you have the point. A good analogy has the responsibility to clarify the personal point and he has the right to correct them. Without this no one can be an analogy

The pathetic US space program (5, Informative)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045423)

One-half of one penny of every tax dollar [imgur.com] . That's what the NASA budget is. We spend an assload more money on trying to kill people than we do planning for the future of the human race. On top of the measly NASA budget, we still have to outsource most of our space program.

Did you know the US spends more on the military's Air Conditioners than the entire NASA budget? http://gizmodo.com/5813257/air-conditioning-our-military-costs-more-than-nasas-entire-budget [gizmodo.com] .

Re:The pathetic US space program (4, Insightful)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045455)

I'd say SpaceX would be only delighted to have NASA's budget. And imagine what they could do with it.

Re:The pathetic US space program (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045639)

You would have a point if all NASA does is launch delivery ships.

Re:The pathetic US space program (3, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045741)

Or if the exponential increase in funding would actually result in more happening.

Trust me, throwing money at a problem doesn't, in of itself, solve that problem. Money is certainly necessary, but spending the correct amount of money and providing proper oversight of how that money is allocated and spent is essential. Otherwise we're back to the dotcom bubble again, where venture capitalists were throwing millions upon millions of dollars at people who had no effective ideas but managed to put up a good marketing website.

I want SpaceX to succeed. First they have to succeed in this important early step. Then they have to succeed with the same step several more times without failures. Then, they need to move on to the second step, a man-rated capsule, and repeat that step several more times too. Once that is achieved we can consider how we allocate more money to them, but we have to reward only success and to demand nothing less than success. That's been part of the problem of the old military/industrial complex, especially as it applies to cutting edge, it tends to throw more and more money at systems that are marginally effective or outright not effective. That has to stop.

Re:The pathetic US space program (5, Interesting)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046493)

Space launch has cost $10K/lb or so since 1960.
This isn't a law of physics.
NASA has systematically proved incapable of lowering launch cost - their primary contractors have no interest in doing this, and they are biased to 'clever' rather than 'workable' solutions. And then there is the problem that NASA has to spend money politically, not efficiently. It's largely a welfare organisation for aerospace - it's not a space organisation.

One of the last attempts at lowering launch costs - X33 - had three separate untried technologies on it.

SpaceX is taking a rather different tack - using shiny stuff only when it has a major benefit.

Their next rocket is planned to come in at around $1K/lb.
And they're thinking of reusability, to lower the costs to well below this.
Fuel costs are around $5/lb.

http://www.spacex.com/multimedia/videos.php [spacex.com] - this is a cool video on their reusable design.
And this is a picture of the hardware - the foldable landing legs for the first stage of the Falcon 9.
http://img.ly/i5JQ [img.ly]

The space program isn't pathetic because of the lack of money being spent on it.
If you take the funding from SLS, up to the first couple of launches, and use it to buy commercial launches on SpaceX - you get comfortably enough launch to lift the USS Iowa - closing on 200 times the mass of ISS.

And this assumes that SpaceX can't get reusability working.
If they can, then multiply these numbers by a _large_ number.

Re:The pathetic US space program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40048153)

I think if Elon Musk tells you to jump off a bridge, you probably do it.
SpaceX is selling you lowball snake oil regarding costs.

Just think about it. Where are they suppose to shave costs?

Do they have a secret central Asia aluminum and titanium mill selling to SpaceX at cost? Or do they get their metal from where everybody else gets their metals? At market prices.

Does SpaceX have a gentleman's understanding with the AFL/CIO aerospace workers union that they would work for the state minimum wage only at the SpaceX facilities?

So SpaceX is saving NOTHING on materials and labor. But Elon Musk says he can walk on water.

Re:The pathetic US space program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40048277)

So SpaceX is saving NOTHING on materials and labor. But Elon Musk says he can walk on water.

Unless they can design for less materials and labor, by removing the constraint that bits must be contracted out to a half-dozen contractors around the nation who own Congressmen.

Re:The pathetic US space program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40048943)

At least you are admitting SpaceX saves NOTHING on material and labor.
That's a good start.

SpaceX, Boeing, Lockheed, ...are all "general contractors" if you will.
They MUST "contracted out to a half-dozen contractors around the nation".
You think SpaceX manufactures every fucken titanium line, cryogenic pump, transistor/IC, electric motor, nut/bolt/fastener, lubricant, gasket, sealant, adhesive, cabling, connector, scaffolding/jig, tooling, abrasive, paint, uniform, solvent/cleaner, welding machine, lathe/mill, laser/waterjet, microscope, ultrasound, flight computer, telemetry equipment, gyroscope, camera, ... that goes into a guided missile?

Apologies for the scant list, but it just needed to get the point across.

Re:The pathetic US space program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40050951)

Nope, you're the one missing the point. A bunch of things you listed are commodities -- no contract needed, you just buy them off the shelf. The complicated, unique stuff, SpaceX does make in house.

Re:The pathetic US space program (2)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049637)

Actually SpaceX does save a lot on costs from being vertically integrated. If you read Carmack's posts about his experience with Armadillo you would figure out why. The contractors charge obscene prices just because something is for an aerospace application.

SpaceX also has a particularly good rocket design. Try listing the number of two stage to orbit launch vehicles (which launch to GTO) using Lox/Kerosene as a propellant. Even Zenith uses three stages, while Soyuz has parallel staging (0th level stages). This despite Zenith having supposedly superior engines in the first stage which use a much more advanced staged combustion design. The fact is SpaceX did good work with the vehicle making the stages extremely light compared to what is commonly used in the industry. The engines, particularly the latest version, are also well optimized despite using something which is considered old technology by now (gas generator cycle). They have a very high T/W ratio for a first stage and the second stage manages to be good enough to have this kind of performance despite the fact that it is the same engine with a different nozzle and minor tweaking.

