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SpaceX Launch Achieves Geostationary Transfer Orbit

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the tip-of-the-hat dept.

Space 131

SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket this afternoon in a bid to deliver a large commercial satellite into geostationary orbit. The flight was successful: "Approximately 185 seconds into flight, Falcon 9’s second stage’s single Merlin vacuum engine ignited to begin a five minute, 20 second burn that delivered the SES-8 satellite into its parking orbit. Eighteen minutes after injection into the parking orbit, the second stage engine relit for just over one minute to carry the SES-8 satellite to its final geostationary transfer orbit. The restart of the Falcon 9 second stage is a requirement for all geostationary transfer missions." This is a significant milestone for SpaceX, and it fulfills another of the three objectives set forth by the U.S. Air Force to certify SpaceX flights for National Security Space missions.

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Oh great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45590751)

More national security bullshit.

Re:Oh great (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45590803)

The United Launch Alliance, at its heart, is just a way for Boeing and Lockheed to monopolize the defense launch market and then charge whatever the hell prices they want. Having at least one competitor in the space is important, if you as a taxpayer don't like getting ripped off.

olol or the gummit could stop launchin military satt-lites

Yes, yes, whatever.

Re:Oh great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591035)

Because, of course, the "competition" between Boeing and Lockheed eventually brought prices right down, rather than just causing the two to both overcharge.

SpaceX is just a few poached engineers working for Musk while he gives the first few hits at a discount.

If the private sector wants to compete, let it compete: in the private sector. Leave government work for the government. And let's see all those military operations suddenly become unnecessary when there's nobody to profit from them.

Re:Oh great (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year ago | (#45591351)

If the private sector wants to compete, let it compete: in the private sector. Leave government work for the government.

Are you suggesting that Boeing and Lockheed are government agencies?

Re:Oh great (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591393)

No, he's suggesting that all government satellites be launched directly by the government.

You know, the way all government ground vehicles are built by the government, the way they make all their own computers, their own lightbulbs, their own paper, the way all government cafeteria food is grown by government workers.

Re:Oh great (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591475)

You're being deliberately obtuse. Computers, lightbulbs, paper and cafeteria food are all commodities produced by companies who thrive from supplying a wide range of customers.

Lockheed in particular, and Boeing in great part, are doing custom round-trip design to deployment work often exclusively for the US government. There is no reason not to employ engineers directly, except (from a political PoV) ideological and (from a pragmatic PoV) that Uncle Sam is private business' bitch.

There is one similarity between Lockheed+Boeing and the businesses you list: all these enterprises began their work decades ago, using their own expertise. SpaceX started merely as a loss-making venture poaching ex-government and contractor employees, and taking government money - it really had nothing meritocratic to bring to the table.

(Also, "she".)

Re:Oh great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45592225)

And we would _like_ space transport to be commoditized, too.

If SpaceX is infringing on any patents that Lockheed, Boeing, or any other aerospace company have, I'm sure that can be addressed in court.
Other than that, there is no valid ground for complaint-- employee poaching is perfectly legal, while anti-poaching agreements are anti-competitive and therefore illegal.

Re:Oh great (2)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#45592279)

SpaceX started merely as a loss-making venture poaching ex-government and contractor employees, and taking government money - it really had nothing meritocratic to bring to the table.

You call it poaching, I call it free job market. You call it "nothing meritocratic", I call it an exciting work environment. Work for legacy space transport providers is outright boring and mindnumbing, like work for any big corporation these days. SpaceX cares about their employees a bit more.

Re:Oh great (2)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about a year ago | (#45593227)

SpaceX started merely as a loss-making venture poaching ex-government and contractor employees, and taking government money - it really had nothing meritocratic to bring to the table.

You call it poaching, I call it free job market. You call it "nothing meritocratic", I call it an exciting work environment. Work for legacy space transport providers is outright boring and mindnumbing, like work for any big corporation these days. SpaceX cares about their employees a bit more.

I'm pretty sure it's more a case of you'd have to do significant work to stop those employees from building rockets with company resources.

Re:Oh great (2)

xQx (5744) | about a year ago | (#45593357)

>

SpaceX started merely as a loss-making venture poaching ex-government and contractor employees, and taking government money - it really had nothing meritocratic to bring to the table.

Very good point. I'd just like to clarify two minor things...

1. I agree with you, that it is very easy to start a business putting stuff into space that makes money from the outset. There are plenty of real-life examples where real innovation is achieved without any requirement for up-front capital (loss-making business models), usually it's funded from initial sales.

I forget the example business models and companies.... can you remind me of them?

2. Prior to getting "poached" by SpaceX, which "really had nothing meritocratic to bring to the table.", there have been DECADES of intense innovation in the space industry thanks to an overwhelming support and encouragement from government. This intense innovation has been _so succesful_ that NASA have recently retired their last government owned space shuttles.

Elon Musk was just standing on the shoulders of giants by proposing the incremental innovation of having rockets land intact...

Wikipedia has let me down... are you able to point me in the direction of the space innovation that's recently come out of the US government organisations, making Space-X's work redundant?

(sarcasm is often lost in text, so let me be direct: IMHO, private companies like Space-X are facilitating innovation in space travel. This is their contribution to society. You can piss & moan because private people are making money out of it, but it's better than government money being wasted on useless bureaucracy supporting (or causing) scientists resting on their laurels.)

Re:Oh great (1)

macpacheco (1764378) | about a year ago | (#45593475)

There's nothing economical about United Launch Alliance. There's only United Launch Cartel in my opinion.
Let's see it for what it is, a cartel and a jobs/pork barrel program.

Re:Oh great (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591929)

No, he's suggesting that all government satellites be launched directly by the government.

Once upon a time, thats how it used to be [wikipedia.org] . Then a bunch of retards started screaming about it being a "waste of money" and other nonsense, and raped its budget. Now the US realistically has no space program, despite all the benefits, realized and potential.

