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View Full Version : Dragon arrives at space station in historic 1st



lazlo
05-25-2012, 12:59 PM
Not as sexy as mining asteroids, but SpaceX actually Got 'R Done: they delivered 1,000 lbs of supplies to the International Space Station:


http://ak.imgfarm.com/images/ap/Private_Space_Race.sff_NY117_20120525094446.jpg

http://ak.imgfarm.com/images/ap/Private_Space_Race.sff_NY125_20120525103451.jpg

This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft, top, after Dragon was grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm and connected to the International Space Station, Friday, May 25, 2012. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval.

http://apnews.excite.com/article/20120525/D9UVPN782.html

The privately bankrolled Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station for a historic docking Friday, captured by astronauts wielding a giant robot arm.

It succeeded in making the first commercial delivery into the cosmos.

This is the first time a private company has attempted to send a vessel to the space station, an achievement previously reserved for a small, elite group of government agencies. And it's the first U.S. craft to visit the station since the final shuttle flight last July.

The astronauts wasted no time getting the Dragon capsule into position for actual docking to the space station. The unmanned capsule is carrying 1,000 pounds of supplies on this unprecedented test flight.

On Thursday, the capsule came within 1 1/2 miles of the space station in a practice fly-by. It returned to the neighborhood early Friday so Pettit, along with Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers could capture it with a robot arm. First, the capsule went through a series of stop-and-go demonstrations to prove it was under good operating control.

NASA ordered extra checks of the Dragon's imaging systems as the capsule drew ever closer to the space station, putting the entire operation slightly behind schedule. At one point, SpaceX controllers ordered a retreat because of a problem with on-board tracking sensors.

Given that the Dragon is a brand new type of vehicle and this is a test flight, the space agency insisted on proceeding cautiously.

A collision at orbital speed - 17,500 mph - could prove disastrous for the
space station.

SpaceX - officially known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. - is one of several companies vying for the chance to launch Americans from U.S. soil. That ability ended with NASA's final shuttle flight last summer. To get to the space station, NASA astronauts must go through Russia, an expensive and embarrassing situation for the U.S. after a half-century of orbital self-sufficiency.

lakeside53
05-25-2012, 01:27 PM
Hey North Koreans, take note!:p

becksmachine
05-25-2012, 02:40 PM
Hurrah!! :D

Does anyone else remember where they were when the first shuttle returned safely? I was working 12 hour shifts, rebuilding roller table rollers for an emergency rebuild, at General Machinery here in Spokane. I think I am giving away my age here. I think the whole shop knew in a matter of minutes after it was announced.

Does anyone else here share my (skewed??) sense of romance/pride? ;)

Dave

Grind Hard
05-25-2012, 02:59 PM
Hurrah!! :D

Does anyone else here share my (skewed??) sense of romance/pride? ;)

Dave

Yes.

FINALLY we're back in space.

While the cooperation between us and our old rivals (the russians) was nice, we need to have a domestic space program.

Companies like Space X and the others will drive research and development, the same way NASA did. And this is exactly what we need to stay relevant in the international community.

Fasttrack
05-25-2012, 04:49 PM
Companies like Space X and the others will drive research and development, the same way NASA did. And this is exactly what we need to stay relevant in the international community.


I agree. I've been very excited about the Space X program. By the way, they are hiring machinists... I'll admit I started watching Star Trek recently. I figured if I was going to be a physicist, I should be familiar with the series. It seemed fitting to be watching sci-fi/exploration shows while Space X made these important first steps towards privatized space flight. So, yes ... I also share the feeling of "romance/pride".


Anyway, they have a cooperative agreement with Bigelow Aerospace. BA is supposed to be building inflatable space stations for low Earth orbit and Space X is supposed to provide the transportation to and from these stations. They are designed to be modular so that they can be combined to form larger stations. The company, apparently, see's them being leased to private rich folks and universities for microgravity fun/research.

Evan
05-25-2012, 05:08 PM
I don't see the difference between this particular development and the previous incarnations of aerospace companies developing space vehicles in the past. NASA doesn't build spacecraft and never has. They have always been developed and built by commercial companies with funding from NASA. Nothing different about this one.

The time to get excited is when commercial companies build them with their own money and make a living at it by dealing directly with the customers other than government. Earth imaging is the place that Planetary Resources plans to start.

