I'm impressed. This takes me back to the first days of NASA, when they were still a space agency. Wonderful achievement.
Mr Musk drives me to distraction at times, but his big talk is backed by big ideas and big results.
Elon Musk's promised revolution in affordable orbital delivery has begun: today his upstart SpaceX successfully launched a refurbished rocket from Earth, carrying a commercial satellite into orbit, and then landed the rocket's first stage on a sea barge. For any miserabilists hoping for drama, failure, and explosions, no such …
Fully agree. It still amazes me that a rocket can land after doing a full launch. More amazingly, they do it on a moving barge at sea. And then they do it with one that's already done it before!
Once Bezos gets fully up to speed, I think we'll see what real competition looks like. It's a shame ULA are going for a sort of half-hearted "we can do it too" approach, but max Kudos to Musk and SpaceX for their successes.
I wish we had someone like Musk or Bezos backing Reaction Engines.
The problem is that the fastest way to make a small fortune in aerospace is starting with a big one.
The amount of turnover required in order to make a small profit is staggering, and billionaires got to be billionaires by watching their money. What is needed as a billionaire with enough drive to overlook the abovementioned problem, preferring to enjoy the ride for what it is worth.
Aerospace is an industry full of people with too much love for their wonderful art.
Virgin galactiic are still around,
The old bearded goat is a Virgin Islands citizen. He is NOT a UK resident any more. That is not really ours. More like the citizen of the Universe May loves to hate and throw Hitler and Stalin quotes at.
The only ours left in the UK (for a given value of ours) are Russian mobsters with dual citizenship. They are happy to pay an arbitrary size check for a dick with legs in football boots, donation to the Tory party keep us at loggerheads with their "other" Fatherland or a new super-yacht.
Something to advance science and engineering for the common good?
Not so much - you will have to wait for a few generations until their fortunes are controlled by the robber barons' grandchildren.
"But it seems our billionaires are boring old farts who prefer to play it safe by buying properties."
To give him his dues, and it pains me to say this, Richard Branson is investing in technology projects. Sadly it seems that his vision is a little restricted though. Musk and Bezos are clearly enthusiastic and have been steeped in The Culture as well as culture. Those two want to make our future like the ones we saw in old re-runs on Saturday morning Kids TV. The world of "Lost in Space", "TinTin", RKO serials and "Flash Gordon" where rockets were infinitely reusable.
Branson's ambitions are more modest but have the potential to pay off in slightly unexpected ways. So there's Virgin Galactic which isn't much more than a way of separating millionaires from their cash in return for an experience which used to be possible from Thunder City - an edge of atmosphere trip. White Knight 2 and Spaceship 2 have other potential uses for lifting loads for sub-orbital missions at low cost and given the lift capability of WK2 it could be used to lift a two-stage payload that could be fired into orbit.
Branson's other project is his investment in Boom, which is planning a small (45 seat) SST. I hope that comes off also.
The shame is that these are US projects and an investment in Reaction Engines would be an investment in UK engineering.
Don't forget the other billionaire, Paul Allen, who is building a humungous aircraft to haul a rocket to altitude and then dropping it (hopefully after lighting the blue touch paper). More stuff about his monstrous machine here (don't forget to hum the 'Thunderbirds' tune):
I'll see competition when big aero starts putting fly-back airbreathers into the first-stage phase of launch. This land-on-tail stuff is thrilling Buck-Rogers era, but it's literally a waste of oxygen. Light and medium launch weight systems should be taking off and returning to airport runways, and getting reflown within the hour.
Wonderful, wonderful wonderful stuff. Takes me right back to the excitement of the Apollo era of my youth. Astronauts and cosmonauts simply trump ALL other celebrities for sheer cool!
Big thumbs up to all rocket scientists, engineers and all other staff at Space-X for making this happen. I will certainly raise a glass (or two, it's Friday after all) this evening
I'll see competition when big aero starts putting fly-back airbreathers into the first-stage phase of launch.
Prelude to Space - Arthur C. Clarke
To those people that say you can't use them on other planets (Mars) I don't think anyone was saying that you had to. The thing is that such a fly-back craft would be the best way of getting material and manpower up into space to build the craft that would go to the other planets.
This land-on-tail stuff is thrilling Buck-Rogers era, but it's literally a waste of oxygen.
Of all the things you could waste in rocketry, oxygen is probably one of the better picks. Oxygen is wonderful: it's dense, it's very cheap, the tanks are light, and you throw most of it out the tailpipe so it isn't part of the dead mass carried into orbit. On the other hand, replacing the rocket engines (with 100:1 to 200:1 thrust-to-weight ratios) with an airbreathing engine that might optimistically have a 10:1 thrust-to-weight ratio means you're hauling more deadweight into orbit. You need a more aerodynamic aeroshell and heat shield, which means it has a worse surface-to-volume ratio than a simple oxygen tank and thus more weight. You need more elaborate aerodynamic controls and landing gear for the aircraft-style performance.
