If all the nay and doomsayers ("Disaster for Space X", "massive setback" etc) posting on previous register stories on this are now thinking they wish they had waited a bit to see how it all panned out?
In a development almost as significant as getting off the ground, the Dragon capsule hoisted atop SpaceX has reached the ISS in spite of the “glitches” (to use Elon Musk's expression) that had delayed it. The ISS's robotic arm was used to grab and secure the capsule at 0531 EST on 3 March, at which time according to Reuters …
"If all the nay and doomsayers ("Disaster for Space X", "massive setback" etc) posting on previous register stories on this are now thinking they wish they had waited a bit to see how it all panned out?"
In the context of their ambitions, this trip has definitely not been a good thing. Manned flight on that thing? At the moment, no way. They've not even begun to establish any credibility in that line at all; quite the opposite.
More troubling is that this seems to be a problem in preparing the vehicle - blocked helium lines. It didn't happen last time, it's happened this time. It doesn't cost that much money to be consistent, yet so far they've been inconsistent. That means they've not got a satisfactory build process being rigidly adhered to. That tells their customers that launching with them is, currently, a bit of a gamble; it mightn't be built or prepared properly, even if the basic design is OK. Now, in the light of that, go ask your insurance company about that premium reduction.
In the space business you can't rely on 'getting away with it', especially when it comes to manned flight. Ask NASA. Space X have got away with it this time, but really that's not doing anything to build up a good reputation.
Oh, and this trip isn't finished yet. It's not yet been recovered post splashdown in the ocean. Only then will they have got away with it.
I do wish them success. It's a relatively new team with clearly a lot to learn, and I hope they do. However unless they rigorously analyse all defects they may well get to a place where they're regularly launching and being successful, but it might be that they've no real knowledge as to why. Nothing desperately wrong with that, but it would make introducing upgrades really difficult. The true measure of a good engineering team is when they can punch out another design with minimal difficulty.
We'll soon know if they're going about it the right way; the defect rate should drop off rapidly. If not, they'll keep having these defects cropping up.
Comparing to problems with Apollo - fatal fire, nearly fatal thruster malfunction, nearly fatal oxygen tank explosion, this is not so bad so far.
Come to think of it - Soyuz - fatal parachute malfunction, fatal pressurisation valve failure, near fatal pyro-bolt failure, not to say of a few unplanned ballistic returns putting a few unexpected extra Gs up the cosmonauts' backsides...
You cannot talk about engineering consistency at this stage. I'm pretty sure each new capsule they make is very different from the last one - has to be, as they are upgrading systems, fixing problems identified in previous launch(es) etc.
@bazza. So negative!!! Why? So far the mission is a success. They've got some things to work out, but its all part and parcel. These things are complicated. No new rocket/capsule is ever right out of the box, or even after multiple flights.
And for all those saying it's not ready for manned flight. NO ITS NOT READY FOR MANNED FLIGHT. It never was intended to be ready. That's what these flights are for, almost as much as the delivery. TESTING, and getting READY for manned flight. Every time they find something not working as well as it should, it gets fixed. That's one less problem for when they DO carry passengers.
Sorry about the shouting, but sometimes people just don't get it.
Apollo and Soyuz didn't have the experiences of Apollo and Soyuz as cautionary engineering examples from which they could learn.
Yes, it's still rocket science and more importantly rocket engineering. Maintaining thirty 9s of QA is damned hard work. I get that. The problem is, if we want to get off this rock, the people getting us off it have to meet those requirements.
"They've not even begun to establish any credibility in that line at all; quite the opposite."
Quite the opposite: They had a problem. It was fixed. That actually establishes more credibility to my mind.
Look into it and have a look at how many NASA/NRO missions have totally failed before being too keen to write this project off. After all: It *is* rocket science.
> Look into it and have a look at how many NASA/NRO
> missions have totally failed before being too keen to
> write this project off. After all: It *is* rocket science.
No, rocket science is pretty simple (it's basically F = ma
combined with some freshman-level calculus). It's rocket
_engineering_ that's difficult.
"Quite the opposite: They had a problem. It was fixed."
