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SpaceX Falcon 9 Blasts Off From California

samzenpus posted about 10 months ago | from the to-the-stars dept.

Space 97

An anonymous reader writes "SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket completed a successful first launch today, taking off from California and putting a Canadian science satellite in orbit. 'The beefed-up Falcon 9 that blasted off on its maiden flight from Southern California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying a small Canadian government communication and research satellite, went through a seemingly picture-perfect countdown and performed on ascent as engineers hoped. The changes to the rocket are aimed at improving capacity and reliability, while simultaneously speeding up manufacturing. Historically, the initial launch of a new rocket has as much as a one-in-two chance of failure. Early this month, Elon Musk, the company's founder, chief executive and chief designer, seemingly tried to play down expectations by sending out a Twitter message emphasizing that the revamped rocket 'has a lot of new technology, so the probability of failure is significant.''"

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so the probability of failure is significant (1, Funny)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about 10 months ago | (#44987267)

"so the probability of failure is significant"
After all of these years of rocketry experience, one would think that much new technology would be added to decrease the probability of failure, yes?

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44987313)

After all of these years of rocketry experience, one would think that much new technology would be added to decrease the probability of failure, yes?

In all these years of rocketry experience, controlled entry and landing of the spent first stage has never been accomplished. I don't believe it's even been tried.

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (1)

conquistadorst (2759585) | about 10 months ago | (#44991113)

After all of these years of rocketry experience, one would think that much new technology would be added to decrease the probability of failure, yes?

In all these years of rocketry experience, controlled entry and landing of the spent first stage has never been accomplished. I don't believe it's even been tried.

As a general rule...
New technology, new problems. Greater complexity, greater complex problems. All of that better technology also requires better talent which is also harder to find. Sure, they undoubtedly probably solved many of the old problems, but they've all been replaced them all with new ones because "problems" never go away. Just look at our modern world, do we have fewer problems than we did a century ago? hah...

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (4, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 10 months ago | (#44987321)

I take it you are not an inventor.

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (1)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about 10 months ago | (#44987781)

I am sure I've invented something or other over the years.

Re: so the probability of failure is significant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44989837)

The 'industry' is in the Zeppelin age, the tech is weak and the hazard is awesomely high, but the space cowboys continue until some way superior technology like Skylon absoletes them.

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (4, Informative)

harperska (1376103) | about 10 months ago | (#44987333)

The MO of SpaceX is to under promise and over deliver. But adding new technology on top of more new technology increases the probability of failure rather than decreasing it, until that technology has been tested and the bugs are ironed out. Today's launch was one of those tests. They were testing new technology that will let them relight the first stage after separation and bring it back for a controlled landing. That new technology adds additional complexity that had a nonzero chance of making the rest of the rocket fail due to untested redesigns.

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (4, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | about 10 months ago | (#44988199)

Eh, I say this as an enthusiastic supporter, but they've been quite short on their predicted launch frequency. That's a critical part of their business model.

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (5, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | about 10 months ago | (#44988315)

Next year is going to be the year for SpaceX to put up or shut up. Their manifest is absolutely huge, and Elon Musk made some rather bold predictions at the after-launch press conference today. He made the bold claim that he will actually launch a used Falcon 9 1st stage by the end of next year. I'd like to see him try.... seriously!

The video tour of the SpaceX plant in California (given just before the launch on the webcast) showed the plant being extremely busy and practically at capacity with a half dozen Dragon capsules already under construction, a whole row of completed Merline 1D engines, and a whole bunch of rockets all lined up at various stages of completion. Whatever problems SpaceX has with their rockets right now, it isn't a supply problem at the moment. All of that hardware certainly costs a whole bunch of money, so they've definitely dumped some serious cash on trying to meet that huge manifest.

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (2)

Megane (129182) | about 10 months ago | (#44989005)

Part of the problem is that (as far as I can tell) they've switched completely to the new v1.1 for mass production. (I guess the v1.0 just wasn't designed for mass production.) Today's launch is important because now this new version of the rocket has had a successful launch, and that opens up a lot of future launches. In particular, there is one launch of a communications satellite in the next couple of months that was contingent on having a successful launch first.

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44990507)

Just small problem; The launch was not exactly 100% successful - the re-lighting of upper stage engine failed and the comm sat deployment coming up NEEDS this to work (otherwise the sat will be in unusable orbit) so it remains to be seen if it will still go up as next flight. I guess it depends if the SES people are happy with SpaceXs explanation on the failure & fix to be applied to prevent it from happening again with SES-8.

The issue with the 1st stage recovery is no problem - it was a theoretical hail-mary-test of far future possibilities and frankly I would have been amazed had it worked perfectly on the first try. Having that to succeed is not needed for any near-term launch (and they won't try again until CRS-3 sometime in Q1 2014, 4th flight of Falcon 9 1.1)

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 10 months ago | (#44990945)

On the other hand, SpaceX got some excellent telemetry that has helped the engine engineers figure out what the problem was that caused the 2nd stage engine to fail. Getting it to relight on this mission was more of an extra engineering test rather than anything needed to deliver payloads, so to call it a failure is sort of overstating the facts.

All that happened was this engineering test failed. Such tests do fail all of the time, even though in this case the failure happened when eyes were looking. It shouldn't be a wonder that SpaceX intentionally kept "secret" any telemetry from the 1st stage during the attempted recovery or even didn't broadcast any of the video footage in terms of what could be seen from the ground.