Worse, the stuff you're keeping with these oxygen-saving airbreathing engines is probably hydrogen. Hydrogen's a headache: it has very low density, so its tankage is heavy compared to oxygen, and it's a pain to store, insulate, and handle. Everything associated with hydrogen is heavier than denser fluids: heat shields have to be larger, engines have lower thrust-to-weight ratios, the tanks are bigger and thus heavier, etc.
A glimpse of the value of dense fluids is seen in this comparison of hydrogen-oxygen and kerosene-oxygen SSTOs (end of the email chain has plenty of detailed numbers and engineering discussion).
So, like I said, oxygen is probably one of the best things you can waste in rocketry.
Apart from the issue that the airbreathers are going to have trouble in less than 30 seconds, you could do worse than strapping turbofans to the side and popping 'em off at 20,000 feet, or sitting the entire platform on a catapault to get more "kick" in the initial launch.
(NB: These add complexity and make things more likely to fail. Rockets and launches have been shown to work best when the stack is as simple as possible. Vibration from the _sound_ alone is enough to break a lot of stuff - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MErKkBWRY9E)
Fly-back airbreathers? You clearly missed the press release from ULA! They're already on this.
They plan to have the first stage re-enter the atmosphere using a heat shield. Special high-altitude helicopters will carry a wing with integral motors and fuel to 80,000 feet and rendezvous with an F-35 that is waiting on-station. As the spent rocket stage approaches, the helicopter will drop the wing while the F-35 deploys Chuck Norris from the weapons bay. He will then catch the wing, maneuver it to meet the falling rocket, and attach it with his bare hands. Then Chuck will start the motors and fly the first stage down to a landing in the jungle where he will destroy a terrorist training camp while waiting for the pickup helicopter to arrive.
What could go wrong?
To be living in a world where YouTube accompanies my nightly cocoa with a live HD feed of a rocket performing a Thunderbirds mission that's on the cusp of being boringly routine, then the same YouTube suggests one of the apparently limitless "flat Earth" videos (rockets can't work in space because no air to push against, would collide with celestial dome, contradicted by the Old Testament, etc, etc)
Perhaps the Law of Conservation of Stupidity will soon mathematically establish that every time someone does something wonderful, clever, beautiful then a counter-balancing amount of cretinous mendacity is unleashed?
"Perhaps the Law of Conservation of Stupidity will soon mathematically establish that every time someone does something wonderful, clever, beautiful then a counter-balancing amount of cretinous mendacity is unleashed?"
To true I am afraid.
Hopefully all the cretinous mendacity released by the current US administration will be counterbalanced soon by something breathtakingly clever and beautiful.
One can but hope
There have been a couple of landing on the barge videos. The problem has been keeping the live uplink aimed at the right satellite as the rocket comes in (rockets are LOUD - enough to actually shake the snot out of stuff).
The best solution would probably be a floating fibreoptic cable to another RO-boat a few hundred yards away carrying the uplink. You'd get the advantage of a wider angle landing view too.
"I am firmly of the opinion that eventually science will prove human stupidity is the only infinite resource in the universe."
Science has already proved it. We're in an age now where we could feed every single person on the planet, give power and electricity to all, and allow people to view all of the content and knowledge the world has to offer.
But greed, paranoia, and racism gets in the way and ruins the whole thing for everyone. Then some bright spark decides he doesn't like someone else, decides to send them a missle with a nuclear bomb at the top of it and destroys the world at the click of a finger.
"YouTube suggests one of the apparently limitless "flat Earth" videos"
You'd think having a browsing history filled with aerospace and science stuff, that maybe I'd not be interested in some idiot that still thinks the moon landings were a hoax*.
Still, I guess you can't accuse them of keeping people in their own little media bubble.
* My brother's girlfriend is one such idiot
"Perhaps the Law of Conservation of Stupidity will soon mathematically establish that every time someone does something wonderful, clever, beautiful then a counter-balancing amount of cretinous mendacity is unleashed?"
The sight of videos in the same feed that have been created by greedy, mendacious snake-oil salesmen to sell tat to people who are too uneducated to know the difference between science and magic is bad enough. But the thing that causes me to rend my garments and daub my faces with ashes is the response of the moonhowler commentards who can barely wait to jump in and post a message that all of this rocketry is "fake news". Why the actual do they do it?
