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Battle of the Heavy Lift Rockets

Soulskill posted about a month ago | from the go-big-or-stay-home dept.

Space 211

schwit1 writes: Check out this detailed and informative look at the unspoken competiton between NASA's SLS rocket and SpaceX's planned heavy lift rocket. It's being designed to be even more powerful than the Falcon Heavy. Key quote: "It is clear SpaceX envisions a rocket far more powerful than even the fully evolved Block 2 SLS – a NASA rocket that isn't set to be launched until the 2030s." The SpaceX rocket hinges on whether the company can successfully build its new Raptor engine. If they do, they will have their heavy lift rocket in the air and functioning far sooner than NASA, and for far less money.

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Competition is good. (5, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | about a month ago | (#47794855)

There have been way too little competition in this area the last decades. Considering that the Russian RD-180 engines designed in the 70's&80's are still seen as state of the art it is obviously a stagnant situation.

Re:Competition is good. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47794913)

Lord PUTIN with CRUSH your HEAD!

Re:Competition is good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47794955)

does not compute. need input.

New rocket engine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795397)

Not that long ago (perhaps last year) there was a news item about a new rocket design from Europe that, according to that new piece that I read, offer much powerful rockets while still save fuel

Do not have the link to that news item (maybe deleted) but if anyone still have the link, please post here

Thanks !

Re:Competition is good. (1)

geogob (569250) | about a month ago | (#47795379)

Certainly not in Quebec, where he's going to get eaten for lunch.

Re:Competition is good. (0)

petes_PoV (912422) | about a month ago | (#47794951)

engines designed in the 70's&80's are still seen as state of the art

But that's government "progress" for you. Compare 60 years of spaceflight technology from 1955 to 2015 (OK, the years were cherry-picked) and it's still basically the same: LOX/Kerosene or LOX/LH2 and some engines are bigger and some are smaller.

Now look at aircraft development from (another cherry-picked 60 years): 1910 to 1970. That went from wooden biplanes to the 747. Sure, there were a few "helpful" eras in between - like 2 major wars and lots more lesser ones, which kicked development up by several notches. But those developments were still the result of commercial companies, just as NASA contracts out work, today.

Re:Competition is good. (3, Informative)

tomhath (637240) | about a month ago | (#47794977)

Much of the progress in propeller driven aircraft happened during the 1930's by racers like Howard Hughes [wikipedia.org]

Re:Competition is good. (5, Insightful)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about a month ago | (#47795061)

But that's government "progress" for you. Compare 60 years of spaceflight technology from 1955 to 2015 (OK, the years were cherry-picked) and it's still basically the same: LOX/Kerosene or LOX/LH2 and some engines are bigger and some are smaller.

It's short of amazing that you can attempt to attack the evul guvmint on this one. And be so mind bogglingly wrong at the same time.

There are many different types of engines out there. Aluminum perchlorate mixture engines, Hybrid nitrous oxide/polymer engines, some really interesting combos where the fuel is paraffin and with mixed other additives like Al, or Li. Hydrazine rockets, Ion thrusters, solar sails, there are hundreds of designs. Many of which haven't happened yet due to one or another limitation.

The Kero-LOX and Liquid Hydrogen-LOX rockets are just examples of the most powerful liquid fueled rockets.

Lot's of different types of rockets out there.

And lack of any new and more powerful engines that exist that exist are almost certainly not caused by jackbooted thugs, just itching to put loyal citizens in FEMA Death camps while installing a new world order. where we all pay 300 percent of our salary in taxes that go to urban thugs.

It is a matter of physics, which turns out to be remarkably resistant to the invisible guiding hand of the free market. We can build the biggest, bad-assed, Chuck Norris rocket engine that we can dial up the power the whole way to 11, but if we can't pump in the fuel quickly enough, or the resultant temperatures are beyond the melting point of any available material, And neither Grover Norquist not Ayn Rand can fix that.

Maybe the answer is in teaching Intelligent design in school?

Anyhow, I went off the deep end on your idea to illustrate just how silly the idea that the government is holding back progress on rocketry. Hopefully humorously, but that's for others to judge. None of the engines in use by the commercial outfits are some dramatic new design, and it's all physics and material design, not ideology. Now look at aircraft development from (another cherry-picked 60 years): 1910 to 1970. That went from wooden biplanes to the 747. Sure, there were a few "helpful" eras in between - like 2 major wars and lots more lesser ones, which kicked development up by several notches. But those developments were still the result of commercial companies, just as NASA contracts out work, today.

Re:Competition is good. (3, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about a month ago | (#47795079)

Anyhow, I went off the deep end on your idea to illustrate just how silly the idea that the government is holding back progress on rocketry.

Like the US banning private launch vehicles through to 1984? Or maintaining a launch oligopoly funded on the public dollar through to the last decade? Or paying a few tens of billions to develop a huge rocket while not paying a few billion to get someone like SpaceX to develop said rocket.

Re:Competition is good. (3, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a month ago | (#47795115)

Or maintaining a launch oligopoly funded on the public dollar through to the last decade?

It took two world wars and one cold war to get us to where we are today.
Feel free to complain about the oligopoly, but don't pretend like Boeing, North American, and Douglas were going to build the Saturn V rocket on their own dime.

Or paying a few tens of billions to develop a huge rocket while not paying a few billion to get someone like SpaceX to develop said rocket.

"Or paying a few tens of billions to develop a huge rocket " to who?

Boeing is the prime contractor for the design, development, test and production of the launch vehicle cryogenic stages, as well as development of the avionics suite. [boeing.com]

You had a three sentence post and two of them were full of ignorance.

Re:Competition is good. (3, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | about a month ago | (#47795263)

You had a three sentence post and two of them were full of ignorance.

I was disabusing the previous poster of some pretty misguided notions. I guess you need some help as well. I notice, for example, that you don't actually disagree, you just choose to characterize my short observations as "full of ignorance". Do you have a reason why you think so?

I'm quite aware how NASA operates - by writing large checks to private contractors who make sure the money gets spent in the right congressional districts. But that sort of activity hasn't resulted in a viable launch platform since the 70s, when the Space Shuttle was developed.

And rather than continue to do something that hasn't worked in around four decades (and really, the Space Shuttle and the Apollo programs were just money sinks) maybe we could look at things that do work, like SpaceX's approach?