Re:Oh great (2)

compro01 (777531) | about a year ago | (#45591413)

I believe what the AC is saying is that the government should design, build, and launch its own rockets rather than contracting out (and presumably design and build the satellites in-house also) and that without Boeing/Lockheed/TRW/etc. lobbying Congress to buy "necessary" satellites and the rockets to hang them up, there would be substantially fewer launches.

It ain't bullshit (-1, Troll)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#45590805)

If the national security of a country is on the shoulder of the private industry, then that country will be hold ransom to the private corporation which owns that industry.

The United States of America is in danger of falling into that trap.

If the United States rely too much on SpaceX for its space-launch, SpaceX could easily raise its price 100-fold and the tax-payers will end up having to cough up the dough.

And the danger doesn't end there either.

What if one day Russia or Iran or China ends up owning SpaceX ?

What kind of national security are we going to have, if nightmarish scenario turn into reality ?

Re:It ain't bullshit (5, Informative)

Megane (129182) | about a year ago | (#45590849)

The United States relies too much on ULA for its space-launch, ULA has easily raised its price and the tax-payers ended up having to cough up the dough.

FTFY. This is the first commercial satellite launched in the US since November 23, 2009 when Intelsat 14 launched on an Atlas V from LC-41. [blogspot.com]

Re:It ain't bullshit (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45590851)

> What if one day Russia or Iran or China ends up owning SpaceX ?

What if one day large corporations could pay-off american politicians, on a large and wide scale, with many people knowing it happens. And those people end up determining how the country is run?

We both know that already happens, and *this* is what your worried about?

What does it even matter if Russia or the Chinese own SpaceX, they dont, but who cares. They have their own space agencies... ones that actually still operate.

Re:It ain't bullshit (2)

macpacheco (1764378) | about a year ago | (#45593525)

I remember congress preventing middle eastern interest from purchasing a couple of east coast ports.
If they can prevent sale of ports, then why couldn't they prevent sale of a company that produces ITAR protected equipment ?
If the US govt can't be trusted to step in, then it can't be trusted for launching their rockets.

Re:It ain't bullshit (2)

Derec01 (1668942) | about a year ago | (#45590855)

Doubtful. For services of this kind, who else is able to pay and needs these services? There are a few, but losing US contracts would kill them.

This is more akin to the mutually beneficial relationship between China and US sovereign debt. Sure, they could divest, but *where*, exactly, would they get a safer investment vehicle? The only reason one party would pull out is for non-economic reasons, because it sure isn't beneficial to do so.

No one wins if SpaceX starts trying to milk the US too hard. And in the end, the US government could always play the national security card with the IP and incubate another company or bring it back inhouse.

Re:It ain't bullshit (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a year ago | (#45590869)

What's the alternative? The majority extorting funds from the minority?

Re:It ain't bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45590879)

Well it's not like it hasn't already happened.

*tskcentralbanks*

Re:It ain't bullshit (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#45590915)

Wow, who do you work for? Lockheed Martin? Boeing? The US has plenty contractors on hand for cost-plus contracts. And if all else fails I'm sure ESA would give you Ariane rockets for a price. And worst case if everyone had collective amnesia you should be able to pull off an Apollo program much faster and cheaper today than in the 60s. And when it really comes down to it the real "space" war is still 99% ICBMs, which I doubt the military will forget how to make. The ISS isn't exactly critical defense infrastructure.

Re:It ain't bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45590943)

I claim that it really is bullshit. People with power can do anything they want and get away with it in the name of national security.. There is no oversight and no accountability. It is completely orthogonal to anything related to democracy.. The world today is based on corruption and secrecy, not democracy and openness. Why are we feeding our children with lies about how the world works? Why don't we tell them the truth? Where are the school books that teach how elections are REALLY won, how to REALLY get a job and how to REALLY succeed?

And don't give me yet another "Oh, but that's how it's always been".

Re:It ain't bullshit (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about a year ago | (#45590947)

And that would be different than having Boeing build rockets and planes and so on, how exactly?

Even in your crazy scenarios there are a bunch of obvious options:

The US denies the sale to Russia or Iran or China - just like they have always done with sales and mergers that impact national security.

The US nationalizes SpaceX.

The US dusts off its old NASA stuff and goes from there.

Re:It ain't bullshit (4, Informative)

Dahamma (304068) | about a year ago | (#45591027)

SpaceX could easily raise its price 100-fold and the tax-payers will end up having to cough up the dough.

What the heck are you talking about? Why would Boing or Lockheed (the current owners of the US govt launch monopoly) be and different? How is *more* competition from SpaceX going to lead to price increases and fewer options?

What if one day Russia or Iran or China ends up owning SpaceX ?

And what if some day Russia or Iran of China owns General Dynamics, Lockheed, Honeywell, Northrup, etc? Then those companies will no longer be US defense contractors, and others will *happily* step up to take over their cushy multibillion dollar cost-overrun laden US military contracts. So it's a totally absurd concern that would be no different 30 years ago than it is today.

When your #1 customer spends more than the rest of the world combined, you don't piss them off.

Re:It ain't bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591937)

30-50 billion for SLS with 2-4B / launch to send 70 tonnes to LEO.
1B / year subsidy for ULA and they are incapable of launching private sats because they are far too expensive.

And you worry about SpaceX taking over out gov. ... Really?

Re:It ain't bullshit (0)

macpacheco (1764378) | about a year ago | (#45593519)

1 - Lockheed Martin and Boeing aren't forbidden from participating in the new truly competitive launch market. They just need to truly compete, instead of resting on their laurels, innovating at snails pace.
2 - There's Orbital Sciences two.
3 - Doesn't ITAR prevents SpaceX from being sold to the Chinese or Russians ?

This looks like a bunch of goons paid by ULA to smear SpaceX.
And guess what, you're not succeeding.
Each Space Shuttle launch cost (wasted) US$ 1,3 billion.
SpaceX total cost to date was a little more than a single Space Shuttle launch, and they already did what 4 Space Shuttle launches couldn't do !