Musk has said in interviews how close the whole Tesla/Space-X ensemble was close to imploding due to things not going well at the start and running out of money.
It takes one heck of a driven/determined person to hold on by their fingertips and keep going in those kinds of dire straits.
"Many of the worlds most successful entrepreneurs have been borderline psychopaths"
True but that doesn't mean they are bad to work for. Look at Hank Scorpio. Yeah he may have been an international criminal mastermind, but he came across as a really nice guy. And yes, it was real folks, it was real.
Between his various projects Musk appears to be genuinely trying to save the world single-handed (or at least ensure some of the human race survives it's end if it all goes wrong). How much more of a good guy do you want?
(Either that or he's not joking about the white cat, and super-villain volcano lair)
"All, I suspect, we currently see of Musk is what a well-oiled PR machine sees"
you have never actually seen or heard Elon Musk then.... Elon is about as non-PR as it gets. He unashamedly a geek, who's bad at public speaking and wears his heart on his sleeve. He's speaks his mind without filters and is actually a dreamer who decided to try and do some good with his life/money.
I bet you can only think of a handful of people like that. The world of people is full of people like Zuckerberg who say they are trying to change the world but are really just making money. SpaceX are privately held to allow them to do things that are BAD for business so they can follow Elon's dream.
@John Smith 19
Actually the obvious one is Hugo Drax in Moonraker.
No cat, but a nice line in collarless jackets IIRC.
Hugo Drax. Elon Musk
First and last names have 4 letters each,
first name 2 vowels, last name 1
Both made money elsewhere before using it to develop missiles/rockets for the government
Will he follow the plot of the Moonraker novel or the film adaptation?
In the film, Drax's shuttles dock with a space station
Musk's Dragon craft docked with ISS
What's the progress on
Bond's Musk's submersible Lotus Esprit? - Time to get worried is when that's operational
(Paris - where there's a Bond villain, there's a Bond Girl)
The film of course.
Drax in the film is (like Musk) concerned about a catastrophe wiping out human civilization on Earth.
Besides I strongly doubt that Musk can pull off a Liverpudlian ascent if his life depended upon it.
What I am waiting for is Bill Hader of Saturday Night Live to pop on a Nehru jacket and announce what all those rockets are really for.
I can't shake the feeling he's been tweaking his Julian Assange, waiting for the right script.
I don't think that Drax in the book has a Liverpudlian accent...
And plenty of Nazis headed to S Africa. Coincidence?*
Gala Brand (see icon) is a great Bond girl name, and the only one in the books who has a genuine twist to her character/actions.
* yes of course it's f##king coincidence you fool.
From memory Drax has stolen the identity of a British soldier from Liverpool who lost his memory (and his face) in an explosion.
So supposedly all he knows about himself is from his Army records. As part of his cover he visits the area to try and see if he "remembers" anything.
He doesn't remember the locals because of course he's never actually met them before and the plastic surgery explains why they don't remember him. No scouse accent? "Explosion damaged my vocal chords. I had to learn to speak all over again."
Quite neat, eh?
I'd forgotten about the "goes up there every so often to try and dig up his roots" - thanks! His voice I think remains "harsh" (or similar adjective) as a result of the explosion.
I do think Fleming's influence on literature is underappreciated...
"Drax in the film is (like Musk) concerned about a catastrophe wiping out human civilization on Earth."
Um, in the movie Drax is about to cause * a catastrophe, namely wiping out all human life on Earth using nerve gas. Because he seems to have a god complex.
IIRC, in the book Drax wants to destroy London with a nuclear armed rocket, but is crushed to death under some giant bog rolls or something.
So I guess we'll have to wait and see where this is all going.
* Okay, technically planning something could sorta qualify as "being concerned about something", I'll give you that.
What do you expect? He is a Bond villain...
And like all Bond villains (Blowfelt's back story comes to mind) he knows that if you want a catastrophe done right you've got to do it yourself.
Which does make you wonder if perhaps Musk has a little backup plan to ensure that when the time comes to start selling tickets to Mars people will be literally killing each other to get tickets.
Just a thought.
Musk's employees are unquestionably one of the most satisfied group of people around, let alone workers. His approval rating on glass door is through the ceiling.
It requires the right "type" of worker as well though.
If you want a 9-to-5, you're not going to last long. If you're nearly as driven as Musk and start early/get thrown out by security in the evenings, put your job above your family or social life, then fantastic.
There's quite a few people have left and loved their time there, but were only able to do a few years before having to move on before they burned out.
By the sounds of it, he treats his staff well, but drives them really, really hard. Not unlike Gates in the early days of Microsoft who reputedly drove past his competitor's offices at weekends to see whose had cars in the parking lot. Applicants from companies that were closed up didn't get a look in - he only wanted grafters who he could use and abuse any time, any day of the week.
