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Hondas in Space

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the vs.-nasa-the-cadillac-dealer dept.

Space 228

mikejz84 writes "Fast Company takes a look at SpaceX's attempt to challenge the high cost of space. This cost cutting philosophy includes buying equipment on eBay, looking to milk trucks for tank design ideas, and rummaging though junk yards. CEO Elon Musk remarks 'A Ferrari is a very expensive car. It is not reliable. But I would bet you 1,000-to-1 that if you bought a Honda Civic that that sucker will not break down in the first year of operation. You can have a cheap car that's reliable, and the same applies to rockets.'"

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228 comments

hahahaha (1)

xbmodder (805757) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581438)

time to get cheap rockets? i have a bad feeling...

Wow. (1)

modifried (605582) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581440)

I can't wait to ride to space in one of these.

Hmm.. on second thought... [theregister.co.uk]

Red index fingers: the hip new way to protest Bush (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581456)

... and his phony war.

Apparently, a blue index finger is the new "support our troops": a way to tweak the libruls while appearing to be supportive of democratic ideals and freedoms.

Therefore, all right-thinking anti-Bush people, like me, should dip their index finger in blood-red ink before heading to work on Monday. Just to remind them that Bush is trading blood for oil.

Re:Red index fingers: the hip new way to protest B (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581493)

Shut up. Your side lost, hippie.

Re:Red index fingers: the hip new way to protest B (0, Offtopic)

wernercd (837757) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581753)

As a member of the US Military CURRENTLY in Iraq I want to say one thing...

given two options:

1) Dead Iraqi's while letting Saddam murder and rape his own people AND The American beliefe in freedom and a chance at a happy life that means nothing

OR

2) Dead Iraqi's, A Saddistic asshole out of office and on trial, a saddistic regiem toppled, and some dead American's DEFENDING the idea's that OUR country was built on. Freedom and Democracy. (And a little oil in the end. big whopptie doo.)

You can sit on your high horse and claim that your idea's are perfect. But both options have good and bad sides. 'Bush's' invasion of Iraq is the lesser of two evil in my not so humble opinion.

And I have the balls to put my life on the line supporting it. AND your freedom to bitch while sleeping in a nice bed with hot showers every night. I will also support the freedom for other countries. I'm sorry your too short sighted to consider other people tho. I pity you.

Corporal Werner
USMC Iraq

p.s. Whoever modded this as informative needs to pull their head from their arse. again, in my not so humble opinion.

Re:Red index fingers: the hip new way to protest B (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581823)

You say that like you don't realize that probably 50% of the people that read and post to Slashdot also served. But WTF do colored index fingers have to do with anything?

Famous Quote (3, Funny)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581586)

...from the movie Armageddon (ya, the movie sucked)

Rockhound: "You know we're sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn't it?"

Rockets? (1)

Sangbin (743373) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581441)

I thought Honda already had their rice rockets

Re:Rockets? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581722)

for anyone not in the US: IINM, a 'rice rocket' is a car with all the go-faster accessories, like a big wing on the back, stripes down the side, and (in the US) aweful looking shiney chrome wheels (alloy wheels in other places).

You may laugh at Honda, but... (1)

leonbrooks (8043) | more than 9 years ago | (#11582132)

...a FOAF built himself a Lamborghini Countach replica [watsonstudios.com] . It was cheaper (even factoring his own time at $80 an hour and swapping the kit from left-hand drive to run on Aussie roads), faster [chasecam.com] , more stable on the road, safer in an accident, could take a driver up to 15cm taller (an original Lambo maxes out at about 180cm) than the real thing and unlike said real thing you can't make a permanent dent in it with your thumb.

Some of the modern Honda street-legal factory-made sports-cars will also out-accelerate and out-handle most if not all Ferraris. And so will the Subarus. The epithet "rice-burner" isn't what it used to be.

Rocket car (4, Funny)

MarkRose (820682) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581444)

You can have a cheap car that's reliable, and the same applies to rockets.

Or you can have a cheap car that is also a rocket! [wikimedia.org]

Re:Rocket car (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581507)

For those of you who don't get it, read the wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] he stole the image from.

It is not about how much rocket costs.. (2, Interesting)

Pecisk (688001) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581446)

..but if it is relaiable. And guess what - those God damned expensive NASA rockets are most relayable ones. Strange, isn't it?
If you have problems with your car, ups, rocket in the space, you are propably a gonner. There is no technical car service in the space. And I have big doubts if NASA can put out a resq. team specially for you :)

Re:It is not about how much rocket costs.. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581478)

yep. And because they are so expensive we use russian rockets for most of our space stuff.

They are much cheaper, practicly military surplus. And generally 'reliable' enough. (although not always. look the death rate of Russian vs American astronaughts.)

If you want to know something funny, our rockets burn a combination of liquid oxygen and nitrogen. Russian rockets burn fucking KEROSENE.

What we need is cheap setup that takes the cheapness of russian rockets and combine them with the high quality of American made ones.

Maybe honda can do a good job. Maybe not. There are a lot of Asian countries that would like to get into space and honda might be the ticket.