Re:The pathetic US space program (1)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#40050685)

By doing things differently.
If someone has been making very nice engraved wooden boxes to sell cheese in - at the lowest possible price - that doesn't mean that if someone else starts selling cheese in plastic bags, that the consumer suffers in any way, or that the cheese is unsafe.

Re:The pathetic US space program (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046081)

With NASA's budget, SpaceX could do a lot more than launch delivery ships, would be the point.

Re:The pathetic US space program (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046761)

You would have a point if all NASA does is launch delivery ships.

You know, that's actually quite important. SpaceX has some pretty big incentives to improve here.

Any gains they can make in efficiency, size of the ship, etc. would be a huge boon for the company. As time goes by their fleet will grow.

In 10-20 years, LEO point-to-point flights will be the modern equivalent of the Concorde. All of the convenience and none of the sonic boom.

Re:The pathetic US space program (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046815)

In 10-20 years, LEO point-to-point flights will be the modern equivalent of the Concorde. All of the convenience and none of the sonic boom.

Except a quarter of the time you'll be accelerating at 3g so drinking your champagne will be tricky, half the time you'll be in zero-g so drinking it will be impossible, and the rest of the time you'll be braking at 1-2g so you would have a chance to drink it but it will already have splattered all over the cabin during the first three quarters of the flight.

Re:The pathetic US space program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40050575)

A quarter of the time? In 5 minutes at 2g, you're doing 12,000 miles/hour which is almost orbital velocity and fast enough to get anywhere in the planet in an hour. Consequently, decelerating from 12,000 miles an hour at 1g takes a little under 10 minutes.

Re:The pathetic US space program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049079)

And the fact that there is no modern Concorde anymore doesn't give your Space-fevered brain pause? What is it with you space retards?

Re:The pathetic US space program (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047575)

You would have a point if all NASA does is launch delivery ships.

NASA doesn't do that either. Personally, I think they're spending abou ten bucks to get one buck of results.

I think it'd be a mistake to overfund an organization, even one like SpaceX or for that matter NASA. SpaceX really needs to demonstrate a lot of stuff first. And if SpaceX turns out to be good at what they do, then they won't need that NASA budget either.

Re:The pathetic US space program (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045767)

And imagine what they could do with it.

I imagine they might be tempted to waste it instead of inventing cost-saving technologies and processes. Keep'em (reasonably) slim, I'd say.

Re:The pathetic US space program (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40047209)

They'd do cool things for awhile, yes, but they'd continue to grow (which means more managers, vps and directors), there'd be a launch incident here or there, and then the hyper-paper trail mindset would set in, as I'm going to guess it would be just a bit easier for the launch customers (or the insurance companies) to want to sue SpaceX than NASA.

Then SpaceX would of course have to get into lobbying, because now they'd also be competing to an extent with ArianeSpace, ULA (and both Lockmart and Boeing separately, too), and the Russian launch quasi-company too.

At some point, Elon Musk will want to (or need to) make it a publicly traded company, too.

So, good luck holding onto that "private enterprise is always better" fantasy.

Re:The pathetic US space program (3, Interesting)

Bomazi (1875554) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047657)

Once you have 10000+ employees under a gazillion layers of management you lose your ability to innovate. They will probably achieve a lot more if they stay (relatively) small. Musk himself said he didn't want to grow too much for precisely this reason, although I don't have the quote on hand.

Re:The pathetic US space program (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049249)

Sad, but true. It's the fundamental bug in the way publicly-traded corporations are run. The moment a company goes public, it loses all common sense and turns into something that's halfway between a psychotic human and brain-eating zombie that only knows how to feed its insatiable hunger and destroy whatever it touches. There's occasionally a small exception or two when you have a company that's run by an exceptionally powerful individual who's earned the respect of both the company and its shareholders (Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, etc), but the moment they're gone, it's the beginning of a process of self-consumption that can only end in either bankruptcy or acquisition by an even bigger, more brutal and hungrier corporation. Heritage and history mean nothing to them. If a board thinks it can wring an extra quarter-cent of shareholder value out of a 200 year old corporation by destroying it and selling off the pieces next week, it'll do it without a second thought, then go moving on to the next victim like a cloud of locusts. Look at HP. Not even 20 years ago, it was one of the mightiest tech companies in America. Now, after a decade of being systematically wrung dry and run into the ground, it's little more than an importer of goods from China that hasn't actually invented anything in years... and is ultimately destined for the same fate as one of its own legendary victims: Compaq. The locusts move on and on, running things into the ground, wringing them dry, and leaving behind the withered shell of a once-healthy powerhouse as scrap. Ditto, for IBM. They've wrung their invested capital dry by selling off piece after piece, until there's nothing left besides a glorified high-tech temp agency with a famous three-letter name.

Re:The pathetic US space program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40045491)

We spend an assload more money on trying to kill people than we do planning for the future of the human race.

Really? Isn't spending assloads of money killing people a valid plan for the future of the human race?

assloads of money to kill people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40046745)

Considering the alternative, let an assload of people kill us [cmje.org] , yeah, it's a valid plan.
Quran (8:12) - "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them"

Re:The pathetic US space program (1)

mwfischer (1919758) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045553)

So you're suggesting the US should outsource some of the military power flexing and military cost to other nations?

It works so nice for everyone else that we'll keep everyone safe (except arabs, apparently) and moral international overlord while everyone else sits by... is that what you're trying to say?

Re:The pathetic US space program (3, Insightful)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045619)

One-half of one penny of every tax dollar [imgur.com] . That's what the NASA budget is. We spend an assload more money on trying to kill people than we do planning for the future of the human race. On top of the measly NASA budget, we still have to outsource most of our space program.

Ah, "future of the human race"? Sorry, but warp drive technology isn't exactly around the corner, and getting us to the moon isn't likely going to save a damn thing. We've got to learn to do more to save this little fragile planet we're destroying first.

