I also want to commend them for a few minor things:
- a real-time stream from landing (as opposed to holding it and releasing footage few days later, as before)
- a real-time stream from satellite deployment, with a camera placed so that we could see everything (as opposed to the typical low-quality stream of the engine nozzle)
- a launch timeline visible on the stream
This mission looked an order of magnitude better than anything they did before. It's like, before they were just playing around, and now they're doing serious business. Keep it up, SpaceX!
But they really upped the PR game this time, that's for sure. I assume somebody must have had a look at the viewer count numbers from the last few and put 2 and 2 together on the opportunity they were missing out on. A nice job of it overall.
Presumably the sting of the term is now entirely gone. Nothing succeeds like success.
It's amazing to me how much power SpaceX has to both re-activate so (comparatively) soon after a failure and to delay the launch by a day solely for its own purposes (perhaps it's launch client gets a discount?).
Agreed, though. It was masterly done. Loved the timeline.
They want to reuse rockets similar to planes in the future. It's mind blowing and super exciting!
Really such a groundbreaking thing like this should be glorified in the media and put on loop for a while. simply amazing.
And confuse people that happen to be tuning in at the wrong time? No thanks. This is a live stream not a news broadcast.
I was working on a signal distortion problem with a colleague when I heard the rumble of the launch. "Rocket just launched", I said. He was on Google chat with me and said, "It did?". He lives a few miles south of me and so he gets the sound waves a few seconds later ;).
A couple of minutes later I did a double-take. "THAT's a new sound!". I've heard rockets blow before, but I've never heard one come back to land.
Then I checked the internet to confirm what my ears had already told me.
Congrats to SpaceX and thank you for not landing it on my house!
But perhaps more importantly its the first "first" for SpaceX which has not been done by NASA or anyone else. Launch a payload in to orbit and recover the booster back to the launch site. The SRBs from the shuttle were essentially shell refurbs, SpaceShip 1 and Blue Origin sub-orbital hops. This was, in my estimation, the real deal. It has to be an amazing feeling being on the team that made this possible. Congratulations, that is one way to write yourself into the history books.
Edit: I was so excited I couldn't even multiply 9 by 5!
One of the huge differences (and there are many) is that Falcon 9 was doing 6,000 Km/hr (~4,000 mi/hr) when the first stage separated and turned around to come back.
The path was not straight up, but rather one to launch the second stage into orbital flight (which reached 26,000 Km/hr and 600 miles of altitude).
Then Falcon9's first stage FLEW a curved return path; fired three engines to slow down from holy-crap miles-per-hour, shut them down and then, at exactly the right moment in time, fired one engine to land.
The Bezos rocket went straight up to zero velocity and came straight back down.
It's like throwing a bottle straight up in the air compared to throwing one in a parabolic path to the top of the Empire State building and having that bottle then turn around, fly that same parabolic path to return and land at your feet.
Not sure why Bezos feels the need to try to imply his effort (which IS significant) is on the same league as SpaceX other than to potentially try to leverage the fabricated parity for publicity and external funding.
1995, DC-X, and it's pyramidal
Is that correct? Amazing that this was achievable 20 years ago. Why no other re-usable rocket since 1996 if this was doable?
The problem with SSTOs, in general is that while getting them to take off and land isn't a big hurdle, getting them into orbit with more than a nontrivial payload is pretty difficult.
It's a concept with its supporters, but there's a pretty large program risk - the numbers are so tight you may get to the end of your development and realize your rocket works but can take only, you know, 25 pounds of payload to LEO. Or maybe a few tons. Or maybe you can't get to orbit at all.
SpaceX's plan to land each stage individually probably makes a lot more sense from the risk perspective.
> Why no other re-usable rocket since 1996 if this
> was doable?
Sure in 140 characters.
when SpaceX launched 1000m and landed? Just because it was higher? It seems like SpaceX has Bezos beat on both sides - they launched and landed a rocket before Bezos, and now theyve launched and landed a rocket higher than Bezos. So all Bezos did was launch his rocket higher than SpaceX's at the time. Is that right?
EDIT: One question for the rocket scientists here: exactly how reusable do they expect these returned first stage rockets to be? What is the process of certifying that a returned rocket is fit to fly, and what components are most likely to need repairing/replacing with each launch?
Incredible project. Reusable rockets. It's science fiction coming to life again, like the 1960s.
