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On Hand for the SpaceX Launch That Almost Was (Video)

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the simulated-only-do-not-attempt-keep-hands-in-cart dept.

ISS 100

This morning's nixed launch of SpaceX's Dragon capsule to the ISS with the company's Falcon booster was an exciting thing to be on hand for, despite the (literally) last-second halt. Shuttle launches used to cause miles of traffic backups extending well outside the gates of NASA's Cape Canaveral launch facilities; for all the buzz around the first private launch to the ISS, today's launch attempt was much more sparsely attended. In a small set of bleachers set up near the massive countdown clock, there were a few dozen enthusiasts and reporters aiming their cameras and binoculars at the launch site on the horizon. They counted down in time with the clock, and — just like NASA's own announcer — reached all the way to "liftoff." There was a brief flash as the engines ignited, but it died as fast as it appeared. It took only a few seconds for the crowd to realize that it was all over for today's shot. While the company's representatives remain upbeat, pointing out that the software worked as intended to stop a launch before anomalies turn into catastrophes, most of those on hand to see what they'd hoped to be a historic launch were a bit glum as they walked back to the parking lot and the press area — especially the ones who can't stay until the next try. I'm sticking around the area until the next scheduled launch window; hopefully next time the fates (and engines) will align.

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100 comments

Cue The Applause (5, Insightful)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054275)

As frustrating as it is, this is a good example of the System Works and Learning From Past Mistakes.

Now if only we could secure sufficient funding for NASA and space exploration in general, because no matter whether we had a shutdown or a catastrophe every failed launch is an expensive exercise.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054395)

The sooner we move on from strapping bombs to our butts and setting them on fire, the better.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40054417)

Have any ideas at the likely to be possible in the next fifty years level?

Re:Cue The Applause (4, Insightful)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054465)

Have any ideas at the likely to be possible in the next fifty years level?

Either that, or better buttstrap bombs. This is the problem with progress... it might be safer and (maybe) cost less with tomorrows technology, but that will still be true tomorrow too, and if you keep waiting for tomorrow you'll never get anywhere.

So if we want to go beyond the earth's atmosphere now we'll just have to keep strapping bombs to our butts.

Re:Cue The Applause (0)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054725)

www.startram.com

Yeah I'm beating that drum, and I will be for the foreseeable future.

Re:Cue The Applause (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40054867)

Dear Americans:


Please consider losing weight and reading a book or two, preferably about logic.


Sincerely yours,
The Rest of the World

P.S. When you're not fat, clumsy, sluggish, tired, unhealthy and when you can use logic to prevent avoidable problems you will feel so much better.

Re:Cue The Applause (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055091)

Dear Americans:

Please consider losing weight and reading a book or two, preferably about logic.

Why do you want to torture the Americans?

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055233)

Sounds cool -- all you need to do is convince the military that it can also be useful as a weapon, and you'll get funding ;)

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056085)

Kinda hard to aim a gun a hundred kilometers long! There will be no shortage of wild claims about "death rays" from the solar power satellite tech the Star Tram enables however.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055675)

www.startram.com

Yeah I'm beating that drum, and I will be for the foreseeable future.

Ready in 10 years? I'm not investing in that - someone will have invented something better by then! :p

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056099)

Short of someone inventing wormhole technology, I don't think it actually gets any better within the laws of physics. :D It even beats out hypothetical space elevators in cost per kilo. Not in individual volume mind you, but one can always build more Star Trams.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

th3rmite (938737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40076297)

This was completely thought out and written about in Heinlein's The moon is a harsh mistress [wikipedia.org] in 1966.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40077365)

Great, so now lets build it!

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

ZankerH (1401751) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055953)

Gas-core nuclear thermal rockets.
Replace buttstrap bombs with buttstrap nuclear reactors!

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056167)

*shudder*

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

dwye (1127395) | more than 2 years ago | (#40058211)

Why not just go all the way, and support the REAL Orion rocket, aka Bang-Bang? Who wouldn't want to put a battleship-sized craft into orbit, or to Mars for that matter?

BTW, I knew people who worked on both projects (NERVA and Orion), and they were not the slightest bit insane, except that one of them was a fan of pro basketball.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

ZankerH (1401751) | more than 2 years ago | (#40065401)

Well, the difference is NTR only spreads deadly radiation over thousands of square kilometres if something goes horribly wrong, whereas Orion does it regardless of the outcome.

Re:Cue The Applause (2)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054431)

Are we taking bets on which Next Generation Launch Technology will be the first to reach deployment?

(1) Space Elevator
(2) ElectroMagnetic Launcher
(3) Anti-Gravity
(4) ?

NB I expect that "Nuclear rockets" will never be deployed as a surface-launch technology due to radiation hazard issues.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

crAckZ (1098479) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054495)

.....(5) become a billionaire :) I don't think the space elevator is a solid idea though. from my understanding, and please feel free to correct me, to make one you would need something like carbon fiber tubes or wire? i remember reading on ideas on how to make them. it seemed to me the biggest danger was something severing the wire and having it fall back to earth ( or so the article said). have they made any steps in a positive direction or have the launched any new ideas?

