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Astronauts Open Dragon Capsule Hatch

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the no-snakes-found-so-far dept.

ISS 138

Hexydes writes "Early in the morning (5:53 am EST) on May 26th, 2012, NASA gave the go-ahead for the Expedition 31 crew to begin the procedure to open the hatch on the Dragon capsule, now directly attached to the ISS. 'The hatch opening begins four days of operations to unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo from the first commercial spacecraft to visit the space station and reload it with experiments and cargo for a return trip to Earth. It is scheduled for splashdown several hundred miles west of California on May 31. Wearing protective masks and goggles, as is customary for the opening of a hatch to any newly arrived vehicle at the station, Pettit entered the Dragon with Station Commander Oleg Kononenko. The goggles and masks will be removed once the station atmosphere has had a chance to mix air with the air inside the Dragon itself.' Here is a video of the procedure."

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138 comments

To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120285)

Would that be hard to shift in 0 gravity, could it be done by one person in one go?

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (4, Informative)

bobstreo (1320787) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120309)

Yeah except for the part where you're trying to stop the 1000 pounds of cargo trying to bash it's way out of the space
station part.

Also I'm guessing it's not just sitting on one pallet in the middle of the capsule.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40124081)

It takes time and strength to stop the half-ton cargo load equal to the time and strength used to start it moving. As long as someone of similar power begins stopping it no later than halfway to the far bulkhead, it's no problem at all. In fact the push to start it should probably be pretty weak, as the spaces are small and there's no great rush, leaving the same or lesser strength able to overpower it in the event of a sudden recalculation of when and where it should stop.

All this will be second nature to astronauts with more than a few weeks' experience in microgravity. If not, the loads can be secured with cables at length to stop them before colliding, then released as they slow to as stop, or restrained if the stop doesn't go as planned.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (4, Informative)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120327)

IIRC, even if the gravity is 0 you still have mass and inertia to deal with. "Heavy" stuff will be harder to get moving and stop moving once it's where it's supposed to be. Also, with Newton's third law, even tossing something with fairly low mass will have an effect on your position. So you'd have to brace or bounce off a wall or something. That would probably make the logistics of unloading a large cargo fairly... interesting...

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40121975)

I think you underestimate the effects of friction. It's easy to push a heavy cart. It's easy to roll something heavy on logs. It's easy for a Maglev to accelerate. If you remove the friction caused by gravity, it gets quite easy even for a single human to push stuff around.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40124113)

It will be easy to get going, but somewhat hard to speed it up (just not as hard as when there's friction along the bottom enforced by gravity). It is exactly as easy/hard to slow and stop it.

In orbital microgravity, every action on a separate object requires either bracing oneself on infrastructure, or accepting the opposite reactive motion from what you pressed away, eventually contacting some infrastructure. This has been the case since the first orbit, though some spaces are getting bigger and the possibility of losing contact with infrastructure greater, requiring actual deliberate bracing more often.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (4, Insightful)

pesho (843750) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120337)

There is this thing called inertia, and it is a bitch, especially at 0 G with no/little friction to help. Once the 1000 pounds of stuff gets in motion it will bounce around the place until everything gets smashed to pieces.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40122119)

The coefficient of elasticity of collisions would still be less than 1, the stuff will probably stop before smashing all into pieces

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

findoutmoretoday (1475299) | more than 2 years ago | (#40122479)

There is this thing called inertia, and it is a bitch

On a tow path - towing was also done by children last century, the bitch is not the 50000 pounds of inertia, but the wind.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (2, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120339)

It's not all in one box. Whatever it is has to fit through the hatch. Inventory, move (inertia!), stow. Now do it in the other direction for the stuff that needs to come back to earth.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40120379)

Exactly!. This is the procedure, whether a private capsule is attached, the former shuttle or the Soyuz capsule. The news here is not the transfer of 1,000 lbs of cargo, but that it is the first private capsule (vs government).

