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Falcon 1 Launch Delayed Until 2006

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the better-safe-than-sorry dept.

Space 22

An anonymous reader writes "Florida Today is reporting that SpaceX will have to wait until 2006 to launch their Falcon 1 rocket that was scheduled for today. Engineers called off the launch when they noticed structural problems with the first-stage tanks. From the article: 'The Falcon 1 was to be launched from the U.S. Army's Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kawajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Its payload: an $800,000 space research satellite that was built by cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy.'"

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22 comments

Oh boy (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#14295431)

Things are not looking good for Elon Musk. Few more delays and people will start cancelling.

Re:Oh boy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14295507)

After two delays for the first ever launch? Heck no. This is not at all unusual. Did people buy Titans [vce.com] ?

Re:Oh boy (1)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14295576)

Wow! Thanks for the video link. That's the most impressive chemical explosion I've ever seen. Also, I agree with your point, but want to note that there are more alternatives now than there were when the Titan was first developed. Cost and reliability will be what sells the Falcon series.

Re:Oh boy (2, Interesting)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14295548)

I think his customers probably understand the delays are willing to sympathise with him to a point. Look at his customer manifest on the spacex website if you're curious. For the most part, it's government launches, because DARPA is interested in opening up more launcher options, so they're willing to risk a few lower priority projects trying out a "new product". I'm sure if it weren't for SpaceX, the cadet's satellite would be piggybacked onto a larger satellite for a lot less money. The cubesat doesn't even come close to the Falcon's payload capacity. On the commercial side, the noteworthy customer is Bigelow with his prototype Spacehab modules. As an aerospace startup like Musk, he's probably facing a lot of challenges similar in scale, but I'll bet he views their similarities as making them great partners in their respective projects. If I remember right, he already switched his first launch from the Falcon V to another rocket due to the projected schedule, but is planning to get his second module launched on a Falcon IX.

Re:Oh boy (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#14295778)

The government has never been interested in competition in the booster market. For a history of government attempts to quash such competition, take a look at this recent article by Wayne Eleazer [thespacereview.com] .

A delay is not a failure. (1)

Somegeek (624100) | more than 8 years ago | (#14296136)

Blowing up a payload or putting it into a useless orbit is a failure. Those things scare away customers; look at Japan and their H2 rockets. Catching problems before launch and avoiding having to write off a payload makes customers happy.

Re:Oh boy (1)

DisownedSky (905171) | more than 8 years ago | (#14296430)

I disagree. I think theyt scored plus points by finding a problem before it became a dissaster and then taking the prudent course of action.

Every rocket every developed has had a troubled history, and some real good explosions - even with mature designs. Look at the disastrous history of Ariane - they're still launching.

Cadets Make Better Engineers (1)

jekewa (751500) | more than 8 years ago | (#14295439)

Its payload: an $800,000 space research satellite that was built by cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Maybe the cadets should build the rocket, too.

More information (3, Informative)

woohoodonuts (734070) | more than 8 years ago | (#14295489)

The linked article isn't very informative. More information can be found here and here [space.com] . a brief history of the company can be found here [wikipedia.org] and a brief readout of this particular rocket can be found here [wikipedia.org] .

Disappointed (0)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14295502)

It's a little disconcerting that a "structural" problem would be found only 15 minutes before the launch. The only thing I can think of off hand that makes sense is something related to fueling the rocket. The suggestion that repairs could possibly be made by early January, however, is encouraging. Obviously they're not yet talking about replacing the entire rocket or even shipping it offsite.

As Mr. Musk has said, no new rocket has gotten off the ground without its share of problems. This is definitely something to be more concerned about than a valve left open on an oxygen tank, but SpaceX is a long ways ahead of anybody else in their class, and I still think they're going to make it into orbit sooner or later.

By the way, I saw a picture of the payload being loaded in the media launch packet. It's a small rocket, but it's still an amusing sight to behold a 43 pound satelite sitting in a fairing designed for something up to 50 times as massive.

Re:Disappointed (0)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14296116)

It's a little disconcerting that a "structural" problem would be found only 15 minutes before the launch.

My hunch is someone knew about it a while before hand. They just were reading meters and got that gut feeling that their prior knowledge was going to cause a failure.

That or they were just being anal...

When your dealing wtih rocket science you do have to be anal.

Re:Disappointed (4, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14296539)

It's a little disconcerting that a "structural" problem would be found only 15 minutes before the launch. The only thing I can think of off hand that makes sense is something related to fueling the rocket.

Actually, the problem was in draining the rocket. From the official update page [spacex.com] :

Due to high winds, we placed the countdown on hold and began draining the fuel tank. As we drained fuel from the 1st stage tank, a faulty pressurization valve caused a vacuum condition in the tank. This caused a fuel tank barrel section to deform and suck inward. It is important to note that the root cause is an electrical fault with a valve, not structural design.

What happened? (1)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 8 years ago | (#14295905)

I don't quite understand what has happened to our space program.

We have been around the earth, been to the moon, we've had many successful missions, so why is it that now all we seem to suffer are problems?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Re:What happened? (2, Insightful)

njchick (611256) | more than 8 years ago | (#14295976)

Please don't refer to SpaceX as "we" unless you work there. It's a private business, and it's not using tax money to build rockets. SpaceX needs to be cautious to avoid accidents, or they won't get contracts.