Personally I think that resuable craft built by private industry would be the best ticket. But I suppose those are at least powered in space by rockets. (if they use a hybrid jet and rocket setup)

Re:It is not about how much rocket costs.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581510)

*They are much cheaper, practicly military surplus. And generally 'reliable' enough. (although not always. look the death rate of Russian vs American astronaughts.)*

huh? W T F? if you really took a look in them you'd see them being better... what's sojuz reliability anyhow? a solid 100%?

Re:It is not about how much rocket costs.. (3, Interesting)

M1FCJ (586251) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581480)

which NASA rockets are you talking about? Atlas? Initial rockets were bought from army, now produced by Lockheed Martin for anyone who's ready to buy. Titan II? Again borrowed from army initially (original contractor), now produced by Lockheed Martin. Redstone? Originally built by US army itself, under the guidance of von Braun.

OK, let's look at the recent manned launchers. Which one shall we pick. Soyuz? Not a single manned launch accident in 20 years. Errm, that's not NASA and not even US. Russians got that one right (shame about L1 though).

Re:It is not about how much rocket costs.. (2, Interesting)

Detritus (11846) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581733)

NASA did the development of the Centaur upper stage and pioneered cryogenic (H2 and O2) fueled rocketry. They also did much of the launch vehicle development for Atlas, Delta and Titan, in between their initial development for the military and their eventual privatization.

Re:It is not about how much rocket costs.. (2, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581486)

and here i was thinking that russians had the ball on both reliability and cost.

the analogy sucks though, and who the hell would be stupid enough to bet that a new car wouldn't break, be it a honda, vw, mercedes-benz, jaguar or a ford.

Re:It is not about how much rocket costs.. (4, Insightful)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581553)

The analogy also sucks because cars are mass-produced by the millions. If they only ever built 20 Honda Civics, they would cost a lot more than they do. The cost of developing the design of the Honda Civic is known only to Honda, but I could easily imagine it approaching the price of a typical space system; especially if you factor in the cost of its predecessors whose designs it borrows from (since that borrowing is not nearly as easy to do in a space system which is not merely a yearly update of a previous model). Only by selling hundreds of thousands of cars does Honda recoup that cost.

Re:It is not about how much rocket costs.. (3, Informative)

Sique (173459) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581968)

Usually the price tag for developping a new car for mass production is estimated between US$ 2 and 2.5 billion. If a car sells 1 mio units during its production cycle, it's still between US$ 2000 and 2500 development cost per car.
So if you build a rocket for X-Price with the hope to get 5 units running, and it would cost you about US$ 2 billion to design it, then the price per rocket will still be at 400 mio US$, much mor than the original X-Price is worth.

Re:It is not about how much rocket costs.. (2, Informative)

brainstyle (752879) | more than 9 years ago | (#11582235)

Keep in mind that with the SpaceX approach, a lot of the parts they're using aren't custom desgined - unlike what you might find in a traditional rocket. So they have proven reliability. Well, proven reliability on Earth without all that space radiation stuff, but proven relaibility nonetheless.

Besides, the world's only mass-produced rocket [v2rocket.com] had some reliability issues, from what I understand. So mass production doesn't guarentee it'll be good.

Re:It is not about how much rocket costs.. (2, Interesting)

JumperCable (673155) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581501)

Actually it just came out that they are preparing a standby shuttle for future missions. NASA Resume Story [newsday.com] Of course if you go up in your private rocket, they may expect you to foot the bill for the rescue.

But, cost is a consideration! (4, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581506)

If it costs $1,000,000 per pound to send somebody to space, virtually nobody goes to space, no matter how "safe". At that cost, it isn't worth it.

However, when the cost comes down enough, SO WHAT if a few people die?

Now, it sounds callous, but when you look at statistis, Motorcycles (AKA murder-cycles) are MIGHTY DANGEROUS.. [dot.gov]

NOBODY IS BANNING THE KAWASAKI, ARE THEY?

When you see somebody get on board a relatively cheap, fast, murder-cycle, do you tell them about the risks?

See, when space travel is cheap and "good enough", people will use it, even if it's as dangerous as a (gulp!) murder-cycle.

Re:But, cost is a consideration! (1)

richie2000 (159732) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581782)

Motorcycles (AKA murder-cycles) are MIGHTY DANGEROUS.

Hm. Let's have a look at those statistics, shall we?

Motorcycles: 22 deaths per 100 million veh. miles
Railway: 1.6 deaths per million train miles
- that translates to 160 deaths per 100 million train miles.

Or, put it another way:

Motor Vehicle, General Population Risk Per Year: 1 in 6,300
Motorcycles, General Population Risk Per Year: 1 in 119,000

The discrepancy is due to people in average traveling much shorter distances on bikes than in cars per year. So which would you ban first, cars or trains?

Re:But, cost is a consideration! (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 9 years ago | (#11582319)

The discrepancy is due to people in average traveling much shorter distances on bikes than in cars per year. So which would you ban first, cars or trains?

There's also fewer motorcycles on the road than there are cars. Also, in trains, there is a higher passenger density, which increases the number of victims per accident.

Re:It is not about how much rocket costs.. (3, Funny)

Fentisen (777121) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581513)

"There is no technical car service in the space." You have not been to space have you?

