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SpaceX Files Suit Against US Air Force

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the go-big-or-go-home dept.

Space 176

Today Elon Musk announced that SpaceX has decided to challenge the U.S. Air Force's restrictions on rocket launches related to national security. Such launches are done with a Russian rocket right now, and that contract is not up for competition with other rocket makers, like SpaceX. Musk says the company has exhausted other options to become part of the bidding process. "We're just protesting and saying these launches should be competed. And if we compete and lose, that's fine, but why were they not even competed?" He also said it's the "wrong time to send hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kremlin," referencing events in the Ukraine.

At the same press conference, Musk announced that SpaceX's recent attempt to soft-land a rocket booster stage was successful. It landed and was in "healthy condition" immediately afterward. Unfortunately, they weren't able to recover it because it landed in the middle of a rough storm, which eventually destroyed the stage. The storm was rough enough that the Coast Guard wouldn't even send a boat out to help recover it. Musk said, "We'll get much bigger boats next time." SpaceX also plans on landing the stage on shore at some point, which makes recovery easier. Musk made this prediction: "I expect we will be able to land a stage back at Cape Canaveral by the end of the year."

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Russian Engine (5, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 6 months ago | (#46843601)

"Such launches are done with a Russian rocket right now"

more correctly, the launches are done with an American rocket, using a Russian engine (RD-180).

see: http://www.forbes.com/sites/lo... [forbes.com]
http://www.parabolicarc.com/20... [parabolicarc.com]

(the article [techcrunch.com] has it right; the summary is inaccurate).

Re:Russian Engine (1)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | about 6 months ago | (#46843741)

I could be wrong on this, but I thought Pratt was going to be building the RD Amross (which is the american version of the RD-180) starting a couple of years ago. If that's the case then the RD-180's being used on the Atlas V are completely domestic.

With that all said, no bid contracts are shit. The price delta between SpaceX and ULA are large enough that provided SpaceX can demonstrate the same reliability as the the Atlas 5 (so far it has) and the same capabilities (it has) then why not go with the cheaper of the two.

Also, if my assertion in the first paragraph is wrong, then all the more reason to go with SpaceX.

Re:Russian Engine (4, Informative)

adamgundy (836997) | about 6 months ago | (#46843829)

I could be wrong on this, but I thought Pratt was going to be building the RD Amross (which is the american version of the RD-180) starting a couple of years ago. If that's the case then the RD-180's being used on the Atlas V are completely domestic.

no. they spent a small fortune on 'investigating the possibility' of building the engines in the US, which culminated in building one small part of an engine. then concluded that it was too expensive (a billion dollars to start production, and the US engines would also be twice the price).

RD-180s are built in Russia. they have a two year stockpile here in the US.. but ULA have just been awarded a five year block buy.

Re:Russian Engine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46843881)

more correctly, the launches are done with an American rocket, using a Russian engine (RD-180) with Chinese parts.

He's playing with fire (-1, Offtopic)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 6 months ago | (#46843605)

Elon Musk is swimming in the waters of international politics. Big "no no" with this administration currently in office. He's about to get bitch slapped down and possibly lose it all. With Obama, he can be vindictive!

Re:He's playing with fire (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46843789)

I trust that he has a better idea of the consequences than you.

axis of lameness (0)

Thud457 (234763) | about 6 months ago | (#46843885)

Don't worry, as soon as he has the Falcon heavy ready, he can launch his orbital solar deathray, and then he doesn't need to worry about Obummer (or Putin) interfering in this plans.

Re:He's playing with fire (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844007)

Elon Musk is swimming in the waters of international politics. Big "no no" with this administration currently in office. He's about to get bitch slapped down and possibly lose it all.

Probably not. The administration hasn't shown that it's terribly interested in the details of Air Force contracting. There are probably Pentagon officials who are very annoyed and would like to slap him down, but this is simply Pentagon conservatism: the Pentagon likes to keep on doing things the way they do them, because that's they way they do them and it's too much trouble to change.

To the extent that the administration cares at all, they want to sever contracts with Russia (they've already given other orders to that effect), so they're probably mildly on his side. But for the most part, I expect that they don't care much one way or another-- it's not a big item on their agenda.

With Obama, he can be vindictive!

Typical content-free Obama-bashing. You want a president who's vindictive, that was Nixon.

In fact, Obama seems to like Space-X. He was the one who put "Commercial crew transport" as the official U.S. strategy for space access

Re:He's playing with fire (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 6 months ago | (#46844993)

You nailed it with regards to the Obama administration with regards to space policy issues in particular, and defense issues in general. Apathy is the only word you really need to understand.