This particular launcher has a serious problem. Too many engines is a recipe for failure and that is where SpaceX has had all the problems so far. More powerful engines are not more complex, just bigger. Nine engines means nine times the complexity and nine chances for failure instead of two or three. It isn't like multi engine aircraft that can fly with an engine out. It has nine engines because it needs that many. The Soviets had exactly the same problems for many years. The most outstanding example was the Soviet N-1 which had 30 engines. It was a total failure and was the reason the Soviets dropped out of the "Moon Race".

john hobdeclipe
05-25-2012, 05:10 PM
A collision at orbital speed - 17,500 mph - could prove disastrous for the
space station.

During the docking approach these two vehicles are just barely creeping along relative to one another. What does "orbital speed" have to do with anything?

lazlo
05-25-2012, 05:18 PM
Does anyone else here share my (skewed??) sense of romance/pride? ;)

Yes indeed! And the fact that the rocket and capsule were built in the good old USA by rank amateurs, by the founder of Paypal (LOL!) makes it even more so ;)

A Merlin 1C rocket engine under construction at the SpaceX factory in Hawthorne, CA (outside of LA):

http://images.ookaboo.com/photo/m/SpaceX_factory_Merlin_engine_m.jpg

Evan
05-25-2012, 05:34 PM
During the docking approach these two vehicles are just barely creeping along relative to one another.

It is far more difficult than most realize. The space station must maintain a constant orientation relative to the docking spacecraft which means nearly continuous roll control in all three axes. If the station is allowed to "drift" with no attitude control it will rapidly assume a one rev per orbit roll because of the gravity gradient over such a large structure. Anything approaching it cannot dock under such conditions because it would have to do a continual powered orbit relative to the ISS to maintain orientation with the docking port.

The problem then becomes one of deciding who corrects when the alignment isn't correct. That is in large part determined by who has the most fuel and who can correct the easiest/fastest etc. How long it takes then becomes a major issue.

loose nut
05-25-2012, 06:32 PM
The Soviets had exactly the same problems for many years. The most outstanding example was the Soviet N-1 which had 30 engines. It was a total failure and was the reason the Soviets dropped out of the "Moon Race".

That was one of the main reasons they dropped out, they could not get the engine output synchronized. The theory was sound but they couldn't crack the tech problems in the time they had.

The other reason was that they blew up one of the rockets on the launch pad and roasted most of their top scientists, engineers and technicians. Its a little hard to send a rocket to the moon if you don't have any body left that knows how.

Rustybolt
05-25-2012, 06:32 PM
I don't see the difference between this particular development and the previous incarnations of aerospace companies developing space vehicles in the past. NASA doesn't build spacecraft and never has. They have always been developed and built by commercial companies with funding from NASA. Nothing different about this one.


Wasn't spaceX R&D all private money?

The time to get excited is when commercial companies build them with their own money and make a living at it by dealing directly with the customers other than government. Earth imaging is the place that Planetary Resources plans to start.

This particular launcher has a serious problem. Too many engines is a recipe for failure and that is where SpaceX has had all the problems so far. More powerful engines are not more complex, just bigger. Nine engines means nine times the complexity and nine chances for failure instead of two or three. It isn't like multi engine aircraft that can fly with an engine out. It has nine engines because it needs that many. The Soviets had exactly the same problems for many years. The most outstanding example was the Soviet N-1 which had 30 engines. It was a total failure and was the reason the Soviets dropped out of the "Moon Race".


How many engines does the Soyuz launch vehicle have? The russians have been pretty successful with it no?


I'm with Lazlo. This is exciting stuff.

Evan
05-25-2012, 07:14 PM
The other reason was that they blew up one of the rockets on the launch pad and roasted most of their top scientists, engineers and technicians. Its a little hard to send a rocket to the moon if you don't have any body left that knows how.

They did lose some good people but by no means "most of their top scientists". There were far more important reasons. The engines were designed by somebody that knew little about rocket engines. They eventually turned it into a decent design. The problems remains that the engines are the main source of problems and the more you have the more problems you have. The Saturn 5 had five engines and never had a failure.

The Soyuz launcher is very misleading. The external boosters have four nozzles and combustion chambers each but are actually only a single RD-108 engine with the same booster pumps feeding all four chambers from a dedicated fuel supply for just that engine. The four boosters are all the same each with its own fuel supply. The central core vehicle is also the same with only a single engine with four nozzles for a total of only five engines, just like the Saturn.

edit: It is actually simpler than the Saturn since it doesn't have to meter fuel among five engines. Each engine has its own separate fuel system.