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (5, Funny)

Cold hard reality (1536175) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120361)

Union rules requires at least three workers over four days

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (3, Funny)

crawling_chaos (23007) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121053)

Actually, it's a non-union shop, so they are waiting for immigrant workers that they will immediately throw out the airlock instead of paying when they are done.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (5, Insightful)

jandoedel (1149947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121093)

everyone is an immigrant on ISS..

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (2)

witherstaff (713820) | more than 2 years ago | (#40122123)

Forget the immigrants. I want to know about the illegal aliens.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (2)

Savantissimo (893682) | more than 2 years ago | (#40123179)

It's a darn good thing they don't have to show their passports every time they cross a national boundary.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40120367)

A single person could probably get it all moving, but stopping it and turning it without getting crushed into a wall might be an issue. Not to mention the cargo is probably going to places all over the station so moving it all might be a silly proposition anyways

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (3, Insightful)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120441)

Slow and gentle.
Press on a thousand pounds in freefall with a force of a pound, and in ten seconds, it's moving at 10cm/s.

This is probably faster than you want in a confined environment.

If you need more than your little finger to exert the pressure - you're doing it wrong.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (2)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120453)

Of course, that should read mm/s.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

Cold hard reality (1536175) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121323)

No, cm/s.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#40123913)

Oh, g.

I overthought. :)

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40124125)

The same person will stop and turn it with the same strength and time as they started it moving.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120423)

while there is no weight, objects still have mass and momentum so producing enough force to start moving 1000 lbs and producing enough to stop 1000 lbs is a big issue.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (4, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120671)

while there is no weight, objects still have mass and momentum so producing enough force to start moving 1000 lbs and producing enough to stop 1000 lbs is a big issue.

No. It is no issue at all. You could push it with your finger. A fly could move it. If you apply 10 pounds of force for one second, it will start moving, and it will take exactly 10 pounds of force applied for one second in the opposite direction to stop it... or you could stop it by applying 5 lbs of force for two seconds.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40120789)

Not as big an issue as it is when there's practically no friction involved. I can still manage to get 3200lbs moving all by myself with some greatly reduced friction here on Earth, but then again I guess not everyone has had to push a car that wouldn't start while it's shifted into neutral. Momentum can still be a bitch in terms of control, so slow and easy is the way.

However I doubt it's all one big package going to the ISS. It's probably a bunch of smaller crates and boxes which would weigh 50lbs on Earth. It's likely the astronauts just station at points along the path the boxes are supposed to take when loading/unloading and play a little bit of slow-motion catch with them.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

BriggsBU (1138021) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120951)

Try pushing the car while standing on ice, because with no gravity to push you down on the ground your feet are going to have very little traction.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121997)

If you watch the video, at 0:40 and 2:10, you'll notice the astronauts wedging their feet under bars, and in other crevices. That would give them all the traction they need. In fact, those are there specifically for that purpose. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the entire ISS is outfitted with similar anchor points.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40122105)

Yes it is, hand holds, foot restraints, and outside they have bars for hooking safety cable clips to. Human muscles would be useless without something to push or pull against.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40122793)

I can easily push a car if I'm on ice. That's assuming there's a convenient tree, wall, rock etc. to brace my butt/feet against.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 2 years ago | (#40123887)

That's assuming there's a convenient tree, wall, rock etc. to brace my butt/feet against.

Of course then you are no longer 'on ice' so much as 'on tree'.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (3, Funny)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120491)

Unloading 1,000 pounds in microgravity requires the same energy as in 1G. 450kg however would be significantly easier.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40120661)

Because a pound refers to weight and not mass? Is that your assumption [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40121657)

"Because a pound refers to weight and not mass? Is that your assumption?"

He assumes that in the INTERNATIONAL Space Station there are no pounds.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40123211)

That makes me want to slug [wikipedia.org] you.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (2)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120941)

Consider, a pallet sitting in the middle of a room in 0G (a MUCH easier setup than the tight quarters in the capsule and ISS). You grab the load and lift. Slowly it starts to rise from the floor (designated). It's high enough so you start pushing down and end up going for a ride on the cargo. Here comes the ceiling! CRUNCH!, squashed like a bug.

