SpaceX shows off its blackened 'Dragon' craft

Feb 10, 2011
Workers adjusts cables infront of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft during the launch of the new Tesla showroom in Washington, DC. Bearing brown and black scorch marks from its fiery tour in orbit in December, the Dragon spacecraft built by US company SpaceX went on display in the US capital on Thursday.

Bearing brown and black scorch marks from its fiery tour in orbit in December, the Dragon spacecraft built by US company SpaceX went on display in the US capital on Thursday.

The capsule, carrying no passengers, blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida and in a seamless practice run was able to enter orbit and re-enter the Earth's atmosphere without a glitch, a first for .

"Luckily, I had nothing to worry about," said former NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox who is now vice president of astronaut safety at . "Now we just want everyone to get to enjoy it as much as we do."

The was set up in a white tent adjacent to the Tesla showroom, where electric cars that can travel from 0 to 60 miles (97 kilometers) per hour in 3.7 seconds were also being shown off under the theme "American innovation."

The Dragon will eventually move to California where it will go on permanent display, and its design will be adapted for an upcoming mission to carry cargo into orbit, and later, crew for the .

NASA signed a 1.6-billion-dollar contract with SpaceX in December 2008 under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program to provide 12 spacecraft with cargo capacity of at least 20 tons to resupply the ISS through 2016.

President Barack Obama hopes the private sector will help fill the gap that will open when the space shuttle fleet is retired later this year, and before a new generation of is developed.

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User comments : 9

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maxcypher
5 / 5 (6) Feb 10, 2011
This kind of privatization is the future, I think.
Sanescience
3.3 / 5 (6) Feb 11, 2011
SpaceX is leading the way. NASA was already contracting out most of its projects via cold war era aerospace companies. But always NASA had its bureaucrats as managers in the hierarchy and congress controlled where money could be spent.

Then along comes some people who start a company with the best and the brightest and without the legacy infrastructure that creates the legacy cost structure. No government agency bureaucrats with their fat budgets and no congressional tinkering to force purchases of parts from dozens of states at inflated prices. And look what happens, brilliance!

Government should not be expected to do anything in a cost effective fashion. Nor should they be involved in "business-like" activities as they can make their own rules to suit political necessity, much like they did when making the shuttle without any escape ability for the astronauts.

Somebody else gonna make something, well it has to be SAFE! So like politicians!
Birger
5 / 5 (4) Feb 11, 2011
There are areas where government is the best operator (no private ownership of the CIA, please), but micromanaging the development of space probes and spacecraft is not one of them. Even in the 1980:s when comparing NASA with the cost-efficient practices of the Swedish space agency's cheap development of their northern light studies satellite, it was clear that the operation of NASA was hugely expensive, compared to rivals.
For a deeper study of when (and what kind of) privatization is optimal, see Donahue's book "The Privatization Decision".
ArmyThinker
1 / 5 (3) Feb 11, 2011
I dont see this being affordable by the public until we get away from rockets being the primary propulsion. Rockets need way too much fuel to put something in orbit. I think the best bet is a magnetic rail used for launching and scram jet technology used for sustainment propulsion into space. But thats just me.
Sanescience
5 / 5 (2) Feb 11, 2011
I think the best bet is a magnetic rail used for launching


Shooting people into orbit just turns them into pasty goo from the extreme g-forces involved.

and scram jet technology used for sustainment[sic] propulsion into space. But thats just me.


To get off the planet it is best to get out of the atmosphere as quickly as you can so you can accelerate to orbital speeds. Scram jets become completely useless once in space, so there is a kind of mutual exclusion there.

Perhaps at some point we will have an engine design that can use some of the oxygen in the air for the brief minute (or less?) that it is in the atmosphere, however I suspect there might be too much efficiency lost because of either the extra weight of the equipment needed to divert atmospheric gases into the engines and introduction of inert non combustion gas (nitrogen).
Jotaf
5 / 5 (1) Feb 11, 2011
Rocket scientists would love an alternate means of propulsion as much as you do! They're not dumb. The fact is that they need to get stuff up there now, and rockets work. Research on other fronts continues of course. ArmyThinker, sorry but those two are not exactly the best bets :)

I'm just as excited as Sanescience about private companies going to space. However, to turn this into a political argument that "private is obviously always better than public" -- as Birger said, the CIA shouldn't be "privately owned", nor agencies that regulate the food industry, or other people that keep you from dying (ie health care, police, firefighters). Everything else can be private and take the risky/efficient route of course.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Feb 11, 2011
@Sanescience,
an engine design that can use some of the oxygen in the air for the brief minute (or less?) that it is in the atmosphere, however I suspect there might be too much efficiency lost because of either the extra weight of the equipment needed
Well, that's where a two-stage launcher comes in. For example, something conceptually similar to the Scaled Composites' (a.k.a. "Virgin Galactic") White Knight/SpaceShipOne combo. The first stage is air-breathing; the second one is designed for operations in vacuum...
Sanescience
5 / 5 (1) Feb 11, 2011
There are areas where government is the best operator (no private ownership of the CIA, please)


I am not recommending an intelligence agency be privatized, Nor am I suggesting the CIA is a "business-like" activity.

Well, that's where a two-stage launcher comes in. For example, something conceptually similar to the Scaled Composites' (a.k.a. "Virgin Galactic") White Knight/SpaceShipOne combo.


Not to diminish what Scaled Composites has accomplished, it is not "big league" space and will not lead to anything getting into orbit.

Also, SpaceX frequently states that a big part of their cost savings and reliability is keeping the lift system as simple as possible, which for them includes only *one* kind of engine, the Merlin.
GSwift7
not rated yet Feb 16, 2011
Government should not be expected to do anything in a cost effective fashion


I know what you mean and I think everyone agrees that if you want something done cheaply you don't ask the government to do it for you.

On the other hand, I could play around with the wording of your statement and argue that we actually SHOULD expect the government to do things in a cost-effective way. I think we give them too much of a free pass by not even expecting them to try to do a good job. I would say that we should either fire and/or arrest the biggest offenders, but that process would have to be done by the government too, so I'm sure they would mess that up as well. lol

As for SpaceX, I say bravo. They are doing an excellent job. I hope they get the heavy lift version to work as planned. It would make them a major player in the launch market. They will have one of the top payload capacities, and be able to do it cheaper if the plans work out.

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