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Paypal Founder's Merlin Rocket Engine Fires Up

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the no-milquetoast-nasa-puttering dept.

Space 252

Baldrson writes "Wired News reports that after 2 years of development, Space Exploration Technology Corp ('SpaceEx') successfully test-fired their new LOX/Kerosene Merlin rocket engine for the 160 seconds required for orbit. SpaceEx was founded by Elon Musk from the proceeds of the 2002 sale of his prior start-up, Paypal, to Ebay. According to Musk, 5 Merlins bundled with the first stage of SpaceEx's powerful Falcon V booster will launch 5 people to orbit by 2010, thereby winning America's Space Prize which was endowed by Robert Bigelow."

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252 comments

Karma Pit (1, Funny)

grennis (344262) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403252)

Come on slashdot, I have "-1 Terrible" karma for no apparent reason, and I have posted lots of comments recently that have been modded up.

But still, my karma is "-1 Terrible". What am I supposed to do?

Re:Karma Pit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403274)

Paypal me $5, I'll fix it asap.

Re:Karma Pit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403282)

Paypal who? you twit.

Re:Karma Pit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403313)

you twit


Think I found your problem, grennis.

Re:Karma Pit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403485)

Yes, that's right. Send the PayPal to you@tw.it

Re:Karma Pit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403296)

Come on slashdot, I have "-1 Terrible" karma for no apparent reason, and I have posted lots of comments recently that have been modded up.

Most likely, you have offended one of the petty, small janitors that work at Slashdot and have been bitchslapped to permanent -1 land. Don't worry, some of Slashdot's best content lives there.

any relation to... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403256)

deuce

More Money... (-1, Troll)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403259)

Just like some of my eBay purchases which PayPal didn't honor protection on when they didn't show up, more money up in smoke.

The 'insightful' moderator missed 'troll' (1)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403286)

The parent post is clearly a troll. PayPal isn't perfect, nobody is, but making the paypal slam AND the 'up in smoke' comment in the same sentence, that's straight up under the bridge, 'gonna eat some billy goats' type trolling.

Re:The 'insightful' moderator missed 'troll' (2, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403343)

The parent post is clearly a troll. PayPal isn't perfect, nobody is, but making the paypal slam AND the 'up in smoke' comment in the same sentence, that's straight up under the bridge, 'gonna eat some billy goats' type trolling.

I bet you feel all warm and fuzzy when you've lost (or spent poorly) hard earned money, when you see the mogul who received a chunk of it, having fun while you struggle with Windows Security, Ebay's Enigmatic Policies or PayPal's Inattention to Customers. I loved it when someone with a 'Power' account forwarded on to me special email addresses and phone numbers that get actual human beings employed by eBay/PayPal, while little fish get form replies or overtaxed volunteers...

Seriously, it takes the fun out of it unless I visualize some of these same people being on that 5-man rocket and hitching a ride on a wayward asteroid.

Re:The 'insightful' moderator missed 'troll' (1)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403377)

1. Paypal is not a bank.
2. Sometimes people lie.
3. I've done almost 100 transactions through paypal knowing #1 and #2, and I've been lucky enough not to get hit. If I want absolute security, I'll pay through the nose for an escrow service. If I want convenience for small purchases, I'll use PayPal.

I'm not trying to be a jerk, but.. c'mon.

Re:The 'insightful' moderator missed 'troll' (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403432)

1. Paypal is not a bank.
2. Sometimes people lie.
3. I've done almost 100 transactions through paypal knowing #1 and #2, and I've been lucky enough not to get hit. If I want absolute security, I'll pay through the nose for an escrow service. If I want convenience for small purchases, I'll use PayPal.

So ... when it goes badly for you, that's OK, eh? Hmm never thought of it like that. Kind of charity for the rich.

I'm not trying to be a jerk, but.. c'mon.

Oh, sure, exuuUUuuse me. I'll just put on my brave face and overlook these things. If it weren't for the Hong Kong (Tsuen Wan) Police I'd have gotten nowhere [slashdot.org].

Re:The 'insightful' moderator missed 'troll' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403515)

1. Paypal is not a bank.

BZZZT thank you for playing. Paypal was ruled to be a bank by the feds.

Re:The 'insightful' moderator missed 'troll' (1)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403564)

No, they weren't. An AC that posts misinformation? Why, I never!

Re:The 'insightful' moderator missed 'troll' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403983)

For that matter: A slashdot poster who posts misinformation? Why, I never!