That's nuts. You wouldn't buy a car if the salesman says that it'll break down all the time, he doesn't know why, but hitting it with a hammer seems to fix it...
A problem occurred. They don't know why at this point in time. They managed to find a work around for this trip. If it happens again they might not be so lucky next time. What ever caused this problem is currently not fixed; they've not even had a chance to look at it yet. They will fix it, but until they start having regular flights without serious problems like this their credibility isn't so high.
I admire their tenacity (ie, Elon's big fat wallet) and ambition, but those alone do not make for a reliable rocket. You do actually have to get the design, build and prep right as well.
"That's nuts. You wouldn't buy a car if the salesman says that it'll break down all the time, he doesn't know why, but hitting it with a hammer seems to fix it..."
No, but I'd buy an AK-47 that you *can* hit with a hammer and fix over a ray-gun that you can't.
[In reality I would (and do) buy cars that are perhaps less reliable and that I can fix myself with a hammer over something with a big plastic cover over the engine bay and more electronics than Maplins, but that's just me I guess!]
"A problem occurred. They don't know why at this point in time."
...because the thing is in space. So it's unfair to strictly demand answers now. They *will* look into it, and the device will be better engineered next time as a result.
"but until they start having regular flights without serious problems like this their credibility isn't so high."
Really? Just look at how many spacecraft fail to orbit. Look how many people NASA has managed to get killed over the years.
> They had a problem. It was fixed. That actually establishes more credibility to my mind.
Mine too. Problems *will* happen, but this was handled *almost* perfectly. It doesn't matter all that much what the problem was - the fact that they were up-front about it is far more important.
Compare and contrast with what Mr. Musk did in the Tesla situation :-(
 I wasn't watching the broadcast, but apparently they pulled the video as the failure was discovered. That's a shame...
> You mean doing a root cause analysis
No, I mean getting shouty and litigious.
It doesn't matter whether there is a problem with the Tesla or not - his approach to a perceived problem has diminished the brand.
With the Dragon, he took the opposite tack, and had the opposite effect.
"No, I mean getting shouty and litigious."
Well, you can't sue space.
"It doesn't matter whether there is a problem with the Tesla or not - his approach to a perceived problem has diminished the brand."
In your opinion. Whereas I think that stuffing it to a lying reporter was feckin' brilliant!
[Anyone else getting a feck-ton of internal server errors on here today?]
> Manned flight on that thing?
Pretty much every launch vehicle tested to date has self-immolated on the launch pad during or soon after launch, Saturn V being a notable exception (and given the mad rush to beat the USSR this fact amazes many in the industry). Many unmanned rocket flights of the Delta series _still_ fail on a platform which is getting quite old and well tested.
If you actually read any of the public NASA documentation it is amazing that any of these things work at all - every flight of any vehicle is effectively a test flight because there are simply not that many flights before you _have to start doing real work_ or it gets too expensive.
Manned space flight is, and probably always will be, a risk. Most astronauts are willing to take that risk, and they do so knowingly. Yes we should make it safer if we can, but if you wrap the whole programme in so much "health and safety" you will never actually get a rocket off the ground (either because you never reach your "safe" targets, or you make it so expensive it isn't commercially viable).
> It doesn't cost that much money to be consistent, yet so far they've been inconsistent.
Hmm, based on available evidence of every other rocket platform, it is both very hard and very expensive. Mechanical failure in a system with a few hundred K parts, massive stress loadings and vibration, as well as temperature ranges. At some point the cost outweighs the need to "just bloody launch the thing", and yes that includes manned space flight.
You can minimise risks, you can never eliminate them.
It is worth noting, that despite it's problems in other areas, no Space Shuttle (STS) ever self immolated either!
Yes, it's dangerous work, this is why SpaceX are flying the Dragon uncrewed so many times before attempting a crew
(for the immolation of course!).
These are really exciting times for space flight. NASA has finally shed itself of the nice looking but shockingly expensive, dangerous, out of date and worst-solution-for-just-about-every-job Space Shuttle which was so expensive it stopped any real manned spaceflight progress for 30 years. Now we have SpaceX developing their systems with a total spend to date of about $1 billion over 10 years. Compare this with NASA's 1965 peak budget of $40 billion per year at 2013 prices, (or $100 billion if kept at the same 5.3% of federal budget) and you see that SpaceX really are shaking things up, both unmanned and manned. Great stuff. I feel inspired for the first time in 4 decades.
