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Elon Musk Shows off the Dragon Capsule, Back From Space (Video)

Roblimo posted about 2 years ago | from the recycling-our-way-to-the-stars dept.

Space 106

Elon Musk appeared Wednesday at SpaceX's testing facility in McGregor, Texas — not far from Waco — along with NASA administrator Charles Bolden, to show off the recovered Dragon capsule that recently launched from Cape Canaveral to the ISS. He says the SpaceX Grasshopper reusable lift vehicle will start testing in a few months, and that once it's in service the cost of a flight to orbit may cost as little as 1/100 as much as it costs today. According to Musk, fuel is only a tiny part of what a space launch costs; boosters and other expensive items that currently only get used once are the main budget-busters. (Note that the Scaled Composites Space Ship Two also relies on a reusable first stage — and that theirs saves both fuel and wear & tear by using aerodynamic lift, AKA wings, for the first 50,000 feet.)

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106 comments

The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (4, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 years ago | (#40328707)

Not sure why TFS includes the comment about Spaceship Two having wings, since SS2 is not intended to reach orbit.

Nor is it intended to lead to an orbital vehicle.

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (1)

Roblimo (357) | about 2 years ago | (#40328763)

Scaled Composites people have said for many years that their end goal is reusable orbiters with aerodynamic first stages.

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (4, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 years ago | (#40328887)

That may very well be their goal.

But SS2 isn't leading in that direction. I can't even see any technology developed for SS2 being of any relevance to an orbiter with an aerodynamic first stage.

Note that an aerodynamic booster for an orbiter will require either:
a) a hypersonic booster, or
b) a VERY LARGE orbiter.

Can't see any part of SS2 that points in either of those directions...

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (2)

Roblimo (357) | about 2 years ago | (#40328969)

I'm happy to say, "You're right." Makes you feel better and costs me nothing.

However, please realize that if you had said that you couldn't see SS1 leading to SS2/Virgin Galactic, I wouldn't have argued with you then, either.

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (2)

osu-neko (2604) | about 2 years ago | (#40329115)

Indeed, there's nothing to argue with. He said he can't see it. Presumably, he's being honest about his lack of vision. The fact that this does clearly lead in that direction doesn't alter the fact that he can't see it, so his statement is accurate. ;)

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (4, Insightful)

regularstranger (1074000) | about 2 years ago | (#40329239)

The point is that SS2 has no chance of making orbit after a few modifications, while SS2 is the next iteration of SS1. SpaceX is putting things into orbit. Comparing anything that SpaceX is doing with anything scaled composites is doing as far as reusability is concerned is stupid, done only by those who don't understand the difference between orbit and just touching the edge of the atmosphere for a short time. The fact that Scaled Composites is reusing their plane with attached rocket engine really isn't relevant. Besides, even if they do put things into orbit, they will only be able to put very small things into orbit. The concept of dropping a rocket from a plane doesn't scale well. SpaceX is making things to go to space and stay there. Scaled Composites is making interesting airplanes, with one that can go to space briefly.

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (3, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 2 years ago | (#40329897)

Besides, even if they do put things into orbit, they will only be able to put very small things into orbit. The concept of dropping a rocket from a plane doesn't scale well.

That concept (realized via a Pegasus rocket) put NuSTAR in orbit, so it may not scale well, but it's enough to be useful.

Rockets in general don't scale well (which is why you quickly get one much too big to be carried by a plane). That's why what SpaceX is doing -- attacking the cost of launches to earth orbit -- is so important. Once that's a relatively cheap commodity, we can use earth orbit as the launching point to the rest of the solar system.

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (2)

regularstranger (1074000) | about 2 years ago | (#40330095)

Rockets in general don't scale well (which is why you quickly get one much too big to be carried by a plane).

Heh - very true. The air-launched rockets might be cheaper for small satellites when these technologies have matured (this woudn't surprise me at all), but using such a system to put humans and anything much over a couple tons into orbit seems unlikely. Below someone pointed out Stratolaunch, which is a reduced Falcon 9 carried under an aircraft with a ~400 foot wingspan to get ~14,000 lbs into orbit. Of course it's not reusable unless the Falcon 9 is reusable, and I would be surprised if the added complexity of designing a plane of that size to launch something of that payload to be economical. Especially if the (almost) same launch-to-orbit vehicle can perform better when launched from a pad.

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (1)

Ken_g6 (775014) | about 2 years ago | (#40330155)

Besides, even if they do put things into orbit, they will only be able to put very small things into orbit. The concept of dropping a rocket from a plane doesn't scale well. SpaceX is making things to go to space and stay there. Scaled Composites is making interesting airplanes, with one that can go to space briefly.

Actually, it looks like a company called Stratolaunch Systems [wikipedia.org] appears to be working with both SpaceX (for a vehicle called Falcon 9 Air) and with Scaled Composites (for the carrier aircraft [wikipedia.org].) "And once it is established as a reliable system, a human-rated version will also be explored. [wikipedia.org]"

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (1)

regularstranger (1074000) | about 2 years ago | (#40330317)

Is it reusable (the Falcon 9 Air)? If it is reusable, is it because of the efforts of SpaceX, or Scaled Composites? It if does become reusable, does the added complexity of designing, building, testing, and maintaining this giant plane cover the cost of fuel savings over a pad launch (which is a small part of launch costs) that uses almost the same launch-to-orbit platform (a Falcon 9 - which can put a lot more material into orbit)? I'd put my money on the pad-launched version being economically successful for launching heavy things.

Even if this is successful, it is still SpaceX doing the heavy lifting, and Scaled Composites providing an interesting aircraft (which I hope does get built - I really want to see it).

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (1)

F34nor (321515) | about 2 years ago | (#40334915)

Did you read the Popular Mechanics article about building a Scale Composites White Knight larger than the Spruce Goose to carry a SapceX rocket to 50K for launch?

