Humanity holds the record for the fastest awe to yawn delta.
Among what species?
To me it's fucking awesome. To everyone else it's just a large broomstick.
>Compared to what was achieved in the 60s it doesn't seem that impressive.
Is all of computing since 1960 unexciting and pointless? It's just making computers faster and cheaper, so what? The internet? We already had networks, who cares? It turns out that scale matters. Cost matters. Access matters. Details matter. If you can't see the value of treating rockets more like airplanes then you have a small-minded worldview and I don't know what to tell you.
History is littered with inventions that didn't amount to a hill of beans until someone else found a way to turn that invention into an awesome product and sell it to a much wider audience.
When a trip into orbit costs $20,000 then a lot more people can go. When it costs $2,000 then anyone in the developed world can go. What impact that will have on our society?
A lot of them can be solved. Knowing which ones can be solved economically is the whole point of Elon Musk's First Principles approach.
(I should apply first principles to games and simulations.)
Are you seriously implying that landing a rocket is an unprecedented step in that direction?
Do you think something like this would have been impossible if people had set their minds to do it, in the 60. I don't think so. I mean, we had missiles that could follow and destroy jets moving faster than a bullet...like, I don't know, 30 years back? Exactly that is why I think this is just marketing and PR (Not the actual stuff they are doing, but how it is seen and projected)...
It would have been impossible. They just didnt have the materials science to build lightweight engines, fuel tanks, landing legs and such. The computers needed to control the rocket would have been the size of a large building and have to be on the rocket to be responsive enough. Remote control wouldn't have been an option. Also GPS didn't exist and no contemporary positioning technology light enough was up to the precision required.
The 90s is another matter. The DC-X was pretty much a direct ancestor of the SpaceX and Blue Origin plans. Still, it would have required a manual or remote control landing, which would be horribly inefficient compared to an entirely computer controlled 'suicide burn' landing. Even so there's a world of difference between being able to do something and actually doing it.
Literally all science is built incrementally on previous discoveries. In the words of Isaac Newton, "we stand on the shoulders of giants".
That said, SpaceX certainly isn't doing anything more than an incremental improvement on previous ideas, of course. Even the Space Shuttle used refurbished boosters, this is just the same idea with a much faster refurbishment cycle.
Newton's remark was mostly a backhanded slur against Hooke, as far as can be told. If you can point to some novel development in rocket fuel or rocket engine engineering of the 1950s that somehow contradicts my account, I am sure that I would be grateful of the correction. I wasn't alive then nor am I a particularly good scholar. But I did read Dr. Clark's book, which I understand to be the authoritative work on the subject, and the distinctions in the persons and nationalities involved in the periods in question do seem to be fairly distinct. Von Braun acknowledged the influence of Goddard explicitly, and the post-war and pre-Mercury/Apollo era of rocket science does seem to be quite an interesting one both scientifically and politically. As far as the fundamental science of rocket fuel goes, yes, there is unfortunately not much further to be done, but every science has noted limits to efficiency. But if I may repeat myself somewhat, the point was not that there had been prior art, but that nothing particularly important happened in the 1960s. There are only so many chemical reactions that are suitable for liquid fuel rocketry, and -- pertinent to the news event -- SpaceX is going down a very well-worn thermodynamic road with these rockets. So the impressive point, the reason that anyone is giving these people business, is not that they have any sort of greater chemistry-related insight than anyone else, but that they are planning on re-using enough components to drive launch costs down. But they haven't actually done that yet. They have yet to re-use anything but the barges. So perhaps in that sense, one could consider the achievements of the 60s and SpaceX to be equally lackluster, but otherwise it seems like a poor comparison.
Could you expand on that? I am aware of the feud between the two, but I fail to see how this insults Hooke.
