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SpaceX Wins Use of NASA's Launch Pad 39A

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the just-has-a-nice-vibe dept.

NASA 99

SpaceX and NASA have reached an agreement (though negotiations on the details are ongoing) for the private space company to lease NASA's launch pad 39A. SpaceX rival Blue Origin had also sought the launch pad for its own use. From the article: "During the selection process, Blue Origin had filed a petition to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The spaceflight company was claiming that NASA was favoring single-use of the launch pad which was designed as a multi-user facility. ... The GAO decided on Thursday that the petition has no basis, which prompted NASA to proceed with its decision process. The next day, the space agency informed both companies that it is granting the exclusive lease to SpaceX."

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99 comments

oh dear (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45692657)

my own little missile seems to have launched itself on hearing this news!

When would Space-X launch a moon expedition ? (2, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 4 months ago | (#45692739)

China has just landed their space craft on the moon. Just hours ago.

When will Space-X do that ?

I mean, let's start up some REAL COMPETITION !

Re:When would Space-X launch a moon expedition ? (4, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 4 months ago | (#45692767)

China has just landed their space craft on the moon. Just hours ago.

When will Space-X do that ?

SpaceX is a commercial "lift" company. Their objective would include landing something on the moon only if someone paid them to do it.

SpaceX is challenging Lockheed Martin and Boeing's United Launch Alliance [wikipedia.org]

Re:When would Space-X launch a moon expedition ? (1)

czert (3156611) | about 4 months ago | (#45694637)

SpaceX is not just a "lift" company. Elon Musk has planned to go to Mars since the start, so it may be reasonable to expect that they will do some testing on the moon before that.

Re:When would Space-X launch a moon expedition ? (1)

Ecuador (740021) | about 4 months ago | (#45695461)

That is almost correct. SpaceX is like any other commercial company, so there has to be a commercial reason to go to the moon, except that the company on the whole is the intermediate step for Musk's plan to go to Mars. So when the time is right, expect manned flights to the Moon and beyond from either SpaceX or a related Musk endeavor, whether or not it makes financial sense.

Re:When would Space-X launch a moon expedition ? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 4 months ago | (#45706603)

Considering that the most expensive part of going to other places is lift, and SpaceX is apparently making that dirt cheap, it will be easy to go to the moon and mars. As to fiscal sense, once a service is started for transport to/from the moon AND a small base, bet on it that every nation with money will want to put at least one person at the base.

Re:When would Space-X launch a moon expedition ? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 4 months ago | (#45706571)

First off, SpaceX is not just a lift company. That is simply their current focus. They will be targeting other areas esp. transport earth to/from the moon and mars.
Secondly, SpaceX is NOT competing against ULA. ULA is not competing in any real arena.
SpaceX is competing against China's, Russia's, and Europe's launch vehicles. And they will be taking away most of the open competition business. However, most businesses outside of America are very nationalistic and will go to great lengths to support their local launch vehicles. Still, SpaceX will have a full docket for the next 5 years without a single change.

Re:When would Space-X launch a moon expedition ? (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 4 months ago | (#45693607)

When will Space-X do that ?

I mean, let's start up some REAL COMPETITION !

If you believe this news report [bizjournals.com], in either 2015 or 2016, as a part of the Google Lunar X-Prize competition.

The launch was earlier listed on the SpaceX manifest, although it currently isn't on that page [spacex.com]. Plenty of other interesting flights are on the books though.

Watch out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45692693)

0.1 Earth radius !! Here we come!!

Re:Watch out (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 4 months ago | (#45692715)

0.1 Earth radius !! Here we come!!

SpaceX put a satellite into geosynchronous orbit (~5.5 Earth radii up) earlier this month.

Re:Watch out (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45692769)

Holy smoke! With people!??? My God, to the stars brother! TO THE STARS!!!!

PS: The Moon is 10 times further still. The Moon. Our Moon. Our local satellite. SpaceX has gloriously managed to go where we've gone before. Using a half century old government facility! Glorious.

Re:Watch out (3, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | about 4 months ago | (#45692875)

SpaceX launched a spacecraft to an altitude (or distance) of 80,000 kilometres. The moon is 384,400 kilometres away. That's less than 5x the distance.

It's also unreasonable to expect SpaceX to be able to reach the moon right out of the gate. Their first Falcon 9 rocket was only launched in 2010, and was developed for a fraction of the cost of the Apollo program (the engine R&D on Apollo was over five billion in modern dollars). They'll get there; the Falcon Heavy should be able to do a manned lunar mission in two launches, as it has a lift capacity somewhere between one third and one half of the Saturn V.

