back to article SpaceX six days from historic rocket landing attempt

On January 6, SpaceX will launch a critical supply mission to the International Space Station, but just as important as what is going up is what’ll (hopefully) come down. The CRS-5 mission was due to have taken place this month but the launch was delayed to allow NASA to add vitally needed supplies that were destroyed when …

  1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    What a team!

    Real enginering. Find a problem - deal with it. Find another - deal with that too. Target stays in sight. These guys just don't give up!

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: What a team!

      It's almost as of they were Japanese!

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: What a team!

        Apparently no-one likes the Japanese.

        Much ship industry loss, innit?

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: What a team!

      What is really impressive is that SpaceX was founded with only $100M

      A Google or an Apple could found one a week from the tea money

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: What a team!

        I wonder how much Google has spent developing it's driverless Noddy car?

        I think for me at least that the Space X effort is better value for money.

        I wish them nothing but luck and success!

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: What a team!

        What is really impressive is that SpaceX was founded with only $100M

        hm, I just found that behind the back of the sofa…

        As impressive as the work of the company has been (comparisons with the competitors such as Orbital Sciences are welcome) when it comes to money there is the small matter of a large NASA contract. This doesn't mean that I want to detract in any way from the quality of the team and the innovative work they've done. I wish them every success.

  2. Kharkov

    Fingers crossed!

    Here's hoping that it all works. If it does, I've got a feeling that the collective 'squee!' from the SpaceX fanboys will be heard at deafening levels.

    And if it does, the next question will be, 'Why weren't we doing this back in the late 80's or early 90's?'

    And the question after that will be, 'When is the Falcon Heavy going to fly?'

    And after that, 'When are we sending stuff to Mars?'

    It's been a long time coming but, finally, the future's here.

    1. DragonLord

      Re: Fingers crossed!

      Simple answer to why we weren't doing this in the 80's/90's is computing power vs computing mass, image recognition, and CAD - every prototype would have needed to be built and tested rather than all the obvious failures been found in the computer simulations before building them. All of the above change the time to develop this sort of thing and increase the cost massively.

      It is interesting to note that we were able to use a well developed technology to build the shuttle, namely aerodynamics.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Fingers crossed!

        > namely aerodynamics.

        Don't you mean pork projection?

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Fingers crossed!

        > namely aerodynamics.

        And the aerodynamics of hypersonic vehicles was well understood in the 1970s ?

        1. DragonLord

          Re: Fingers crossed!

          Evidently it's not sufficiently different from standard, and supersonic aerodynamics that you could say it wasn't

  3. Adam Jarvis

    In world where news is mostly Celebs..

    If only we had a few more Elon Musks and a few less Kim Kardashians

    with job titles of Television Personality...and a few less Nigel Farages too.

    If you compare Elon Musk's goals in life to Nigel Farage, you realise what a narrow minded, border obsessed, border racist twerp Farage is, you don't solve engineering problems like this by looking at someones ethnic origin, and sticking up a fence.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: In world where news is mostly Celebs..

      Well said sir!

    2. ZankerH

      Re: In world where news is mostly Celebs..

      I'm sorry your natural response to uplifting news like this is to go on an irrational political rant. I hate to say it, but for someone whose political views I seem to agree with, you're acting exactly like the people you're arguing against.

      1. DropBear

        Re: In world where news is mostly Celebs..

        Never heard the expression "glass half empty", did you...

        1. Tom 13

          Re: Never heard the expression "glass half empty", did you..

          Half empty, half full...

          Why is nobody ever wonder what's IN the glass? I mean, is water is is it actually strychnine?

        2. hplasm Silver badge

          Re: In world where news is mostly Celebs..

          "Never heard the expression "glass half empty", did you..."

          Glass too big. This is a tech site, after all...

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: In world where news is mostly Celebs..

      >If you compare Elon Musk's goals in life to Nigel Farage,

      So you have met a nice South African and that is bloody surprising man .....

    4. phil dude
      Paris Hilton

      Re: In world where news is mostly Celebs..

      genetic evidence suggests that the one is necessary for the other...

      We are all born to parents we have no choice over.

      All that counts is what we can do with the time we are given (yes I know that's a LOTR quote, but it doesn't make it less true....).


      Paris, because , well, genetics...?

    5. Philip Lewis

      Re: In world where news is mostly Celebs..

      What has Nigel Farage to do with any of this? That really is just a bit too left field for me. Explain, please.

    6. Tom 13

      Re: In world where news is mostly Celebs..

      If you had left it at the first sentence you would have gotten an up vote.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In world where news is mostly Celebs..

      Yep everything is wonderful isn't it.. maybe you could put these highly skilled workers up in your majestic mansion;

  4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Why land at sea?

