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NASA, France Skeptical of SpaceX Reusable Rocket Project

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the we-can't-do-it-therefore-nobody-can-do-it dept.

Space 333

MarkWhittington writes: "The drive by SpaceX to make the first stage of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle reusable has attracted the attention of both the media and the commercial space world. It recently tested a first stage which 'soft landed' successfully in the Atlantic Ocean. However both NASA and the French space agency CNES have cast doubt that this kind of reusability could ever be made practical, according to a Monday story in Aviation Week. SpaceX is basing its plan on the idea that its Merlin 1D engines could be reused 40 times. However, citing their own experience in trying to reuse engines, both NASA and the CNES have suggested that the technical challenges and the economics work against SpaceX being able to reuse all or part of their rockets. NASA found that it was not worth trying to reuse the space shuttle main engines after every flight without extensive refurbishment. The CNES studied reusing its Ariane 5 solid rocket boosters liquid fueled and reusable but soon scrapped the idea."

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Just because... (5, Insightful)

torkus (1133985) | about 5 months ago | (#46938233)

...we can't do it, you clearly can't either.

Sorry but big government's approach to things isn't what I usually measure up against. They spent how much on the space shuttle and so it would be reusable and instead after every flight the basically take it apart and rebuild every major and most minor subsystems?

Let someone else give it a go before you just say it's impossible

governement approach can waste money trying (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938267)

Commercial approach need to have a solution ready, or one quickly ready enough. That's the difference. When ESA/NASA says they tried and found it unpractical cost wise and security wise, after trying and wasting money at it, you better pay attention. Because those are the branch of government which have the MOST engineer after civil engineering, and are the least "big government".

Re:governement approach can waste money trying (5, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about 5 months ago | (#46938431)

the least "big government"
 
I don't know but from all I read about NASA I get the impression that, as good as the engineers are at the one end, the bureaucracy and politics on the other end are just as bad as in the rest of the government. Space X doesn't have to build their components in 40 different states and in order to please 40 congressmen and get the funding etc.

Also, don't underestimate the power of competition. NASA only had to meet some arbitrarily set deadline and in the worst case get chewed up in a congressional committee after the 10th delay or cost overrun. Space X has to beat its competitors on price and service or else it goes out of business.

Re:governement approach can waste money trying (0)

morgauxo (974071) | about 5 months ago | (#46938741)

> Space X doesn't have to build their components in 40 different states and in order to please 40 congressmen and get the funding etc.

Are you sure about that? It's still congress that decides NASA's budget. I'm sure congress knows where SpaceX's factories are. So long as NASA is SpaceXs biggest customer what makes you think they are immune to politics? I doubt SpaceX would thrive if NASA was defunded.

Re:governement approach can waste money trying (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46939073)

I doubt SpaceX would thrive if NASA was defunded.

They might thrive if there were more SapceX's

Cold-war era mind-frame (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 5 months ago | (#46939205)

> Space X doesn't have to build their components in 40 different states and in order to please 40 congressmen and get the funding etc.

Are you sure about that? It's still congress that decides NASA's budget. I'm sure congress knows where SpaceX's factories are. So long as NASA is SpaceXs biggest customer what makes you think they are immune to politics? The same things that prevent the Government (one of the biggest customers of Oracle and Microsoft) from arm-bending said companies into setting up shops in Watchamacalahootie, North Montanabraska. Space X is just a COTS provider, not a custom development as-per-contract-won contractor like Lockheed Martin or Raytheon. Different rules apply.

I doubt SpaceX would thrive if NASA was defunded.

It would simply move shop somewhere. There are plenty of civilian/multinational space agencies with the capability of launching rockets (and with respective markets) : European Space Agency, Agência Espacial Brasileira, UK Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency, German Aerospace Center, Indian Space Research Organization, Israeli Space Agency, Italian Space Agency, Korea Aerospace Research Institute, Argentina's space program, Indonesia's space program, etc, etc, etc.

Though none of these agencies compare in term of mu$cle to NASA, they are not chump money either. And the list above doesn't mention the Russian and Chinese space programs as it only list space programs of nations with which we do not have potential conflicts.

We need to disabuse ourselves from the notion that the US is the only shop in town. It is the largest, but it is neither the only one, nor does it eclipse all others combine.

That is a cold-war notion that the sooner we get rid of it out of mental systems, the better. You do not need the biggest market, you simply need a viable one from where to, no pun intended, launch yourself. More than two decades of globalization and continuous technical improvement in other markets should have given us the clue already.

Re:Cold-war era mind-frame (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 5 months ago | (#46939221)

I hate it when I get forget to close the quote brackets right.

Re:governement approach can waste money trying (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46939057)

> Space X doesn't have to build their components in 40 different states

They will once they start going for big government contracts.

Origami Space Station (5, Insightful)

NReitzel (77941) | about 5 months ago | (#46938283)

Does anyone remember the history of the space station?

NASA spent billions (with a B) of dollars, and for a decade we had not one bolt flying in orbit. I used to call the project the Origami space station, made out of paper. It wasn't until the Russians went ahead and launched the first module that NASA got around to giving up on Powerpoint and Viewgraphs and meetings, and actually -did- something.

I just love it when people proudly proclaim that something isn't possible.

History shows that such pronouncements have a very poor track record.

Re:Origami Space Station (0)

greenwow (3635575) | about 5 months ago | (#46938377)

NASA got around to giving up on Powerpoint

Skylab was launched in 1973. Microsoft launched that piece of shit
Powerpoint, which is loved by old white men everywhere since they love not
doing work and running their fucking mouths, in 1990. How can your
CONservative kind claim NSA was wasting money using something that wasn't
released until almost two decades later? I guess that is why you people
decided to call yourselves a word derived from con. That is all your kind
does. Lie. Lie. Lie. It is disgusting. Powerpoint did not exist before
the space station was launch. You have a Faux Knews level of propoganda and
lies.

Re:Origami Space Station (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938467)

NASA got around to giving up on Powerpoint

Skylab was launched in 1973. Microsoft launched that piece of shit
Powerpoint, which is loved by old white men everywhere since they love not
doing work and running their fucking mouths, in 1990.

Learn to read you dolt

Re:Origami Space Station (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938477)

I'm pretty sure you missed his point. He wasn't specifically talking about Powerpoint being used, just the fact that NASA was talking while the Russians were doing. It wasn't until Russia did something that NASA stopped just talking and did something about it. You got caught up on one word in his whole statement and missed the point.