Re:Watch out (4, Funny)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 4 months ago | (#45693221)

It's also unreasonable to expect SpaceX to be able to reach the moon right out of the gate.

Well... in Kerbal Space Program...

Re:Watch out (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 4 months ago | (#45693315)

Yes, and I'm sure SpaceX never looked at any of the old designs, or uses any engineers or physicists that learned how to build a rocket engine based on what the US gov't developed from the 50's to now.

Re:Watch out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45694441)

YOU JUST HATE THE FREE MARKET.

Don't you see? The fact that all high tech companies basically fill an office with goverment- and academia-trained employees and links to documents produced by government+academia is IRRELEVANT.

Bow down before the god of profit. Never mind that it's the biggest religion the world's ever had. Religion is good as long as it's your religion.

Re:Watch out (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 3 months ago | (#45706685)

the free market gave us ULA and the massive profits that they have. That is because MBA's took over the business sense of those companies. Elon Musk has kept out MBA's and focused on tasks and engineering.

Re:Watch out (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 3 months ago | (#45706665)

so what? NASA built on what DOD did; which built on what NAZI's did; which built on what Goddard did.

What is your point? NASA will continue to push envelopes for new frontiers (assuming that tea baggers can not gut NASA), while private new space will make this cheap to do.

Re:Watch out (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 4 months ago | (#45711129)

to say that spacex is so much cheaper than the apollo program is ridiculous. inventing large rockets is WAY more expensive than making new ones based off old designs/knowledge created by the earlier work.

SpaceX would have had to spent the billions if nasa hadn't already done so.

Re:Watch out (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 4 months ago | (#45716057)

Developing 100% new tech IS expensive. Building 1 offs is a great deal cheaper. No doubt about it. BUT, SpaceX's costs WILL RISE as they move from 1 offs to new R&D. SpaceX is counting on NASA restarting NERVA [gizmag.com], but the neo-cons continue to derail a number of things and oddly, that is one of them. Not surprising, they have help from a number of illiterate dems to block the funding. Only Obama is keeping this going. BUT, with a change in CONgress, he may not be able to, and SpaceX will very likely step forward to do this work. Again, it will NOT be cheap.

Re:Watch out (2)

subreality (157447) | about 4 months ago | (#45693389)

That's less than 5x the distance.

It's much closer than that: the moon is only another 70% delta-v from LEO. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta-v_budget [wikipedia.org]

Unfortunately it's not just a linear extrapolation. The Merlin engine burns kerosene with liquid oxygen. That's a good setup to get to LEO, but upper stages have more engineering constraints (starting after coasting for several days in vacuum; cryogenic fuels boil off; trying to squeeze more specific impulse where it really pays off), so they tend to run on hydrazine. It requires a whole new design, whereas the Falcon has simply been scaled up.

I don't know that much about the business, but generally there's a lot of money in getting to LEO, and not a lot of commercial interest in the moon. I don't foresee SpaceX dumping the money into such a design any time soon. If someone does want to get to the moon it's more likely they'd build a specialized spacecraft and then pay SpaceX for a ride to LEO.

Re:Watch out (4, Informative)

ustolemyname (1301665) | about 4 months ago | (#45693443)

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Falcon_9_launches [wikipedia.org], someone has already contracted with them to deliver a payload to the moon (fifth from the bottom of the list).

Re:Watch out (1)

subreality (157447) | about 4 months ago | (#45693497)

That's pretty slick. I didn't know they were working on that capability. It's too bad the link is dead - I'm curious to know more.

Re:Watch out (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 4 months ago | (#45693581)

You might want to check out the team page on the Google Lunar X-Prize site for more details:

http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/teams/astrobotic [googlelunarxprize.org]

The GLXP site also has a blog with some conferences and even some video of at least some of the teams. I would presume that if they are on the SpaceX manifest, they have put some real money down to reserve a launch slot too.

Re:Watch out (1)

ustolemyname (1301665) | about 4 months ago | (#45693681)

Don't know what you mean by stating "Too bad the link is dead." It works for me.

Here's the link from Wikipedia's source:
http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/news/2012/05/29/spacex-success-brings-pittsburgh-space.html [bizjournals.com]

Re:Watch out (1)

ustolemyname (1301665) | about 4 months ago | (#45693691)

Nevermind, I found what you meant - link 60 was dead, I checked out 59 (related, not as detailed as 60 promised to be).

I wonder if you could set up a plugin to connect the wayback machine to dead wikipedia references.

