Beta
×

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

Thank you!

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

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

SpaceX's Grasshopper VTVL Finally Jumps Its Own Height

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the small-step-for-rocketkind dept.

Space 111

cylonlover writes "The SpaceX Grasshopper vertical takeoff vertical landing (VTVL) testbed has successfully flown to a height of 40 meters (131 ft), hovered for a bit and subsequently landed in a picture perfect test on December 17, 2012. The Grasshopper had previously taken two hops to less than 6 m (20 ft) in height, but the latest test was the first that saw it reach an altitude taller than the rocket itself, which is a modified Falcon 9 orbital launch vehicle. The flight lasted 29 seconds from launch to landing, and carried a 1.8 m (6 ft) cowboy dummy to give an indication of scale."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Ad astra (1, Funny)

14erCleaner (745600) | about 2 years ago | (#42403513)

per dot-com bubble!

BIT LATE? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42403735)

Isn't Slashdot a few days behind just about everybody else in giving coverage to this news? I've seen the video a number of times already, through any number of other sites.

I would've thought you guys would be more on the ball on this one. After all, a lot of us Slashdotters like anything about space, and about SpaceX in particular.

I recommend seeing Elon Musk's interview with Kevin Rose, just to hear more about his backstory from the man himself:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g92rP1Mi_oQ

Re:BIT LATE? (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#42404089)

I've seen the video a number of times already...

But you won't see it via any of the useless links in the Slashdot summary...

YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42403565)

Wow !! How time marches on !! People, now, those are not moving on well !! It's like these young-uns re-event what has already been done, DECADES before !! Welcome to The Short Attention Span Era !!

Oh, attendees !! We have ALREADY BEEN to the moon !!

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (3, Funny)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#42403589)

Welcome to The Short Attention Span Era !!

Patience, Grasshopper.

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42403697)

He's right. A lot of technology they're using has already been developed, why do they have to start from scratch?

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (3)

crakbone (860662) | about 2 years ago | (#42404065)

The technology was developed for the moon using ase standards. Not earth or mars. Also NASA is not great in the records dept. NASA has had to go back to museum pieces to reverse engineer equipment because document changes in design were never kept. Resulting in vast changes that were made on the fly to systems. Aswell technology has advanced and those changes need to be made.

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42405163)

We weren't doing massive VTVL space rockets in the 50's. And maybe the armchair know-it-alls should just build their own space rockets if it's as easy as picking up a dusty set of blueprints.

The arrogance and delusion is just astounding.

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (-1, Troll)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 years ago | (#42406299)

Its really not that hard. For small scale things, the controller hardware costs you about $400. You don't even need to actually know what you're doing, theres software to do the hard work for you. If you wanted to be really cheap you could put a minor amount of effort into modding something like the Ardupilot for rocket engines, though I don't know where you'd fine a controllable rocket engine on the cheap.

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42407077)

Of course! Why didn't they just use an Arduino and call it a day? Those dummies.

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42407467)

If it is so damn easy, why don't you go work for SpaceX, I'm sure they would pay anyone who could get this fully working in a few weeks very well.

Logic dictates that if it really was so easy it wouldn't take them so long to get it ready, it isn't like they have an endless stream of government money to piss away, it is mostly private investment and I'm sure Elon Musk doesn't want the money he invested to be wasted so they have no incentive to stretch out the development more than absolutely necessary.

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (1)

ddd0004 (1984672) | about 2 years ago | (#42403935)

It's tough to compete with Hollywood expectations.

Heck, the governor of California was going to go to Mars, kill several bad guys, issue several lines of dry cool wit as he dispatched them and then install an atmosphere on Mars. Where is all that awesome stuff?

What was I saying again? Oh nevermind, did you see what Kim Kardashian was wearing?

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (3, Interesting)

tulcod (1056476) | about 2 years ago | (#42403633)

The fact that we got to the moon was a coincidence: we got there by trial and error, instead of careful analysis on error bounds, and actually making sure everything works before launch. This is exemplified by the many failed (!) Apollo missions.

This time, we're carefully doing all the calculations, and you can see this from the fact that SpaceX has not yet failed any mission, even though they have exactly the same missions as we used to.

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (4, Insightful)

moniker127 (1290002) | about 2 years ago | (#42403675)

They haven't had any failures since the advent of the falcon 9 rocket. The first three falcon launches failed, and if the fourth hadn't worked, spaceX would've folded. Luckily, the fourth did work, and they learned a lot from it. (mostly that 9 > 1)

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42404225)

Define failure. Last trip had an engine break apart during launch. The secret private company kept the data under wraps for a while to play it down, but yeah... Everyone in aerospace thinks they're a joke.

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#42404647)

Everyone in aerospace thinks they're a joke.

Sure, because everyone else in aerospace can man up and do it themselves...