Big rockets? (0, Troll)

chris098 (536090) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403260)

I'm surprised that with a $1.5 billion budget they couldn't find a better way to get people into space. Rockets don't seem like the "affordable" answer to me. Maybe a space elevator, or maybe some new technology that nobody's invented yet. ...but big rockets? They seem so dated...

Re:Big rockets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403283)

I'm surprised that with a $1.5 billion budget they couldn't find a better way to get people into space. Rockets don't seem like the "affordable" answer to me. Maybe a space elevator, or maybe some new technology that nobody's invented yet. ...but big rockets?

"To the moon, Alice! Bang! Zoom!"

They seem so dated...

just like some of us posters... sigh.

Re:Big rockets? (4, Insightful)

cmowire (254489) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403303)

Right, but the history of "let's do better than a standard rocket by .... because we've got $x billion" hasn't been so good.

Case in point, space shuttle.

The big thing to remember is that the Falcon boosters should be signifigantly cheaper than the current crop of launchers and at least partially reusable. So, even though it's not revolutionary, there's much jumpstarting of the launch biz with what he's got.

The problem is that most of the time, you don't need a revolution, just a little evolution.

Re:Big rockets? (3, Informative)

snuf23 (182335) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403359)

"Case in point, space shuttle."

Um, on launch the space shuttle is pretty much a big rocket. That's what the big fuel tank and boosters are for. Rocketing it into space.
The Shuttle's innovation was in the landing stage and the reuse of the rocket boosters and shuttle vehicle itself. This also allowed for large payloads such as science labs that could be carried in the vehicle and returned to Earth. In the case of Apollo or Soyuz style vehicles, only the small crew compartment is returned.

Re:Big rockets? (3, Interesting)

Tx (96709) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403627)

I think the point was it's not a "conventional" rocket, it's a kludgy hybrid lash-up which never worked all that well, and is fundamentally unsafe.

The Russians got it right with their shuttle - instead of a big main engine on the shuttle, have much more payload space in the orbiter, and launch the thing with a big-ass conventional rocket. Shame the Russians couldn't afford to run their shuttle.

Re:Big rockets? (3, Insightful)

snuf23 (182335) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403765)

Yeah they got it right. So right it flew only one test orbital flight and unmanned at that.
Ok so that's related to economics BUT you can't really judge a launch vehicle's performance and call it "right" if it never really got a chance to do its job.

Re:Big rockets? (2, Interesting)

Kiryat Malachi (177258) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403825)

Hey, it could land automatically in Russian weather. Give them some credit, Buran looked to be a decent craft that died solely due to economics.

Re:Big rockets? (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403919)

No they never got it right.

The american's got it right, they got it almost perfect, but congress didn't give them enough cash so they had to take out a lot of things from the shuttle design to make it as cheap as possible and as safe as possible.

Re:Big rockets? (1)

rastachops (543268) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403315)

What are the limitations of building such an elevator? I'm guessing the stability of making such a structure would be difficult to achieve. Any chance of a self balancing computer controlled structure?

catch 22 (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403349)

Building a space elevator requires that you haul lots of mass into orbit. That's very expensive so it will never get built until orbital launches become cheap. But when we do have cheap access to space, you lose the whole point of building a space elevator in the first place.

One key point you missed (1)

Nomihn0 (739701) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403450)

The environmental impact of a space elevator is far less than that of the convential rockets. A space elevator could be powered in part by alternative energy sources that are both energy efficient and clean when compared to rocket fuel. The space elevator's effective footprint would be the size of its anchor facility (which amounts to far less space, in a very remote location).

Re:Big rockets? (3, Insightful)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403353)

Rockets might not 'feel' right to you, but they exist, are a known technology, and there's over 60 years of large scale design and construction experience behind them.

$1.5 billion is a lot of money when you're looking at buying groceries, but it's peanuts compared to the cost of developing a whole new technology (carbon nanotube, for example which might be needed for space elevators), then testing and building the new technology (literally) from the ground up.

In regards to the 'some new technology that nobody's invented yet' comment, I'd rather take one rocket now versus a hundred ephemeral fairy dust ideas of things that may or may not happen in the future. This isn't the only money that will ever be spent on private aerospace. If new technologies become promising and affordable to develop, then other companies will do that in the future.