> Musk said that a rocket's first stage accounts for three-quarters of its total price tag, so a vehicle with a reusable first stage can be produced at far less cost — assuming the hardware is fully and rapidly reusable.
~75% savings seems like a "best case scenario" number.
Now for second stage re-use ;)
Seriously though, now I'm just waiting for updates on BFR / Mars mission development progress.
The challenge for SpaceX is to inspect the booster, integrate a new second stage & payload, and relaunch in a few weeks. With a few years of work, it should be almost like a cargo jet turnaround.
ULA's Vulcan plan is to parachute the engines and pumps back, catch the rope with a helicopter, inspect and reattach to a new set of tanks. That seems likely to be a little more complex to me.
There's really not a lot of costs that can add up for reuse of these stages. It'll require a bit of cleaning up, a few new bits and pieces replaced and added, and a lot of inspection work. But most of the cost of the stage is in manufacturing the engines and tanks, so it should add up to enormous savings, even if it's relatively costly to reuse each stage compared to the theoretical limits.
Edit: the flip-side is that the reliability and robustness improvements from reusability may be as big a win as cost. Currently it costs tens of millions of dollars to launch a rocket to orbit, which means it's almost never done except as part of a paid launch. Moreover, despite the seemingly high number of launches very few of those launches represent expanding the test-envelope much, every single launch is typically straight down the middle of the performance envelope, to maximize the chance of success. That results in learning very little about these vehicles despite how much they've been flown. By introducing reuse and dropping the cost of flight it may become possible to do real test programs, which would make it possible to determine the flight envelope characteristics of vehicles and help lead to improving designs over time.
Reusability makes it more interesting. There's a lot of extra fuel on board now which could be used to make up for lost engines if you're willing to throw away the first stage.
I bet they relaunch this booster on their own dime as a demo.
Between "You'll be the first launch since the last one... You know, that one with a small anomaly..." and fact that this was the first launch of a new version of the falcon 9 (with slightly different engines, cooler/more pressurized O2), I know that if I were negociating for Orbcomm, I'd ask spaceX to cross the last digit on their bill (and probably have a much more expensive insurance policy in return).
And to delay a _commercial_ launch in order to accommodate weather for the _landing_ ? AFAIK, that's another world's first in history and I think that tells a lot on the underlying story.
Don't get me wrong, this is an amazing achievement, and the economics of it don't really matter when it comes to the technical prowess
But if they can get it to point where it's a matter of gassing it up for the next flight, that's a huge savings. Fuel is a few hundred grand for a rocket that costs sixty million dollars. It's nothing, basically.
SpaceX seems to build things a lot more low-key. They don't use fancy propellants, their engines aren't particularly efficient, and overall they seem to go more for robustness and simplicity.
(Simplicity doesn't really apply for a crazy-ass landing scheme. But aside from that....)
Obviously it remains to be seen, but I think it's likely to be a lot more gas-and-go than the Shuttle.
On the other hand, the solid boosters of the Space Shuttle were severely damaged by the impact and corrosion of the sea water, after "recovery" they were essentially a source of parts for new boosters.
Overall, I really hope they can improve re-usability above what the Space Shuttle achieved.
(Incidentally, SpaceX is known for keeping some aspect of their operations trade secret, rather than patenting. So, if they had some solvent that dissolved the gunk and simplified the cleanup process, or some such similar trick, it's likely that no one outside the company would know about it.)
I have no real idea how significant coking of the Merlin engine is, but the SSMEs were hardly "clean".
Basically, it's "104% of what the engineers circa 1975 thought the level would be," not 104% of what the hardware was rated for.
hah! Tears in my eyes here this is absolutely incredible to watch.
I stayed up for this, I hope I didn't wake up the neighbours and it will take days to wipe the grin of my face.
EDIT: To quote my friend's reaction,
"HAPPY FEET, WOMBO COMBO!
Let's Kerbal the shit out of Space."
edit: haha, nice downvote, whoever it was. :)
Government space missions are limited by taxpayer interest/funding, and the high cost of access to space has mostly limited commercial interest to things like communication and surveying satellites. I'm really looking forward to what new opportunities open up in both spaces when we can do so much more for the same cost.
Those missions are remarkable partly because they're amazing firsts, and partly because of what they've been able to accomplish with huge limitations and cost restrictions. They're amazing because of finesse, and if this whole reusability thing works out, you'll be able to brute force them instead. Visiting a comet is amazing. Making launches so cheap that it becomes practical to visit fifty comets would be astounding.