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (1)

Macrat (638047) | about 2 years ago | (#42405529)

Define failure. Last trip had an engine break apart during launch.

Incorrect.

They had a controlled shut down on one engine. It did not break apart.

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (4, Informative)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 years ago | (#42406323)

Adding to your thought ...

The 'breaking apart' was an intentional jettison of a panel to ensure any other actual issues would limit exposure to the rest of the craft. It was just like the safety blow off value on a water heater. Unacceptable tolorences were detected and the craft compensated to mitigate damage and ensure continued flight.

The 'break apart' was by design and couldn't have been a better example of designing for failure and still winning the game.

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (2)

Chuckstar (799005) | about 2 years ago | (#42408245)

No. The engine bell imploded due to the sudden change in aerodynamic forces acting on the bell. With the engine running, the burning fuel pushes outward against the bell. The corner bells also experience strong forces from the airstream. Those forces are in equilibrium when the engines are running. When the engine shut off, the external force caused the bell to collapse.

Space-X was aware this would happen if one of the corner engines failed, and the engines are designed such that the bell can shear off without causing wider problems to the craft, but that doesn't mean the engine was designed to break apart. Maybe you should say "the engine couldn't be designed to not break apart in that circumstance, so they insured that it wouldn't cause wider damage".

But even that wouldn't be accurate. Space-X has expressed concern about such bell implosions. The most likely outcome is what happened ... nothing. But there is concern about a chain reaction, where pieces of the bell might impact nearby bells, causing a chain-reaction failure. Just ask NASA whether the following logic is useful: "it looks bad, but it worked OK a few times, so we're just gonna go with it". Both shuttle losses were due to that logic.

There's been discussion of a faring to decrease the external pressure against the engine bell, but the faring needs to strong enough to support the same pressure that shattered the bell. (That's a little misleading, it wasn't static pressure that shattered the bell, but a sudden change in forces acting on it. But a faring would still have to withstand pretty strong pressure.) Unfortunately that means extra weight. And it means redesign and retesting, which is costly.

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#42405493)

The 1st launch where they were going to dock the Dragon Capsule to the ISS failed. The launch was aborted after "Liftoff" was proclaimed. Indeed, with a solid rocket booster that couldn't have been shut off, the launch couldn't have been aborted a second after liftoff, it would have had to try to soldier on with the mission, or maybe execute a planned crash / destructive abort procedure; However, liquid fuel was used, so they just cut off the fuel, and tried again another day...

Update: May 19, 2012 [spacex.com]

Today’s launch was aborted when the flight computer detected slightly high pressure in the engine 5 combustion chamber. We have discovered root cause and repairs are underway.

... the next launch succeeded, and they historically docked with the ISS. On the following resupply mission an engine failed mid flight, but the liquid fuel engines can be shut down mid-flight, routing fuel to the remaining engines, so that's what happened.

October 8, Update [spacex.com]

Approximately one minute and 19 seconds into last night’s launch, the Falcon 9 rocket detected an anomaly on one first stage engine. Initial data suggests that one of the rocket’s nine Merlin engines, Engine 1, lost pressure suddenly and an engine shutdown command was issued. We know the engine did not explode, because we continued to receive data from it. Panels designed to relieve pressure within the engine bay were ejected to protect the stage and other engines. Our review of flight data indicates that neither the rocket stage nor any of the other eight engines were negatively affected by this event.

You see? It's not that the engines are less fail proof, it's that they have better fail safes.

P.S. SpaceX, please tell your webmaster to replace those <strong> tags with the preceding named anchor tags, keep the "blue smallText" class (though you should name the class semantically, not describe what they do, that's just as bad as per element style attributes! Derp!), and set the href attribute to be "#" + the name attribute, eg: href="#Update100712" to create self referential links; That way instead of delving into the source of your HTML to get at the anchor names I can right click the link and copy the URL when I want to link to the pertinent places in that giant list of updates (also, might want to break them into smaller pages, maybe by month?) Alternatively: Fire that moron, and I'll do it for you for free.

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 2 years ago | (#42405509)

Actually, the first one sank into the swamp. So they built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So they built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up.

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42405009)

The fact that we got to the moon was a coincidence

Coincidence? I don't think that word means what you think it means...

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42406205)

trial and error? more like steady progression...the russian were the hare to the USAs tortoise, but we all know how that one ends up, no?

failed apollo missions? 1 yes, 13, maybe.

compare Apollos 8 to 11 if you don't think there was any pre landing testing.

It was no coincidence men landed on the moon, it was INTENTIONAL...

LIKE GOD AND HEINLEIN INTENDED! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42403635)

The Heinlein Trust in their wisdom have already awared Elon Musk the Heinlein Prize:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kk5Mq3Zk2nw

Now all he needs to do is make a metal walkway unfold down the side of rocket.