Re:Cue The Applause (2)

bbn (172659) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054761)

it seemed to me the biggest danger was something severing the wire and having it fall back to earth

Yes it will be like dropping 100 tons of paper from orbit. Very dangerous. It will never reach the surface before burning up though... And if it did, it would drop like leaves, slow, harmless and spread over a huge area of sea.

People seem to forget the whole point of using this still non-existing super strong material for the wire, is to have the strength even when it is stretched mind boggling long. It will have a huge surface to weight ratio. More than anything man or nature ever made before.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055077)

Yes it will be like dropping 100 tons of paper from orbit. Very dangerous. It will never reach the surface before burning up though... And if it did, it would drop like leaves, slow, harmless and spread over a huge area of sea.

I like your analogy - that would be an awesome sight !

Re:Cue The Applause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40055329)

And if it did, it would drop like leaves, slow, harmless and spread over a huge area of sea.

I agree it would mostly probably burn up. But if it disintegrated and wind carried it over a larger area not just sea, could still be messy if the shredded fibres acted like an anti-electrical weapon [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054559)

I'm putting my dime on beam powered propulsion for putting payloads into Earth orbit. For everything else in near space its probably solar-electric.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054565)

Put me down for €50,000 on (2), I'm good for it.

Re:Cue The Applause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40054499)

Well, sure. So out with the magic propulsion system you're hiding in your mom's basement.

Re:Cue The Applause (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40055221)

F=Ma

The sooner we discover a new physics... You delusional twat.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056157)

strapping bombs to our butts

No matter how you do it, to get an object into low Earth orbit you have to give it as much energy as 10 times its weight in TNT. And all that energy can be released in seconds if something goes wrong.

Point being, whether you're talking rockets, spaceplanes or space elevators, there's no way to get into orbit without building something that looks an awful lot like a bomb.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056275)

Check out the documentation at startram.com. And then help spread the word! Evangelise! There's just so little awareness of it out there at the moment. Admittedly if it went wrong it wouldn't be pretty, but the engineers estimate one accident every 2800 years or so.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056687)

I have some problems with the principle of the Gen 2 design. The entire thing would be lifted up to 20km using magnetism? Not that I think it is impossible to create the necessary forces, I just wonder what would happen if I came anywhere close with a small magnet. How large would the impact crater be? Same with anything made of iron, or magnetic ores. It seems just based on a back of the envelope calculation, without examining other implications.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056917)

The entire design has been examined by Sandia National Laboratories and found to be sound, so pretty far from a back of the envelope calculation. Myself I'd have gone for pylons in support instead, but how and ever - Gen 2 is very far off. Gen 1 can not only be built rapidly, it absolutely will revolutionise space, and there are proposals on the table to produce a gen 1.5 thus removing the need for Gen2.

This is in fact the real deal.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 2 years ago | (#40059233)

Sure, there are a number of technologies that can be developed for hauling cargo, another option is quicklaunch [quicklaunchinc.com] . No problem there at all. However that doesn't answer my question. But if there is a review of the design, I'd better first take a look at it first. Maybe they didn't cover the gen2 design? There is just one problem: there is no review to be found. If you go to the website of Sandia [sandia.gov] , and search for startram, you get 0 hits. If you google for sandia national laboratories "murder squad" you only get references to the same startram press release style article, copied over and over again on different blogs and news sites. Not a single article mentioning the review is kind enough to link to it. By now it's getting very, very suspicious. Is there even a "murder squad"? What are their other accomplishments? Are they even connected to the sandia national laboratory?

Care to explain? I'm really confused and I think I'm starting to smell a corpse in the closet.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40059613)

Its called a murder board, not a murder squad. Quicklaunch is interesting, but like all gun technologies, it is extremely limited by the g-forces and small payloads it produces.

Being honest, there are some questions here, but not the ones you might think, your nose is atwitch for the wrong reasons. There were plans for a spaceport drawn up ten years ago.
http://www.angelfire.com/biz6/mythicprojects/PUR-19.pdf [angelfire.com]

The murder board might not appear on the SNL website because it was completed seven years ago, its probably deep in the archives by now. The original idea goes back twelve years.
http://www.angelfire.com/biz6/mythicprojects/PUR-19.pdf [angelfire.com]

Take a look at the credentials of the idea originators:
http://www.startram.com/startram-inventor [startram.com]
The question that needs to be asked is what's the delay? Why has it taken so long to surface? The only answer apparently is benign neglect - Dr James Powell has always focused on maglev trains as his main interest, his son Jesse has taken on the project on the side, by trade he's an Oceanographer currently completing his PhD. This is why its so important that word about this spreads and momentum gains, so it doesn't slip back into forgetfulness. What we have here are numerous very intelligent and successful people with other things to do.

If you are still concerned, by all means contact Sandia and ask them - given the high media profile of the original press release, they would surely have made a statement if it were false by now.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 2 years ago | (#40057815)

There's no comparison between a maglev launch system and what SpaceX is trying to do. Just for a start, the on-paper development cost for Startram rev 1 is 50 times greater than the development cost for everything SpaceX has done so far, and comparing the costs of an "on paper" system to a real flying system is ... not a good idea. You're looking at a kid with a bicycle and saying "Y'know, you could get to the grocery store a lot faster if you bought a Boeing 777."