On the positive side for SpaceX and Elon Musk in particular, he was a major donor to the Obama campaigns in both 2008 and 2012, which I'm sure has paid off somewhat here as well. I'm not saying that Elon Musk endorsed Obama, but he definitely saw a rising star and made sure he was covered with a legitimate bribe (*ahem* campaign contribution) making sure that his bases were well covered. In other words, a proper businessman who knows he can be screwed over by an arbitrary government if he doesn't curry favor immediately with those on the way up.

Re:He's playing with fire (2)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 6 months ago | (#46845165)

Actually the Air Force when it did the EELV contract considered it a problem important enough that AMROSS got a license to build the engine in the US and got all the technical documentation to do it. They were supposed to have an assembly line in the US. But they ended up not building engines in the US because it was 'too expensive'.

After what happened in Crimea the 'reset' is over.

"Contract is not up for competition" (4, Interesting)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 6 months ago | (#46843611)

Translation: some Air Force brass are getting board seats in some corporation X after retirement, so of course they don't want to open the bidding and allow SpaceX to take the contract.

Re:"Contract is not up for competition" (1)

alen (225700) | about 6 months ago | (#46843697)

wasn't Apollo and almost every other space program the same way? the aerospace companies created a joint company that got the work and divided up the profits

No (2)

dlenmn (145080) | about 6 months ago | (#46844409)

In what way is one company getting the work like a job being split up among many companies? According to the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers), over 20,000 different companies and universities worked on the Apollo program.

In short, the answer to your question is no.

https://www.asme.org/engineeri... [asme.org]

Re:"Contract is not up for competition" (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 6 months ago | (#46843911)

More like 10 years ago the company that designed and built the rocket, at great expense, did so because of a no-compete contract they signed with the government. Everyone likes to rail on these agreements but they are rarely signed just for shits and giggles.

Re:"Contract is not up for competition" (3, Insightful)

Loki_1929 (550940) | about 6 months ago | (#46844137)

Are you saying that if they put out contracts for competition, nobody would build anything? Seems absurd on its face. Sure, there's no reason not to build the thing if you have a guaranteed payday, but there's plenty of reason to do it without the guarantee. I'd even be okay with the government footing a small portion of the bill for a handful of serious designs in competition with one another just to get more companies interested. But to simply hand the whole thing over to someone with a fat check and an unlimited credit card for the overages? Ridiculous.

Re:"Contract is not up for competition" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844187)

Nobody does anything long-term without an assurance of loyalty. This is why the US is falling behind: from employees right up to billion dollar government contracts, if the producer isn't given reassurances, its best interest is to milk early and often, taking no long term risks.

Re:"Contract is not up for competition" (2)

DMJC (682799) | about 6 months ago | (#46845113)

Welcome to the JSF: Why make two companies compete for funding when you can just pay them both, and end up with a shittier version of two planes to choose from!

Re:"Contract is not up for competition" (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 6 months ago | (#46845229)

The USAF did that. They even demanded to have two suppliers. Lockheed Martin and Boeing won the EELV contest. However they decided to do a 'joint-venture' i.e. a monopoly afterwards claiming it was uneconomic to have two suppliers. Since then US government launch prices went up believe it or not...

Re:"Contract is not up for competition" (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 6 months ago | (#46843935)

Real translation: They have something that works.

Developing and testing a heavy lift rocket takes years and piles of money. Once they have one they use it. Competing the procurement means anyone can come in with a low bid and provide some paperwork "proving" they have the expertise and resources to build the rocket. So now the government has to go through years of project management and cost overruns before finding out the contractor is incompetent. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Re:"Contract is not up for competition" (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 6 months ago | (#46844321)

Competing the procurement means anyone can come in with a low bid and provide some paperwork "proving" they have the expertise and resources to build the rocket.

SpaceX has a bit more than paperwork.

Re:"Contract is not up for competition" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844585)

I think the implication is that someone less competent might win.

The world is littered with failed government projects that went to a low bidder whose solution passed on paper but was a total disaster in execution.

Re:"Contract is not up for competition" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46845001)

wow! it's amazing, given the libertarian bent of this website, that space-x, who
privately built a rocket with no cushy contracts, is getting no love at all.

explain why you are implying space-x will fail?

I can give you a nice long list ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46845043)

... that agrees with you. And that list is what I know personally to be true ... which is probably less than 1% of the total list.