Re:It is not about how much rocket costs.. (2, Insightful)

roxtar (795844) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581520)

I don't think that these missions are too serious enough and they are surely not sending people up there (FTA Five months later, Musk used some of his estimated $328 million fortune to fund Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), with the ambitious -- some might say absurd -- goal of building a rocket that would send small payloads into low-Earth orbit at one-tenth the going rate in the United States.).

So maintainance is really not the prime concern. IMO the real concern would be to get the rockets into space, which in itself would be a great achievement.

Re:It is not about how much rocket costs.. (2, Insightful)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581892)

The fact is that the old Russian rockets with 60's electronics still work and reliably get people back and forth from space while shuttles stay grounded. You can still build stuff simple (not the same thing as cheap though!) and make it at the same time reliable, just need good engineers for that. I wouldn't say though that they built their stuff cheaply, at that time they probably funneled more resources into the space program than NASA, they just had a different design philosophy.

The same is true about the Kalashnikov, it was build simple and reliable because having it work in any conditions was essential. You can drag it though mud, snow and sand and it will still shoot. While at the same time the more modern M16 rifle would get jammed in the Vietnamese jungle.

But, I don't think that the analogy of Honda would work, because there is still a trade-off between cheap and reliable. The cost of having well-trained engineers and designers and testing does cost money.

Yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581449)

.......I always liked the idea of Mad Max in space.

Yeah but... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581459)

You can pick up way more hot chicks with a Ferrari than you can with a Honda. 'Nuf said.

Re:Yeah but... (2, Informative)

Vampo (771827) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581497)

That's only because chicks don't know you are driving a veeeery expensive FIAT.

To be serious though, in terms of usability and reliability (poster's original point), the Honda still wins hands down.

Re:Yeah but... (1)

Dragon Rojo (843344) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581502)

Just imagine the faces of alien chicks when you pass by in your flamant earth-made rocket civic

Re:Yeah but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581839)

I doubt very much any astronaught who puts forth enough effort to leave the house has any trouble getting laid.

Re:Yeah but... (2, Insightful)

pegasustonans (589396) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581884)

That depends. And I'd say a Honda NSX is pretty nifty.

Re:Yeah but... (3, Funny)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581902)

You can pick up way more hot chicks with a Ferrari than you can with a Honda. 'Nuf said.

Yeah, but what then? My Honda has a back seat.

Re:Yeah but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11582167)

That's actually the theory that has determined the course of the manned US space program over the last 30 years: You can pick up more chicks flying something that looks like an airplane than you can hanging from a parachute in a capsule.

Because it is funny (1)

dretay (583646) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581460)

Upper management digging through dupsters looking for parts to the design I create.....

Japan the American way. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581462)

How about Yamahas, Daihatus, Toyotas in space ?

A tribute to Little Johnny (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581467)

A tribute to Little Johnny

Little Johnny woke up early to get ready for school. Johnny was a nice boy, loved by his parents, respected by his friends, and likened by his teachers. Like all other good boys, he hated Microsoft(R) [microsoft.com] and all it's products including Microsoft Windows (TM) [microsoft.com] and Microsoft Office (TM) [microsoft.com] . He ran Gentoo [gentoo.org] on his home computer, and used StarOffice [staroffice.org] for all his homework.

Johnny walked off to the bus stop after kissing his mom goodbye, whistling a little tune to himself. His bus was late again, the third time this month. Johnny didn't like being late for school. It made him feel guilty. So he decided to walk to school, as it was no more than a 15 minute walk away. The bus would take longer anyway, after picking up all the other stupid little kids. Annoying little twitches...they wouldn't know the difference between Gentoo [gentoo.org] and Knoppix [knoppix.org] if it stared them in their pimply little faces.

Little Johnny made good time. Before long, he reached the Wal-mart [walmart.com] across which his elementary school was. It was just 8:36. It was still 24 minutes before school, and it would take just 45 more seconds to cross the road and enter the school grounds. He liked being early. It gave him time to catch up on the latest geeky news on Slashdot [slashdot.org] and get a First Post or two before classes began.

Johnny was halfway across the street when a Chevy Avalanche [chevrolet.com] zoomed up and squashed him on the pavement. Little Johnny was no more.

What is the moral, that we, as self respecting geeks, can learn from Little Johnny's short but noble life?

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Always look right and left before crossing the road.

Ferrari (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581468)

is not reliable??

are you kidding, you might mean not practical, but please dont say not reliable. I hope they dont damn sue you over this.

Re:Ferraris (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581487)

They aren't meant to be reliable. They're meant to be fast, and cool, which they are. But they aren't meant to be everyday drive-it-to-work cars, and they are in the shop a lot more often than your average Honda Civic.

Re:Ferraris (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581537)

Absolute crap, TBH.

They are not unreliable. They do not need more servicing. I guess they just need some brains in the person driving them.

Too much to expect from a slashdotter...

From the same company... (2, Funny)

lpangelrob2 (721920) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581470)

Well, seeing as they already make lawnmowers, snowblowers, ATVs. industrial generators, motorcycles, boats, scooters, jetskis, and tillers and trimmers... I for one look forward to greeting the new Honda Rocket division.