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (2)

Skythe (921438) | about 10 months ago | (#44990855)

In relation to your 'I'd like to see him try' comment - Elon Musk named the Dragon spacecraft after "puff the magic dragon".. because of all of his critics who said his projects couldn't succeed.. http://www.space.com/15799-spacex-dragon-capsule-fun-facts.html [space.com]

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (1)

tsotha (720379) | about 10 months ago | (#44989627)

Is that because they can't launch more often or because they can't find customers?

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (1)

khallow (566160) | about 10 months ago | (#44989877)

I'd say because they can't launch more often. They seem to have plenty of potential customers.

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (4, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | about 10 months ago | (#44987855)

Rocketry is something that is sitting on such a fine line between success and failure that just a tiny mistake that would be ignored in most other human endeavors is likely to destroy the vehicle when trying to put something into orbit. For example, the first Falcon 1 rocket simply disintegrated because a simple three cent nut was made out of the wrong kind of metal and fell off at a most inappropriate moment. The salty air + moisture from sitting just a few hundred feet from the Pacific Ocean at the time didn't help either.

Another problem is that to improve technology, you need to experiment and try new things. Far more often experiments tend to be failures rather than success as you try these new ideas... hence if you are using new technology, especially for the first time like SpaceX was doing today, the likelihood of failure would actually increase and not decrease. Only when it has been used many times and has been "proven" can you even remotely say that the likelihood of failure would drop.

And no, in spite of nearly a century of rocketry and nearly a trillion dollars spent by everybody involved, we still are just beginning to understand the technology and what it can do. There still are some amazing ideas that have yet to be tried.

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (1)

turp182 (1020263) | about 10 months ago | (#44988503)

Insightful comments, thank you.

Rocketry is actually the true "intelligent design", pitting human minds and ingenuity against the constrains of the physical world, including space.

It's unfortunate that there isn't more payoff for commercial efforts, I wouldn't mind quite a bit more space effort. I'd love for near Earth orbit to be our backyard, with a "cruise ship" there. But pure economy and rocketry make it a difficult proposition. Imagine the ship from The Fifth Element...

Tis a shame we treat our "commons" so poorly as well.

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (4, Interesting)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 10 months ago | (#44988583)

The really compelling thing about the reusable concept SpaceX are going for is that observation that rocket fuel is only 3% of the cost of a launch. That's utterly crazy - even if you wouldn't want to use them for manned launches right away, the savings when you can put up 10 or 20x the number of satellites for the cost of a launch is going to lead to some big changes if they can pull it off.

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44990939)

The really compelling thing about the reusable concept SpaceX are going for is that observation that rocket fuel is only 3% of the cost of a launch. That's utterly crazy - even if you wouldn't want to use them for manned launches right away, the savings when you can put up 10 or 20x the number of satellites for the cost of a launch is going to lead to some big changes if they can pull it off.

Musk was quoted as saying cost of fuel is 0.3%

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (-1, Flamebait)

Lumpy (12016) | about 10 months ago | (#44988275)

We dont have the ability to build more Saturn V rockets. Honestly as a species, we are lucky more than we are smart. We need a modern day Von Braun, and we need the morons at nasa to find all the designs information for all the rockets to date and share them with everyone so we can build upon the past instead of having to rev invent it all because of some dim witted republicans that think the plans will hell the terrorists.

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (3, Informative)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about 10 months ago | (#44988425)

I don't quite believe that we do not have the ability to build kerosene powered Saturn Vs all over again, it would just be a very expensive proposition. Nor is the ability lost to build something new with the same thrust and duration that is perhaps less expensive (inflation adjusted of course).

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (2)

Nutria (679911) | about 10 months ago | (#44988649)

We've lost the ability to build Iowa-class battleships (no more monster foundries, anywhere, and experienced super-heavy metalworkers; the torpedo belts in those ships made the hulls *much* thicker than those of Nimitz supercarriers) and small thermonuclear warheads (various components were so top secret that the the final designs weren't written down, or have been lost, and the designers are long retired/dead).

Whether that's good or bad is not the point: we'd have to embark upon many, many years of reinvention.

Re:so the probability of failure is significant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44989001)

a) Boo hoo, we cant build super heavy floating targets.

b) Bullshit. Prove it.

Obama is a nigger (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44987275)

Learn more at http://www.gnaa.eu/

Re:Obama is a nigger (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44987335)

You wouldn't know what gay was if Poison, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and the Quire Boys jumped out of your wardrobe whistling the Archers theme tune, shouted "rodeo" and gave it to you up the bum all night so that you could never sit down ever again.

Re:Obama is a nigger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44987467)

Who modded this GNAA wannabe as "funny"?

Re:Obama is a nigger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44989351)

Someone with a sense of humor? Funniest thing I've read on Slashdot for a long time,

Re:Obama is a nigger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44994815)

I refused to believe them when they said that mental illness was a handicap.

But on a more serious note, I reckon the best way to deal with bigotry and bullies is to take them down a few pegs in public with humour.

Re:Obama is a nigger (0)

multimediavt (965608) | about 10 months ago | (#44988035)

Let me take a guess, you're a white, Tea Party, ignorant fuck, yes? Go ignorance! Oh, and you're a coward. Nice.