Re:Origami Space Station (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 5 months ago | (#46938617)

TIL NASA engineering is done in powerpoint.

Re:Origami Space Station (5, Funny)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 5 months ago | (#46938847)

No, NASA management is done in Powerpoint.

(NASA engineering is done in Excel.)

Re:Origami Space Station (3, Interesting)

Megane (129182) | about 5 months ago | (#46938799)

Microsoft didn't "launch" Powerpoint, they bought it. It was initially for the Mac, then MS bought it three years later when they first released MS Office.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Origami Space Station (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938899)

A. They said "power point and viewgraphs"

B. It's called a figure of speech. Dickhead

Re:Origami Space Station (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 5 months ago | (#46939123)

NReitzel is referring to ISS, not Skylab. You know that, why are you Lie Lie Lying and pretending that you don't?

Re:Origami Space Station (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938465)

> Origami space stationPowerpoint

How in the holy fuck did NASA use Powerpoint when they started working on the space station in 1966? The damn thing was designed, built, launch, occupied by three crews, and came down all on or before 1979 which more than a decade before Powerpoint was released. Bill Gates was eleven years old when work was started on the station. How can you claim he had already released Powerpoint by then? Really? This site is really getting infested with children that are too young to remember, but not old enough to know not to try to lie.

Re:Origami Space Station (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938919)

Learn to fucking read and understand the subtleties of english grammar. dickhead.

Re:Origami Space Station (1)

parkinglot777 (2563877) | about 5 months ago | (#46939283)

You don't need to be rude. And by the way, there are many others, who read and post on this forum, are not from native English speaking countries. Furthermore, if you are very smart, you should have already known that often time English can be ambiguous.

Re:Origami Space Station (4, Informative)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 5 months ago | (#46939083)

GP is referring to Freedom Space Station, not Skylab. You know that, why are you lying and pretending you don't?

Freedom was proposed to Reagan in '86 and accepted in '88 (continuing under Bush I). It was supposed to cost $8 billion all up and take 8 years.

8 years and $8 billion later, nothing had been launched; hell, nothing had been built. The design had shrunk from a 12 man space station much larger (internally) than Skylab, to a 4 man station much smaller than Skylab. (The in-house joke at the time was that they had to call it "Fred" because they could no longer fit all the letters of "Freedom" on the side.)

So in '96, Clinton forced an enquiry which required them to take what had been designed up to that point, pick one of the three leading configurations, and just build it. This led to the current design, then nicknamed "Alpha". In '98, a requirement was added to merge the station with Russian modules (and to a lesser degree Europa and Japan). This would reduce NASA's cost in developing some of the core modules, get modules launched earlier, and buy access to Mir technology/experience; it was also thought beneficial to keep Russia's space program intact, to prevent rocket engineers going to work for Iran/Iraq/etc. That became the ISS.

As for "Powerpoint", it's clearly being used as a euphemism for the endless "paper studies" and over-management that infest NASA. You also know that, why are you lying and pretending that you don't?

Re:Origami Space Station (5, Insightful)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 5 months ago | (#46938523)

I just love it when people proudly proclaim that something isn't possible.

Agreed. I remember back in the 50's when I was a kid and innovative thinkers were planning flying cars. A lot of luddite skeptics rose up and proclaimed that flying cars were impractical, too dangerous, too expensive, etc. But did the forward-thinkers let the skeptics hold them back? HELL NO!

Never let old-school thinkers hold you back! No idea is crazy as long as you BELIEVE IN IT ENOUGH!

Re:Origami Space Station (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 5 months ago | (#46938729)

Terrafugia flying car not good enough for you?

Re:Origami Space Station (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938543)

./ really needs something like reddit.com/r/quityourbullshit/. There are just too many punks ruining this site by posting things they know not to be true.

Re:Origami Space Station (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46939031)

"I just love it when people proudly proclaim that something isn't possible.

History shows that such pronouncements have a very poor track record."

And I love it when people proclaim anything is possible. Have you done any research to back up your claims? Why don't you pick up some decades-old popular magazines and get back to us about what's possible and what isn't?

How's your Segway BTW? Built any cities around it lately?

Didn't think so, you loudmouth idiot.

Re:Just because... (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 5 months ago | (#46938305)

The biggest thing is Space-X is applying modern technology, not 50 year old technology, to their solutions.

If you think back to the shuttle design... Most of the work was done on paper, with perhaps a few months on computer simulation.

Space-X with its new design and all computer driven, means they can test fix test and retest in the computer before they build a working system. This allows them engineer to reliability, without a bunch of testing.

Re:Just because... (3, Insightful)

Drethon (1445051) | about 5 months ago | (#46938383)

At least as far as their simulation is accurate. The real world still throws curves on any design but it is still a major jump start.

Re:Just because... (4, Informative)

torkus (1133985) | about 5 months ago | (#46938427)

Exactly.

NASA built redundancy into everything because they didn't know better. Material science was far less developed. Computer simulations basically non-existent. They didn't design a 30% margin into parts, they guessed and fixed whatever part broken with a strong/better one and tried again. If some part was 5000% over-engineered it wouldn't break but would negatively impact the overall system complexity/weight.

I'm pretty sure NASA (and plenty of others) also said Elon/Space-X was stupid for getting into building launch vehicles too. Yet here we are with their innovation not only a success, but bringing cheaper launches than anyone else. Clearly Space-X is not to be believed. /sarcasm

Re:Just because... (2)

morgauxo (974071) | about 5 months ago | (#46938769)

>>I'm pretty sure NASA (and plenty of others) also said Elon/Space-X was stupid...

Actually, didn't NASA award SpaceX a bunch of money to help get started... That's what I remember anyway. Do they help fund stupid?

Re:Just because... (4, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | about 5 months ago | (#46939345)

>>I'm pretty sure NASA (and plenty of others) also said Elon/Space-X was stupid...

Actually, didn't NASA award SpaceX a bunch of money to help get started... That's what I remember anyway. Do they help fund stupid?

It was DARPA, not NASA, which gave some initial seed money to fly a few experimental payloads. Still, even that money was just a drop in the bucket for what was needed to get the rocket off the ground and certainly wasn't sufficient to pay for the development. All told, the development costs of getting the Falcon 9 ready were under a billion dollars, something a NASA study done a few years ago claimed couldn't be done for less than $10 billion.