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 years ago | (#42404991)

There is evidence that Europeans visited the America's before Columbus. However many years later boating technology improved so such a trip isn't nearly as heroic. And as time progresses further, today we can boat across the Atlantic without being considered a hero.

Yes we have been to the moon, we know it can be done. But we really don't have any pressing means to get there really, so we should take our time and find a way to make the trip safer and a bit less heroic.

While it has been a while and there is some relearning lessons learned, we also have new technology available that was near impossible then. We can do calculations and adjustments with todays computers much faster than the old rockets. So many old methods that was tossed out as making too hard to control, may be perfectly usable now.

Re:YAY !! 1952 ALL OVER AGAIN !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42406245)

we also have new technology available that was near impossible then. We can do calculations and adjustments with todays computers much faster than the old rockets.

so they used rockets for 'calculations and adjustments'?

ha ha ha ha =D

Whats the advantage of this tech? (1)

PPalmgren (1009823) | about 2 years ago | (#42403621)

I really can't see one. It seems like a massive waste of fuel to carry more stores on board then land vertically. Couldn't there be a better way of slowing descent in the atmosphere and recovering the module, like parachuting it into the ocean?

Re:Whats the advantage of this tech? (3, Informative)

dreamchaser (49529) | about 2 years ago | (#42403651)

I really can't see one. It seems like a massive waste of fuel to carry more stores on board then land vertically. Couldn't there be a better way of slowing descent in the atmosphere and recovering the module, like parachuting it into the ocean?

Quicker and cheaper recovery, enabling it to be reused far quicker, etc.

Re:Whats the advantage of this tech? (1)

trout007 (975317) | about 2 years ago | (#42403963)

SpaceX has tried this. The problem is landing in the water is violent. They kept destroying their rockets. The Shuttle SRB's can do it only because they are made of about 1/2" thick high strength steel. Even then when they built one for ARES IX test it went higher and landed harder and this was the result.

http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSkDV1l2N0CFkWZmpOxrEyo09JBWK34zbjSC6JRI55c0zNyGM8ht4rdbnvOJQ [gstatic.com]

Re:Whats the advantage of this tech? (1)

tragedy (27079) | about 2 years ago | (#42408823)

Also, the shuttle's SRB's had a little trouble with the O-rings in their tang and clevis joins fitting properly. This may have been partly due to the mild deformation of the SRB's occurring during splashdown. The problem was mostly due to other design causes, but the deformation of the tanks was part of it. As a consequence of this problem and other factors, a jet of flame ended up spurting out of one of the SRB's during a launch and cutting into the liquid booster during Challenger's last launch. Also, for the shuttle SRB's, has anyone ever done the numbers on the costs of recovering and refurbishing the tanks rather than just remaking them each time? The bottom line seems to be that re-using components that have gone through a sudden, violent impact is maybe not always the best policy.

Re:Whats the advantage of this tech? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42405631)

sea water turns the module into scrap metal even if landing doesnt break it mechanically, everyone drops rocket stages into ocean, they are not usable after that.
the thing is that even though rockets look all big and sturdy they are not, they are really very thin walled and fragile, only meant to endure stresses in one direction - vertical, add salt water damages to that and you might just as well build a new rocket after splashdown.
this VTOL tech surely wastes a lot of fuel and thus reduces usable payload mass, but if you get a fully reusable system out of it, it might be worth it.
who knows, its really in very early development

Re:Whats the advantage of this tech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42407331)

Actually it wouldn't be a bad idea to hybridize it. Still have spent stages drop over the ocean as they typically do with a launch now, thus if anything goes wrong it's not going to hit anything important. Yet use chutes to do the main reduction of decent velocity so a lot less fuel is needed for landing used stages, which means less dead-weight in regards to launch payload. This vertical landing feature would then be used at the last moment so barges pre-staged out at sea with some kind of docking cone for recovery would prevent the rocket from slamming into and dunking in the corrosive seawater.

Thus if recovery goes wrong, it's a splash-down landing. No big whoop, just a bit more expensive down the line because you'll end up doing more recycling of scrap than reusing of equipment. But if it goes right, you have a (presumably intact) rocket section ready to be towed back on a barge with many more reusable parts on it and faster turnaround for refurbishment.

Done like that, it still has a lot of money saving potential. I wouldn't be too surprised if this is actually what Space-X has in mind. (Although VTVL is definitely useful for going to the Moon, if indeed it's one of their long term goals.)

Re:Whats the advantage of this tech? (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | about 2 years ago | (#42403685)

I don't see the point of reusing 747s all the time? Why don't we just make new ones for every flight? Everyone knows that its much more fun to fly in a brand new plane.

Re:Whats the advantage of this tech? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42403687)

The big advantage is that when you dunk a booster the seawater gets everywhere and you have to rebuild it.