Re:From the same company... (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581672)

How about Mitsubishi Rockets, from the folks that brought you the Zero [aviation-history.com] .

Re:From the same company... (1)

thecardinal (854932) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581729)

There is already a "rocket" on the road - the Light Car Company Rocket. Its an open-wheeler, 1+1 design, with a 1 liter bike engine. Amazing performance, designed by Gordon Murray (of McLaren F1 cars fame).

hondas, ferraris and ebay (1)

RocketRainbow (750071) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581473)

Well I'd rather fly into space in a honda than in a ferrari. I mean, sure, you take off alright in both, but then you pretty quickly need to select second gear and the ferrari will only go crunch.

On the other hand, I'd rather fly in either of them than in a contraption of ebay components gaffa-taped into a rocket shape. I mean, I'm reasonably sure those are real swarovski crystals, but quality control is much higher on a rocket than on a wedding dress, right?

right?

Re:hondas, ferraris and ebay (1)

Dragon Rojo (843344) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581489)

You really have never seen a woman buying a wedding dress right?

Re:hondas, ferraris and ebay (1)

RocketRainbow (750071) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581527)

Dragon Rojo said: " You really have never seen a woman buying a wedding dress right?"

I am a woman, and my wedding dress is hanging up in the next room! But, it needs altering to suit my shape and tastes, as it is currently as worn by my mother on her wedding day, so I've been buying small Swarovski bicone beads, fabric roses, ribbons and new buttons (the old buttons have lost their pearly sheen) but finding perfectly matching crush satin for the lining is proving to be a challenge.

Luckily, I dreamed about the sort of wedding dress I wanted to get married in when I was a little girl, so now all I have to do is work my tailor silly until it gets just perfect!

Does that answer your question?

Re:hondas, ferraris and ebay (1)

Dragon Rojo (843344) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581551)

After this, do you still belive that quality control is much higher on a rocket than on a wedding dress? ;)

I don't believe you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581938)

women don't post on slashdot at 6:21AM on a Saturday

Re:hondas, ferraris and ebay (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581618)

Well I'd rather fly into space in a honda than in a ferrari.

Sir, your car awaits you. [img209.exs.cx]

....thanks imageshack

Re:hondas, ferraris and ebay (1)

winwar (114053) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581801)

Personally, I would rather fly into space on a rocket designed for the task.

Cars don't seem ideal for achieving orbit or surviving reentry.

Of course, if I am going to die in a massive explosion, I would choose the Ferrari.

well that is reall insightless (2, Interesting)

lanc (762334) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581488)


Honda Civic vs cheap? A Suzuki maybe.
And since when are rockets mass-produced? Man you need mass-productive experience, to create cheap and reliable transport.

However I do agree that costs can be surely reduced with an order of magnitude with careful planning, and keeping an eye on cost-effectiveness.

Bad analogy (1)

mboverload (657893) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581517)

Almost all cars bought on the market today will go up to 100,000 miles without a checkup (sure, they say you should get one, but if your a cheapss you can push it). However, a spacecraft is only going around 600 miles at most during a flight. The space station is at 250 miles and I'm sure that no commerical rocket will get there anyway.

Re:Bad analogy (2, Informative)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581531)

However, a spacecraft is only going around 600 miles at most during a flight.

Every orbit, 90 minutes or so, is at least 25,000 miles.

Re:Bad analogy (1)

mboverload (657893) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581727)

These commercial spacecraft are not orbiting the planet, just going up and down.

Re:Bad analogy (1)

HeghmoH (13204) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581764)

Wrong. SpaceX's goal is sending things into orbit, not suborbital shots.

Re:Bad analogy (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 9 years ago | (#11582114)

These commercial spacecraft are not orbiting the planet, just going up and down.

Rutan's just went up and down; SpaceX's are supposed to launch satellites. RTFA....

Stereotypes (3, Interesting)

OlivierB (709839) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581535)

Come on, although the poster might have a point in saying that Hondas are extremely reliable, he just cannot say Ferraris are not reliable and will break-down.

I am the -lucky- friend of a Ferrari owner's son. He's had a Maserati cambiocorsa and now owns a 575 Maranello.
Yes these things have un-satisfiable thirst.
Yes they cost a shit load in insurance.
Yes you will change the tires every 5000 Miles

However,
No they will not break-down as you go for a WE trip

People will break-down with ferraris just a much as any other car when all you do is trash it at the green lights (kills the clutch, transmission and tires).
A lot of these people go out on the tracks come bitching about brakes screaching and all is normal.

Pretty much any car, will have reduced life expectancy if you abuse it. And I think there is a higher tentation trashing a Ferrari than a measly Civic LX.

There is a good reason why Ferraris are the best selling super-sport cars (besides Porsche). And yes reliability is increasingly a reason for that.

Re:Stereotypes (2, Insightful)

marat (180984) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581725)

This is not an automotive site, but H12 have some issues against L4 or even V6 by design. And any work with H12 will cost you much more as well, even without Ferrary price tag. (I'm not talking about people buying used sport cars for a penny now.) Trying to make service more rare will once again make parts more expensive, there's no exit. So still design goals do mean something.