The DARPA money was just a few tens of millions of dollars. NASA has certainly paid for stuff like the ISS resupply missions (one is currently in space as I write this down), and they are also paying for a commercial crew program that also has money going to some other companies as well. Those were also highly competitive contracts that were literally open to any business or even group of investors who cared to put together an idea for a vehicle (including Jeff Bezos with his Blue Origin company who actually submitted a bid for that money too).

Still, none of that would have been possible without substantial private capital including most of the private fortune of Elon Musk himself who has reportedly invested as much as $200 million of his own money into SpaceX.

Re:Just because... (2)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 5 months ago | (#46938451)

To some extent the biggest thing SpaceX is doing is tossing the demand for "flight qualified" out the window, and instead building the part they want and then flying it and qualifying it.

The risk of course being, you might destroy from test rigs. But if you acknowledge that's what they are, then you learn things.

Re:Just because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938693)

You're missing, though, the context in which flight qualification was developed. That's one of the reasons they could not present a responsive bid when the USAF published an RFP for space launch a few years ago. This video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McbCwSW2moo demonstrates how those lessons were learned. Agile is an adequate way to write web interfaces, but it really gets expensive fast if you're blowing up the customer's satellites on your test flights.

Re:Just because... (5, Funny)

Andrio (2580551) | about 5 months ago | (#46938369)

"Things are only impossible until they are not." -Picard

Re:Just because... (1)

aurizon (122550) | about 5 months ago | (#46938389)

Let us examine the stresses on the various parts and assess rebuilding.
The main engine takes all the heat and thrust of the launch. How much metal fatigue occurs? The extreme vibration of launch bends the metal back and forth a small amount. How much metal/ceramic has been burned off various surfaces of the engine?.
Electronics, probably can be used again. Sensors might need replacement. Tanks, piping and pumps all need to be tested for metal fatigue in the launch environment. We might find tanks etc are good for one launch, but not two, same for all manner of parts.
I am not sure what sort of assessment process Ariane went through before thet decided it was not economic to recycle. The data might be online.

That said, we can certainly re-use the launch vehicle, but the tests and assessment and replacement of the parts too worn by flame and fatigue may well cost more than a newly made vehicle.

Re:Just because... (1)

Megane (129182) | about 5 months ago | (#46938987)

So, with the exception of SSME, how many of the engines that anyone has attempted to reuse, or even thought about reusing, have been recovered with soft landings? Even with a parachute, water landings tend to get seawater all over everything, and that stuff isn't exactly good for precision equipment. And of course parachute ground landings still hit the ground enough bend stuff inside.

This is the kind of stuff that someone needs to try all the way to completion before we dismiss it as stupid.

Re:Just because... (1)

aurizon (122550) | about 5 months ago | (#46939039)

Yes, it takes a full test, in addition, the extra weight of building it to soft land reduces the performance of the system.

Re:Just because... (5, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 5 months ago | (#46938401)

...we can't do it, you clearly can't either.

Sorry but big government's approach to things isn't what I usually measure up against. They spent how much on the space shuttle and so it would be reusable and instead after every flight the basically take it apart and rebuild every major and most minor subsystems?

Let someone else give it a go before you just say it's impossible

They're not saying it is impossible; they're saying they discovered the cost of doing it was much higher than expected. It may have been cheaper to simply build new ones and spread the manufacturing costs over many more engines than try to rebuild them. One challenge they faced was limited engine flight data to identify how to rebuild them cost effectively without compromising safety. Add in the impact of salt water and you have some serious engineering challenges that may not be cost effective to solve. It's great that Space X wants to reuse them but NASA/ESA are saying they need to look carefully at the economics of reusability vs. all new components. One luxury Space X doesn't have that NASA/ESA have is large budgets and the ability to tap into even more public funds if needed so a mistake could spell the end of Space X.

Re:Just because... (3, Insightful)

putaro (235078) | about 5 months ago | (#46938519)

Salt water is a big problem - the SpaceX plan appears to be to land the booster back at the pad, though, not in the water. No one has ever gotten a booster to fly back after a launch before, so that's a pretty big score for them.

It's easy to say "can't, too expensive, why are you wasting your money?" - the fun thing here is that SpaceX is wasting their own money, not the government's (the government is paying for the launches but not the experimental part). Maybe they'll be right, maybe they'll be wrong. However, they are trying and that's pretty exciting.

Re:Just because... (5, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | about 5 months ago | (#46938625)

Beyond stating the obvious, these quotes from the NASA engineers don't really seem to fly with me.

I get that building rocket engines is a tough challenge, as can be clearly demonstrated by how few new rocket engine designs ever get completed.n All of the complaints about the RD-180 engine with its manufacturing being done in Russia center around the fact that trying to get even just a rough equivalent would require building a brand new engine from scratch. For large engines that can launch payloads of several metric tones into orbit, typically only one or two ever get designed each decade by anybody around the world. This past decade one of those engines was the Merlin engine designed by SpaceX.

What makes the Merlin engine so interesting is precisely because it is bland. SpaceX hasn't been trying to push the envelope in a hardcore sense with exotic fuels or pushing the limits of specific impulse (the efficiency rating of a rocket engine). Instead they are using rather mundane fuels (Kerosene and Liquid Oxygen.... stuff used in rockets for decades) and instead are trying to simplify the design of the rocket every chance they get. Also unlike the SSME, the #1 consideration on building the Merlin has been saving money and not trying to improve performance.

I'll also note that SpaceX does not intend to do sea recovery of these rockets, so doing any consideration of salt water besides general ocean spray into the launch environment (still a problem at KSC) is not really an issue. A problem facing the managers at KSC, or rather the Cape Canaveral Air Station, is trying to find a place for these stages to land. Both the Cape Canaveral Staff and the FAA-AST want to make sure that SpaceX doesn't land their rockets on top of other facilities (like taking out pad 39B), but that is a traffic control problem and not anything to do with the technical capability of getting the rockets to a recoverable location.

As for the economics argument, a company driven by profits rather than a government agency who gets billions of dollars to extend failed programs is somebody who I expect to understand if something is going to be economically feasible or not. I'm sure SpaceX has done all of the number crunching a long time ago as they don't have the sugar daddies in the U.S. Senate to bail them out if it doesn't work.

