Space-X DRAGON (manned/unmanned) capsule.

Matej

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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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Michel Van

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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
 

blackstar

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Michel Van said:
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.
 

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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.
 

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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!
 

blackstar

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FutureSpaceTourist said:
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.
 

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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.
 

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blackstar said:
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.

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.
 

blackstar

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mz said:
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.

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.
 

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blackstar said:
-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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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blackstar said:
-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?
 

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blackstar said:
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.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg
 

Michel Van

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update from SpaceX Homepage on 2 june

SpaceX is now targeting Friday, June 4th for its first test launch attempt of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
Launch Window Opens: 11:00 AM Eastern / 8:00 AM Pacific / 1500 UTC
Launch window lasts 4 hours. SpaceX has also reserved a second launch day on Saturday 5 June, with the same hours.
as payload comes boilerplate version of DRAGON called
Dragon Spacecraft Qualification Unit (DSQU)
 

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FutureSpaceTourist said:
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.
I thought that looked like it was written by the company's public relations department. There's a lot of cheerleading. And it makes some claims that are misleading, if not completely false. The statement that nobody accepts failure in the rocket industry is wrong. There are a number of companies that suffered initial losses and then folded: American Rocket Company, Connestoga, the Delta III. Even his mention of SeaLaunch is odd considering that they went bankrupt and only now are being rescued by the Russian company that builds their rockets (and therefore has a vested interest in keeping them afloat).
 

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Yes, it is a little over done. Actually feels rather defensive to me, as if written in anticipation of a lot of negative flak if there are any problems?

I do agree with Alan that SpaceX are, rightly or wrongly, something of a poster child for the commercial launch industry and that SpaceX will persist if the first Falcon 9 launch fails. As you've commented previously in this thread, however, I've no idea how deep their pockets are and so how many issues they can persist through.
 

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Well, it could be defensive. It could also be read in a different way.

But the Falcon 9 launch is a flight test, that's all. The symbolism attached to this flight is ridiculous.
 

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blackstar said:
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.
In their pre-Falcon 9 test teleconference today, SpaceX is reported as saying their total spend from company's beginning is $350M-400M. Is the previous statement available somewhere? (or was it a verbal remark?)
 

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Holly crap, THEY DID IT !!!

Falcon 9 first flight a SUCCESS !!

Bravo. Just Bravo !
 

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FutureSpaceTourist said:
In their pre-Falcon 9 test teleconference today, SpaceX is reported as saying their total spend from company's beginning is $350M-400M. Is the previous statement available somewhere? (or was it a verbal remark?)
It was a Twitter comment by Jeff Foust made during a talk by the company's CEO. Try his Twitter page. I'd also add that there are rough calculations you can do on this. Figure out the size of their company and then look up some information to give you a monthly "burn rate"--i.e. about how much you would expect a company like that to spend per month. From my very poor understanding of this, $400 million would be pretty low considering how many people they employ and how long they've been in business.
 

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Yes, many congratulations to SpaceX. A fantastic achievement on their first Falcon 9 launch.

From http://spaceflightnow.com/falcon9/001/status.html:

It's official. SpaceX founder Elon Musk says the Falcon 9 rocket achieved a nearly perfect orbit during today's dramatic blastoff.

GPS telemetry showed the rocket's second stage and dummy Dragon capsule hit "essentially a bullseye," according to Musk.

The apogee, or high point, was about 1 percent higher than planned and the perigee, or low point, was 0.2 percent off the target. The second stage shutdown was nominal, Musk told Spaceflight Now.

The Falcon 9 was shooting for a circular orbit 250 kilometers, or 155 miles, high and an inclination of 34.5 degrees.
Video capture (no sound) of the SpaceX webcast:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJrEiMKKjWY

I'll add official SpaceX video when available.

Update: SpaceX has posted a brief launch highlights video at http://spacex.com/multimedia/videos.php?id=51

Further Update: here's a longer SpaceX compilation video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JP9Yoishl8
 

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Is that second stage roll intentional? It cuts just before alleged second stage shutdown at T+8 min 50 s..