SpaceX would rather bring it down powered, test it, then launch it again. The cost of the propellant is less than 100K per launch, its the refurbishment, and sometimes wholesale replacement of the parts that really costs a lot of money.

More info on strategy here: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/rockets/elon-musk-on-spacexs-reusable-rocket-plans-6653023

Re:Whats the advantage of this tech? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42403709)

Fuel is the least inefficient way to do it. You've already got an engine there, so why not use it again? You've already got fuel tanks, so why not just a keep a little for descent? Why go back to the drawing board to invent wings, or other massive stuff?

Re:Whats the advantage of this tech? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42403723)

You need to slow down from launch speeds to even consider deploying a shute. Also even with such, landing on the ground is too high an impact speed to make the vehicle reusable, and sea landings introduce corrosion costs. Look at the shuttle boosters for ex, and ou have to factor in the cost of retrieval.

This is a long term investment on the pa rt of spaceX. We have been talking about reusable launch vehicles for decades, and it has never been achieved in any meaningful way to date. Yes, the shuttle airframe was reused, but basically the whoe thing had to be rebuilt every launch, which is why they could launch only a few times a year with a fleet of three.

I applaud SpaceX for working on this.

Elon Musk is doing this for the most basic of reasons, to save money, thus reducing launch costs. No other organization does this as their cst. Of launch is not a priority. The Lockheed-Boeing Alliance launches on a cost plus, NASA was constrained by political forces, Rusia hasn't innovated since the sixties.

Re:Whats the advantage of this tech? (1)

Megane (129182) | about 2 years ago | (#42403751)

It's not much of a waste of fuel because... it's mostly empty after stage separation! So it has maybe 5% (number pulled out of my urectum) reserve fuel left and no cargo. It takes a lot less fuel to bring an empty tank stage down with a powered descent than it would the whole vehicle assembly at launch. And then there's that little problem about sea water being so nasty when it gets into stuff.

And then on top of all that, it's frickin' cool, too.

Re:Whats the advantage of this tech? (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 2 years ago | (#42403811)

You’re making the assumption that it is a bigger waste to carry excess fuel then it is to haul wings into space. I am not sure if that is true so I would like to see your calculations.

Re:Whats the advantage of this tech? (1)

tgd (2822) | about 2 years ago | (#42403851)

I really can't see one.

Its not rocket science.

Wait, yes it is. That might be your problem.

Re:Whats the advantage of this tech? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42403879)

No advantage at all unless you are on the surface of Luna or Mars and wish return home to your loved ones.

Re:Whats the advantage of this tech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42407529)

It doesn't really take much fuel to land the rocket, most of the decent will be gravity powered with a bit of fuel used for control and it is only the touchdown when they really need to use fuel, but it will still be a lot less than was needed to get it off the launchpad.

They wouldn't be doing this if there wasn't a real benefit to it.

Online Outsourcing Training Center (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42403699)

Uttara Computer Education is the first growing Online Outsourcing Training Center / IT College and Job Provider. We are training peoples, how to earn from Home. It is very excellent and easy income source from home based. For this Job, you need a Computer and Internet connection only. We will training everything how can you will work, source of work, payout system, Buyer communication, O-Desk, Freelancer, E-Lance, Script Lance etc.

We can get job from many kinds of source. Mainly we are working by two methods; 1) Bid System Job and 2) Non-Bid System Job.
Know more pls visit: www.ucebd.com

I was going to moderate (0)

MrKaos (858439) | about 2 years ago | (#42403889)

As OT as this is, I was moderating but all I seem to being doing lately is moderating down advertising 'comment' crap like this wasting mod points that could have been used for of upmodding other, more relevant and interesting comments.

Surely there must be a way of moderating this junk "Advertising" or something that doesn't affect your other mod point for relevant stuff. aaarrrggghh

Re:I was going to moderate (1)

Kiraxa (1840002) | about 2 years ago | (#42404105)

There is. Email help@slashdot.org with the comment URL including CID link.

Re:I was going to moderate (0)

Fnord666 (889225) | about 2 years ago | (#42404187)

As OT as this is, I was moderating but all I seem to being doing lately is moderating down advertising 'comment' crap like this wasting mod points that could have been used for of upmodding other, more relevant and interesting comments.

Surely there must be a way of moderating this junk "Advertising" or something that doesn't affect your other mod point for relevant stuff. aaarrrggghh

This is why slashdot is doomed and will likely fail completely within the next year or so. Readership apathy is increasing for the following reasons, among others:

  • 1. It is no longer "news for nerds", just random crap scraped from tech related sites.
  • 2. Summaries are basically just the first paragraph from TFA, scraped by a script most likely.
  • 3. Moderation has become a part time job, not just a "giving back" to help make the site work.