Re:Competition is good. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795607)

"Or paying a few tens of billions to develop a huge rocket " to who?

Boeing is the prime contractor for the design, development, test and production of the launch vehicle cryogenic stages, as well as development of the avionics suite.

TFA: "However, it is clear SpaceX envisions a rocket far more powerful than even the fully evolved Block 2 SLS â" a NASA rocket that isnâ(TM)t set to be launched until the 2030s."

The difference isn't private/gummint. All companies strive to make money.

The difference is in the objectives of the organizations involved. The objective of Congress is to get re-elected by keeping the pork flowing. The objective of Boeing is to take as long as possible to build anything because the longer it takes, the more pork flows in. Congress doesn't give a fuck if it ever flies. Boeing would be delighted if the project is funded to 2030, and even more delighted if cost overruns and delays pushed it out to 2050. Everybody has well-paid jobs for life!

The objective of SpaceX is Mars, bitches.

Musk needs an HLV long before 2030 if he is to live long enough to be able to retire on Mars. Because he is effectively self-funded, he not answerable to the whims of Congressmen and their pork allocations. Because he is interested in living long enough to see it fly, he is not interested in delaying things to pull as much pork out of the project as possible. He will build the fucking thing himself, and it will fly.

Re:Competition is good. (2)

backslashdot (95548) | about a month ago | (#47795649)

NASA should wait until July/August 2015 before proposing a new launch system. That's around the same time the New Horizons space probe NASA launched back in 2008 will be reaching Pluto. I believe, hopefully, that the pictures from Pluto will capture the imagination of the public and, by proxy, Congress. That way NASA can propose a totally Giga launch system and get it approved.

Frankly SLS is lame. We're going to be stuck with whatever launch system for a few decades -- possibly longer given politics, so we better get it right. We need to be looking to build something that can scale to sustainable colony establishment class stuff.

Re:Competition is good. (3, Informative)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about a month ago | (#47795515)

Like the US banning private launch vehicles through to 1984?

I'm not allowed to have an unshielded reactor in my backyard either. Fucking liberals.

Yours is just more of the Science as ideology. How about a couple minutes for you to understand exactly why it wasn't allowed.....playing that time passing song....

Times up, BZZZZT! - No it wasn't evul democrats or Beyonce flashing the Illuminati sign at a burning man festival. Not even free birth control for women.

1. Understand that the amount of energy let loose in even a small rocket launch is pretty impressive. So it sort of makes sense to limit especially early private launching, as failure was not only an option, it was pretty likely.

Note of course, if you support second amendment rights to own artillery and hand grenades, you might have an argument there. I mean come on - Just assault rifles does not make for a well armed militia. Sheesh - next thing you know, we won't allow little children to mess with fully automaitic weapons.

Sorry - had one too many cups of coffee this morning. But rocketry is dangerous work, kinda accidentally kills people once in a while. That's no biggie, but it might level a job creator's house, and then the economy will fail , you betchya.

2. There were some hatey people who wanted to kill us, thad they were launching these flamey explodey things. Perhaps we were a little afraid that we might accidentally set off World war 3 when an early private launch of our own, unfettered by government regulations, failed and wiped out a town?

Eventually though, we'd all settle back down and figure out the sticks and stones we were going to fight World War 4 with.

Or maintaining a launch oligopoly funded on the public dollar through to the last decade? Or paying a few tens of billions to develop a huge rocket while not paying a few billion to get someone like SpaceX to develop said rocket.

So what you are telling me is that for some odd reason, despite private rocket launches in their own facilities using their own rockets is now considered okay, and done on a regular basis, you are still in a white hot seething astrorage anger and feeling much butthurt because of the way it used to be a long time ago?

Do you have any newsletters about the evil radical-diabolical Communist Franklin Delano Roosevelt and how he is spreading soclialism from his gravesite? It's important to get that news out.

Think I'm making fun of you? You got that right.

Re:Competition is good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795673)

Look, if it upsets you that much, post your address and I'll be glad to mail you a hankie. A nice pink one to go with your politics.

Re:Competition is good. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47796061)

STFU teabagger cunt. Kill yourself with your precious NRA pacifier.

Re:Competition is good. (5, Informative)

khallow (566160) | about a month ago | (#47795721)

How about a couple minutes for you to understand exactly why it wasn't allowed.....playing that time passing song....

It was because NASA needed funding for the Space Shuttle. It had nothing to do with safety. Merely, requiring private companies to post bonds prior to each launch covers your safety concerns without requiring a decade long ban.

Further, it's worth noting that many of the companies which by your reckoning can't be trusted to run a safe commercial launch vehicle are the same ones that were building and running NASA's Space Shuttle (as well as having decades of launch experience under their belts).

Further, it is monumentally stupid to claim that commercial launches can be confused with a nuclear attack. One launch isn't going to take out the USSR. For example, here's a story [heritage.org] written shortly after the fall of the Shuttle monopoly.

Some of the agency's likely tactics are already evident. One strategem, reported by several observers close to the Shuttle/ ELV controversy, has been to apply pressure on contractors sup- plying major components to NASA to keep them from entering the ELV business. Although nothing has appeared in official docu- ments, it is said that NASA officials have suggested to possible private competitors that their contracts for Shuttle components might be endangered if these firms engaged in private launches. Another tactic has been to try to delay implementation of "full cost recovery," so that NASA could charge Shuttle customers less than the full cost of launches for long enough to capture the market, with the cost picked up by the taxpayer. This could close down production lines for a number of the components needed to construct and launch ELVs, making their later development far more expensive than would otherwise be the case.

What is most disturbing is that NASA's anti-competitive activities could undermine the President's broad initiative on space commercialization by undermining private sector efforts before they can acquire a firm financial footing. The agency would thereby undercut a number of key benefits for Americans that the initiative would otherwise yield.

The first thing you should do before writing stupid drivel is ask yourself, "Gee, is there really a problem here?" But no, you just had to get that anti-libertarian straw man in without regard for the history.

So what you are telling me is that for some odd reason, despite private rocket launches in their own facilities using their own rockets is now considered okay, and done on a regular basis, you are still in a white hot seething astrorage anger and feeling much butthurt because of the way it used to be a long time ago?

And you should too. Because history has a habit of repeating itself. What's going to happen when NASA has the SLS supply chain and SpaceX has the Falcon Heavy, a cheaper and more reliable competitor?