But my original point was that every launch system is indistinguishable from a bomb, and Startram is a perfect example. Startram launch vehicles are slowed down by friction as they fly through the atmosphere. Gen 1 design specs call for a loss of velocity of 800 m/s, which means about 6.5 gigajoules of kinetic energy is transferred to the atmosphere per ton of cargo. For comparison, blowing up a ton of TNT releases just 4 gigajoules. The TNT releases its energy a bit more quickly, but not by all that much. And God help you if you crash into the side wall of the tube at orbital velocity.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40057855)

Eh all of that is well covered in the documentation, the pod exits the tube at mach 25 or thereabouts, and experiences 10-15g deceleration. If you can't distinguish that from a bomb I'm not sure what more can be said here. There is no explosion, no blast, and of course you're going to need high energy to get to orbit.

As for costs, SpaceX could spend 500 times more than they already have, and they still wouldn't be within an order of magnitude of what the Star Tram can do. Its not possible, due to the rocket equation among other things. Bottom line is, as per my original point, rockets have no real future in orbital launches.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056397)

The second doesn't necessarily follow from the first. Space elevator designs typically involve using something like ground-based lasers to transmit power to the crawler, possibly using conventional conductors to power it for the bottom few km before resistance makes that too expensive. For a person, we're talking something on the order of 1MWh. If it is spread over 10 hours (which is far faster than any proposed space elevator design) then the power supply is only 100kW, which well below the upper limit of power distribution systems. Any office building is likely to have a larger amount of power coming into it. Just because you have to supply a large amount of energy, doesn't mean that you have to have the capability of supplying it all at once.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054445)

Now if only we could secure sufficient funding for NASA and space exploration in general, because no matter whether we had a shutdown or a catastrophe every failed launch is an expensive exercise.

The latter being significantly more expensive than the former...

Re:Cue The Applause (5, Informative)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054517)

Now if only we could secure sufficient funding for NASA and space exploration in general, because no matter whether we had a shutdown or a catastrophe every failed launch is an expensive exercise.

We already have sufficient funding. NASA could pay for hundreds of Falcon 9 launches per year right now, if that were the goal.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055395)

And the army could pay for millions. Your point?

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055413)

Your point?

A claim that NASA is underfunded doesn't follow from the fact that space launch is expensive. As I note they can easily afford the current launch rate. One has to look at the whole budget not a small part. My take is that the money overall is spent very poorly making any such claim suspect.

Re:Cue The Applause (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40054621)

NASA is too busy doing anything but the space program these days to care. Environmentalism to trumpeting Islam's great achievements.

Re:Cue The Applause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40055037)

NASA is too busy doing anything but the space program these days to care. Environmentalism to trumpeting Islam's great achievements.

Why is this modded down? It's the truth.

NASA really has conducted several Muslim outreach type of events. NASA. Because aeronautics and space is exactly like public relations. Anyway this is just documented fact. Modding this guy down doesn't make fact go away. You can pull your head out of the sand now. That poster might be Anonymous but whoever modded that is the Coward.

Re:Cue The Applause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40055223)

Probably he was modded down for coming across as a Fox Propaganda viewer.

Re:Cue The Applause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40055969)

I modded flamebait because it is flamebait. I also agree that Nasa spends far too much money in useless things, but trumpeting Islam's great achievements? Sorry, but that's flamebait.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056237)

NASA really has conducted several Muslim outreach type of events. NASA.

Outreach such as that actually is one of NASA's many lesser job functions and it's not just focused on Muslims. That whole controversy comes from a Bolden fumble [foxnews.com] (the current NASA administrator) during a visit to the Middle East (and probably a result of some higher up, say Obama, telling him to say nice things while he was on the trip).

In any case, Bolden doesn't to my knowledge say such things any more which seems to have fixed that particular problem.

OT: Good use for /. video. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40054641)

As frustrating as it is, this is a good example of the System Works and Learning From Past Mistakes.

And while we're at it - as frustrating as it's been, this article is a promising example of learning from past mistakes.

We all like to bitch (and we're damn good at it!) when the editors get things wrong, but part of that means being willing to say "good job" when they get it right. This is the sort of stuff I'd hoped to see Slashdot doing in its video segments. Well-done, editors.

Re:Cue The Applause (0)

muon-catalyzed (2483394) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054999)

> good example of the system works and learning from past mistakes

That only proves the system doesn't work and they haven't learned enough. What they need is a proper and reliable SSTO (single stage to orbit) space craft, some pioneering work in progress [wikipedia.org] . These SpaceX stunts are equivalent of the old days, when you could cross the Atlantic using a wooden bi-plane with a prop, but it was a huge stunt. Then the jet engine came and everything has changed. These space cowboys are just that, no real viable technology, but an old "space bi-plane" and millions of dollars to burn.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055497)

That only proves the system doesn't work and they haven't learned enough.

Well, sure. But somehow you do have to get from point A where they don't know how to launch a rocket reliably to point B where they do. This is how that happens.

What they need is a proper and reliable SSTO (single stage to orbit) space craft, some pioneering work in progress. Or a space elevator... maglev booster... nuclear thermal rocket... anti-grav device... telekinetic gestalt...