Given this capsule is going to be recovered hopefully they will find out the root cause of this and eliminate it from future flights.
Note that one of the key goals of this flight was to look at doing berthing in 1 day, rather than the current 3 day cycle (which would be much better for humans).
This will change ISS operations quite a lot provided it can operate reliably.
Thumbs up to all at Spacex and NASA for not making a drama out of a crisis and resolving the problem.
"Given this capsule is going to be recovered hopefully they will find out the root cause of this and eliminate it from future flights."
Given that it didn't happen last time they might not be able to learn enough to understand why it's happened this time.
Obviously if they find identifiable debris that'd help, but that in itself would be embarrassing. They'd have to sharpen up their build procedures.
If something has broken it's either not built right, or the spec isn't good enough. Working out which it is could be tricky, unless they've got enough on board diagnostic instrumentation to prove the spec is good.
It'd be a brave pilot who'd get on that thing as it currently stands. No drama because it was unmanned. Now, if there'd been astronauts on board...
Pah, Components! American components. Russian components.
All made in Taiwan!
Now *CLONK* THIS is how we *CLONK* FIX problems on *CLONK* RUSSIAN space station *CLONK* because I *CLONK* want to go home *CLONK* and I *CLONK* DON'T want to *CLONK* STAY here *CLONK* ANY MORE!
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Yes as others have pointed out Wales has a bloody great red dragon on their national flag and St David is the Patron Saint of Wales.
Wales has always been linked to dragons since the dark ages (AD829 first recorded use). As for why? Well its nothing to do with St George and is believed to be connected to King Arthur and other Celtic leaders and their battle standards.
Space exploration has always been a dangerous gambit. I think it's funny how many people are willing to jump on the negativity bandwagon when even NASA (or maybe especially NASA) has had their share of 'glitches' and even deaths. Why even this morning curiosity is having computer problems. You might say it's not fair to compare an over sized rover with a capsule capable of transporting humans. Yet both are examples of hardware not living up to the desired criticality of the systems design. In the absence of any details we can't really say where the fault lies. But at the end of the day it's about solutions when it comes to space programs.
I assume SpaceX won't be happy that their thrusters failed but they've still learned something from the experience - how to diagnose and fix the problem in situ and potentially how to prevent the problem occurring again. It's this sort of thing that it would be better to learn about now than in two years when they begin carrying human beings as well as cargo.
Overheard in the work canteen: "why does it take so long to dock? You can dock a cross-channel ferry in under 10 minutes and it's much bigger!"
When *everything* costs 10-100x more yet far more fragile than a cross channel ferry, is flying round in a much more hostile environment where "drag" does not exist, it pays to be *super careful*.
The levels of redundancy in this gear are amazing. It doesn't all work right but it gets to where it needs to go. With the learnings come higher reliability.
Elon Musk is moving forward commercial space at an amazing pace. Looks like they plan a Mars colony. Not bad for a South African whiz kid disowned by his parents who did it all without a silver spoon on the sole merit of his own wit.
It shows many positive attributes to a design early in its life.
The fact that issues could be worked around and fixed shows a team that knows its kit and kit that even though not yet perfect can be made to adapt.
This is all excellent experience. Anyone who says otherwise doesn't really understand such technology or projects. No one gets it perfect, not even for manned missions as we have seen over the decades.
A few more launches and SpaceX Dragon will be a very capable piece of kit.
But if you think you can do better......
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Nah, that cowboy talk is over. Today we have norms!
European Coordination for Space Standardization (ECSS), Glossary of Terms, ECSS P-001B, 14 July 2004 (c) 2004 by the European Space Agency for the members of ECSS (costs EUR 20).