Well, that SLS supply chain, being better connected politically, are going to use their connections to sabotage SpaceX, just like Space Shuttle proponents did commercial space launch back in the 70s or the launch oligopoly did to various would-be competitors in the 80s and 90s.

They're already playing games with the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program which was an attempt by NASA to encourage commercial launch services, including SpaceX, to supply ISS with supplies and personnel. The number of competitors was reduced from six competitors to two by interference from Congress [spaceflightnow.com] . There's also fishing expeditions for "anomalies" [spacepolitics.com] from recent Falcon 9 launches. Notice that nobody else was targeted by that demand for information despite the alleged problems being common to many other (if not all) launch vehicles (such as propellant and pressurizing gas leaks) or normal outcomes of SpaceX's recent launch procedures (demanding to see data on sea water intrusions for SpaceX stages which splashed down in the ocean while attempting a landing).

I get tired of people failing to see the problems and instead shoehorning things into their favorite ideology.

Re:Competition is good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795107)

But that's government "progress" for you. Compare 60 years of spaceflight technology from 1955 to 2015 (OK, the years were cherry-picked) and it's still basically the same: LOX/Kerosene or LOX/LH2 and some engines are bigger and some are smaller.

It's short of amazing that you can attempt to attack the evul guvmint on this one. And be so mind bogglingly wrong at the same time.

tl;dr

It is a matter of physics, which turns out to be remarkably resistant to the invisible guiding hand of the free market. We can build the biggest, bad-assed, Chuck Norris rocket engine that we can dial up the power the whole way to 11, but if we can't pump in the fuel quickly enough, or the resultant temperatures are beyond the melting point of any available material, And neither Grover Norquist not Ayn Rand can fix that.

And what did Grover Norquist or Ayn Rand do for the physics of aircraft?

Oh, yeah. NOTHING.

You use the unchanging physics of rocketry as an excuse for slow progress in that field.

But you blithely ignore that aircraft physics hasn't changed either. Yet in a mere 25 years the US Air Force went from P-51s to being on the verge of F-15s. With no changes to the laws of physics, mind you.

That WHOOOSH!!!! must be a low-flying plane, eh?

Re:Competition is good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795395)

Physics didn't change for aircraft, no. Engineering did, however, begin in a different place. Because they started off in a different place on the tech scale than rockets, aircraft have seemed to have improved by leaps and bounds, when the reality is very different.

If you can find the paradigm shift from piston-engined propeller to jet turbine that will work for launch rockets, go ahead. Show us your miracle creations Lex Luthor, save the world. Stop wasting time toying with Superman.

Re:Competition is good. (4, Insightful)

ppanon (16583) | about a month ago | (#47795751)

As someone pointed out, the physics of building rocket engines hasn't significantly changed in the last 60 years. That's why the F1 engine is still the most powerful rocket we've ever designed. What has changed are manufacturing techniques like sintering laser 3D printing techniques and computer modeling to allow us to build F1 engines that are slightly more powerful and a lot cheaper than what was built for Apollo. And yet somehow we don't build them. Why? Because there's no demand for it.

There has been a lot of demand for faster, more agile, and more fuel efficient aviation - from combat aircraft for wars to civil aviation in the face of rising fuel prices. That pressure isn't as significant for the launch market because: a) there are only so many safe, useful orbits for satellites where they aren't going to interfere with eachother (in terms of signal transmission - which is what many are used for) and a lot of them are already in use; b) fuel costs are a small portion of launch costs.

So the moral of the story is a) development happens according to demand and changing requirements/conditions and b) supply-side economics is BS - consumption is limited by demand.

Re:Competition is good. (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about a month ago | (#47795387)

just itching to put loyal citizens in FEMA Death camps while installing a new world order

Seriously... just because all that happened before (umpteen centuries ago... alright, a few decades, at least) and just because Fascism is clearly on the rise again... doesn't mean it's relevant to this topic, you know. :)

Re:Competition is good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795653)

Shibboleth.

Obviously the problem is speech.

Re:Competition is good. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795705)

Perhaps that's because people are starting to figure out that the only thing worse than being ruled by fascists is being ruled by enlightened progressives.

Re:Competition is good. (2)

petes_PoV (912422) | about a month ago | (#47795419)

Anyhow, I went off the deep end on your idea to illustrate just how silly the idea that the government is holding back progress

unfortunately when you went off the deep end, you missed the pool completely.

This was never about government consipracy. It was simply that governments have no need of improved performance or improved efficiency - when they have (as near as dammit) infinite amounts of money available to "solve" the problem with.

The commercial aircraft makers, being subject to both competition and finite resources *had* to make things better to stave off their competitors who were in the same race for betterment and profit and to meet clients' expectations of improved performance: speed, reliability, payload capacity and lowered cost. Governments do not have those drivers, hence they have no need to improve the vehicles they use.

splash!

Re:Competition is good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795489)

It was simply that governments have no need of improved performance or improved efficiency - when they have (as near as dammit) infinite amounts of money available to "solve" the problem with.

Wrong! Efficiency and performance are major mantras in government, why they spend millions of dollars to make sure your nickels aren't wasted.

That is what the public demands, after all. Not that the corporations paid to do the work for the government care. It's not a problem, they'll just take more money, and if anybody doubts their graft, well, they'll bribe the head of NASA to fake a Mars landing for them.

Re:Competition is good. (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a month ago | (#47795239)

"Spaceflight" technology goes back to 1926.

And the 747 still burns kerosene. Progress in that respect has remained static since the first steam engine. However, think about the fact that man spent thousands of years on horseback, makes the present rate of progress look pretty good.

Re:Competition is good. (1)

nojayuk (567177) | about a month ago | (#47795737)

Most new airline designs are slower than 1970s models (and that's not including Concorde and the Tu-144 either), for fuel efficiency reasons. They're much more reliable and safer, can carry more passengers and freight further per tonne of fuel, cheaper to operate and cycle gate-to-gate, cleaner, quieter etc. but not faster.

No miracles (4, Informative)

nojayuk (567177) | about a month ago | (#47795071)

There are no miracles in rocket engine design. The RD-180 has pretty much the best performance to be wrung out of a sea-level-to-altitude LOX/RP-1 motor in terms of efficiency. SpaceX is still playing catchup in that area, trading off the lower cost per Merlin motor for a lower Isp from a simpler design.