There's no national security if the USA is broke, buried in debt.

I look forward to Congress hearings on why ULA launches are soooo expensive !

Re:Oh great (4, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#45590889)

I have no idea why the NSA/USAF requirements is such a big deal, as it really doesn't have much of anything to do with a private company (in this case SES... an operator of GEO telecommunications satellites) is spending its money on another private company (SpaceX) to accomplish an otherwise very public mission. People are going to be pointing their satellite dishes at this satellite for crying out loud and watching television coming from it. I don't know how more public you can make such a flight.

The USAF is simply throwing up some BS that SpaceX needs to fly a few more missions and prove it can deliver satellites into various kinds of orbits before they are able to tell Boeing and Lockheed-Martin lobbyists where to go when the next round of launch contracts come out. Those two companies (in the form of the United Launch Alliance... jointly owned by both companies) want to pretend they are the only people in America capable of launching anything into orbit at all.

Re:Oh great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45593527)

I have no idea why the NSA/USAF requirements is such a big deal, as it really doesn't have much of anything to do with a private company (in this case SES... an operator of GEO telecommunications satellites)

More customers.

Yes, SpaceX can simply continue on only doing private companies, but if they become "USAF certified", then they have a larger pool of customers. Generally speaking, wouldn't having more customers be better than having fewer?

If you're going to do private launches anyway, you might as well jump through the hoops so that when you do them they help moving you to also having government ones as well.

Re:Oh great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45593995)

If I were launching a $300,000 payload on a rocket with fewer than a dozen launches, I'd want it insured against loss.
If I were launching a $300,000,000 payload on a rocket with fewer than a dozen launches, the insurance company is going to laugh me out of their office.

Biased Media Coverage (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45590829)

The media is totally biased in its coverage... the old-space industry launches satellites all the time. Yet, when SpaceX does it, there is an endless stream of news articles announcing the fact. When will the media stop ganging up and play fair?

Re:Biased Media Coverage (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a year ago | (#45590901)

The media is totally biased in its coverage... the old-space industry launches satellites all the time. Yet, when SpaceX does it, there is an endless stream of news articles announcing the fact. When will the media stop ganging up and play fair?

Media bias is spread thin and fair all across the political spectrum, from Fox to Msnbc to Al Jazeera... Any point of view can be propagandized these days. Say what you will about America, the press is still quite free.

Re:Biased Media Coverage (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#45592643)

They are all biased. The only way I know to counter that is to watch a diverse mix of media with a lot of different biases, and try to put together a composite picture of current events from all of them.

Most people simply pick a few media sources that are biased towards their own views, then dismiss all others as liars or a manipulative conspiracy.

Re:Biased Media Coverage (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a year ago | (#45593637)

Agreed, but I see the news media's representation of political right, center, and left in a positive light. Perhaps the diversity of opinions available to subscribe to will keep the ditto-heads somewhat balanced, if never fair.

Re:Biased Media Coverage (1)

PrimeNumber (136578) | about a year ago | (#45595035)

Maybe the idea of a self made guy building his own rocket company from the ground up and successfully competing against entrenched corporations makes for a compelling human interest story.

It sure as hell piques my interest.

Re:Biased Media Coverage (4, Insightful)

schwit1 (797399) | about a year ago | (#45591033)

When you accomplish something of this complexity for near half the price of the competition the media better be extolling the accomplishment.

Re:Biased Media Coverage (4, Interesting)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about a year ago | (#45592401)

Near half? Closer to one tenth. A Falcon 9 costs $56.5 million. The last ULA launch cost $465 million. I don't know that the price difference is all that much of an accomplishment though. How hard is it to beat a bloated cost-plus military-industrial complex dinosaur that exists mainly as welfare for mediocre engineers? The short fabrication and assembly times, the incredibly short integration time, the miniscule size of the launch crew, all while conducting rocket surgery—now those are accomplishments worth extolling.

Re:Biased Media Coverage (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45593501)

If they succeed in landing all three stages for reuse as they plan, that will be the real game changer in terms of cost per launch.

Re:Biased Media Coverage (1)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#45592307)

But they are playing fair. The old-space industry is boring. I wouldn't want to work for them, and I'm sure many way more clever people than myself wouldn't work for a lazy corporate behemoth either. There's only so much fun to be had in a stuffy cubicle. I mean, heck, these days you can't even have a nice secretary to look at. Something is to be said for work conditions impacting the creativity, productivity and general willingness of the workforce to, you know, work there. The results - overpriced stuffiness - speak for themselves. I couldn't even fucking tell what ULA's mission is. With SpaceX, it's quite obvious: they want to innovate, they want to do it better and cheaper, and they want to reinvest the profits into bold new stuff nobody else has done before them. You don't need to read anything to know that - their actions stand on their own.

Re:Biased Media Coverage (1)

macpacheco (1764378) | about a year ago | (#45593547)

Because SpaceX is doing it without massive govt subsidies.
ULA rockets were developed with pork barrel money.
SpaceX designed and launched Falcon 1 with private money.
Then NASA stepped in with the CRS contract and helped Falcon 9 development, they invested less than a single Space Shuttle launch would have costed, and that investment more than paid itself with the 4 CRS launches to the ISS executed.
And BTW, SpaceX isn't NASA's sweetheart, they are COMPETING with Orbital Sciences, and Boeing is trying to get in too.
The difference is there are no money guarantees, you must meet contract requirements (goals) to get some money.
Moving forward, SpaceX is under contract to supply 5 or 6 Falcon 9 v1.1 + Dragon spacecraft for the cost of a single Space Shuttle launch !
And with the upgraded capabilities of Falcon 9 v1.1, they now will be able to cram a Dragon spacecraft with as much stuff as they can, the rocket can deliver it to the ISS while leaving fuel reserves to reuse the first stage.
Now that's cost effectiveness.