Did you know the US spends more on the military's Air Conditioners than the entire NASA budget? http://gizmodo.com/5813257/air-conditioning-our-military-costs-more-than-nasas-entire-budget [gizmodo.com] .

Gee, only a few billion people on Earth and thousands of computer systems that rely on A/C...go figure the priority. Would you go to work for a company with no A/C? Would you buy a house with no A/C? How about a car?

When YOU can't even prioritize things above A/C, don't expect others to, and don't be so shocked when they don't.

Re:The pathetic US space program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40045705)

One-half of one penny of every tax dollar [imgur.com] . That's what the NASA budget is. We spend an assload more money on trying to kill people than we do planning for the future of the human race. On top of the measly NASA budget, we still have to outsource most of our space program.

Ah, "future of the human race"? Sorry, but warp drive technology isn't exactly around the corner, and getting us to the moon isn't likely going to save a damn thing. We've got to learn to do more to save this little fragile planet we're destroying first.

Yes, the future of the human race. The exponential-growth problem alone means terrible hardships if we cannot emigrate off of this planet. If we don't start trying now, before there's a problem, how will we ever make it when the problem is in full swing and all resources are put to treating the problem instead of what can be the only cure: Space colonization.

Re:The pathetic US space program (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045771)

Yes, the future of the human race. The exponential-growth problem alone means terrible hardships if we cannot emigrate off of this planet. If we don't start trying now, before there's a problem, how will we ever make it when the problem is in full swing and all resources are put to treating the problem instead of what can be the only cure: Space colonization.

The problem is that you can't cure exponential growth with space colonization. What you can do is ensure that some of the human race gets a chance to survive against exponential growth.

However, given that many countries are seeing declining birth rates now, that's probably not really a big issue.

Re:The pathetic US space program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40046379)

The exponential-growth problem alone means terrible hardships if we cannot emigrate off of this planet

So... we're in for terrible hardships then?

Because you realize that there's no foreseeable future in which "shipping our excess population off into space" is viable as a means of managing exponential growth, right?

How many billions of dollars and tons of material are required to support half a dozen people on the ISS? And you think that's going to scale to BILLIONS of people?

How about this:
1) Keep on spending money on the military - killing people is a violent, but entirely functional, form of population control.
2) Spend money on the following:
          a) Education programs for the people here on earth;
          b) Food & water growth & distribution programs for the people here on earth;
          c) Voluntary sterilization/birth control programs for the people here on earth to try and bend the exponential growth curve into a linear, or even flat, one;
3) Stop pretending that spending hundreds of trillions of dollars to send a couple dozen people to another planet is any sort of a "solution" for overpopulation.

Because all 3 of those things are far more viable than "space colonization" as a means for managing our overpopulation problem.

Re:The pathetic US space program (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046737)

Voluntary sterilization/birth control programs for the people here on earth to try and bend the exponential growth curve into a linear, or even flat, one

Most of the first world would be seeing declining populations if not for immigration from countries with high birth rates; both because the new immigrants increase the population directly and they tend to retain higher birth rates for at least a generation or two.

Stop pretending that spending hundreds of trillions of dollars to send a couple dozen people to another planet is any sort of a "solution" for overpopulation.

No-one in their right mind is suggesting 'spending hundreds of trillions of dollars to send a couple dozen people to another planet', so that's just a straw man. The majority of people who are serious about space colonization are looking for ways to make it cheaper, not ways to waste trillions of dollars.

Re:The pathetic US space program (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40048715)

No-one in their right mind is suggesting 'spending hundreds of trillions of dollars to send a couple dozen people to another planet',

Actually, the people "serious about space colonization" are suggesting exactly that. I don't care how "cheap" you try to make it, there is NO way to build a "cheap" generational starship capable of traveling between stars, or between galaxies. Even done as cheaply as possible you're talking about a piece of machinery that must be completely self-contained, completely self-sustaining, and which must operate flawlessly for more time than all of recorded human history in order to even reach our closest neighbors - depending on the star, more time than homo sapiens has even existed as a species. And it must be big enough so that you don't have an inbreeding problem. And it must contain and preserve all of the knowledge of humanity for a few thousand people to survive & thrive on the other end of the trip. And it presupposes the existence of another planet similar enough to earth's atmosphere that we could live there without resource-intensive geoengineering and/or habitat construction. And it presupposes that there is not hostile (not necessarily intelligent) life trying to kill those thousands of people when they arrive to colonize. And it presupposes that we're not wiped out by alien pathogens when we get there (colonization of the Americas came with a lot of illness to both the natives & to the colonists... now imagine you're traveling light years to a place you've never been before, where evolution and the environment have taken a completely different set of circumstances and gone in a different direction).

The effort of "colonizing another planet" is so risky and cost prohibitive that it will *never* happen, unless we find some way of breaking the speed of light and flitting around nearly instantly. These aren't straw men - these are very real limitations that you space nutters NEVER take into account. You seem to think that building a spaceship and sending it out to rendezvous with an asteroid somewhere near earth means we're just years away from a real colonization effort - we are not. I say again: WE ARE NOT.

The people who are serious about space colonization (insofar as any talk of space colonization can be construed as "serious" discussion) think they're looking for ways to "make it cheaper." In reality, they're simply advocating pissing away trillions of dollars on a pipe dream because they watched Star Trek when they were kids.

Take that money, and put it to work solving problems here on earth instead, and you won't have an "overpopulation problem."

Re:The pathetic US space program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049851)

This post should be modded up to low earth orbit. Boosted by a SpaceX rocket for extra irony.

Re:The pathetic US space program (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047991)

he exponential-growth problem alone means terrible hardships if we cannot emigrate off of this planet.