As for the Raptor the "new" liquid-methane/oxygen fuel mix it will burn has the potential to produce a higher Isp than the current mainstream LOX/RP-1 mix used in motors like the Merlin, the RD-180 etc. but it comes with downsides -- it means a redesign of the rocket structure to support fully cryogenic tankerage (although not requiring the sorts of extreme temps or processing LH needs), launchpad facilities for fuelling and defuelling rockets will need to be revamped, liquid methane is half the density of RP-1 so the tanks and the rocket structure need to be larger and heavier to contain equivalent amounts of fuel and so on.

Re:No miracles (3, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | about a month ago | (#47795579)

Efficiency is irrelevant when fuel makes up about 1% of the cost of a launch and bigger tanks are cheap. When you're throwing engines away every time, and they make up a large fraction of the cost of a launch, a low-cost engine that burns 10% more fuel can be a massive win.

Government rocket engineers have been fixated on efficiency because they rarely have to worry about cost. They can just steal more money from taxpayers.

Re:No miracles (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47796037)

Government rocket engineers have been fixated on efficiency because they rarely have to worry about cost. They can just steal more money from taxpayers.

Not quite it. It's hard to innovate in government because innovation means taking massive risks. Government is by far big enough to absorb that risk. The problem is that people will fly by, look at the failures when that risk didn't turn out well, and highly publicize how wasteful government is being by funding dead-end projects. Those thieves don't care about tax payer money! So no risk can be taken, so you get small improvements like increasing efficiency a little bit using the same over-all design. As a voter, you're the top leadership in government, and you're getting bad government because you're incompetent in that job.

Thrust also matters. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795819)

There are two measures of rocket engine performance: Isp and thrust-to-weight. RD-180 has about 10% higher Isp than the Merlin 1D, but the Merlin 1D has DOUBLE the thrust-to-weight of the RD-180, which is why they're putting together a rocket with it that can launch over 50 tons to LEO (the Atlas V is dependent on costly solid rocket boosters for many payloads, and even the proposed heavy configuration using three cores would launch under 30 tons to LEO). Thrust determines how big you can make your propellant tank, which determines how big your payload can be. When SpaceX bumped up the thrust they could get out of their Merlin, from the 1C to the 1D version, they also gained the option of stretching the Falcon 9, considerably increasing its payload capacity. SpaceX isn't chasing RD-180 performance, ULA is gnawing their fingers with envy at the Merlin 1D, which can even be throttled precisely enough to land the rocket!

Raptor is going to be the first real 21st century rocket engine, with 3d-printed parts and fluid bearings (rather than the primitive old ball bearings used in other rocket turbopumps). They aren't going to methane for the Isp boost (which would just not be worth it, considering the lower density), but because liquid methane can be self-pressurizing (no high-pressure helium system) and costs about one tenth of what RP-1 does. In addition, it's stored at very nearly the same temperature as the liquid oxygen, which simplifies thermal management. The full-flow staged combustion design is also not primarily for Isp (though it will provide a high Isp), but because of the low temperature of the working fluid, which means you can use cheap materials in the turbopump and it will last practically forever.

The reusable Raptor-powered BFR will likely cost less to operate than the reusable Falcon 9, with a longer service life. Even the manufacturing cost may be lower.

Re:Thrust also matters. (1)

nojayuk (567177) | about a month ago | (#47795961)

The thrust to weight ratio of the rocket motor only really matters near the end of a burn when the motor weight becomes a significant part of the total vehicle mass at that time after hundreds of tonnes of fuel and propellant have been expended. It's a good thing to have a lightweight motor but shaving a hundred kilos off the motor mass isn't as important as boosting the Isp by, say, ten seconds as that boost improves the performance all the way through the burn and has a much bigger impact on payload to orbit with given hardware. SpaceX have been working hard to improve Isp, of course -- the Merlin first-stage 1D motors are a lot better than the original flight motors they started their operations with and they now have optimised upper-stage versions of the 1D for vacuum with improved Isp figures.

I know other manufacturers have looked at methane-oxygen engines in the past but not progressed with them. Why they didn't I'm not sure. LOX/RP-1 has a good track record and decades of actual operation to work with (which SpaceX took advantage of), LOX/CH4 is more of a leap in the dark. Building a big LOX/CH4 motor as the first flight item is another big step and obviates the cheap multi-motor Falcon vehicle platform SpaceX have been developing over the past few years.

Re:Thrust also matters. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47796143)

You've got that kind of backwards. At lift-off, thrust is everything, and poor Isp is a minor concern (in fact, all rocket engines have fairly poor Isp at lift-off due to the effect of air pressure). That's why so many launch vehicles have solid boosters (which generally have an Isp under 250s at sea level).

Empty mass is extremely important (another reason to use strap-on boosters, which separate themselves entirely shortly after lift-off). The variables in the rocket equation are specific impulse, initial mass, and final mass. The difference between initial mass and final mass is just as important as the specific impulse. You can no more go to orbit with a vehicle with insufficient mass ratios than you could with insufficient Isp.

More to the point, you're looking at high thrust-to-weight as a matter of "shaving off kilograms", but consider it as a matter of ramping up kilonewtons. Then it's a [i]very[/i] big deal. Increasing the thrust means you can stretch the tank and increase the payload pretty much in direct proportion to the increased thrust.

TAILS opens an official public mailing list (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47794865)

TAILS opens an official public mailing list with archives!

o Announcement:

https://tails.boum.org/news/Ta... [boum.org]

o New mailing lists

tails-project@boum.org: public, archived mailing-list[1] to talk about the non-technical decisions regarding the project.

In addition the page mentions two other new mailing lists, but they are not aimed directly at TAILS users, but for promotion and web/soft/UI.

Click on the "mailing list" [1] link to browse the TAILS USERS Mailing List archives!

Remember to subscribe!!!

[1] https://mailman.boum.org/listi... [boum.org]

###

o What is TAILS?

https://tails.boum.org/ [boum.org]

Re:TAILS opens an official public mailing list (0)

Dan Askme (2895283) | about a month ago | (#47794891)

TAILS opens an official public mailing list with archives!

Personally, I prefer Sonic.