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (1)

regularstranger (1074000) | about 2 years ago | (#40338109)

And this being reusable is entirely dependent on SpaceX making their Falcon 9 reusable. Scaled composites is providing a plane, which of course is reusable. Most planes are. I express my doubts about the viability of this method in my other comments - at least for larger payloads. If I have a large payload, why not just use a pad-launched Falcon 9? Why go to the added trouble of using the giant plane - especially when its payload to orbit is limited to less than that of a regular Falcon 9. As the article mentions, the fuel saved from launching from altitude instead of from the ground is a very small part of launch costs. Even if it does get built, it's still SpaceX putting stuff into orbit, like they already are.

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40329229)

a) a hypersonic booster, or

A SS2 ain't the only thing that can be strapped to the bottom of the WK2 carrier aircraft.

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40329627)

So this doesn't seem to you to be at all derived from ss2/white knight launch system?
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratolaunch_Systems

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (1)

regularstranger (1074000) | about 2 years ago | (#40329909)

The only way this will be reusable is if the Falcon 9 from SpaceX that Stratolaunch intends to use is reusable, and that depends on if SpaceX can get their pad-launched Falcon 9 to be reusable. Again, it has nothing to do with comparing reusability between whatever Scaled Composites is doing and what SpaceX is doing. This is the point being made.

On another topic, this says the goal is to get 13,500 lb to low earth orbit. What happens if you want to launch twice this payload to low earth orbit? Building twice the plane (which is already going to be the biggest ever, by wingspan) won't be enough. These things don't scale like that. For getting heavy hardware and people into orbit, pad-based launches make a lot more sense, especially if SpaceX can drive down the cost as they seem prepared to do. For putting that small satellite into orbit, perhaps an air-launched rocket will be cheaper. This is already done, as NuSTAR was launched by a Pegasus recently.

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (1)

FirephoxRising (2033058) | about 2 years ago | (#40330289)

I think that using "wings" to provide lift is a clever idea, they could be variable geometry for the different speeds and atmospheric thickness, or what about "disposing" wings that could fall away at a certain height after providing some lift? The Russian Energia was designed to be a a reusable first stage with some lift yes?

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40339277)

SpaceX is working on that very thing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_%28rocket_family%29#Falcon_9_Air

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (2)

multi io (640409) | about 2 years ago | (#40332823)

Scaled Composites people have said for many years that their end goal is reusable orbiters with aerodynamic first stages.

All first stages are "aerodynamic". I think the correct term you wanted to use is "air-breathing".

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#40328765)

It's partially reusable...

That said, the first thing that came to mind when watching the simulations of Grasshopper was "was that the primary buffer coupling".

I need to get outside now....

why do you think he's building ICBMs? (5, Funny)

Thud457 (234763) | about 2 years ago | (#40328873)

"Elon Musk" is a much better Bond villain name than "Richard Branson". The rest of your argument is superfluous.

Re:why do you think he's building ICBMs? (2)

dkf (304284) | about 2 years ago | (#40329651)

"Elon Musk" is a much better Bond villain name than "Richard Branson". The rest of your argument is superfluous.

We don't need to worry until he hires a giant with steel teeth...

Re:why do you think he's building ICBMs? (1)

F34nor (321515) | about 2 years ago | (#40335219)

What, what, what? Maybe by name alone but Branson looks like a Bond villain, lives like a Bond villain (private freaking island and a space port), is well um, British. Plus all this over the top shit is just a ruse clearly he is real name is Dr. Virgin, a respectable villain name for sure. Elon Musk looks like the guy from accounting. He's only a villian to Detroit and anyone who has sunk more than 5 billion into launch vehicles that SeaLaunch made obsolete and SpaceX made laughable. Also the fact that he went totally broke pursuing two impossible dreams simultaneously shows that he is not nearly evil enough to be a Bond villain, he could have extorted a few billion out of someone during that time.

So who would Branson's Jaws be? I vote Rebecca Brooks head transplanted onto a big red robot and instead of a cat a shriveled clone of Rupert Murdoch that maintains her subservience to him.
Musk I would go with Neil Degrasse Tyson with taser gloves and a penchant for whispering something like "The speed of light will dictate, YOUR DEATH!"

Re:why do you think he's building ICBMs? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 2 years ago | (#40329923)

I saw him on the news last night talking about this; he's balding but not bald, doesn't have an eyepatch, and there was no white Persian cat anywhere to be seen. Either the "Elon Musk" they put in front of cameras is a clever decoy, or he's not actually up to any world-domination schemes at all. Which doesn't make any sense.

Re:why do you think he's building ICBMs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40331179)

Actually, about that white cat...

http://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/192701084932907009/photo/1

Re:why do you think he's building ICBMs? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#40335793)

Elon Musk... wasn't he the scientist that raised Odo? It sure sounds like a Star Trek name, far more than a Bond villian name.

Re:The relevance of the SS2 comment escapes me (2)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 2 years ago | (#40329385)

That's true, however, it's carrier the White Knight2 is quite likely to continue to be used for more than just the SS2, such as it was for the X-37 tests. It is more than probable that it will be used for or evolved into a first stage of an orbital vehicle as a cost savings measure over traditional pad launched vehicles. It's also common for people to erroneously speak of the White Knight 2 and/or WK2, Space Ship 2 pair as just Space Ship 2.

Wait, what? (0, Flamebait)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#40328761)

...and that once it's in service the cost of a flight to orbit may cost as little as 1/100 as much as it costs today.

Considering that the current cost is "We can't do it, we retired the space shuttles", I'm not sure what comparison you're making. Between this and what the Chinese are putting into orbit? Or the Russians? Or that other startup group that Slashdot seems to ignore?

Re:Wait, what? (3)

Shatrat (855151) | about 2 years ago | (#40328797)

At no point were space shuttles the only way to get something in orbit, even if you exclude countries other than the USA.