Eventually people will tire of just filtering comment spam and will stop moderating altogether. Combine that with the declining content quality and the people that provide intelligent, interesting or insightful commentary will stop coming. After that it will become just another 4chan. It's a shame and I will be sorry to see it go, but that's the way things are going.

Re:I was going to moderate (1)

mikechant (729173) | about 2 years ago | (#42404267)

Use the little flag symbol to the right of the comment and type 'spam' in the box that appears. In theory editors with unlimited mod points will confirm it's spam and mod it down.
NB Not sure if the flag appears in all 'views' of slashdot...

Re:I was going to moderate (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#42405887)

Don't waste your points on spam, that's what that black flag is for. Just click that (you don't need mod points to do so) and an editor will look at it and do the downmodding for you.

This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (5, Informative)

moniker127 (1290002) | about 2 years ago | (#42403823)

Space Shuttle:
Payload to GTO: ~3000 kg.
Average cost per flight: 1.5 billion (cost of shuttle program / number of launches)


Falcon 9 rocket:
Payload to GTO:~2000 kg
Average cost per flight: 50m (cost of expendable rocket)


Falcon 9 rocket with grasshopper gear:
Payload to GTO:~1000 kg (rough estimate)
Average cost per flight: ~200,000 (expected figure for fuel + incidentals)


You can do the math to figure out why this is a big deal.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (4, Insightful)

milgram (104453) | about 2 years ago | (#42403919)

While I agree with the direction of the evolution of the programs, I don't think it is a fair comparison to define the cost of the Space Shuttle launch as the total program cost divided by the number of launches. Much of the technology and information Falcon is using is based upon the research done to achieve the Shuttle program.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 2 years ago | (#42404691)

Much of the technology and information Falcon is using is based upon the research done to achieve the Shuttle program.

Like what? *crickets chirping*

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

robot256 (1635039) | about 2 years ago | (#42405851)

The *complete absence* of solid rocket boosters in SpaceX's plans is a direct result of research done to achieve the Shuttle program. No way in hell were they going through that ordeal again.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42406307)

Yep, just like their *complete absence* of a big-ass mirror is a direct result of research done to achieve the Hubble Space Telescope program.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408017)

> Much of the technology and information Falcon is using is based upon the research done to achieve the Shuttle program.

Ditto for the shuttle... much of its tech was based on earlier rocketery programs.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

trout007 (975317) | about 2 years ago | (#42403937)

Don't forget to include the following for the Shuttle.
7 people to LEO for 2 weeks
AND
50,000 lbs of payload
AND
Dock and service a Satellite
AND
bring back 30,000 lbs of payload
AND
Land on runway with 1,000 miles cross range capability

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 2 years ago | (#42404125)

And that 1000-mile cross range capability is useful for space travel... how?

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

tlambert (566799) | about 2 years ago | (#42404221)

And that 1000-mile cross range capability is useful for space travel... how?

Landing away from the weather that would otherwise prevent you from landing before your life support ran out?

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

rgbrenner (317308) | about 2 years ago | (#42404247)

What is the cross range capability of grasshopper? If you're going to pretend the shuttles cross range capability is useless, then grasshopper is even more so.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#42404687)

A parking orbit means practically indefinite cross-range capability, so long as the power systems last.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (2)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 2 years ago | (#42404707)

How about just waiting for the next orbit and then de-orbiting? Cross range is a military requirement and not necessary for civilian launches.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

trout007 (975317) | about 2 years ago | (#42405627)

As you orbit the earth rotates underneath you. Having a large cross range allows you multiple landing attempts at the same place on earth in consecutive orbits.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42403975)

While the general tenor of your computation is in the right direction, you're not even closed to calculating the costs fairly. You're not being very rigorous with separating out capital vs operating expenditures. You are hitting shuttle launches with a share of all the development and infrastructure costs, but left that out for SpaceX.

But yes, the *incremental* cost of another shuttle launch is in the 500M range, which is still pretty pricey on a $/kg to orbit.

There are some aspects you've also sort of glossed over: Shuttle is a terrible way to get to GTO, so comparing GTO payload capacity isn't a good metric. Shuttle has the same 3000kg "downmass" capabilty, too, which I don't think F9 or GH have. If you want to bring things back for repair and refurbishment, that's a useful thing to have. Or, you could treat space like remote islands in the Aleutians.. never take anything back, and just dump the old stuff in an ever increasing pile out back for the amusement of workers on their time off.

That said, I think cheap expendable rockets like F9 are really the way to go for the immediate future.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (2)

billyswong (1858858) | about 2 years ago | (#42404263)

SpaceX does provide 'some' cargo return capability. http://www.spacex.com/crs1.php [spacex.com]

Of course it is nothing compared to space shuttle, but when is the last time that a space shuttle bring back anything huge? Or, has it ever done so?