Define Heavy? (2)

Dan Askme (2895283) | about a month ago | (#47794873)

Mr. Mueller then later updated his numbers at a follow-on conference to portray 6,900 kN of sea-level thrust, and 8,200 kN of vacuum thrust.

That took me 20 seconds to find.

Come on, its Slashdot, at least give us some technical information to back up the story.

Re:Define Heavy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47794945)

More than 3 Kirstie Alley's or 5 Marie Osmonds?

My money is on SpaceX (1)

techfilz (1881458) | about a month ago | (#47794893)

If anyone can get it done, it will be Elon Musk and SpaceX. They have the vision and agility that NASA lost in the sixties.

Re:My money is on SpaceX (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47794937)

NASA never had agility. Vision sure, but the entire institution was intentionally designed to be scattered and resistant to change. It's difficult to be institutionally agile when you're operations are spread out into as many political jurisdictions as possible.

Re:My money is on SpaceX (2)

0123456 (636235) | about a month ago | (#47795633)

NASA went from the first suborbital manned flight to putting men on the freaking Moon in eight years. They were pretty agile back then.

Now they're spending longer than that just building a rocket that largely uses existing hardware, and has no funded missions that would require it.

Re:My money is on SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47794981)

They have a "vision" which is the free license of NASA's technologies, developed with public money.

Re:My money is on SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795043)

In October 2003 Mueller and his engineers sat in the SpaceX control bunker in Texas and fired up a Merlin on the test stand. During the 60-second run, the exhaust began to melt the metal in the engine’s throat. The heat also endangered seals that governed the flow of the propellant. If the engine had run any longer, it would have blown up. It took months to work out the bugs.

In October 2003! Do you still believe that SpaceX is really that "fast" and "agile"?

Re:My money is on SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795119)

In October 2003 Mueller and his engineers sat in the SpaceX control bunker in Texas and fired up a Merlin on the test stand. During the 60-second run, the exhaust began to melt the metal in the engine’s throat. The heat also endangered seals that governed the flow of the propellant. If the engine had run any longer, it would have blown up. It took months to work out the bugs.

In October 2003! Do you still believe that SpaceX is really that "fast" and "agile"?

Compared to NASA?

Damn right.

Re:My money is on SpaceX (1)

khallow (566160) | about a month ago | (#47795357)

In October 2003! Do you still believe that SpaceX is really that "fast" and "agile"?

They have demonstrated they are by developing two launch vehicles and several rocket engines in that period of time - for about a tenth the estimated NASA pricing of the task in question.

And I find it odd how you can't figure out that your quote is completely irrelevant to your implied assertion that SpaceX isn't "fast" or "agile". We would expect them to run tests. We would expect some of their tests to fail. This sort of thing is independent of how fast or "agile" they are.

Re:My money is on SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795563)

They have demonstrated that rocket engine built from sticks, dirt and duct tape would fail, nothing more. And then it took over 9 years of former NASA employes work to build a functional rocket. The same amount of time that chinese or russians need. Oh; thats a great competition, no shit! But that's not fast or agile by any means. Mind my word, Elon will become the same greedy bastard (like everyone else in US when big bucks is involved) once he has NASA/ULA/etc funding overthrown.

Re:My money is on SpaceX (1)

khallow (566160) | about a month ago | (#47795853)

And then it took over 9 years of former NASA employes work to build a functional rocket.

No, it took 9 years from the end of 2003 to build two rocket vehicles and three rocket motors and conduct 9 launch attempts in that time - 5 of which were successful and 1 partially successful.

Re:My money is on SpaceX (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795167)

If anyone can get it done, it will be Elon Musk and SpaceX. They have the vision and agility that NASA lost in the sixties.

Not profitably. Space X is only cheap IF they have launch at a high repetition rate. Space X is currently falling far short of that. The only way they can do that is by cutting corners further than the string of failures every one of their launches has already encountered. We are going to lose lots of astronauts if they every authorize humans on that flying death trap they made.

Re:My money is on SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795399)

The only way they can do that is by cutting corners further than the string of failures every one of their launches has already encountered.

Their first three commercial launches were failures. Of the subsequent eleven commercial launches, they've lost one secondary payload.

Re:My money is on SpaceX (1)

0123456 (636235) | about a month ago | (#47795589)

You're replying to the Anti-SpaceX Nutter, who really appears to believe that every one of their launches was a failure. I'm guessing he thinks those satellites SpaceX launched are just faked in the Arizona desert.

Re:My money is on SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47796157)

You're replying to the Anti-SpaceX Nutter, who really appears to believe that every one of their launches was a failure. I'm guessing he thinks those satellites SpaceX launched are just faked in the Arizona desert.

They have had a string of failures.
ISS supply mission. Engine explodes. Fails to deliver secondary payload [extremetech.com]
ISS supply mission. Maneuvering thrusters fail. [universetoday.com]
Satellite launch delayed by helium leaks. First stage recovery failure. [spaceflightnow.com]
Test rocket explodes. [latimes.com]

If you could pull musks dick out of your mouth long enough you would notice a long line failures due to shoddy engineer practices caused by cutting corners.

Re:My money is on SpaceX (2)

cytg.net (912690) | about a month ago | (#47795815)

Well, when talent begins leaving NASA for SpaceX, then we know its in business...

talent going to SpaceX (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795945)

There are a fair number of ex-NASA folks at SpaceX.
However, there's also a fair number who went, and then disappeared away from Space-X. The environment at SpaceX is pretty aggressive development schedule (work-life balance? As long as you're alive, you can work, stop your whining.). The NASA engineer who gets frustrated with the slow pace at NASA might find it fun at SpaceX. The engineer who likes working on lots of different things at NASA probably won't like it at Space-X.

This is the Congressinal Rocket not NASA. (4, Insightful)

trout007 (975317) | about a month ago | (#47794895)

NASA never wanted to build this rocket. It was forces in them from Congress. Plus NASA doesn't build rockets it overseas other aerospace contractors.

Re:This is the Congressinal Rocket not NASA. (2)

TwoUtes (1075403) | about a month ago | (#47794931)

That is it in a nutshell. NASA programs have always been subject to the whims of politicians. I'd bet that the next administration/congress cancels SLS after the next presidential election, and NASA will again look inept and directionless.

Re:This is the Congressinal Rocket not NASA. (0)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a month ago | (#47795301)

NASA will again look inept and directionless

Only to the clueless that don't realize that NASA is an organization that executes the policies of others subject to the funding whims of yet others. (I.E. pretty much everyone sadly.)