EDIT: OK seems orbit is accurate:
http://www.hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=21153

Any off nominal issues such as the second stage roll?
- Little more roll than expected but it didn't affect the mission.
- Will investigate the excessive roll to insure it's not a problem for future flights.
 

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This is not the first time SpaceX has had excessive roll problems -- Falcon 1 had the same issue to varying degrees on at least the first three flights.
 

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blackstar said:
It was a Twitter comment by Jeff Foust made during a talk by the company's CEO. Try his Twitter page.
Thanks for that. Unfortunately Jeff is so prolific it appears I can't search his tweets back far enough :(

However, some interesting business info from Elon's post-Falcon 9 flight interview (from above hobbyspace link, thanks again to Jeff and others):

  • SpaceX have spent $350-400M on Falcon 1 and 9, $150-200M on Dragon. Includes NASA and other money.
  • Not generally realized that SpaceX has been profitable for 3 years and should be for a fourth as well.
  • Independently audited. NASA also examines books closely. Major customers do as well to insure company is sound.
  • $2.5B in contracted revenue on the books.
  • Will soon be announcing several new launch contracts.
  • Several already signed but they wanted to wait till after this flight to make them public.
  • Expect to sign new customers soon as well.
  • Current pricing for F9/Dragon does not assume [first stage] reusability.
  • Long term, though, reusability is a high priority. Will examine what happened [with first stage break-up on re-entry] and try to fix the problem(s).

So SpaceX spend is more like $600M so far. They have grown very rapidly in the last 3? years, so spend for earlier years I assume would be much less than now.

The fact that income has exceeded (on-going) expenditure for 3 years already is very encouraging for longer-term sustainability. I hope those contracts turn into real launches, rather than 'options' that are too dependent on clients' own business projections working out ...
 

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FutureSpaceTourist said:
blackstar said:
It was a Twitter comment by Jeff Foust made during a talk by the company's CEO. Try his Twitter page.
Thanks for that. Unfortunately Jeff is so prolific it appears I can't search his tweets back far enough :(
Email him through his website.
 

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first independent source about Falcon 9 launch
after NORAD
Second stage and DSQU end up 232 x 242 km Orbit with 34,5 degree inclination
original orbit had to be 500 x 500 km (with 28 degree inclination?)

also show the video that second stage start to roll after ignition.
and on end of transmission show the stage beginn to somersault


source on orbit
German blog of bernd leitenberger
http://www.bernd-leitenberger.de/blog/2010/06/04/falcon-9-wie-wars/
 

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Michel Van said:
first independent source about Falcon 9 launch
after NORAD
Second stage and DSQU end up 232 x 242 km Orbit with 34,5 degree inclination
original orbit had to be 500 x 500 km (with 28 degree inclination?)

also show the video that second stage start to roll after ignition.
and on end of transmission show the stage beginn to somersault


source on orbit
German blog of bernd leitenberger
http://www.bernd-leitenberger.de/blog/2010/06/04/falcon-9-wie-wars/
Where is the 500x500 km target from?
The link I posted earlier contradicts that:

- The orbit was right on the money
- From SpaceX: "Nominal shutdown and orbit was almost exactly 250km. Telemetry showed essentially a bullseye: ~0.2% on perigee and ~1% on apogee."
 

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SpaceX have issued a press-release (see http://www.spacex.com/press.php?page=20100607), which includes:

Preliminary data indicates that Falcon 9 achieved all of its primary mission objectives, culminating in a nearly perfect insertion of the second stage and Dragon spacecraft qualification unit into the targeted 250 km (155 mi) circular orbit.
SpaceX have also published the following link http://heavens-above.com/orbit.aspx?satid=36595, so I assume they've supplied some data to the website? Here's the ground track from that page:

 

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Anyone happen to recall if the Second Stage was usable on-orbit as a propulsion module? I was under the impression it could perform multiple restarts and such.