Anomaly - Any deviation from the expected situation. [EN 13701:2001]
Accident - Undesired event arising from operation of any project-specific item that results in a) human death or injury, b) loss of, or damage to, project hardware, software or facilities that can then affect the accomplishment of the mission, c) loss of, or damage to, public or private property, or d) detrimental effects on the environment. NOTE: Accident and mishap are synonymous. [EN 13701:2001]
Amazing the number of reporters and commentards who have such a downer on SpaceX, is it simply the old green eyed monster rearing its ugly head?
Falcon 9 (the rocket bit) worked perfectly, delivering its payload into the correct orbit and not going bang like lots of other rockets have over the years, even some with people on-board. So we see loads of stories celebrating the successful launch don't we?
The Dragon capsule (the space vehicle bit) suffered a couple of sticky valves that were freed with a bit of jiggling, i.e. cycling or "pressure-hammering" them, a term the sensationalistic press picks up on and spouts because it sounds so much better and more suggestive of Clarkson style problem solving by hitting it with a hammer.
....to solve a problem properly, you use a sledgehammer.
Hmm, I had a slight oopsie taking that approach once. We were trying to remove the bucket from a mini-digger and couldn't get one of the retaining pins out:
Me: "Got a sledge?"
Mate: "Yes, in the garage."
Me: "Great. Go get it."
He returned with the sledgehammer and I dealt the pin a fearsome blow.
Mate: "Owwww. Fuuuuuuucccccckkkkkkkk!". This is the sound made when a chrome steel pin of around a foot long, a couple of inches in diameter and propelled with a wallop from a sledge impacts what is euphemistically referred to in cricketing circles as the "upper thigh".
Nasa would probably have dropped the ball.
I work with rocket scientists. Everything is hard. That SpaceX not only diagnosed and fixed the problem, but managed to save the mission speaks volumes for their competence.
SpaceX's man-rated stuff is likely to be far more reliable and safe than Soyuz or anything the USA Gov have produced (all the capsule-based stuff is derived from quasi-military rush jobs where safety was a second thought to the endgoal and we all know what a clusterfuck the Shuttle design was - the surprise is that it didn't kill more than 14 people.)
Commercial outfits can't afford to kill people at the same rate that governments can.
Diagnosing a problem based on a limited number of symptoms available by telemetry is pretty tricky.
There are various possible scenarios that caused this. The obvious one is some kind of contamination in the He line but there could be ones based on Dragons exact thermal environment EG this is happening in Earths shadow, it was cold and this changed some hardware properties.
It does serve as a reminder of what John Carnack has called troubles with "Things with springs," which have always been problematical and all real space vehicles have lots of these components on board.
As for "consistency" Spacex have flown 2 missions which have seen serious thruster use. This is the 2nd.
Spacex have something like 12 cargo missions before they are even thinking about carrying crew and that should resolve of the questions about wheather a difference between their simulations and real flight is significant.
Note that Cygnus has not taken off at this point, won't be upgradeable to crew carriage and any other winner of the crew carriage contract will have to begin their reliability record from scratch, at which point Spacex will have 12 f9/Dragon combos on its list (plus however many F9 launches take off for other customers).
It will be good to finally see Antares launch, even without a dummy Cygnus on the top.
My old man was a Project Manager for Bell Aerospace and before that for Thiokol.
At Bell, he worked on the Agena engine and thrusters that were later used on the Lunar Excursion Module to land and take off from the Moon. There were no end of problems with the first versions.
Look here for some of the issues (1/2 way down in the table) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agena_target_vehicle
Agena went on to be the most commonly flown platform up until 2010 with close to 300 flights..
Sometimes you just have to exhibit some patience. (Unfortunately patience is a virtue we don't have time for)
Not wanting to rain on the parade of self-congratulatory put-downs of Bazza here, but I'd just like to point out that nothing was in fact "fixed", it was worked around. That is in and of itself a fine thing, but people are claiming a fix where there isn't one. What needs fixing is what made the helium line prone to blockage in the first place, and that will be a design or manufacturing issue that cannot be "sorted out with a lump hammer" much though I'd like it to be.
Pro space and anything that gets us there properly instead of by proxy. Robots and small bands of specialist people don't count - us means we the people, and until I can go into orbit as a matter of booking a seat on whatever form of transport is involved, "we" aren't going to space at all, "they" are.
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