Trying to compare the lack of media coverage of ULA launches with the great coverage of a revolutionary, economical rocket like the Falcon 9, is truly unfair !

Come talk to me after ULA launches 3 or 4 commercial satellites !

SpaceX is so cheap (5, Informative)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year ago | (#45590853)

that existing space providers are in big trouble.

Even the Chinese are quaking in their boots, as they can't do it as cheaply as SpaceX. And EADS is frantically redesigning their new Ariane 6 to try to be more cost competitive with the Falcon.

SpaceX has completely rocked the space industry upside down, and A LOT of naysayers need to eat crow now. As recently as 2012 (see this article [airspacemag.com] ), managers at NASA were poo-pooing Elon saying rockets are hard and noobs shouldn't try.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (4, Insightful)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year ago | (#45590983)

I see oldspace are busy busy busy slagging off Elon.

There was an ad by Astrotech (or something similar) in the trade press, publically accusing SpaceX of talking a big game but not delivering.

With this GTO commercial satellite launch -- these old, cost-plus, subsidy-munching dinosaurs should be shitting themselves by now. It'll be fun to watch them squirm.

It's time for the subsidy queens to eat crow.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (3, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#45591045)

Oh well, back to making planes that don't fly. Or catch fire.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (0)

Lodlaiden (2767969) | about a year ago | (#45591587)

Oh well, back to making planes that don't fly. Or catch fire.

Are you talking about the Tesla?

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (3, Informative)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about a year ago | (#45592237)

Oh well, back to making planes that don't fly. Or catch fire.

Are you talking about the Tesla?

Nah, more likely Boeing's Dreamliner. The Tesla has nothing on Boeing for self-combusting batteries. At least the Tesla needs major damage to trigger one. :)

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (1)

Builder (103701) | about a year ago | (#45594599)

Dreamliner ? You mean phoenix surely? That damn thing is always rising from the flames.

I'd kill for an airline to nickname their fleet Firebird 1 - Firebird X for each dreamliner :)

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#45594333)

Tesla? Why not Porsche (Paul Walker)\? Or Ford (140,000 cars recalled because of fires)? Why pick on poor Tesla?

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about a year ago | (#45592313)

If you look down-thread, you'll see one now, yammering about loss leaders and Musk-balls.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (1)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#45592319)

I wish ULA was publicly traded. I'd be shorting the shit out of them right about now :) The parent companies' stake is too small to bet big time on, not yet ...

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591017)

So, any guesses on a timetable on which we can see a Repconn aerospace museum? (/joke)

I am actually very pleased that the costs of orbiting payloads is dropping so significantly. It means a good number of "pipedreams" can become considerably more feasible, and that space exploration can go beyond "sending robots".
(It also of course, means we can send much more capable robots, since the costs of orbiting a heavy payload is vastly cheaper. I don't want to touch the "robots vs humans" argument. Both sides get a boon, and that's fine with me.)

I just hope that they can get the costs of orbiting payloads down to "freight" class costs.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591305)

We need to figure out a way de-orbit all the garbage we're already putting up there, or else we are going to be totally screwed. [wikipedia.org] Making this dirt cheap is only going to make matters worse.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45592281)

That problem can't really be fixed, but can be mitigated, with a world trade agreement.

Basically, "you are responsible for what you orbit". For many launches, the inertion into an orbit is a temporary objective, prior to de-orbit burn-- at least if space exploration and industry really take off. If your vehicle fails and clogs up that schedule, you are responsible for the removal of the space debris, and failure to comply means you don't get to orbit more vehicles until you do.

Such requirements would really put a nix on countries and companies putting junk into space that they can't deorbit.

Otherwise you are absolutely correct. The tradgedy of the commons *will* ensue if no protections are enacted. The time to enact those protections is right now.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (2)

recharged95 (782975) | about a year ago | (#45591055)

It's a marketing excerise.

Considering SpaceX has hired a lot of ex-NASA/JPL folks and aerospace experts and that to make the custom-ground up built rockets cheap, Musk has heavily invested his own dollar bills. SpaceX is in the red currently and if they can market the heck out their rockets to Wall Street (for funding) and undercut everyone, hopefully timing will allow them to get into the black.

They do great work, but either SpaceX will survive as much as OSC did in the 90's (they did well to start subcompanies) or they will flame out hard from debt.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591223)

SpaceX is not in the red - they are currently profitable. They have been for the last five years according to Musk.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (3, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#45591259)

And the BBC claims they have $4 billion of satellite launches booked.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (1)

cowdung (702933) | about a year ago | (#45592589)

"booked" is not the same as having it in the bank. They need to launch or they don't earn the money.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (1)

bledri (1283728) | about a year ago | (#45593059)

"booked" is not the same as having it in the bank. They need to launch or they don't earn the money.

There is no way SpaceX ramps up its production line without customers paying something up front, and I'm pretty sure that one of the requirements to get the $56.5 M [spacex.com] price is payment in full before launch. Either way, according to SpaceX [spacex.com] and many comments from Musk, SpaceX is already profitable and cash-flow positive. They have development funds from NASA for the Dragon capsule and $1.6 billion in Falcon 9 launches alone. At this point, they seem to be a viable enterprise and will have to screw up really seriously to run out of money.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (2)

Megane (129182) | about a year ago | (#45593993)

SpaceX hasn't ramped up its production yet because the Falcon 9 v1.1 is the one they were planning to ramp up. This is its second launch. I expect to see things get really interesting now.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (4, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#45591263)

What debt? The time when it was extremely critical for SpaceX to make money was during the Falcon 1 flights, where Elon Musk openly admitted that he was about two weeks away from throwing in the towel and declaring chapter 13 bankruptcy. Had Falcon 1 Flight 4 not been able to get into orbit, SpaceX would have been toast as a company.