    Given the technical issues of landing on the barge, possible bad weather, rough sea etc., why don't they go for a landing on land? Somewhere big and flat, like a dried up salt lake? No inhabitants to worry about if you miss a bit, bar the odd land speed record bods, hot, dry, and a very large area to land on. In the long term spaceplanes are going to have to land at a spaceport. The Heathrow Shuttle is bad enough, passengers aren't going to want a lengthy trip ashore in an old ferry.

    I'm genuinely curious - the russians always land on land. Anyone know?

    1. DragonLord

      Re: Why land at sea?

      I would imagine it's to do with trajectory, time and speed. As Russia is absolutely massive in the right direction. Also consider that they are launching from Florida and going east to gain an acceleration boost from the rotation of the earth. Unless they reach Europe or africa, there isn't much land to land on.

      Finally, as this is still in prototype stage, if something goes wrong they can just ditch the stage and try next time. Over land you need to worry about what it's going to hit if it doesn't work.

      1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

        Re: Why land at sea?

        "As Russia is absolutely massive in the right direction."

        I suspect that this is it. It's not so much a matter of hitting the USA. Every 90 minutes or so, the orbit olaces them on a path about 20 degrees longitude over from the last one. Eventually, that path will pass over a suitable (i.e. not private property, farmland or protected habitat) landing site. I can't be bothered to calculate 'eventually', but it could be dozens of orbits, given a small enough site.

        With a ship, you just move the landing pad under the desired orbit and go.

        1. David Given

          Re: Why land at sea?

          Bear in mind that the first stage isn't making orbit --- it's strictly suborbital, with a fairly low apoapsis (although I haven't been able to find the exact figure). Its ability to manoeuvre is limited, basically being a falling metal can aimed about 400km east of the launch site.

          I'd say that the most likely reason for using a barge is that's the only way to get a landing site in about the right place. Although I do see that some of the Bahamas are very roughly at the right range, for launches to the south-east. Watch out for SpaceX land acquisitions...

      2. FelixReg

        Re: Why land at sea?

        "Europe or africa"

        DragonLord, that got me wondering. Cape C and Disney World are at the latitude of southern Morocco. Miami is across from the country of Western Sahara.

        Never really thought about it, but the eastern hemisphere "Florida" is in the Sahara desert. "Europe" is across from Canada, not the US. Weird geographic things. Like how South America is south of Greenland, not North America. :)

        1. fandom

          Re: Why land at sea?

          Without the gulf stream warming us up, Europe would be uninhabitable.

          Something that I learned many years ago reading a story in which Uncle Scrooge diverts the gulf stream to warm the land he had just bought in Greenland.

    2. David Schlinkert

      Re: Why land at sea?

      It has to do with the trajectory of the launch, it would take way too much fuel to bring the booster back over land; that would seriously cut the lift capacity. If I remember correctly, the penalty can be as high as 30%. Landing a returning mission on land is a much simpler process and the amount of fuel needed is mostly a matter of orbital speed.

    3. stfranklin

      Re: Why land at sea?

      They plan on landing at Cape Canaveral eventually. The barge is just for testing. If there's a catastrophic failure, it won't take out any valuable equipment or people.

      1. MD Rackham

        Re: Why land at sea?

        It's Florida so it's mostly not-valuable people at risk.

        1. Scott 1

          Re: Why land at sea?

          As a current resident of central Florida, I can tell you that the great majority of the people here are actually quite decent. We do have our share of oddballs, however, and the warm, moist climate seems to attract them for some reason. Despite their fame (thanks to the websites about the exploits of "Florida man/woman"), these are the minority, and it's truly a case of "a few bad apples spoil the bunch."

    4. Grimzod

      Re: Why land at sea?

      Falcon heavy center stage will land at sea or far down range of the side stages so sea landings have to be done. Also the us go is wary of land landings in its territory until and unless spacex can prove it's capable of doing it safely.

      They use asparagus staging, the outer tanks feed the center tank with a third or so of their total before they fall away so the heavys center can push longer and higher meaning it also goes farther down range while still retaining enough fuel for a controlled landing

  5. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Thumb Up

    Tony Stark

    Is real.

    Excellent techno stuff.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Tony Stark

      No champaign until a Tessier-Ashpool corporate orbital refuge is up there.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Three guesses which PayPal founder actually has something going on upstairs

    Wasn't Peter "Me Special" Thiel doing something with a floating platform? HGH storage maybe?

  7. Little Mouse

    Loving this

    Real progress - and at what a pace!

    As a kid I'd always assumed that the manned exploration of space was inevitable. Constant incremental improvements in technology enabling us to travel further and further out into the solar system because we could, and because the momentum was there.

    Then as an adult, the sucker punch as I realised that no such thing was likely to happen in my lifetime.

    Putting robots on Mars has been seven flavours of awesome, but without any political drive to put people further out into space it always seemed likely that the manned side of space exploration was effectively over. Forever.