It's a bit like the invention of the steamship. It doesn't take you anywhere new. Sailing ships got the job done. But it transformed the world just the same.
"Congrats @SpaceX on landing Falcon's suborbital booster stage. Welcome to the club!"
Musk: "Congrats to Jeff Bezos and the BO team for achieving VTOL on their booster"
Musk: "It is, however, important to clear up the difference between "space" and "orbit", as described well by https://what-if.xkcd.com/58/"
NASAWatch: "Gee Jeff @SpaceX just put a bunch of stuff into orbit - again. Something you have yet to figure out how to do."
I'm not sure if they're all joking around, or are there serious ego issues at play here.
Think we can get Gates or Buffet into it as well maybe?
That's not even fun banter. Just a squeaky voice trying to get a sucker punch in.
This is not a complaint; inquiring minds want to know.
Not to remove any merit to Blue Origin's achievement, but it's nowhere near what SpaceX just pulled off.
EDIT: Here's a video that compares/contrasts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8c7RUjNFDo
- SpaceX rocket goes really fast horizontally; it has to flip around and boost back, and then correct from horizontal to vertical orientation.
- Falcon 9 is an actual space launch system; it has different (i.e. much stricter) engineering constraints than a suborbital rocket. In particular, this affects the engine design.
- Most importantly, the first stage of Falcon 9 does what's known as "suicide burn" - it waits until the last possible second to fire back the engine, so that it reaches exactly zero velocity relative to the ground as it touches down. It does so, because it can't hover - even the single one one of the nine Merlin engines, throttled down to minimum, still generates more thrust than the now almost empty booster weights. On the other hand, Blue Origin's rocket can slow down to a hover, and then take its time to stabilize and land.
Rockets that can reach orbit have very bad weight to payload ratios (Falcon 9 is ~2.5% takeoff weight to LEO) so there isn't much room for dead weight.
I don't think that the software is enabled yet -- SpaceX usually press forward with the main objective first, and flesh out the contingencies later (for example, abort hardware was present during the last failed launch, and it had been tested before, but the software wasn't enabled, and they lost the vehicle).
Is that true? Doesn't the landing have to use the center engine - any other single engine would be asymmetric, and multiple engines would have too high a thrust.
But the great thing about SpaceX's system is that it starts with a cheap expendable rocket, then makes it recoverable. You lose one? Who cares, build another one. They could have a 50% success rate recovering the first stages and it would still make things amazingly cheaper.
Who said that was the achievement? What is important about that achievement?
The important achievement is dramatically reducing the cost of sending things into space (such that they will stay there). SpaceX's rockets achieve this, Blue Origin's don't even attempt to be in that league. Using your Everest analogy, Blue Origin was the first to climb some lesser peak nobody cared that much about (still, nice job), then SpaceX climbed Everest, and Bezos said "welcome to the tall mountain club."
Anyone who understood what was being achieved. That doesn't mean that a single achieve or being first in itself is that meaningful, but it's still an achivement.
Just like anyone who understands mountaineering knows that climbing Everest isn't the greatest norvthe hardest achivement among tall mountains i.e. the eight-thousanders.
They're in the same club like a general aviation pilot landing his Piper Cub on a giant runway and a navy pilot landing his F-14 on a carrier are "in the same club". While it's technically true, pointing it out would be pretty tacky...
The achievements are comparable, despite the fact it makes SpaceX come second. Blue Origin was first with a VTOL rocket stage, as part of a space system.
It gets a whole lot closer (and is _much_ larger).
I really can't emphasize enough how much of a difference the ability to hover makes for New Shepard. SpaceX has been doing "New Shepard" type flights for a long time now (they didn't bother going that high, but 'high' isn't really that interesting, it's 'fast' that matters). However, Grasshopper (like New Shepard) was able to throttle down to a TWR less than 1. That makes landing so much easier (the rocket can 'stop' and get settled before it proceeds to land).
Blue Origin's achievement is nice; just as older prototypes that achieved suborbital landing (Grasshopper, DC-X), but it's unclear yet what it meant for the industry (hope they keep going though, they're a good track). SpaceX's landing is a landmark for space travel, rapid reusability is now much closer. I'm much more confident now this will change the cost structure of the whole industry, seeing how launch is a dominant factor.