Re:Watch out (1)

Guspaz (556486) | about 4 months ago | (#45697035)

It's worth pointing out that that's a Falcon 9 launch too, not a Falcon Heavy launch. So they expect to be able to deliver small payloads to the moon even with their much lower capacity rocket.

Re:Watch out (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 4 months ago | (#45694211)

If someone does want to get to the moon it's more likely they'd build a specialized spacecraft and then pay SpaceX for a ride to LEO.

That, or start a new company specializing in interplanetary transport. Asteroid Mining Incorporated?

Might be time to start thinking about how to deal with property in outer space.

Re:Watch out (1)

david.given (6740) | about 4 months ago | (#45694459)

Even better --- they've just demonstrated the ability to go to GEO, which is about 14km/s from the Earth's surface. Lunar orbit is only another 2.4km/s, and the moon's surface another 1.6 on top of that!

Chances are that with the technology they have right now, that is, using a modified F9 with the GEO upper stage, they could send a probe on a free-return trajectory to the moon. Or even easier, an impactor. I suspect they won't; Elon Musk appears to have his sights firmly set on the upgraded F9 Heavy and the rocket-landing Dragon, and with that setup you could probably remote land a complete Dragon capsule. I'd be really interested to know what sort of delta vee the Dragon's internal rockets will have...

Re:Watch out (1)

david.given (6740) | about 4 months ago | (#45694479)

...actually, I misread the chart. GEO is 3.8km/s from LEO. Lunar orbit is 2.4km/s if you transfer from GEO, giving a total of 6.2km/s. If you go straight from LEO to lunar orbit, it's only 4.1km/s... barely more than GEO. So, yeah, I reckon a technology demonstrator is definitely doable right now.

Re:Watch out (1)

Guspaz (556486) | about 4 months ago | (#45697025)

It would explain why SpaceX's reported payload capacity to the moon for the Falcon Heavy is barely less than their GEO capacity.

Re:Watch out (1)

sahonen (680948) | about 4 months ago | (#45701025)

They have hypergolic-fueled engines on the Dragon spacecraft. They're already in development on a more powerful hypergolic engine that could be useful for a lander.

Re:Watch out (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 3 months ago | (#45706707)

raptor is a family of methane/LOX engines. The first one is 1/3 of the size of F1. It is designed for the upper stages as well as landing on the moon and mars.

Re:Watch out (1)

strack (1051390) | about 4 months ago | (#45693453)

you dont have a clue how orbital physics works do you.

Re:Watch out (1)

Guspaz (556486) | about 4 months ago | (#45697043)

I have some clues. I know that the velocity required to get to the moon from LEO is only slightly higher than that required to get to GEO from LEO, meaning that the recent satellite launch took them to most of the velocity required to get to the moon.

Re:Watch out (3, Insightful)

idji (984038) | about 4 months ago | (#45695787)

There is no significant difference between 80,000 km and 384400 km. It is only 6.9% more energy than getting from the Earth's surface to 80,000 km. - so getting as far as the Moon is trivial for SpaceX - getting into orbit and landing is another issue though.
SpaceX was launching to low earth orbit and got their in a few minutes - last month they got to geosynchronous orbit in just a few more minutes. The Chinese took 12 days to get to the Moon because they weren't in a hurry and wanted to save energy - Apollo needed to get humans there and back faster.
Elon Musk wants to emigrate to Mars. You can be sure that that he will be playing on the Moon before sending stuff and people to Mars.

Re:Watch out (3, Interesting)

TWX (665546) | about 4 months ago | (#45693009)

SpaceX has gloriously managed to go where we've gone before. Using a half century old government facility!

SpaceX has also managed to gain exclusive rights to use the pad with the greatest history of manned spaceflight in the United States.

Yes, it's a dick-waving contest. But, given that the bulk of the history of human spaceflight has been a dick-waving contest, it's about as prestigious as they can get. It's also a sign of confidence in SpaceX, as they probably wouldn't give them sole rights to the pad if they didn't think they'd measure up.

It also makes one consider if they didn't feel confident about Bezos' endeavors, to lock his company out of use of that pad entirely.

Re:Watch out (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 3 months ago | (#45706635)

Holy smoke! With people!??? My God, to the stars brother! TO THE STARS!!!!

PS: The Moon is 10 times further still. The Moon. Our Moon. Our local satellite. SpaceX has gloriously managed to go where we've gone before. Using a half century old government facility! Glorious.

but at a much cheaper costs. And within 2 years, they will put up the largest loads to GTO and at a fraction of the costs of what they charge today.

Space is NOT about abilities, but about fiscal ability.