These guys may succeed, they may fail. That's a great thing about America, you can take risks with commensurate payback. If every company needed the public to vote on whether to let them do their thing, we'd be where the USSR is. Oh yeah, they don't exist anymore.

Rockets are cheapest. (1)

reality-bytes (119275) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403360)

And 1.5 billion USD is not all that much when it comes to getting to LEO.

Todays current regular human launch vehicle, the Soyuz, costs around $30m and that is a fully developed and very well tested system.

In terms of rocket development, with a new design, you could expect to spend your first 1bn USD on getting to the 'Manned rated' stage.

As for orbital tethers or 'space elevators' we're talking a whole different order of magnitude for cost. 1.5bn USD in this case would probably pay for about half of the raw materials for the ground tether station. Certainly, space elevators are theoretically cost effective for getting things to orbit but only once they are built.

Re:Big rockets? (1)

snuf23 (182335) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403385)

Considering they seem like they want to be a viable commercial company - going with a proven technology seems like a good bet.
The R&D to develop something like a space elevator is HUGE. What happens if you just can't make it work? It might sound simple enough on paper, but the engineering challenges are extreme.

Re:Big rockets? (5, Insightful)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403402)

> I'm surprised that with a $1.5 billion budget they couldn't find a better way to get people into space. Rockets don't seem like the "affordable" answer to me. Maybe a space elevator, or maybe some new technology that nobody's invented yet. ...but big rockets? They seem so dated...

Rockets are cheap.

Space elevator? Start thinking about building a space elevator when someone has built a carbon nanotube footbridge.

Something not yet invented? The probability of discovering a new physics is not directly proportional to the number of dollars spent.

So - we're back to rockets. Which are cheap.

NASA's rockets are expensive, because NASA doesn't care where the money comes from. (And NASA's funders in Congress don't care whether NASA's rockets even fly, so long as every district gets its piece of the pork pie.)

If you're Boeing or Lockmart, that's fine -- shuttling rich tourists to orbit and back will barely net you pocket change. So you build big expensive vehicles and you sell 'em to people who don't give a rat's ass about the cost of their ride, because they're using other people's money.

Thanks to Rutan, Bezos, and Musk, there's the possibility of a new market niche for those of us who prefer to use our own money.

Re:Big rockets? (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403435)

but big rockets? They seem so dated

Thankfully the promise of dilithium crystals to power a new generation of warp drives is just right around the corner.

That and transporter technology will finally free us from "big rockets."

Re:Big rockets? (1)

tuxter (809927) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403471)

IF there was a more affordable, cost effective means of transport to space, don't you think it would have been done by now? It's gonna takes years to formulate and actually produce something like a space elevator. And it'll have to be placed somewhere with a distinct lack of nasty weather. Also, being kicked in the back by multiple G's is way cooler.

Re:Big rockets? (1, Interesting)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403524)

Oh well, if they're "dated" then they must be bad. Sure hope your girlfriend has only gone out with you in her entire life. :-)

Seriously though, the reason rockets are expensive is because they aren't launched very much- mass production would slash the cost. But because the cost is high, production is low, and so nobody can afford to go, so the cost stays high.

If that sounds utopian, consider that the fuel to put somebody into orbit is only about as much as to send someone on a round the world trip by jet...

Rocket hardware, contrary to popular opinion, isn't very complicated, your car probably is about as complicated.

Incidentally, the projected cost of Space Elevators is likely to be about as high as rockets- it's only if the launch rate goes really high will the initial higher R&D costs of Space Elevators cancel out.

Then there's the Van Allen radiation belts around the earth- people would get radiation sickness and possibly die if they go up an elevator. Shielding is extremely heavy and expensive, but rockets go much faster so you get less dossage and rockets can do what Apollo did, steer around the worst of the belts- but elevators have to be above the equator where the belts are, so they can't do that.

Even then, there's another fly in the ointment, the power costs of a space elevator are much higher than you would expect- currently the costs per kg to orbit are thought to be higher than the cost of cheap rocket fuel to do the same thing. This is mainly because the laser power beaming system looks like it may turn out to be about 2% efficient for various reasons (and even that's optimistic- current tech is 0.5% efficient), and other techniques aren't practical for sending power 38000 km up a nanotube rope. It turns out that rockets are if anything more efficient, and may even be cheaper in the long term. :-(

[or :-) if you like rockets, personally I like all ways to get to space :-) ]

Re:Big rockets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11404026)

I gather from this that you havn't looked up how much a jet costs, going around the world. Which while not being insanely expensive, certaintly isn't cheap either.