So, no. Not easy and not a 1 man operation.

In reality, the cargo is divided into many smaller packages in racks. It takes time to inventory ans stow all of that.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40122855)

if you're strong enough to accelerate it you're strong enough to decelerate it provided you have enough distance to do it over; the processes are exact mirror images.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#40123057)

But if you slip or just lose your presence of mind for a moment, suddenly all that force you applied over a nice slow 1 meter of lifting with your legs is applied much more quickly to your ribcage over a few centimeters. That's why it has to be taken slowly and deliberately and always with a spotter at least.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40124147)

Yes, if you jump at a nearby wall you will split your skull. Even here on Earth.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

sahonen (680948) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121045)

Think of it this way: It's hard to push a car, even though there is very little friction in its wheels. Zero gravity doesn't mean zero mass, it just means you don't have to counter gravity.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40124177)

It's easy to push a car with good bearings on level ground. I have pushed cars that weight over 10x my weight without any problem. And good bearings still have substantial friction compared to the air resistance inside an orbiting capsule, especially as the RPMs get up there with any speed. Otherwise cars would get far more MPG on cruise control than they do. Even lightweight, aerodynamic electric vehicles designed for maximum coasting still consume about 125W:Km.

Re:To unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo (1)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40122097)

Not one person, but two people could do it. The "standard racks" on board the Station can mass up to 500 kg each, and are swapped out regularly with new experiments. The large square hatch is sized to fit one of those racks, but you need two people for enough control of the movement so it does not smash things along the way.

The standard racks are derived from earthly 19 inch equipment racks, with two of them side by side, and aircraft "seat tracks" are on the front to attach things to. Seat tracks are what the seats in an airplane are mounted to. They did not see a need to invent new things from scratch for the job of mounting hardware.

Almost there. (1)

DamienNightbane (768702) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120297)

Now all we need to do is start using the private sector to launch astronauts into space and we can finally do something about the bureaucratic nightmare that is NASA.

Re:Almost there. (4, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120481)

No thanks. They will make the seats tiny so they can fit 8-10 astronauts in there, plus charge $35.00 per bag. On top of that imagine 3 days in a capsule with only small bag of nuts, and not being able to use your ipad until you are above 150 miles.

Re:Almost there. (2)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120931)

Not to mention being raped by TSA perverts.

Re:Almost there. (1)

DamienNightbane (768702) | more than 2 years ago | (#40123219)

Except that the TSA is more government and not part of the private sector at all.

Re:Almost there. (3, Funny)

loshwomp (468955) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121197)

with only small bag of nuts

Speak for yourself, mister.

Re:Almost there. (2)

Wandering Voice (2267950) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121239)

Hahah, I get it!

After all your trips through the TSA chechpoints, you're left with a small bag of peanut butter.

Re:Almost there. (1)

Brucelet (1857158) | more than 2 years ago | (#40122815)

Frankly, if the coss per weight was low enough that I could pay only $35 per bag to go into space I'd be there in a heartbeat.

My God... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40120323)

It's full of stars.

Sadly, it's all business... (5, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120403)

I would have rigged up two things.

1 - a huge "planet express" sticker on every box.
2 - a small device rigged to play "never gonna give you up" 30 seconds after they open the hatch.

Come on, a futurama joke and a ISS rickrolling would be utterly epic.

Re:Sadly, it's all business... (2)

deblau (68023) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121595)

Nah, 30 seconds is way too soon, hatch openings can take a lot of time. Make it 2 minutes; give the crew some time to overcome that slight adrenaline bump from opening a door into a brand new room. And while a Rickroll would be pretty cool, I think playing the Final Countdown would be funnier.

Mass (1)

pgn674 (995941) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120407)

You mean 31 slugs.

Re:Mass (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120543)

You mean 31 slugs.

Oh, now I get it. I didn't understand at first that TFS meant 1000lbs at ground level in Earth's gravity field. So confusing!

Re:Mass (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120651)

Yeah, they should have corrected to 940lbs.