> This has recently been interpreted by a few writers as a sarcastic remark directed at Hooke's appearance. Although Hooke was not of particularly short stature, he was of slight build and had been afflicted from his youth with a severe kyphosis. However, at this time Hooke and Newton were on good terms and had exchanged many letters in tones of mutual regard. Only later, when Robert Hooke criticized some of Newton's ideas regarding optics, Newton was so offended that he withdrew from public debate, and the two men remained enemies until Hooke's death.
But it's not about landing the boosters, it's about what this will enable in the future. If Musk really can reduce the cost to orbit by a factor of 100 it will revolutionise space transport. Imagine a series of moon landings just like in the 60s and 70s, but all using the same launchers and spacecraft? How about manned missions to Mars in reusable ships? It's the first step in a new era. So ok it's not headline grabing next to the moon landings. But compared to that, the Mercury missions don't look all that much of an achievement in hindsight. Yet they were vital groundwork.
For all of the marvellous things done in the 60's space program, we are now half a century down the track from that and things were still expensive with a lot of throwaway hardware. The orbiter (shuttle) program never really delivered on the reduced cost it promised. It has really only been in the past decade or so that private industry has taken up the reins and pushed the technology for more cost effective space travel.
- Most of the launch tankage was discarded after each flight
- Boosters were basically rebuilt after each flight
- Cost per pound to LEO wasn't remotely competitive with 60s vintage expendable systems like Soyuz
SpaceX has a new, simpler and much better design. Even when flown fully expendable, the F9 is highly cost competitive. With the first stage landing, most of the launch tankage and 9/10 engines can be reused.
SpaceX is poised to dramatically reduce the cost of going to space for the first time since the advent of spaceflight.
I specifically mentioned the main engines. And we can't really compare with the F9 when, once again, it has never been reflown. A lot more of the Shuttle was intended to be reusable than ended up being the case - who's to say how that will play out for the F9?
> Cost per pound to LEO wasn't remotely competitive with 60s vintage expendable systems like Soyuz
Soyuz is an excellent system, but it didn't have anything like the lift capacity of the Shuttle. The Shuttle wasn't cheap, but it was designed for a particular set of requirements - some of them reasonable, some of them less so - and for a much higher launch rate than actually happened, for a variety of reasons.
The shuttle main engines required a lot of maintenance and inspection after each flight. That's to be expected at the start of a program, but they never got away from that.
Landing rocket boosters is a very big deal in practical terms as this should reduce the cost of going to space to a point where it becomes more accessible. The shuttle was an attempt to achieve the same, but while being a technological marvel, it failed to reduce costs (quite the contrary) and was abandoned. Everyone else so far at best managed to keep the cost of one-time use rockets low, but SpaceX should have a break-through there, and that is why this matters so much.
Moon travel is not a common everyday thing now, because the original effort wasn't geared for that - it was primarily to put a man on the moon as fast as possible, before the Russians did it.
If the aircraft industry worked the same way and airlines had to throw away a 747 after each flight, it wouldn't be an every day thing like it is now.
SpaceX are essentially setting up the future building blocks for far more affordable and common space flight now. It is a longer path, and IMO no less difficult than what NASA was doing back in the 50's and 60's.
What exactly is the breakthroughs/discoveries that Spacex have made that will justify the claim.
Please note that landing the rocket does not count. Because I don't think it involved something new, some new technique that was unknown before.
If you want something where SpaceX has blazed trail in science as well as engineering then there's thir work on CFL and more importantly supersonic retro propulsion. It turns out that the bow shock created by the engines is enough to serve as an ersatz heat shield and it protects the rocket when it would otherwise be destroyed during reentry. NASA's studying the data they've recorded for the purposes of applying it to Mars EDL. It's given them a chance to investigate an entirely new EDL technique which is important seeing as the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator seems to be going nowhere.
Source pls. Google search yeilds no results.
The breakthrough is actually doing it. A lot of space engineers were saying before Falcon 9 that what SoaceX were trying to do was impossible.
Hindsight is 20/20. It's easy to see now what steps were required to pull this off and that clearly those steps were possible. But if it's so clear, why wasn't it done before? The ottoman line is only Must and SoaceX were prepared to get the job done. Nobody else was even trying.