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42405791)

Most of the big things that the Shuttle has brought back have occurred on Air Force Shuttle flights which have been mostly classified.

(Damned aliens, can cross empty space but didn't think to bring a lander....)

Move along, nothing to see....

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

Carnildo (712617) | about 2 years ago | (#42407287)

The main unclassified use for the Shuttle's cargo return ability was Spacelab [wikipedia.org] missions.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#42407371)

Of course it is nothing compared to space shuttle, but when is the last time that a space shuttle bring back anything huge? Or, has it ever done so?

LDEF, Spacehab (multiple times), Spacelab (multiple times), MPLM (multiple times), the Hubble handling fixture (six times) and maintenance equipment (five times)....

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#42404591)

But yes, the *incremental* cost of another shuttle launch is in the 500M range, which is still pretty pricey on a $/kg to orbit.

Actually, the incremental cost of a Shuttle flight (that is, the direct costs to add a flight to the manifest) was down around $100-150M depending on who you ask. The annual cost per flight did range around $500M post Challenger, but that's because annual costs were dominated by massive fixed infrastructure costs that had to be paid regardless of how many flights were on the manifest.
 

That said, I think cheap expendable rockets like F9 are really the way to go for the immediate future.

By how cheap are they really? Even setting aside the lack of downmass and it's inability to ship unpressurized cargo without additional expense, how many Falcon 9/Dragon flights does it take to provide the same crew, cargo, and reboost capability to the ISS as a single Shuttle flight did?
 
There's hidden factors that most people don't know about or think about... For example, much of the water the Shuttle delivered was a byproduct of it's fuel cells and was thus essentially free. (If they didn't deliver it to ISS, it was vented overboard.) The reboost fuel frequently came from the contingency load - RCS fuel loaded onboard the Shuttle for a launch abort situation, and again thus 'free' when used to reboost the station instead. Then you have to consider that the 'additional' crew the Shuttle carried could be (and was) used to shift cargo, which minimized the time the vehicle was docked to the station and thus minimized the time there was constraints on the station's attitude and the number of time per annum that the microgravity environment on the station had to be disturbed. (And the fact that the Shuttle could deliver cargo and personnel on the same flight works to the same end.) Etc... etc...
 
Cost isn't the only factor - capabilities matter. They matter a great deal.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42404693)

I am interested in the numbers you have posted and would like to learn more. Do you have any sources where I could read more?

-- MyLongNickName

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

Chuckstar (799005) | about 2 years ago | (#42408271)

For example, much of the water the Shuttle delivered was a byproduct of it's fuel cells and was thus essentially free.

As long as you ignore the billion dollar cost of launching the Shuttle each time, anyway.

You could send a lot of water into LEO for the cost of a single Shuttle launch.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#42408747)

For example, much of the water the Shuttle delivered was a byproduct of it's fuel cells and was thus essentially free.

As long as you ignore the billion dollar cost of launching the Shuttle each time, anyway.

If the cost was relevant, you'd have a point. But in your haste to make a smart ass comment (and thus expose your ignorance) you ignore than fact that the Shuttle was going to the ISS (in this example) anyways.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

Chuckstar (799005) | about 2 years ago | (#42408953)

My ignorance? The whole post was based on a logical fallacy. "Hey, we were in the neighborhood, anyway." Um, no... you weren't. The Shuttle didn't just happen by the ISS and say "we were going to vent this water, anyway". The Shuttle was sent to ISS to deliver... water... food... parts, etc. You could just as easily say delivery of the parts were free, because they were going to have to come bring water, so why not bring the parts.

Same thing with the argument about fixed vs marginal costs for the program as a whole. It's a logical fallacy to say "it doesn't really cost $500 million per launch, because most of it is fixed". OH YES IT DOES cost $500 million per launch, because the alternative is shutting the program down and slashing those fixed costs to zero. There was no scenario where they eked more launches out of the same fixed costs. Nor was there a scenario where they did fewer launches with those costs.

It's like you built a billion dollar factor that you can only use to build two cars at $0 marginal cost each. It doesn't matter that the marginal cost is zero because you're stuck at only building two cars. And you're certainly not going to be stupid enough to build less than two. So those two cars really do, in fact, cost $500 million each (average cost)... not $0 each (marginal cost).

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

korgitser (1809018) | about 2 years ago | (#42404131)

For what I gather, spaceX is mostly made up of ex-NASA people. From that it follows that spaceX probably did not invent the wheel, but simply copied and improved the one invented (and paid for) by NASA.

So, while spaceX stuff is better than the NASA stuff, it is not because spaceX is somehow hugely better at what they do. It is just that NASA paid for the initial development of space technology, and folded soon after delivering some proof-of-concept stuff. SpaceX was then simply able to pick up where NASA left off and beeline straight for the economy-of-scale phase.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (2)

tlambert (566799) | about 2 years ago | (#42404243)

For what I gather, spaceX is mostly made up of ex-NASA people. From that it follows that spaceX probably did not invent the wheel, but simply copied and improved the one invented (and paid for) by NASA.