My team lost a contract to a competitor because of price, not actual technical feasibility. We had a working prototype that was proven technology (only needed 6 month to make it operational), but the government gave the competition (who only had a design on paper) because they heavily (and purposely) underbid the proposal. Five years later, the product delivered is not even 10% of what was bid, and what was delivered has cost 3X the bidding cost in post delivery repairs.

So that "cheap" designed ended up costing over twice the amount that we bid.

Re:"Contract is not up for competition" (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 6 months ago | (#46844441)

So now the government has to go through years of project management and cost overruns before finding out the contractor is incompetent. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Yes. That's better than the current situation. Just hold the contractors responsible. In China, defrauding the government for billions will get you shot. In the US, you get a no-bid contract and guaranteed profits for life.

It's sad when the Chinese government is so much more efficient than the US.

Re:"Contract is not up for competition" (1)

lgw (121541) | about 6 months ago | (#46844551)

Only if you believe China actually works that way. Certainly people are shot by the government for any number of reasons. And I'm sure from time to time the actual reasons are the stated reasons. But you can be sure that if a CEO gets killed for "defrauding the government" the truth includes "and the right guy didn't get his cut".

Re:"Contract is not up for competition" (2)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 6 months ago | (#46845183)

Correction: people get shot in China when their fraud embarrasses the government.

What's with the hard-on that some right-wingers have for autocratic governments? Wait - don't answer that. It'll be depressing.

Re:"Contract is not up for competition" (2)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 6 months ago | (#46844153)

Maybe I've misread the summary, but "Corporation X" here seems to be the Russian government and I don't think a whole lot of retired US military types end up working for them...

United Launch Alliance = Boeing + Lockheed (2)

mbkennel (97636) | about 6 months ago | (#46844731)

Who just happen to be by far the biggest military aerospace contractors, doing just about some of everything.

The RD-180 business is minor.

Gotta get that pork (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46843623)

Government (military) contracts are where all the real money is.

Elon musk's spaceship (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46843655)

it takes 60 days for a seller to collect their funds on ebay/paypal

by then, the seller is usually on the streets and homeless

but elon musk has a spaceship!

Re:Elon musk's spaceship (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46843767)

If you have to rely on eBaying your stuff to keep from getting evicted, you may have made some poor life choices and shouldn't blame Paypal for it.

(And I say that as someone who, as a poor undergraduate, often found myself selling stuff acquired in happier times -- I made some poor life choices.)

Re:Elon musk's spaceship (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844223)

irony (n): Someone complaining about a person who makes their life from auctions, in a thread where the founder of the auction house's payments provider is suing for the right to make a life from auctions.

Elon farted (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46843663)

And everyone at slashdot swooned, breathing deep his ethereal digestion byproduct.

But, what if Elon farted in the woods? Would Beta be there to smell it?

Re:Elon farted (1)

lazarus (2879) | about 6 months ago | (#46843847)

He designs and builds electric supercars and rockets. When you fart it just smells bad.

Re:Elon farted (0)

towermac (752159) | about 6 months ago | (#46843989)

I know. Isn't he great? I wish I could vote for him.

(Elon, not the AC)

Re:Elon farted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844041)

He doesn't design anything. He's a banker, with a very good PR firm.

He steals the name a a true innovator and slaps it on a toy for the rich, then goes onto take the knowledge of the saturn program and call it his own.

I think you may be breathing the fumes.

And.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844593)

What exactly have you done lately that's so innovative and amazing? Exactly, nothing. Banker or not, this guy has a strong vision and has worked hard to make those visions reality.

Well the way things are going internationally... (0)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 6 months ago | (#46843707)

I'd say any teams and hopes we had with Russia should be maintained for the idea of brotherly love.

Taking Russia out of the loop in the ISS for now could appear like we're being jerks in times of international crisis.

We need goodwill now. Money is of no concern when you're thinking of the results of what could happen if Russia and USA blood goes bad.

Re:Well the way things are going internationally.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46843751)

This has nothing to do with the ISS. This is for spy satellites.

Re:Well the way things are going internationally.. (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 6 months ago | (#46843755)

Heh, I thought I read this was launches to the ISS. Please ignore that. My point stands that we shouldn't be treating Russia like some rogue country, but still try and be cool with them. The guys point that we shouldn't be sending money to the Kremlin sends the wrong message to me. I think we should try and be peaceable and stay out of other country's affairs the best we can. I'd love to say,"Let the professionals deal in international affairs." but when you look at our elected officials just being corporate puppets, it makes me hang my head.

