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  • Dragon arrives at space station in historic 1st

    Not as sexy as mining asteroids, but SpaceX actually Got 'R Done: they delivered 1,000 lbs of supplies to the International Space Station:




    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/201...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.
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."

  • #2
    Hey North Koreans, take note!

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    • #3
      Hurrah!!

      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

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      • #4
        Originally posted by becksmachine
        Hurrah!!

        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.
        "The Administration does not support blowing up planets." --- Finally some SENSIBLE policy from the Gov!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Grind Bastard
          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.
          Last edited by Fasttrack; 05-25-2012, 04:51 PM.

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          • #6
            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".
            Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here

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            • #7
              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?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by becksmachine
                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):

                Last edited by lazlo; 05-25-2012, 05:25 PM.
                "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."

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                • #9
                  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.
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Evan
                    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.
                    The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

                    Bluewater Model Engineering Society at https://sites.google.com/site/bluewatermes/

                    Southwestern Ontario. Canada

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Evan
                      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.

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                      • #12
                        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.
                        Last edited by Evan; 05-25-2012, 07:17 PM.
                        Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here

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                        • #13
                          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/10052...acex-demo.html
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Evan
                            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/Commerc...ation_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
                            Last edited by lazlo; 05-25-2012, 08:15 PM.
                            "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Evan
                              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.
                              The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

                              Bluewater Model Engineering Society at https://sites.google.com/site/bluewatermes/

                              Southwestern Ontario. Canada

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