I expect that it's more of a case of "NASA won't let us build the cool vehicles we want to build, it makes us build all this expensive crap, and we get to do it for maybe three vehicles before we end up dead from old age; hey! Let's go work for this billionaire who actually has a vision of the future he wants to build, instead of these politicians and bureaucrats who don't get that roller coaster feel in their stomach every time someone plays the Kennedy moon speech..."

Personally, I'd rather work for someone with an actual vision beyond "let's send up some robots and get results in a decade and a half so we can justify sending up some more robots".

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42405039)

I've actually watched an interview with an ex-NASA employee and he gave the exact same reason as to why he joined SpaceX.

As for that roller-coaster feel: It happens to me every time :)

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42405535)

Personally, I'd rather work for someone with an actual vision beyond "let's send up some robots and get results in a decade and a half so we can justify sending up some more robots".

My wife's alumni magazine had a puff piece [northwestern.edu] about the president of SpaceX earlier this year. It was mostly puff of course but had just a few good pieces of information about SpaceX to get an impression about the company. It is most definitely the type of place a government agency cannot be:

Four years into the job, Shotwell had lunch with a co-worker who had just joined the then-startup company SpaceX. They walked by the cubicle of CEO Elon Musk. “I said, ‘Oh, Elon, nice to meet you. You really need a new business developer,’” Shotwell recalls. “It just popped out. I was bad. It was very rude.”

Or just bold enough to capture Musk’s attention. He called her later that day in 2002 and recruited her to be vice president of business development, his seventh employee.

Government employment rules would never allow something like that to happen.

It got there by challenging conventional wisdom, she adds. Most launchpad air conditioning systems, for instance, cost nearly half a million dollars, but SpaceX execs wondered why it cost so much more to cool an area the size of a conference room than the $75,000 it cost to cool their entire headquarters and manufacturing plant. The company brought the cost down to about $35,000, says Shotwell.

No government-funded agency would ever seek efficiencies that risk allowing budget reductions in future years.

“Even before we had ever launched a rocket, Gwynne had sold about 10 launch services,” Hughes notes. “There are very few people who could have done that.”

A start-up can overcome a lot of early failure if they can still sell future services. It takes talent to do that.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42404173)

Space Shuttle:

133 successful missions.

Falcon 9 rocket:

Engine blew up failed to get payload into orbit.

Falcon 9 rocket with grasshopper gear:

Fictional

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 2 years ago | (#42404231)

To be fair, a LEO-to-LEO comparison is probably more apt than GTO-to-GTO capacity. Even so, the Falcon still wins easily, even without being reusable.

The big question-mark is how much the new reusability features will end up costing in terms of performance and payload. If they lose more than about 20% of current capacity on the F9, it probably won't be able to loft a standard Dragon capsule. They'll either have to develop a smaller Dragon or use Falcon Heavy instead.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | about 2 years ago | (#42404521)

The Falcon Heavy has two side boosters, which detach after liftoff, presumably grasshopper gear will be fitted to these, and they will each vertically land, while the main body of the falcon heavy continues on.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 2 years ago | (#42405135)

Yes, that's what I was trying to say. (A customer came into my shop as I was writing that, so I had to cut it short.) A Falcon Heavy (even a reusable one) would have plenty of excess capacity for a standard Dragon capsule. And the same economies of scale and reusability would all still apply in this case. Yes, fuel costs might be $500~600k per launch instead of $200k, but that's still "dirt cheap" for a ride to LEO, especially if you can split that cost between 4~6 passengers.

In any case reusable rockets will be a HUGE game changer.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#42404415)

You can do the math to figure out why this is a big deal.

By your logic, we can replace semi-trailers and concrete trucks, and ambulances, and every other form of automotive transport - with motor scooters. After all, they're cheaper and they get great gas mileage.
 
Seriously, as I've said here before (many, many times), it's not all about cost. You also have to consider capability, what are you getting for your money? Nobody confuses a subcompact with a panel van, or a teaspoon with a frying pan... Yet, repeatedly, people insist on doing so when it comes to space transportation.
 
Why?

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | about 2 years ago | (#42404565)

The space shuttle was ultimately a vehicle for delivering crew and cargo to orbit.
This task is accomplished for less money by the falcon rockets.
Granted, If you put a ping pong table on the shuttle, its ping pong capabilities would be incomparable to the falcon rockets.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#42404649)

The space shuttle was ultimately a vehicle for delivering crew and cargo to orbit. This task is accomplished for less money by the falcon rockets.

In other words, you just repeat what you said the first time - without addressing the issues I raised in my original reply.