Re:Just because... (2)

nojayuk (567177) | about 5 months ago | (#46938893)

There have been several new launcher motors developed over the past decade (Vega and Epsilon, for example) as well as new revamped versions of older designs like the Vulcain 2 used on the Ariane V. The Merlin series has improved immensely since the first crude version of a few years back with the latest, the 1D having significantly better Isp characteristics although it still lags behind the much older RD-180 design in both in fuel efficiency and in terms of thrust.

As for not pushing the envelope SpaceX is starting development work on methane-LOX rockets which promise some benefits in terms of throw weight over RP-1/LOX but it's something other folks have investigated before without that fuel combo making an impact on the launch market. It does mean they will have to go fully-cryogenic but with less hassle than LH2 involves. It could still turn out to be a costly dead end for them.

The recoverable first-stage flight system SpaceX is proposing is meant to launch from a purpose-built launch facility in western Texas with the landing spot for the first stage somewhere to the east of there. This involves flying over populated areas during the first part of the flight profile and that is going to raise some eyebrows. It's Texas though where killing people in industrial accidents is regarded as a cost of doing business without pesky Federal government regulations getting in the way of making money.

Re:Just because... (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 5 months ago | (#46939219)

The recoverable first-stage flight system SpaceX is proposing is meant to launch from a purpose-built launch facility in western Texas with the landing spot for the first stage somewhere to the east of there. This involves flying over populated areas during the first part of the flight profile and that is going to raise some eyebrows. It's Texas though where killing people in industrial accidents is regarded as a cost of doing business without pesky Federal government regulations getting in the way of making money.

The testing facility is in McGregor, Texas, but the launch is intended to be out of KSC, Vandenberg AFB, or if they get the permits from a general purpose spaceport that SpaceX is building on their own dime in Brownsville, Texas.

They are not intending nor would likely get any sort of permit to fly over populated areas of any kind, which is sort of the point of having a whole bunch of ocean (hence uninhabited surface area) under the launch profile. All of the testing in Texas has a flight ceiling of about 10k feet, after which they are moving to New Mexico for additional testing at the Spaceport America facilities (the first commercial spaceport, which is also where Virgin Galactic is launching from). Even the New Mexico testing won't be over populated areas although SpaceX is going to get high enough with their vehicle that it will be in technically space as they plan on getting to about 100 km or so.

The point of the Methane-LOX is to hopefully improve the ISP of the rocket, but that is with the Raptor engine as well. A really cool and advanced engine design that if successful is going to blow away commercial competitors. As far as I know, there hasn't ever been an engine of that particular size ever built before as well as it is even larger than the F1 engines used by the Saturn V.

Re:Just because... (1)

Talderas (1212466) | about 5 months ago | (#46938655)

It's not just refurbishment but also recovery. In this case, NASA might be more on the money than CNES because the shuttle was landed in an easily recoverable location and not in the ocean. Even so, there was a cost in transporting the shuttle back to Florida after it landed. A first stage, of a rocket might easily be transportable by truck which would be vastly cheaper than loading it onto a specially designed 747.

SpaceX has also said that they wanted to have their first stage return and soft land near the launch site so I'm think that they're looking to find ways to significantly decrease the cost of recovery and transportation which may be a huge portion of the costs that made NASA and CNES avoid reusable craft.

Re:Just because... (2)

Megane (129182) | about 5 months ago | (#46939081)

Add in the impact of salt water and you have some serious engineering challenges that may not be cost effective to solve.

Which is why their goal is for the rocket to land itself on a launchpad. They're only dropping them in the water until they're sure the rockets can land themselves properly on ground without crashing and breaking shit in the landing zone. Meanwhile, if they do manage a water recovery, they can still get a lot of data from taking a used engine apart.

I seriously hope you didn't think their plan was water recovery. Have you not noticed all those cool Grasshopper landing videos from SpaceX over the past year or so?

Re:Just because... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938407)

Yep, the government is completely useless at space and these guys are just trying to hurt SpaceX because they know that private companies can do everything better than govermint faster and cheaper too.

But don't be surprised. NASA has always been all about stealing taxpayer money to give it to left wing scientists to research things like "evolution" and "global warming". Remember, folks, this is the same big government department that burned through hundreds of billions of dollars trying to build a system to go to the moon and then just ended up faking it [realitysandwich.com] to save face.

Re:Just because... (5, Funny)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 5 months ago | (#46938473)

Exactly, SpaceX thinks *outside the box*. This innovative thinking allows them to toss aside all learned wisdom and knowledge from those old dinosaurs at NASA.

Innovative thinking, used to build synergy and form a new paradigm, THAT'S what it's all about. The physical reality will follow from that.

Re:Just because... (1)

morgauxo (974071) | about 5 months ago | (#46938717)

You have a point that just because one group couldn't do it doesn't prove that another can't either. Maybe they should try. On the other hand you seem to be completely discounting the wisdom of learning from other people's experience. Having already tried to do this maybe NASA knows something about it. Or should every other rocket maker from NASA to the end of time all repeat the same expensive mistakes just in case they can find a way.

Re:Just because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938995)

" big government's approach to things isn't what I usually measure up against."

You mean like first man in orbit, first two man in orbit, first docking in orbit, first space station, first man on the moon, first probe on Mars, first probe to leave the Solar System and all that drinking water and public sewage system?

Yeah fuck that, let's suck a billionaire's cock instead! I'm next after torkus, hope he leaves some cum for me!!!

no, Mr Bond, I expect you to fly... (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 5 months ago | (#46939179)

These NASA guys talk like this is brain surgery or something.


You'd figure a guy with a name like Elon Musk would build a drone to simply grab the spent first stage out of the air and gently fly them back to the factory for evaluation & refurbishment.

Re:Just because... (1)

phrostie (121428) | about 5 months ago | (#46939019)

In the case of NASA/ESA they have human rated systems and cargo/satellite rated systems.

it would not surprise me if there are 50+ cargo/satellite launches for every human rated launch.

so first use, send it up as a human(yes, I know they aren't there yet) rated and after that down grade it to cargo/satellite.

after a few hundred of these launches you can start to analyze your flight data and success rates and say, "ok now we'll keep this system human rated for 3 launches".

Re:Just because... (1)

jythie (914043) | about 5 months ago | (#46939135)

On the other hand, people who have been doing things for decades tend to have a better idea of the problems one encounters then people who have never actually done something.