You have to work with what you have not what you wish you had. Currently, we haven't figured out a viable SSTO vehicle. Frankly, I think a fully reusable TSTO is both more likely to be achieved and actually technically superior in performance to a SSTO.

These SpaceX stunts are equivalent of the old days, when you could cross the Atlantic using a wooden bi-plane with a prop, but it was a huge stunt.

Because it doesn't use your pet technology, it's a "stunt"? This is tiresome and meaningless posturing. SpaceX is bending metal and pushing the economic envelope of cheaper space flight. Because nobody is doing it better means automatically it isn't a stunt.

Then the jet engine came and everything has changed.

You need a better grip on aviation history. Everything was changing before jet technology. There was a big change in the aviation industry and society in that span of time from the early days of the biplane to the advent of jet propulsion. Commercial airlines were developed during this time, for example, as well as extensive military development and use (such as the Second World War). It wasn't biplanes were made, then jets, and suddenly there we go.

It's also worth noting that without all that development of infrastructure, economic uses, and military deployment, there wouldn't have been much incentive to do anything with the jet engine. It doesn't magically become useful just because it's a new technology. The world was ready to exploit jet engines. That's why they were so popular and so heavily used.

You're using an insulting analogy with no real reason for to be insulting. Just as the world went through a biplane phase, we have to go through a rocket phase. So what? The key problems of today aren't technological, but economic. Without suitable economic demand for those launch services, you won't get development of your favorite space access technology.

That's where businesses like SpaceX come in. With their "stunts", they lower the cost of access to space and create more demand which can in turn fund better launch technologies. You want a SSTO? Better hope that SpaceX or some other launch business is successful with their stunts.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40055663)

I think that the parent was just hyperbolically saying this 60' rocket tech is outdated, expensive, prone to malfunction etc.

Re:Cue The Applause (2)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055677)

I wasn't aware that fiber optic ethernet communications systems using IPv6 and radiation hardened FPGAs using multi-core processors was 1960's technology. I could be mistaken on that notion however. That is just the guidance computer and the internal communications systems in the Falcon 9, much less the Niobium nozzles and the friction stir welded tanks that are used in the Falcon 9.

If all of that is 1960's tech, I'd hate to see what real 21st century technology would be like.

Re:Cue The Applause (2)

Bucc5062 (856482) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056453)

I agree with almost everything you said.

"Just as the world went through a biplane phase, we have to go through a rocket phase."

During the "bi-plane phase" there were numerous builders, some even home built, that pushed the technology along. Before the war was the commerce and thrill seekers that funded these efforts and out of them we got some amazing innovations, and some deaths (it was prize money that sent folks across the Atlantic, not national pride).

This is the topic We get trouble by these days and I don't get it. Lindbergh was the first to cross the Atlantic (solo), but we don't talk about the many who died trying. Those that died in the early BeeGee racers were test pilots like the Yeagers to come later in military life. Bottom line, there was a lot of dying going on as the aviation technology grew, in part because the cost of entry was less expensive, and our society did not wring our hands over each death.

Along comes NASA, Government funding, cold wars and soon our position changes from low cost to unaffordable. Never was there a prize for commercial or individual achievements in space flight for the world wrapped "War" around the purpose and that is the most fleeting of reasons for growth. We also get the sense that even one life is too costly, because we've tied it to national pride, national image and By God if those boys die then it reflects badly on our country. Bullshit! The people who died in Columbia were not heros, they were astronauts doing their job. Had they even survived they still would not be heros for they used training to figure out how to survive (or equipment). I respect human life, but we got to stop this direction that space and those who attempt to go are gods, protected at all costs. No, I would not put my ass in some home grown experiment and get launched into space (I prefer my technology use more mature). but I will applaud anyone who takes the chance, weighs the options, and goes. Even that failure would teach us more then we learn at the glacial pace taken today.

My hats off to SpaceX, I wish them success, but I also wish more people tried or were encouraged for out of 100 or 1000, there might be one that finds a working model for the next step in space.

Re:Cue The Applause (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056093)

If I had a penny for every dollar spent on single-stage-to-orbit research that went nowhere, I'd be Bill Gates.

You can argue that SpaceX's Falcon rocket is "a huge stunt", but that huge stunt actually flies to orbit at a reasonable price. Your "pioneering work in progress" is nothing but a few megabytes of CAD files.

It's a fundamental fact of rocketry: if you can design a single-stage rocket, you can use the same technology to build a much better multi-stage rocket. All of this has been known for half a century. The point SpaceX is making is that the oldschool fundamentals of rocket design haven't gone away, and they're proving the point by combining oldschool rocket science with modern electronics, materials, and manufacturing to make rockets that actually work.

Re:Cue The Applause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40055133)

I believe you mean "queue"

What Actually Went Wrong (1)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054339)

I blame Bugs Bunny [youtube.com] .

When I travel for business, (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40054371)

I like to put out random things on the continental breakfast, and watch how people react. For instance, one time I put out some stuffed manicotti shells. Another time, I had some spicy beef sticks that I put on a plate next to the bagels. People's reactions are interesting, the hotel staff's reactions are priceless.

Clip for Indiana students (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40054401)

classis Louis [youtube.com] . Needs aspect ratio correction though!

