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Author Topic: Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.  (Read 53576 times)

Offline Matej

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Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.
« on: May 24, 2009, 03:45:26 am »
It is interesting to know, that it will take probably only months and we will have a new COMMERCIAL spaceship. California based company Space-X (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation) received under NASA COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) multimillion contract to develop a space transfer reentry capsule in manned and cargo variants to support the ISS. This are all known facts, but I want to note, that the first two flights are scheduled for this year! If it be reality, than I must say, that compared to the other (more sophisticated) spaceships, developed by the space agencies worldwide that need much more time and ten to hundred times bigger development costs, it will be a great success.

The launcher is also a new Falcon 9 space rocket with four planned flights this year (two of them with the Dragon). In 2008 except the manned Dragon and unmanned cargo Dragon, there was also announced the commercial space laboratory DragonLab for various experiments in microgravity or for a launching of a small satellites. Two test flights are scheduled to 2010 and 2011. If everything goes well, than the plan is to launch up to two DragonLab spaceships per year.

http://www.spacex.com/dragon.php

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Offline Michel Van

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Re: Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2009, 04:38:36 am »
Quote
In 2008 except the manned Dragon and unmanned cargo Dragon...

we are now almost June 2009 and Falcon 9 or Dragon not be launch.

SpaceX is a controversial company, 
cheered by Space flights fanatic, booh by space flights expert

fact is SpaceX launch 4 rockets witch only one was successfully
the tree failure had be simply to avoided,
like simple check and controll, error analysis of the rocket design in advance.
with other words they make mistake like in begin of space flight back in 1950's

since 2002 Falcon 1 payload data goes smaller and smaller, from 1500 kg to 570 kg in LEO
also the promess of Dragon
first as manned capsule, now in actual data (at SpaceX) a unmanned orbital lab.
with absolute minimum requirement, unable to dock on ISS

I love Strange Technology

Offline blackstar

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Re: Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2009, 04:16:30 pm »
also the promess of Dragon
first as manned capsule, now in actual data (at SpaceX) a unmanned orbital lab.
with absolute minimum requirement, unable to dock on ISS

This is somewhat misleading.  Dragon was unveiled as an unmanned orbital lab.  That is what they are trying to sell.  Their hope is that they can find buyers and then convert the design into a manned version.

Also, the ability to dock at ISS is tied to NASA requirements.  NASA has specific requirements for docking.  SpaceX can get around those requirements by building a vehicle that gets close to ISS and is then captured with the robotic arm.

If you judge SpaceX by the standards of other entrepreneurial space companies, they are doing very well.  If you judge them by the standards of traditional space companies, they have had problems.  I think that the jury is out on whether they can produce what they promise at the cost that they promise.  They seem to be learning that there are reasons why rockets and spacecraft are expensive.

Offline CFE

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Re: Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2009, 07:59:02 pm »
In some ways, SpaceX is going through the same growing pains that "Big Aerospace" went through during the 50's and early 60's as the first orbital rockets were developed.  I definitely think SpaceX has a tendency to over-promise, and they've fallen victim to the schedule slips that all complex aerospace programs fall into.  But with that said, they've generated a lot of excitement due to Elon Musk's bold proclamations of his company's goals.

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2010, 12:55:08 am »
The previous couple of posts make a number of good and valid points. This is a classic glass half-empty/half-full discussion.

There's no doubt that SpaceX has found it harder than they expected, as Elon has freely admitted. Things have taken much longer, costs are not as low and there's little apparent work yet on making their launch vehicles reusable (excepting the Merlin engine). 

On the other hand, they have successfully developed a satellite launcher from scratch (and I think for rather less than an equivalent cost-plus contract would have been). Their second, much more powerful, launcher is almost ready to go (and even if they have initial problems I'm sure they're capable of resolving them). Finally their rates for ISS re-supply are certainly competitive!

Ignoring the hype, for me the acid test is: what would we have thought when SpaceX was founded if we'd been told then what they would achieve by now? 

I'm not disappointed!

Offline blackstar

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Re: Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2010, 02:49:30 am »
The previous couple of posts make a number of good and valid points. This is a classic glass half-empty/half-full discussion.

CUT

Ignoring the hype, for me the acid test is: what would we have thought when SpaceX was founded if we'd been told then what they would achieve by now? 

The previous couple of posts were made almost a year ago.  It's worth asking what has substantially changed since then.  Nothing really.  SpaceX is still _almost_ ready to do something.  But they have not done it yet.

The real acid test is this: can they deliver on what they promise?  Because "what they have achieved by now" cannot be measured.  There have been other companies that have gotten to the point of _almost_ launching a rocket and then failed (look up the history of American Rocket Company, or Connestoga--both built rockets and then blew them up, and then went bankrupt).