(hint: gravity ain't zero at the space station)

Re:Mass (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121841)

Gravity aint 0 anywhere in the universe.

Re:Mass (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 2 years ago | (#40123407)

Yes, there are points with zero gravity. Find 2 large masses near each other. There should exist a point near L1 that has absolute zero gravity.

my eyes (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120447)

the goggles do nothing.

Re:my eyes (4, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120489)

Oh yes they do. The goggles are there to prevent....

S P A C E - M A D N E S S !

Re:my eyes (2)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120613)

A Ren & Stimpy reference to go with your earlier Futurama reference [slashdot.org] (and in reply to a Simpsons reference)? <Mr. Burns>Excellent </Mr. Burns>

youtube ads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40120513)

C'mon, isn't it obvious that the submitter is just pulling for YouTube views and ads? Where did s/he get this video feed from anyway?

They opened a DRAGON CAPSULE in SPACE (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40120527)

Was there a space dragon inside?

Re:They opened a DRAGON CAPSULE in SPACE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40120621)

Space Herpes

Re:They opened a DRAGON CAPSULE in SPACE (2)

xmundt (415364) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121091)

Greetings and Salutations;
          Hum...I have, for years, wanted to see some of the outtakes from "Ice Pirates". It is a truly awful film, but, right after that line, there is a cut and from the expressions that remain on the actor's faces I suspect there was something terribly amusing and probably pretty crude that got said.

          Now, I am going to have to get a copy of it and inflict it on some folks....Sigh.

        Pleasant dreams
        dave mundt

Re:They opened a DRAGON CAPSULE in SPACE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40124207)

Yeah, what else were you going to get from a company called SpaceSex?

Re:They opened a DRAGON CAPSULE in SPACE (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120673)

Was there a space dragon inside?

Perhaps a large insect like creature wearing platform boots with giant extendable razor sharp teeth who wants to implant eggs in your belly... Something like that.

Meddle not in the affairs of dragons! (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121179)

For you are crunchy and taste good with barbecue sauce.

Re:They opened a DRAGON CAPSULE in SPACE (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40122879)

No, a bobcat.

Would not buy again.

Premature e-hatch-ulation.... (2)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120541)

I missed the live broadcast because the bastards opened the hatch an hour an a half early. The flight director, Holly Ridings, had warned they might be "a bit early" in yesterday's press briefing, but I had no idea they'd be that early.

Anyway, it's cool to have it all ship-shape and working fine. I was amused by Don Pettit's comment: "It smells inside like a new car!" ;-)

Re:Premature e-hatch-ulation.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40120861)

I missed the live broadcast because the bastards opened the hatch an hour an a half early.

Can't blame them really, just like Christmas.

Re:Premature e-hatch-ulation.... (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120995)

I don't blame them, of course. Just being snarky...

Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (3, Interesting)

Thagg (9904) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120557)

I have tremendous respect for Mr Musk and his team at SpaceX. To have designed and built the Falcon 9 and the Dragon, and to have them work perfectly every time, in the short time they had, is an amazing achievement.

On the other hand, this really isn't the first "privately built" spacecraft. Almost all of the "NASA" rockets and spacecraft were built by independent contractors. NASA did a lot of the design work on the Saturn rockets and the spacecraft, but the Redstone, Atlas, and Titan rockets were all designed by private contractors for the military. SpaceX has some advantage in that it's doing everything under one roof (literally).

It is impressive to see that hatch open -- showing the depths of the cooperation between NASA and SpaceX. NASA has to have been working on this almost as hard as SpaceX over the past year to develop the procedures for the rendezvous, capture, and berthing of the Dragon. The opening of that hatch might not be as historic as the Apollo-Soyuz docking of the '70s but it's right up there.