Not to mention, as I discuss in another post, it's not clear at all that the Falcon is cheaper... when you consider how many Falcon flights it takes to replace a single Shuttle flight.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | about 2 years ago | (#42405883)

It is all about cost. How inexpensively can you get people and cargo to orbit? That is the only question I'm concerned with.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (2)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 years ago | (#42406417)

I can get them to orbit FAR cheaper than SpaceX or NASA. Of course, they won't be able to do a thing when they get there as they'll be dead or otherwise damaged beyond usefulness. You can design a gun capable of lobbing things into space, the Gs from initial acceleration would destroy your people and cargo however.

As was said, cost is not the only issue.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | about 2 years ago | (#42406759)

Getting the remains of things to orbit is not getting things to orbit. There is a difference in pointing out valid problems with the premise of cost as the only issue, and trolling.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#42407357)

In other words, you're not only stupid and ignorant - you're willing so.

Sad.

In other words, you just revert to personal attack (1)

Su27K (652607) | about 2 years ago | (#42408343)

when you got nothing to backup your ridiculous claims and FUD, it's good to see you're at least consistent.

Re:In other words, you just revert to personal att (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#42408735)

When I make a ridiculous claim, get back to me.

But you don't have the requisite background knowledge to recognize a ridiculous claim in the first place.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42405345)

"it's not all about cost."

True, but cost is a pretty big part of the calculation. If you can launch 10 times (or more, much more) the payload with the same amount of money, you can generally offset some of the loss of capabilities. Who needs to repair a satellite when you can send up its replacement, a deorbit package, and 5 other payloads for less than the cost of launching a single repair mission. I'm not saying I love the Falcon series of launchers, they have yet to prove any significant amount of re usability. But at the very least they are proving to be far more cost effective, and not by a few percentage points. From what I understand they are at least half the price of the nearest sustainable competitor, the only thing even close is the Russian Proton-M.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 years ago | (#42406361)

Yes, if you ignore everything SpaceX got out of the Shuttle program then sure, the numbers look great.

The didn't invent rocketry, they've improved on research done before them by NASA and things like the Shuttle program.

Admittedly, NASA and the Shuttle program didn't invent it either ... but a metric fuckton of shit used today to make Falcon work WAS invented to make the Shuttle program work.

Thats not even to mention that you included ALL R&D costs in the shuttle, but none in SpaceX.

Re:This is no Space Shuttle, its better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42408889)

You can do the math to figure out why this is a big deal

Well, if you insist.
Now pay attention.

Space Shuttle:
Payload to LEO: ~25,000 kg.
Average cost per flight: 1.5 billion (cost of shuttle program / number of launches)
cost per metric ton: 60m

Falcon 9 rocket:
Payload toLEO:~500 kg (of ice cream, yummy)
Average cost per flight: 180m (cost of Falcon/Dragon program / number of launches; NOT your "cost of expendable rocket" creative accounting)
cost per metric ton:360m

Hmmm, the number seems to suggest the Falcon is 6X more expensive than the Space Shuttle.
But hey, you probably also flunked highschool math.

How Tall Was The Dummy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42404429)

I'd be much more interested in the mass of the dummy instead of its height.

Wake me when Grasshopper can lift a Cowboy Neal dummy.

I think that the key accomplishment here... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about 2 years ago | (#42404509)

...is maintaining stability while exiting and then re-entering the ground-effect region.

Re:I think that the key accomplishment here... (1)

Bureaucromancer (1303477) | about 2 years ago | (#42405227)

What in the hell are you talking about? Ground effect is an increase in aerodynamic lift near the ground. No aerodynamic lift here.

Re:I think that the key accomplishment here... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about 2 years ago | (#42405769)

Ground effect is an increase in aerodynamic lift near the ground.

Wrong. Rockets very near the ground experience a ground-effect augmentation of thrust. Response to thrust vectoring will also be affected.

Thrust measurement experiment on the ground effect of a vertical landing rocket. [sciencelinks.jp]

This means that the control algorithm must change as the vehicle lands.

Heh (3, Funny)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 2 years ago | (#42405237)

The flight lasted 29 seconds from launch to landing, and carried a 1.8 m (6 ft) cowboy dummy to give an indication of scale."

I was just wondering what George Bush was up to these days.

Re:Heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42405481)

I think he's dying, but you probably meant W.

monster (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42405267)

i hope i don't feel this hung-over when they announce that fusion was accomplished for the power grid.
thank you very much, tyvm, i'll be here all week ...

More camera views needed - (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42405843)

there weren't quite enough during that video, were there...

Idiots. Unbelievable. Couldn't they just use ONE shot, and let us appreciate it, rather than mixing a stupid number of different views of it? Assholes.

No need to get nasty (1)

Su27K (652607) | about 2 years ago | (#42408495)

For single camera view, see here [youtube.com]
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?