Dunkin Donuts Correlation (-1, Offtopic)

retroworks (652802) | about 4 months ago | (#45692697)

On the map generated by the BPD, most stolen license plates seemed to congregate around Dunkin' Donuts cafes. News at 11.

Re:Dunkin Donuts Correlation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45692721)

Isn't Florida outside Boston's jurisdiction? I guess we'll know more in 30 minutes!

Re:Dunkin Donuts Correlation (4, Funny)

game kid (805301) | about 4 months ago | (#45692831)

Yes, and retro's post appears to be an "Unrelated Comment Object" sent from the young pulsar YRO 2155215 [slashdot.org].

Re:Dunkin Donuts Correlation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45693135)

Gotta hand it to you, that was pretty clever. happy holidays

Re:Dunkin Donuts Correlation (1)

retroworks (652802) | about 4 months ago | (#45695207)

Actually it was a joke about the Boston Police Department's reputation for its cars seen parked at Donut shops. See, if the police cars are in the donut shop parking lot, the scanners would find more stolen vehicles GPS tagged there, but it would reinforce the stereotype (if you are not from Boston, but watch "The Simpsons", you might get it). I guess those are "whoosh" down mods.

Good (-1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 4 months ago | (#45692731)

Blue Origin will almost certainly end up being an "also ran". It is essentially an extension of Jeff Bezo's ego. I expect an announcement soon that Amazon will be launching groceries at its Amazon Prime customers with Blue Origin rockets... Certainly, they will not be launching any paying payloads into space any time soon. Blue Origin is just another Amazon Pipe Dream.

Re:Good (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45692777)

Pipe dream or not, competition spurs innovation in an attempt to either improve quality or reduce price.

I suspect our species would have been better off with both given equal opportunity, than this outcome.

Re:Good (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 4 months ago | (#45692797)

Pipe dream or not, competition spurs innovation in an attempt to either improve quality or reduce price.

Competition is good, but Blue Origin does not (at this time) represent competition to SpaceX. Certainly, they have no real use for a rocket launching pad of the scale of NASA's 39A.

Blue Origin is mostly just Jeff Bezos playing with his big pile of money.

Re:Good (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#45692857)

Competition is good, but Blue Origin does not (at this time) represent competition to SpaceX.

That should not be for NASA to decide. Instead of having a "selection process", they should simply hold an auction. The launch pad should be rented to the highest bidder.

Re:Good (5, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 4 months ago | (#45692953)

That should not be for NASA to decide. Instead of having a "selection process", they should simply hold an auction. The launch pad should be rented to the highest bidder.

Bullshit.

The launch pad should be rented to the company that has the most potential to actually use it for something useful like launching rockets.

It's not a hotel room or a luxury car, it's a piece of valuable high technology. It's not a toy for rent.

Re:Good (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 4 months ago | (#45693013)

It's not a hotel room or a luxury car, it's a piece of valuable high technology. It's not a toy for rent.

I suspect what the GP meant was that SpaceX has the funds to rent it, and Blue Origin would likely not, because they don't have a viable business, so it should be a non-issue.

However, another poster pointed out that Blue Origin is likely being used as a proxy by the Space Industrial Complex to hurt Space X, which greatly complicates the funding picture.

Re:Good (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 4 months ago | (#45693047)

I suspect what the GP meant was that SpaceX has the funds to rent it, and Blue Origin would likely not...

Blue Origin is owned 100% by Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame. He has the funds to *buy* it.

Re:Good (1)

phayes (202222) | about 4 months ago | (#45695093)

Until Bezos' Blue Origin demonstrates with a number of launches reaching the same milestones that Space X has (Geostationary launches, ISS launches, etc),all that money Bezos has in his pocket means nothing.

Re:Good (3, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | about 4 months ago | (#45693037)

Indeed, SpaceX has demonstrated that first, that they can achieve objectives in space, and second, that their tech has some fairly impressive fault-tolerance while still safely fulfilling its mission. There was both an incident of an aborted post-ignition event that didn't damage the vehicle, subsequently allowing technicians to inspect and restart the launch, and a failure with one of the clusters of rockets that was successfully worked-around mid-flight, shutting down the affected engine and boosting the performance on the remaining engines.

Also to the matter of who can rent, GP's argument that anyone should be able to rent it is stupid not only because Blue Origin isn't ready to launch yet, but that the argument could mean that anyone, including those that don't have interest in space launches, could rent it. Mind you, there's a risk that SpaceX could block once other competitors enter the market, but on the other hand, 39B has been reconfigured to be multirole already, and 39C was planned and could still be built, and if serious competitors can demonstrate an ability to launch, SpaceX might lose its exclusivity the next time the contract comes up.