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (5, Insightful)

Whatsmynickname (557867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120655)

It is revolutionary from the standpoint that the government didn't lay down the requirements for what they wanted (or just designed the item themselves) in a space vehicle, just ISS interface requirements. SpaceX built what they wanted without NASA or DoD people sticking their noses in. And SpaceX actually completed the project and docked with the space station, instead of just making a ton of Powerpoints and 3D animated videos on what it would look like if they actually did it. If others follow SpaceX, then instead of Slashdot bitching about the difference between a capsule and a delta winged re-entry vehicle, private companies can actually BUILD it and we'll conclusively see which is better. THAT is what is revolutionary.

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40120983)

SpaceX built what they wanted without NASA or DoD people sticking their noses in.

Mod parent up. There is a huge infrastructure of NASA and DOD folks whose job it is to stick their noses in. They are expensive, their cost comes out of your budget, and they cause huge delays in your program. SpaceX is a brilliant idea in that it keeps those expensive noses out of most things.

There are places for those noses, like launch safety and docking, where there can be risk to citizens or government equipment (the space station). But, many times, those noses simply waste money assuring 100-percent space mission success [aerospace.org] .

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40121063)

"It is revolutionary from the standpoint that the government didn't lay down the requirements for what they wanted (or just designed the item themselves)"

I don't know how broadly you define "the government", but i know of no case where politicians actually designed anything technical.

"SpaceX built what they wanted without NASA or DoD people sticking their noses in."

Surely NASA had some requirements. It's just that it's not called regulation, so it's ok.

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (0)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121863)

"SpaceX built what they wanted without NASA or DoD people sticking their noses in." Surely NASA had some requirements. It's just that it's not called regulation, so it's ok. He later qualified what he said with this "There are places for those noses, like launch safety and docking, where there can be risk to citizens or government equipment (the space station). " So yeah, you're an idiot.

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40122351)

So yeah, Mr. Troll, there are some places for nose-sticking, of course.

But, you are clearly unaware of how much unnecessary nose-sticking goes on. Millions upon millions are wasted.

For the analysts, any problem is good for business, be it real or imagined.

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40124213)

Wrong word, asshole. When somebody shows you up, it's called "pedantic", not "troll".

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40123715)

but i know of no case where politicians actually designed anything technical.

The government consists of more than politicians. And requirements are how politicians can intrude on the design.

Surely NASA had some requirements. It's just that it's not called regulation, so it's ok.

Of course, they did. But the requirements were more along the lines of safety requirements for something near the ISS than the manufacture and testing requirements that they imposed on the Shuttle supply chain. That allows SpaceX to incorporate manufacture-side innovations that couldn't be done with the Shuttle.

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (0)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121215)

What large organisation buys hardware (or software) without defining their requirements first? Is NASA comprised entirely of marketing executives?

Usual rule of business is- if you're the one paying, you're the one who gets to decide what you end up with. I'd be shocked and stunned if, when NASA tendered for the huge contracts and subsidies they're offering, they didn't list in no uncertain terms what they expect the contract winner's product to be able to do.

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (3, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121427)

Actually, NASA behaved exactly like they should as the government agency for Space Administration: provide the specifications for interfaces, safety factors, and the like, act as a clearing house for technical information, set guidelines and milestones. NASA told commercial interests WHAT to do, and let the commercial interests decide HOW to do it.

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (4, Interesting)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120685)

True, but this is different. SpaceX funded the development of its Falcon rockets almost entirely with private funding, and they are selling rides at a fixed price, rather than the "cost-plus" accounting that has been the standard for NASA since the 60's. Also, NASA has had a much "lighter touch" in the Dragon development than they've traditionally had with other contractors. They set the goals and guidelines (and provided a LOT of expertise and some funding too) but allowed SpaceX a lot of freedom to solve the problems in their own way. Elon can't say enough about how grateful he is for NASA's help. But by the same token, NASA officials are quick to note how "different" this has been from the previous business-as-usual.

Regardless, I agree this is a "Big F---ing Deal" (as V.P. Biden might say). I've been looking forward to this mission for a LONG TIME. It's damn satisfying to see it all coming together at last.