Re:Wait, what? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40329183)

Hmmm, back when I was in the rocket biz I seem to remember a several month long period where there was no way to orbit - our deltas were failing inexplicably, the Japanese vehicle wasn't ready, Arianespace lost a bird... it's all kind of fuzzy now.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 2 years ago | (#40332707)

Yep, space shuttles were the only way for the US to bring something intact from orbit back down to earth (they had other ways to get stuff up). AFAIK that's one of the features that the US military wanted. That feature is rather expensive, despite all the talk of reusability.

You only save money with reusing stuff if your reusable components are reliable enough so that you don't have to do very extensive and expensive checks and certifications on them after each flight. Otherwise it's actually cheaper to throw/recycle them, and use new components that you are more certain will work without causing stuff to blow up or malfunction.

Re:Wait, what? (2)

RubberDogBone (851604) | about 2 years ago | (#40332881)

Yep, space shuttles were the only way for the US to bring something intact from orbit back down to earth (they had other ways to get stuff up).

That's not technically correct. We have long had return capability from spy satellites sending down film canisters and some of them are still operational, and there were a few sample return missions -Genesis in 2004 and Startdust in 2006. To be sure, Genesis didn't make it back entirely intact.

Re:Wait, what? (1, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#40328801)

Cost per kg to LEO:

This has been discussed many, many times. A handy reference [wikipedia.org] for the [citation needed] crowd.

Cost per kg to LEO is, of course, the holy grail for SpaceX and other commercial companies. Drop if far enough and you open up LEO to more commercial activities.

Re:Wait, what? (5, Insightful)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 2 years ago | (#40328939)

Actually, what it sounds like is that the cost of hurling more space junk up there will go down by a factor of a hundred. For better or for worse, humanity doesn't seem to have it's act together yet for it to be cheap to drag more litter up into orbit.

Re:Wait, what? (2)

Nutria (679911) | about 2 years ago | (#40329083)

Exactly.

By common courtesy (yeah, I know, ROTFLMAO) or new law, rocket "bits" must be designed with drag-inducers of some sort to get them to fall quickly back to earth.

Re:Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40330137)

Rocket bits aren't a real issue -- they mostly end up on (relatively) high-eccentricity atmosphere-grazing orbits that decay rapidly. Almost all the space junk that persists for any length of time was payload.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 2 years ago | (#40330283)

The real problems are payloads that were initially put in low orbit with a booster to lift them into their final orbit. Lots of space junk happens when the booster explodes.

Re:Wait, what? (4, Interesting)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about 2 years ago | (#40329131)

I know this is a problem, and I imagine smart people are trying to figure something out.

That said, I can't help but marvel at the shrinking cost-to-LEO. Just a year ago I was talking to someone at a company that does tubeSat launches for $8,000. That's the launch and the satellite. And I heard that SpaceX does CubeSat launches on their Falcon 9 rockets.

Now I don't know if the cost reductions would translate directly to that kind of mission, but if they can get the cost down to anywhere near 1/100, putting a satellite up will be easily within reach for an individual tinkerer. To me, that's just amazing... that you can put your own little satellite in space (for a short time), and not even be crushed if something goes wrong.

Found the $8k one...
http://interorbital.com/TubeSat_1.htm [interorbital.com]

Re:Wait, what? (1)

mindsofpsi (2297452) | about 2 years ago | (#40329401)

I believe individual tinkerers are already putting there little satellites in space. See http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zacinaction/kicksat-your-personal-spacecraft-in-space [kickstarter.com] .

Re:Wait, what? (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about 2 years ago | (#40329737)

That's cool and at $1,000 that's much cheaper than the other ones. Though by the look of it, it seems you get what you pay for. ;)

I know some amateurs have done cubesats and tubesats, it's just that those pricetags are all still in the pretty-serious tinkerer range. I'm going to cling, desperately, to that 1/100th number. Because at $80 or $100, I have a list of projects I'd love to cram into one of those and send up.

And I figure Elon Musk has got a pretty impressive track record, so there's hope.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | about 2 years ago | (#40329955)

I know this is a problem, and I imagine smart people are trying to figure something out.

We already have. Orbital scoop mining for fuel supply:

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Space_Transport_and_Engineering_Methods/Resource_Extraction#Scoop_Mining [wikibooks.org]

Use the fuel for electric tugs to collect orbital debris, salvage dead satellites, or repair/refuel ones that can be fixed. Anything that cannot be recycled/reused gets brought down to air mining altitude, where it will quickly de-orbit. The problem until now was debris was in such scattered orbits you could not afford to go collect it. The combination of mining the upper atmosphere for fuel and electric thrusters is so much better, that now you can.

For those who don't understand how the scoop works, you are collecting air at 7.5 km/s inlet velocity, and your thruster works at 30-50 km/s exhaust velocity. So you only use part of your collected air mass to make up for drag and keep the rest. You do this at ~200 km altitude, which is still a vacuum by ordinary standards, but is just low enough that you can collect and pump it into a tank. You need healthy size solar arrays to power the thrusters.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

GNUThomson (806789) | about 2 years ago | (#40330099)

No, you can't. Interorbital will gladly take your money, but they will not launch anything. The keep throwing new launch dates, but no actual hardware flying. See this thread for details: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=18780.0 [nasaspaceflight.com]

Re:Wait, what? (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about 2 years ago | (#40330269)

Interesting. I called them last year (just inquiring) and they were telling me they had launches scheduled for a couple months ahead of when I called.

It's a little disappointing to see that IOS specifically hasn't managed it yet, but I know others have and my overall excitement stands! :)

Wrong (2)

GPS Pilot (3683) | about 2 years ago | (#40330373)

It costs a significant amount of fuel to deorbit a satellite at the end of its useful life, and pre-Elon, it was very expensive to launch that fuel to orbit.

Despite that cost, all low-earth-orbit satellites launched by the U.S. Government in recent years have the ability to deorbit themselves.

With reduced launch costs, the rest of the world will have no excuse to not follow suit.