At this point, SpaceX is clearing its manifest, collecting so many customers that its manifest is continuing to grow with an ever longer back log of waiting time for new customers, and at this point plans to launch 15 rockets (according to their manifest) next year. Admittedly SpaceX claims that is only 15 rockets that will be delivered to the launch pads before January 2015, but that is incredibly ambitious. That is manufacturing over 150 new Merlin engines, or about 3-4 engines per week that need to be completed. In other words, a very real assembly line and mass production scales of efficiency.

More importantly, assuming that SpaceX actually pulls this off, they will have more than a couple billion dollars of revenue next year and a healthy hunk of that will be profit. Far be it that SpaceX is going to be swimming in debt, I think they are more likely going to struggle in terms of finding legitimate ways to reinvest that money. Elon Musk also seems to be very frugal and wise with how that money is being spent too. At this point, the SpaceX budget is going to be likely larger than NASA's robotic exploration program.... the whole thing.

If for some reason SpaceX can't get the reusable Falcon 9 to work and there becomes a huge downturn in the global satellite launcher market, I would agree that the potential exists for SpaceX to go down in flames. SpaceX is gambling on the idea where substantially cheaper launch prices (they are aiming for less than $1000/kg to LEO) will increase the market demand for orbital launches and that this same rate of launching at least one rocket every month is going to continue indefinitely. The orbital launch market has seen crashes before, and OSC was one company in particular who was ramping up production precisely when that market crash happened.

Regardless, I fail to see where SpaceX is going to crash from debt alone. They are past the critical cash crunch period that new start-up companies all go through and there are numerous people (especially after today's launch) that would be willing to chip in some additional capital if it was needed.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (2)

compro01 (777531) | about a year ago | (#45591625)

At this point, SpaceX is clearing its manifest, collecting so many customers that its manifest is continuing to grow with an ever longer back log of waiting time for new customers, and at this point plans to launch 15 rockets (according to their manifest) next year. Admittedly SpaceX claims that is only 15 rockets that will be delivered to the launch pads before January 2015, but that is incredibly ambitious. That is manufacturing over 150 new Merlin engines, or about 3-4 engines per week that need to be completed. In other words, a very real assembly line and mass production scales of efficiency.

If I'm counting engines right (10 for each Falcon 9, and 28 for the Heavy), their manifest of future missions through to the end of 2014 [spacex.com] will require 178 Merlin and Merlin Vacuum engines.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (3, Informative)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about a year ago | (#45592433)

His 150 engines number might be right after all, considering the first recovery of a first stage may happen as early as CRS-3. Mr. Musk has said that some of next year's contracts require new rockets, but some have clauses that allow reuse of a first stage, for a price break and at the customer's option. It remains to be seen if any of next year's customers will have to nerve to exercise that option, but it's possible.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (2)

macpacheco (1764378) | about a year ago | (#45594161)

They already stated that Falcon 9 v1.1 is far more mass production friendly than the original recipe Falcon 9.
All you need to do is to follow the pipeline. Between one F9 in the Cape, McGregor and finishing production, there are at least 3-4 rockets in various stages of production/testing/integration for launch.
Right now it looks like the critical stage is a single facility in the cape and any delays during the static fire and launch delaying everything else.
There are 15 launches scheduled to deliver rockets at the launch site by the end of 2014. Usually that would mean the last 2 would launch in 2015.
Of those, 2 launches are for Vandenberg, so 13 launches for the Cape, perhaps 11 for actual launch in 2014 (Thaicom-6 possibly 2013 plus the last one for 2015).
That's about one launch every 5 weeks.
Very doable.
If SpaceX gets the old shuttle launch pad, all of this becomes extremely feasible. They might even be able to launch earlier than scheduled if the payload is ready.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (2)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about a year ago | (#45592297)

You're mostly right. One thing though.

I think they are more likely going to struggle in terms of finding legitimate ways to reinvest that money.

SpaceX is privately held, and Elon Musk has ironclad control of it and Elon Musk has publicly stated on more than one occasion that he wants to make humanity a multi-planet species. In other words, he wants to put a viable colony on Mars. He can and will spend as many trillions of dollars as he can get his hands on in order to do it, all quite legitimately.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (1)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#45593049)

I'm sure SpaceX can find places to spend money, but the trick is to spend it in a way that doesn't just toss it down a fiscal black hole and throw it into the wind.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about a year ago | (#45593145)

If for some reason SpaceX can't get the reusable Falcon 9 to work and there becomes a huge downturn in the global satellite launcher market, I would agree that the potential exists for SpaceX to go down in flames.

Note that even if they can not do this, they are already getting launch cheaper than competitors.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (1)

macpacheco (1764378) | about a year ago | (#45594253)

SpaceX already has a 4-5 year fully booked launch backlog.
The company is safe.
I argue that their lower launch prices will cause an substantial increase in launch demands.
Cubesats + satellites in the 50-200 Kg weight should become commonplace.
Multiple LEO communication satellite networks should emerge.
A replacement to the ISS will become viable.
And all of this is without any reusability. Elon already stated they have figured out all the major pieces to recover the first stage. My only question is in what shape the first stage will be recovered, what will be the refurbishing costs, how many times will they be able to reuse the first stage.
Consider a few low risk usages for the recovered first stage:
      launch a recycled Dragon with water, oxygen, food and other cheap items to the ISS.
      launch prototype satellites / modules for the future space station / anything that's relatively cheap to build where it's cheaper to try again than to insure

That's the problem with the current status quo, launching is too expensive to launch something cheap, creating a vicious cycle of ultra expensive satellites to use ultra expensive launch services.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (1)

Teancum (67324) | about a year ago | (#45594965)

The main deal about 1st stage recovery is to simply make it cheaper to refurbish the vehicle as opposed to rebuilding it brand new. Any additional savings by performing such refurbishment is just additional profit or substantial cost savings.