Re:Good (2)

Megane (129182) | about 4 months ago | (#45694145)

And SpaceX might even allow them to use the pad anyhow, if BO actually comes up with a launch vehicle that needs it.

Elon Musk quote:

However, rather than fight this issue, there is an easy way to determine the truth, which is simply to call their bluff. If they do somehow show up in the next 5 years with a vehicle qualified to NASA’s human rating standards that can dock with the Space Station, which is what Pad 39A is meant to do, we will gladly accommodate their needs. Frankly, I think we are more likely to discover unicorns dancing in the flame duct.

http://www.spacenews.com/article/launch-report/37389musk-calls-out-blue-origin-ula-for-%E2%80%98phony-blocking-tactic%E2%80%99-on-shuttle-pad [spacenews.com]

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45698365)

Meanwhile there are presumably also pads 1-38 sitting around there on the cape. Sure, they probably don't all have all of the infrastructure of 39A, but they can likely be retrofitted as necessary The entire KSC / CCAFS facility can launch into the Eastern Test Range, so it should all be good.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45694879)

This is why the government cannot make money. It is an asset that can be rented. Since Space X is not going to be launching rockets everyday, then the pad should be scheduled and rented to whomever wants to launch rockets from it. I do not care if it is Kari Byron and LDRS.

Re:Good (3, Insightful)

FireFury03 (653718) | about 4 months ago | (#45695913)

This is why the government cannot make money.

Governments aren't supposed to be about making money - governments are about doing things that are good for the citizens but unviable for a company to do.

If the government thinks that letting SpaceX use the pad is a Good Thing for the public, then that's what they should be doing, irrespective of whether they are going to make money from it or not. If you're going to base all decisions on whether or not you can make money from them then you may as well just port a corporation in charge of a country (although this seems to be exactly what a lot of crazy Americans think would be ideal...)

It is an asset that can be rented. Since Space X is not going to be launching rockets everyday, then the pad should be scheduled and rented to whomever wants to launch rockets from it. I do not care if it is Kari Byron and LDRS.

Now here you're suddenly showing that it *isn't* all about making money - SpaceX have shown that they can launch rockets, so giving them access to the pad seems like a Good Thing. If it were just about making money then the government would be happy to rent it to someone who is just interested in paying to make sure SpaceX can't use it, but aren't interested in launching rockets themselves - that most definitely doesn't seem to be in the interests of the public, *who are the people the government are supposed to be serving*.

Re:Good (2)

ultranova (717540) | about 4 months ago | (#45694313)

That should not be for NASA to decide. Instead of having a "selection process", they should simply hold an auction. The launch pad should be rented to the highest bidder.

The launchpad is public infrastructure built for a specific purpose. It should be used in whatever way best accomplishes said purpose. Since said purpose is not "making as much profit as possible", an auction would be the wrong tool to use in deciding what that way would be.

Re: No, not good at all. (1)

NReitzel (77941) | about 4 months ago | (#45692807)

When companies (Microsoft?) get into the business of doing business by hiring lawyers to hobble their competition, we all lose. Those companies spend a lot of money that could to go R&D (remember that?) on lawyers, instead, which benefits no one but said lawyers.

'Member 3 years old? "Now, Elton, it's better to share."

Re: No, not good at all. (2)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 4 months ago | (#45692845)

When companies (Microsoft?) get into the business of doing business by hiring lawyers to hobble their competition, we all lose.

Nice platitude, but does not apply here.

Blue Origin is not yet in the business of launching rockets, they don't need the NASA pad. The snit is nothing more than Jeff Bezos stomping his feet like a little boy because he can't buy the deal with his huge pile of cash. Bezos has become used to being able to simply toss cash at something and - by magic! - it is his. That didn't work in this case.

Re: No, not good at all. (5, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | about 4 months ago | (#45692903)

You mean, like how Blue Origin tried to hobble SpaceX by securing a launchpad they had no use for?

SpaceX has 39 launches on their manifest, and has completed 9 successful orbital launches. They will probably get a whole bunch more once they complete the Falcon Heavy demo flight.

Blue Origin has zero launches on their manifest, zero successful orbital launches, and no firm timeline for when they might complete their first orbital rocket except that it appears to be in early development.

In short, Blue Origin had no conceivable use for the pad, except for a possible use in the long-term. I think what was actually going on there is that the United Launch Alliance, which had a near-monopoly on US launches until recently, was using Blue Origin as a proxy (co-sponsoring the bid) to try to hurt SpaceX, who is offering strong competition and forcing them to lower their prices.