I've got news for you. The population curve isn't exponential. It tapers off as society modernizes, when there is no advantage to producing a large number of children due to pre-adult mortality and child labor. Japan has already gone to negative population growth, and immigration is the only thing keeping the US growing. The problem is that the two most populous countries, China and India, haven't reached that point yet, though China did try to put on the brakes with a one-child policy.

Re:The pathetic US space program (3, Insightful)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047037)

Sorry, but warp drive technology isn't exactly around the corner [...]

And it won't ever be unless we actually start figuring this stuff out.

I somewhat agree, don't get me wrong: "Future of the human race?" Self-important much? Puhleeze.

But let's go back a hundred or so years. Orville and Wilbur Wright [wikipedia.org] are credited with building the first successful airplane. Without their work, you wouldn't be hopping on that jetliner to go where you want in a few hours.

Now there are a bunch of steps in between the Wright Flyer and a Boeing 787. But you don't just wake up one morning and build a 787, either. So there's lots of stuff that has to happen beforehand. That's where we are now and we won't get to domed cities on the Moon with a million people and other fantastical stuff without spending the time upfront to figure out how the heck we keep 6 people alive in orbit.

Re:The pathetic US space program (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40045631)

One-half of one penny of every tax dollar

You flaming douche. Do you REALIZE how much money that is?

Re:The pathetic US space program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40045647)

Just another idiotic comment from a moron that thinks "more money" == "better results" always and in all cases.

Re:The pathetic US space program (1)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045739)

That's what the NASA budget is. We spend an assload more money on trying to kill people than we do planning for the future of the human race.

The "assload more money", as you put it, pales in comparison to entitlements. Not that we shouldn't cut the size of DOD down some... we should... but you're ignoring the much bigger elephant in the budget room for your anti-military rant.

Re:The pathetic US space program (1)

Bomazi (1875554) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047583)

NASA just pissed 8 billions away on Ares-1 and is preparing to waste a lot more on the SLS, not to mention the cost overruns of MSL and the JWST. They already have more money than they need. Until they learn to manage it better their budget should certainly not be increased. Now I know this is congress's fault not NASA proper but that's irrelevant.

Re:The pathetic US space program (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049685)

No it's not irrelevant. When congress mandates which technical solution (and contractors) the agency should use to solve a problem you know something is seriously wrong.

Re:The pathetic US space program (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047709)

That's actually pretty good funding by international standards especially for a program that doesn't do all that much. Russia might spend more of its budget on space flight, but in their case, the program has actual economic value, delivering hard currency. It's also worth noting that the land of the $20 billion A/C, the US military and intelligence (including space reconnaissance) is also more aggressive in their space activities than NASA is.

Re:The pathetic US space program (2)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049693)

The US stopped being the major launch provider for several reasons. Uncompetitive/unresponsive launch vehicles is one of them. ITAR was kind of the nail in the coffin. Much easier to build your satellites in Europe and launch them with a Russian rocket. The Russians don't care which country you are from as long as you pay pretty much.

Re:The pathetic US space program (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40048355)

One-half of one penny of every tax dollar. That's what the NASA budget is.

Umm, no.

What it is is one half of one penny of every dollar SPENT by the Federal government. Since we take in 63 cents for every dollar we spend, it's a bit large a fraction of our tax dollars.

Which is not to suggest that your sentiment is wrong - just your numbers...

Re:The pathetic US space program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049015)

How grandiose! You're planning the future of the human race! Ego problems, much? Not to mention physics, chemistry, biology and reality 101 problems? What is it with you space loons that makes you think in such clearly delusional ways?

Re:The pathetic US space program (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049797)

One-half of one penny of every tax dollar [imgur.com] . That's what the NASA budget is. We spend an assload more money on trying to kill people than we do planning for the future of the human race. On top of the measly NASA budget, we still have to outsource most of our space program.

Did you know the US spends more on the military's Air Conditioners than the entire NASA budget? http://gizmodo.com/5813257/air-conditioning-our-military-costs-more-than-nasas-entire-budget [gizmodo.com] .

How much out of every tax dollar goes on keeping people in prison? From what I hear, the USA has about half the worlds prison population...

Too damn Early (1, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045571)

NASA you suck at public relations. Why in the hell is this launch so damn early? How are people supposed to watch this live?

Re:Too damn Early (3, Funny)

A10Mechanic (1056868) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045651)

Intercept orbit to the ISS dictates launch window. Changing the obit of the ISS, to allow the launch during prime-time would require tremendous amounts of fuel on the ISS, and a tremendous sense of humor on someone's part.

Re:Too damn Early (0)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045685)

So pick a different day.

Are there no days at all when the launch window would be between 9am and 9pm?

Re:Too damn Early (2)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047057)

I don't know about THIS case, but I know that when they were planning shuttle launches last summer, the daily landing window for a landing in Florida was approximately 10 minutes, and shifted by about 10 minutes per day. I believe there are technically launch windows every 50 or 70 minutes, but they have to commit to one before the countdown begins. In other words, they can't shoot for a 5am launch, miss it due to a rainstorm, and try again an hour later. If the planned launch window passes, they call the whole thing off, empty the tanks, dispose of the fuel and liquid oxygen, and basically plan several days to restore everything to pristine virgin condition. Mainly, because SpaceX can't afford (politically or otherwise) to have anything go wrong. If there's even the slightest doubt in their minds that the launch will be a complete success, it's not going to launch. 5 years from now, if their launch schedule is full and they have more business than they can handle, they might go a step beyond NASA and start experimentally launching unmanned rockets during inclement weather to see how much impact it really, truly has on launch safety.

Anyway, a predawn LAUNCH isn't really a problem, because the rocket will light up the sky for 20 miles. It's predawn LANDINGS that used to suck, because unlike a launch, a shuttle landing before dawn was basically invisible to the naked eye.