Randy
 

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RanulfC said:
Anyone happen to recall if the Second Stage was usable on-orbit as a propulsion module? I was under the impression it could perform multiple restarts and such.

Randy
No, it is restartable just like any upperstage
 

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blackstar said:
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
As part of the Iridium /SpaceX $492M contract announcement last week, Elon Musk gave a teleconference and talked quite a bit about why he believes SpaceX is much more cost-efficient then other companies.

There's a write-up at http://www.pehub.com/74756/elon-musk-on-why-his-rockets-are-faster-cheaper-and-lighter-than-what-youve-seen-before/. He stresses that savings come from many different areas and describes a few examples, including their vertical intergration.

Rand Simberg has another write-up of the call and one other topic I think of note is what Elon said when Rand asked him about re-usability:

[quote author=Rand quoting Elon]
I asked him if they knew yet why the [Falcon 9] first stage didn’t survive entry, or if they would have to wait for another flight to get better data (because they didn’t get the microwave imaging data they wanted). He said that they still didn’t know, and might not figure it out until they try again. I followed up, asking if he could conceive of a time that they might just give up on it, and pull the recovery systems out to give them more payload. I was surprised at the vehemence of his answer (paraphrasing): “We will never give up! Never! Reusability is one of the most important goals. If we become the biggest launch company in the world, making money hand over fist, but we’re still not reusable, I will consider us to have failed.” I told him that I was very gratified to hear that, because I like reusability.
[/quote]

Like Rand, I'm very pleased to hear it too :)
 

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I like how musk talks shit about how SpaceX is so awesome; but leaves out the fact that OSC got there far far before Musk ever did with their Taurus; an all solid rocket that can put 2,900 lb into orbit; and has been around since 1998 or so. But Taurus' first stage is an evil derivative of the Stage I motor for PEACEKEEPER, so is not "private". ::)

Also, Musk's speech is full of silicon valley technobabble buzz; a lot of words; but not very substantiative. For example, he talks about friction stir welding; leaving out teh fact that it's used to make the Shuttle SRBs.
 

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The shuttle SRB:s were made way back in a huge forging machine. You can see a flaming hammer of doom in some PR videos. They can't be made in the USA anymore.

You probably mean the shuttle external tank.
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/news/releases/2010/10-010.html

I think the EELV:s don't use friction stir welding for everything, at least not yet.
You can check Kirk Sorensen's factory tour writeup here:

http://energyfromthorium.com/2009/11/01/visiting-americas-rocket-factory/
The panels are FSW:d together but the barrels formed from that are welded differently?

Overall, I'm not so sure if SpaceX has a future of low costs or decent reliability. Their reusability strategy seems uncertain.
 

RanulfC

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RyanCrierie said:
I like how musk talks shit about how SpaceX is so awesome; but leaves out the fact that OSC got there far far before Musk ever did with their Taurus; an all solid rocket that can put 2,900 lb into orbit; and has been around since 1998 or so. But Taurus' first stage is an evil derivative of the Stage I motor for PEACEKEEPER, so is not "private". ::)

Also, Musk's speech is full of silicon valley technobabble buzz; a lot of words; but not very substantiative. For example, he talks about friction stir welding; leaving out the fact that it's used to make the Shuttle SRBs.
Putting the question into perspective helps with this. First we need to "clarify" your statement since you don't specify WHERE OSC got to "before" Musk ever did. Orbit?
That wasn't the "Taurus" that was the "Pegasus" LV which Orbital says was the first "privately" developed LV and first flew in 1990. (It should be noted that though Orbital lists the Pegasus as "privately" developed funding WAS provided through DARPA and the DoD for development under various contracts whereas the Falcon-1 was FULLY designed and developed with ONLY private funding. A major difference)

Pegasus-XL (current) version is capable of orbiting @1,000lbs and has the distinction of having the ONLY "fully-reusable" first stage which is the L-1011 "Carrier Aircraft" used to Air-Launch the Pegasus. Unfortunately this has not proved to be a commercially viable launch vehicle, leading Orbital to design and develop a "ground-launched" version with an added stage which is based on the Peacekeeper ICBM first stage.