Regardless, I'm still not convinced that a reduction of price to 10% of typical prices before SpaceX formed in the launcher market, at least over the relatively near term (aka 10-20 years), is going to result in 10x or more launches happening. I've looked over potential markets for launches, potential business opportunities in space, and while certainly the SpaceX approach is going to open up business opportunities, the launch market from an economic perspective is a very inelastic market.

In other words, the number of launches available in the global launch market isn't really impacted that strongly by the price of launches. At least it hasn't in the past.. For most of the satellites that have been flown in the past couple decades, the launch cost has been a marginal expense compared to the cost of actually building the vehicles. Of course it could be argued that the cost of those vehicles (like multi-billion dollar GEO satellites) are driven in part by the high cost of the launch too, but it is a factor to consider.

There is also the substantial and growing problem of stuff in LEO, where there may very well be a limit to how much "stuff" can be tossed into that orbital realm. That is also a huge problem at the moment with GEO satellites as well, as nearly every "slot" around the Earth is occupied and certainly is occupied at ideal locations for North America, Europe, and east Asia. SES-8 is in fact moving to a location above India. I could definitely see some international treaties (which already exist for GEO slots) which would limit LEO activity and cause at least a short term reduction in cubesats in particular.

I'm not all doom and gloom here, as I do think some tremendous opportunities have opened up to do some really neat things thanks to Elon Musk, but you also need to be a little bit sober about the future too. That is in particular with LEO (or even mid-altitude orbits) constellations where promises were made in the past and not followed through. There were some huge constellations that were built (Iridium is one of them) which opened a promise of dozens of launches and a real space launch industry with a strong incentive to drive down costs... and the bottom fell out of that industry once it got started back in the 1990's. In fact, it was the growth of the internet that drove a much older technology, underwater cable laying ships, which ended up undoing the commercial space launch market as it shut down the need for having those extensive satellite constellations. Yes, you could say that the high cost of launches drove people to send a physical cable (and now fiber optic lines) across the bottom of oceans to remote locations around the world instead of using satellites for point to point communication, but it also shows there is competition in competing ideas too.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591279)

Not only is what you write completely false, it doesn't even make sense.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (3, Informative)

bledri (1283728) | about a year ago | (#45591281)

SpaceX is in the red currently and if they can market the heck out their rockets to Wall Street (for funding) and undercut everyone, hopefully timing will allow them to get into the black.

They do great work, but either SpaceX will survive as much as OSC did in the 90's (they did well to start subcompanies) or they will flame out hard from debt.

SpaceX doesn't need funding, they have paying customers [spacex.com] . And unless something goes terribly wrong, they are about to get a bunch more.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45592497)

Having enough paying customers is all that really matters, ultimately, as long as the expected future income is sufficient to service your debt.

Many companies are "in the red", in that their liabilities exceed their assets. Especially young companies. What matters is cash flow, which is all you need to pay your bills. If I borrow $10 million today and pay it off over 3 years, I can be "in the red" the entire time but still be a wildly "successful" company. I'm just a machine for moving money from customers to banks without ever having to have a balance sheet in the black, which is kind of economically inefficient in a sense, because it means I have assets lying around not being productive, like money stuffed under a mattress.

This why the entire economy almost disappeared overnight in 2008--the economy relies on rolling over short-term debt as a way to create cheap liquidity for transacting business. Even highly profitable, "in the black" companies would have defaulted. In other words, the sine qua non of loaning money to a company and otherwise transacting with is isn't profitability, but cash flow. All that creditors really care about in the world of high finance is whether you can pay your future installments, and not whether you're in the black or even presently profitable.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45594441)

The early history of Acorn is a fascinating example of this in action. Every week sales grew, so much that profits from previous sales couldn't fund the expansion, so they were constantly borrowing more money even though their profits were skyrocketing. Borrow money to make ten this week, sell them for enough to build 15 next week, but the orders come in for 50 next week. So borrow more to build those 50, sell them, enough money to make 75 next week, but no, orders come in for 1000. So off to the bank to ask for an even bigger loan.

The bank manager must have wondered if it was all some type of scam. But he trusted the purchase order paperwork he saw, and that's how Acorn got big enough that, at least in their home country, they became a household name for a while.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45592053)

Actually, SpaceX has the YOUNGEST engineering staff going. In fact, less than 5% of their staff had any prior experience in the space industry. In addition, they are currently profitable and funneling all that back to research, such as:
Dragon Rider (modifications to the capsule for human launch by 2015) which will likely be ready 2 years ahead of other commercial cars and the ability to land on earth, the moon and mars;
Falcon Heavy for launching 53 tonnes to LEO for less than 100 million starting in 2014 (note that SLS will launch 70 tonnes for 2-4 billion starting sometime after 2022).
Grasshopper for re-using the stages. When it is complete, Falcon Heavy will costs less than 40 million / launch just for re-using the first stage, or less than $800 / kg to launch to LEO. Note that FH is already the cheapest to launch with a costs of 2500/KG. So, this is about competing against itself, rather than other large gov. operations.

Needless to say, SpaceX is probably poised better than any single gov. or private business.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (1)

macpacheco (1764378) | about a year ago | (#45594357)

The current Dragon could launch humans into space.
NASA and SpaceX agreed it would be better to conduct a very thorough human certification process, if a human were a stowaway in any of the current Dragon launches, he/she would have made it into the ISS safely.
With just the Falcon 9 margin of safety of being able to loose two engines and still reach a high enough altitude to engage the Dragon parachutes and do a normal ocean landing is already in theory safer than the Space Shuttle. Plus the simple fact they haven't lost a single primary load.
But as usual, Govt bureaucracy never care about the costs, they're always chasing some perfect utopia.
Dragon Rider is a good thing. My argument is just that even without Dragon Rider, once there are at least a half a dozen F9v1.1 without a hitch done plus the 5 F9v1.0 done prior, the system should be in practice safer than the Shuttle for human launches.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (2)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about a year ago | (#45591313)

managers at NASA were poo-pooing Elon saying rockets are hard and noobs shouldn't try

maybe because that's definitely rocket science...