Re:Too damn Early (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045663)

h4rr4r you suck at rocket science.
Launch conditions dictate the time. Where they suppose to wait until dark and when the wind picks up for the first joint venture launch because it would be better for you schedule? are you really that stupid?

Re:Too damn Early (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045713)

I know why they picked that time, I also know they should have then selected a different day.

Do you really believe there are no days when the launch window would be between 9am and 9pm?

Re:Too damn Early (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046053)

Sure there are other days, a week or more later if you are lucky - but what happens if you miss that slot due to a technical issue, do you wait for the next one in the same time slot?

No, you launch when you can - this is about getting the payload up there, not competing for viewers with Friends reruns.

Re:Too damn Early (4, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046685)

They really don't have other days to try and perform this launch either. The Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Station (a USAF base) is a very busy place with a great many launches happening going to a great many places being done by a great many different companies and people. Some of those other launches simply can't wait, and in fact are a higher priority to this launch by SpaceX (as they contain weather satellites, various military satellites, GPS satellites, and other things important for America as well).

Your ignorance is showing even more for posing this question at all. Besides, there is no reason for this launch to happen at a time convenient for you to be able to eat your breakfast and take in a bit of entertainment. This is rocket science.

But more to the point, there won't be days in the near future that would allow a launch window between 9 am and 9 pm and meet all of the other conditions needed for this flight as well as dealing with everything else that needs to happen at this launch site. Of all of the things that these engineers should be worrying about, your need for sleep is the last consideration they should have.

Re:Too damn Early (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047675)

I know why they picked that time, I also know they should have then selected a different day.

Do you really believe there are no days when the launch window would be between 9am and 9pm?

There's a simpler solution. Set that alarm clock and get up early. The problem with rescheduling is that the more criteria you toss in for scheduling, the harder it gets to launch stuff in a timely fashion. I'd rather ignore this than have them experience weeks or months of delays just so that they can get on TV at a good time.

Re:Too damn Early (1)

petsounds (593538) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046235)

are you really that stupid?

Let's leave out the personal attacks, eh? Slashdot used to be relatively free of that stuff, but I'm seeing it more and more.

Re:Too damn Early (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40045679)

NASA you suck at public relations. Why in the hell is this launch so damn early? How are people supposed to watch this live?

But it's at 9pm. That's not usually considered early.

Re:Too damn Early (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045735)

Not in the timezone where they are doing the launch nor in any of the timezones for the people footing the bill. I am glad the limeys get it at a good time, but that does not help me any.

Re:Too damn Early (5, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045751)

Go buy Kerbal Space Program [kerbalspaceprogram.com] , get a ship in orbit, then launch a second one to go chase after the first ship in orbit. Even if your launches are only a few hours apart, it's difficult to match orbit (speeding up to "catch up" with the ISS causes your orbit to go all egg shaped).
 
I've been playing that damn game for about 3 weeks now and I have yet to successfully complete an orbital rendezvous. Matching orbits is hard. Space is hard. If this shit were free and easy, North Korea would have a manned space station already.
 
NASA makes it look easy, but the fact of the matter is you've got objects zipping through low earth orbit at tens of thousands (17,500 mph generally), and if you're off by "only" 500mph, well, hope you're not on a collision course with the station. Imagine roughly the same result of your car hitting a brick wall at 500mph.
 
TL;DR you've got to launch that shit when you have to, no ifs, ands, or buts. Apollo moon missions don't have a rendezvous element so they had the option of launching during prime time.

Re:Too damn Early (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045799)

Sorry, they don't have a linux client, so no sale. It does look interesting, so if I can get the demo to work in wine maybe I will buy it.

Re:Too damn Early (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045899)

Apollo moon missions don't have a rendezvous element so they had the option of launching during prime time.

Well, obviously they did have a rendezvous element, it's just that the target wasn't moving terribly fast (relatively speaking) and there was a valid launch window more or less every day.

Re:Too damn Early (4, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046019)

Well, obviously they did have a rendezvous element, it's just that the target wasn't moving terribly fast (relatively speaking) and there was a valid launch window more or less every day.

There was a valid launch window every once in a while, because they had to arrive at their landing site early in the lunar morning so that their entire stay was during the lunar day and, I believe, so that the sun was still low so it they wouldn't exceed LEM cooling margins.

They were somewhat flexible in launch time during that window because they would spend some time in orbit around the moon before landing, so if they had to pick a launch window an hour or two earlier than the ideal because of other constraints, they could potentially wait a few orbits before the landing.

If you look up the NASA documents on Apollo launch planning there were a number of constraints they had to work within. Unfortunately I can't remember them all :).

Re:Too damn Early (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40050285)

http://history.nasa.gov/afj/launchwindow/lw1.html

Re:Too damn Early (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 2 years ago | (#40048365)

That's debatable, they didn't have an orbital rendezvous element, although there was a separation and docking stage after they had entered orbit together as a single unit. Docking in orbit with something that shares your exact orbit isn't terribly difficult; they sighted that with human eyes via a periscope and used manual thrusters. It's probably one of the last real example of pilots doing piloting in space. Everything since has been largely automated.

Re:Too damn Early (1)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046191)

Well...
That's fun and all - but it's quite, quite irrelevant.
For some time now, we've had the solution to the problem - calculus.
The maths involved would not tax Newton greatly.

Humans suck at intuitively understanding and controlling stuff outside narrow realms of experience and reaction time.

This is why we use maths to do it for us.
From calculating loads on a bridge, to working out the cost of an order - you don't just randomly guess on the basis of experience, unless it's very uncritical.

The mathematics involved in the rendevous is not complex to understand.
It's moderately annoying to execute, but it's not more than a dozen or two lines of code to work out the approximate trajectory.

Working out the exact optimum trajectory is rather harder, but it's not the hard bit of rocketry.

Re:Too damn Early (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046299)

Right, but those dozen or two lines of code spit out your launch date/time. Sure, it's not hard for a computer, but your launch time is a fairly specific point that you can't stray from, which was my original point.
 
