back to article SpaceX goes to court as US rocket wars begin

Upstart startup SpaceX, which seems set to overturn every applecart in the space business with its cheap new launchers and capsules, has gone to court after an industry consultant allegedly spread rumours that its rockets were unsafe. According to SpaceX's filing with the Fairfax County circuit court in Virginia, Joseph …


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  1. James Hughes 1

    Sour grapes anyone

    This bloke looks bang to rights.

    It's going to be a good fight, SpaceX vs the rest, but I really hope SpaceX win. They should do - just need a few good launches and the world should be their oyster.

    1. Greem

      But... failure and the whole anarcho-military-aerospace-industrial-government complex will come down on them like a ton of deorbiting ESA space truck debris.

      1. Mike Flugennock
        Thumb Down

        One failure, and...?

        " failure and the whole anarcho-military-aerospace-industrial-government complex will come down on them like a ton of deorbiting ESA space truck debris."

        Y'mean, like the buttload of Atlas failures during launch-vehicle testing early in the Mercury program? Or, the launch of Vanguard I? Or, the Challenger? ...check out all the Atlas, Titan and Delta failures.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      There I fixed it for you:

      " just need a few more good launches"

      1. Stuart 22

        There I fixed it for you ... again

        " ... just need a few more good lunches"

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Better Fix

          "...just need a few more good lurches".

    3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Court cases

      They need to at least recover their complete court costs in a timely manner. Otherwise, Lockheed et. al. and their proxies will just tie SpaceX up in court until their budget is exhausted.

      This is the problem with the US (and increasingly European) legal systems.

      Anyway, I'm hoping that they successfully defend their reputation.

    4. Thomas 4


      At least SpaceX seem to be taking an active interest in the development of their tech, whereas Lockheed and Boeing seem to be doing it purely for the government $$.

  2. Ano Nymous

    Ghandi's wisdom proven yet again

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

    1. Trollslayer
      Thumb Up

      Good quote

      And true on many occasions.

      We need some competition for the behemoths.

    2. TheRead

      But in this case it's a bit closer to

      They insult you, you fight them, the the lawyers pick up a load of dosh.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      @Ano Nymous

      “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

      Or your involved in a single vehicle traffic accident with one fatality.

  3. HP Cynic

    Add 200 pounds to the next cargo manifest

    They should launch this idiot into space.....

    1. James Hughes 1

      Now that...

      is a great way of getting rid of the odd inconvenient body. Lots of burning up in the atmosphere later...

      Bit expensive though, if that's your only reasons for a launch. Still, worth it to get rid of Piers Morgan.

      1. AdamWill

        I'm pretty sure...

        ...there was an episode of Bones based around someone being shoved out the airlock of a commercial rocket.

        Cue lots of hijinks in vomit comets and improbable spatter reconstructions and things. Oh, what fun we all had.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


          There's definitely an episode of CSI:Miami built around that theme.

          I've never seen Bones

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      Bet they could even make some money at it too.

      Just raffle off twice as many chances as it will cost to launch him at $25/chance. Whoever wins gets to hit the launch button for the space shot.

    3. Mike Flugennock
      Thumb Up

      re: Add 200 pounds to the next cargo manifest

      "They should launch this idiot into space..."

      ...yeah, one way, aboard a non-man-rated module.

  4. Ralthor


    ... need a few more good lunches.

  5. Peter Galbavy
    Big Brother

    Freddy Laker all over again

    'nuff said.,

  6. M Gale

    First stage blowing up AFTER separation?

    ..what, when it's got no fuel left?

    1. Tom 13

      Well, that is when

      the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator kicks in isn't it?

      1. BenR

        More to the point

        As long as second-stage sep has happened and the boosters on that have fired, does it even REALLY matter if the first stage goes?

        Bit of a bugger if it's meant to be a reusable first-stage (and I don't know if it is / isn't), but as long as it doesn't result in a Failure-to-Orbit, who gives a flying Falcon?

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


          "As long as second-stage sep has happened and the boosters on that have fired, does it even REALLY matter if the first stage goes?"