Re:Well the way things are going internationally.. (3, Insightful)

raydobbs (99133) | about 6 months ago | (#46843781)

The problem with this plan is that Russia and its leader don't want goodwill from the United States. They want a monster that can be slain with saber-rattling like in the old Cold War days - even if they have to manufacture one out of an ally. Putin isn't interested in who dies in the process in his quest to cement his legacy as the greatest leader of the NEW Soviet Union that ever was - we (not just the United States, but the International community at large) can't be so foolish as to just ignore it. The only way he can get what he wants to have us in a position of weakness - and giving his nation the only means to get to and return from the International Space Station is about the best leverage that we can give him.

Its not a matter of *if* the relationship between the United States and Russia goes bad, its *when* it goes bad if Putin remains in power.

Re:Well the way things are going internationally.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46843865)

Not many countries want goodwill from the United States. That kind of "goodwill" is used to topple democraticly elected governments in other countries and take their oil and other resources.

Re:Well the way things are going internationally.. (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 6 months ago | (#46845023)

You would rather than the country you live in be on the shit list of the U.S. government as opposed to being on a list of supporters?

Re:Well the way things are going internationally.. (3, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 6 months ago | (#46843983)

We need goodwill now.

"If I be real nice to him maybe he won't hit me again! It's all my fault!"

Is such thinking any less heartbreaking on an international scale? No.

Re:Well the way things are going internationally.. (4, Insightful)

Loki_1929 (550940) | about 6 months ago | (#46844235)

We need goodwill now. Money is of no concern when you're thinking of the results of what could happen if Russia and USA blood goes bad.

So we're supposed to just throw all our money down the shitter to keep Russia from getting sad/angry? What are they going to do? Their economy is already collapsing and they've proven once before that you can't pose a real, sustainable military threat to much of anyone if you don't have the economy to keep it going. If we isolate Russia, their economy will take a dive and Putin will end up on the wrong side of pissed off Russians. They'll have a hard winter, then they'll come asking for money telling everyone they've changed their ways.

We're pretty dumb, so we'll give them some money and the cycle will restart. We don't need to buy their stupid rocket engine in no-bid contracts. Let the best solution win.

Re:Well the way things are going internationally.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844695)

...

We need goodwill now. Money is of no concern when you're thinking of the results of what could happen if Russia and USA blood goes bad.

And here I thought merely electing Obama would give us that....

Re:Well the way things are going internationally.. (2)

ultranova (717540) | about 6 months ago | (#46844971)

I'd say any teams and hopes we had with Russia should be maintained for the idea of brotherly love.

Just because you love your crazy axe murdering brother doesn't mean you should buy him an axe.

We need goodwill now. Money is of no concern when you're thinking of the results of what could happen if Russia and USA blood goes bad.

The problem is, it will go bad unless Putin gets what he wants, and what he apparently wants is to take over the neighbouring countries and rebuild Soviet Union. Which, of course, will bring him into a conflict with the EU, which in turn could lead to anything from World War III to EU dissolving from the stress to EU becoming a real federation to effectively counter the threat. To avoid such a chaotic situation with potentially catastrophic consequences Russia needs to be contained, and the most "goodwill" way of doing so is economic isolation.

Re:Well the way things are going internationally.. (2)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 6 months ago | (#46844985)

The idea of brotherly love is supposed to be two-way. And right now, US is seen as enemy #1 not only by the Russian government, but by the majority of the Russian society (which is being fed propaganda about how US is behind everything bad that's happening in Ukraine from their TVs).

He said it worked, except we can't prove it (-1, Troll)

BitZtream (692029) | about 6 months ago | (#46843725)

Funny how successful it is ... but it couldn't be recovered.

I'm not sure what world he lives in, but unless he's reusing his reusable rocket, he failed. Doesn't matter that the Coast Guard wouldn't go after it, that in fact is more telling than anything he said, storms that large and powerful don't blow up in 20 minutes, so there is definitely bad planning on SpaceX's part ... another reason why they just aren't qualified to do what they claim they are doing.

While the engineers at Tesla and SpaceX are damn good at their jobs, Musk needs to be silenced. PayPal was nothing more than right place, right time, and truth be told is an absolutely shitty company in every way except for lining his pockets.

Beta Sucks (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46843765)

"I'm not sure what world he lives in, but unless he's reusing his reusable rocket, he failed."

Uh, you do, you know, realize that there was never, you know, any plan to, you know, reuse the first stage even if it was recovered? And that, you know, the actual, like, goal of launching the rocket was not to recover the first stage, but, you know, to launch the payload into space to, like the space station?