I can tell this article is worthless from the summ (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 months ago | (#46938249)

NASA, France Skeptical of SpaceX Reusable Rocket Project

Yes, that's a lovely headline. But the original headline ("NASA, CNES Warn SpaceX of Challenges in Flying Reusable Falcon 9 Rocket") tells the same story with 42% less bullshit.

NASA found that it was not worth trying to reuse the space shuttle main engines after every flight without extensive refurbishment.

Really? So because the space shuttle couldn't do it, nobody could do it, perhaps by learning lessons from the shuttle program? If this is an example of the kind of thinking in the article, it's a fat waste of time. If it isn't an example, why mention it at all?

I went ahead and skimmed the article, and indeed, the sole counterexample to the potential of reuse continues to be the space shuttle. The article is crap. Flush.

Heh heh overrated (0, Offtopic)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 months ago | (#46938509)

Here, mod this one overrated, too. I'll post some more if you like, to use up the modpoints that you clearly are not qualified to spend.

Re:Heh heh overrated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938881)

Humans have herd mentality. If the "leader" of the herd say it is impossible, then the herd repeats what the leader says and also attacks anyone who disagree with their leader. And this happens even if the leader is incredibly wrong.

Re:I can tell this article is worthless from the s (1)

Talderas (1212466) | about 5 months ago | (#46938759)

Well it is an economic problem. SpaceX has cheaper launches so it does have some headroom to increase prices to cover the increased costs of refurbishment. What we should be looking at is SpaceX's goal for the first stage. They don't want to water land but instead land land near the launch site. The shuttle landed a thousand miles or more from where it launched and it required a specially modified 747 to carry it back to Florida. That's a huge cost and may have made the extra costs of refurbishing engines not worth it. If SpaceX can get the first stage to return to Florida then the transportation costs are going to be minimal. Bring out a crane and load it on a flatbed. On top of that a water landing means you don't have to worry about any degradation from sea water not withstanding the logistics of getting a ship out to the landing area in order to bring the stage back in.

Re:I can tell this article is worthless from the s (1, Insightful)

sir-gold (949031) | about 5 months ago | (#46938783)

The French excuse is even worse: "we tried converting Ariane 5 solid-fuel rockets to liquid-fuel, and it didn't work, therefore reusable rockets are impossible"

That's like saying: "my horse can't pull my RV (mobile home), therefore RVs are impossible"

Space Shuttle Challenger (-1)

mfh (56) | about 5 months ago | (#46938303)

The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded [wikipedia.org] because of one tiny flaw in an otherwise perfect system. Reusing rockets would require proof of perfection each time, taking the whole thing apart each time and spending so much time rechecking it. The wear and tear on the system from entry and reentry is to high in most cases, where you'll see stress cracks places you might not expect. For every one stress crack you can see how many are forming that you can't see?

My feeling is that we need to create sustainable unmanned space flight from within space itself and stop ripping our atmosphere apart every time we want to visit the stars. The biggest problem with space travel now is exiting the planet and reentry and it's such a wasteful process. Wouldn't it be better to mine everything we need from unmanned space? Couldn't we cart back piles of resources to stations along the way for processing?

I feel in order for eventual long term manned space flight to be possible, we will need to first build a kind of space-highway. We're not anywhere near ready to go there yet, but it is what I see as the next step for humanity. We're up against unnatural resistance however.

Re:Space Shuttle Challenger (5, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | about 5 months ago | (#46938387)

The Challenger exploded because the spacecraft was flying outside of its design parameters. The engineers themselves asked for, I dare say even begged NASA to not fly that day, but NASA was under a huge amount of political pressure to get the vehicle into orbit or risk an embarrassing trip to congressional meetings to explain why this supposedly reusable spacecraft (meaning the Space Shuttle) wasn't really reusable and couldn't fly in conditions that were not a problem with the Saturn V.

No doubt that the Space Shuttle was an incredibly complicated machine that could break with a series of bad events, but there is far more to the destruction of the Challenger (or the loss of the Columbia a few years later) than simply hand waving and saying "it is so complicated that it was simply going to have problems."

Besides, the Space Shuttle is a really horrible demonstration vehicle for reusable spacecraft. So many design compromises were done with that spacecraft it is a wonder it flew at all in the first place. It certainly was never going to live up to the hype that surrounded the spacecraft in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

Re:Space Shuttle Challenger (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 5 months ago | (#46938397)

Reusing rockets would require proof of perfection each time

That depends on the payload. For manned flight, the standard is 99.9999%, or "six nines". For a satellite launch, three or four nines is good enough. For a water/food resupply mission, two nines are acceptable. The space shuttle had less than that with two failures in 135 flights, or 98.5%.

Re:Space Shuttle Challenger (1, Insightful)

queazocotal (915608) | about 5 months ago | (#46939033)

Then there is the interesting question of why having a career as an astronaut should be safer than having a career as a deep-sea fisherman, or a lumberjack.
If I have the numbers correct - from http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshnoti... [bls.gov] - fishery workers have around 100 deaths per 100000 per year - or 1 death per 1000 years worked.
If an astronaut flys once a year, then the rocket only needs to get to 99.9% safety - not 99.9999.

Six nines would make it considerably safer than a career in a library. (0.3 deaths per 100K)

Re:Space Shuttle Challenger (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 5 months ago | (#46939143)

Space Shuttle Challenger exploded because of one tiny flaw in an otherwise perfect system.

I'd argue that point.

Re:Space Shuttle Challenger (3, Interesting)

inhuman_4 (1294516) | about 5 months ago | (#46939207)

The thing is there is a huge difference in what "reuseable" means for the Space Shuttle and for the Falcon.

The Space Shuttle was firing the engines for 540-761 seconds, taking the engines to orbit , staying in order for days or weeks, bringing the engines back through reentry, then refurbishing them. That is a pretty tall order.

SpaceX is only trying to recover the first stage. It only burns for 180 seconds. Reaching a maximum height of around 90-100km (about the same as SpaceShipOne). Since it never reaches orbital velocity it doesn't experiance anything like the reentry forces the Space Shuttle does. It then does a powered landing on a launch pad. Still a tall order, but much less than what the Space Shuttle was trying to do.