That is not a breakthrough.
The only other player in this space is Blue Origin, and they are still working on their commercially-viable engines. Everybody else throws away their rocket after the launch.
Are you saying only SpaceX is capable of doing this? Seriously?
- Building an engine capable of multiple restarts while facing into a supersonic headwind, which are necessary for any kind of successful propulsive landing.
- Designing a mass-thrifty first stage simultaneously lightweight enough to be able to accommodate the added weight of landing equipment, but strong enough to handle the tensile stress and buffeting of atmospheric reentry.
- Developing ultralight landing legs to enable stable landings at low mass cost.
But most of the innovation has been in the realm of integrating existing technology in new ways. They brought together cold gas thrusters, grid fins, and thrust vectoring - none of which were new - into a complete package capable of precisely controlling the flight of a 15-storey first stage from the upper atmosphere to the ground. It's the act of getting technologies to work together that is often the source of the greatest gains.
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"Answer my question despite my imposition of arbitrary criteria that intentionally make it unanswerable"
Landing is a critical prerequisite to reuse: we can't reuse what we discard.
But the important reusability breakthrough comes in a few months when they do the first reflight of an orbital booster.
I don’t think anyone is claiming that. They’re both impressive feats in their own right.
I'm curious to find out what they changed. One of the problems they previously had was that the vibration from the rocket landing was too much for a satellite connection on the barge (or it's nearby support ship); there were other issues on the rocket. Maybe being right next to the coast the whole time helps on a polar launch?
We'll see how it'll be for the Echostar 23 launch (and landing).
There was a live view from the barge on the technical stream through descent.
John Insprucker is far more of what you'd expect of a typical engineer. Reddit r/SpaceX went wild for a few minutes when they saw he was back doing the live broadcasts. People like his authenticity.
(Nikon D7000, 300mm, handheld. Cropped and adjusted for contrast.)
It was extremely loud. It was my first launch, and it was surprising. You could feel your chest rumbling, and the car I was standing next to was visibly vibrating.
Freaking amazing experience!
This is where we were standing: https://goo.gl/maps/1eAurqSuD722
We did stop by Solving on the way back, which was pretty fun.
Imagine an erect column of fire with a 16m base that goes up 322m... That'd be an awesome thing.
(I'm very jealous; I'd love to see a launch, but neither Switzerland nor the UK have functioning space programs, and French Guiana is a bit far too walk...)
I didn't hear it going up but there was a loud rumble on the return. (Which I couldn't see from my vantage point.)
Hearing the landing over 400km away (or even boost back burns which started about 4.5 minutes and several hundred km down range, plus whatever altitude it attained) seems odd if you didn't hear all 9 engines going up.
Just speculation, but there could easily be earth viewing spy telescopes, wide band radio capture, or space weapons tacked on these
Umm what? GPS satellites are not commercial satellites, they're owned and run by the USAF... every aspect of their design is protected by TS and TS/SCI clearance. The master GPS satellite control station is a USAF base in Colorado. They can put as many extra DoD supporting features on them as they want without "sneaking" anything.
I guess that's impossible to rule out that this is a sophisticated plan to hide even the existence of the classified microsats, while providing detailed footage and telemetry up until the moment they are deployed, but it's far-fetched.
That's like claiming that NASA is "running" SpaceX, since its contracts are extremely important to SpaceX's business model.
Edit: Iridium would have accommodated their customer.
US does not share its intelligence data openly with european countries, the only exception being UK.
I'm not sure if that interpretation is negative or not, I guess it depends on whether you approve of the Pentagon and its intelligence gathering activities.
The flare predictor on the Heavens Above website will presumably shut down when the last of the old satellites goes.
This time the descent video seemed more "real". On the last barge landing it was so quick that it seemed magical.
The broadcast glitched out and when it came back the rocket had landed. The timing made it seem like it really slammed down, but if you look at a simulation of how fast it was really going, it looks a lot less "magic" (although still crazy impressive!)