Back in the real world, rather than whatever wacky alternate reality you live in, the goal of the recovery test was to perform a fake 'soft landing' over the sea to prove that such a thing was possible, and ensure that, if they screwed up, no-one would get hurt. That goal was successful. They only wanted to recover the stage so they could take it apart and see what had happened to the hardware in the process.

Re:Beta Sucks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46843997)

...I stopped reading this shitty post after the third 'you know'. DIAF.

Ya know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844043)

...I stopped reading this shitty post after the third 'you know'. DIAF.

But, you know, what he said was right (you know).

Re:Beta Sucks (1)

jafac (1449) | about 6 months ago | (#46844961)

several fish were severely burned. probably.

Re:Beta Sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46845051)

mr gp, you got an ac to disagree with you and get modded +5 insightful?
well done sir!

Re:He said it worked, except we can't prove it (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46843783)

The idea was to test a soft landing, but not damage anything in case of failure. SpaceX determined that it would have landed safely on land, so next launch they can prepare a proper landing pad and worry less about frying the next town over.

Re:He said it worked, except we can't prove it (1)

CSG_SurferDude (96615) | about 6 months ago | (#46843835)

It's not bad planning, it's that the mission was to deliver goods. NOT deliver goods AND recover the booster.

Re:He said it worked, except we can't prove it (0)

jedidiah (1196) | about 6 months ago | (#46843861)

> Funny how successful it is ... but it couldn't be recovered.

Commercial passenger planes "fail" in this manner on a frequent basis. Although they generally avoid those kinds of landings entirely and end up going to some entirely different destination.

Re:He said it worked, except we can't prove it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46843877)

troll, Elon Musk is a genius and the awsomenest person ever

Re:He said it worked, except we can't prove it (5, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 6 months ago | (#46844001)

Funny how successful it is ... but it couldn't be recovered.

This was a TEST, in case it's not terribly clear.

Specifically, it was a test of the rocket's ability to fly back from a launch, and hover over the ocean (the previous attempt to do this, without the landing legs, spun out of control).

It was hoped that the rocket could be recovered, so they could evaluate the condition of the rocket after reentry.

The design test - reentry plus hover over the ocean - worked just fine. Hence the test was successful.

The bonus part - recover the first stage - failed because of stormy seas. They couldn't reach the rocket before it sank.

Note that the design intention for the F9R is that it do the rocket thing, then brake to a landing and land on a pad back at the launch complex.

It is likely that they'll repeat this test at least once more (mostly because they're scheduled to do another launch next month, and aren't going to change the launch profile at this late date), then try to land the thing on the ground on later launches.

Note also that after they've worked out the problems with landing the first stage, they plan to start working on recovering the second stage (which will be REALLY interesting, since it'll essentially have the flight profile of a FOBS (Fractional Orbit Bombardment System), and might make several Space Defense Commands wet themselves.)

Re:He said it worked, except we can't prove it (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about 6 months ago | (#46844207)

Note also that after they've worked out the problems with landing the first stage, they plan to start working on recovering the second stage (which will be REALLY interesting, since it'll essentially have the flight profile of a FOBS (Fractional Orbit Bombardment System), and might make several Space Defense Commands wet themselves.)

:popcorn

soon it will be black orchid time, don't you worry (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 6 months ago | (#46844267)

sssssshhhhhhhh.... you're not supposed to reveal to the supporting characters that they're cannon fodder in a James Bond novel.

Re:He said it worked, except we can't prove it (1)

jafac (1449) | about 6 months ago | (#46844977)

I think that the really amazing bit was that they were able to land over the ocean, in stormy seas. I wonder what the wind-speed was at that time?

Re:He said it worked, except we can't prove it (4, Insightful)

Loki_1929 (550940) | about 6 months ago | (#46844263)

Elon Musk is a billionaire. Tesla builds electric tanks that are somehow street legal. SpaceX builds rockets and launches things into outer space. You sit around at home scratching your ass and tossing out criticism.

Musk 3
You 0

Welfare & Keeping Tabs (5, Interesting)

Scot Seese (137975) | about 6 months ago | (#46843729)

I suspect the current arrangement with the Russians providing lift tickets to the ISS performs a similar function to the intelligence treaties we signed in the 90s allowing the U.S. and Russia to perform overflights of each others' countries to verify ICBM numbers and troop movements, plus the CIAs fanatical attention to assist the Russians in tracking and controlling any and all nuclear materials to keep it from wandering off in the hands of men like Viktor Bout, "Lord of War" arms dealer.