Additionally the Falcon 9 has already demonstrated that it can complete is primary mission with one engine failure. And the resuable engines will not be used on man rated systems, so the reliability standards are not as high as for the SSME. We won't know how extensive the refurbisment costs are, but the Merlin engines are smaller and simpler than the SSME. Its possible that some of the 9 engines may have to be discarded, but even if only 5-6 are in good enough shape to be resued in non-man-rated launches; that is a pretty significant cost savings.

No... (2)

PortHaven (242123) | about 5 months ago | (#46939263)

The space shuttle Challenger exploded, because of politics, budgeting, and cutting corners.

And so what? (5, Insightful)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about 5 months ago | (#46938347)

Why not let SpaceX try and find out for themselves. They know their engines and have tested them for reuse long before they started building Grasshopper and the test protocols for Falcon 9.

The Merlins are designed to stop and start, and have done it successfully on the launch pad with the launch aborts experienced during their test flights. And SpaceX probably has a set that they've run on a static test pad for a full flight profile, then dusted them off, checked the bearings and seals and ran them again. And again. And again.

The SSMEs are excessively complex systems that have a much greater thrust than the Merlins. They need a full strip and rebuild because of their complexity.

Re:And so what? (2)

kyrsjo (2420192) | about 5 months ago | (#46938643)

Also, the consequences of a SSME failing (killing the human occupants) are a bit worse than for an unmanned rocket carrying a satelite, or even a manned traditional rocket where a launch escape system have a fair chance of pulling the capsule away from the malfunctioning carrier rocket.

Denying Reality (5, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | about 5 months ago | (#46938349)

No doubt that SpaceX has put a whole lot of effort into making this work, but it amazes me that people who are otherwise knowledgeable about this kind of stuff can't stand looking at actual results rather than assuming this is just random musings. One of the ways SpaceX knows how many potential launches they can get out of their engines is because they have put some of these Merlin-1 engines on their test stand in Texas and have fired them for full mission duration burns 40-50 times. SpaceX definitely doesn't make up these numbers out of their hind end but rather from experience and actually using this equipment.

Again reality sort of bites these guys hard because SpaceX has been able to bring the 1st stage down to a soft landing. With the most recent launch, SpaceX was denied the opportunity to do more because both the FAA and the USAF folks at Cape Canaveral didn't really want that return stage going anywhere near the launch pad until SpaceX has proven they have control of the vehicle. Regardless, SpaceX has done the really hard part of actually getting the spacecraft to return in a recoverable condition.... something these "experts" in this article are denying is even possible in a theoretical sense.

The 2nd stage recovery is going to be a whole lot harder, and it is something that even SpaceX themselves have said may not be successful. Still, I wouldn't categorically write off SpaceX either and it is just stupid to dismiss something like this as impossible without even making an attempt to see if it could be done.

Re:Denying Reality (2)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 5 months ago | (#46938437)

> fired them for full mission duration burns 40-50 times

That doesn't mean it works economically, which is what this article is saying. The SSME could do the same thing, but doing so was extremely questionable. More to the point, the SRB's were recovered and refurbed, but doing so was almost certainly more expensive than simply building new ones.

Unlike NASA, SpaceX actually has to make money. So if we see them reusing their stages and engines, then they figured out how to make it work. As always, the proof is in the pudding.

Re:Denying Reality (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 5 months ago | (#46938725)

The SRB's were hard landed into salt water, were solid engines (where a good portion of the cost and complexity is laying the fuel correctly), and were designed 40 years ago.

Re:Denying Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938745)

"hard landed" with a huge parachute...

Re:Denying Reality (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about 5 months ago | (#46939309)

...into salt water at high temperatures.

SpaceX has an incentive to make it work, not a bureaucratic risk aversion.

Re:Denying Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46939045)

If you get one of the ATK higherups drunk and ask them if the Shuttle RSRM refurbishment was really cheaper, they still say yes.

Re:Denying Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938453)

No doubt that SpaceX has put a whole lot of effort into making this work, but it amazes me that people who are otherwise knowledgeable about this kind of stuff can't stand looking at actual results rather than assuming this is just random musings. One of the ways SpaceX knows how many potential launches they can get out of their engines is because they have put some of these Merlin-1 engines on their test stand in Texas and have fired them for full mission duration burns 40-50 times. SpaceX definitely doesn't make up these numbers out of their hind end but rather from experience and actually using this equipment.

The "fail" is always in the details. Yes SpaceX has tested some engine for 40-50 times on a launchpad. But has it tested a couple of engine for 40-50 times of going up in space and coming down again ? Because the 2 test are not the same.
We're talking about reusing an engine that should go into space for 40-50 times. SpaceX has certainly not tested this.

FIRST stage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938623)

First off they are (at least for the time being) only trying to recover the first stage, it doesn't go anywhere near space and serves only to get the actual spacecraft (second or third stage) above the atmosphere and a little of the required delta-v. And even assuming that the conditions of actual launch are far more hard on the engines than test stand launches if the original poster is correct and these engines have been tested 40-50 times you can probably expect at least 20 reuses out of them which would still be a massive improvement over current flight systems.

Re:FIRST stage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938715)

First off they are (at least for the time being) only trying to recover the first stage, it doesn't go anywhere near space and serves only to get the actual spacecraft (second or third stage) above the atmosphere and a little of the required delta-v. And even assuming that the conditions of actual launch are far more hard on the engines than test stand launches if the original poster is correct and these engines have been tested 40-50 times you can probably expect at least 20 reuses out of them which would still be a massive improvement over current flight systems.

This `at least 20' estimate comes from where, exactly? How do those engines handle small impacts, for example? Temperature diferentials, pressure differentials? Sure, these are rocket engines, so they are probably designed for a lot of it but still.

Re:Denying Reality (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938559)

Why dismiss sceptics by calling them "experts"? Sure, SpaceX has great engineers and a visionary for a CEO but the experts (yes, they are true experts even though they lack SpaceX's optimism) have some expeience working on these problems as well. The problems of reusability are economics and safety. Firing an engine on a test stand is good, flying it back from way across the world is something quite another. I hope SpaceX succeeds but I would not put my money on it (then again, to truly succeed one has to take risks, so all the best to Elon Musk). The "axiom" that private company will aways succeed where the "big government" fails is just silly. Those NASA engineers are just as skilled and driven, with, maybe, a bit more red tape to deal with. Assuming that all the government money was simply squandered is also absurd. i am sure SpaceX has had its share of failures, as well.