It was actually pretty exciting to watch (5, Insightful)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054527)

I've never seen a launch aborted this late before. The announcer had already said "Liftoff," and you could see the flames building up rapidly as usual. The rocket was only one second from moving off the pad when the shutdown command was triggered.

Gwynne Shotwell's quote in another article was a good one -- paraphrasing, she told the reporter that the launch wasn't really seen as a "failure," because that's what happens when you fail to catch a fault condition in time.

Just as any landing you can walk away from is a good landing, any launch that doesn't end with the rocket in a million flaming pieces is a good launch. They can try again in 3 days.

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (4, Funny)

AJWM (19027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054603)

any launch that doesn't end with the rocket in a million flaming pieces is a good launch.

Sorry, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to steal that. It's too good not to.

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (4, Funny)

david.given (6740) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056103)

What's the difference between a bomb and a rocket?

Bombs blow things up. Rockets blow things up.

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (5, Interesting)

BagOBones (574735) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054639)

I was reading a on this earlier, (not sure if it is in the link) but SpaceX is actually using a new launch system that intentionally holds the rocket on the pad after ignition just so that additional telemetry can be gathered about the operating state of all the engines at power...

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054839)

Not a bad idea. You waste only the tiniest it of fuel, while giving you just enough time to locate most failure scenarios (not all, by any means, but a lot of them). If you didn't hold it on the pad, even the relatively short distance it would rise would require you to continue liftoff (aborting later on, which is very dangerous), since even a tiny fall will destroy the rocket.

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (2)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055735)

I forget which flight where this happened, but it seems like there was a very early NASA flight which did lift off the pad and land back down, only going just a fraction of an inch (or a few millimeters) before coming back down, then the engines shut off.

I also remember seeing several early flights where the rocket did lift off more than a few feet then came crashing back down... in some cases taking the launch tower out with the rocket. This particular procedure of holding the rocket down at launch has some very expensive and spectacular launches as the reason why this is done. A couple of these launches even made network television broadcasts before astronauts started to ride the very same rockets (I think they were Redstone and Atlas rockets that had problems in the early days of the Mercury program).

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (4, Informative)

AJWM (19027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054951)

The implementation may be new (I don't know), but the idea isn't. Hold-down clamps have been around for a while, probably since at least the V-2 (A-4). The idea is to hold the thing down long enough for the engine(s) to build up enough thrust to lift properly, rather than just knock the rocket over.

The Shuttle had explosive bolts holding the SRBs down so the thing wouldn't blow over, either in a strong wind or when the SSME's lit. I'm not sure that they were strong enough to hold it down once the solids ignited, though (not that additional telemetry is going to do you any good at that point.)

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (3, Interesting)

caseih (160668) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055033)

These hold downs are pretty amazing. If you've ever watched recent shuttle launch videos you can see the top of the shuttle lurch a couple of feet laterally when the SSME's light up. It's pretty spectacular. I believe that the SRBS light a couple of seconds before liftoff, so the entire thing is held down for a second or two, even after SRBs lit.

The main difference between the Shuttle and the Falcon 9 as far as launch abort goes is that the SRBs cannot be shut down. As soon as they light, the launch has to happen. The SSMEs of course could shut down after ignition, and in fact did so on an occasion or two. Normally this would happen about T-6 seconds or so, unlike the T-0 shutdown of the falcon 9.

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055117)

These hold downs are pretty amazing. If you've ever watched recent shuttle launch videos you can see the top of the shuttle lurch a couple of feet laterally when the SSME's light up. It's pretty spectacular.

Yes, it's pretty amazing, they do lift the thing up a good bit. The main engine is checked for proper operation, after which the SRB's are lit off. When the SRB's go, the stack is going to leave the pad, even if it takes it with it, so the explosive bolts have got to work.

There were launches where the main engines were shut down immediately after ignition. STS-41-D, STS-51-F, STS-51, STS-55, and STS-68. I believe the NASA term is "pucker string" moment.

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (5, Informative)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055163)

I have lots of experience with the Shuttle hold down studs. The way they work is there are 4 conical hold down posts at the base of each SRB that are attached to the pad. A 3 ft long 4 inch diameter inconnel bolt goes through the SRB skirt and hold down post. A nut goes on the top and bottom. The preload in the bolt is over a million pounds. You would need a big torque wrench to get that but instead we use a hydraulic puller that stretched the stud and then you slightly tighten the nut and when you let go of the hydraulics the stud is nice and tight.

The stud doesn't explode. The top nut has two explosive charges in it. If either one goes the nut is split and the stud shoots out since its under such a high preload. There is a blast container that is supposed to prevent FOD. Each charge is handled by a seperate circuit. We did have a few cases where the studs didn't come out. It turns out there was a unknown failure mode. If the two charges went off with just the right delay you had a situation where the nut halves would bounce off their blast container and come back and hit the stud and the threads could catch just right slowing the stud down.

It was cool. We did about 30 tests shooting high speed footage with different skew delays in firing the charges.

But to answer your question. The studs are stronger than the aluminum aft skirt which would probrably be torn if more than one bolt failed to release. This would have been catastrophic.