By subsidising the Russian space program with this sweetheart no-bid contract, we, the U.S., help ensure that dozens of very highly skilled engineers and scientists with the ability to lead a team interested in designing and building short, medium, or long-range rockets - for whatever purpose - are kept "on payroll" and reasonably content safely and securely inside Russia. Exactly where we want them. Instead of helping a potential aggressor nation like Iran, North Korea, or theocratic / military dictatorship Du Jour develop accurate, long range weapons for suitcases full of cash, women, mansions and national hero-worship.

The current deal also forces a certain level of cooperation between the space agencies, governments, and builds political good will on both sides. Good Will that Putin is destroying at the moment, but will return providing he doesn't go all Poland '39 on the remainder of Ukraine.

Re:Welfare & Keeping Tabs (1)

Loki_1929 (550940) | about 6 months ago | (#46844291)

By subsidising the Russian space program with this sweetheart no-bid contract, we, the U.S., help ensure that dozens of very highly skilled engineers and scientists with the ability to lead a team interested in designing and building short, medium, or long-range rockets - for whatever purpose - are kept "on payroll" and reasonably content safely and securely inside Russia. Exactly where we want them. Instead of helping a potential aggressor nation like Iran, North Korea, or theocratic / military dictatorship Du Jour develop accurate, long range weapons for suitcases full of cash, women, mansions and national hero-worship.

It would be an order of magnitude cheaper if we flew those guys to the US, handed them suitcases full of cash, and bought them all houses in southern California. If we really wanted to get fancy, we could even offer them jobs.

Or we can pay their government tons more money to build a rocket engine we don't need.

Re:Welfare & Keeping Tabs (1)

cbhacking (979169) | about 6 months ago | (#46844637)

Too bad there are no southern Californian companies employing rocket scientists these days... OH WAIT!

(Yes, that was probably the joke.)

Re:Welfare & Keeping Tabs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844655)

I sort of doubt that Russia would let them all leave the country en masse.

Re:Welfare & Keeping Tabs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844803)

I sort of doubt Putin would let them all leave the country *alive*.

Re:Welfare & Keeping Tabs (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 6 months ago | (#46844339)

In other words, the US and Russia are engaged in the kind of keep-the-workers-from-moving deal that the US just dinged Apple, Google, etc. over. B-)

I've heard this before. (4, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 6 months ago | (#46843849)

Musk said, "We'll get much bigger boats next time."

Is he retrieving a booster or a shark [urbandictionary.com] ?

Bloody rocket dealerships (5, Funny)

photonic (584757) | about 6 months ago | (#46843891)

It is about time that the FTC steps in and allows SpaceX to sell their rockets directly to the Air Force. Blame the rich local rocket dealerships, we corrupted their local politicians to create laws that are only designed to maintain their business model of selling old fashioned rockets. What people in the street want is to buy a next generation rocket, directly from the Internet, without having to talk to one of those sleazy rocket salesman. I am getting confused, you were saying Elon?

Re:Bloody rocket dealerships (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844243)

It is about time that the FTC steps in and allows SpaceX to sell their rockets directly to the Air Force.

Seriously? You want to take the Falcon rocket away from Elon Musk who is highly motivated to perfect it and give it to the Air Force who doesn't really care*?

*When I say "doesn't really care", I mean the Air Force doesn't care about perfecting low-cost access to space. After all, it's not their money.

Re:Bloody rocket dealerships (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844387)

In space, nobody can hear your jokes go, "Whoosh!"

Re:Bloody rocket dealerships (1)

Guspaz (556486) | about 6 months ago | (#46844397)

You seem to have completely missed the point of Photonic's post, which was to take a comment on Tesla's problems with dealerships, and swap Tesla/SpaceX, Dealers/Air Force, and Cars/Rockets.

Re:Bloody rocket dealerships (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 6 months ago | (#46845091)

They are pretty much the same thing, other than the unit cost of the vehicles involved.

+1 Funny (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 6 months ago | (#46844461)

ROFL!

Wish I had mod points just now.

I hope Musk gets terminal cancer soon. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46843907)

Musk is a con man, who is amoral and has no qualms about
screwing over as many people as he needs to screw in order
to fulfill his fantasy of being the creator of something worthwhile.
And so far, it remains a fantasy.

Re:I hope Musk gets terminal cancer soon. (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 6 months ago | (#46844491)

Why all the hate? Is it just jealousy? I honestly don't understand why so many hate people they've never seen.

