back to article Engineering fault stops SpaceX launch of machine comms satellite network

Elon Musk might have a tight timetable to get humans to Mars, but his SpaceX booster company is behind schedule on its current launch calendar, thanks to an engineering glitch. With minutes to go before launch at Cape Canaveral, SpaceX's latest Falcon rocket was shut down after engineers spotted pressure fluctuations in the …

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  1. cyberelf
    Joke

    Rockets use liquid fuel?

    "Each rocket is test-fired before being raised for launch and its engineers can shut down the Falcon rocket even after the initial ignition because it uses liquid, rather than solid, fuel"

    This is getting way too technical for me ..

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Rockets use liquid fuel?

      Safe rockets use liquid fuel.

      The Apollo era Saturn V rockets used liquid fuel as did the Shuttle main engines because Nasa only allowed liquid fuel for man rated missions. But the shuttle got a bit heavy and so they added a couple of solid fuel boosters.

      They were perfectly safe because Nasa changed the rules to allow solid fueled manned flights

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Rockets use liquid fuel?

        No, the Shuttle used solids because a liquid booster would have been too expensive.

        NASA changed the rules because President Nixon insisted on it.

    2. IglooDude
      Facepalm

      Re: Rockets use liquid fuel?

      I think the downvoters (and helpful explainers) are missing the JokeAlert icon?

      1. John Gamble

        Re: Rockets use liquid fuel?

        Once again, I have to point out that using the Joke Alert icon doesn't save you if your joke is no good.

        1. cyberelf
          Joke

          Re: Rockets use liquid fuel?

          @John Gamble: "Once again, I have to point out that using the Joke Alert icon doesn't save you if your joke is no good."

          Not only that but the Falcon rocket is 68.4 meters high at launch that's almost the same length as 449 toothbrushes laid end-to-end ...

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge

    "liquid, rather than solid, fuel"

    This is a slam on the proposed Ariane replacements that might use a solid first stage.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: "liquid, rather than solid, fuel"

      Solid is very reliable, very powerful and be can stored reliably too (which is why anyone doing world destruction as if he wanted to win has solid-fueled ICBMs). It cannot be turned off once lighted, does the shakey-shakey of the rocket and is a bit difficult to handle in production (chinese fireworks manufacturing difficult, only larger and with nastier chemicals). If the rocket becomes too big, you run in assembly problems and may end up doing unadvisable things (like using flakey O-ring architectures) which you will regret later.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: like using flakey O-ring architectures

        The problem wasn't a flaky O-ring architecture, the problem was a pin-headed manager not wanting to advise NASA to post-pone the launch because the President was going to call to talk to the teacher.

        Oh, and the shuttle is a pipsqueak compared to Apollo missions with three stacks of liquids. So the solid fuel is purely down to cost.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "liquid, rather than solid, fuel"

      Ah, yes, but Ariane, like most nationally-funded launch systems, uses solid fuel not because of any engineering advantages, but because nations quite like for their aerospace firms to be well practised in building things that Definitely Aren't ICBMs, just in case.

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    A few points.

    Orbcomm was the secondary customer on Spacex's 1st full Dragon payload delivery to the ISS and due to the 1st stage engine "anomaly" did not make it to full orbit.

    Orbcomm got some data (not sure how much) and filed an insurance claim stating the sat was completely destroyed. Since part of it's job was to fine tune the design of these payloads and I didn't hear of a re launch Orbcomm look like they got the data and may have got the insurance as well.

    Result for Orbcomm.

    However it does Spacex a bit twitchy about them as a customer.

    Ariane 6 will be an all solid design. 2 SRBs, core and 2nd stage all, (more or less) identical to try and deliver a 70m euro launch cost target. It will be as big a shift in design as A5 was over the 4 previous (all hypergols).

  4. Cirdan
    Coat

    Ariane is hypergaulic?

    Put a French engineer using SI next to an American engineer using SAE and watch them spontaneously ignite.

    Hypergaulic.

    ...Cirdan...

    (Mine's the one with two bottles of clear liquid in SEPARATE pockets.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      Re: Ariane is hypergaulic?

      And you didn't reference Asterix? Shame on you.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Ariane is hypergaulic?

        No need to launch suborbital menhirs about this.

  5. TechW

    Sensors

    When my car has problems it seems it is always the sensors and not what they are monitoring that is at fault. It's going to be the sensors...