Evan
05-25-2012, 07:24 PM
SpaceX R+D was not all private money. NASA pitched in about 350 million since 2006 as of 2010.


SpaceX has received approximately $350 million from NASA since 2006. Of that amount, $248 million has come from COTS milestone payments and $101 million has come from progress payments on the $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract the company won in 2008 to deliver cargo to the space station.

http://www.spacenews.com/civil/100528-expect-longer-wait-between-spacex-demo.html

lazlo
05-25-2012, 08:06 PM
SpaceX R+D was not all private money. NASA pitched in about 350 million since 2006 as of 2010.

SpaceX has spent well over a billion dollars so far, and Elon Musk invested $200 million of his own fortune. The money NASA has "pitched in" is the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, the Federal Government contract to resupply the International Space Station. Considering that we're paying the Russians $350 Million per Soyuz launch, that's an excellent return on investment:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commercial_Orbital_Transportation_Services



"Instead of flying payloads to the International Space Station (ISS) on government-operated vehicles, NASA would spend $500 million (less than the cost of a single Space Shuttle flight) through 2010 to finance the demonstration of orbital transportation services from commercial providers.

Unlike any previous NASA project, the proposed spacecraft are intended to be owned and financed primarily by the companies themselves and will be designed to serve both U.S. government agencies and commercial customers. NASA will contract for missions as its needs become clear."


SpaceX has well over $2 Billion in NASA contracts over the next 5 years to resupply the space station. They also have over a hundred million in contracts with the US Air Force for military lifts, a half a billion in contracts to launch Iridium satellites, and several contracts with SES to launch their communications satellites.

I'd say Elon's commercial venture is going spectacularly well so far ;)

loose nut
05-25-2012, 08:57 PM
They did lose some good people but by no means "most of their top scientists". There were far more important reasons. The engines were designed by somebody that knew little about rocket engines. They eventually turned it into a decent design. The problems remains that the engines are the main source of problems and the more you have the more problems you have. The Saturn 5 had five engines and never had a failure.

The Soyuz launcher is very misleading. The external boosters have four nozzles and combustion chambers each but are actually only a single RD-108 engine with the same booster pumps feeding all four chambers from a dedicated fuel supply for just that engine. The four boosters are all the same each with its own fuel supply. The central core vehicle is also the same with only a single engine with four nozzles for a total of only five engines, just like the Saturn.

edit: It is actually simpler than the Saturn since it doesn't have to meter fuel among five engines. Each engine has its own separate fuel system.

78 killed is the OFFICIAL casualty number but it is believed to be between 120 and 150 actually killed including the project leader Marshal Mitrofan Nedelin. You can't take that kind of a hit and not be screwed.

wierdscience
05-25-2012, 10:15 PM
It's good they made it work,but I'm not excited.When I can drive to the Spaceport,buy a ticket and 45 minutes later be in orbit,then I'll I be mildly amused.:)

Evan
05-26-2012, 02:23 AM
SpaceX has spent well over a billion dollars so far, and Elon Musk invested $200 million of his own fortune.

How does that differ materially from any other aerospace company? We won't see any real efficiency improvements until the government is out of the picture entirely. SpaceX is just another government contractor.

I am pleased that it works but only very mildly so. It isn't a major accomplishment of any sort. We had the capability nearly 50 years ago. Getting it back isn't some sort of accomplishment, it's a sad commentary on the current state of the space program that unclassified launch and resupply capability has been allowed to deteriorate so far.

One thing that isn't well known is that without this capability the station would have to shut down permanently within a couple of years or less. They have no way of disposing of garbage and used equipment. Without the Shuttle the trash has been piling up fast. They can't throw it out on the street. The Dragon will be hard pressed to keep up with the downhill demand and the Soyuz can only handle a few kilos per trip. Just getting experimental results back has been badly compromised.

It is a fine example of what letting a bunch of politicians run a technical program can do to destroy it entirely.

It isn't just the US either. The more our society becomes dependent on technological solutions the more it becomes necessary that we keep government out of the decision making process.