Re:Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40328821)

Or maybe they are comparing the cost to their own current costs? Meaning that they will be able to do the same thing for 1% of the current cost when in service.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 2 years ago | (#40329851)

Considering that the current cost is "We can't do it, we retired the space shuttles", I'm not sure what comparison you're making. Between this and what the Chinese are putting into orbit? Or the Russians? Or that other startup group that Slashdot seems to ignore?

Obama places the blame on the lack of NASA's freight lifting capabilities directly on George W Bush, "ATM's", "the Japanese tsunami", and those furnace thingamajigs.

Re:Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40332081)

Elon Musk is full of shit.
This is a guy who can't lower the cost of a simple electric car to less than $100,000.
Not to mention all Teslas comes with some 400% inflated claim in range.

Reusability sounds nice in meant for idiot consumption press conferences.
Is SpaceX planning to launch over land? Cleaning salt water soaked booster might just be more costly than going with a new platform.
Every mechanical component would need to be completely overhauled.
Many items will have to be replaced anyways, being designed for single use only (sure SpaceX can contract out for the component to be redesigned and manufactured while still holding the 1% cost).
Rockets are generally made only as strong as they need to be. Will you want to gamble your $100 million payload that the thousand of welds and structure pieces (in the only as strong as it need to be) have not weakened or fatigued excessively during its ascend then descend/tumble from supersonic speeds?

What should've happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40328791)

At the end of the presentation, Elon took the time to add, "Just to make it clear, Congress, we're going into space whether you like it or not, so you can get NASA's funding back in order and try to follow us, or y'all can just stay down on earth and suck it" before flipping off the CSPAN camera.

Re:What should've happened (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#40328853)

At the end of the presentation, Elon took the time to add, "Just to make it clear, Congress, we're going into space whether you like it or not, so you can get NASA's funding back in order and try to follow us, or y'all can just stay down on earth and suck it" before flipping off the CSPAN camera.

He's just taking a cue from Heinlein's old playbook [wikipedia.org]. Nothing new here.

Re:What should've happened (1)

timothy (36799) | about 2 years ago | (#40328879)

Except CSPAN wasn't on hand, as far as I could tell ;)

Various other networks local guys were, though, and for all I know CSPAN is happy to buy footage from any of them.

One thing that was funny to me: the stereo in the Fox van that pulled up next to my car was blasting Rush Limbaugh ... that somehow seemed like an intentionally in-character thing for them to blast.

timothy

Re:What should've happened (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#40329081)

Can ya'll please provide a transcript for your video stories?

I have a hard time hearing what is being said in that video, and I'm sure your deaf viewers have an even harder time hearing it.

Transcript (3, Informative)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | about 2 years ago | (#40329329)

To be honest, the audio from the interviews is so bad that even with the bits I blanked out (-ui-) because I know I can't make heads or tails of it, there's bound to be other errors in my transcription below. I'd go back and listen a bit more carefully, maybe try and kill some of the noisy frequencies, but at some point it's just time to say: get a good quality directional microphone, guys.. or tap into the sound system ;)

TItle: Elon Musk Shows off the SpaceX Dragon Space Capsule

00:00) TITLE
A view of a printout of the mission patch for "SPACE COTS - DEMO 2" "FALCON 9 - FALCON" appears with the SlashdotTV logo bar in the bottom reading "Timothy lord at the SpaceX facility in McGregor, Texas".
The view fades to a view of Timothy Lord, outside the SpaceX facilities.

00:00) Timothy
Elon Musk is having a really good couple of weeks.
He says he feels like a new dad when he looked at the space car Dragon capsule, [...]

00:07) TITLE
The view fades to a view of the Dragon capsule on the ground.

00:07) Timothy
[...] which just last month successfully reached the international space station.

00:10) TITLE
The view fades back to Timothy.

00:10) Timothy
Although the capsule itself remained closed while on display today, [...]

00:13) TITLE
The view fades to a bunch of deformed boxes.

00:13) Timothy
[...] we saw neat rows of cargo succesfully retrieved from the ISS.

00:16) TITLE
The view fades back to Timothy.

00:16) Timothy
Musk spoke today here in McGregor, Texas, home of SpaceX's testing facility.
He joined NASA chief Charlie Bolden, congratulating the works here in McGregor.

00:24) TITLE
The view changes to that of a large group of SpaceX employees with Elon Musk pointed out in center by a title. The group appears to be very elated, laughing and chattering, and starts walking off and out of the view.

00:40) TITLE
The view changes to that of NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, as identified by a title, peering into the Dragon capsule.

00:40) Charles
If I look inside it -ui- it's like a space habitation module. I've been in -ui-, which is really neat, because it's like a home away from home and you can live in there, you can sleep in there, you can do everything else.
One of the other things that's really neat about it is how clean it is.
In fact, I think Don Pettit(?) made the comment [on] orbit how pristine the vehicle was when he went inside, he talked about it smelling like a new car.

01:06) TITLE
The view changes to Elon Musk, speaking beside the Dragon capsule, with the title "Main launch operations will stay in Florida and California, but SpaceX may build a third launch site in S.W. Texas... fears of harassment lawsuits can be overcome".

01:06) Elon
In Florida and California, people are used to the launches, launches occur -ui-.
If it's a new place, people aren't used to it, then you can get some people that like, just, kind of file legal actions.
They don't have a lot of merit, but they can just, really, really grind things to a halt.
So we're just looking it to be considered.. a rocket launch should be considered on par with, say, with some of the protections that are all afforded to use of gunfire, and fireworks, and lawnmowers *laughs*
Literally, it's like, just add rockets to the list of -ui-
That seems like a reasonable request *laughs*
Like you can't sue someone 'cos somebody's got a lawnmower next door, right?
Rockets don't have that protection, so we gotta have a little -ui-

01:57) TITLE
The view fades back to Timothy.

01:58) Timothy
He emphasized that fuel is actually a very small part of each launch's cost, and that access to space actually gets considerably cheaper if SpaceX - or some other company - comes up with a reusable launch vehicle.