Once you have your launch time, you just give it a specific series of headings and specific impulse times and you'll be in the correct orbit; with final approach done separately once you've arrived in your parking orbit. If you launch 2-3 hours off from your computer-calculated launch time, you're going to burn up most/all of your reserve fuel trying to correct your orbit.

Re:Too damn Early (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046827)

Humans suck at intuitively understanding and controlling stuff outside narrow realms of experience and reaction time.

I think this is one of the reasons why he suggested an approach for you to get that experience in a simulation to give you some information allowing you to comprehend the task at hand for SpaceX. Spending time building a rocket even in a fairly accurate simulator (which the Kerbal Space Program does very well for the price) can give you that ability.

I have killed enough astronauts in that simulator that I shouldn't set foot anywhere near a launch pad, and getting a vehicle to orbit at all is impressive enough. An in-orbit rendezvous and performing a docking maneuver is something that really does mark your ability to operate in space, and is an accomplishment which only three organizations in the history of mankind have ever been able to accomplish in real life. SpaceX is scheduled to be organization #4, and the first private company to even attempt such a feat. That by itself should speak volumes for what SpaceX is trying to accomplish tomorrow.

Re:Too damn Early (1)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047465)

The two things 'only three organisations' and 'humans can't do it' - are completely unrelated.
Nobody is trying to fly rockets up by hand - it's completely insane.

The computations used for docking are not the hard part.
The fine control, implementation of the guidance sensors, reliability of the rocket, able to perform reliably are the hard part.

Re:Too damn Early (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045995)

I hope you're just trying to be funny and failing. The launch has to be exactly when it's set for ("instantaneous launch window") so that it can have the lowest-fuel path to the space station. If it reached orbit in the wrong place, it would have to use the capsule thrusters to catch up, but it needs all its fuel for all the planned maneuvers. And the opportunities only happen once every three days. This is because of the need to rendezvous with something already on orbit. It's not like the days of pre-ISS shuttle missions when they could (and did) pick just about any time they felt like to make people on the ground happy.

That being said, tomorrow is Saturday, so I'm just going to get to sleep early with the room light on and a TV too so that i can wake up at 3AM CDT so I don't miss the countdown. On the west coast, the launch is just before 2AM, so they can just stay up late.

Re:Too damn Early (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046123)

I might stay up too, I am EDT but if I go to bed I could never be up by 4:55.

Re:Too damn Early (1)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046319)

There is almost certainly enough margin for a little leeway either way.

For an initial launch - you want to remove all of the possible variables you can, and have as much margin as possible.

Once you're a dozen launches in, and have a good handle on what the actual operational performance is, then the launch window can stretch out and use a little bit of the margin.

If, for example a 3 minute window lets you launch rather than wait for next time, that can be worth spending some of your margin on.
Margin is there to be spent prudently to reduce costs and increase overall system reliability.

Re:Too damn Early (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047777)

Right, but this launch leads to a fuel-intensive test. So they really only want the optimal launch time to ensure the capsule has as much fuel as possible when on orbit in range of ISS.

Re:Too damn Early (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046045)

Early? 11 AM? Perfect for me. :D

Re:Too damn Early (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#40050131)

I am going to explain why without bein so condescending as the other replies.

The problem is limited fuel and trying to rendezvous with the ISS.

Here is an analogy. Take a oval race track with a car going around at 200 mph. You have another car you want to start from rest and accelerate to pull in right behind them. The problem is you only have enough fuel just to reach 200mph. So you have to be very careful with your timing when you hit the gas. You will only have one chance each time around. The ISS orbits once even 90 minutes. But this is just a 2D example.

In real space flight things are even worse. The ISS orbit itself is stationary and the earth turns. Think of the orbit like a ring around a globe. It's tilted at about 57 degrees from the equator. Now if you spin the earth under that ring you will see that a launch site lines up pretty close with the orbit ring twice a day where they cross. But that is just where the orbits cross. It doesn't mean the ISS will be in the right position on the orbit to intercept.

For the ISS this all works out to one launch window each day and each additional day the window moves back about 20 minutes. So to move the launch to 8pm you would need to wait about a month,

Obviously this was greatly simplified but I hope it gave you an intuitive reason why this is so difficult.

Re:Too damn Early (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40050963)

It's called an alarm clock.

If you aren't willing to spend $1 to get up early to watch it, why should NASA (do|care) to spend billions rescheduling it so you can watch it?

Stop being such a cheap ignorant stupid alarmclock-less bastard and cough up a buck already!

Huh? (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045659)

Granted, it's cool that the private and public sector and working together to go into space, but let's not go crazy here. This kind of stuff happens all the time with ventures on earth. The article says NASA wants to focus on deep space exploration (the REALLY cool shit) and they want SpaceX to do the pedestrian work of hauling supplies and people to the ISS and such. It's focusing your energy and letting people who are really good at what they do do their thing for you.

Re:Huh? (3, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046919)

The real news here is that NASA is conceding the idea that launches into low-Earth orbit are now routine enough that they really shouldn't be spending money on building rockets going there. This is a very recent admission that has only happened under the Obama administration.

What will likely not be mentioned is how a great many other companies are also involved with this effort of having NASA get rid of its native launch capacity, or how nearly $20 billion is currently being spent on a heavy lift rocket that has no mission and will likely be cancelled in the next presidential administration (whomever that may be... in 2013 or 2017 of either political party). The other companies that are involved at the moment is really exciting, and shows amazing potential for America being a real leader in developing technologies for spaceflight.