    And then SpaceX appeared on the scene - Game on!

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Loving this

      The real cause of NASA's slow progress is the US congress, as in very few congress critters have space related companies in their districts, plus its so easy to attack the 'waste' of sticking 20 billion dollars into NASA , while all the time defending the 750 billion dollar defence budget , which if anyone asks about you can attack for being "unpatroitic" and "not supporting our troops"... even though you just cut the VA benefits by 1/3.

      Plus the fact any space related research effort is never going to be built/finished in your term of power so since you're never going to reap the political benefit... why bother.?

      And over this side of the water the pigs(mps) have their faces in the trough so much they've forgotten to howto look up any more.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Loving this

      The very first book my Mom put into my little hands, after I showed her I could read, was "Rocket Ship Galileo." To say I'm very underwhelmed by what NASA has accomplished since 1969 .... Elon Musk has demonstrated that R. A. Heinlein's vision of space as a private (civilian) activity rather than bureaucrat is just icing on the cake. He was dead on about the military half as well.

  8. Richard Boyce


    No comments about this yet, so maybe I have this wrong, but...

    Isn't the fuel taken to the sides of the tank by centrifugal force, i.e. a force away from the centre? If so, centripetal force would be the reaction from the tank that stopped the fuel going further out.

    1. stfranklin

      Re: Centripetal?

      I noticed that. It's also a landing pad, not a "launch pad." SpaceX isn't planning to refuel at sea. Dollars to donuts the author kept plugging misspellings of centrifugal into spellcheck (R) until he came up with "centripetal."

      1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

        Re: Centripetal?

        Yeah, but isn't "centrifugal force" just inertia, at least as it is used in this case? It doesn't sound as impressive, though.

        1. DragonLord

          Re: Centripetal?

          It's the same as centripetal force, just from the frame of reference inside the object been spun. So what's probably happening is that the centrifugal forces inside the fuel tanks is keeping the fuel against the wrong part of the tank for the pumps to work (considering that this stage is designed to work with the acceleration forces to resolve towards the thrusters rather than the walls)

  9. Alan Sharkey

    Its the wrong technology

    Its all very nice but we need a different technology to get us out of the earths gravity field.

    So, how about Elon Musk getting together with this guy?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Its the wrong technology

      Warp drives ain't gonna come out of garages dude. They most probably won't come from anywhere, ever. (Yeah, Alcubierre Blah Blah Blah. Bullshit. Guess what, if I had the power to warp space at will, negatively not at my current location to boot, I could do ten impossible things before breakfast.)

      There is no indication in experimental and theoretical physics that any of this is possible. None. Otherwise LHC would rip unicorns out of the vacuum.

      > Farady cages

      > Could Bermuda Triangle pilot’s ‘fog’ have been a space warp?

      Perpetuum Mobile tier QUALITY SCIENCE!!!11!

    2. FutureShock999

      Re: Its the wrong technology

      Every _hypothetical_ warp drive is nothing you would ever want to use near a populated planet, ever. Even the proposed (and unfeasible until we find "exotic matter" somewhere) NASA warp bubble is known to basically destroy all living matter in front of it as it decelerates at its destination. You just cannot risk a bubble of warp energy (if it could be created) near a populated planet, not at least until you have so many of them that you can afford to lose one or two to disaster.

      Inertialess motors, mass drivers, space elevators, or "clean" nuclear will have to do the heavy lifting, as it where...

  10. Urh

    Fuel cost?

    As cool as the idea sounds, I cannot help but think about the added fuel costs associated with slowing the spacecraft down so that it can land. Yes, I know that aerobraking accounts for most of the deceleration, but the additional delta-v associated with landing is not trivial.

    1. Grimzod

      Re: Fuel cost?

      That is why fifteen percent of a f9r fuel is saved and not expended... So it can land

      1. PurpleMoneky

        Re: Fuel cost?

        The fuel cost outweighs the cost of building a new rocket from scratch, and as it hasn't burn bits of itself up through re-entry 95% of the vehicle will be re-usable.

        Just check seals etc. fill her up a go!

        1. Urh

          Re: Fuel cost?

          This is also true, but this also means that more fuel is spent per unit mass of payload sent into orbit. I don't doubt that SpaceX have sat down and done the numbers and found this to be a cost effective approach. I'm mostly curious as to how drastically this landing system affects payload capacity.

  11. The Rest of the Sheep

    Moistening the booster spin

    Do they need to dampen the spin because it won't be landing in the ocean anymore?

  12. SpaceFever

    Nicely done!

    Here's to a "bullseye" landing!! Let's hope thyat the weather clears as there is a 40% chance that there'll be weather scrub on launch day, and a 30% chance that there'll be a weather scrub on the back up day.

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