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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho.

Elon Musk

7 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Bruce Hoult

    SpaceX are tackling this very difficult and never attempted before problem in a typically “agile software” way. Try it for real with the Simplest Thing That Could Possibly Work. If it works, great, try something a bit harder next time. If it doesn’t work, figure out why, and try the simplest possible thing to fix it.

    Rocket first stages have always been disposable and disposed in the past, so no matter how many they lose while figuring out how to recover them it doesn’t cost anything much at all … provided the actual paying customer payload mission is successful. In this case a NASA resupply mission for the International Space Station.

    Apparently this time they ran out of hydraulic fluid for the steering fins they added since the previous attempt. They were about 10% short. The next flight was already planned to have 50% more fluid, so should be fine. (they figure it weighs less to have extra fluid than to add hardware to make a closed hydraulic system for something that’s only used for several minutes)

    As it is, they successfully brought a 42m high by 3.66m diameter hypersonic rocket back from space under enough control and precision to touch down on a 100m x 70m barge.

    When they finally get it to work, and reuse the engines or a whole stage, it will be an Historic Moment.

  • Stuck-record

    And contrast the speed at which the whole development is taking place compared to a govt trying the same thing.

  • I keep thinking of all that footage early NASA rockets blowing up on the launchpad, or getting 50 feet into the air and tipping over. It didn’t take long for that process of trial-and-error to end up with a moon landing. They’ll figure it out.

  • Congrats to SpaceX for the attempt. I strongly suspect that eventually they’ll get it right.

    The “Build a little – Test a little – fly a little approach is obviously the right one. The fact that they can do it while making money flying cargo to the ISS is just icing on the cake.

    Still even when they do get it right, SpaceX will still be a long way from ‘airliner-like’ operations. After landing the Falcon 9 1st stage and its engines will still need refurbishing, just like the Space Shuttle did. No shame in that, as a private firm they will have lower costs, pound for pound than NASA did with the Shuttle.

    As of today they are still ahead of everybody else, especially the Ariane 6.

  • Bruce Hoult

    No, not really like the space shuttle did.

    They don’t have fragile hyper-expensive ceramic tiles to inspect and replace, and the engines have been designed from the start to be good for 40 flights.

    You can do that when you don’t try to extract the last 0.1% of performance physically possible, and optimise for something else, such as cost per kg launched.

  • Of course landing vertically imposes its own set of difficulties.

    We’ll see just how much refurbishing and inspection the engines will need in practice.

  • Dale Amon

    Actually they will not have to refurbish the engines, or even remove them after landing. This might happen for the first few flights just because its still engineering development and they need to lay down the base lines for life. But the word in industry circles is they are good for 40 firings without a major overhaul. That includes the ground test firings, so they’ve got anywhere from 10-20 flights on an engine.

    The trick is, these engines do not push the limits the way the SSME’s did.

    In fact, Elon is talking about refueling on the barge and flying the stages back to land. Basically land it, kick the metaphorical tires and launch it again.