The hope and dream of many people here is that travel into low-Earth orbit will become something as routine as sending passengers and cargo on intercontinental flights by airplane. There was a time that deservedly justified 40 point type headlines in newspapers, just as early flights into orbit did several decades later. The sad thing is how long it took for routine intercontinental flights to happen compared to when the first such flights happened, and then how long it is taking from when the first flights to low-Earth orbit happened to when they've become routine. As evidenced by the fact this is a major story and posted here in Slashdot, flights into orbit still aren't routine. That can and should change.

Re:Huh? (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049735)

Actually COTS started during Bush's second term while Griffin (author of the pork launcher called Ares) was head of NASA. So yeah even that team made correct decisions on occasion. Obama proposed to increase funding but it seems the congress critters are not interested in inexpensive commercial spaceflight.

be warned (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40045669)

The UK privatised a major part of its defence research agency (as Qinetiq) and now that is almost half-owned by foreign companies.

I don't think America is as stupid as us, but please be vigilant. Or at least be aware of how much your costs go up when you're working to financial goals rather than scientific ones. Because things are fantastic during the first couple of rounds of funding but eventually it all becomes about the returns.

Re:be warned (2)

captbob2002 (411323) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045927)

I beg to differ, I thing we can be and *are* far more stupid than the British.

Re:be warned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40046177)

I beg to differ, I thing we can be and *are* far more stupid than the British.

I beg to differ. Whenever I read about the latest idiocies out of Washington and think nobody can be more idiotic or bureaucratic... the British prove me wrong.

Don't get me wrong, I like the British, my ancestors came mostly from England. But the British seem to be most uptight, bureaucratic and nitpicking people in existence. Easily beating Washington for idiocies per capita.

Of course that's a moving target.

Re:be warned (3, Informative)

Megane (129182) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046085)

and now that is almost half-owned by foreign companies.

One of the main goals of the COTS program [wikipedia.org] is to use U.S. companies for LEO cargo and crew capability. Right now, we're completely dependent on Russia, EU, and Japan for crew and cargo launches to ISS.

And it's not about just privatizing a lot of space stuff. It's really more about (IMHO) pushing the "frontier" for NASA to be responsible for exploration out beyond LEO, and let LEO get commercialized.

Re:be warned (1)

the gnat (153162) | more than 2 years ago | (#40046539)

And it's not about just privatizing a lot of space stuff.

It's arguably not about privatizing at all - it's about doing it in such a way that NASA actually saves money. The launch vehicles have already been privately built for a long time now, but under "cost-plus" contracts where NASA guarantees a profit, and with significant political interference from Congress (and, to be fair, top-down design decisions). It was easy to forget this because programs like the space shuttle were not run competitively, and what we ended up with was a tangled mess of NASA and private companies - the military-industrial complex in action. The launch costs were insanely expensive in part because there was no incentive to keep them down. Space-X (and at least one other company - Orbital Sciences, maybe?) wants to be competitive for fixed-price contracts.

Note that if in ten years, NASA is using companies like Space-X for all of its launches, the space program will not be "privatized" to a significantly greater degree than it already has been for decades. The question that remains to be seen is not whether the new paradigm will result in cheaper launch costs (it will), but whether the success rate and safety record will be equal or better.

Re:be warned (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047101)

It is also about privatizing spaceflight as well.... explicitly one of the things NASA is by law supposed to be doing as it is a part of NASA's charter.

The telling thing to see if this move towards privatized launches makes any difference is if NASA and the U.S. federal government will constitute a majority of SpaceX's launch manifest in the future or if the market for private commercial ventures into space will begin to take over the manifest making the government launch market something more of a niche sideline thing or if that will be the main event.

Government purchases of intercontinental air freight is even now a significant market for commercial airliners, but by far and away most of the revenue for commercial airlines comes from private businesses and individuals. You don't see Airbus or Boeing building airplanes explicitly for government markets with the exception of military aircraft.... and those are so specialized that they would never be used for civilian purposes.

NASA has been using private contractors for launch services for nearly 20 years (from the Reagan administration when the concept first started) in the form of launch services from the United Launch Alliance. There shouldn't be anything different with SpaceX other than it being yet another contractor for NASA spaceflight needs. Federal government contracts may even continue to get a higher priority in terms of having a NASA flight bump a flight being done by Planetary Resources, but the hope is that flights by groups like Planetary Resources will be the more typical kind of flight, and that new opportunities can be found for people doing stuff in space. Private commercial spaceflight is already happening and is a multi-billion dollar industry in terms of annual revenue. If that can grow so the annual budgets of these private companies is either collectively or even individually larger than NASA's budget, commercial spaceflight will have finally arrived and this move for private launches will have accomplished its goal.

Private commercial spaceflight will happen eventually. I just don't know if it will happen in America or somewhere else like China or India. It would be a sad day if socialism is so entrenched in America that private companies can't succeed to access the resources of space. This isn't just something said off the cuff as it should be pointed out that America has all but abandoned the private commercial spaceflight market, even for companies based in America. That Robert Bigelow needed to go to Russia in order to fly his space stations into orbit should have been seen as a low point in American spaceflight experience.

Re:be warned (1)

the gnat (153162) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047625)

Private commercial spaceflight is already happening and is a multi-billion dollar industry in terms of annual revenue.

But it's entirely unmanned, and isn't that mostly communications satellites in LEO?

Private commercial spaceflight will happen eventually. I just don't know if it will happen in America or somewhere else like China or India. It would be a sad day if socialism is so entrenched in America that private companies can't succeed to access the resources of space.

So far I haven't seen any indication that China or India is taking a less socialistic route to space - they're basically following the militaristic/nationalistic path blazed by the US and Russia. China has two big advantages over us in this respect: they don't have democratic accountability, which in the US results in structural inefficiencies being propagated by influential politicians (i.e. "you must use solid fuel booster rockets for the next launch vehicle"), and a huge chunk of their economy is still controlled by the government, which probably gives them more leverage than if they were dealing with nominally independent contractors. (There are other economic and technological factors too, but I'm focusing on the issue of capitalist versus socialist development here.) Very little happens in China without an explicit go-ahead from the CCP.