Well, if we're playing with the Moonraker idea, there's also the Ben Elton novel (and TV series) S.T.A.R.K.
A proprietor of an international satellite broadcasting network uses the supposed launches of broadcast satellites as cover for the construction of a luxury orbital habitat. He then sells tickets to the habitat to billionaires wishing to escape the impending ecological disaster on Earth. STar ARK.
"AFAICT, Elon Musk is not a nice guy to work for"
Probably true. He seems obsessive, and keen to use his smarts to make things happen. Well, become a billionaire, then go make things happen. See other comments regarding the in at dawn, out at midnight work ethic.
I'd rather more of the 0.1% with ~45% of the wealth did things like this, rather than vanity projects.
A competent arsehole owner/boss who will fight tooth and nail for their company, when you share in their vision, can be great to work for. Exhausting, frustrating, but getting shit done well with management onboard is a wonderful thing. Musk doesn't even steal nearly as much credit as he could.
He's a terrible businessman anyway. Rocketry is all about bilking the government through a cartel, not launching things into orbit at a low cost :)
The problem with landing on Mars is that the atmosphere is thin enough that parachutes don't work very well, but still thick enough to heat things up to vapourisation point; Curiosity made it but as you point out, it required "heatshields and parachutes and rockets and skycranes". And cotton wool. Although I'm not sure about the skycranes bit.
Many other landers of course did not make it (*cough)Beagle(*cough).
A working land-by-reverse-rocket solves the problems of the Martian atmosphere nicely: its thinness is irrelevant to rocket braking, and helps with not as much heating.
Of course, if Elon does get us humans there, it will be interesting to see how long it is before the colonist become dark, with golden eyes.
It appears from Mars reconnaissance photos that Beagle 2 actually did land pretty much as planned, but that it then failed to open fully to expose the solar cells and allow the science-bits to exit the landing module.
and the skycrane for Curiosity was the rocket propelled platform that slowed the descent, then winched curiosity down close to the surface before releasing then hurling itself several hundred yards away to avoid contaminating the area around Curiosity with nasty toxic rocket fuel.
You may have known all that already and I missed the tone of your post, but I'll finish by stating how utterly stunned and impressed I am by the latest reuse and landing from SpaceX - long may it continue.
"A working land-by-reverse-rocket solves the problems of the Martian atmosphere nicely: its thinness is irrelevant to rocket braking, and helps with not as much heating."
You're right, but Falcon requires it's guidance/steering fins, which likely won't be much, if any, use landing on Mars in it's near vacuum atmosphere. SpaceX failed with the first fin design and had to re-design to get something which worked in Earth's think atmosphere. Landing a re-launchable rocket on Mars may require more thrusters and more fuel and therefore more mass, but into a 1/3rd G gravity well. No doubt they've already thought of this. Here's hoping the first mission is a camera ship so we can watch the rest of the missions landings "live" :-)
ULA's plan is to recover only the engines, so the other bit to go wrong is the explosives to separate the engines from the fuel tank. ULA are a bunch of rocket scientists so they have the technical skills for mid-air retrieval. They would need an astronomical budget. As they have a proven record of getting billions from the US government, I would not scribble 'impossible' on their plan. I would go with 'ambitious with a clear smell of desperate', 'expensive' and 'will get delayed at least five years'.
Probably not that much since we have been doing in flight refuelling for fifty ears and snagging a parachute would be at a much, much lower velocity. Catching a parachute with a helicopter is probably the least of their issues.
"Wrap it up in a heat shield" and re-entry are a tad more worrying to me.
In-flight refuelling involves gently inserting your probe into a tube that's being helpfully dangled exactly where you want it by the other aircrew.
It's not really any harder for the pilots than formation flying, and the technical challenges of pumping the fuel and cutting it off without fireballs can be tested without risking an aircrew - eg in a wind tunnel.
Mid-air retrieval involves grabbing a falling parachute that your aircraft is actively blowing away, without collapsing it before you have a good hold, then pulling away without hitting the ground or ripping bits off the aircraft or payload.
With a payload that's very near the absolute maximum that the airframe can carry.
You can't test very much of this without risking an aircrew.
The financial cost is minimal, possibly even cheaper than a droneship, but the risk to the aircrew is insane.
'Probably not that much since we have been doing in flight refuelling for fifty ears and snagging a parachute would be at a much, much lower velocity. Catching a parachute with a helicopter is probably the least of their issues.'