The Taurus Launch Vehicle first stage is a Castor-120 which is currently used is a 'civilian-ized' production version of the Peacekeepr first stage. The Taurus-1 can put a little over 3,000lb into orbit but it was designed and developed using DARPA and DoD funding under contract to Orbital. Both due to design (all solid) and regulation (it was not in any sense a "privately funded" vehicle) and is not eligable for COTS. Orbital has begun to work around these issues with the concept of the Taurus-II which will be a duel Lox/Kerosene stage booster with a single solid rocket attached to the paylpoad.

Payload to the ISS is projected to be about 15,430lbs, IF the design ever gets built as Orbital is not finding investments to match the NASA funds as per COTS regulations. So far they have had to match funding from internal sources as has Space-X however unlike Space-X, Orbital has sought outside partnerships and investment to continue development and testing of the Taurus-II which has not as yet been overly successful nor allowed the company to reduce internal funding commitments.

Orbital also has designed and produced (again, under contract with the DoD and DARPA so not "private") the Minotaur series of Launch Vehicles based on demilitarized parts of the Minuteman ICBM of which only the Minotaur-I, IV and V are actual space launch. The Minotaur's II, and III are sub-orbital boost vehicle only and lack the power or systems to achieve orbit. Payload for the Minotaur-I is a little over 1,200llbs to LEO while the Minotaur-IV can place over 3,800lbs into LEO and by adding a 5th stage the Minotaur-V can transfer this amount to GEO.
Again because of non-private development and regulation neither of these qualify for COTS, nor ISS missions.

Comparatively the Falcon Launch Vehicle series has the Falcon-1 (original) orbiting a little over 925lbs. The current model of the Falcon-1 which has had the original Merlin-1A main engine replaced with the more powerful Merlin-1C can put @1,050lbs into LEO and the stretched and uprated Falcon-1e due out this year is projected to have a payload capability of excess of 2,200lbs. The Falcon-9 was actually a change of plans for Space-X since they had originally planned to incrementally move forward from the Falcon-1 to the medium lift Launch Vehicle the Falcon-V. However careful attention to market demand trends, and customer feedback suggested that there would only be a small market for the Falcon-V and that a more stable and lucrative market lay in designing and building the more powerful Falcon-9 with its over 23,000lb payload capacity.
The design and development process for the Falcon-9 was already underweigh when Space-X competed for the COTS contract, again the majority of the money coming from Space-X internal resources.

I'd also suggest before one 'dismiss' Musk's talk is to recall that even though it seems filled with "Silicon-Valley-Technobabble-Buzz" as you put it that Musk was one of the people who came UP with the language and those words. Unlike the majority of others in the beginning HE managed to not only survive but to thrive and even more-so you should remember that the same babble and buzzwords have become the standard speech of business around the world because at ONE point in history, people who PRACTICED as well as PREACHED the language ended up being highly successful AT business. As for being "substantive" or not it might be well to recall that Musk and Space-X IS being successful, competitive, and innovative in an industry who's business models have been stagnated for decades with competitiveness lost to inflated costs-of-operations and successive layers of bureaucracy and administration laid between customers and their needs and those actually producing the product.

One only need look at the differences between the commercial success of the Pegasus-XL or the Taurus-1 and Minotaur LVs and the Falcon-1/9 to see that there was and is a serious disconnect between the 'standard' aerospace company and the market.
If you recall there was a HUGE amount of discussion about Musk's decision to produce the Falcon-1 as a commercial launch vehicle instead of JUST a 'technology-demonstrator' since it had been 'proven' by Orbital's failure to make the Pegasus, Taurus, or Minotaur a commercial success that there OBVIOUSLY was NO market for smaller payloads to orbit. However after Space-X got to the point of actually offering launches the orders came rolling in, so much so that both Boeing and LockMart announced that they TOO would put "Falcon-1" class vehicles into service! LockMart is still halfheartedly supposedly pursuing plans to offer a Falcon-1 vehicle but Boeing dropped theirs when they realized they couldn't afford to compete. Orbital I suppose MIGHT have a chance since they are being provided with a large amount of relatively "inexpensive" components for their Taurus and Minotaur launch vehicles, but LockMart has NO chance to develop and produce a Falcon-1 class vehicle that is competitive since even their most MINIMUM costs even accepting huge losses to try and undercut Space-X out of the market don't "appeal" to customers.