02:08) TITLE
The view fades back to Elon

02:08) Elon ... long term initiative that we have, the most important one, 'cos when you look at the costs of propellant, per mission, -ui-, it's only about 0.3% of the cost of the flight.
So, if I can figure out how to effectively re-use the rockets, just like a sort of airplane, then the cost of access to space will drop dramatically, by as much as a factor of 100.
That's the most important thing that I think that we need to figure out.

02:40) TITLE
The view fades back to Timothy.

02:40) Timothy
Musk said the company's reusable first stage grasshopper lift vehicle is just a few months from test-ready.
He says within a year, he hopes it'll even go supersonic.

02:49) TITLE
The view fades back to Elon

02:49) Reporter
Are you planning on adding more -ui- to this facility?

02:52) Elon
Yeah, absolutely, we expect to grow quite a bit in the coming years.
We absolutely expect over the next several years to have several hundred direct jobs added in the -ui-
And then, of course, there's an amplification factor, so if.. -ui- bring their family, and that generates jobs -ui- housing, plumbing, electricity, hotels, restaurants, so usually it'll -ui- job creation, so effectively it would -ui- in thousands of jobs in the McGregor/Waco area.

03:37) Reporter
The new facility you want to build, how does it compare to something like SpacePort America in New Mexico?

03:44) Elon
Well what we're talking about -ui- an orbital launch facility, whereas in New Mexico it's a sub-orbital, so it's basically sub-orbital it's just you're gonna go up and you fall down, with orbit it's you go up and you stay up, so it's -ui- ground track that -ui- that's why kind of -ui- because if you're overflying a lot of cities, which you need to do to get to orbit, then you're putting people at risk.
That's why an in-land launch facility for an orbital space flight is very difficult to do and still achieve... pand still be safe, for people on the ground.
I think a lot of people who are critical, have been critical because of the lack of precedent for what's occurred, and and now that we've been able to go to the space station and back, I think that some of the.. I think that we've answered some of their concerns, -ui- quite sure if that -ui- so I think we're seeing a significant decrease of detractors and.. and you know, just looking at the facts and say, okay, well, SpaceX is showing that it can be done, and so it's getting.. kind of go with the facts, basically.
So I think a lot of people are coming around to being supporters of the commercial space initiative.

05:10) A title appears over the video reading "Animated simulation of a future SpaceX launch with reusable 1st state (courtesy of SpaceX)"

05:18) TITLE
The aforementioned animated simulation is shown through to the end of the video while MUSE's 'Uprising' is played in the background.

Re:Transcript (2)

Pooua (265915) | about 2 years ago | (#40332463)

Here's my go on the UI parts of the transcript:

00:40) Charles: "If I look inside this, to be quite honest, it's like uh, it's like a space habitation module. I-, I-, I've been in one of those, which is really neat, because uh, it's like a home away from home and you can, you can live in there, you can sleep in there, you can do everything else. One of the other things that's really neat about it is how clean it is. [-ui-] In fact, I think [ISS astronaut] Don Pettit made the comment on orbit how pristine the vehicle was when he went inside, he talked about it smelling like a new car."

01:06) Elon: "In Florida and uh, California, uh, people are used to launch, launches occurring in Vandenberg and Cape Canaveral. If it's a new place, people aren't used to it, then you can get some people that like, just, kind of file legal actions. They don't have a lot of merit, but they can just, really, really grind things to a halt.
So we're just looking it to be considered.. a rocket launch should be considered on par with, say, with some of the protections that are all afforded to use of gunfire, and fireworks, and lawnmowers *laughs* Literally, it's like, just add rockets to the list of, you know... That seems like a reasonable request *laughs*
Like you can't sue someone 'cos somebody's got a lawnmower next door, right? Rockets don't have that protection, so we gotta have a little, just, something like that."

02:49) Reporter: "Are you planning on adding more jobs to this facility?"

02:52) Elon: "Yeah, absolutely, we expect to grow quite a bit in the coming years.
We absolutely expect over the next several years to have several hundred direct jobs added in McGregor.
And then, of course, there's an amplification factor, so if, um, if every employee that we hire brings their family, and that generates jobs in terms of automobiles, housing, you know, plumbing, electricity, hotels, restaurants, so usually it's a 5x multiplier in terms of jobs creation, so effectively it would result in thousands of jobs in the McGregor/Waco area."

03:44) Elon: "Well what we're talking about would be an orbital launch facility, whereas in New Mexico it's a sub-orbital, so it's basically-- sub-orbital it's you just go up and you fall down, with orbit it's you go up and you stay up, so it's you've got a ground track that uh, that, uh, when you're orbiting Earth, you are circling Earth, that's it has to be on the coast, because if you're overflying a lot of cities, which you need to do to get to orbit, then you're putting people at risk.
That's why an in-land launch facility for an orbital space flight is very difficult to do and still achieve... and still be safe, for people on the ground.

"I think a lot of people who have been critical, have been critical because of a lack of precedent for what's occurred, and now that we've been able to go to the space station and back, I think that some of the.. I think that we've answered some of their concerns, I'm [not quite sure?] that's definitely done, so I think we're seeing a significant decrease of detractors and.. and you know, just looking at the facts and saying, okay, well, SpaceX is showing that it can be done, and so it's getting.. kind of go with the facts, basically."

Re:What should've happened (1)

Pooua (265915) | about 2 years ago | (#40331863)

Except CSPAN wasn't on hand, as far as I could tell ;)

Various other networks local guys were, though, and for all I know CSPAN is happy to buy footage from any of them.

That would be good news....

Re:What should've happened (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40330017)

"Just to make it clear, Congress, we're going into space whether you like it or not, ..."

Never, ever dare Congress like that.

They have billions of dollars and tens of thousands of federal employees they can dedicate to regulating you out of existance. All the while claiming it's for your own good or the public's good or for the good of the children.