Speaking of past achievements, let's not forget what happened to the Apollo 1 crew. SpaceX cannot afford even a disaster without loss of life - there is no government behind them, only investors.

Re:What happened? (1)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 8 years ago | (#14296011)

I was referring to Americans going into space in general, no need to be scathing.

===

We seem to encounter a lot of problems that we never used to, that's all I'm saying, my pedigree chum.

Cheers!

Re:What happened? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14296266)

Because We ran into social expenses taking away from space expenses, then we had a terrible recession coupled with hostile political leaders like Senator and later Vice-President Mondale.

We've also sent probes sucessfully to Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and we've had three rovers on Mars, two of which worked much better than expected. Now we are sending a probe to Pluto.

The Shuttle has been a problem, and that can be traced to the programs cuts and compromises from the 1970s, but it's also been a valuable tool, the first Bush and Clinton Administrations dropped the ball on a replacement and thats why right now we have a problem with Manned Spaceflight.

Re:What happened? (1)

Savantissimo (893682) | more than 8 years ago | (#14297597)

"The Shuttle has been a problem, and that can be traced to the programs cuts and compromises..."

No, it can be traced to the fact that the Shuttle is and always was an lousy design. Carrying wings and landing gear and using side-slung boosters that increase the frontal area is just stupid in a spaceship. The shuttle is not reusable without spending more in refurbishment than it would cost to build a throw-away booster. Using the same resources intelligently one could achieve several times better $/kg to LEO, and practical designs to do that have been proposed continually for several decades. Technologically, aside from using better fuel (H2 instead of alcohol) the shuttle is a step back from the V-2. In fact, the Germans had the tech to build a ramjet 2nd stage that would put the specific impulse of the Shuttle to shame, even using alcohol as fuel. The shuttle design was obsolete before it got off the drawing board and its failures were in its engineering. The initial estimated costs, launch frequencies and payload estimates were simply fabricated.

The Shuttle program has been a huge debacle that has set the US space program back 50 years. (Yes, 50 - in 1960 we could start a program to get to the moon in under 10 years. In 2005 we need 15-20 years lead time to do the same thing.)

Re:What happened? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14306748)

No, there were alternatives to the problem systems like the tiles, foam and SRB joints that caused the lost Shuttles. The cutbacks are 90% of the problem.

Should we have stuck with Saturn? Yea, in hindsight we should have, but in 1972 this looked better.

As for German "drawing board" technologies, it's a bunch of conjecture, besides, since the Americans and Soviets got all that "drawing board" technology and most of the Scientists, if it worked, it would have been developed. Shuttle didn't set back the US Space Program, the recession of the 1970s and 1980s and a lack of interest in Congress set back the United States.

Re:What happened? (1)

Savantissimo (893682) | more than 8 years ago | (#14320745)

There were no real cutbacks during the shuttle design - quite the reverse - there were absolutely fraudulent initial cost estimates that ballooned. If ther were any way the hardware capability could have been made for the $ claimed or with the design offered, the design would have stayed closer to the initial conception. In fact, if the shuttle had been built as originally designed, at best it still would not have come close to the reliability or cost estimates that it's backers originally claimed, and this should have been clear from the beginning to anyone looking at the numbers.

Ramjets weren't "drawing board" technology - the V-1 was a pulsejet, for instance. Ramjet designs have been around since 1908, and pure ramjets have been flown since at least 1949! The starting velocity can easily be provided by various catapult and other first stage designs that are mostly even older. Besides secret military craft, ramjets are still used in missiles, as well as the remaining few SR-71s, so there is no denying they work or that they were available when the shuttle was being designed. The Isp of ramjets is better than rockets from mach 0.5 - about 9 and with 1950 tech can achieve a thrust/weight ratio of 40. Today we could do 3-4x better. They also have no moving parts, unlike the fragile, dangerous turbo-pumped rockets used for space launch today. The fact is that the design of spacecraft is governed by the profit/stasis/rent seeking motives of parasitic aerospace conglomerates rather than by engineering or customer cost-efficiency concerns.

Re:What happened? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14296490)

Maybe because it is hard. It is rocket science, you know.

Reagan memorial budget deficit (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14295971)

> Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site

Ronald Reagan memorial budget busting vast hole in the ground. At least we never had to hear him say: "terrorist" or "9 11" in every sentence.

Damage From Faulty Valve Causing Vacuum in a Tank (4, Informative)

Somegeek (624100) | more than 8 years ago | (#14296077)

An update on Spacex's website gives the apparent cause of the damage:
"Posted December 19, 2005 at 4:40 p.m. California time: Here is the apparent cause of structural damage (further analysis may change the conclusion):

Due to high winds, we placed the countdown on hold and began draining the fuel tank. As we drained fuel from the 1st stage tank, a faulty pressurization valve caused a vacuum condition in the tank. This caused a fuel tank barrel section to deform and suck inward. It is important to note that the root cause is an electrical fault with a valve, not structural design.

At this point, it appears that no other damage was sustained to the vehicle or the satellite. The rocket will be lowered down this afternoon and placed in its hangar for further inspection. --- Elon ---"

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