To the rockets - think of mass production is always cheaper per unit, but more expensive in total. If you spend country budget it is one thing, if you sell to a market - it's another. Trick here is to create a market.

Re:Stereotypes (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581880)

Honda beats Ferrari in terms of engineering in every possible way. If you want a fast car, get a Ferrari. If you want a well-thought-out car, get a Honda.

um, car's aren't rockets... (3, Insightful)

Disperz (818430) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581542)

A Ferrari is a very expensive car. It is not reliable. But I would bet you 1,000-to-1 that if you bought a Honda Civic that that sucker will not break down in the first year of operation. You can have a cheap car that's reliable, and the same applies to rockets How can you compare automobiles to spacecraft? The reason those Civic's are so damn reliable is that they've been making them for years. It really is not feasible to mass produce rocket ships in this manner. Especially when they're talking about buying spare parts off of eBay! When a car breaks down everyone doesn't DIE. Rockets are not cars. They are ridiculously more complicated and there is too much at stake when an error occurs. These things should be left to NASA.

Re:um, car's aren't rockets... (2)

HeghmoH (13204) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581742)

NASA, whose rockets blow up when they launch in cold weather? NASA, whose craft break up on re-entry just because they got smacked with some foam? What evidence do you have that NASA is better at this than anybody else?

Re:um, car's aren't rockets... (1)

winwar (114053) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581787)

"What evidence do you have that NASA is better at this than anybody else?"

Well, your first example was a known (potential) failure mode (so don't launch in cold weather). In your second example, a rocket didn't blow up, now did it?

To answer your question, when was the last time a manned NASA rocket blew up when it was launched during the proper weather conditions? Never. Of course, past events may not have a bearing on future reliability...

Re:um, car's aren't rockets... (4, Interesting)

HeghmoH (13204) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581868)

When was the last time a manned rocket flown by a private company blew up when it was launched during the proper weather conditions?

Your argument is basically, "NASA has experience, others don't". In fact, nobody has any idea whether NASA is better or worse than private companies because none of them have tried anything yet. You're just making a gigantic assumption based on the idea that if they have experience, they must be good at it.

Re:um, car's aren't rockets... (1)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 9 years ago | (#11582247)

Except for that NASA has already been buying parts of eBay for years. Where do you think they get all their old computer hardware that is no longer sold in stores?

Re:um, car's aren't rockets... (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 9 years ago | (#11582436)

Except for that NASA has already been buying parts of eBay for years


No, you're thinking of the FAA [washingtonpost.com] . Remember those stories in the 90's about the ATC system crashing and getting computer techs out of retirement to fix 'em (and frantic searches for tubes and old, no longer manufactured transistors)? I guess nothing has really changed. Your tax dollars at work.

Re:um, car's aren't rockets... (3, Interesting)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 9 years ago | (#11582507)

Not just the fact that Honda makes many hundreds of thousands of cars, and has been doing so for years.

A Honda does not push the envelope. A Ferrari does. That is why a Ferrari will break down more often, on a per-mile basis, than a Honda.

Now, if you did NOT push a Ferrari to the envelope, it would not break down as much (but then, what would the point of owning a Ferrari be?)

Now, when one day we can build a vehicle that can go into space with as much operational margin as a Honda has for its purpose, then the space vehicle will be as reliable as a Honda.

However, in order for that day to come to pass, we will have to have some form of power plant that is several orders of magnitude more powerful than what we have now, in order to have the power to lift a vehicle into space slowly, and return it slowly. We will have to have some form of propulsion that is not limited by the rocket equation - reactionless thrusters, antigravity, or some other form of sci-fi doubletalk drive.

We don't have them yet. We don't have them on the drawing board yet. We don't even have any good theories that would lead to such drives any time soon.

Now, I agree with the concept of the article - make the rockets as simple as possible, and they will be more reliable. This means don't try for reusability as it is a false economy - every kilo of mass you add to the ship to support reuse is a kilo of cargo you cannot lift.

Personally, I am in favor of what I call BPR's - Big Paper Rockets. Imagine a huge Estes rocket - cellulose exterior, solid fuel interior, that provides you with 90% of the delta-V to get into orbit. The last 10% is provided by a hybrid rocket - solid fuel, liquid oxidizer, so that you can throttle it and get precicely what you need to get into your target orbit.

Most non-living cargos are launched with a system that is, say 99% reliable - and if you roll cloud-cloud, oh well, launch another - they are cheap.

Man rated cargos go up in a Space Honda - a vehicle designed to go into orbit carrying just your crew, and come back with just your crew, and if it comes down to a choice between reusing it afterward and shaving a kilo off it, you shave the kilo.

Now you have cheap to mass-produce boosters, expenive (but no where NEAR as expensive as the launch costs) to build crew vehicles, and cheap cargo pods.

Hopefully they won't have to dial in to nasa... (1)

djplurvert (737910) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581560)

...for guidance on the sly like this group did [geocities.com] .

built by lowest bidder (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581591)

but most space rockets are built by lowest bidder!