How about something I can actually read? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44987281)

Article available to subscribers - HAH! EABOD Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal (5, Informative)

Dan East (318230) | about 10 months ago | (#44987303)

Who the heck posted this here? An employee of the Wall Street Journal? Get this crap off here or at least provide links you don't have to pay to access. There's only a hundred or so other news sites carrying the same story. Ridiculous.

Flawless! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44987307)

I had some virgin Perl code be part of this launch. It worked!

One Short Article @ Link (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44987329)

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303464504579105312781353496.html .... where is it, all i see is a title.

Reusable first stage? (2)

photonic (584757) | about 10 months ago | (#44987345)

I watched the webcast live. The qualification of the upgraded Falcon 9 seemed to have gone very well, with payloads deployed in nominal orbits. They were also supposed to do some first tests for recovering the first stage. The only thing that I could find [spaceflightnow.com] was that the second of two burns after separation sent it into a spin, after which it crash-landed in the ocean. Anyone has some more news about that?

Re:Reusable first stage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44987501)

Exactly what I'm trying to find out. The fact that they can just keep testing controlled landings of the first stage in actual missions is brilliant. A failure has zero effect on the mission. Only once their launch costs factor in recovery of the first stage is there any risk involved, and then that is just to SpaceX's bottom line.

Re:Reusable first stage? (5, Informative)

Maddog Batty (112434) | about 10 months ago | (#44987747)

Elon Musk @elonmusk

Rocket booster relit twice (supersonic retro & landing), but spun up due to aero torque, so fuel centrifuged & we flamed out

Elon Musk @elonmusk

Between this flight & Grasshopper tests, I think we now have all the pieces of the puzzle to bring the rocket back home.

Re:Reusable first stage? (1)

Maddog Batty (112434) | about 10 months ago | (#44990673)

More here including the promise of video later this week.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24331860 [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Reusable first stage? (2)

green is the enemy (3021751) | about 10 months ago | (#44992459)

This should have been the story. The launch itself is not as technically interesting, even though it is a new version of Falcon 9. Waiting for the video and timeline of the descent of the first stage. A cheer for reusable rocketry!

Re:Reusable first stage? (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 10 months ago | (#44992897)

Not to disagree with your point, but apparently there is a limit on testing reusability in missions. For example, they won't be able to attempt it in the next two flights due to the demands of the payloads. So the first flight that will be able to make another attempt will be the next CRS flight, and NASA may rule that out for safety reasons since they are the primary client.

Ah, small overlooked fact (3, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 10 months ago | (#44987417)

Historically, the initial launch of a new rocket has as much as a one-in-two chance of failure.

Historically, new rockets have been of an untested design, without much in the way of previously-tested designs to use as a reference. The SpaceX Falcon 9 is built largely around previously-tested designs, on top of solid engineering. One would suppose this would give it a better than 50/50 chance of success. In fact, the space shuttle program, viewed over its total life, had something like 93% success rate for its engines. Much of the SpaceX projects' development is based on the results of those tests, designs, and engineering expertise.

It would be highly suspect of their rockets had a failure rate much higher than that -- one would expect a higher success rate due to incremental improvement, not worse.

Re:Ah, small overlooked fact (5, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | about 10 months ago | (#44988181)

The Falcon 1 rocket had two successful launches out of five attempts. Still, in the case of this particular version of the Falcon 9, so much had been changed that it was essentially a whole new rocket.

Typically most aerospace engineers try to do incremental changes rather than having so many like is being done here today. If anything, the historical trend is to use very old designs and just do very minor tweaks a little at a time. Examples including the Atlas rocket, which first flew in December 1957 and is still flying today (with admittedly a bunch of revisions over the years that make the current rocket bear almost no resemblance to the original rocket). The same could be said about the Soyuz spacecraft, which also has had numerous revisions over the years but rarely very many changes on any particular flight. Most of even the American rockets are using very old Russian engines (like the RD-180 [wikipedia.org] ) instead of newer engine designs.

It is far more unusual for a new clean-sheet design, especially a brand new engine design like SpaceX did with the Merlin engine. Most of the time when new designs like this are made, it is mostly an academic exercise and the rocket almost never actually flies. Frequently companies who come up with new designs simply go bankrupt before the hardware leaves the ground, assuming that any sort of hardware testing was ever done in the first place. In other words, for actual flying hardware, it is mostly very well tested and very old designs with at best very minor tweaks.

This particular flight is especially unique not just because of the larger rocket, but most especially the new Merlin 1-D engine where this was the first time that particular engine design had ever been used. From a study done by the Aerospace Corporation around the year 2000, there were several critical areas where rockets would most likely fail, and the #1 cause was a failure with the engine design itself. As a matter of fact, even with this particular flight that was no exception as the Merlin 1-D engine on the 2nd stage apparently did fail. Luckily for SpaceX, if failed after all of the payloads had been deployed so it won't impact their bottom line.... but there was a spectacular test they were going to do (it was rumored they were going to try to fly the raw 2nd stage past the Moon with the remaining propellant). Instead, this stage is going to crash into the Earth eventually as just another piece of random space junk.

There were also new avionics that had never been used before, a new faring design (also a common failure point for many rockets), and a brand new launch site that had never been done along with an orbital profile that this particular rocket had never been proven with doing either. The only other rocket that I'm aware of that did this many firsts all at once was the Saturn V, and that was done simply because the NASA officials involved didn't want to waste several launches proving new technologies and decided to do everything at once. The "space race" was also a major factor with the Saturn V as NASA was under some extreme time pressure to perform and get people to the Moon.