Space Ship Two Won't Undergo Orbital Reentry (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | about 2 years ago | (#40328975)

Comparing Space Ship Two with the Dragon capsule is not an even comparison. Putting a craft into orbit and retrieving it safely are not equally hard. Putting something into orbit requires much more energy than a sub-orbital flight. Recovering something that travels through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds is also tough, especially if you want to man-rate it, and to make portions of it recoverable.

"AKA wings" (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40328997)

It's not quite that simple though. That method doesn't hand over the ballistic momentum that a rocket first stage does.

For those curious about 'wing launch', don't skip over the shuttle freighters. 747 are a massive piece of kit, originally designed as freighters. The big load of the shuttle limited their ceiling to only 15,000'.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttle_Carrier_Aircraft [wikipedia.org]

Re:"AKA wings" (3, Informative)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | about 2 years ago | (#40330055)

No, but Air Launch does reduce several of the losses a regular rocket has at ground level, and approximately doubles the payload to orbit:

* Reduced gravity loss, when the rocket is flying vertical. Only horizontal velocity gets you in orbit. Horizontal launch avoids most of this
* Reduced aerodynamic drag on the rocket because it starts above most of the atmosphere
* Increased thrust, because at sea level rocket engines lose thrust due to fighting air pressure
* Velocity of the airplane takes about 3% off what the rocket needs to do
* Altitude of the airplane gives some potential energy

Those are in about the order of relative importance. The vertical part of a standard launch is incredibly inefficient. If you take off at a typical 1.5 gees, 2/3 is wasted simply fighting gravity.

Re:"AKA wings" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40330063)

Another thing is aircraft are actually bloody expensive to maintain. All of their bits have set use-lifetimes measured in hours of flight, some of which are quite short. Designing, producing, and then maintaining a launch aircraft is a significant cost. It's reusable, much of it, but you better have an awful lot of uses lined up to make it worthwhile.

Whereas a rocket first stage has the ballistic handover, and you design everything for a lifetime of one use. This does wonders for cutting down the ounces. Also it's easier (not easy) to develop improved versions, compared to modifying a multi-use wing stage you've invested so much in.

Neither is easy. It's just a winged first stage isn't obviously better at all. Comparing them is real engineering work.

Rutan's (fabulous) work is a bit of a special case. It's for high-altitude tourism. His method removes a heck of a lot of g-load from his customers. Also, sitting on top of an explosion actually scares some people.

Wing-launch is always worth reviewing as our engineering moves on, just the SC design isn't good for a like-for-like comparison here.

TFA? (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 2 years ago | (#40329147)

Just to be clear, TFA is the video attached to TFS, correct? There's no actual FA associated with this that I can go read? How about including a link to this [google.com], or perhaps this [latimes.com]?

Re:TFA? (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | about 2 years ago | (#40329797)

It's made even better by the steadfast refusal of TFV to be anything other than a black hole in the page here (FF13 and Opera on Linux in AU). Perhaps regional restrictions?

Really, that much fuel? (1)

sckienle (588934) | about 2 years ago | (#40329355)

They are sending each stage up with enough fuel to land under power? I wonder how much extra $/kg that costs relative to just using parachutes...

Re:Really, that much fuel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40329743)

Rockets are big and in order to make something strong enough to not get destroyed on landing while being that big with just parachutes wouldn't be very usefull as a rock.

Re:Really, that much fuel? (2)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 2 years ago | (#40329767)

Parachutes make recovery more difficult, while a powered landing gets you right where you want to be. Also, these stages don't weigh much when they're empty, so that should help with the fuel requirement.

Re:Really, that much fuel? (5, Informative)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | about 2 years ago | (#40330091)

When near empty, the stages are 10-30 times lighter, because they don't have much fuel, or in the case of lower stages, don't have the upper stages sitting on them. Most of the velocity is lost to a heat shield, so the landing thrust only has to take off 10% or less of the remaining velocity. So it doesn't take that much fuel to land. It takes less fuel than the weight of wings to land.

Re:Really, that much fuel? (1)

trout007 (975317) | about 2 years ago | (#40331469)

Using numbers on the Internet the empty weight if the first stage is about 40,000 lbm with a mass fraction of maybe 25:1. One Merlin engine is about 125,000 lbf of thrust and can throttle to about 50%. So using one engine to slow down and land isn't too crazy. It could be a bit scary if you run too low on fuel that your weight gets to the point where you can't throttle your engine enough to decend. But all of that should be possible to predict and control.

Re:Really, that much fuel? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40331885)

> It could be a bit scary
> if you run too low on fuel

I'm not a rocket scientist, so I could be wrong, but I think that's part of SpaceX's genius.

It would not be scary, just epensive.

They have to be many-nines safe to lauch people. That means they have to be able to loose one of the Falcon's engines and still reach orbit. That means you need extra fuel in each of the engines. Enough fuel to aim your rocket in the right direction and get it there.

Now, if you don't loose an engine you've got extra fuel and can use it to land.

If you do loose an engine, the crew or cargo still makes it to orbit; that's not scary. But, the first stage of the Falcon 9 burns up and is not reused; that is expensive.

I have not bothered to work the rocket equation for the exact amount, but if the two amounts come close to balancing, it is truly a genius idea. (The rocket equation is derived from the fact that each extra foot you push a rocket means adding fuel, which means adding more structure, all of which means more weight, which means more fuel and more structure to push against that weight. In effect, a small increase in the height you push the payload to leads to an exponential increase in the size of the rocket.)

Re:Really, that much fuel? (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#40332189)

The fuel and oxidizer is not in the engines, it's in the shared tanks. Losing an engine increases fuel consumption only because when you accelerate slower, you bleed off air drag slower.

Re:Really, that much fuel? (1)

phayes (202222) | about 2 years ago | (#40333107)

Losing the center engine of a reusable F9 may not cause the loss of the payload but appears to guarantee the loss of the reusable first stage.

Last stage of the reusable F9 landing uses only the center engine and thrust/weight appears to be workable in only a narrow range. Having to use two engines that cannot throttle lower than 50% to maintain balance seems to be unworkable.