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (5, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120761)

The Dragon spacecraft is the first vehicle which has been built primarily with private funds, where the "ownership" of the vehicle does not belong to a government agency. When this vehicle returns to the Earth, while NASA will get all of the stuff that is inside of the vehicle, it doesn't "belong" to NASA. In fact SpaceX has even hinted that this particular vehicle might see a 2nd or 3rd flight in the future (in terms of the capsule itself). NASA's COTS contract requires a new vehicle for every flight, so those subsequent flights will likely go to paying commercial (read non-government) customers, but the spacecraft doesn't "belong" to NASA.

The comparison here is more like how commercial airlines can lease their aircraft and crews to other people, including government agencies.

In the case of most of those "privately built spacecraft", there is a huge difference between them and the Dragon. For things like the Space Shuttle, the Apollo spacecraft, or even things like the probes to other planets, they were designed by NASA engineers where all of the specifications and design requirements were decided upon by NASA management and had NASA personnel at nearly all levels of production. Any "private" companies were really contractors and sub-contractors who followed the lead of NASA supervision.

Also it is important to point out that the other spacecraft that have flown to the ISS by American companies have also all been "owned" by NASA. If you tried to buy a Space Shuttle from North American-Rockwell International (yes, I know those companies are now owned by Boeing), you would have been politely told you simply can't buy them at any price. There were some people who tried to buy a Shuttle in the 1980's and simply couldn't. In the case of the Dragon, SpaceX will gladly sell you one and even help you out with the government paperwork needed to be able to use it and help schedule a launch for you as well. They will even help you through the process if you aren't an American (which does add paperwork and some hassles, but it can be arranged).

I'll admit that commercial companies have been involved with the construction of spacecraft in the past, but this is something new. How different it can be will be seen with other projects that SpaceX is doing that will be completely private for-profit ventures not involving NASA at all.

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121801)

You're quite right. Historically companies building space vehicles for NASA were contractors. These vehicles were not strictly speaking private craft, any more than an aircraft carrier is a private ship.

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 2 years ago | (#40122721)

tl;dr: NASA is paying for the ride, not the rocket.

I hadn't heard that the COTS program requires a new vehicle for each flight, but that just means that SpaceX is going to have a lot of spares for non-COTS missions.

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (0)

thePig (964303) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121269)

I actually would congratulate Obama on this. He forced everybody's hand on this, and it looks like a completely new future is beckoning...

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40121773)

Yeah I remember when he was elected 10 years ago and got SpaceX started.

Thank you Obama!

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (2)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#40123191)

First of all, the decision to begin shutting down the Shuttle program happened under the Clinton administration and was accelerated under the Bush (W) administration, arguably even going back to the Reagan administration due to policy changes that happened after the loss of the Challenger. Regardless, the actual shutdown process was begun by Michael Griffin, administrator for NASA. To blame Obama for shutting down the Shuttle program and giving us the mess that NASA is in right now is patently unfair to the guy for a great many reasons... other than the horrible lack of leadership that the Obama administration is providing at the moment.

This is ditto for the COTS program that SpaceX is operating under for this flight, which was another program started under the Bush adminsitration (through Griffin) as a sort of back-up contingency plan to the Constellation program. At best all Obama did was continue the program.

As far as a lack of leadership in space is concerned, the last president who actually gave a damn about NASA and spaceflight in any meaningful way was Lyndon Johnson, with perhaps Reagan getting an honorable mention with at least pushing forward the concept of Space Station Freedom and getting the Endeavor built. Both Presidents Bush announced plans to go to Mars yet failed to provide any leadership in terms of getting funding to get it to happen or even building any infrastructure to make it happen.

Constellation was such a horrible mess of a program that it simply had to be shut down, with more money spent on the Ares I launch tower alone than SpaceX has spent in its entire history as a company including launching 8 rockets (with admittedly 3 failures), building three spaceport complexes (launch pads at Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg, and Kwajalein), two factory complexes (one that SpaceX simply outgrew), developed three different rockets (Falcon 1, Falcon 9, and the soon to be launched Falcon 9-Heavy), three different rocket motors, and still managed to get something to the ISS all on that same budget. For another billion dollars or so, ATK managed to send the Ares 1-X on a suborbital flight that looked impressive but didn't really do anything at all, and those were the "successful" parts of the Constellation program. The Orion spacecraft is all that is left from the several billion dollars spent towards the development of that program, and I would give it at best 50:50 odds of even making a trip into space on any kind of spacecraft.