I've seen video of in flight parachute recoveries before, just never with a helicopter which strikes me as the worst option for doing it. You've got downwash trying to collapse the chute just as you're trying to catch it, the relative velocities are much closer than with an aircraft which makes interception trickier, and you've got all the rigging to wrap around the blades if you get to the intercept point slightly early.
Plus the points Richard 12 just made above.
The US used to do it almost routinely for CORONA spy satellite film capsules. Although they weighed a tiny fraction of what Vulcan will be returning to Earth.
Arianespace and Roscosmos have both looked at fitting wings to spent stages and have them swoop down to a runway landing. But I'd imagine the weight of undercarriage, hydraulics and wings would eat into the payload, not to mention the strengthening that would be required to stop it bending like a piece of wet spaghetti on touchdown.
I was about to say. I think you might have more success with a rear-opening cargo plane than with a helicopter. Deploy a catch wire out the back as you fly past, snag it and reel it in. If you miss, circle around for another go (start from high enough and you should get several attempts).
The cargo plane approach is the only one that's been successfully tried, as far as I know.
The success rate is a national secret because it was done for spy sat film canisters, so who knows how many payloads plunged - or even aircrews died.
So I guess maximum payload mass of maybe 50kg?
And now they want to do it for a hundred times larger payloads...
Even if they end up re-using the first stage in its entirety, they're still throwing away the second stage every single time.
So they're keeping Trigger's broom's handle, maybe giving it a new link of paint and putting new bristles on the business end every time.
This partial re-use may eventually (at least a few decades into the future) come back to bite SpaceX. If someone does ever build something like Skylon, that would significantly change how satellites are designed (smaller submodules) and assembled (in space, not on the ground) to end up being any size the operator wants (bigger is definitely better). And Skylon would be able to do the whole lot very quickly and keep doing it. That's a concept that really allows huge things to be orbited, and requires. Anyone with a glorified firework wouldn't be able to compete.
Anyway, SpaceX have done pretty well to get this far, and now need to focus on launch frequency and reliability. They're still behind the curve on both fronts. Good luck to them. With Ariane 6 coming along they'll need it.
@AC - Skylon's something I'm really hoping gets built this time, and teh chances aren;t looking too bad at teh moment with Reaction Engiones actually getting some backing and interest at the moment. But it'll be best at high-frequency low tonnage to LEO scenarios compared to the 'glorified fireworks' that can carry much heavier payloads.
Skylon is a part of what we need for an integrated space transport system (and it'd certainly make getting into orbit a damned sight comfier due to lower G-forces involved such that a large percentage of the population could potentially travel into space, compared with current techniology), but we need the 'glorified fireworks' too, to do the heavy lifting and the interplanetary stuff.
We also need an orbit-to-orbit shuttle (ie: always in space, never lands),/space tug too. It'll come.
Be patient - their next rocket (ITS) will be completely reusable. The 1st stage booster will land as with the Falcon 9 but the 2nd stage is designed to return from orbit and land too.
I think it's more likely that ITS (and cargo delivering derivatives) are operational before we get a working SABRE engine
Maybe, Mr AC they will have got the bugs out of full reusability by then, like they said they had when they released that nice video in 2011.
Or maybe not.
Unfortunately ITS is built to put 100 passengers into LEO. It's not just a bit oversized for pretty much every sat ellite planned, it's grossly over sized. So no it won't be any cheaper in absolute terms but SX will no doubt claim it's less than $1000/lb to LEO. Which will be true provided it's fully loaded.
The combination of making it cheaper at the size of payload people want to buy, while swallowing the development bill, is what makes building a fully reusable launch system really hard.
"I think it's more likely that ITS (and cargo delivering derivatives) are operational before we get a working SABRE engine"
Musk said 6 years in 2014 and he thought that was optimistic.
So IRL more like about 8-10 if FH is anything to go by (which remember is only about 2x bigger than an F9 in payload).
REL were very open about what this would cost. You want a vehicle the size of an A380 that can deliver launch on demand and not rely on a single US company to do it for you? Guess what, it costs like an A380.
Even if they end up re-using the first stage in its entirety, they're still throwing away the second stage every single time.
Yes, and there's a number of economic and engineering reasons for that. First, the first stage is the more expensive part. The dominating cost in a rocket stage, at least for simple ones like the Falcon 9**, is the engines. The first stage has 9 main engines; the second stage has one. If you want to start saving money on spaceflight but have a restricted budget, you target the first stage.
Second, there's a matter of weight sensitivity. The rocket equation makes first stages relatively insensitive to weight changes. Roughly speaking, adding a pound to a first stage only takes a third of a pound out of payload, or less. For a two stage vehicle, every pounded added to the second stage directly removes one pound from payload. Worse, recovering the second stage is more challenging (i.e., requires proportionally heavier recovery systems) than the first stage because you're taking it down from orbital velocities.