The real reason why private commercial spaceflight hasn't advanced very far, IMHO, is that it has historically required relatively huge up-front capital costs, and because anything beyond communications satellites has been too expensive and too unprofitable for companies to pursue. A secondary reason, I suspect, is that the US was never very motivated to pursuing inexpensive spaceflight - efficiency was less important than "winning the space race" and the perceived military and technological advantage this implied. Russia, on the other hand, was relatively poor and their national development in the first half of the 20th century couldn't have been more different from America's. The perverse result is that the country with an economy that was relatively primitive (and riddled with structural inefficiencies) ended up with a more sustainable space program. If the US had been poorer, and less fixated on the strategic aspect of space travel, maybe we'd have abandoned the shuttle early on in favor of something cheaper and more useful. But ultimately, it would have simply been a different variety of socialism at work.

Re:be warned (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047633)

This isn't just something said off the cuff as it should be pointed out that America has all but abandoned the private commercial spaceflight market, even for companies based in America.

This concern is vastly premature. Even before the advent of SpaceX, the US was the leader in commercial spaceflight with the only truly privately owned launch services in the world. That remains the case. The commercial services in Europe, Russia, China, and India all have substantial government ownership.

Sure, it's not hard to see a future where a short-sighted US has regulated this industry out of existence (we didn't need that future anyway!), but it hasn't happened yet.

Re:be warned (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047857)

I think that in ten years, the important question won't be who NASA is using, but who isn't NASA that is using SpaceX, OSC, etc., and if they are even taking off from a NASA launchpad.

Re:be warned (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 2 years ago | (#40049745)

Yeah the radars are French and the rest is probably under so many shell companies you couldn't fathom who owns them.

How much gov money funds SpaceX? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40046223)

How much gov money funds SpaceX?

They're just NASAs new contractors....

Youth (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40047183)

"age versus youth" Without age there is no youth.

The youth take advantage of the lessons learned by 'aged'.

Something about standing on the shoulders of giants.

Public viewing area? (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047219)

So... has SpaceX made any kind of arrangements for cheering Floridians who might feel like driving up tonight to watch the launch in person from some meaningful vantage point? I've checked, and SpaceX themselves seem to be completely silent about that particular topic. I know their launch site is beyond the gates and isn't going to be accessible, period... but how about the causeway? Are any of the old shuttle viewing areas (like the northern tip of the public beach directly south) likely to be worth driving up for? (at this point, I have about 4 hours to decide whether to go through with this drive-to-Cocoa mission or forget about it).

For anybody who's seen an earlier Dragon launch in person... was it more impressive than the videos on Youtube made it look? Compared to the shuttle's state-shaking pyrotechnics, the Youtube videos make the Dragon's earlier launches look kind of wimpy and underwhelming, and suggest that watching a launch for more than 3 or 4 miles away would be about as exciting as watching a jet fly silently over the midwestern US at cruising altitude.

Re:Public viewing area? (2)

DishpanMan (2487234) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047663)

They set up a private viewing area on the causeway, but nothing big, and I doubt that the visitor complex is doing anything. Their rocket is tiny compared to shuttle, or Delta IV or Atlas V even, and while fun, it's a tiny bottle rocket. Their first launch compared to Delta II launches if anything, neat but nothing to write home about. You get what you pay for in this case, about 9 million pounds of thrust for shuttle, 7 Million for Saturn V, 2 million for Delta IV heavy And Atlas V, and around 800k pounds for Delta II and Falcon 9.

Re:Public viewing area? (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 2 years ago | (#40047953)

I can't tell you what their plans are, but I can tell you that they are NOT launching from 39A/39B (the Shuttle pads). They are launching from pad 40 (I think) which is in the CC Air Force Station, somewhere to the south of 39A/39B. Gut feeling tells me that it's probably at the north end of the AFS, but I have no idea which pad that is because I didn't find a map of CCAFS pads.

And isn't this only the third Falcon 9 launch? Of course it's going to be bigger than the Falcon 1 launches. But yeah, it's no Shuttle.

Re:Public viewing area? (1)

DishpanMan (2487234) | more than 2 years ago | (#40048623)

It's 9 times bigger than 1, 9 engines, hence Falcon 9. Each engine produces about 100k pounds of thrust. I saw the last Falcon 9 launch from CCAF, as well as most Atlas Delta and Shuttle launches. The Falcon 9 may be 9 times bigger than the 1, but it's still about that much smaller than the shuttle. It launches off of Pad 40, and you can google it, it's no secret, it's right next to the Atlas pad.

Re:Public viewing area? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049049)

Yes, it's pad 40. It used to be an Air Force Titan IV pad. I was there a few hours ago, will be back for the launch a few hours from now.

Re:Public viewing area? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049065)

Don't know about public viewing areas, I'm a stranger here. It's a night launch, with the vehicle probably going into the sun at altitude, which will light up the exhaust gases nicely. It's not the worldshaker that the Shuttle was, but I'll suggest it's worth the drive.

Here for the launch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40049041)

It was interesting to hear some of the other tour members today (not SpaceX folks) talk about the amazingly bad relationship between NASA and the Air Force at the Cape. I was left wondering how we ever fly anything at all. SpaceX has some very treacherous political waters to navigate.

Weather looks good (writing this at 11pm EDT), I doubt it will be a factor in the launch. They have a 60-second window - they don't launch in it, they don't go till Tuesday. This is a more narrow window than they will have for later operational ISS resupply missions. They're reserving significant propellant for a complicated set of approach/withdrawal manuvers at the ISS, which leaves them with a narrowed window within which they have the delta V to get to the orbit they need. Great stuff!

aborted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40050115)

Launch was scrubbed :\

https://twitter.com/#!/SpaceX/status/203772323218726912

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