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (1)

mtmra70 (964928) | more than 2 years ago | (#40058035)

Were there any contingencies if the nuts didn't blow and the rocket wasn't released? You also said there is a problem if more than one bolt didn't release - what would happen if only one bolt didn't release?

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40068007)

Wow, thank you, that is one of the coolest Slashdot comments ever.

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (3, Interesting)

quacking duck (607555) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055219)

You are right about the lateral movement, but the shuttle stack doesn't just move laterally one way--it actually reverses (since the stack is still bolted to the pad) and the timing is such that when the SRBs fire, the stack is pointed true vertical again.

The SRBs are not held down once they fire though. Check out this incredible series of slow-motion video [youtube.com] from a lot of cameras you might never have seen footage from--it's like porn for space tech junkies. Jump to 6m28s for the first camera on the SRBs, which record the explosive bolts that hold the SRBs down. You'll actually see the bolts fire and release the SRBs a fraction of a second *before* we see the flames come out from the SRBs.

I posted earlier today about STS-68, which aborted the launch sequence at T-1.9 seconds, the closest to T-0 the shuttle ever got in an on-pad abort. There's a video of that launch attempt on Youtube too, but there's a second video (not on Youtube, unfortunately) showing the engines firing up and then shutting down. They actually flame out one by one, presumably to lessen the magnitude of the lateral motion that now lasts for several back-and-forth swings.

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40055369)

These hold downs are pretty amazing. If you've ever watched recent shuttle launch videos you can see the top of the shuttle lurch a couple of feet laterally when the SSME's light up. It's pretty spectacular. I believe that the SRBS light a couple of seconds before liftoff, so the entire thing is held down for a second or two, even after SRBs lit.

The main difference between the Shuttle and the Falcon 9 as far as launch abort goes is that the SRBs cannot be shut down. As soon as they light, the launch has to happen. The SSMEs of course could shut down after ignition, and in fact did so on an occasion or two. Normally this would happen about T-6 seconds or so, unlike the T-0 shutdown of the falcon 9.

If you blow the nose of the SRB, then the thrust goes way down and can't be returned to normal operation. SRB's can be dethrusted but not throttled.

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055635)

The implementation may be new (I don't know), but the idea isn't. Hold-down clamps have been around for a while, probably since at least the V-2 (A-4). The idea is to hold the thing down long enough for the engine(s) to build up enough thrust to lift properly, rather than just knock the rocket over.

They go back further than that... Both Goddard and Von Braun used them. Though back then the sensors were optical (does the rocket flame look right?) and the operation manual (pull the string that releases the latch that holds the rocket back).

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055251)

It's not remotely new, it predates the V2, back to Goddard days. You hold it on the pad until the engine is fully operable.

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40056161)

I was reading a on this earlier, (not sure if it is in the link) but SpaceX is actually using a new launch system that intentionally holds the rocket on the pad after ignition just so that additional telemetry can be gathered about the operating state of all the engines at power...

From what I understand, that's not a "new" system. I always understood that rockets were held down for the engines to fire and align themselves, then explosive bolts holding clamps tight on the rocket's (or shuttle's!) fire, and the clamps release the rocket to it's own guidance.

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (1)

Chelloveck (14643) | more than 2 years ago | (#40057317)

That, and because the wheelies the rockets do when they rev them up and then pop the clutch are just friggin' awesome!

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40055025)

I've never seen a launch aborted this late before. The announcer had already said "Liftoff," and you could see the flames building up rapidly as usual. The rocket was only one second from moving off the pad when the shutdown command was triggered.

There was one Shuttle launch that aborted similarly. The Shuttle Main Engines (liquid fueled) ignited, but were shut down almost immediately. The countdown was interrupted before the solid rocket boosters were lighted, but after the onboard computer took control of the vehicle. The launch clock even started running, but fortunately the NASA engineers were able to shut it down. Otherwise the computers might have 'jettisoned' the boosters right there on the pad, dropping the Shuttle on the ground. I remember the surreal view of the clock counting upward, while the Shuttle sat there unmoving, and thinking "that can't be good".

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055425)

I've never seen a launch aborted this late before. The announcer had already said "Liftoff," and you could see the flames building up rapidly as usual. The rocket was only one second from moving off the pad when the shutdown command was triggered.

The earliest I can recall this happening was on Gemini 6's first launch attempt in Dec 1965.

Re:It was actually pretty exciting to watch (2)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055531)

I've never seen a launch aborted this late before.

Space shuttle abort after main engine start, 1984. [youtube.com]

Mercury-Redstone launch abort after main engine start, 1960. [youtube.com] (This is the famous "launched the escape tower launch.)

Most liquid-fueled launchers have had this capability. It's important for any multi-engine launcher, in case not all the engines start. It's usually considered a requirement for man-rating a launch system.

Faulty valve located (5, Informative)

mikesimaska (660104) | more than 2 years ago | (#40054771)

From SpaceX on twitter:

Inspections found a faulty check valve on engine #5. We are replacing tonight. Next attempt Tuesday, 5/22 at 3:44 AM ET.

IMO this whole ordeal has been nothing but a positive for SpaceX.