Re:Big rockets? (1)

BigGerman (541312) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403582)

I always thought that it is just not right esthetically speaking:
Take 500 tons of explosives, pile them up skyhigh, put a person on top of it in a tin can and then set the whole thing ablaze.
You can smell government / military-indistrial thinking all over it. There MUST be a better way.

Re:Big rockets? (3, Informative)

dabigpaybackski (772131) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403667)

Couldn't agree more. The reason we're still using primitive vertical launch technology is in large part due to the U.S. military's choice of silo-based ICBMs for massive nuclear barrages, from which your typical space launch vehicle was derived. Werner von Braun advocated launching rockets from long inclined ramps in order to boost payloads and reduce costs, but didn't have the clout to make this happen. For full background, check out the link. [skyramp.org]

I find their arguments convincing. It's an incremental step using existing technology, but it's a big one.

Re:Big rockets? (1)

TK2K (834353) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403685)

Big rockes are dieing.
NASA is getting their SCRAMJET system to work, if used on the space shuttle, it would drop its weight by 85%! That is a huge amount!
How it works, A scramjet works by extracting the oxygen required from the atmosphere is passes though, as long as it is travling faster then mach two (on earth's atmosphere) it can sustain flight. This gets rid of the need to cary liquid oxygen, allowing spacecraft to be much lighter, and to be able to go faster.
If the shuttle had a fuel tank the size of the moon, it still wouldnt even be able to get up to 1/10th the speed of light! (this is due to the mass of the liquid oxygen)

Re:Big rockets? (4, Informative)

georgewilliamherbert (211790) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403768)

I'm surprised that with a $1.5 billion budget
His actual budget was a fraction of the $1.5 billion he made on PayPal, not the whole amount.

There is no way that SpaceX would be profitable selling rockets for $6 and $12 million each if he spent $1.5 billion developing them. That's part of the reason why normal space launch rockets cost $40 to $250 million (or more...).

Re:Big rockets? (1)

mOoZik (698544) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403780)

Are you really so naive that you think he invested the entire proceeds from the sale in developing a rocket motor? More likely, it's an investment of a few million dollars.

Re:Big rockets? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 9 years ago | (#11404083)

hummmm. if you have an efficient design, why change it? Consider that Linus borrowed a lot of ideas from Unix in Linux's early days. Then as time progressed, the insides have changed and improved.

Same with the rockets. Right now, they are taking a standard design and imporving its reliability and economics. Down the road, when we are back on the moon, is the right time to test the space elevator.

Just another dot com trillionaire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403263)

Fulfilling his childhood fantasies.

Re:Just another dot com trillionaire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403341)

$1.5 B won't even by a B2 plane these days...

Begalke [begalke.us]

Re:Just another dot com trillionaire (4, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403383)

$1.5 B won't even by a B2 plane these days...

Because owning a B2 bomber is your childhood fantasy?

Frankly, mine involves bras and suspenders and don't cost remotely as much.

Re:Just another dot com trillionaire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403457)

You'd prefer a 48DD to a B52?

Re:Just another dot com trillionaire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403992)

Yes, and what you wear in the privacy of your own home is entirely your own business.

Bigelow Aerospace is located.. (0)

dustinbarbour (721795) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403270)

.. not 10 minutes from my front door! Craziness!

Big Al's pest control is located... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403413)

.. not 10 minutes from my front door! Even crazier!

and hey, if it doesn't work... (5, Funny)

zonker (1158) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403273)

he can just sell the thing on ebay...

Re:and hey, if it doesn't work... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403373)

he can just sell the thing on ebay...

Shhh!!! I'm planning to sell fragments of it when it comes down over my state ;-)

Powered By ... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403288)

Natalie Portman shovelin' hot grits.

FP!!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403295)

I feel special.

Frist (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403308)

Is this story so boring, that nobody cares... or FIRST POST?!

Re:Frist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403436)

Yes, yes, no. Respectively.

Conventional but exciting (2, Insightful)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403316)

See, you don't need exotic new technologies for cheap(er) space access... just cut the NASA fat.

Getting up is only the first part (4, Insightful)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403339)

Any word on how they get the lucky orbiters back down? I thought NASA had great difficulty with heat shield design, implementation, etc.

Re:Getting up is only the first part (3, Insightful)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403446)

NASA had trouble making cheap, low cost, light weight re-usable heat shields.