Re:Denying Reality (1, Insightful)

jittles (1613415) | about 5 months ago | (#46938911)

No doubt that SpaceX has put a whole lot of effort into making this work, but it amazes me that people who are otherwise knowledgeable about this kind of stuff can't stand looking at actual results rather than assuming this is just random musings. One of the ways SpaceX knows how many potential launches they can get out of their engines is because they have put some of these Merlin-1 engines on their test stand in Texas and have fired them for full mission duration burns 40-50 times. SpaceX definitely doesn't make up these numbers out of their hind end but rather from experience and actually using this equipment.

Again reality sort of bites these guys hard because SpaceX has been able to bring the 1st stage down to a soft landing. With the most recent launch, SpaceX was denied the opportunity to do more because both the FAA and the USAF folks at Cape Canaveral didn't really want that return stage going anywhere near the launch pad until SpaceX has proven they have control of the vehicle. Regardless, SpaceX has done the really hard part of actually getting the spacecraft to return in a recoverable condition.... something these "experts" in this article are denying is even possible in a theoretical sense.

The 2nd stage recovery is going to be a whole lot harder, and it is something that even SpaceX themselves have said may not be successful. Still, I wouldn't categorically write off SpaceX either and it is just stupid to dismiss something like this as impossible without even making an attempt to see if it could be done.

Okay but where do they land these engines after they've launched them? Over land? Or over the occean? Because salt water will wreak havoc on the internal plumbing of an engine. So unless they take the risk of dropping the engine module onto someone's house, they are going to need to land in the ocean and refurbish the engine just to use it again. I really don't blame the FAA or USAF for preventing them from returning the engine core to the Cape. Elon Musk probably doesn't have the bucks to repair the facility if he drops that engine through the roof of the wrong building. I will be really surprised if they get FAA approval to do this anywhere but perhaps New Mexico's deserts.

Re:Denying Reality (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 5 months ago | (#46939101)

The current plan is to have these go to land. If you want to see the full flight profile of what SpaceX is aiming for, I'd suggest watching this (now two year old) video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_1WJ7UUm8I [youtube.com]

They are not going to be landing in the water except as a part of the testing process while they get the FAA-AST comfortable with the landing process. Yes, they are taking very seriously the potential of this to ruin somebody's breakfast by taking out their garage, so I also understand why they are cautious.

SpaceX does have insurance to help pay for an unfortunate accident, so it isn't the bucks that are the problem. What is at stake is that any human enterprise has risks, and in this case rockets are quite risky. None the less, KSC is a big place and there are plenty of locations to land this rocket.

Re:Denying Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46939109)

crashing the vehicle with minimal fuel on board is going to cause a lot less damage than if something went wrong on takeoff. I don't see what the problem is with landing at the Cape.

Re:Denying Reality (1)

Megane (129182) | about 5 months ago | (#46939191)

With the most recent launch, SpaceX was denied the opportunity to do more because both the FAA and the USAF folks at Cape Canaveral didn't really want that return stage going anywhere near the launch pad until SpaceX has proven they have control of the vehicle.

I don't think even SpaceX wanted it coming back anywhere near ground. The chance of breaking shit is just too high. I know I wouldn't feel confident about it until at least four or five successful low altitude hovers.

Risk Statistics (3)

Cassini2 (956052) | about 5 months ago | (#46938393)

In the case of NASA, people were on-board for every shuttle launch, and each launch cost billions. The satellite payload could cost over $400 million each. If a $15,000 dollar component has a 1 in 10,000 chance of scuttling a launch, it was easy to justify fixing it. The space shuttle had many subsystems, and each and every subsystem was built from from many small individual components. Thus, NASA rebuilt, checked or replaced everything on the entire shuttle on every launch.

I don't think SpaceX is going after the same market. For human rated launches, ISS resupply missions, or expensive satellites, they can sell brand new rockets. For inexpensive payloads, it could pay to roll the dice. SpaceX rockets are designed to be much less expensive than the competitions.

Shuttle (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938551)

I agree for the most part but there area few issues in your statements from my understanding. Amortized over the entire program including R&D I think the shuttle program cost about $1.1 Billion per launch. Some analysis suggests though that even with the extensive refurb the shuttle itself only cost about $200-$400 Million per launch (still far more than originally projected, but not too bad). The issue was with everything that was tacked on to a program that was seen as "too big to fail". Maintenance of an extensive launch complex & nationwide network of "associated" facilities, a myriad of research programs across the nation, maintaining an army of technicians, etc. Treated like a transportation system it could have been successful with some reasonable modifications, however it was throughout its lifetime treated as a research platform & point of national pride. Two things which cost far more than their counterparts in the commercial world.

"Because we couldn't do.........." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938417)

Their basic argument seems to be they couldn't (or wouldn't) do it so it can't be done. The answer is probably very simple, sacrifice a little performance to make a more robust engine. Which judging from SpaceX's specs is exactly what they have done. Harden the components you can, any components that have to be worn put in a place where they can be easily replaced. Fuel is comparatively cheap, to fill the entire space shuttle external tank with LH2 (a comparatively expensive fuel) was only about $200,000, spacecraft by comparison costs tens to hundreds of millions. If you can make even part of it reusable increasing fuel requirements even significantly you'll make out like a bandit.

Re:"Because we couldn't do.........." (1)

umghhh (965931) | about 5 months ago | (#46938613)

the basic argument is that they tried, found that not feasible and gave up and now have doubts. They did not say it is undoable.

Still the whole /. crowd has a field day bitching about NASA, big gov and how great Musk is. Maybe he will succeed we will not know till he does. As with everything else - new developments can surpass expectations, they apparently do not have an idea nor money to give it a try while Musk does. He does also have an ability to generate a distortion field so he is a skillful student of the master that was.

Kick Ass, Elon - prove'm wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938425)

Even in science, if you believe you can't do a hard thing, you won't try and tear down others who do.

Who foots the bill? (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 5 months ago | (#46938497)

If SpaceX wants to develop a reusable rocket that's their business. If they expect NASA or other countries to pay for it they will have to play by another set of rules.

Re:Who foots the bill? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938753)

If SpaceX wants to develop a reusable rocket that's their business. If they expect NASA or other countries to pay for it they will have to play by another set of rules.

It's standard practice in some sectors to devote a portion of your profits to internal R&D, ensuring that you don't stagnate and get surpassed by a competitor in a competitive market. You could say, in a sense, that anyone who buys launches from SpaceX is paying for them to develop the technology.