Well duh! (1)

Greger47 (516305) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581623)

And the obvious statement of the year award goes to:

A Ferrari is a very expensive car. It is not reliable. But I would bet you 1,000-to-1 that if you bought a Honda Civic that that sucker will not break down in the first year of operation.

Ofcourse! A Ferrari is built to squeeze every last bit of performance out of the machinery, sacrificing silly stuff like economy, comfort and reliabiliy.

A Honda Civic is built to be as cheap as possible, but without sacrificing reliability. If repairs ended up costing as much as the car it would be a tough sell. :)

/greger

Re:Well duh! (1)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581702)

"A Ferrari is built to squeeze every last bit of performance out of the machinery, sacrificing silly stuff like economy, comfort and reliabiliy."

Right, because everyone knows that races are won by fatigued drivers making extra pit stops.

Re:Well duh! (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581757)

If you want comfort, buy a Rolls Royce. They are incredible cars. Ferraris are not known for their low noise and smooth ride. That's not why people buy them.

Re:Well duh! (1)

chrysrobyn (106763) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581798)

Right, because everyone knows that races are won by fatigued drivers making extra pit stops.

I was once priviledged enough to ride in a Ferrari Testarossa. It was the most uncomfortable ride to get to 80 MPH out of the driveway before the first turn. The ride was fast, make no mistake, but a performance driver wants to "feel the road". Someone driving a luxury car typically wants to feel like the road is silk. They also didn't waste much weight dampening the engine noise from entering the cabin. Of course, if I had the opportunity, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Comfort isn't everything.

Which is why rockets are Ferraris (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 9 years ago | (#11582294)

Ofcourse! A Ferrari is built to squeeze every last bit of performance out of the machinery, sacrificing silly stuff like economy, comfort and reliabiliy.

Very insightful: that's precisely why rocket ships are Ferraris, and will be for some time. Getting into space requires an immense amount of energy, and right now the best way to get that energy requires a whole bunch of heavy fuel which also has to be lifted.

The thing needs to run close to tolerance just to get off the ground. It's going to take a lot of work to change the balance.

Think about the Soyuz... the AK47... (4, Interesting)

Aphrika (756248) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581641)

It's not so much the cost part as the simplicity part or finding the right way to do something. He mentions this in the linked article but it seems to be missing from the story above.

An AK47 assault rifle is more reliable than an M16 because it was designed to be simple and mass-produced, not designed to be cheap. A Honda Civic is more reliable than a Ferrari because it has less moving parts and is mass produced, ditto the Soyuz space capsule that the Russians use - on a per mission basis, it's had less failures than the shuttle.

It doesn't mean the rocket is being made with bits from scrapyards and eBay, just that the ideas are being lifted from non-rocket science thinking, and some of the tools are secondhand. Either way, getting someone into space on top of a controlled explosion is not cheap however you look at it, and if they can cut down on the peripheral costs, then good luck to them.

Re:Think about the Soyuz... the AK47... (2, Informative)

Detritus (11846) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581873)

The AK47 was designed to be reliable even if abused and neglected by its user. The M16 was designed to be reliable as long as it was properly maintained and kept clean. Two different design philosophies, with different objectives.

The Honda Civic was designed to be reliable. That means that the safety margins in its design are much larger than that of a Ferrari. Engines in mass-produced cars are often intentionally detuned from peak performance by the manufacturer. They trade horsepower for reliability and reduced maintenance costs.

Re:Think about the Soyuz... the AK47... (1)

YetAnotherAnonymousC (594097) | more than 9 years ago | (#11582118)

The AK47 was designed to be reliable even if abused and neglected by its user.

Of course, it's always interesting how there is a fine line between what the engineers consider "abuse" and the users consider "normal usage." Some designers might consider it "abuse" to not constantly perform preventative maintenance on their product. While users don't consider it abuse to spend more time using their item rather than ready-ing it for more use. The more engineers can make their products less fussy, the better the success in the real world. Honda has that down pretty well.

I'll add for the record that I own a Honda Civic (once owned two). And while I don't own an AK47, I do down an SKS, which was deigned with similar standards in mind. And I have made the comparison between the Civic and the SKS before.

Re:Think about the Soyuz... the AK47... (2, Informative)

rxmd (205533) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581916)

An AK47 assault rifle is more reliable than an M16 because it was designed to be simple and mass-produced, not designed to be cheap.
And because it's designed to be reliable. Development and testing of the AK47 and derived models usually involved dropping it from helicopters, dragging the same gun around in the mud and drenching it underwater. If the Russians are really intent on producing something reliable, they can.