For each of those requirements you scrap, you save a boatload of money. If you equip your capsules (no need for big wings like the shuttle) with one use heatshields, you might incur a weight penalty, but you can use 40 year old Apollo or Soyuz technology. If you can squeeze an extra half a percent of efficiency from your engines or start with more boost then you think you'd need, you can chuck the light weight requirement.

Commercial space flight will be different from government in a few important ways. I suspect that being able to design your craft without congressional 'input' will help. A lot of the things that make the shuttle complicated and expensive to run are leftover from 1970s requirements that it serve everyone, from civilian NASA to the NRO (spy sats) to the Air Force (dropping bombs on USSR using once around orbits and landing back at Vandenburg).

Re:Getting up is only the first part (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403692)

wait.. isn't "cheap" one of your requirments? Are you saying that if you scrap that one you can build it for less? :)

Is that why pay pal emailed me? (1)

agent (7471) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403536)

Is that why pay pal emailed me?
Yahoo filtered it as spam.
Good thing I check those messages as well.
Do not forget about the freenet.
http://freenet.sf.net
Peace.

Re:Getting up is only the first part (1)

NardofDoom (821951) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403888)

Water, sprayed at high pressure, stored in a pressure vessel would provide a low-weight, high efficiency, reusable, heat shield.

Uh oh (4, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403352)

SpaceEx was founded by Elon Musk from the proceeds of the 2002 sale of his prior start-up, Paypal, to Ebay.

Now here's one person who hasn't left the proceeds of his sale into his PayPal account. I mean, imagine that, buying rocket and space stuff like that, they'd have frozen his account immediately, for no reason, without any explanation besides "what goes on looks strange".

Well done Elon! (and when you have time, please tell your former employees to f*)(*&@$ing give me back my $150 in my account they locked up about, oh, 5 years ago...)

Re:Uh oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403615)

If PayPal were open-source, you wouldn't have this problem.

Financed by PayPal? (4, Funny)

DogDude (805747) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403381)

Does that mean that they used all stolen credit cards and "frozen" account assets to pay for this ridiculous thing? That gives me a warm fuzzy feeling...

DOD Sat launch? (2, Interesting)

crunk (844923) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403390)

FTA:

In March, once the final checkouts are completed -- akin, said Musk, to software beta testing -- Falcon I will lift a Department of Defense satellite called TacSat-1 into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Do commercial entities normally do DoD satellite launches? That doesn't seem right to me.

Re:DOD Sat launch? (1)

TheOriginalRevdoc (765542) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403482)

TacSat-1 is a small experimental satellite:

http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/tacsat-1.htm

The interesting bit is that the second stage is derived from the lunar module descent motor.

WWW -- Space (1)

Eric Hysen (845632) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403398)

What is it with all of these .com executives entering the private space industry? First Bezos and now this. Do they think that since they got lucky with their investments in the web, they now are obligated to spend millions in another obscure industry? If I had the type of money these guys have, there's no way I'd waste it on something as risky and untested as private space travel.

Re:WWW -- Space (1)

pinkocommie (696223) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403444)

Most of these guys are presumably geeks just like you and I n love the idea of human space travel and moving beyond our planet etc. Half the people on slashdot would be doing the exact same thing if they had ungodly amounts of money to burn.
To infinity and beyond? ;) :)

Re:WWW -- Space (4, Informative)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403447)

2 <> all of these .com executives

And, if all of those that entered into early aviation, using the money they made in other industries (see, for example, Howard Hughes), thought the way you do, we'd be way behind and probably would have lost WWII.

Re:WWW -- Space (1)

TK2K (834353) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403478)

But dont you see? that is the beauty of this, Privit companies spending money on space exploration! This is EXACTLY the kind of thing that was invisioned when NASA was created. The space industry is likly to be a huge economic forfrount in the coming years, from tourist attractions to manufacturing. The main reason it has not become that yet, is that it takes billions of inital money to start off. Companies cannot risk this amount of money, but if you already have a thriving company like Paypal, you can spend this amount of money without worrying about not having any more money.

Re:WWW -- Space (2, Insightful)

randall_burns (108052) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403820)

Just because someone has money, doesn't mean they have a lot of respect from anyone except other folks with money. Musk is young enough, he probably wants to do something _memorable_ with his life.