But it's not what matters, in fact it's irrelevant, was not a disputed trophy, and won't be mentioned 50 years from now.
Getting to space is just getting high off the ground, its not very useful unless you can achieve orbit.
In fact, didn't they do it on the moon several times?
At any rate, John Carmack's Armadillo Aerospace managed it long before Bezos did. But wait, he didn't get to space? Hair-splitting.
Now, if you want to invent an extra category of 'first VTOL landing for a first stage booster for an orbital rocket system that uses boost-back to change trajectory mid-course' or similar, they SpaceX are first with that, and of course it's an awesome achievement.
Landing the F9 stage is not even the first "reusable part of an orbital launch system", the Space Shuttle was that. It just wasn't very effective in terms of lowering the cost, which is where F9's true claim of being a game changer is going to be. Let's hope that pans out.
That assertion is ridiculous. The rocket is optimized to do one thing, push it's payload into orbit, this is a very strict restriction, especially on a two stage rocket. On the other hand, the designer of a suborbital vehicle has ample design space to play.
It's like comparing your practice free throw, in your back yard, with a slam-dunk in the NBA.
Blue Origin was first, and Bezos can quite rightly welcome SpaceX to 'the club' as the second company to achieve this, without being accused of being classless, surely?
Today, history was made. Blue Origin: not so much. Nice but nowhere near in the same league (or the same club, to stick with Bezos).
Actually, the "pop-up" 1st stage trajectory is interesting from a space applications perspective. You can think of it this way: a SSTO spaceplane is just beyond the cusp of possible for technology made out of normal matter and fueled by chemical rockets. But what if you could somehow cheat and launch an SSTO at very high altitude? Then it's just below the cusp of possible. So you wind up with a completely reusable TSTO craft.
So how is that more interesting than a high altitude blimp? You get the craft back faster, directly to the facility. Recovery is more straightforward. The equipment and technology is the same sort of equipment and technology as in the orbiter craft. Also, if you're able to get up to a "mere" 600 mph or so downrange velocity, due to the mathematics of the rocket equation, you're still saving a sizable chunk of vehicle weight in fuel.
It's the difference between slowing your car down gently to stop at a red light, and having your car going at max speed and slamming on the brakes as hard as you can at exactly the right moment so that you will eventually stop at the lights. One is easy to do, the other will most likely get you killed.
If you want to say it's about VTOL rockets, SpaceX was first by a long way. If you want to say it's about reusing an orbital launcher, BO is nowhere close. You have to torture the categories into uselessness to say BO did anything first.
Who cares whether BO or SpaceX was first, or whether China or America was first? We should be happy that humanity is closer to Mars.
I can't give the exact answer but if I had to guess, I'd say it's a consistently argumentative attitude under the guise of asking questions. The commenter has asked the same question "what makes this SpaceX thing so special?" at different points of this thread and has gotten many different answers providing a bunch of different view points. They're not trying to get clarity, they're trying to convince people that this isn't an accomplishment, and there seems to be a hint of accusation ("you only think this is better than BO because HN loves Musk and hates Bezos") in the questions.
That's my guess.
I actually agree that SpaceX did an awesome thing, and really do understand that its more complicated, and difficult, and challenging, and so on, than what Blue Origin managed to do; yes. My point was more of a "HN loves SpaceX and cannot acknowledge that they might not be the best in the world at everything, ever" thing, rather than any technical breakdown. I would also maintain that the 100km altitude flight is important - it's the internationally recognised boundary of space - and that the 'first' that Blue Shepherd claimed was valid, since the SpaceX Grasshopper did not cross the 100km Karman line.
The important parts are that the flight is of a 1.) reusable, 2.) VTOL, 3.) rocket after a 4.) 100km altitude space flight. Since all four points are valid for SpaceX's Falcon 9 first stage booster, I think it's technically correct to place its landing in the same category as Blue Origin's New Shepherd landing. SpaceX's achievement is more technically interesting and useful, but that should not detract from what Blue Origin managed to do with a much smaller team and budget.
Having a flight control mechanism that function outside the atmosphere is valuable/important. Landing a rocket without relying on atmosphere is valuable/important. Gluing those two things together is much less so - like being the first person to climb Everest and swim across the Channel.