Re:Really, that much fuel? (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#40338469)

Isn't their thrust vectoring good enough to get the thrust vector going through the center of mass even from a side engine? It'd be landing a bit crooked, admittedly.

Re:Really, that much fuel? (1)

phayes (202222) | about 2 years ago | (#40341125)

I don't know but I assume that landing crooked would preclude landing on a hard surface. As conjecture maybe they'd prefer dropping a reusable F9 with a failed center engine into a lake rather than have it tip over, fall & possibly explode

Re:Really, that much fuel? (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#40357513)

I think as long as the landing "gear" (legs?) are designed to accommodate such a situation, it'd be OK. It's probably a weight vs. reliability tradeoff. They'll probably figure out how likely it is to lose the center engine. Then they'll figure how does the cost of decreased performance due to weight increase compare to the cost of losing a F9 1st stage once in a while on landing. Oh, the joys of engineering ;)

Re:Really, that much fuel? (1)

phayes (202222) | about 2 years ago | (#40358057)

While they may eventually develop technologies to make a center engine failure recoverable to a landing to a flat pad, I don't see it happing for a while.

The engines cannot throttle below 50% max thrust which makes landing on empty tanks "interesting" as a single engine's minimum output is close to producing more thrust than a near empty first stage. Needing to balance a failed center engine makes it pretty much impossible as throttling control does not at present have the accuracy needed to reliably blow off descending velocity at the last second.. It'd be like braking a train to a halt within inches from 200 Mph at the last second instead of reducing speed as the stop approaches.

Landing using off axis thrusters doesn't look to me to be any better. They do not appear to be planning on robust landing gear (normal given the weight constraints). Nor do they plan on having the F9 1st stage settle into a landing cradle that could correct for off axis thrust. At present they seem to plan on having the 1st stage come down to a gradual stop above a flat landing with the booster perfectly vertical and with no lateral or axial motion. straightening out from an off axis engine would introduce too much momentum to be annulled unless that also have some significant verniers at the top of the stage.

So, dropping the booster into a lake seems to have a better chance of recovering as much of the 1st stage as they can.after a center engine failure. No falling over & exploding , just probable damage to the still hot engine(s) used for the last stage of the landing.

Re:Really, that much fuel? (1)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#40362087)

The momentum issue of coming down at an angle is really simple. Such a system is inherently stable with air friction, as long as the wind doesn't blow the wrong way around, that is.

When it touches down with the whole stage at an angle, the settling down to vertical converts the potential energy to kinetic energy of rotation around some horizontal axis. Air friction dissipates some of it, because it's the whole damn rocket moving, and it's a "big" sail. So when it shifts weight to the opposite legs and starts to raise the center of mass, it won't deflect as much: there isn't enough energy left to raise the center of mass far enough, thus the angle of deflection will be slower, if by a tiny bit. It will probably rock a couple of times and settle. It'd be rather simple to test for this using a dummy model with same moment of inertia.

My major concern is that the angle of landing may be a tad excessive with the center of mass being so low, and it may be hard for the legs to accommodate that. If the engines are much heavier than the rest of the body (tankage and shell), it'd would be the likely dealbreaker.

Re:Really, that much fuel? (1)

phayes (202222) | about 2 years ago | (#40365509)

Air friction?!? Compared to the intertia that spinning an off axis booster weighing over 30000 lbs to level to compensate for an off axis engine!?!

I'll stop now as you have just demonstrated that you clearly have little grasp of the forces in play.

Re:Really, that much fuel? (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#40366221)

With no air friction it will be rocking back and forth "forever". With air friction it will rock shorter than that. Remember that an empty booster is light for its size. Energy conservation tells us it will not tip over simply from landing at an angle, as long as the center of mass's projection on the ground is within the support polygon, and as long as there is no imparted swing velocity due to factors other than gravitational settling. Whatever energy it gains going from -angle to zero degrees, it must use up going from zero to +angle. That's all there's to it. Just like you don't expect a pendulum's swings to increase in amplitude past initial angle, you can't expect this pendulum to do so either.

Re:Really, that much fuel? (1)

phayes (202222) | about 2 years ago | (#40368387)

Air friction, riiiight... Try reading about this new force a fellow by the name of Newton described recently: It's called gravity...

Re:Really, that much fuel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40334293)

In effect, a small increase in the height you push the payload to leads to an exponential increase in the size of the rocket.

So why aren't orbital launch facilities built on mountain tops?

Re:Really, that much fuel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40334457)

It would not help that much. Altitude isn't the barrier to orbital flight, velocity is. Putting the launch pad higher up won't appreciably improve launch performance.

More important factors for launch sites: ease of access, safety relative to human settlements, etc.

Re:Really, that much fuel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40334833)

It would not help that much. Altitude isn't the barrier to orbital flight, velocity is.

Then how is that reconciled with this statement:

> In effect, a small increase in the height you push the payload to leads
> to an exponential increase in the size of the rocket

I'm not being argumentative, I'm really interested. Disregarding the delta V from standing on a beach in Texas to orbiting above the atmosphere, there is the issue of change of gravity potential. A Falcon 9 weighs over 300,000 kg. A 2000 meter high mountaintop can be found almost anywhere, I am certain that rocky Central America (closer to the equator) can provide one with an Easternly view of the ocean at that height or more. A quick look at Wikipedia shows a handful in Texas, though none near the coast. 2000m * 300,000 kg * 9.81 m/s^2 = 5 886 000 000 joules. I cannot seem to find online how much RP-1 (and oxidizer, and increased mass of tanks) it would take to get that much energy, but surely it is not insignificant.

Sorry for posting as AC, I modded here and don't want to undo them.

Re:Really, that much fuel? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#40338865)

Goddamnit, I wish you people would learn to read and write. I completely misunderstood your comment until I realized you were talking about an engine failure rather than dropping the first stage. "Lose" and "loose" are both verbs with completely different meanings, and in the case of your comment the repeated misspelling completely changed the meaning of what you wrote.