Keep in mind also that SpaceX is not a publicly traded company, so we don't know what they have spent yet.  A lot of enthusiasts like to claim that they have spent little money and already put a couple of satellites in orbit.  But we don't know what they have actually spent.  From my rough calculation, they received $278 million from NASA, and they recently claimed to have spent twice that amount of their own money on the Falcon 9.  That equals $834 million.  It's not clear how much of that money went to the Falcon 1, but the comment seemed to imply that it was only money spent on Falcon 9.  It's entirely possible that they've spent a billion dollars so far, which is _much_ more than what their enthusiasts brag about.

Finally, I'd point out that the real test is not SpaceX's ability to launch _something._  The real test will be their ability to continue over a period of years.  Keep in mind that there are lots of space companies, and some rocket providers, that operated for several years and then failed.  An important question to ask is why we expect SpaceX to succeed when SeaLaunch failed?  (There is also the cautionary lesson of the Delta III.)

I'm not knocking SpaceX.  I actually toured their facility and saw their equipment and setup and listened to their explanation as to why they are different.  They've already gone quite far.  And I've talked to some people with long experience in rockets (buying them for their spacecraft, or supporting USAF/NASA rocket programs) who are impressed with them (although I am really dubious about their plans for Falcon 9 Heavy, with its 27 main engines).  But the enthusiasts act like a) SpaceX has already done something when they've only launched a couple of small rockets, and b) like SpaceX's success is assured, when there is no reason to believe that.  If they are flying successfully five years from now, then we can all say that they've achieved something impressive.

Offline RyanC

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Re: Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2010, 05:24:03 pm »
Falcon 9 keeps getting delayed -- and apparently the Launch Abort System (LAS) on Dragon will be high thrust hypergolic engines mounted on the side of the spacecraft that will draw fuel from the Draco RCS propellant tanks.

Can anyone see the reliability problems inherent in having your emergency LAS system interlinked and drawing propellant from your RCS system?

Plus; you carry around that parasitic mass for the whole mission -- rather than jettisoning the LAS once you no longer need it -- ala Apollo and then Orion.

Offline mz

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Re: Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.
« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2010, 05:34:15 pm »

The real acid test is this: can they deliver on what they promise?  Because "what they have achieved by now" cannot be measured.  There have been other companies that have gotten to the point of _almost_ launching a rocket and then failed (look up the history of American Rocket Company, or Connestoga--both built rockets and then blew them up, and then went bankrupt).

Well, they have flown to orbit successfully twice now with Falcon 1. Few companies have managed that.

Quote
Keep in mind also that SpaceX is not a publicly traded company, so we don't know what they have spent yet.  A lot of enthusiasts like to claim that they have spent little money and already put a couple of satellites in orbit.  But we don't know what they have actually spent.  From my rough calculation, they received $278 million from NASA, and they recently claimed to have spent twice that amount of their own money on the Falcon 9.  That equals $834 million.  It's not clear how much of that money went to the Falcon 1, but the comment seemed to imply that it was only money spent on Falcon 9.  It's entirely possible that they've spent a billion dollars so far, which is _much_ more than what their enthusiasts brag about.

Finally, I'd point out that the real test is not SpaceX's ability to launch _something._  The real test will be their ability to continue over a period of years.  Keep in mind that there are lots of space companies, and some rocket providers, that operated for several years and then failed.  An important question to ask is why we expect SpaceX to succeed when SeaLaunch failed?  (There is also the cautionary lesson of the Delta III.)

I'm not knocking SpaceX.  I actually toured their facility and saw their equipment and setup and listened to their explanation as to why they are different.  They've already gone quite far.  And I've talked to some people with long experience in rockets (buying them for their spacecraft, or supporting USAF/NASA rocket programs) who are impressed with them (although I am really dubious about their plans for Falcon 9 Heavy, with its 27 main engines).  But the enthusiasts act like a) SpaceX has already done something when they've only launched a couple of small rockets, and b) like SpaceX's success is assured, when there is no reason to believe that.  If they are flying successfully five years from now, then we can all say that they've achieved something impressive.

Yeah, there are some over-enthusiastic fans. The upcoming flight will only carry a pretty dummy-like Dragon, as far as I know. I don't know if one can really expect  *that different* results compared to previous aerospace companies if SpaceX's problem solving methods are mostly similar. Some competition is healthy, if the industry does not get overfragmented.

Offline blackstar

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Re: Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.
« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2010, 07:22:09 am »
Well, they have flown to orbit successfully twice now with Falcon 1. Few companies have managed that.

That's true.  But there have been other companies that have done it and gone bankrupt or quit.  Look at the Delta III or SeaLaunch.  My point is that there seems to be a group of enthusiasts who let their enthusiasm run wild and fail to recognize that many other companies have tried this and failed.  SpaceX is not guaranteed success.

Quote
I don't know if one can really expect  *that different* results compared to previous aerospace companies if SpaceX's problem solving methods are mostly similar. Some competition is healthy, if the industry does not get overfragmented.