And that right THERE is probably the biggest indicator of trouble for the bigger aerospace manufacturers: When your NAME doesn't "sell" your product anymore simply because it IS your name, how do you stay competitive?

Randy
 

RyanCrierie

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RanulfC said:
Putting the question into perspective helps with this. First we need to "clarify" your statement since you don't specify WHERE OSC got to "before" Musk ever did. Orbit?
Yep, to orbit. Along with a whole clutch of other companies; like Conestoga.

Link to Conestoga

Conestoga I was the FIRST privately funded rocket to reach space...in 1982.

Both due to design (all solid) and regulation (it was not in any sense a "privately funded" vehicle) and is not eligable for COTS.
This I did not know until now.....but it makes sense now in a sick sick way.

COTS was never about getting quick, cheap space launch capabilities.

It was all about playing politics -- because why else would these asinine rules that prevent existing light launch vehicles already developed by various companies from being used in COTS contracts?

I seem to recall that during the initial COTS contract tenders for in-orbit resupply and manned crew delivery -- NASA picked the COTS tenders which were all new capsules...on all new rockets (SpaceX and a company that failed -- their contract was picked up by Orbital) instead of picking the far more sensible designs that were being proposed (use a variant of the European Automated Supply Vehicle on top of an existing EELV).

Comparatively the Falcon Launch Vehicle series has the Falcon-1 (original) orbiting a little over 925lbs. The current model of the Falcon-1 which has had the original Merlin-1A main engine replaced with the more powerful Merlin-1C can put @1,050lbs into LEO and the stretched and uprated Falcon-1e due out this year is projected to have a payload capability of excess of 2,200lbs.
Great! SpaceX has managed to.......get to the point where Orbital's been at for the last decade -- in fact their entire business model is centered around exploiting the loophole in COTS contracting that shuts out proven and already in production launch vehicles.

As for being "substantive" or not it might be well to recall that Musk and Space-X IS being successful, competitive, and innovative in an industry who's business models have been stagnated for decades with competitiveness lost to inflated costs-of-operations and successive layers of bureaucracy and administration laid between customers and their needs and those actually producing the product.
I wouldn't call a launch record of:

Falcon 1: 2/5
Falcon 9: 1/1

Exactly successful.

The Iridium contract that Musk just got will either make or break SpaceX; since Iridium won't keep feeding SpaceX money like NASA through COTS. If SpaceX can't deliver; then Iridium will cancel the contract and reassign it to other launch providers.

And from reading OSC's Taurus' User's Manual LINK to 14.7 MB PDF you find that they behave a lot like SpaceX, and that many of Musk's "innovations" aren't exactly innovations:

1. Horizontal integration of launch vehicle to save time and costs.
2. A fast arrival of payload to launch time of 20~ days or less.
3. A streamlined launch control center that fits in two portable trailers.

Etc.
 

mz

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Blah. SpaceX is hyped, yes. Now can we get over that?

For some reason NASA did not award any COTS contracts to companies that were proposing flying on existing launch vehicles. Spacehab Arctus was one, it proposed a modded Centaur for the job. That certainly could have been cheap! But SpaceX and Orbital won, NASA specifically mentioned that building new launch vehicles was a plus.

I don't view that as a sensible policy, but then, it kind of at least is consistent if you think they somehow bought the "new spacecraft <=> new launcher" mindset after 2004 or so.
 
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