Re:This is the Congressinal Rocket not NASA. (1)

backslashdot (95548) | about a month ago | (#47795657)

Probably not, if the pictures of Pluto returned back by the New Horizons mission are still fresh on people's minds.

Re:This is the Congressinal Rocket not NASA. (2, Informative)

tomhath (637240) | about a month ago | (#47794985)

The rocket they really wanted was Constellation, but Obama cancelled that one.

Re:This is the Congressinal Rocket not NASA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795179)

Well yeah, he couldn't have NASA follow a space plan with the other guy's name and party on it!

Maybe the next president will have his space plan start with "launch Congress into space", and then we'll actually get somewhere...

Re:This is the Congressinal Rocket not NASA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795683)

Yeah, if only Obama had been a REAL DEMOCRAT and decided to SPEND 200 BILLION Dollars on it.

But Obama can't even get the Tax part right!

Re:This is the Congressinal Rocket not NASA. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795733)

Of course he cancelled it. Space flight be for white folks. That's racist!

Re:This is the Congressinal Rocket not NASA. (3, Informative)

Bo'Bob'O (95398) | about a month ago | (#47796045)

And in it's place we got the commercial cargo and commercial crew programs, which have been highly successful so far. So much so that NASA is now looking to duplicate the process in other endeavors: http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n1407/27marstelecom/#.VANoxEi0b0c

Meanwhile the Orion capsule, which was the part of the constellation project that actually put humans on top of those rockets to get them into space, was kept. It's still over budget, under speced and years off from putting anyone in space.

Re:This is the Congressinal Rocket not NASA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47796145)

You are completely wrong on that.

Battle of pork (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47794909)

Pork barrel NASA rocket to launch pork barrel NASA missions vs SpaceX building a rocket that is of no use other then for pork barrel NASA missions.

Just because the latter has less pork doesn't mean it's good.

Re:Battle of pork (1)

khallow (566160) | about a month ago | (#47795011)

Well, either rocket can be used for non-pork purposes. There's no physical limitation that prevents them from being used that way. But one of them is going to be well priced out of doing anything that doesn't have huge funding from some government, the congressional one versus one which can be priced to sell to groups other than governments, the SpaceX one. My take is a really cheap big rocket would have takers. Either bigger satellites, more delta-v, and/or launching more satellites at one time.

Why does it take so long? (2, Interesting)

tekrat (242117) | about a month ago | (#47794993)

I mean seriously, look at the SLS, it's almost entirely composed of re-used space shuttle parts. It has the main engines on the bottom of the tank re-purposed from the shuttle. it has solid rocket boosters which already exist from the shuttle -- it entirely looks like it could be cobbled together in a few month's time because it uses almost entirely existing components.

So what exactly requires so many years to make it al work when it's all basically existing tech from the shuttle? I hate to say this, but this ain't rocket science.

Re:Why does it take so long? (5, Insightful)

db48x (92557) | about a month ago | (#47795103)

Unlike in Kerbal Space Program, when you stack rocket components on top of each other you have to reengineer the bottom one to hold up the top one; they say that they're reusing the main tank, but that might be true in a narrow sense if they reuse the H2 tank inside the orange Space Shuttle External Tank. Then you have to engineer the manufacturing processes and factories for producing any new components (and there will be lots of those), plus the modified one (easier, but still plenty to go around), plus you have to engineer the test facilities for all the components, and you have to test the test facilities, and then test the components, and then test-launch the vehicle, etc. Don't forget to document everything, and to design training procedures so that you can hire new people to build these things, and test them, etc, etc. It actually is rocket science.

Re:Why does it take so long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795241)

How is this any different from aviation and automotive industries?

Re:Why does it take so long? (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about a month ago | (#47795323)

Market size.

Re:Why does it take so long? (1)

Drethon (1445051) | about a month ago | (#47795347)

Similar engineering, orders of magnitude larger and more powerful.

Re:Why does it take so long? (5, Informative)

db48x (92557) | about a month ago | (#47795361)

For the most part it's a difference in magnitude. The speeds the rockets achieve are much higher than any airplane, let alone car, ever manages. The thrust of the engines is stupendous, the liquid H2 and O2 fuels are cryogenic, the flame temperatures in the engine are extreme. In fact, they're so extreme that the engines use precise control over the flow fuel and oxidizer entering the engine to create a layer of cooler gasses around the inside of the engine nozzle, so that it doesn't melt or ablate entirely away. Everything has to work in vacuum and at ambient air pressure and at max Q during flight.

All of this and more adds up to a much harder design problem, much more stringent test requirements, much tighter manufacturing tolerances, etc. The principle is the same, however; any change to one component of a system may require changes to every other component.

The one thing that all forms of engineering from (whether software, civil, aerospace, or other) have in common is the management of complexity. The automotive engineer designs the engine mounts in your car to accept a wide range of engines, so that they can manufacture several variants of the same car with different engines without having to redesign every component. Similarly, SpaceX has greatly reduced their cost and risk by reducing the complexity of their rockets; one way they did this was to use the same engine for both the first and second stages of their rockets (the first stage simply uses more of them). Another way was to avoid cryogenic fuels; they have a lower specific impulse (fuel efficiency), but a much greater space efficiency (liquid H2 is very light; that orange tank is huge, and 80% of it is for the H2 tank) plus you avoid having to deal with cryogenic fuels, and the complicated materials engineering that goes into designing the tanks to hold them.

If you want to know more, MIT has some great lectures on the subject, even ones suitable for non-engineers. A good one is An Electrical Engineering View of a Mechanical Watch . The description of this lecture only touches on superficial matters; Sussman's real point is that the means of abstraction present in an engineered system can be applied to any other engineered system, and that it's only by designing the right abstractions that engineers make continual progress in designing newer and better systems. He states this directly in the first two minutes, which is quite handy. You might also check out the video lectures for the Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs , the first lecture of which goes into much the same topics in the realm of software engineering.

Re:Why does it take so long? (2)

db48x (92557) | about a month ago | (#47795405)

I got distracted and broke my links. An Electrical Engineering View of a Mechanical Watch is at http://video.mit.edu/watch/an-... [mit.edu] , and the SICP lectures are at http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/ele... [mit.edu]

Re:Why does it take so long? (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | about a month ago | (#47796077)

That was not fair! I should have been done with my five-minute /. break an hour ago!