Re:Ah, small overlooked fact (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 10 months ago | (#44988797)

Typically most aerospace engineers try to do incremental changes rather than having so many like is being done here today.

Perhaps as an integrated system. But each component here has been previously tested in other designs. The big problems so far seem to have been software and integration issues. There was a non-fatal flaw in excessive vibration which caused a premature engine shut down, but these are all pretty normal from a systems integration perspective. The project has seen far fewer setbacks overall than what historically should be happening if it was a true clean sheet design.

(it was rumored they were going to try to fly the raw 2nd stage past the Moon with the remaining propellant). Instead, this stage is going to crash into the Earth eventually as just another piece of random space junk.

One hopes that a company would be responsible enough to dispose of its trash instead of shooting it at, or past, the moon, where it would likely be recaptured by the gravity well of another celestial...

The only other rocket that I'm aware of that did this many firsts all at once was the Saturn V, and that was done simply because the NASA officials involved didn't want to waste several launches proving new technologies and decided to do everything at once. The "space race" was also a major factor with the Saturn V as NASA was under some extreme time pressure to perform and get people to the Moon.

Are you saying that this private company isn't under "extreme time pressure to perform"?

Re:Ah, small overlooked fact (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 10 months ago | (#44989085)

One hopes that a company would be responsible enough to dispose of its trash instead of shooting it at, or past, the moon, where it would likely be recaptured by the gravity well of another celestial...

I'm genuinely curious... why would that be a problem? I would think that space junk around another celestial object would be better than space junk around the earth.

Re:Ah, small overlooked fact (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 10 months ago | (#44990497)

Are you saying that this private company isn't under "extreme time pressure to perform"?

Especially not a privately owned company. That usually implies somebody with a vision is running the company and furthermore is interested in actually making a profit rather than wasting huge piles of money for some minor political gain.

In the case of the Saturn V and the Apollo program, there literally was a saying that was printed on huge banners that hung in the manufacturing plants, posted on walls in engineering offices, and in the minds of everybody involved: "Waste anything but time". Cost was definitely not of any concern at all, but rather achieving the goal of "getting a man to the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth within the decade". That was one huge time pressure to perform where the politics was to do anything possible to achieve that goal.

Elon Musk's whole goal in terms of setting up SpaceX was to try and find a way where concepts of mass production and economies of scale could be used to drive down the cost of getting into space. This whole concern about cost and making spaceflight affordable for more people is the driving factor for the whole enterprise. If it takes a few more years to get that accomplished, he doesn't seem to mind. Certainly there have been a number of people on this story and elsewhere who complain about how SpaceX is letting their schedule slip, without realizing that sometimes it simply takes time to do things right.

So no, I don't think there is any "extreme time pressure to perform". Certainly nothing like what was being crammed down the throat of those who were building the Saturn V.

Re:Ah, small overlooked fact (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about 10 months ago | (#44990629)

Well, I would think the idea of flying the second stage past the Moon probably involved flying it back and crashing into the Pacific. Maybe another time.

Re:Ah, small overlooked fact (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 10 months ago | (#44991479)

You have to wait for Falcon 13 for that.

Re:Ah, small overlooked fact (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 10 months ago | (#44991449)

Most of even the American rockets are using very old Russian engines (like the RD-180 [wikipedia.org]) instead of newer engine designs.

Except that RD-180 is *not* an old engine. It's from the 1990s.

Re:Ah, small overlooked fact (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 10 months ago | (#44992305)

Most of even the American rockets are using very old Russian engines (like the RD-180 [wikipedia.org]) instead of newer engine designs.

Except that RD-180 is *not* an old engine. It's from the 1990s.

Yeah, it isn't something from the 1960's. That still is a design that is over 20 years old, being designed at the same time most PC computers were running with 8088 chips as the primary CPU and the primary operating system was MS-DOS. Well, perhaps slightly better computers were around, but not much better.

Re:Ah, small overlooked fact (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44993605)

RD-180 is first mentioned in the press in 1996. The operating system was Windows NT4. The CPU was Intel Pentium.

Re:Ah, small overlooked fact (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 10 months ago | (#44989331)

The SpaceX Falcon 9 is built largely around previously-tested designs, on top of solid engineering. One would suppose this would give it a better than 50/50 chance of success.

The only reason one would suppose that is pretty much a complete lack of knowledge about this type of engineering. Integration is the hard part, no matter how well known the components are and how well the paper engineering went.
 

In fact, the space shuttle program, viewed over its total life, had something like 93% success rate for its engines. Much of the SpaceX projects' development is based on the results of those tests, designs, and engineering expertise.

In fact, you're so far off base you aren't even on the same continent. 135 flights times 2 SRB's with one failure works out to 1/270... 99.6% success. 135 flights times 3 SSME's with two failures works out to 2/405... or 99.5%. But those numbers are meaningless in this context. No matter how much Falcon 9 is 'based on' that experience, it's still a new statistical universe for the most part because it *isn't* the Shuttle.
 

It would be highly suspect of their rockets had a failure rate much higher than that -- one would expect a higher success rate due to incremental improvement, not worse.