There are other options being explored. Boeing is studying a new version of the X-37 and may build a demonstrator. One of the most interesting things about the X-37 is that it was designed within "man-rated" parameters. It pulls a maximum of only 1.5 G during flight.

http://ixian.ca/pics9/x37manned.jpg

They could have this operational in less than two years.

http://www.gizmag.com/x37b-manned-spaceplane/20175/

Fasttrack
05-26-2012, 03:36 AM
SpaceX is just another government contractor.





I disagree. The difference here is that the spot light is on a private company instead of NASA. An important part of scientific research is gaining a positive public opinion and I think this is an important step in that regard. Hopefully we can get more people excited about space flight and technology.

In fact, NASA is providing funding but they have considerably less control over how Space X will fulfill the contract. I recently read about some of the (mild) friction between NASA and Space X. The older NASA employees who felt the burden of NASA's tragedies were upset that Space X was not going through all of the same testing procedures as NASA. They did concede that, because of this, Space X is able to progress faster and with less cost/red tape than the NASA programs.


We had the capability nearly 50 years ago. Getting it back isn't some sort of accomplishment, it's a sad commentary on the current state of the space program that unclassified launch and resupply capability has been allowed to deteriorate so far.

I do agree with this.

loose nut
05-26-2012, 10:07 AM
I recently read about some of the (mild) friction between NASA and Space X. The older NASA employees who felt the burden of NASA's tragedies were upset that Space X was not going through all of the same testing procedures as NASA. They did concede that, because of this, Space X is able to progress faster and with less cost/red tape than the NASA programs.
.

Commercial corporations are more willing to risk peoples lives, in the name of profit, then the government agencies like NASA. If something goes horribly wrong then they just fold and disappear, NASA has to stick around and face the music. Unfortunately the only way to get into space in a big way is to cut the governments of the world out of the picture.

michigan doug
05-26-2012, 10:14 AM
My nephew, who is in 8th or 9th grade, has a science experiment that went up on this flight. An experiment about how soy beans grow in a ~zero G environment.

I think spaceX is not just business as usual, and a meaningful move toward private enterprise taking over the space business.

Finest regards,

doug

vpt
05-26-2012, 10:19 AM
My nephew, who is in 8th or 9th grade, has a science experiment that went up on this flight. An experiment about how soy beans grow in a ~zero G environment.

I think spaceX is not just business as usual, and a meaningful move toward private enterprise taking over the space business.

Finest regards,

doug



I have always wondered if fish can survive in space (in water of course).

lazlo
05-26-2012, 10:33 AM
Commercial corporations are more willing to risk peoples lives, in the name of profit, then the government agencies like NASA. If something goes horribly wrong then they just fold and disappear, NASA has to stick around and face the music.

Plus the government agency has a ton of beauracracy and dead weight. No $500 toilet seats in a commercial startup.

justanengineer
05-26-2012, 11:12 AM
Plus the government agency has a ton of beauracracy and dead weight. No $500 toilet seats in a commercial startup.

Just like the wars overseas were expensive bc we overpaid our soldiers at $30k/yr and not bc of the private $150k/yr crappy food servers and poor laundry service? Get real.

NASA has run extremely lean when all programs are considered. Not too many large entities govt or private dont purchase new trucks every few years, and NASA has been reusing many of the same vehicles since before Apollo. If you want a great look back in time at tools, visit the Cape sometime. Beyond this, the current SpaceX resupply contract costs the govt (read taxpayers) more than the Russian unmanned rockets plain and simple. Considering NASA gave them the key to the kingdom via simulation and other key software/technology/work performed, and its more expensive than paying our red friends, how is it a savings? 1 answer - bc our current administration said it is.

Comparing the Dragon to the space shuttle is also rather ludicrous (unmanned vs manned, IOW a tin can vs a bus, but here is an attempt at comparing cost. As taxpayers, we are paying $130M to transport a max of 10k lbs payload, or $13k/lb. The last Space Shuttle flights carried 50k lb at $450M, or $9k/lb, plus a crew.

lazlo
05-26-2012, 12:44 PM
Just like the wars overseas were expensive bc we overpaid our soldiers at $30k/yr and not bc of the private $150k/yr crappy food servers and poor laundry service? Get real.

It costs $390,000 per soldier per year, deployed to Iraq/Afghanistan.

I was an engineer for Army Research Labs for 10 years -- and yes, there's a TON of bureaucracy, dead weight, and corruption. That's true of any government agency in any country.