I suspect the reason for the swift return to flight is half that fact, and half that SpaceX is more bureaucratically efficient.
If it were to have happened on a manned flight, even with nobody was on-board during the test, then I doubt we'd be seeing return to flight so quickly.
Did they launch westward? Why?
If the first stage were to "fly" all the way back to land after separating from the second stage, that would require some combination of a heavier/stronger rocket to hold more fuel, and a reduced payload capacity to orbit.
Blue Origin only does short, up-and-down flights -- they are not trying to achieve orbit so there is no need for horizontal travel. They can simply shut off the rocket and fall back to the launch site.
You write it as a hypothetical, but that's actually how SpaceX landed their first first booster. It was Falcon 9 Flight 20, which deployed 11 Orbcomm satellites.
Infographic of the trajectory: https://i.imgur.com/D9BdO86.png
The astronauts considered it extremely risky to say the least. NASA actually wanted to try it on STS-1 (a manned flight on a system that had never been tested before) to see if it worked. In the words of the mission commander: "Let’s not practice Russian roulette, because you may have a loaded gun there." Which carries a lot of weight from a man who was willing to risk a lunar landing.
Previous HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8447479
SpaceX has done 'land' landings in the past as well (for lighter payloads they have enough fuel to turn around and come all the way back to land).
EDIT: Here's a quick explainer on the topic with shiny graphics: http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/rockets/a18711/blue-or...
The initial (publicly shown) iteration was Grasshopper, it looked like this .
After that there was F9R-Dev, which looked like this  (it's pretty much just a F9 first stage). At some point they added grid fins, which look like this on the vehicle  and this up close  (note the anti-pidgeon spikes are being added purely for display, they are not attached during flight). Other than that there haven't really been any visible iterations, the legs look like this  and have since the F9R-Dev.
Blue Origin's mission allows it because it's suborbital. That is: it doesn't actually go anywhere other than straight up. That's also why they can launch in the middle of Texas.
Blue Origin's accomplishments (especially their engine designs) are nothing to sneeze at, but SpaceX is currently in a completely different league. The fact that they have to land on a barge is a result of how scaled and practical their technology is; that they succeed in doing so is an unprecedented achievement in launch vehicle technology.
I may be completely wrong here but I'm fairly certain that's what I remember reading.
IIRC Blue were sitting on some "landing on a barge" patents that SpaceX successfully fought, because they were far too obvious.
No onboard ascent footage or fuel tank footage this time, alas.
They need to be redesigned and SpaceX is twiddling around the issue to avoid the r&d cost. If I was NASA I would be very hesitant to use their rockets for people at this point
That's a pretty specific claim that "they need to be redesigned and SpaceX is twiddling around the issue to avoid the r&d cost." Do you have any evidence to support that?
The strut failure is what SpaceX reported but it could have also been a COPV explosion.
Two confirmed COPV explosions and a third possible explosion. SpaceX itself mentioned that an improved design will be done in the future because they had to modify their fueling schedule to increase the safety margin in the things.
It also could have been a sandwich left in the LOX tank, or malware planted by Nigerian scammers. If you don't accept the information provided by the relevant parties then the possibilities are basically unlimited. That's not to say that you must accept what they say, but if you don't then why would you focus on this particular possibility out of millions?
The strut failure is consistent with the data, and the accepted conclusion of the report.
They are modifying their procedure because their prop loading procedure was _very_ aggressive (pumping liquid helium into the COPV and allowing it vaporize, absorbing more heat from the environment, resulting in the formation of solid oxygen). They exceeded the tolerances of the COPV, and paid for it. In the future their designs will account for the lower temperatures. Until then, switching to the more conservative prop loading method addresses the issue.
in 30 years
Your second paragraph is awfully definitive coming from someone who doesn't seem to know what actually happened.
Many rockets exploded before the Russians or Americans got their first astronauts into space, and others exploded even afterwards. That doesn't mean those designs were failures.