Diss Putin contracts... (1)

harvey the nerd (582806) | about 6 months ago | (#46844013)

Remember Alexander Litvinenko. Diss putin can get you killed.

less than a third of the cost (4, Interesting)

bigpat (158134) | about 6 months ago | (#46844029)

As a taxpayer, I wouldn't usually care about these corporate tiffs, but SpaceX can probably save the government hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars which could be used towards additional capabilities in space... so using SpaceX for launches could allow the Air Force to double its launch capacity at the same cost. Forget about sending money to Russia using ULA rockets, using SpaceX could double or more than double US space capabilities which translates to more communications satellites, more surveillance satellites and more R&D payloads.

It is boggles the mind that the procurement folks at the air force would sign long term contracts with ULA just a few months before SpaceX has finished jumping through all the Air Force hoops for certification. Seems like a pretty blatant multi billion dollar gift (going out of business gift?) to the United Launch Alliance and is a bad deal for the Pentagon.

Given the likelihood of certification for SpaceX, at the very least the Air Force procurers should have limited the contract to nearer term launches and not so many.

Re:less than a third of the cost (2)

Loki_1929 (550940) | about 6 months ago | (#46844197)

As a taxpayer, I wouldn't usually care about these corporate tiffs, but SpaceX can probably save the government hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars

It's not just the US government, it's the US military. Start in the billions and work your way up from there.

The way military contracting usually works, you may as well fold up some paper into a paper airplane and throw it across a room, then tell the Air Force your design does everything they want for $1. Then spend the next 20 years learning about aeronautical engineering and how to build jet fighters while sending the Air Force bills for $5 Billion a year (don't worry, they'll direct deposit immediately). At the end of it, deliver them something that's beta quality at best and let them kill a couple dozen test pilots (and "test" pilots) until you figure out all the obvious problems with it. Then charge them a few more billion to fix those things. If you're lucky, the project will get canceled due to the ridiculously high cost overruns and you won't have to build but a handful of half-working planes, but still pocket the tens of billions.

Pretty sweet deal.

Re:less than a third of the cost (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 6 months ago | (#46844547)

... SpaceX can probably save the government hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars which could be used towards additional capabilities in space...

Or left in the taxpayer's pockets for THEM to use as they see fit - which would probably do a LOT more for them and the economy - including private space missions.

"Much bigger boats next time..." (5, Funny)

Loki_1929 (550940) | about 6 months ago | (#46844105)

Musk said, "We'll get much bigger boats next time."

Knowing Musk, that means he's going to build a flotilla of fully autonomous fusion powered Nimitz class aircraft carriers constructed entirely from carbon fiber. They'll probably haul the booster up with carbon nanotube wires and preserve it in amber, then transform into robots and fly back to fucking Cybertron.

Re:"Much bigger boats next time..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844239)

then transform into robots and fly back to fucking Cybertron.

Man, I wish I could remember my login credentials. I think have some mod points, and this would have been a good use of one.

Re:"Much bigger boats next time..." (1)

PPH (736903) | about 6 months ago | (#46844341)

Pull Musk's geek card. The correct line is, "We're gonna need a bigger boat."

Carbon fiber stiff-airfoil sailboats. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 6 months ago | (#46844421)

Knowing Musk, that means he's going to build a flotilla of fully autonomous fusion powered Nimitz class aircraft carriers constructed entirely from carbon fiber. They'll probably haul the booster up with carbon nanotube wires and preserve it in amber, then transform into robots and fly back to fucking Cybertron.

Actually I COULD see Musk building a carbon fiber hulled, wind driven,Knowing Musk, that means he's going to build a flotilla of fully autonomous fusion powered Nimitz class aircraft carriers constructed entirely from carbon fiber. They'll probably haul the booster up with carbon nanotube wires and preserve it in amber, then transform into robots and fly back to fucking Cy

Actually I COULD see Musk building a carbon fiber hulled, wind driven, solar powered, cargo ship.

I doubt he'd bother doing such a vessel as a recovery ship for this project, though, since he's just planning to land a couple to test that the control systems are working adequately before he starts bringing them in on land. Even if it made sense to build one to use it twice, by the time it was done its mission would have already been completed.

Re:"Much bigger boats next time..." (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 6 months ago | (#46845037)

transform into robots and fly back to fucking Cybertron.

Hmm... I don't think I've seen any references of Unicron engaging in food play before. A cauldron of human creativity, this site is.

What about the DC-X? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844319)

It butt-landed in 1991. What's the big deal?

this is why we can't have nice things. (1, Interesting)

Thud457 (234763) | about 6 months ago | (#46844411)

McDonnell Douglas handed the DC-X over to NASA who promptly dropped it and set it on fire.