I'd also be curious to know if his interest in space predated his dotcom activities. One early microcomputer pioneer is reputed to have motivated his employees with claims that if his company was successful, they'd intest in space development. He even invested in a couple of rocket companies-and then retreated to other interests. The technology has improved since then, but frankly, I think a lot of folks are less trusting of the rich and powerful now than they were then.


Quite a few rich folks find their money brings them neither happiness or satisfaction.


I personally have a strong distrust of concentrations of wealth or political power. However, I would suggest that if humanity doesn't develop real, physical frontiers, the future for humanity is pretty dim-maybe just a high tech replay of ancient Egypt--a highly developed but stagnant culture that gradually drifts into oblivion.


The future for humanity with frontiers could be quite an interesting adventure.

Soyuz vs. anything else (1)

dingDaShan (818817) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403419)

The soyuz costs on average $40 million per launch. This is not what NASA is charged, NASA is charged more than this. Bigelow aerospace hopes to take advantage of this. NASA currently depends almost entirely on the Soyuz. If a private sector competitor can lower the cost to about 25 to 30 million, then a huge step can be made. NASA will have another option, which will drive the price of the Soyuz down. Nothing like a little competition...

A company doing this?? (2, Insightful)

TK2K (834353) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403427)

It seems to me the original idea of NASA is actualy going to work! NASA was created in the begining to combine all of the branches of the government's space research in one location, to pionere new technologies, then, after a few decades, transfer the exploration of space over to the privite sector. Needless to say, NASA is stil in existance. What is impresive about this is the fact that someone from a company is doing a project like this. The problem with the idea of space being exploited by companies is that the inital cost is too great, and the payoffs too little. So what if it is 60 year old technology? They are still financing something that has little or no consivable payoffs for them in the short OR long run, appart from getting Paypal's name out there. True, a big rocket isnt that creative or inovative, but its better then nothing right? (also, the comparitive size of the rocket is much smaller then the older ones) Just the fact that he could actualy use that much (1.5 bill)money on something like a space flight is impresive. Its a good thing money from companies is going towards space, dont complain that its just a rocket, remember, NASA makes the new stuff! (scramjet)

Re:A company doing this?? (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403661)

He sold Paypal didn't he?

I think this is more about boys and their (very expensive) toys.
We never grow up, and admit it, if you were as rich as these guys, you would want to do something "cool" :)

Space Exploration Technology Corp ('SpaceEx') (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403445)

SpaceEx? Sounds a bit like Space Sex. I think I might know their secret mission statement.

Isn't this just an RD-180 in disguise? (1, Troll)

Anonymous Cowherd X (850136) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403455)

First he sells PayPal and now he's wasting his money on this? It's not that the project is not worthwhile, it's just that there are more economical and efficient ways of achieving what he set out to do.

We'd like Merlin to be the best performing engine of its class (LOX/Kerosene, GG cycle turbo-pump) ever made and it looks like we have a decent shot at getting there.

Just how is their Merlin engine different from the Russian RD-180? It sounds like a rip-off which they are trying to improve and claim they invented something radically new. Renting Baikonur and hiring Russian specialists would have cost him half as much and the results would be much better, IMHO.

NOT PayPal founder (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403463)

Elon Musk is not a founder of PayPal. Elon Musk founded X.com. PayPal was founded by Max Levchin and Peter Thiel. PayPal and X.com were joined "in a merger of equals" afterwards.

It just occured to me... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403468)

It just occured to me that the guys doing these space ships are like the rich guys a few centuries ago mounting ocean expeditions, as much for the exploration and adventure as for profit. We all complain about rich people, but many of them tend to be philanthropists and use their money for some kind of public good.

"SpaceShipTwo" won't get off ground (2, Insightful)

astebbin (836820) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403476)

The linked article mentioned the "rebel billionaire" buying a new fleet of SpaceShipTwos for commercial trips to the upper stratosphere and back, which in my opinion is a prety foolish way for him to waste his accquired wealth. Unlike the Concords, which were also expensive and could actually transport you to useful places in small amounts of time, no celebrity or politicial figure would ever want to spend a couple thousand dollars just go up high in a potentially unsafe civilian spacecrat for the sole purpose of floating around in their seat and coming back down. There are easier and cheaper ways to obtain the thrills of floating in null-g that have been around for years, and not many people have expressed much interest in those, so why would anyone feel differently about the SpaceShipTwos? Don't get me wrong, I am excited about SpaceShipOne and the X-Prize (which it won), I just don't feel that this would be the correct application of the current technology.