In other words, thank you for the Mechanical Watch link. That professor is amazing.

Re: Why does it take so long? (4, Interesting)

kellymcdonald78 (2654789) | about a month ago | (#47795431)

While the "Shuttle Derived" messaging was used to sell the program, it's hardly anything but. The first few flights will use left over RS-25Ds from the shuttle program, but they are far too expensive for new ones to be built and throw away each flight, so the RS-25E and RS-25F engines needed to be developed. The 4 segment SRBs from the shuttle aren't powerful enough for SLS so they've had to develop a 5 segment SRB with a new type of solid fuel with a completely new grain. The casings are also being redesigned to be expendable. While the tank is shuttle derived, it needs a completely redesigned aft section to support the engines, plumbing is completely different, and the a new interstate to support the upper stage and payloads. It would have been cheaper and faster to start from scratch, but that doesn't keep the trough filled.

Re:Why does it take so long? (1, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | about a month ago | (#47795455)

So what exactly requires so many years to make it al work

It takes as long as it does, because that is the amount of time (or money: same principle applies) than is allotted to the project. Finishing sooner makes no sense as you'd just be working yourself out of a job earlier. There is also no pressing need to have such a vehicle. It's not as if there was a killer asteroid heading this way that would spell doom - and worse: upset NASA's carefully crafted timetables.

In that situation, where there was a deadline to be met (and not a vacuous political one), then yes: I daresay the prototype would be on the pad in a matter of months. With 2 or 3 more following close behind.

Re:Why does it take so long? (1)

PPH (736903) | about a month ago | (#47795521)

Because the primary contractor's business is cobbling stuff together designed and built by others.

Re:Why does it take so long? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about a month ago | (#47795601)

Remember, this is the organization that needed half a billion dollars to put a dummy upper stage on top of a shuttle SRB and launch it into the ocean. There was a very brief period when NASA did cheap unmanned missions under the 'cheaper, faster, better' slogan, but that was long ago now.

Rockets suck (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a month ago | (#47794997)

They burn something like 99% of their takeoff weight just to get to orbit. Their biggest cargo is their own fuel.

Where's the research on mass drivers/railguns, or tethers, or any of the "scifi" types of propulsion?

Re:Rockets suck (2)

db48x (92557) | about a month ago | (#47795507)

A rocket is a mass driver, and all of the "scifi" types of propulsion break the laws of physics one way or another. Space elevators would be pretty nice, but we still haven't found a material strong enough. Carbon nanotubes are the current hope, but we can't make them long enough yet; they'd have to be very long indeed to make a strong enough elevator. Short nanotubes have to be glued together and then you're down to the strength of the glue.

Re:Rockets suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47796005)

Usually the "glue" is the carbon nanotubes themselves. They don't form straight, and so defects at either end of the nanotube provide surface for them to link together, like how short fibers are spun into long thread. Of course, when you have nanotubes with defects, their strength is tremendously weaker than their theoretical maximum.

Can't wait to see the BFR in a few years. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795005)

Methane-fueled rockets burn brilliant blue. It will be a sight to see.

Re:Can't wait to see the BFR in a few years. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795029)

BFR? Blue Fart Rocket?

Re:Can't wait to see the BFR in a few years. (1)

PPH (736903) | about a month ago | (#47795491)

BFR? Big F*ing Rocket?

Re:Can't wait to see the BFR in a few years. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795613)

Big Fucking Rocket.
And yes, that really was the original codename.

No Competition Here! (5, Insightful)

Irate Engineer (2814313) | about a month ago | (#47795017)

NASA would be very happy to let SpaceX build a heavy lift booster for them. Really.

The only reason SLS exists is to keep the congresscritters from the former shuttle supply chain districts happy. That's it. NASA is desperately trying to keep funding going, and they ain't interested in pissing that money away on designing big dumb rockets, but politics says that they must to survive. Rockets are rapidly becoming a commercial technology, which is a good thing.

NASA would be very happy to buy rockets from Elon Musk and/or whoever else can put up competing articles. NASA would much rather be doing and spending its hard-fought budget on things that they do well, pushing the envelope on technologies for hard problems, like getting our asses to Mars, and science missions.

Re:No Competition Here! (0)

Animats (122034) | about a month ago | (#47795827)

The only reason SLS exists is to keep the congresscritters from the former shuttle supply chain districts happy. That's it.

Right. NASA also still has way too many "centers". Ames (except for the big wind tunnel) and Glenn (except for the test facilities at Sandusky) ought to go.

Delay is good. congress operating as designed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795059)

It's been the better half of a century that we realized using chemical rockets to operate outside of Earths gravity well is a fools errand. I'm rooting for Musk, but he is 1 spectacular explosion away from irrelavancy. While we wait for the inevitable, I trust the Chinese will rediscover the idea of space stations and building stuff in orbit while we wait to discover a way to catch up with an entire universe that is fleeing from us as fast as theoretically possible.
Still, being only one (or two) generations removed from the most savage and disruptive warmongers the planet has ever seen is enough justification for any man of true freedom to use any meañs possible to get as far away from the king as possible. The truth is, I would rather die on Titan in 10 years than to have to endure the Marxist-Fascist coallition that the peasants of the world have deemed "good enough"
TL:DR - we're fucked.

Re:Delay is good. congress operating as designed. (3, Insightful)

queazocotal (915608) | about a month ago | (#47795099)

'One spectacular explosion' - One explosion would be 92% reliability. (one failure in 12 launches)

CBS news.com report... (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a month ago | (#47795085)

3 companies vie to build space shuttle successor

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ne... [cbsnews.com]

Re:CBS news.com report... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795365)

Since the Space Shuttle Program was retired, Nasa has done a lot of nothing but make promises and then retract them due to their funding being pulled by tea party idiots and blaming it all on Obama. Im not really interested in whose fault all the idiocy is, I think Nasa is a shadow of what it once was and needs to get off of it's ass and do something useful. I blame Moronic assholes in congress, but of course those dicks are beyond reproach.

Boehner needs more orange oomph loopmpah Dye and it is all Obama's fault that he does not have it because the liberals need medical care!