Man, you make me sad. I remember how COOL that was at the time, it was the FUTURE, landing on a pillar of fire like a proper spaceship. Then we pissed away another 20 years doing nothing with it. May Space X have better luck.

Re:this is why we can't have nice things. (3, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 months ago | (#46844691)

I wish that I had NOT commented already, so that I could have modded you down. DARPA dropped it because they did not want it. NASA picked it up, and then offered up a contest. The X-33 won, while MD, and then Boeing, decided to NOT fund it. X-33 was mostly funded by L-Mart, which is why they won the NASA funding.

The ones that really dropped DC-X was MD/Boeing since they never would fund it.

Now, OTOH, look at SpaceX. They are acting like our companies from the 40's-70's. They are out about long-term massive profits. Boeing, MD, L-Mart, etc are ran by GOP MBAers and they are all about short-term, lets-feed-on-gov-teat-for-everything, kind of companies.

Re:this is why we can't have nice things. (4, Insightful)

mbkennel (97636) | about 6 months ago | (#46844755)


Precisely.

There are certain companies whose core competency is engineering around the government procurement process.

Then there's SpaceX, whose core competency is rocket engineering.

Re:What about the DC-X? (3, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | about 6 months ago | (#46844471)

DC-X started landing from zero kilometres per hour at a maximum altitude of ~3km without ever having to re-light the engines. A Falcon 9 first stage starts landing from 11,000 kilometers per hour (mach 10) at 80km and has to re-light the engines twice (retro burn and landing burn). There's an enormous difference.

DC-X is more comparable to Grasshopper, not an actual orbital Falcon 9 rocket.

Re:What about the DC-X? (2)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 months ago | (#46844717)

For starters, MD/Boeing never funded it.
Secondly, DC-X cost the gov. loads of money, but was poorly built. The fact that they lost a leg speaks volumes.
Third, when NASA offered loads of help, MD/Beoing insisted on loads of money.

Finally, DC-X never went that high, nor anywhere near as fast. As mentioned, DC-X was a very small version of grasshopper which never got as high or fast, while F9R just flew TO SPACE and succeeded.

Beta Sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844973)

For starters, DC-X cost about $60,000,000. That was in the 90s, but that's barely noticeable on any government budget, and significantly less than NASA spent to put a fake upper state on top of a shuttle SRB and fire it into the ocean. The low cost was one of the reasons it scared the established players so much.

Secondly, if I remember correctly, the leg failed to extend because someone had disconnected a hydraulic line. And that was after NASA had taken over the program.

Re:Beta Sucks (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 months ago | (#46845153)

It does not fucking matter. The fact remains that neither DARPA NOR NASA ran the program. They funded it. Nothing MORE.

MD/Boeing sucked the milk dry from the teat and the whined about it, just like you.
The fact remains that SpaceX is putting their money where they expect profits to come from.

Just call up the President, Zuckerberg style (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844355)

time to call in those favors Musk paid for in getting the President elected. Unless he's used them all up getting EV credits and immunity from Union hassles for TESLA.

Why is it that all cars are required to have front plates in CA, even if they did not come with them originally, but the Model S has no front plate or frame? Not a single one here in San Jose has a legal front plate that is required by law for everyone else.

Maybe Musk needs to save some favors for his other projects, or wait till after helping buy the next election.

Re:Just call up the President, Zuckerberg style (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46845127)

Still attached to the front of romney's pants and milking it hard, are you?

I look forward to when they sue CONgress (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 months ago | (#46844647)

Seriously, SpaceX should sue the republicans for being the traitors that they are. If trash like shelby, wolf, Hatch, Coffman, etc were sued PERSONALLY, it would no doubt go through multiple courts, BUT, with information brought out, it would cause citizens to re-evaluate what is happening.

Just another businessman (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46844693)

Smart guy.

He know's his main competition is OSC. And for nearly all small Airforce launches goto OSC. And OSC is using russian engines as well for their NASA bids.

OSC is their main competition. OSC does built their own stuff, but at a different approach (older tech but still develops). He needs to stay ahead considering the competition's solution is much different but hitting the same price point.

Why go cheap with a company ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46845105)

... that still has a 70% failure rate instead of going with technology that is PROVEN and RELIABLE ??

Sorry, but contrary to what the SpaceX PR machine claims, to this day SpaceX hasn't managed to launch a single rocket without it having some mayor failure. From catastrophic flights (first 8 flights were total lost) to failing to reach target orbit and frozen thruster nozzles, SpaceX hasn't managed a single flight with an acceptable level of reliability.

Yes, they have managed to PARTIALLY complete a mission, but have never actually fully completed one.

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