Is Elon an amateur scientist? (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#45591501)

A day or so ago there was a discussion [slashdot.org] about whether amateurs could do real science. The consensus among professional researchers was that no amateur could do significant research without first getting an advanced degree.

One poster challenged the readers to give an example of an amateur scientist who had contributed in a meaningful way to an existing field of study.

Elon Musk has a BSc. in physics. Does this count?

(Or is this more engineering than science? Or maybe he's more of a bank-roller than a scientist?)

Re:Is Elon an amateur scientist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591609)

the consensus of any club is that outsiders are inferior. news at 11.

Re:Is Elon an amateur scientist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591735)

>Does this count?

Not greatly. Original engineering and plenty of it but not much in the way of original science, I would say.

Re:Is Elon an amateur scientist? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45592541)

If "original" science is what constitutes "real" science, we're in trouble. There's no end of original science being pumped out by Ph.Ds. Most of it is useless. There's an infinite number of thesis papers which could be written at any one moment. Only a select few will actually advance fundamental knowledge about a field. The rest are dead-ends--meaningful results in a strict sense but coincidental relationships in the grand scheme of things. (By coincidental I don't mean random. I mean localized structure which will turn out to be unrelated to larger systemic structures in the field.)

Re:Is Elon an amateur scientist? (4, Insightful)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#45592339)

Forrest M. Mims, III. Caught a NASA satellite's instrument mis-calibration. Very much an amateur when it comes to astroscience anything. A rather decent educator, and man, does he have good handwriting or what.

Re:Is Elon an amateur scientist? (1)

macpacheco (1764378) | about a year ago | (#45594385)

Elon Musk is an inventor / engineer.

So far he hasn't made any science breakthroughs. Yet.

There's far more money / success / prestige in what he's doing than in science. He's in the right business.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591817)

... SpaceX has completely rocked the space industry upside down, and A LOT of naysayers need to eat crow now. As recently as 2012 (see this article [airspacemag.com] ), managers at NASA were poo-pooing Elon saying rockets are hard and noobs shouldn't try.

Fwiw, the stock for his Tesla company has been slowly declining since the fire; going from $185.00 down to a hovering $120.00--until today. Interestingly enough, it went from $124.00 to $144.00; indicating ... people like to buy on good news. (HhHeh, couldn't resist.) It also means: Some think, if they can do this, they can solve mechanical issues with an earthly chariot.

SpaceX is so cheap ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591955)

Are you fucking kidding ??

SpaceX is cheap ?

The Indians sent up a Mars probe for a total bill of less than $80 Million.

Can SpaceX do that ?

The Chinese is quaking in their boots because of SpaceX ?

Fuck man, if you want to lick "Musk ballz" please do it in private, stop performing it in front of all of us !

What Elon Musk is doing is nothing more than shooting couple of loss leading rockets in order to secure the lucrative government contracts, and after that the price tag gonna be back to "normal".

Re:SpaceX is so cheap ? (2)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about a year ago | (#45592373)

Yes, SpaceX is cheap, and yes, they could trivially match the Indian Mars probe price. You know how I know that? The Price Sheet [spacex.com] says a Falcon 9 launch is $56.5 million. Leaving plenty of slack to build a little Mars probe. Considering a ULA launch costs literally 10 times as much, cheap is an understatement.

They've been profitable for 5 years and their price has never been higher than that. Since they're profitable, they're obviously not loss leaders. Why would it go up now? Especially considering SpaceX has already won the lucrative government contract that was available, namely Space Station resupply.

But no, the Chinese are not quaking in their boots. Long March rockets do cost more to build than Falcons, probably a lot more, but the Chinese don't care. They're building them for national pride, not customers, and they're damn well going to make absolutely certain they work, no matter how much it costs. They have to.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45592491)

I am sure that the fact that India is manipulating their money relative to others has absolutely NOTHING to do with it (it SHOULD be about 30 rupee to $1, but it is 63 to $1). BTW, it was $74 million that was spent on it.
Likewise, MOM is a 1.3 metric tonne orbiting satellite, of which less than 15 kgs is devoted to the actual 5 simple instruments that were provided by other nations. Compare that to 2.5 tonnes maven with 65 kg devoted to 8 complex instruments, all produced in USA.
In addition, it is a near certainty that NASA's sat WILL work, while it is less than 33% chance of India's actually working.

And as to spaceX vs India, India's PSLV launches 3 tonnes into LEO at a costs of 17 million. SpaceX charges 56M for their falcon 9 which launches ~17 tonnes into LEO. So, SpaceX is already cheaper than India's most successful launch vehicle. However, SpaceX will be able to drop their f9 costs in half or more within 2 years due to grasshopper, and probably another 50% due to f9 and fh moving into heavy production.

Finally, India still does not have a successful mid-size launch system. Their GSLV has had more than a few issues, and that is with making heavy use of Russian tech and engineers.

quite sucking on gass.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (-1, Troll)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#45592045)

that existing space providers are in big trouble.

Cheap is irrelevant when your track record is as poor as SpaceX's and your launch rate is a fraction of that needed to capture a significant chunk of the market as SpaceX's is. Companies launching quarter of billion dollar satellites don't shop solely on price like you buy pants.

Despite the endless hype that Musk trots out (and which the fanbois, being largely ignorant of the realities of both space and business, lap up like mothers milk), SpaceX is still very much a marginal player. The potential is there, but they aren't yet.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (4, Insightful)

router (28432) | about a year ago | (#45592161)

Poor track record? How so? They haven't popped one on the pad, as all the majors did getting to this point. They built an EELV class launcher for less than ULA charges to keep the manufacturing base available for DeltaIV/Atlas V.