Honestly the F9 landing isn't much of a "first" - landing a rocket vertically has been done, and landing the main engines of an orbital launch vehicle so that they can be reused has also been done. What makes it exciting is a) the technical difficulty b) the potential for making things there's actual commercial demand for (satellite launches) much cheaper - and in both those regards Blue Origin's landing isn't comparable.
I suspect the main region for the popularity is that SpaceX has done a lot of community engagement, webcasts and all the rest of it, while Blue Origin has done everything in secret. But I'm fine with that - if it encourages companies to be more open then that's all for the good.
Competitive people are competitive. Film (and Twitter fight) at 11...
Someone should totally do rap battles while pretending to be some famous figure. The possibilities are endless. Faux Bill Gates vs Faux Steve Jobs.
It's a bit silly, but entertaining. It doesn't get too technical, but usually gets the generic facts right.
F9 will significantly reduce the cost of putting things in orbit.
NS will reduce the cost of space tourism (momentary views of earth), but would require new engines and a different design and landing style to put things into space, something like F9.
Hence implying they are the same is a bit tacky and inappropriate as it will mislead lots of people.
So from what I've read, the returns are immense; the amount of learning they can do from examining their own rocket is the real initial treasure. Their rocket design should advance considerably based on this trove, and I suppose the source of many papers, publications, and public-sourced patents. Reusable rockets seems not quite a glorious enough term? There's a massive dividend any time this actually works, and imagining the future of this tech is joyous.
We can guess how much this will bring down the cost. How much will it bring down the price? Say it's just following the supply/demand curve to get more customers. If landing was reliable and the rockets were durable, what would it really take to scale? If you actually got 10 of these going full-duty. How close can you back-to-back launches? The scale of that operation in terms of engineers to manage the workload... The return-on-automation (in other words, software) is immense the first few billion dollars you spend on it. That means they need to hire a fuck-ton of very good developers. Cool!
But what if it's more of a binary market and the only new customers are only at a much lower price point? In that case it's just serving the existing market at much higher margin. I believe this will make space more accessible -- cost savings ultimately flow through.
BTW, one of the advantages of pledging your patents for free use is you can really show off the right way to write a patent. The whole point is forcing disclosure in return for a benefit, so now make that disclosure top-notch. In theory, what if patent applications were examined by the top-of-the-field peers and only real advancements in the field which were fully and properly documented by the patent would be granted? I hope not all software patents are evil. The "provisional patent" is an interesting form of self-publication at least, but it does create a pesky 1-year ticking clock.
As a talent/recruiting event this is pretty much about as good as it gets.
Seriously, if a position interests you, apply. There have been plenty of ITAR exceptions.
They might end up offering lower cost launches, reducing the margin, but discounts on Nth-launches don't make sense.
Note: The never before been re-used part is probably the most important factor here. Once they have re-used rockets a few times they'll have a reliability factor for these situations.
... but if I understand correctly, one of the points of the reusable rocketry experiment is to be able to lower the price point to allow new customers who couldn't afford to launch at the previous per-pound cost. To give a terrible but not inaccurate analogy: Think similarly to how the Nintendo Wii found itself in entirely new markets of game players by droppping a $200 console onto the market alongside competition that was nearly double that price-point.
Does anyone know what specifically changed to allow a landing attempt on land as opposed to barge? Was it just that they gained enough confidence with the barges that they would at least be able to hit the target (and not crash into a building or something), or was some regulatory clearance received or something? Or something about this launch (ie lighter payload?) made a return to land feasible?
I suspect even as this becomes routine most landings will still be on the barge. Every ounce of fuel you use to reverse your direction is an ounce you could have put toward a larger payload.
I believe the main concern was not putting what amounts to an ICBM into Disneyworld. Hitting the barge (even though they hit a little hard each time) proved they could hit within a few feet of where they planned reliably.
It's nice to see a lot of the lessons from media training. :D
I used to sell test equipment and software to SpaceX's launch ops, avionics, and calibration crews, starting between launches 2 and 3. It was touch and go back in those days. These guys have worked their tails off for over a decade and deserve every bit of congratulations they receive.
Walking into the SpaceX facility in Hawthorne was always a humbling experience. Instant "I am the dumbest person in this room" syndrome.
EDIT: and here's just the landing itself: http://www.gfycat.com/WeepyCelebratedAfricanaugurbuzzard.
Link : http://www.spacex.com/news/2015/12/21/background-tonights-la...