Look up the success rate for Falcon I - by your "math" it should be much better than the 1-in-4 actually demonstrated. That it isn't should be clue for you.

Re:Ah, small overlooked fact (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 10 months ago | (#44993177)

The SpaceX Falcon 9 is built largely around previously-tested designs,

New engines in the first stage, in a new arrangement, in a new thrust frame, new avionics systems, new comms system, new engine in the second stage, new lengthened/narrowed tanks/housings for both stages, and a new payload shroud. And every part of that had to work just to get the payload into orbit. On top of that, they added extras for recovery and multiple engine restarts.

Sure sounds like a test flight to me.

Production version (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 10 months ago | (#44987453)

Space-X has four more Falcon 9 launches on their launch manifest for 2013, and ten scheduled for 2014. This is the first launch of the volume production version. Now they start cranking them out. With 9 engines per rocket, Space-X has to build over a hundred engines a year, which means they can set up an assembly line and get economies of scale.

Next year is the first flight of the Falcon Heavy, with 27 engines. Biggest rocket since the Saturn V.

Here's the Space-X price list. [spacex.com] Pricing is about half of other launchers.

Re:Production version (4, Interesting)

OzPeter (195038) | about 10 months ago | (#44987575)

Here's the Space-X price list. [spacex.com] Pricing is about half of other launchers.

Given that I don't have a few hundred million to drop on some satellite projects, I'm more interested in Space-X careers [spacex.com]
 
And you have gotta love a company that advertises a position as:
 
  SOFTWARE DEVELOPER (BORG) [spacex.com]

Re:Production version (1)

Rxke (644923) | about 10 months ago | (#44990013)

And you have gotta love a company that advertises a position as:

    SOFTWARE DEVELOPER (BORG)

Beautiful how they put in an extra paragraph to encourage new graduates. At last a company that does not expect you to be 25 and have 30 year of experience in Office 2010 :rolleyes:

Re:Production version (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44990155)

30 year of experience in Office 2010

I feel like I age 10 years every time I use it, does that count?

Re:Production version (1)

Rxke (644923) | about 10 months ago | (#44990211)

We *have* to hire this man, he has the right mindset!

Re:Production version (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 10 months ago | (#44988229)

SpaceX counts a "launch" on the manifest for when the hardware gets delivered to the launch pad, not for when they actually go up. It seems very likely there will only be one more launch of the Falcon 9 this year, but I might be mistaken.

Still, I agree with you that SpaceX has gone into actual mass production with the Merlin engines with a permanent assembly line that continuously produces these engines... being made at the rate of about one every week or two at the moment and as you are pointing out ramping up production to about two per week. That indeed is a big deal and something that hasn't been done in America since the original ICBMs were built during the Cold War. When you have people who are making the same thing over and over again that quickly, they get very good at what they are doing.

Besides, Elon Musk also has some experience with mass production [teslamotors.com] and what it takes to keep such a production line going.

Re:Production version (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 10 months ago | (#44988305)

Tesla is not mass production, Its a small scale specialty car. Call me when they roll 28,000 of them off the assembly line in a year.

Re:Production version (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44988493)

They're at more than 30,000 a year already.

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/08/27/a-guide-to-determining-production-numbers-for-tesl.aspx

Re:Production version (2)

beltsbear (2489652) | about 10 months ago | (#44988729)

Ring Ring. Tesla is rolling cars off the line at that rate now though just barely as of this month. The model S (unlike the roadster) is produced on an assembly line fully qualifying for the term 'mass production'.

Re:Production version (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 10 months ago | (#44997583)

Well look at that. Be right back, I need to find some sauce to eat my hat.

Re:Production version (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 10 months ago | (#44989349)

Space-X has to build over a hundred engines a year, which means they can set up an assembly line and get economies of scale.

Not really. Economies of scale don't kick in all that much when your annual production is that tiny.

Economies of scale. (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 10 months ago | (#44989473)

Economies of scale kick in when you are able to keep your staff fully occupied and you tools continually in use. That will happen at different productive outputs depending on what you're building and how you are building it. You can't just say "Economies of scale don't kick in all that much when your annual production is that tiny." It's not that simple.

Re:Economies of scale. (3, Insightful)

ron_ivi (607351) | about 10 months ago | (#44990055)

For a rocket, economies of scale kick in after you have *a* successfull one.

Suddenly your costs go from "damn, we need to figure out something new, build it, and test it" to "cool, let's do it again".

And the latter is far cheaper.

Re:Economies of scale. (0)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 10 months ago | (#44990103)

That will happen at different productive outputs depending on what you're building and how you are building it.

Since we're talking about rocket engines, well... you do the math (as they say). Or did you think I was talking about croquet sets? Moron.

Re:Economies of scale. (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 10 months ago | (#44990249)

I take it from your response that you must be an expert in building rockets. So tell me, how many rockets do you need to build every year to achieve economies of scale?

The Manifold Hinderings of Mind (0, Offtopic)

resistant (221968) | about 10 months ago | (#44987455)

At the risk of enraging automatic supporters of bloated government programs like the old Space Shuttle, it doesn't surprise me that lean, privately funded space-exploitation outfits do so well. Reliable execution of rocket science is difficult enough already without burdening the principals with all the artificial fears and running annoyances of a crusty bureaucracy. "Could I be fired for departing from the top-down plan if I do this instead of that? Does this possible change meet the 400-page outline set down by a large committee run by political appointees?" Every millisecond squandered on peripheral distractions is a millisecond lost to the subtle considerations of consistently productive and reliable thought.