It should be pointed out that the appointment of Charles Bolden as administrator of NASA was nearly the very last of any high level agency appointments made by Barack Obama, and the longest it took for any president since Eisenhower to appoint somebody into that position after taking office (assuming the chair of NACA was the predecessor to the NASA administrator position). Obama has basically put any sort of serious discussion of space policy on the back burner and doesn't really care to offer any real leadership. Then again neither does Mitt Romney, so it doesn't look good for NASA in the next decade or so.

Re:Nice to see, but not really revolutionary (1)

kermidge (2221646) | more than 2 years ago | (#40122675)

"but the Redstone, Atlas, and Titan rockets were all designed by private contractors for the military"

Redstone was designed by von Braun and team at Army Ballistic Missile Agency at Redstone Arsenal, the _building_ of it was contracted out to Chrysler as prime. Most of the rest followed the more normal process, bids to spec.

Your first and last paras, right on!

Revolutionary economics (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 2 years ago | (#40123287)

Almost all of the "NASA" rockets and spacecraft were built by independent contractors.

Yes but NASA owned them after they were built. NASA does not own SpaceX's equipment. They are launching stuff on behalf of NASA but it's not different than NASA contracting the Russians to launch for them. It wasn't contract manufacturing like Boeing does for NASA, it was their own product. The technology isn't the revolutionary bit, the economics and funding models are.

Tonight's film will be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40120565)

Enter the Dragon

Waiting for the air to mix. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40120573)

Can't send a capsule filled with farty air to Dutch oven the ISS, the smell would dissipate before the payoff. Damn...

Here's hoping the crewed Dragon happens soon (3, Interesting)

Vandil X (636030) | more than 2 years ago | (#40120905)

It's great that we have U.S.-based cargo delivery/recovery capacity again. This is definitely a huge milestone. However, the crewed-version of the Dragon will be the true, emotional U.S. milestone, as it replaces the human element lost with the retirement of the space shuttle.

Re:Here's hoping the crewed Dragon happens soon (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40124043)

I was very moved by the human element of the human ground crews roaring applause as the human arm pilot completed the capture.

I'm all for human space colonization and exploration. But I want to see all human presence preceded by machines either remotely controlled or (at real distances) autonomous. Their scouting, sensing and preparation (construction, cleaning, etc) will make the humans far more productive than when humans have to do everything manually.

Before opening the hatch ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121099)

... did anyone say, "Here be dragons"?

"Good day, commander. All crews reporting." (2)

loshwomp (468955) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121123)

The video narrator sounds like he should be piloting a terran battlecruiser.

Enter the Dragon (1)

funnyguy (28876) | more than 2 years ago | (#40121337)

I've heard that somewhere...

5:53 am EDT not EST (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40121673)

This is the second time [slashdot.org] in two SpaceX stories. Is it deliberate?

What the fcuk is pound? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40122955)

Pound? Isn't that something you do on someones head for not using metric measurements.

Passenger (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#40123617)

I expected to see Elon Musk hiding inside.

Falcon 9 Splashdown (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40124021)

AFAICT, the Falcon 9 rocket was disposable, so as its exhausted stages dropped away from the Dragon payload, they broke and burned up in the atmosphere, landing as scorching hot chunks and dust hopefully on unoccupied oceans. But couldn't they be shaped to break into steerable, durable chunks that sail down to land on the surface for collection? Making them less dense than water would also make the rocket lighter, a big benefit. All this seems to call for aerogels, the least dense synthetic material, which was developed for this purpose: reusable reentrant space vehicles, but all in one piece (ie. space shuttle). Send in an automated barge to scoop up the pieces, and the mission cycle impact on the Earth where we're all stuck is much lower.

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