Those are two valid issues.  The first is that there seems to be a belief among some enthusiastic space, er, enthusiasts, that SpaceX will be able to do things fundamentally differently from every other company out there.  But the laws of physics have not changed.  Now from what I understand, SpaceX intends to lower their costs in several ways:

-building most of the vehicle in-house, thereby eliminating the overhead and profit-taking that happens for all the components that they have to buy
-using a younger workforce (as I understand it, their engineering workforce is younger, but their technician workforce is a little older, which seems like a good approach--put the experienced hands to work actually building the hardware)
-streamlining operations and taking advantage of modern technology whenever possible
-reusing engines from the first stage

Those all save a bit.  But even cutting costs in half does not actually make a big dent in the launch business.  They can potentially bring the cost of a Falcon 9 launch down to around the cost of a Delta II 8-10 years ago, which will make a lot of people happy, but doesn't open up the solar system (after all, we weren't building colonies on Mars using inexpensive Delta II's either).

There's something else that is relevant, which is how many launches per year SpaceX needs in order to be viable.  I talked to a guy who used to be a senior aerospace executive and used to essentially run one of the big rocket building companies.  He said that if SpaceX's model assumes that they can sell X number of rockets per year and they are only able to sell X-1, the question is what does that do to their profitability?  Does it wipe out their profits?  At the moment, SpaceX claims that they need to sell four launches a year and they think they can do that.  But by when?  They're already a few years behind schedule. 

The second issue you raise is also an important one and it's hard to know what is going to happen.  At the moment there are too many rockets chasing too few payloads.  But because the fixed costs for the rockets are high, this oversupply has not resulted in lower launch costs.  (In other words, this is not a traditional market.)  SpaceX has assumed that if they build a cheaper rocket, more payloads will emerge.  But this "build it and they will come" approach to markets is usually a fallacy.


Offline quellish

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Re: Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2010, 11:12:53 am »
-reusing engines from the first stage

Days after their first successful launch I had a talk with a very senior person there about this. First stage reuse is a "nice to have", but it's a "must have" part of their planning. They factor in the cost of recovering a first stage, but don't bank on successfully recovering and refurbishing it. Their first launch lost the first stage, it sank and they could not locate the pinger on it. That didn't adversely affect their planning or budgeting.

So first stage reuse, for them, isn't a critical part of their business. They allocate resources for it but don't depend on it.

Offline blackstar

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Re: Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.
« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2010, 05:36:36 pm »
They've said publicly on several occasions that reusing the engines is not "vital" to their business plan and we'll have to take them for their word on it.  My point is that it is supposedly one of the ways that they are going to reduce costs.  Don't reuse the engines and their costs will be higher.

There's no reason to believe that the engines cannot be reused, at least theoretically.  A short dunk in saltwater is not likely to be fatal.  I see a bigger problem being recovering the engines intact.

Offline ouroboros

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Re: Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2010, 08:57:43 pm »
It would be interesting to see what they can do with the architecture of the capsule to make a semi-reusable upper stage/tug for delivering modules to ISS. Proximity operations are hell on module delivery. Having reusable flight certified hardware, along with ISS robot arm capture docking is appealing from a cost reduction standpoint. A simple example being Bigelow's inflatable living modules AKA TransHab being delivered to ISS or other places. 

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.
« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2010, 12:29:15 am »
-using a younger workforce (as I understand it, their engineering workforce is younger, but their technician workforce is a little older, which seems like a good approach--put the experienced hands to work actually building the hardware)

I think there's a difficult balance here. Youth can bring energy and a greater willingness to try new things but can have the risk of insufficient knowledge/experience to learn from past mistakes. The first Falcon 1 launch failure has been cited as an example of this?

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2010, 10:29:18 pm »
After a series of delays, it appears the first Falcon 9 launch may finally happen this week http://www.spacex.com/updates.php.

There's also an article by Alan Stern on how different interests may view the success or failure of this launch: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1636/1.

Offline Lauge

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Re: Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.
« Reply #14 on: June 01, 2010, 10:54:47 pm »
There's something else that is relevant, which is how many launches per year SpaceX needs in order to be viable.  I talked to a guy who used to be a senior aerospace executive and used to essentially run one of the big rocket building companies.  He said that if SpaceX's model assumes that they can sell X number of rockets per year and they are only able to sell X-1, the question is what does that do to their profitability?  Does it wipe out their profits?  At the moment, SpaceX claims that they need to sell four launches a year and they think they can do that.  But by when?  They're already a few years behind schedule. 

The second issue you raise is also an important one and it's hard to know what is going to happen.  At the moment there are too many rockets chasing too few payloads.  But because the fixed costs for the rockets are high, this oversupply has not resulted in lower launch costs.  (In other words, this is not a traditional market.)  SpaceX has assumed that if they build a cheaper rocket, more payloads will emerge.  But this "build it and they will come" approach to markets is usually a fallacy.

Indeed two important, and often overlooked, issues, especially when debating the whole "expendable-vs-reusable" thing.

The book "The Rocket Company " by Patrick Stiennon (Author) and Doug Birkholz (Illustrator) discusses these points at some length, intermixed with discussions of engineering, certification, etc. Definitely worth a read.

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