Additionally, the people who work at the private firms tend more strongly to be there for the love of it than with any government agency. That counts for a lot when it comes to repeatedly avoiding those little errors of ennui and fatigue that can build up into a disaster. Enthusiastic workers are also more prone to realizing with a joyful start that a small change that could make a real difference will likely be actually used by a quick, responsive management team. Rocketry is often about very small changes marking the difference between a successful mission and a flaming ball of fuel and rocket parts.

Along these lines, I've always thought that China has consistently lagged behind the West in leading-edge technology for much the same reasons. The Chinese have no lack of smart people, but they're subtly and powerfully burdened with the habit of "self-censorship" to avoid offending the Communist Party and with the Confucian habit of observing "face-saving" deferment to the opinions of their alleged superiors. Sounds similar to and worse than just about any government agency in the West, eh?

These are my own thoughts, and only one puppy was temporarily scared into hiding under the couch during the production of this post. I also killed a small spider, but the dratted thing was trying to crawl into my coffee cup.

Re:The Manifold Hinderings of Mind (5, Insightful)

Art Challenor (2621733) | about 10 months ago | (#44987567)

At the risk of enraging automatic supporters of bloated government programs like the old Space Shuttle, it doesn't surprise me that lean, privately funded space-exploitation outfits do so well.

I'm impressed by Elon Musk and his organizational and marketing abilities. That said, to give all credit to the success of the program to privatization is a little silly. The company is significantly funded by goverment funds albeit through progress payments on contracts.

Privatization didn't work that well with the Apollo lander. That was contracted to Grumman (simlar to the SpaceX contracts). Original LEM contract $350 million, final cost $2.2B

More reasonably, what you're seeing is a maturing of the technology. Submarines, once the unique province of governments, are now widely available from private vendors. Computers likewise.

Someone has to put in the "bloat" of basic research and it's rare for a private organization to invest in technology that will only yield results in 15+ years, if ever.

Re:The Manifold Hinderings of Mind (4, Insightful)

notanalien_justgreen (2596219) | about 10 months ago | (#44987791)

Thank you for pointing this out. People astound me with how ignorant they are of NASA contracts. Private industry has been involved in every NASA project, including the bloated ones that break the budget (LEM, JWST, etc.).

Slashdotters love to drool over SpaceX successes, but just ignore all of Lockheed Martin's bloated contracts. The big step isn't private versus public, it's smart versus dumb.

Re:The Manifold Hinderings of Mind (2)

Kjella (173770) | about 10 months ago | (#44988141)

Slashdotters love to drool over SpaceX successes, but just ignore all of Lockheed Martin's bloated contracts. The big step isn't private versus public, it's smart versus dumb.

That's a little simplistic. The government uses cost-plus contracts to develop new technology and craft that is being designed as they go, you can't buy an F35 off the shelf and it'd be a crazy risk for a private company to promise delivery of specific features and performance on a specific schedule at a specific price. Nobody would agree to that, so instead the government says here's a running tab to cover costs and a reasonable profit margin - if you fail to show good progress we might have to abort but the risk is all on us, you get your money anyway. Of course as a company that's a dream project, it can't fail and the normal rules of business doesn't apply so they're more like a heavily protected semi-government agency.

SpaceX shows delivering payloads to orbit is no longer the kind of exotic experiment it was in the 60s, the technology and risks are sufficiently known that you can do it on normal commercial terms where NASA pays a fixed price for a service and SpaceX delivers, taking the risk of profit or loss. It's nice that we get there, but it's very hard to get there without these "bloated contracts" to pave the way. The alternative would be for NASA to do all the bleeding edge projects in-house, which would probably get just as many complaints of public inefficiency and become a monopolist without any choice. True there aren't many candidates for such government contracts either, but you can at least pick your poison.

Re: The Manifold Hinderings of Mind (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44989209)

I think the point is that just because its a private industry doing the job doesn't make it magically cheap. What makes it cheap is 1) it being a mature technology and 2) having a smart company do it. SpaceX has both of those going for it, and it's very impressive. However it just pisses me off when people rail against NASA for expensive tech when they fail to realize that cutting edge stuff is going to be expensive even when it involves private industry (hence the cost plus contracts you refer to)

Re: The Manifold Hinderings of Mind (2)

khallow (566160) | about 10 months ago | (#44991385)

And 3) a more sensible contract structure with stable requirements. Cost plus is rather impressive in its ability to drive up cost without getting much for it. And when you change requirements on the fly, you pay out the nose. There's also 4) projects are a dumping ground for ideas. NASA couldn't just build a Shuttle replacement, for example, the prototype also had to test a dozen new ideas on top of it.

However it just pisses me off when people rail against NASA for expensive tech when they fail to realize that cutting edge stuff is going to be expensive even when it involves private industry (hence the cost plus contracts you refer to)

Hence, why SpaceX spent a factor of ten less than NASA would for the same rocket development. It's not more expensive when you focus on the main goals of your project, not just add expensive tech willy nilly.

Re: The Manifold Hinderings of Mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44994065)

And 3) a more sensible contract structure with stable requirements. Cost plus is rather impressive in its ability to drive up cost without getting much for it. And when you change requirements on the fly, you pay out the nose.