(Unfortunately, they don't always stick to these principles; as the owner of a Kiev 88 [kievaholic.com] medium format camera, I know ;))

most definitly the only way to do it! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581687)

okay, sorry, i complained the space shuttle
doesn't look aerodynamic. so who cares ...freedom
of speech thank you very much.
so, what is really interessting to me is that we
"know" how a rocket works and how to build one.
okay we are on one track using one ... "paradigma"
for a lack of better words. so does this maybe
make the whole space exploration thing so
expensive? dunno ...
i'm missing all the "other" cool machines john dow
has never heard of before.
-the "dadalus" wind turbine.
-repulsine
-the implosion "egg form" wind turbine
-the funny japanese "car engine" i saw
on one grainy second world war pictures
-fusor
-tesla generator
- (and a s...load of other stuff i found only on
the internet and they will never ever tell you
about in school or the such.
so maybe there's a cheap way to get into space?
but ... it's a conspiracy? i mean someone /
somefew OWNZ the freaking world. they HAVE to
protect their investement. (these are people that
don't really "exist" e.g. if you try to put them
into a fortune 100 list, they'll freaking murder
you or if you're lucky sue you to death ...)
so, universities etc. are encouraged to enforce
the believe that the machines and methodes we have
today are sacrosank, the ultimat, and the
possibility that there might be another way to do
it, not just cheaper, but fundamentally different,
will place you firmly on a modern day stack of
burning wood. so, just a small thought. take a
sanddollar, no take two, now snap one in half and
the other one, fling it as far as you can on a
open football field. what do you think might be
the aerodynamics governing it's flight?
you can see the inside of it from the first
snapped one ...

Honda Rockets? (1)

shadowzero313 (827228) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581688)

Have they managed to use rice as rocket fuel or something?

the russian approach (3, Interesting)

rich42 (633659) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581756)

"A Ferrari is a very expensive car. It is not reliable. But I would bet you 1,000-to-1 that if you bought a Honda Civic that that sucker will not break down in the first year of operation."

but I'll bet a honda civic costs more money to -develop- than a ferrari does...

the russians have fairly reliable rockets - but they do fail. the reason they've done so well with safety is that they have great backup systems.

the soyuz launch system has a mechanism that can eject the entire capsule if something goes wrong on launch. it's been used and it works.

I suspect reasonable reliabilty + good backup systems is the way to go. oh, and -no- parts from the junkyard....

different cars (2)

gnarlin (696263) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581760)

What about a delorean ?
That goes through both space AND time!
two features for the price of one :-D

Poor analogy (1)

tayhimself (791184) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581777)

While privately built rockets (especially unmanned) are going to be much cheaper I dont see how the civic ferrari analogy holds.
A civic is more reliable precisely because of the number made. Sell a million or so cars a year and you have a vested interest in not having reliability problems, and a LARGE sample to draw from for possible improvements for next years car.
Ferrari meanwhile has a much smaller sample from which to identify problems. Looks like this CEO is good at shovelling shit just like the rest of them.

Re:Poor analogy (1)

Breetai (14095) | more than 9 years ago | (#11582272)

But you have to produce the first reliable Honda Civic. If your gonna build only 1 of them, the design still has to be reliable. Making a million of Civics only changes your logistics, purchasing, manufacturability and production aspects. You can still design a reliable car. Evne if you only make 1 of them, or even none of them. But then you don't have any prove it works reliably.

30 % more effort on the first stage of design will cut your development time in half. If you get first-time-right, you prevent a second design cycle. You can only aim for first time right when you know what you have to create. If the requirements change or aren't clear, you must create something that let's you find 100 % of those requirements ASAP.

On the other hand, I will fire you when you don't mention that second design cycle in your planning.

If you know what you have to create, design for getting it right 100 % the first time. Always plan (but try your best to prevent it) you will miss the last 5 % and have to go for another cycle. If you aim for 95 %, you will end up at 90 % or lower.

You can have it fast, good or cheap. Pick two

Bad analogy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581832)

A Ferrari is a very expensive car. It is not reliable. But I would bet you 1,000-to-1 that if you bought a Honda Civic that that sucker will not break down in the first year of operation. You can have a cheap car that's reliable, and the same applies to rockets

Bad analogy.

A Dodge Neon is a cheap car too. It is doubtful that someone would claim that it is a very reliable car.

On the flip side, a Ferrari is usually a car that is driven very hard - a guy in town owns one, and he sure does like to drive it very very fast - like a sports car. I'm not sure if a Honda or Neon would have the same reliability if driven very very hard. CUstomer expectation and use makes a big difference in how one views reliability.

And finally - they make millions of Hondas. There is a lot of evolution going on to make it right. But no matter what - with a rocket, you're only going to build a few, not a few million - the evolution just isn't there. I bet they'll build more ferraris this month than he'll build rockets in a decade - and let me tell you, they don't build too many ferraris in a month!

Inexpensive does not equate to reliable. If that were true, cheap replacement distributors for your Civic would be a great deal. But they're very unreliable in my experience. What gives?

Re:Bad analogy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11582233)

A Dodge Neon is a cheap car too. It is doubtful that someone would claim that it is a very reliable car.

My 1996 Dodge Neon has over 200,000 miles on it, and I can't kill it. I've had exactly zero repair bills since I bought it new. With the proper maintenance I perform on it, I expect it to reach half a mil before I have to start looking for a new work car.

Reliability? Look at Honda vs Ferrari research (1)

78spb89 (78849) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581840)

Watch F1 races. How many mecanical failures did the Honda team suffer last season. Countless. If memory serves, Ferrari suffered exactly one mechanical failure. For almost a decade now, Ferrari has had some of the most reliable F1 cars.