So, if you want to start saving money on a multi-stage rocket that a) isn't giant for its payload, and b) has a useful payload, then you target the first stage for recovery and get to the second stage when you can.
The method of targeting the first stage for recovery seems to be working well for Musk. He was undercutting the price of competitors to begin with and now the most expensive part of the rocket is being amortized across multiple payloads. It'd be nice to recover the second stage, but it's not critical for business success in the current orbital launching industry.
(**The matter's more complicated in spacecraft like the shuttle, which has a lot invested in the entire body of the orbiter rather than just the engines.)
In the press conference afterward Musk on YouTube said they kept the main structure and engines but replaced anything that could be removed and looked a bit iffy.
They will no doubt now remove all those parts to see what a first flight has done to the parts they replaced.
Around about the 18-20min mark Musk says they expect the first stages to have a life of 10 launches with no refurb and a 100+ with moderate maintenance. So at 10 launches the TPS could have definitely burned through somewhere and the TEA tank (used for engine ignition) need refilling (the SR71 used a similar igntion system and the small tank was good for about 5 starts IIRC).
They've also landed (and possibly recovered?) the school bus sized multimillion dollar payload fairing as well.
Did they? I didn't even hear about that bit.
Sounds pretty cool (and eminently achievable), but I've got to wonder how come the fairings could cost multi million dollars? I guess everything in rocketry is going to be expensive by definition, but I would always have assumed that the fairings would be at the bottom of the list in terms of costs.
Nevertheless, whatever their value, if they can be returned and re-used for less than the cost of making new ones, then it's a win. And well done SpaceX for trying it.
When I started school we used a slate and chalk in the classroom. I was 12 when Apollo 11 was launched (it launched on my youngest brother's birthday and returned on the second youngest's one) and the technological advances I have lived through have been astounding. While the IT advances I have witnessed have been enormous, I believe that SpaceX launching, recovering and then reusing the same first Stage again has had the most or will have the most far reaching impact of all that I have lived through.
I don't think I will ever witness another event like this until a *"Warp Drive" becomes a reality.
*or a similar propulsion system that makes interplanetry travel like a bus trip between cities today.
Yes indeed. And now I dial into a call with my US colleagues every day! How cool is that? And I can remember the grainy black and white images beamed live from the US on Tomorrow's World.
So there you have it -- Tomorrow's World, today!
 And if you are not impressed when I in my car can talk to some dude in the US in their car, then you have issues.
10 years ago I could dial into a call with my US colleagues.
Now the first 30mins of each meeting is spent trying to remember the passwd for the conference room skype-for-business account, then nobody can remember who set it up and what email address they used for the password reset. then we have 5mins of emailing each other regular skype account names and sending new connection requests to each other.
Then we have a couple of minutes of wondering why we can't hear much and finding out that the conference table speaker/mic has been ignored in favour of the one on the webcam in the corner
Sometimes I wonder if video conferencing will be replaced by morse code or smoke signals
"Now the first 30mins of each meeting is spent trying to remember the passwd for the conference room skype-for-business account, then nobody can remember who set it up and what email address they used for the password reset. then we have 5mins of emailing each other regular skype account names and sending new connection requests to each other."
At the risk of sounding like a petty killjoy 1) or something - these problems have nothing to do with the technology you are using and everything to do with the way you internally organise how to use it. If you organise this sort of thing 2) PHB-style 3), expect PHB-style "results".
1) Around here we have the wonderfull term Korinthenknacker for that. Which can be suitably modified for extreme cases by omitting the third "n".
2) Or any other thing that needs a bit of organising in order to work.
3) Giving further proof that true, unpredictable randomness is actually possible (but never from a machine).
(Mine's the one with all the mind maps and Gantt charts in the pocket.)
*just* how I feel about this - I mean, dammit, I've been waiting for this sort of thing since I was what, 6 or 7 and reading Clarke, Niven, et al. <ref Science Fiction Fantasy monthly>
Shuttle was a *wow* thing at the time, but it had too many issues, but was so 'rocket science' it was just amazing.
Elon is steering a company that is (in a very real sense) blowing the doors off the idea of rocket science, making it look more like train travel.
And now, reuse.
I'm not sure if he's making my childhood dreams come true or just ruining them by making it look easy.
Here's to 'rocket science', and rocket's being "Green" (or at least recyclable).
Rocket engineering, like many things, always looks easy from the outside when it's working.
Rockets are particularly fun because for the most part they either work, don't work or explode.
Rest assured that the actual rocket engineers are working their socks off to make it not explode.