This. Designing, building, and successfully launching a new anything, let alone a launch vehcile of the size & complexity of the Falcon series is enough of a challenge. There is a reason it's called "rocket science" (really, rocket engineering, there is order of magnitude more new engineering than new science here, but scientists have the better PR) . Toss in the integration of hardware, software, people, and mother nature and the opportunities for failures abound. I assume that Space-X also has a lower metric of [powerpoint slide-hours/pound of vehicle] than is required by Lockheed, Boeing, NASA, et. al.

Even simple changes become complicated when using a ~200 mile keyboard cable. Example: OSC's successful rendevouz with ISS (yay!) was delayed almost a week to fix a simple difference in how their vehicle determined GPS epoch and how it was sent from the system aboard ISS. Basically a Y2K-like problem. Fix was known almost immediately (I read that it required changing 1 line of code), and several days to test to ensure it didn't bugger anything else, plus upload and reset their vehicle's avionics. And you want to do this while in range of your main command station AND with opportunities to take corrective action quickly (command stations downrange or access on next few orbits) if there is a problem (technical term "glitch") before things get fubar'd (another tech term).

Re:The Manifold Hinderings of Mind (2)

Teancum (67324) | about 10 months ago | (#44988261)

It is also the difference between fixed price contracts where SpaceX says they will deliver a satellite to orbit for a given price and then SpaceX will eat any cost overruns themselves vs. stuff Lockheed Martin does with a cost-plus contract where their profit is guaranteed but the price that taxpayers will pay can vary if "problems" arise.

Just try, if you will, to find out how much money was spent on the last Atlas V rocket. Reportedly the Canadian government paid $10 million dollars [spaceflightnow.com] for this particular launch. Yeah, that is a bit less than what even SpaceX will typically charge for a Falcon 9 flight, but they certainly didn't screw over the Canadian taxpayers or expect Canada to pay for any cost overruns.

Yeah, I'd say there are a bunch of people very ignorant of these NASA contracts you are talking about. Those Grumman contracts in the previous post certainly had no similarity to the government contracts that SpaceX has been using.

Re:The Manifold Hinderings of Mind (1)

kellymcdonald78 (2654789) | about 10 months ago | (#44988093)

I wouldn't exactly call the LM "privatized", it was a typical Cost Plus contract, just like every other component of Apollo. Boeing build the S-IC stage, North American built the S-II stage and Apollo CSM, Douglas built the S-IVB stage, IBM the instrument unit, etc. All to the governments exact specifications Cost Plus is the traditional method of government procurement for "new" things. It's typical for most weapon systems, rockets, satelites etc. The contractor charges the actual "cost" of developing and manufacturing what ever it is the government wants (including all of the overhead required to deal with the government) "plus" an agreed upon profit margin. The government provides detailed specifications and the contractor provides the bodies and facilities. Under this model, there really isn't any incentive for the contractor to bring things in under budget or schedule. The government assumes all of the risk. What is different with the new commercial space agreements is that they are all milestone or service based. NASA pays a pre-set amount of money when specific milestones are achieved or service is delivered. Doesn't matter how much it actually costs SpaceX or Orbital to deliver that service. In this case the government assumes very little risk and the contractor is highly incentivised to achieve its goals efficiently.

Re:The Manifold Hinderings of Mind (1)

lgw (121541) | about 10 months ago | (#44988335)

It's not about government funding, but about NASA and government earmarking. NASA-designed rockets optimize for having a key part build in the home district/state of every congresscritter involved in funding (every wonder why SRBs need O-Rings in the first place?). SpaceX optimizes for effect.

Re:The Manifold Hinderings of Mind (1)

khallow (566160) | about 10 months ago | (#44990025)

Privatization didn't work that well with the Apollo lander.

Why do you consider that privatization? Paying someone with a lot of public funds to build a landing vehicle for you is not privatization. Instead, privatization is when you take a public asset or bit of infrastructure and sell or give it to a private party to run.

SpaceX is not a case of privatization because SpaceX never was a public asset or infrastructure in the first place.

Someone has to put in the "bloat" of basic research and it's rare for a private organization to invest in technology that will only yield results in 15+ years, if ever.

My view is that basic research of today is much more useless than basic research of the past because there is no interest in "results" any more. I've played this game with basic research proponents where they name a basic research field which has turned out to be useful in the long run, be it electromagnetism, integrated circuits, evolution, or category theory and I explain the short term benefits (which need not be explicitly monetary) of the research in question from the point of view of the people who were conducting the research in question.

I think the whole point of the argument is to evade accountability. In the past, I'm sure that researchers had to occasionally deal with funders who thought producing science was something like shoveling manure (with proper micromanagement, of course, resulting in faster shoveling of said research). Nowadays it seems an excuse to rationalize public fund of rather useless research (both now and in the future). Note in the above post, that it is claimed that private organizations don't invest in long term technology. There's plenty of counterexamples such as recent thorium reactor research in the US or a large number of astronomical observatories from around the beginning of the 20th Century.

And merely spending money on research doesn't make it an "investment". For example, the governments of the world spend quite a bit on fusion research, but they aren't anywhere near producing a fusion reactor that would be commercially viable. This is in large part because the approaches they employ just don't make sense economically. For example, a reactor with the aspects of ITER just is too expensive for the mundane task of producing power. Even if they could somehow make an optimal machine with the cost of ITER, it wouldn't be able to compete with normal power plants. It just doesn't produce enough power to justify the cost of the reactor.