1. Problem occurs.
2. Successfully respond.
3. PROFIT!!

Re:Faulty valve located (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40054847)

I wonder what went faulty about it since the time they previously checked...

Step 3 should be "Successfully prevent from happening again"

Re:Faulty valve located (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40055035)

that's like successfully preventing your car from getting a flat tire when you back out of your driveway.

Re:Faulty valve located (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056443)

That's actually part of the QA process that NASA requires. After any fault is identified, you must add a procedure for ensuring that faults of this nature are not problems in the future. In your example, this would require either adding kevlar tyres, or ensuring that the tyres were checked after backing out of the driveway and before starting the journey.

Re:Faulty valve located (1)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40060533)

Right, like checking the driveway for nails before getting in the car.
This is exactly the kind of thing that makes programs like this expensive as hell. Hopefully they avoided a major disaster and will continue to refine the program. This is indeed an important event that needs to be assimilated.

Transcript (4, Informative)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055041)

*tap tap* is this thing on?

-----

Title: Scheduled SpaceX Launch Scrubbed at the Last Minute
Description: The kids whose experiment was scheduled to go into space were disappointed but not crushed by the delay

00:00) TITLE
A SlashdotTV title animation appears.

00:05) TITLE
The view fades to that of Timothy Lord on the grounds at Cape Canaveral.

00:05) Timothy
This is not what anyone saw today on Cape Canaveral.

00:08) TITLE
An animation sequence of what was to be the SpaceX Falcon+Dragon launch is shown with "- animated simulation - do not try at home" repeatedly scrolling past in the bottom. Hereafter referred to as "SpaceX animated simulation".

00:19) Timothy
Instead it was pretty darn disappointing when today's launch of SpaceX's Dragon capsule was nixed with just seconds on the clock.

00:25) Timothy
An early announcement said the abort was based on a high pressure reading in engine number 5.

00:29) TITLE
SpaceX animated simulation is shown.

00:33) Timothy
Among those disappointed by the launch were some students who were here all the way from Indiana to watch the launch of an experiment they've been working on since last October.

00:40) TITLE
A shot of three kids at the Cape Canaveral facilities appears.

00:40) J.P.
I am J.P. [last name]

00:42) Cameron
And I'm Cameron [last name]

00:44) Jack
And I'm Jack [last name]

00:45) J.P.
We are from Highland, Indiana.
We were here to see the Falcon 9 take off, with our experiment, for the International Space Station.

00:56) J.P.
Our experiment is: how does microgravity affect the nutritional value of a 92M72 genetically modified soy bean sprout.

01:08) J.P.
Astronauts were gonna perform the experiment, and then it was gonna be sent back down to Earth, and we were gonna also perform the experiment on Earth, and compare the results.

01:21) Jack
It's an after-school extracurricular club that we have.

01:25) Jack
The shirts we got from Pioneer [Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc -- ed.] who gave us a grant to come down here.
They gave us the seeds, and so they gave us a grant to get some press for the shirts and stuff, and they gave us a grant to come down here - they paid for everything, so..

01:39) Jack
I'm not too disappointed because.. it's a space program and things happen, and we have Tuesday to look forward to - whether on TV or we get to come here - and we'll see what happens.

01:50) TITLE
SpaceX animated simulation is shown.

01:55) TITLE
The view fades back to Timothy on the grounds at Cape Canaveral.

01:56) Timothy
The next launch window is Tuesday, about 72 hours from now.
Hopefully the fourth time's the charm, and we'll actually see both Falcon and Dragon take off.

02:03) TITLE
SpaceX animated simulation is shown.

02:18) TITLE
A SlashdotTV credits animation sequence is shown. The credits depicted are:
Camera and narration: Timothy Lord
Edited by Robin 'Roblimo' Miller
Opening title by Danielle Attinella
Animated footage supplied by SpaceX

-----

And why does the antenna no longer break out of the header bar?

Re:Transcript (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40055087)

what a waste of time, I spent 10 minutes on this post, 10 minutes of my life I'll never get back.

Re:Transcript (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40055167)

agreed. complete fucking waste. an hero.

Bad aftertaste (1)

jeti (105266) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055543)

The interview leaves a bad aftertaste for me. It looks like the school experiment is a publicity stunt of a company producing genetically modified soy beans.

Re:Bad aftertaste (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40055971)

They don't taste all that bad. Same great flavor as regular soybeans.

I really hope this is a success (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055427)

The space program needs a win.

wrong rocket in the animation (3, Informative)

Skylax (1129403) | more than 2 years ago | (#40055807)

The rocket launch animation in the video does not show the Falcon 9 rocket+Dragon but the not yet fully developed Falcon 9 Heavy (SpaceX [spacex.com] ) which according to the SpaceX launch manifest will have a first test launch later this year (but I guess late 2013 seems more likely judging from SpaceX's previous track record of delays).

       

Re:wrong rocket in the animation (1)

billyswong (1858858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056187)

Mod parent up. Slashdot made a serious mistake in the video. There is no side-strap for this launch. Pick a correct animation next time please.

Been there, seen that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40056037)

Guess having it fizzle like the North Koreans would have been BAAAD for business. ESPECIALLY with all the investors watching!