Rice Rocket (1)

photon317 (208409) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581878)


This brings a whole new meaning to the term "Rice Rocket". He does realize the flaw in his analogy right? You don't buy a Ferrari because it's reliable, you buy a Ferrari because you can hit 200 in it. If you try to bolt junkyard parts on a Honda in an attempt to go 200 in it, it will be far less reliable than the Ferrari.

mercedes benz spokesman once said.... (1)

checkup21 (717875) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581897)

we sell automobiles and emotions. A 1980 Honda civic will never get the status a mercedes benz (same age) has.

Allthough the rice cookies are reliable and cheap (in fact they are not cheap, compare a mercedes cdi engine with a rice cookie), there is a good reason there are still cars built for real men.

The point is that good rockets do not change that at all. And rice drivers allways fighting against this prejudice proves it right.

regards from germany (aka 'das Automobilland')

marco

Oh look! Their project plan is online! (1)

bigattichouse (527527) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581915)

I remembered watching this series back in the 70's: Salvage 1 [geocities.com]

Why falcons are cheap.. (4, Informative)

mrright (301778) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581917)

The reason falcons will be cheap is not because they use cheap components, but because they have a different approach than old defense contractors like boeing and lockheed.

In fact they use very high quality materials such as a titanium thrust frame in the first stage. But they can afford that because the first stage is reusable.

They also try to avoid any hazardous materials like explosive bolts and dangerous chemicals since that makes working with the rocket before launch much safer and thus cheaper. The falcon I is the first rocket that is allowed to fly without an explosive flight termination system because of redundant thrust termination systems. So there is no bomb on board.

Take a look at the falcon launch complex [spacex.com] . It is basically just a simple concrete building and a flatbed truck. The satellite is integrated while the rocket is horizontal, so they do not need a huge building for satellite integration.

The launch control center is a truck trailer, so they only need one for all launch pads and do not have all that expensive computer hardware sitting around idle.

Now compare that with the launch complex for the boeing delta IV [boeing.com] . There is a vertical integration building for fitting the payload, a huge umbilical tower and all kinds of facilities to handle the huge quantities of liquid hydrogen that the delta IV needs.

The only large rocket that has a comparably clean launch pad [astronautix.com] like the falcon is the russian/ukrainian Zenit (also used by Sea Launch), which is also the cheapest of its class.

The falcon I will also have a very benign launch environment for the payload. The amount of vibration is much lower than with other rockets since the falcon does not use solids. See the payload users guide [spacex.com] for details.

Call the Iranians! (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581947)

They've been trying to divorce themselves from DPRK Taepo No Dong boosters. Maybe they can buy a few rockets from SpaceX, modify them into IRBMs, plug a sub 1500Kg on top and become the first eBay nuclear power.

Seriously, getting into near orbit is one thing. Getting where you need to be is quite another.

Re:Call the Iranians! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11582239)

Quick correction; they have "Taepo Dong" and "No Dong" but no such thing as "Taepo No Dong". I think the first is a mid-long range type and the second is a more short-mid range.

Backwards? (1)

Jim_Callahan (831353) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581967)

Much of the technology used in the automotive industry comes straight from NASA. Space -> Civics, not Civics->Space. :p

cu8 (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11581988)

standards should the chhosing Usenet posts. Or make loud noises posts on Usenet are

I'm all for affordable space launches... but... (1)

MetaPhyzx (212830) | more than 9 years ago | (#11581991)

Lovely. Ferrari...Honda... I'd think I'd rather have the expensive launch vehicle to deliver payloads into orbit, not the "Rocket most stolen for parts". Then again... maybe I should look into setting up a rocket chop shop...

A Rocket a Day Keeps the High Costs Away (3, Insightful)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 9 years ago | (#11582066)

SpaceX's philosophy of "test the crap out of it" is a good one if taken to the whole system level. This is essentially what John Walker's essay A Rocket a Day Keeps the High Costs Away [fourmilab.ch] is all about. In Walker's scenario the idea is to have the entire operation going through everything necessary to launch frequently so as to work the kinks out of the system, from manufacture of expendible rocket to actual flight operation. Now, Walker never actually did this but Walker did make his money developing and selling AutoCAD, which is a manufacturing industry staple, so he does have some credibility.

In SpaceX's case, the reusability aspect with ocean recovery of parts means a single rocket is not going to be cycled through the entire launch operation in a day even though it is theoretically possible to do so with an ocean launch system. However, with a small fleet of vehicles, it might be feasible to get the whole system cranking out a couple of launches a week.

That's when it starts to look like an aerospace "Honda" since you start applying Deming's statistical methods [signweb.com] to the operation.

This is sad ... (1)

notpaul (181662) | more than 9 years ago | (#11582420)

Considering the reputedly elite pool of /. posters, it is embarrassing how many comments to a story like this are devoid of even a shred of logic or critical thinking. And I'm not even talking about the folks who have the impression the HONDA corporation is building rockets ... OMFG.

As long as Microsoft isn't on board! (1)

rogerborn (236155) | more than 9 years ago | (#11582439)


I don't care if it is a cut rate ship, as long as Microsoft isn't the operating system on board!

Take a look [sfgate.com]

Regards,
Roger Born
Writer, Teacher, General Troublemaker
writing.borngraphics.com
"Sorry. No Refunds."
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