My view is that if basic research is useful over any reasonable time frame (including up to centuries) then private organizations can be created to do it. Government hasn't shown any notable competence in this matter and I haven't seen any particular utility to government funded research to rationalize the expenditure of funds in that way.

Re:The Manifold Hinderings of Mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44992905)

My view is that basic research of today is much more useless than basic research of the past because there is no interest in "results" any more.

Oh no, there are plenty of interest in results, just different results than before.

Before, the results people were interested in are based off notions of pride, which boiled to to "my country, right or wrong". Even if your country's government was bloated and ineffective, people didn't mind so much if the bloated program put the country ahead of other countries (who were/are equally prideful). The "result" here is that my team/country won, not how much we spent/wasted trying to win or how much individuals benefited.

NASA and Apollo were bloated, but few dare to question the programs back in the day because it was a matter of American pride to beat the Soviets (who too also reciprocated the "my team vs other team" mentality). People took pride to buy American even if it might cost more.

Nowadays, the results people are interested in are like yours, mostly about (private individual) profit and want the lowest prices guaranteed. People scoff at hiring/buying American as Chinese made goods are simply the better bang for the buck.

Re:The Manifold Hinderings of Mind (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 10 months ago | (#44988311)

I absolutely agree, Boring day to day launches should be done by companies like Space X and the private market. NASA should focus on new designs and space exploration and not launching more communications satellites.

So says (1)

djupedal (584558) | about 10 months ago | (#44987461)

Historically, the initial launch of a new rocket has as much as a one-in-two chance of failure.

Just ask Germany, North Korea, Japan, India. . .

OK (2)

joh (27088) | about 10 months ago | (#44987693)

Here's a much better link: SpaceX successfully launches debut Falcon 9 v1.1.

Then, this F9 "v1.1" was much more of a version 2.0. It had its engines uprated from 95,000 lbf (sea level) to 140,000 lbf (sea level). They also are arranged in different way (from a 3x3 grid to a circle of 8 with one engine in the center) which meant a new thrust structure. It also has its fuel tanks stretched by 60% making it much heavier. This is as far as you can go from the 1.0 and still keep the name. Succeeding with this in the first try is good.

There's no news though on them recovering the first stage. It was meant to brake and reenter intact and try for a "landing" on water. Or maybe they just want to tow it home first (but its hard to imagine Musk not bragging about it).

Re:OK (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 10 months ago | (#44988327)

Why does it sound like that Space X is using Kerbal Space Program as a simulator and to test ideas?

Re:OK (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 10 months ago | (#44990457)

It sounds like that because KSP is based on what real rocket engineers actually do in the real world. [wikipedia.org] You can see this in just about any major rocket family. Although, admittedly, the changes are a bit larger than what people usually do. But that's a function of most companies not having the technological reserves to increase the thrust of their engines by 50%. (Actually, the Merlin 1D has 135% more thrust than the original Merlin 1A. But 50% more than Merlin 1C.)

For comparison: getting 20% more thrust with the Vulcain II engine was hailed as a major improvement of the Ariane 5 ... and developing just those two engines cost about as much ($2.1bn) [flightglobal.com] as all of what SpaceX has done so far, including development of 3 different rocket designs, the Dragon spaceships, as well as building and launching them.

Re:OK (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44990545)

Like this, you mean?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=os6MGrvoKwU

See, Falcon 9 reusable stages should clearly work. It works in Kerbal Space Program!

Re:OK (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44990699)

I don't know, I've only seen one kerbal-like rocket and that's grasshopper. That has a cowboy mannequin for a passenger.

Re:OK (3, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | about 10 months ago | (#44989567)

The basics of the first stage recovery were that it re-lit fine for re-entry, and re-lit for the deceleration burn, but developed a spin that exceeded the ability of the attitude control thrusters to counter, causing the fuel to be flung against the walls of the tank, starving the engine. It broke up on impact. SpaceX believes that the data gathered will be sufficient to solve the puzzle.

F2rist stop! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44988015)

formed his 0wn

So as a Canadian Taxpayer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44989575)

So as a Canadian Taxpayer, is there a discount on 50/50 rockets? Is there a refund for the cost of the trip, plus a sizeable amount of cash to offset the cost of a(nother) new satellite?

Re:So as a Canadian Taxpayer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44989717)

No refunds but you did get an 80% discount (or thereabouts) for launching your satellite on an un-tested booster.

Re:So as a Canadian Taxpayer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44990101)

It cost $63 million [thestar.com] (CAD) to develop the satellite, and SpaceX offered a discounted rate of $10 million (USD) -- it'd cost $50 million (USD) for a regular non-experimental Falcon 9 launch. If the odds were really 50/50, they could have bought insurance for $35 million (or whatever the going rate for satellite insurance is) and still come out ahead.

Re:So as a Canadian Taxpayer... (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about 10 months ago | (#44991187)

63 million all to study "space weather".

5 minutes into mission, someone at the Canadian Space Agency just lit up a cigarette and exclaimed "Mon Dieu, der is no weder in space eh, zut alors!".

Don't give the link to a paywall for such a major (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44993981)

Why the heck would the OP link to a pay-wall when this is a generic story available from other news sites?

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