Re:Who foots the bill? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46939027)

No shit sherlock.

I would bet (2)

NEDHead (1651195) | about 5 months ago | (#46938553)

That the first jet engines were unreliable, and required extensive maintenance after each test. Progress happens. With effort.

Re:I would bet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938787)

When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England.

Re:I would bet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938795)

even worse, the first jets could only fly for about 60 to 90 minutes before running out of fuel.

The engine "expected operational lifetime of approximately 50 continuous flight hours" (though most only lasted 12), after which it had to be replaced, which took another 9-12 hours.

So evolution in technology improved things... a LOT. They now run for days (given refuling), many start/stop cycles... and carry out a lot of their own diagnostics (plug a tool in to query status - now you know if the engine is having a problem, what kind, and service requirements).

Except Elon Musk is a genius (4, Interesting)

Andover Chick (1859494) | about 5 months ago | (#46938581)

Between NASA/CNES being correct and Elon Musk being correct, I'll side with Elon. He's already created the first practical electric car which besides having 200+ mile range is freaking awesome and sporty. Behemoth GM failed to do the same over the course of decades. So proving NASA/CNES wrong, the smart money is on Elon.

Re:Except Elon Musk is a genius (3, Funny)

jittles (1613415) | about 5 months ago | (#46938977)

Between NASA/CNES being correct and Elon Musk being correct, I'll side with Elon. He's already created the first practical electric car which besides having 200+ mile range is freaking awesome and sporty. Behemoth GM failed to do the same over the course of decades. So proving NASA/CNES wrong, the smart money is on Elon.

You're right. There were no geniuses working at NASA or CNES. They were doomed for failure. Elon will save the day.

Funny (1)

prisoner-of-enigma (535770) | about 5 months ago | (#46938695)

Isn't it funny how NASA -- the agency that for *decades* screamed that the shuttle's reusability was the *key* to why America should depend upon it for our *primary* launch platform -- is now willing to admit the whole "reusable" thing was crap and everybody *knew* it was crap. We'd have done far better to keep using things like Saturn V's.

Now I sincerely *hope* SpaceX has somehow learned from NASA's failure and perhaps *can* make the economics of a reusable engine work. One thing at least: if SpaceX *can't* make it work, you can be sure it can't just make up the difference with taxpayer money and call it a success. As a private enterprise, it can't.

Re:Funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938865)

The parent post *cares* a lot about *asterisking* important words when they *could* just as *easily* boldify them.

Or is the parent an *Orz*?

Of course NASA and CNES had problems (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938805)

The cost of the certification and test paperwork alone drives the cost so high that the reuse of the mere metal in the engine is a small part of the cost.

NASA centers (e.g. JSC) have a congressionally mandated workforce, so there's not much incentive to "do more with fewer people", so there tends to be an ever increasing set of documentation requirements in the face of fewer actual missions/flights. Each time something bad happens, the usual answer is "we need better (or failing that, more) documentation" to prevent corner case Z from occurring (since we already have paper work to document that processes to prevent corner cases A, B, C, D, E, etc). Then you need paperwork to make sure that all the paperwork is in order, and then you need some reviews to make sure the paperwork documenting the other paperwork is correct, confirming the results of the original reviews of the original paperwork.

This is also coming from the same "old national space" that relied on checking the paperwork to make sure the mounting bolts for NOAA N-prime were installed before tipping the fixture. oops..

Problems, problems, problems. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938889)

While landing a booster and reusing it sounds good at first glance, there are many problems.

Biggest problem is that you have to carry extra fuel, a LOT of extra fuel. If the first stage accelerates to X speed, using L amount of fuel, it's going to take roughly another L amount to land it. Minus a bit as you don't have to land the initial amount, plus some as yo have gravity to fight all the way down. The extra fuel subtracts directly from the payload weight.

The valves and pumps and turbines have to be designed for multiple use. That usually means derating them by a considerable factor. They also have to be made of slightly different materials to tolerate the multiple temperature changes.

You're going to have customer and insurance company resistance at paying the same launch price on old equipment.

shuttle main engine comparison not valid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46938891)

The SSME has been described as the highest performing, most sophisticated rocket engine ever built. And was incredibly expensive to rebuild, basically requiring replacing almost all the parts after each use. However, as more than one NASA engineer will admit, you probably don't want the highly tuned Formula 1 racing engine in the car you drive to the supermarket. You'd probably be better off with the 90% solution, rather than the 105% solution.

SpaceX -whoopie! (2, Insightful)

grep_rocks (1182831) | about 5 months ago | (#46938915)

I know this will not be well recieved - but I do not understand the enthusiasm, or what is remarkable about SpaceX - the government never has built rockets, it always subcontracts them out to (usually to Boeing or Lockeed) maybe integration is done by the government but usually that is subcontracted out too - so the "innovation" in SpaceX is basically just a change in the way goverment contracts are run, removing the rider that lets the contractor get paid more if the budget goes over (note SpaceX recieved 250M+ in "seed money" from the gov't - sounds alot like the old way of doing things to me) - I guess this is what the we call innovation these days - as for the critique by NASA and the ESA, it is more credible that both agencies say it could be an issue, they both have experts and have tried re-use before - so SpaceX should listen to what they have to say - but listening to experts is out of fashon these days too - anyway call me us when someone develops a new type of rocket motor or spacecraft system concept, not a new way to write government contracts, or just the government having another contractor to shop with.

Depends on the application (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 5 months ago | (#46939119)

It all depends on the application. So re-using the rocket on earth is not cost effective, because it's cheaper to just use a new one. Ok, I can go along with that. But what about the moon? Mars? Where are you going to get a new rocket on mars? Being able to land and return to orbit from mars would be pretty handy.

And not to be a dick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46939151)

space travel, the internet, horseless buggies, etc....all unthinkable before they were thunk

NASA.... "No, we can't!" (1)

PortHaven (242123) | about 5 months ago | (#46939231)

Wait, these are the folks who thought commercial space flight was infeasible.

I'd wager that 50 years ago this was true. But we have made immense leaps in materials manufacturing. I wouldn't be surprised if we could develop nanite structured spray coatings that we could just re-spray on with each use. There are more ideas out there than NASA has considered.

Like using an off-the shelf tape measure as an extending satellite antenna.

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