Re: No, not good at all. (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 4 months ago | (#45693241)

You mean, like how Blue Origin tried to hobble SpaceX by securing a launchpad they had no use for?

Did we even read the same article? The same summary?

In short, Blue Origin had no conceivable use for the pad, except for a possible use in the long-term.

We must have, because that was the point of their petition: to open up the launchpad for multiple users.
Now, with SpaceX gaining exclusive access to the pad and facilities, Blue Origin is going to have to shop somewhere else or spend megabucks to build their own launch facility.

Re: No, not good at all. (5, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | about 4 months ago | (#45693533)

This article is not the only report or for that matter even news agency that has reported on this topic. Blue Origin has indeed zero customers at the moment who want to use their services, and the contract is only for five years anyway before it is up for renegotiation.... at which time Blue Origin can try to put forward something of their own that actually can fly.

Elon Musk was so cocky about the whole thing that he offered at his own expense (or the expense of SpaceX and not NASA) to accommodate Blue Origin or for that matter any other American company that might want to use this launch pad for their own projects (referring also to United Launch Alliance). Furthermore, Mr. Musk speculated that the likelihood of Blue Origin actually qualifying according to FAA-AST standards necessary for human spaceflight (which is the only point of using this launch pad as opposed to other locations that certainly are available including at the Kennedy Space Complex at Florida) in the next five years is about as likely as seeing dancing unicorns in that same flame duct.

I have to agree with Mr. Musk on this point too. It isn't just a matter of Blue Origin spending megabucks to build their own launch facility, of which SpaceX has gone through and built three launch pads besides this one and is shopping around for a fourth launch pad in addition to this launch pad (that one is likely to be in Brownsville, Texas), but that Blue Origin is also not really capable of using this particular facility at all.

The whole point of this legal action is to try and delay any potential launches that SpaceX might do at this particular launch pad. SpaceX needs it for both the Falcon Heavy rocket as well and manned launches in particular. It also can act as a back-up site if SLC-40 (the other Florida pad that SpaceX currently operates) needs to go through a period of renovation.

There are another 38 other potential launch sites in the area that are suitable to various degrees or other for spaceflight activity. Some of them certainly are not really suitable and others are in such utter state of disrepair as to be essentially carving out a new spot in the swampland of Cape Canaveral, but there are other locations if the desire was made. There is also pad 39B, but that is currently being used by NASA for the SLS/Orion program as long as that program continues to get funding.

Re: No, not good at all. (1)

Megane (129182) | about 4 months ago | (#45694189)

I recommend you go read http://spaceksc.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com] for his many articles on this very subject (39A). Summary: BO has no launch vehicle, zero mission manifest, and certainly no missions for what 39A is needed for, getting astronauts up to the ISS, for the five-year duration of this deal.

Re: No, not good at all. (1)

Guspaz (556486) | about 4 months ago | (#45697067)

We must have, because that was the point of their petition: to open up the launchpad for multiple users.

Ah, the real reason for BO's petition. They have no conceivable use for the pad themselves, so let's look at who they think the other users might be... How about ULA, their partner in the bid? ULA who has a near-monopoly on US launch capacity, and resents the competition that SpaceX has been causing?

Re:Good (1)

fermion (181285) | about 4 months ago | (#45692811)

I don't know whether it is good or bad, but it does seem that Blue Origin many not be aggressively targeted launch. RIght now the seen to one rudimentary launch facility in Texas near the Texas/New Mexico/Mexico border. Space X has facilities at Spaceport America in New Mexico a couple hundred miles north-northwest of the Blue Origin facility and KSC. As an aside, this makes me wonder if the New Mexico government experiment to compete with NASA might not be working so well. The New Mexico facility was supposed to be complete this year, but evidently is not.

In any case if Blue Origin want to supply recreational suborbital of LEO travel for the masses, the New Mexico facility might be the e way to go. Fly in Albuquerque, three hour drive to the spaceport. Not really that much more inconvenient than KSC, though there is not happy stay in Coco Beach, and two hours closer to Orlando. There would have to bus or plane service, and a nice hotel, for the New Mexico Facility. But really, I think it could work.

Re:Good (1)

Megane (129182) | about 4 months ago | (#45694207)

In any case if Blue Origin want to supply recreational suborbital of LEO travel for the masses

If they only want to launch sub-orbital flights, 39A would be wasted on them. And by the way, "suborbital" and "LEO" are two completely different things. One is a toy that gets you into space for a few minutes, the other one gets you to stay up as long as you want. The only uses for sub-orbital are for recreational up-and-down flights, and very quick long-distance travel (the next step beyond Concorde).