I want to hear everyones' thoughts... please post comments!

Re:"SpaceShipTwo" won't get off ground (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403811)

Make a bazillion dollars and then I'll tell you how to spend it.

Re:"SpaceShipTwo" won't get off ground (1)

Kiryat Malachi (177258) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403859)

no celebrity or politicial figure would ever want to spend a couple thousand dollars just go up high in a potentially unsafe civilian spacecrat for the sole purpose of floating around in their seat and coming back down

Dennis Tito. Mark Shuttleworth. Lance Bass (well, sort of.)

Evidence does not bear out your assertion.

Re:"SpaceShipTwo" won't get off ground (1)

astebbin (836820) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403932)

Lance Bass fell into legal trouble with the Russians from whom he recieved expensive Cosmunaut training in preparation for a flight that *never happened*. Also, two or three customers is never enough to support a commercial enterprise that is doomed to failure, whether it be condemned by a shoddy product (ex. the N-Gage) or lack of public interest (ex. EQ II getting wiped by WoW, despite EQ II having better... never mind, I don't need to go off topic and get flamed to death :)

Fires up? (1)

DarthWiggle (537589) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403520)

"Paypal Founder's Merlin Rocket Engine Fires Up" ... shouldn't it be firing down? *rimshot!

Like eventually...

*ahem*

(NB, 'rimshot'!='rimjob')

Musk Should Talk To Maryniak (1)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403607)

Of his motivation Elon Musk says:
"I think it's very important that we become a spacefaring civilization, and that we eventually become multiplanetary."

Although I didn't want to encumber the story's synopsis with it, I really think Musk needs to discuss his vision of space migration with Gregg Maryniak [google.com] who was the head of Space Studies Institute [ssi.org] for sometime after Gerard O'Neill's death.

It was Gerard O'Neill who put forth the vision of space settlement [aol.com] after challenging his Princeton physics class with the question:

"Is a planetary surface the right place for an expanding technological civilization?"

His conclusion, backed up by much subsequent research, is that the answer is a resounding, "No!"

A better statement would by Musk would be:

"I think it's very important that we become a spacefaring civilization, and that we eventually become
heliocentric [geocities.com]."

Elon is not founder of PayPal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403749)

I work at PayPal. Elon Musk is not the PayPal founder. He founded another company (X.com) that merged with PayPal. Ultimately, the PayPal product succeeded, and X.com was scrapped.

160 Seconds? (1, Informative)

Will_Malverson (105796) | more than 9 years ago | (#11403757)

To get into orbit, you need at least 9000 m/s of deltaV, or about 15 g-minutes.

To do that in 160 seconds (2.67 minutes), you need an *average* acceleration of over 5.5g. You're also not going to get that at launch without a ridiculously overpowered engine that will crush your passengers at the end, when the ship has burned out all of its fuel and weighs a lot less. Most rocket engines aren't all that throttleable, with min thrust usually >.5 x max thrust.

For comparison, a Space Shuttle launch goes something like this:

(launch)~2g

(just before booster burnout)~3g

(just after booster burnout)less than 1g

(just before main engine burnout)~3g

The average acceleration is about 2g, meaning that the Shuttle takes around 8 minutes to go from ground to orbit.

5.5g? Average? I doubt it.

Re:160 Seconds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403821)

Its two stages though. The first stage Merlin runs for 160 seconds, then the second stage does the rest.

Re:160 Seconds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11403902)

Nice maths but you have missed a couple of things:

* This engine is for the falcon 1 vehicle which is unmanned, the payload could take 5.5g

* The falcon 1 is a two stage vehicle, this means that the max g is going to be a lot less that 5.5

Re:160 Seconds? (2, Informative)

Kiryat Malachi (177258) | more than 9 years ago | (#11404087)

First off, these engines are only part of a two-stage process, making your whole point wrong. Using them for two stages gives a total burn time of 320 seconds, yielding an average acceleration to LEO of more on the order of 3g, which is quite reasonable.

Second, even on a single stage rocket, an average acceleration of 5g is almost acceptable; witness certain NASA studies [nasa.gov] (about halfway down the page) which concluded that 5g for two minutes is sustainable for most all humans.

Space Prize is fake! (1)

nrlightfoot (607666) | more than 9 years ago | (#11404027)

I sent for a starter package on the America's Space Prize 2 months ago, and I never recieved a reply of any sort. I don't think it actually exists.
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