Comparing the Dragon to the space shuttle is also rather ludicrous (unmanned vs manned, IOW a tin can vs a bus, but here is an attempt at comparing cost. As taxpayers, we are paying $130M to transport a max of 10k lbs payload, or $13k/lb. The last Space Shuttle flights carried 50k lb at $450M, or $9k/lb, plus a crew.

No question -- we argued this on the asteroid mining thread. SpaceX is at Apollo-era launch capability. There's a long road ahead to get to a space shuttle, but they're off to a damn good start!

danlb
05-26-2012, 02:21 PM
Plus the government agency has a ton of beauracracy and dead weight. No $500 toilet seats in a commercial startup.


I worked at a lot of startups. Since they run on venture capital they are riddled with the equivalent of $500 toilet seats. I observed $200 an hour consultants that are billing for 18 hours a day to do mundane work. I saw dual biometric locks on a door to a room with sheet-rock walls and windows. I saw a room full of consumer grade computers bought for $25,000 each.

I saw a LOT of high priced waste.

The difference is that it's easy to see the $490 markup on a $10 toilet seat. It's harder to see the $1000 markup on the $10,000 piece of hardware.

Back On Topic.... I'm glad that we have a way to get a capsule to low earth orbit. I'd be much happier if it was more capable than the Gemini capsules of the early 1960s. I'd be very happy if it could rival the Apollo achievements. I'd be ecstatic if it could equal the space shuttle AND go beyond Low Earth Orbit.

I was supposed to be able to vacation on the moon by now. The moon is a harsh mistress (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moon_Is_a_Harsh_Mistress)

Dan

michigan doug
05-26-2012, 02:25 PM
Yes, fish can survive in space. Both the russians and at the ISS facility, there have been experiments with fish in space.

I couldn't find any video of fish in space, but this one with water in space is pretty interesting:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaHLwla2WiI&feature=related


Finest regards,


doug

Evan
05-26-2012, 09:55 PM
Commercial corporations are more willing to risk peoples lives, in the name of profit, then the government agencies like NASA. If something goes horribly wrong then they just fold and disappear, NASA has to stick around and face the music. Unfortunately the only way to get into space in a big way is to cut the governments of the world out of the picture.

I don't think anybody is starting up a "go to orbit" enterprise just for the money. There has to be some element of "dreaming about space travel" involved and getting off this planet. I certainly agree that the governments need to be uninvolved, completely. The old aerospace companies are the ones to blame for the $500 hammers, not NASA directly. The politicians are also to blame for inconsistent funding. Space programs don't happen in just one funding cycle and many a program has been cancelled after large amounts of money were spent resulting in large amounts of wasted funding.

The major aerospace firms are nearly all prime cases of pork barrel funding with the money dished out according to everything except what is the best for the programs. The amount of wasted money is probably ten times greater than the money spent to good effect.

lazlo
05-26-2012, 10:23 PM
The old aerospace companies are the ones to blame for the $500 hammers, not NASA directly.

The major aerospace firms are nearly all prime cases of pork barrel funding with the money dished out according to everything except what is the best for the programs.

*Totally* agree Evan. When I worked in the Army Space Programs Office, it was generally believed that the US spy satellite program was so secretive because it was so Un-Godly expensive. A basic tenet of Mutually Assured Destruction and arms control treaties is that your opponent needs to know the capabilities of your monitoring equipment. The Russians and Chinese "somehow" knew (know) the details of our satellites, so the theory goes that the military-industrial complex was hiding the expense of the program from the general public.

I was involved in a technical audit of a piece of terrestrial equipment being developed by a well-known defense contractor (who as Evan points out was also manufacturing major components of the Space Shuttle). We noticed they were using space-qualified fasteners in a VCR panel mount, of all places. Turns out, they had billed the government an obscene amount for these fasteners for a space program, had a large excess supply, and were double-billing the program for a completely unrelated use.

That's where the $500 hammers come from, and why we spend more on defense than the 20 largest military budgets combined: about a third of our annual federal budget, and about a 1/4 of our GDP.

beanbag
05-26-2012, 10:46 PM
I certainly agree that the governments need to be uninvolved, completely. .

Just wait until somebody dies in a horrible explosion, and then there will be congressional hearings and calls for "more regulation".

loose nut
05-27-2012, 11:31 AM
$500 toilet seat and $20000 hammers is how much of the "black" budgets are funded.