One of my relatives was a technical advisor to a member of the House Science and Tech subcommittee from the late 70's to the mid 80's. Trust me I *know* the rocket science ain't easy (I have some memorabilia that my relative's boss decided he didn't want, and am an avid space nut) . SpaceX is making it LOOK easy by quite literally running through about 1/10th the iterations than the ... old school rocketeers did. Part of this is lessons learned from that time frame, part of it is far better simulation tech, part of it is that he's approaching it from the perspective of *not* being the one slugging it to the tax payer and, I think, mostly because he is a bit of a crazy nut. That is how he got to where he is now.
This "easy" of which you speak has taken 15 years and the losses of 5 payloads to get to.
Sputnik 1 launched in 1956. It has taken 61 years to turn what was basically a design for non reusable WMD into a partly reusable design. Incidentally the fairing (which was recovered for the first time ever yesterday) costs about $6m a pop and weighs several tonnes as well. That's important if you want to lower launch costs radically IE 90%, not 30%.
I don't think a reusable TSTO was anybodies childhood dream.It was wings or the squat plug nozzle designs of Philip Bono from "Frontiers of Space."
15 years I'll agree -- however - in actual manufacture and firing -- compare even against Arianespace, Spacex has lost far less hardware *overall*, but then, they've also not done "testing" in the same manner.
5 Payloads -- yes, losses all. Certainly not unique to SpaceX. I've watched several launches that were outright losses. Khazhakstan, Florida, Guyana, all have seen hardware lost. Some have even lost people.
""This mission is the fundamental key demonstration that our technology is capable for reflight," said SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell. "No one has ever done this before." "
Didn't someone called NASA have something called a Shuttle back in 1981 that was mostly reusable?
"Didn't someone called NASA have something called a Shuttle back in 1981 that was mostly reusable?"
No. NASA had a thing called a shuttle which launched as part of a vehicle assembly most of which got thrown away at launch. The bit that returned to Earth was a small part of the total.
"Not to put too fine a point on it (I'm not trying to say the Shuttle was the best thing ever), but you _are_ aware the SRBs were reusable as well, right?"
I do think the Shuttle was brilliant and it's still up there as the best thing ever until something else comes along. However its reusability was always over hyped. Of the 2,030 tonnes launch mass just under 300 tonnes was reused each mission being about 100 tonnes orbiter and 100 tonnes for each SRB. The SRBs are really questionable on reuse since they were of course the component that caused the Challenger disaster and that's something that might not have happened had the design been throw away. No need to design the SRB as a series of demountable ring sections.
> The SRBs are really questionable on reuse since they were of course the component that caused the Challenger disaster and that's something that might not have happened had the design been throw away. No need to design the SRB as a series of demountable ring sections.
The SRBs were assembled from sections because of the problems transporting them from the factory, not because they were reusable.
"The SRBs were assembled from sections because of the problems transporting them from the factory, not because they were reusable."
The reason for that problem was pork-barreling. They could just as easily have been built as single units much closer to site. But I bet the senators lobbying to build them so far away didn't get any share of the blame when it all went wrong.
Edit, just spotted SkippyBings posts. That'll teach me to not get distracted half-way through composing my reply :-)
~680 tonnes of hydrogen/oxygen in the main tank
~450 tonnes of solid rocket fuel per SRB
So that's ~1130 tonnes that can't be recycled as it has burnt!
That means that 900 tonnes aren't burnt - so its about a 1/3 that got reused. I seem to remember the bit that didn't was the aux fuel tank...
(why do NASA quote everything in lbs so I have to convert to tonnes?!)
I do agree that the design of the SRBs was suspect - as was shown when one failed. But like much of the early space stuff, it was very much seat of the pants design!
'I do agree that the design of the SRBs was suspect - as was shown when one failed. But like much of the early space stuff, it was very much seat of the pants design!'
It really shouldn't have been, they could have bought a single piece SRB from Rocketdyne* made in one of the Gulf of Mexico bordering states and floated around to the Cape. However for political pork barrel reasons they had to go with Morton Thiokol who being based in Utah found it slightly harder to transport the complete rocket as one unit. Consequently they came up with the 'o' ring seal the working of which during launch wasn't even fully understood by its designer.
*I think it was them.
"(why do NASA quote everything in lbs so I have to convert to tonnes?!)"
It's a fascination with big numbers. Watch any US documentary, especially engineering ones, and they almost never uses tons, long or short, in particular when emphasising how big something is. They use 16oz drinks instead of pints FFS.
Lotaresco opined "...the Shuttle was brilliant..."
1) Cost per launch was something like $1.2B towards the end, which is frighteningly expensive. Reusability in this example proved to be much more expensive, which is silly.