          Literally true but a practical concern. Musk is determined they will make the first stage reusable but it's tricky. On board data loggers recorded something like 6-8g due to aerodynamic forces.

          The *ideal* scenario is the 1st stage separates and *somehow* flies back to the launch site with *minimal* hardware changes and payload hit. While the payload hit can be minimal (a *bad* 1st stage has a ratio of 14:1. 14 mass units on 1st stage = 1 *lost* unit of payload) landing the stage *undamaged* (mostly) is challenging.

          That aside IIRC Spacex show *all* their takeoffs and what he describes would be *completely* obvious to anyone watching. This is total BS.

  7. El Cid Campeador
    Black Helicopters

    Follow the money--and the lobby

    These guys have a big fight ahead. NASA never wanted to let anybody in on their cushy monopoly on space activity; it took serious leaning on NASA and the FAA from the Bush administration to even let these guys (and people like Virgin Galactic) get off the ground... and now that we have a pro-government anti-enterprise administration in place there's a very good chance the screws are going to be tightened once again. NASA did great things in its time (and still does occasionally-look at the Mars rovers) but they need to go back to what they originally were for: cutting edge technology and research, not lofting satellites and/or people into low earth orbit--there's money to be made there if the private sector is unleashed. Unfortunately doing so will threaten their bloated administration and the streams of taxpayer dollars.....

    Thank God we didn't have this level of control in the 20s and 30s or we'd still be arguing over whether our fabric-covered biplanes (though with carbon-fiber ribs) meet safety regulation #75635453 sponsored by Senator Bob from the state with the biggest sailcloth industry.......

    1. Mike Flugennock
      Thumb Down

      anti-enterprise, my ass

      One of Obama's last acts in the Senate was to carry water for the Wall Street bailout.

      His health care "reform" bill was a big fat giveaway to the health insurance and pharmaceutical corporations.

      He just finished doing a big shuffle dance for a bunch of Wall Street honchos for cash for his re-election campaign.

      Everything he's done re:NASA has been geared toward privatizing as much of the space program as possible.

      Anti-enterprise, my ass.

    2. AdamWill


      "and now that we have a pro-government anti-enterprise administration in place there's a very good chance the screws are going to be tightened once again"

      Yet in the 'vicious attack' mentioned in the original article, we read:

      "Musk looks to be a big beneficiary of the Obama Administration's move to commercialize space travel"

      So, wait - Obama is bad because of his move to commercialize space travel and also his pro-government, anti-enterprise stance?

      Man, it's tough being president.

      1. El Cid Campeador

        Not so simple

        The Wall Street firms are so interlaced with the government (even before the bailout, which has just made things worse) that it's more a case of cronyism than capitalism.... again, follow the money in both directions--bailouts for stupid (partially government-induced--see the CRA and Dodds) behavior AND campaign cash. :(

        Subsidies and such are a way of gaining leverage and control--NOT the same as getting out of the way and letting private enterprise get on with it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This will get more interesting....

    ...When SpaceX starting eating Arianespace's lunch.

    At their announced prices, they will be cheaper than everyone else. They are already taking payloads from Ariane. The Russians as well.....

    I wonder how long before the screaming starts this side of the pond?

  9. Andus McCoatover

    New icon urgently required. replace the awful troll one.

    Funny..I'm a professional engineer, but never felt the need to call myself a Professional Engineer.

    OK, Maybe The Lack Of Capitals On My Job Applications Have Screwed My CV. Well. not for the New York Times, perchance*

    *Did it again!

    1. an_engineer

      Professional Engineer is a title, but not one I hold

      Professional Engineer has a specific legal meaning in the US. It indicates that the engineer has been licensed and can legally sign and seal design documents.

      The US Government likes its contractors to have these credentials, but outside of civil engineering most engineers in the US are unlicensed.

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    SOP of a con-sultant

    "Hello Mr Customer. You have a *big* problem. It's huge, gigantic even but fortunately I can solve it. Roughly speaking it's........"

    "What, you've heard nothing about it and I'm a what?"

    <checks diary>

    "My mistake. I read my calendar wrong. I'll call you back next week."