Seeing as I've never heard of "Blue Origin" (1, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | about 4 months ago | (#45692885)

I've never heard of "Blue Origin" before. As such, I'm guessing they haven't successfully launched shit.

Space-X can actually use the pad now.

Re:Seeing as I've never heard of "Blue Origin" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45693017)

Blue Origin is busy building the Amazon delivery drones...

Re:Seeing as I've never heard of "Blue Origin" (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 4 months ago | (#45693543)

The funny thing about Blue Origin is that the company is technically two years older than SpaceX in terms of when their corporate charters were established. I think that speaks volumes about which company is more prepared for actually going into space. Jeff Bezos also has more money than Elon Musk, so it wasn't a cash flow problem either.

Excluse Use (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45692945)

Why exclusive? If anything a private entity should run the launchpad as a rental business. Of course, NASA receives a large chunk of the profits made at a decaying rate. There's plenty of space for multiple companies to operate and the pad itself can be scheduled.

Re:Excluse Use (1)

TWX (665546) | about 4 months ago | (#45693051)

Exclusive because SpaceX might need to make modifications to facilitate their use of the pad, which would mean that a lack of exclusivity would increase operational costs as modifications would be continually necessary for every type of vehicle to use the pad.

It's not like SpaceX has a 99 year lease on the pad, and if serious competition develops then it's very likely that the next time the contract comes up for negotiation it'll be changed.

Re:Excluse Use (1)

radarskiy (2874255) | about 4 months ago | (#45693621)

SpaceX is the only company in a position to actually use it for launching any time soon. Exclusive use means Blue cannot be used a cat's paw.

How is the Falcon Heavy assembled? (1)

Animats (122034) | about 4 months ago | (#45693023)

Pad 39A is overkill for Space-X's Falcon 9. That's built and transported horizontally, then lifted to a vertical position for launch. The Falcon Heavy may need a more elaborate assembly process. Do they need the whole VAB/crawler-transporter rig? That seems the only justification for wanting all the Pad 39A infrastructure.

Re:How is the Falcon Heavy assembled? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45693095)

Pad 39A is overkill for Space-X's Falcon 9. That's built and transported horizontally, then lifted to a vertical position for launch. The Falcon Heavy may need a more elaborate assembly process. Do they need the whole VAB/crawler-transporter rig? That seems the only justification for wanting all the Pad 39A infrastructure.

Probably in the same manner, but I ask you this, in the event of an abort that may cause a weather delay (such as we have to launch in this window or we will have to bring it back in during this hurricane), would YOU want to be tilting over a rocket partially filled with rocket fuel (or even just the remaining vapors after the tank is drained) or would you rather secure it to a rig that can transport it back into shelter without having to risk tipping it horizontally?

Re:How is the Falcon Heavy assembled? (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 months ago | (#45693175)

But nothing is cooler than slowly moving your spacecraft on a ginormous machine on a beautiful Florida morning. Imagine 'ol Elon sitting up front there just looking out, enjoying the view on his crawler - transporter.

Eat hot peroxide, Bezos!

Re:How is the Falcon Heavy assembled? (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 4 months ago | (#45694163)

The crawler is being refurbished for SLS, which does require it (NASA haven't made the the same mistakes as they did with the shuttle.) SpaceX will likely build a rail system to deliver FH to 39A.

Re:How is the Falcon Heavy assembled? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 months ago | (#45695361)

Didn't realize that. Well, that takes most of the fun out of it.

The crawler - transporter is so incredibly cool. Something that big actually moving.

Re:How is the Falcon Heavy assembled? (1)

AJWM (19027) | about 4 months ago | (#45696161)

The crawler - transporter is so incredibly cool. Something that big actually moving.

I see your point, but back in the day it was transporting something larger that would be moving orders of magnitude faster, straight up, seconds after lighting the engines.

(As an aside, there were originally plans for a Pad 39C, and the VAB was scaled to allow simultaneous stacking of up to four Saturn Vs. Sigh, the space program we almost had...)

Re:How is the Falcon Heavy assembled? (1)

afidel (530433) | about 4 months ago | (#45719195)

Actually the crawler was bigger than either the Saturn V or the shuttle (6m lbs vs 5m gross for the Saturn V or 4.4m gross for the shuttle) =)

Re:How is the Falcon Heavy assembled? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45704503)

There are two crawlers. One is being refurbed for SLS. The other one is staying in its current configuration. NASA had expressed interested in letting a private company lease the non-upgraded crawler at least part time. No idea if SpaceX will do that. Probably not, as they consider horizontal integration to be better (less time between the integration facility and the pad). Not being a rocket scientist, I can't really elaborate on which method (vertical or horizontal) is better.