    1. Grikath

      Re: Sensors

      Still... Would you take the risk?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Mushroom

        Re: Sensors

        Yes, but then again, my car only cost $1,500.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Sensors

          That's the price of a whole sensor!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sensors

        I had a car once (VW engine) where the oil pressure low warning light came on while I was doing 70mph, on a motorway, in a thunderstorm.

        However, there was not the slightest change in the engine noise, whereas if the pressure really had dropped that catastrophically in a hot Diesel engine with 40000 miles on the clock, you'd expect to hear it. The engine temperature didn't change. I concluded faulty sensor and carried on.

        Owing to being rather busy, I didn't get around to getting it fixed till the next service. But then I do check oil regularly and watch for unusual symptoms.

        When an accelerometer failed and the variable power steering went funny, I noticed but no warning lights came on.

        It's all about having a little mechanical sensitivity.

        With a rocket...no, I wouldn't take the risk either.

  6. asdf

    my 2 cents

    Yes even Tony Stark has setbacks and it all the more makes you appreciate (politics aside) what a God when it came to rockets that Von Braun was. Even today that s h 1 t ain't easy imagine with the materials and technology available 50+ years ago.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: my 2 cents

      Quite true. I believe though, that Von Braun was more than just a rocket engineer but a visionary. He knew technology and all that it would bring in the way of materials, fuels, etc. would increase and Man would set foot on other planets.

      Sadly, outside of Musk, there don't seem to be any visionaries left. Only bureaucrats, politicians and certain greedy bastards who haven't a clue. While Kennedy was a politician, he also had a vision of space. There's a potential out there that we haven't even thought about because it won't generate profit in the next quarter. <sigh>

      Flame... because that is what currently comes out the ass of a rocket....

      1. Roger Greenwood

        Re: my 2 cents

        "don't seem to be any visionaries left"

        I see your pessimism and raise you:- skylon.

        http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/space_skylon.html

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: my 2 cents

      "Politics aside"?

      Werner von B managed to tie up large amounts of capital, engineering expertise and logistical effort in a project which, by the end of WW2, managed to kill about 5000 people, less than was achieved by some single RAF bomber raids. The V2 was so inaccurate that it was only after the War that it was discovered that there had been a V2 campaign against Lowestoft, because nobody noticed at the time. Given that the most efficient form of air attack in WW2 was precision bombing of logistic targets, von B should have been given a medal - by us, for helping Hitler lose the War.

      The V2 program didn't achieve accuracy and it only had to deliver a bomb, not a very expensive electronic or human payload.

      It's something like the Messerschmitt jet fighter which had an operational life of about 5 hours due to engine problems - but it hardly mattered because most of them were shot down in less time than that.

      The engineering past always looks good until you take into account that we would never tolerate today what they regarded as acceptable risks.

      1. asdf

        Re: my 2 cents

        >Werner von B managed to tie up large amounts of capital, engineering expertise and logistical effort in a project which,

        That wasn't Werner has much as Hitler who insisted on pissing away money on his vengeance projects instead of winning the war and getting his vengeance after (Werner was more than happy to oblige being the good SS man he was). The accuracy problem wasn't due to the rocket technology as much as without decent electronics its actually surprising they were able to hit the UK at all at that distance, little lone occasionally hit the city they were aiming at. My guess is neither the UK or the US would have been able to do better rocket wise even if they were stupid enough to piss away twice what Germany did because there was only one Von Braun (ironically the a bomb was easier to brute force with massive resources (luckily) than rocketry which required more finesse). Even more than a decade after the war the US needed Von Braun to show them how to get rockets into space consistently. Fact is without Werner we may well not have put a man on the moon until at the least the 1980s and maybe even later.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: my 2 cents

          without decent electronics

          Real Men Build Analog Computers

      2. phuzz Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: my 2 cents

        It didn't help the Soviets that Stalin was busy banging up most of their best scientists, like Korolev and Glushko in GULags. Without that they would have been a lot further along with their rocketry program by the end of the war.

  7. Geoff Johnson

    First stage

    Does anyone know whether they're planning to bring the first stage down gently again?

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: First stage

      The first stage of the rocket now on the pad does seem to have the foldy legs. So I suspect they will.

      Next launch attempt is tomorrow (The 24th of June)

    2. GettinSadda

      Re: First stage

      > Does anyone know whether they're planning to bring the first stage down gently again?

      If you trust: Wikipedia - then yes

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