    Seriously he is published on risk assessment but this business looks like his idea of "risk assessment" is more along the line of "You risk your reputation if you don't hire me."

    A staff photo that I think is aiming at "avuncular" but looks more Don Corleone does not help

  11. Wile E. Veteran
    Black Helicopters

    Al Capone would be so proud

    Here we have big "professional" companies doing the extortion instead of a small band of mobsters. The old "protection" racket lives on.

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    The Loren thompson piece would have impressed Dr Heinlein for its propoganda value

    It's not *factually* incorrect.

    But the *implications* it makes about the competence of Spacex's management are grossly slanted.

    Anyone *not* knowing any better would consider his criticism damming (and if they are reading his blog they probably don't).

    He's definitely a mouth for hire. I note the PhD is PolSci, not anything relevant to a discussion about engineering, business management or even the economics of space launch (travel is what happens to the payload *after* it reaches orbit. That part humans can already do quite well).

  13. Anonymous Coward

    SpaceX + Skylon = Actual Manned Missions?

    Not really related to the artical, but I just wanted to moot the idea that perhaps the peeps at Skylon/Reaction Engines, have a natter with SpaceX and say Virgin Galactic with regard to pooling resources or licensing technologies, with a view to sppeding up development to orbit of their various spaceplanes.

    I know this may go counter to the balance sheet of effectively competing companies, but the licensing aspect may make what is a very costly business, more palatable to investors in terms of overall returns.

    Reaction Engines for example could license the closed loop cooling system to SpaceX / Virgin Galactic in return for additional investment. The licensees would get a better cooling system to reduce weight on their own rockets/planes and thus improve cost to orbit and therefore operating costs. Customers of both would get a quicker choice of competing orbital launch vehicals, as the unwashed masses would get a quicker opportunity to see the rich, flinging themselves into vomit comet style orbital madness for maginally less $$$'s

    More practically long term scientific goals such as asteroid analysys, mars/moon missions and say resource mining of mineral ores from asteroids may then become a practicality if multiple partners as all at the same table. It would in effect go someway towards what Mr Obama invisionged in terms of a private space ecomony, with the likes of NASA etc then able to contact companies for each aspect of a given mission.

    SpaceX or Skylon for orbital use based on LEO or GEO. in orbit transfers for beyond orbit missions etc.

    Granted I know bugger all about this, but if I was at any of the current crop of emergent space vendors, I'd be looking at technology transfer licencing as an additional revenue stream...

    ...I'll get my coat.

    PS: Apologies for spelling etc. Mobile interweb sucks.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      I'll summarize .


      in more detail.

      Skylon. Single stage air breathing reusable Hydrogen fueled horizontal take off and landing orbital (M23) launch vehicle.

      Falcon 9/Dragon. 2 stage expendable (so far) Kerosene fueled orbital (M23) rocket mounting returnable reusable (designed for re-use but AFAIK not tested as such, yet) capsule.

      Virgin Galactic 2 stage reusable *sub* orbital (M3 max) horizontal take off and landing with 1 jet powered stage, one hybrid (NOx/rubber) engine.

      Branson does not want to be a spaceship developer. Musk does not want to do wings. The *main* overlap is *all* of them are pursuing people and satellites that pay.

      "license the closed loop cooling system..."

      It's a key part of the SABRE *engine*, not the structure, and liquid Hydrogen is a *key* part of what makes it work. The other don't use H2 and don't *want* to use it, or rather the builders of VG's vehicles don't want to use.

      Virgin Galactic *might* look at a passenger carrying Skylon if it was built. Part of that might be to sign an MoU which Reaction Engines Ltd (Skylon is the product) could use to raise finance on, making it more likely to *be* built in the first place (and they might no be alone in signing such a document).

      "Granted I know bugger all about this"

      That's a given. However you're smart enough to know it. That gives you an advantage. And you're a bit less ignorant than you were. You might also look up ITAR (not the Russian news agency) and how it makes putting *any* kind of non US payload on a US launcher a real PITA.

      Disclosure. I work for none of the above, but I did write to Reaction Engines a long time ago and they kindly wrote back. You could have read everything else on the web.

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