Re:Really, that much fuel? (1)

jnaujok (804613) | about 2 years ago | (#40335841)

A typical launch carries a 3-5% excess fuel load for safety margin, so there was always some extra fuel aboard at separation. The big factor that changed the game was that the Merlin 1-D engine was suppposed to reach 120,000 lbs of thrust each, but instead is testing at 145,000 lbs of thrust with a higher ISP, which IIRC is about 310 seconds, which is phenomenal for a Kerosene/LOX engine.

With the extra thrust and the better performance, it meant that they could either expand the payload by a few thousand kilos, which would still be an option with a more expensive, expendable flight, or they could have 6-8% fuel reserves at the end of the stage separation.

Without the payload to push, that 6-8% is more than enough to slow down a very light "empty tin can" and get it out of it's sub-orbital trajectory. If you watch the video, they're only burning three engines to deorbit, and one engine to land the first stage. The claim is that the first stage actually has the thrust to return it to the launch site, which might be possible. First stage separation is only a few hundred miles downrange, and you could actually just slow down and let the Earth rotate under you to move back west. In any case, you'd want to bring the speed down to where you are basically in a straight line free-fall back to the launch site, using only maneuvering jets for stability until a few miles above the ground, when you light the center engine and tail land it.

Clearly this isn't something simple, either. They aren't going to be flying this by next week or anything, and the actual fact is that they are likely to be unable to recover some of these first and second stages to bad or uncontrolled landings -- which is exactly the same as what happens now, so this can only be a win scenario for them if they get it working. I'd love to see $10/lb to LEO pricing.

As for the use of parachutes, the first launch of Falcon 9 attempted to parachute the first stage back to the ocean, but from what I heard, the aerodynamic forces on the tumbling, uncontrolled reentry of the stage caused it to break up before the parachutes were deployed. The second stage reentry is under even higher stresses, and I don't think they even tried to recover it before the grasshopper program.

thanks slashtv (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40329369)

thanks roblimo/tim/whoever for covering this. this is the kind of stuff i, and probably a bunch of other people here, love to see.

We Want (Inexpensive) Tesla S (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40329499)

We want inexpensive Tesla S

Re:We Want (Inexpensive) Tesla S (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40333565)

You realise that Tesla only exists so Elon can have an electric car when he gets to Mars.

Re:We Want (Inexpensive) Tesla S (1)

YttriumOxide (837412) | about 2 years ago | (#40333829)

We want inexpensive Tesla S

For what it is, the Model S is pretty inexpensive in my view. It's almost certainly going to be my next car (I wanted the Roadster, but now I'm a dad my wife forbid me from getting another two seater; so when my current one gets too old, Tesla Model S or similar it is)

Got to see it fly over (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40329711)

I went outside just before 3am on May 25th and actually saw the ISS and Dragon go flying over firing their thrusters with my own eyes. It was pretty amazing and I was lucky that I went outside at just the right time.

https://twitter.com/iansbrain/status/205932465234259970

Flash Required? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40330603)

Why is flash required for this content, if it's on youtube or something similar why isn't there either a direct link, or an HTML5 player?

Terrahawks / Thunderbirds go (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40330999)

I'm glad Elon and SpaceX is enjoying their success. I"m not so sure about the how good the Grasshopper will work out. Way they appear in the CGI simulation seems to be kinda like the old puppet shows like the Terrahawks or the Thunderbirds with very cool but not quiet realistic landing abilities. Re-entry for specially 2nd stage will be challenging, specially with entry -sheild being right where the upper stage is mated. Hope it works out.

Elon Musk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40331561)

This is a deep and thought pro-Wait!..."Elon Musk"???
I can not stop thinking of that name now......

Clean comments section (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40331575)

It's gratifying to see that Elon is right: there are far fewer detractors than there used to be. Slashdot stories about SpaceX used to be jammed full of Lockheed and Boeing partisans talking trash about SpaceX's chances of success. Now that they've succeeded, and succeeded big (the overwhelming majority of new launch vehicle designs suffer a major failure within the first 3 launches; the Falcon 9 has not), it's become effectively impossible to claim they don't know what they're doing. Manifestly they do, and they're pushing hard now to do things neither Lockheed nor Boeing has ever done: recover and reuse first and second stages. They will probably succeed at that task as well, so the radical reductions in the cost to orbit that Elon is anticipating actually seem feasible. The physics is good. It's just a matter of engineering now, and SpaceX has the engineering chops to pull it off.

Video randomly starts playing after n hours (1)

riT-k0MA (1653217) | about 2 years ago | (#40333841)

Hey, is it just me or does the video in the summary keep unpausing itself every few hours?

Re:Video randomly starts playing after n hours (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40336099)

Yes, I can confirm this as well.

Vertical Landing control needed (1)

AllanL5 (814677) | about 2 years ago | (#40338623)

It occurs to me -- if you wanted to use a parachute system to lower a 100-foot-tall booster safely, it would still be necessary to develop much of the needed technology for vertical landing. That's true even if it's mostly an empty tin can.

You'd need this to slow the booster from sub-orbital speed, and orient the booster, and remove much of the spin, so that when the parachute(s) do come out the booster doesn't break in half and the parachutes shred.

As other commentators have pointed out, it makes little sense to return to the launch pad, and even Musk himself has said that. So the first stage decellerates then parachutes into the Atlantic for pick-up. The second stage uses a heat shield to bleed off velocity, THEN the vertical landing system to orient and bleed off more velocity, THEN a parachute system to land... somewhere.

The big dangers of a vertical landing is having something "go wrong" at the last minute and that 100 foot tower fall over and explode. Parachuting down following a complete stop at 100 feet (especially with a 'tilt' to horizontal) could avoid a lot of this. I wonder how much that first stage weighs when empty? Is it difficult to parachute something that size and weight?
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