"SpaceX is old tech" (4)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056121)

Lot of comments here saying that the SpaceX rockets are pretty much the same old technology as the 1950s, and why aren't we focusing on carbon fiber scramjet single-stage spaceplanes or flying saucers powered by dark energy?

Because two-stage kerosene-and-oxygen rockets *work*. It's proven technology, you *know* it's going to work, and you don't have to spend billions on aerodynamics research to figure out if it's going to outfly its own skin. [go.com] From there, you can add in high-tech electronics, advanced manufacturing, etc., as SpaceX has done.

This sort of practical solution to real-world problems using tried-and-true technology is something every engineer should appreciate. Including an engineer you all know and love. [teamfortress.com] .

Re:"SpaceX is old tech" (0)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056985)

Lot of comments here saying that the SpaceX rockets are pretty much the same old technology as the 1950s, and why aren't we focusing on carbon fiber scramjet single-stage spaceplanes or flying saucers powered by dark energy?

Because research on new technologies is very, very expensive. And once the Space Race died down in the early 1970's, none of the governments that funded the research have seen any point in putting real money into them. Or, to put it in perspective, we're at the point aviation technology would be if it got frozen in place around the end of WWII or IC technology would be if it were frozen in the late 1970's.
 

Because two-stage kerosene-and-oxygen rockets *work*. It's proven technology, you *know* it's going to work

For certain large and handwaving values of "work". In reality, by normal engineering standards, they're horribly unreliable since they tend to fail about 2% of the time. Or again to put this in perspective: If jet airliners failed at the rate rockets do, some place like Chicago-O'Hare would suffer around 8000 crashes on takeoff annually - that's 21 carshes a *day*. The 2Mhz 6502 of the mid 70's would crash 40,000 times a *second*. (You can add the appropriate number of zeros to figure out the crash rate for today's multi gigahtz machines.)
 

From there, you can add in high-tech electronics, advanced manufacturing, etc., as SpaceX has done.

Unless they can solve the reliability issue, they're just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Re:"SpaceX is old tech" (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 2 years ago | (#40057651)

Always problematic to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, but you go to war with the army you have, not the army you'd like to have. You don't get to wish you had a new Apollo program so you could re-invent the rocket from scratch. Your goal, if you actually want to go to space instead of dreaming of the stars, is to make the best of the tools you have, improving them as you can.

they tend to fail about 2% of the time

I'm skeptical of this number. Got a source? The vast majority of kerosene-oxygen rockets have been on Soyuz-class boosters, which have a 2.8% failure rate [wikipedia.org] . However, SpaceX is very different from Soyuz, because it can tolerate an engine failure. If you make a ton of conservative assumptions (All Soyuz failures are due to kerosene engine failure, SpaceX engines are no more reliable than Soyuz, each Soyuz has 5 "engines" even though it has 20 combustion chambers), you get a mission failure rate for Falcon 9 of 0.2%. Which would make me nervous if I were using it to commute to work, but we are dealing with rockets here.

Funny you mention jet airliners. Turbofan engines are more reliable than rocket engines, but still, they fail all the damned time. But they don't cause crashes, because the aircraft can keep flying with an engine failure, and if there's a problem on launch, the pilot can abort the takeoff. Which is exactly what SpaceX does.

Anyway, the point is that SpaceX has very different goals than your average space enthusiast. They're not trying to make space travel as easy and reliable as riding a bus. They're trying to get into space, right now, real cheap.

Re:"SpaceX is old tech" (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40061399)

Always problematic to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, but you go to war with the army you have, not the army you'd like to have. You don't get to wish you had a new Apollo program so you could re-invent the rocket from scratch. Your goal, if you actually want to go to space instead of dreaming of the stars, is to make the best of the tools you have, improving them as you can.

I really need to point out that I was answering *your* question? If you don't like the truth, that's not my problem.
 

they tend to fail about 2% of the time

I'm skeptical of this number.

Be skeptical all you want, it's the stone cold truth. Your ignorance is not my problem.
 

If you make a ton of laughably ridiculous assumptions

There, fixed that for you.
 

Funny you mention jet airliners. Turbofan engines are more reliable than rocket engines, but still, they fail all the damned time. But they don't cause crashes, because the aircraft can keep flying with an engine failure, and if there's a problem on launch, the pilot can abort the takeoff. Which is exactly what SpaceX does.

Here's a free clue for you: Engine out situations are not the only failures that lead to crashes. (Nor can all engine failures be simply handwaved away by shutting down the engine - because the vehicle will already be an expanding ball of fire by the time the data reaches the controller.)
 

Anyway, the point is that SpaceX has very different goals than your average space enthusiast. They're not trying to make space travel as easy and reliable as riding a bus. They're trying to get into space, right now, real cheap.

I don't know about the fantasy world you live in, but here on Earth SpaceX has exactly the goals of the average space enthusiast - to lower costs.

The crowds were thin (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056229)

There was plenty of room, but I think most people were glum because we got so close to the launch before they scrubbed it. That at everyone got up at 3 am to get there.

The real problem ... (1)

AdiBean (653963) | more than 2 years ago | (#40056525)

Guess they shouldn't have used a Copperhead

"Simulated Animation" text crawl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40061057)

Say, what's wrong with generating "Simulaton Animation" at home?

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