Re:How is the Falcon Heavy assembled? (4, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | about 4 months ago | (#45693559)

The point of 39A as a SpaceX facility, at least the speculation I've seen (SpaceX hasn't said anything official about it), is the facilities which are in place for crewed launches. As far as I've heard and seen in other articles about the topic, they are not purchasing a berth in the VAB (vehicle Assembly Building), thus there will be no need for the crawler/tractor that you are talking about.

It should also be pointed out that the launch pad was going to be abandoned anyway, and before SpaceX put in a bid for the pad the previous plan for the site was simply to let it "rust in place" and sit without any maintenance at all. Neither Blue Origin nor ULA had any interest in the site until SpaceX spoke up asking about it. Do you think a rusting piece of metal on the tour circuit of KSC is a good use of this site instead of seeing people fly into space on new rockets?

Re:How is the Falcon Heavy assembled? (2)

Animats (122034) | about 4 months ago | (#45693665)

Here's their plan [spaceflightnow.com], from 2012. Space-X wants to assemble the Falcon Heavy horizontally, so they'll have to build a big mechanism to lift it up to vertical. For the Falcon 9, they use this [wired4space.com]. It runs on multiple railroad tracks from the assembly shed to the pad. They'll need something more than three times as big for the Falcon Heavy, a bigger shed, a way to lug the thing up the hill to the pad, etc. All doable, but they're already setting that up at Vandenberg, where the weather is better (no hurricanes).

I wanted to win that pad. (1)

lxs (131946) | about 4 months ago | (#45693061)

I didn't even know that NASA held a raffle.
I was going to use it for barbecue parties. You guys were all invited.

Re:I wanted to win that pad. (1)

neiras (723124) | about 4 months ago | (#45693649)

I didn't even know that NASA held a raffle.
I was going to use it for barbecue parties. You guys were all invited.

Grilling steak on the igniter towers? Jumping into the noise suppression pit to cool off?

Awesome.

Miami Herald Circa 1982 (0)

Baldrson (78598) | about 4 months ago | (#45693319)

I was the Miami support team leader for Gerard O'Neil's Space Studies Institute from 1981 to 1983, and I wrote this [archive.org] while manager of interactive architectures at the first electronic newspaper in the US which deployed in Miami.

It actually points to something rather important that's not being mentioned in all this talk about SpaceX vs Blue Origin in the context of competition for government support.

Re:Miami Herald Circa 1982 (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 4 months ago | (#45693363)

hint? If you can summarize the paper here it would be very helpful so I wouldn't have to read it.

Re:Miami Herald Circa 1982 (1)

Baldrson (78598) | about 4 months ago | (#45693381)

Quoting:

Mass-media influences cultural evolution in profound ways....Since institutional evolution is reflected in who has authority over what, editorial authority eventually reflects the biases of this group. They cannot understand life, except as something that generates politics and "human interest" stories. They may even, at some level of awareness, work to maintain our limits to growth since it places their skills at a premium. In a people-saturated environment (one at its limits to growth) people-oriented people are winners.

Re:Miami Herald Circa 1982 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45694657)

Wow. 100% nonsensical. Don't quit your day job.

Re: Miami Herald Circa 1982 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45695785)

holy fucking shit. You got PAID for this claptrap?

Re:Miami Herald Circa 1982 (1)

AJWM (19027) | about 4 months ago | (#45696241)

For the benefit of the reading-ability-impaired AC's posting above, let me extract the relevant phrases:

Mass-media influences cultural evolution [...] They cannot understand life, except as something that generates politics and "human interest" stories. [...] They [...] work to maintain our limits to growth since it places their skills at a premium.

Which is an interesting, and quite possibly valid, point.

I just don't see what it has to do with SpaceX or anyone else using Pad 39A.

Re:Miami Herald Circa 1982 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45741343)

Use of flamethrower for enema will void warranty.

Mars mission? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45694765)

It's true that SpaceX has managed to go where men have gone before using much of the 60's era technology.
It's also true that they have done this in a time when advances in technology have made this much easier.

To their defense, they have done this with meager resources and time compared to others with the same advantages and more.
    IMHO, this is in concert with what NASA's mission ought to be. (Cheap, no big deal access to space.)
    I suspect they will be good stewards of the launch complex.

WIth regards to a longer term mission, they seem to have the hots for Mars.
    Perhaps a useful model for the first manned mission should be to Mars orbit
        where one can remote control surface exploration with reasonable latency?

This seems about right as a goal to restart our ventures off the planet.
 

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