2) The failure rate was much higher than expected. In hindsight, I don't think that it would even qualify as 'man rated'. A very harsh criticism, but arguably true.
3) Multiple fundamental design issues: No practical launch escape system. Turn around time worse than expected. Near-zero possibility of growth, the way vehicles often evolve. A distinct lack of simplicity. Designed for LEO only.
Yes, the Shuttle accomplished a great deal. But I wonder where we might be now, if we had not been diverted away from better, faster, cheaper rockets for so many decades.
We never went back to the Moon, at least in some small part, because of the Shuttle.
Oh well, we're back on track now.
oh yeah, whoopee. He has done what others have done before this time with more fanbois and tweets. There's nothing new here. Masten Space Systems, Armadillo Aerospace, NASA, Blue Origin and several other companies have all done it before (other than landing on a barge). Only time will tell if it lowers the cost of launching satellites. The Space Shuttle was supposed to bring the cost of operating in space down to very accessible levels and that didn't work out so well when it needed a standing army to turn them around and a couple of massive fails that killed the crew.
We get in our cars or onto another form of transportation most days that is being used for decades before being thrown away. At one point in the past some MBA decided that it was cheaper to throw rockets away after each launch rather than recover them and use them again. I'll bet that it was never revisited as technology improved since it was just a given across the industry. That's how it was done because ______________. Elon didn't suddenly get the idea on his own to look into reusing the first stage. He was taken by technology developed by teams that worked on winning the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge in 2007-2009 and the DCX program. He even said as much.
This is one of those things that looks all exciting and new from the outside and not if you have been in the industry and seen it all before. Frankly, I'd dig having a 1910 Baker Electric car with modern electronics and battery upgrade. Not nearly as aerodynamic as a Tesla Model S and nowhere near as fast, but much cooler in a retro sort of way.
'Masten Space Systems, Armadillo Aerospace, NASA, Blue Origin and several other companies have all done it before (other than landing on a barge).'
Remind me how many satellites Masten, Armadillo and Blue Origin have launched on the top of a rocket that's going into space for the second time.
Or indeed the first time.
Masten, Armadillo (now Exos) and Blue Origin have put exactly nothing in orbit so far. Of them, only Blue Origin even hope to do so within the next few years.
NASA and SpaceX are currently the only entities to have ever re-used significant parts of an orbital space launch system.
The leap from suborbital to orbital is very significant.
My my @MachDiamond, aren't we pissy! Blue Origin did *tests*. They haven't actually delivered *real* hardware for a *real* client into a *real* orbit on reusable hardware before.
And yes, the Shuttle was *supposed* to be reusable and yes, because of the valuable freight (you know, those things called 'astronauts'), NASA was extremely risk averse and had much of everything replaced. At least it *was* all replaceable, not 'fly it once, then scrap it'.
But doing this with satellites at a much lower cost is a nice goal to achieve.
...a Falcon 9 have?
In theory it's nine, mounted at the bottom of the 1st stage.
BUT: In the article there's a pic of the 1st stage "burn" where the "grid fins" are extended and there's fire coming out of the end of the rocket.
The grid fins are at the TOP of the first stage. So, is there a small engine at the top of the first stage, that then slows down the rocket, so it can then do a "flip" and allow the bottom of the rocket to then face downwards and eventually allow the 9 engines "relight" and do the "landing burn"?
So, is there a 10th engine at the top of the 1st stage?
http://www.spacex.com/falcon9 for more pics.
"You're seeing the flame from the main engines, looking down the length of the stage."
in which case, one should be the unextended "legs" on the side of the 1st stage and NOT the grid fins....
But as mentioned the grid fins are at the top of the first stage, so the pic implies the 1st stage is heading back to earth "upside down".
"...blaming video link problems..."
Yep, high gain satellite dishes on a barge is apparently fine, right up until you land a rocket on the barge. That's been very well established by now.
So, solutions: Floaty fiberoptic cables (cheap, one-time use strands, a half-dozen in parallel) from the barge to the mothership a few miles away would be one fix. Or, a short distance comms link (with commensurate low gain antennas immune to bouncing) from the bouncing barge to the mothership. Thence onward and upward with the delicate satellite link back to SpaceX HQ. Plenty of obviously viable options. An easy Comms problem to solve. Very easy.
PS1: Yeah, SpaceX is cool, etc. Yep, got it. This is another parallel thought on reliable comms for those with room for two thoughts at once.
PS2: Yes, these *are* viable solutions. Clearly. And there are others. The satellite dishes do not have to be on the barges.
The downvoters will flail away in spite of the facts. Go ahead...
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