These posts are so three years ago. SpaceX is bi-coastal and in business. All legacy launch companies are done. SLS? Done. It will go to the real commercial world for 3B$ instead of 30+. Lockmart and Boring cannot compete in any non rigged contest (CPFF what?). No more white collar welfare in the launch business.

Oh, and birds don't have to be 1/4B$ if launch costs drop by an order of magnitude. You don't have to be that careful. You can afford to lose a few. And, you can afford to use technologies developed this century as a bonus. "Flight Proven" == 1960's tech.

And we might get humans living off this rock this century, as a bonus. Or we can keep paying the tards to keep tarding.

andy

It is not about losing a bird (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year ago | (#45593551)

... but about losing its cargo.

While SpaceX might be able to afford that (and perhaps even an insurance covers the loss of the launch vehicle _and_ the payload) the customer might not be in the position to replace it at all (or in a timely manner).

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#45594849)

Poor track record? How so? They haven't popped one on the pad, as all the majors did getting to this point.

Seriously? Have you just crawled out of a cave? They've had multiple issues in Falcon V's seven launches to date. (Not to mention the Falcoln I.)
 

These posts are so three years ago. SpaceX is bi-coastal and in business.

No, they're reality. No matter how hard you try and bury your head in the sand or how many ignorant "have they popped one on the pad" comments you make.
 

Oh, and birds don't have to be 1/4B$ if launch costs drop by an order of magnitude. You don't have to be that careful. You can afford to lose a few.

Not gonna happen. No matter how cheap launch gets, space is still an unforgiving and difficult environment - and the costs of an outage are still high. The expense of launching is not a significant cost driver for major satellites.

Etc... etc... Though your fellow fanbois have modded you up, they're as clueless as you are.

Re:SpaceX is so cheap (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45592583)

Derek, you always rail against SpaceX. Why?
Look, SpaceX launched 2 last year, will launch 4 this year (roughly 1 every 3 months; however, 3 came in the last 3 months) and supposedly will do 15 next year (i.e. 1 every 3 weeks).
How does that compare to Ariane [wikipedia.org] ?
ariane launched 4 this year; 7 in 2012; 5 in 2011; 6 in 2010.
IOW, ariane is NOT much better than SpaceX this year, and if SpaceX is successful next year, they will do double what Ariane did in their best year.

So, how about Atlas [wikipedia.org] and Delta [wikipedia.org] ? in 2013, 8 atlas/ 4 delta.
in 2012, 6 atlas/ 4 delta.
in 2011, 5 atlas/ 3 delta.
in 2010, 5 atlas/ 3 delta.


As I look at any of these major launch systems, it appears that SpaceX is pretty much on par for this year with 3 majors, AND with more than 15 launches / year for the next couple of years, it will put all of the rest to shame.


So, why the hatred for SpaceX?

Windbourne (moderating).

Manned space flight (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45590959)

The dream and reality of manned space flight beyond near earth orbit is dead. We will never return to the moon, or visit Mars, or anywhere else. We have become too inward looking focusing on made up problems. Navel gazing is all we are good at today.

SpaceX may have achieved something, but in reality it's just another government and military contractor.

Too Advanced (1)

die standing (2626663) | about a year ago | (#45591037)

Merlin vacuum engine ignited to begin a five minute, 20 second burn that delivered the SES-8

A 20 second burn that lasted 5 minutes - truly awesome.

Re:Too Advanced (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591249)

yeah...5:20, 320 seconds, there are many ways of saying that

Re:Too Advanced (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591827)

Minutes and Seconds? Ugh, when will the US just adopt the metric system?

Re:Too Advanced (2)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#45591517)

Merlin vacuum engine ignited to begin a five minute, 20 second burn that delivered the SES-8 A 20 second burn that lasted 5 minutes - truly awesome.

Rocket engine efficiency is measured in seconds, so it is entirely possible to have a 20 second burn that lasts 5 minutes.

Re:Too Advanced (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591845)

Or twenty second-burns, after the first, which each last 5 minutes for a maximum burn of 1000 minutes, or 16h 40m of embarrassment after the first stage sick burn.

Re:Too Advanced (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#45593739)

Rocket engine efficiency is measured in seconds, so it is entirely possible to have a 20 second burn that lasts 5 minutes.

Isn't it amazing how people will fail to use wikipedia or even dictionary.com before disagreeing with some point that they know nothing about? Shocking.

There's plenty of room for misunderstanding or just plain being wrong but jiminy.

Re:Too Advanced (2)

scradock (1420165) | about a year ago | (#45591879)

Five minutes twenty seconds is a clumsy way of saying 320 seconds, or five and a third minutes..... Mixed units are a disaster, whether in engineering or in stories. How much is a liter? Oooh... about one quart and 1 and a bit ounces....

Controlled booster stage attempt? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591399)

I thought they were going to try controlled descents with each Falcon launch. Anyone see a reference to this? Couldn't find any news.

Re:Controlled booster stage attempt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45591473)

They did not attempt it on this flight. The flight is geosynchronous and besides there is enough risk as it is on this flight with a new customer and new rocket.

Re:Controlled booster stage attempt? (1)

cowdung (702933) | about a year ago | (#45592623)

too bad.. I'd love to see them succeed at that as well

Re:Controlled booster stage attempt? (3, Informative)

macpacheco (1764378) | about a year ago | (#45594551)

For the SES-8 and Thaicom-6 launches SpaceX commited 100% of the rocket's capabilities to boost the rocket into a super sync orbit.
A GTO orbit is less than 36000Km x 185Km.
SES-8 was inserted into a 80000Km x 295Km orbit.
It reaches apogee when the moon is close by.
This trick helps save fuel to allow SES-8 to live much longer. Typically satellites useful lives are limited by fuel used for station keeping maneuvers.
In this sense, SES-8 and Thaicom-6 launches are even more valuable to their operators than a typical GTO launch.
GEO satellites are responsible for circularizing the orbit, and this consumes a lot of their precious on board fuel.

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