Boehner and his ilk need to be fired, charged with treason, fired again and shot.. and then Nasa can start making plans once we deal with the idiots that are trying to screw the american people over and blame all their bullshit on Obama. This country, since 2008 makes me fucking sick.

Re:CBS news.com report... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795411)

Since the Space Shuttle Program was retired, Nasa has done a lot of nothing but make promises and then retract them due to their funding being pulled by tea party idiots and blaming it all on Obama. Im not really interested in whose fault all the idiocy is, I think Nasa is a shadow of what it once was and needs to get off of it's ass and do something useful. I blame Moronic assholes in congress, but of course those dicks are beyond reproach.

Boehner needs more orange oomph loopmpah Dye and it is all Obama's fault that he does not have it because the liberals need medical care!

Boehner and his ilk need to be fired, charged with treason, fired again and shot.. and then Nasa can start making plans once we deal with the idiots that are trying to screw the american people over and blame all their bullshit on Obama. This country, since 2008 makes me fucking sick.

This is the only intelligent comment I have read in this thread and needs to be modded up, but won't because slashdot is as fucking useless as the USA is since 2008

Space Era: Its Over! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795375)

We are on the verge of a global energy & debt crisis. The Era of space flight is coming to an end. CapEx in Energy development is coming to a rapid decline. No one can afford $150 bbl Oil and the Oil companies are ending development of future projects need to offset depletion. Within 12 years the world won't be able to launch satellites.

Re:Space Era: Its Over! (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | about a month ago | (#47795699)

Thank you for that very well documented argument. As soon as I'm done reading all the sources you posted, I'll get back to my morning coffee.

Re:Space Era: Its Over! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47795743)

There are tons and tons of documents about this. You never heard of Peak Oil before?

Here you go:
Steven Kopits: Oil Majors cutting CapEx Expendures and return money to shareholders:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLCsMRr7hAg

Core Labs (Analyzes Drill Core Samples for Oil & Gas Drilling) CEO declares Global Oil Production has peaked this year:
http://www.news-press.com/story/money/2014/08/24/oil-experts-say-demand-will-stay-high/14495861/

Re:Space Era: Its Over! (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | about a month ago | (#47796147)

of course I've heard of peak oil, but if you're going to post your tripe, at least do a decent job of informing people of what you're trying to say instead of a bunch of chicken little hornblowing.

Nasaspaceflight.com (3, Informative)

jpfulton (2075948) | about a month ago | (#47795417)

For those of you who visited the link, Nasaspaceflight.com has a very well-informed stable of posters, many of whom are professionals in the space industry, and there is the L2 section where you will find much that is not available anywhere else.

Other reasons for NASA's slow build time (1)

dayton967 (647640) | about a month ago | (#47795761)

One thing people forget, is that the Private sector, can often do things a great deal faster as there is way less red tape. In the Public Sector, you have to have more justification on who you buy everything from, to contractors, everything. The public sector is greatly hindered by this in so many ways, to make sure everything is above board, and fully transparent, and it only gets worse as the economy gets worse, as the government wants an accounting for every last penny, because they believe the public really will care on which toilet paper is being used by government officials. Also if something is not on a standing offer for the government, it must go to be bid on by businesses.

Re:Other reasons for NASA's slow build time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47796167)

red tape: noun excessive bureaucracy or adherence to rules and formalities

Excessive bureaucracy can, and often does, exist in corporations just as in government. Government programs can be just as agile as private ones. Whereas, profit ALWAYS comes at the expense of the workers or customers.

Let's settle this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47796101)

Point the rockets at each other, nose-cone to nose-cone, ignite them both and let's settle this once and for all; Mortal Kombat-style!

(or at least, Celebrity Deathmatch style)

This coin has two sides (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47796125)

The Good: We could end-up with two extremely-capable heavy lifters that launch from separate facilities (excellent and complete redundancy) which could enable a bold new era of exploration. Just imagine the missions you could fly by having NASA park a mars transit vehicle in orbit and SpaceX dock a massive fuelled Earth departure stage to it, perhaps with the crew flying up to it aboard a DreamChaser launched on an Atlas (Maximizing the non-crew related weight the heavies could loft). Mars mission in three launches, possibly all on one day. These systems COULD all be used in concert with each other (more important givien that Obama's NASA is reducing to one pad (39B) and therefore will be incapable of using SLS alone for any significant deep space manned exploration (that would require multiple launches and it taked too long to refurb a pad to be able to do this with one pad).

The Bad: Morons might use this to convince congress to kill SLS (dreaming that the cash would be re-directed to SpaceX or elsewhere in NASA when the politicians whould actually be likely to shift it no non-space priorities). With a down-scaled and further funds-constrained NASA, SpaceX could then lose its main customer and never end-up actually being able to afford to build their giant. A similar scnario nearly happened when some people with an idea they called "Direct" advocated killing the Constellation program and funding their project instead - and the Obama admin DID kill Constellaion (and then proposed NOTHING to replace it, rather than the "Direct" project - which is partly how we got to the mess we are now in where congress is pushing SLS and Obama keeps trying to kill it).

The big problem with all this SpaceX fanboy stuff: SpaceX is cool but has demonstrated NO ability to keep to a launch schedule and has a history of claiming it will build and fly rockets that it never actually does build and fly. Remember Falcon1??? How many here remember Falcon5???? Does anybody here remember how many Falcon9s were supposed to have flown to ISS by now or how many tons they were contracted to deliver? (hint: more, and MANY more) Has everybody forgotten that Falcon9 Heavy was supposed to be operational by now but is still only on the drawing board? Do people forget that the current Falcon9 is VERY different from the Falcon9 that flew the first flights? Does even the new version meet the original promised performance specs for Falcon9? I like SpaceX and wish them well and LOVE the fact that they are putting flood lights on the lazy, bloated, over-priced and under-innovating traditional rocket builders BUT this does not change the fact that they have not provided any evidence yet that they will be able to build such a giant rocket, deliver it on ANY schedule, fly it on ANY schedule or have it perform anywhere near to the specs. IF SpaceX beats NASA into space with a super-heavy rocket it will likely NOT be because SpaceX has met its promises but rather because NASA and Boeing have wallowed in incompetence and slipped their schedules so badly that they end-up falling behind Musk (as opposed to Musk beating them by being excellent and speeding-up to overtake them). Sadly, THIS is the scenario that we have the evidence to support.

 

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