SpaceX completes crucial milestone toward launching astronauts

Oct 21, 2011 by Jason Rhian, Universe Today
With the completion of the fourth CCDEV milestone, Space Exploration Technologies is one step closer to launching astronauts into orbit. Photo Credit: SpaceX

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is now one more step closer to sending astronauts to orbit. The commercial space firm announced today that it has completed a successful review of the company’s launch abort system (LAS). SpaceX’s LAS, dubbed “DragonRider” is designed differently than abort systems that have been used in the past.

The first review of the system’s design and its subsequent approval by NASA represents a step toward the realization of the space agency’s current objective of having commercial companies provide access to the International Space Station (ISS) while it focuses on sending beyond low-Earth-orbit (LEO) for the first time in four decades.

“Each milestone we complete brings the United States one step closer to once again having domestic human spaceflight capability,” said former astronaut Garrett Reisman, who is one of the two program leads who are working on SpaceX’s DragonRider program.

The DragonRider launch abort system would allow astronauts to be safely pulled away from the Falcon 9 launch vehicle in the advent of an emergency. Image Credit: SpaceX

With the space shuttle program over and its fleet of orbiters headed to museums, the United States is paying Russia an estimated $63 million per seat on its Soyuz spacecraft. SpaceX has estimated that, by comparison, flights on a man-rated version of its Dragon spacecraft would cost approximately $20 million. Despite the dramatically lower cost, SpaceX has emphatically stated that safety is one of the key drivers of its spacecraft.

“Dragon’s integrated launch abort system provides astronauts with the ability to safely escape from the beginning of the launch until the rocket reaches orbit,” said David Giger, the other lead on the DragonRider program. “This level of protection is unprecedented in manned spaceflight history.”

SpaceX is currently working to see that the next flight of its Dragon spacecraft tentatively scheduled for late this year will incorporate mission objectives of both the second and third COTS demonstration flights and be allowed to dock with the International Space Station. Image Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX had already met three of NASA’s milestones under the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) contract that the company has signed into with the U.S. space agency. With the Preliminary Design Review or PDR completed of the abort system SpaceX can now rack up another milestone that it has met.

Unlike conventional abort systems, which are essentially small, powerful rockets that are attached to the top of the spacecraft, Dragon’s LAS is actually built into the walls of the Dragon. This is not an effort just to make the spacecraft’s abort system unique – rather it is meant as a cost-cutting measure. The Dragon is intended to be reusable, as such its needed to be capable of being reused on later flights as well. Traditional LAS simply do not allow for that. With every successful launch by conventional means – the LAS is lost.

SpaceX is also working to see that this system not only can save astronaut lives in the advent of an emergency – but that it can actually allow the spacecraft to conduct pinpoint landings one day. Not just on Earth – but possibly other terrestrial bodies – including Mars.

SpaceX's Vice-President for Communications, Bobby Block, said that the fact that SpaceX has accomplished these milestones on time and budget should show what can happen when NASA and the private industry work together. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/awaltersphoto.com

To date, SpaceX has launched two of its Falcon 9 launch vehicles. The first occurred on June 4 of 2010 and the second, and the first under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract took place six months later on Dec. 8. This second mission was the first to include a Dragon spacecraft, which was recovered in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California after successfully completing two orbits.

“We have accomplished these four milestones on time and budget, while this is incredibly important, it is business as usual for SpaceX,” said ’s Vice-President for Communications Bobby Block during an interview. “These are being completed under a Space Act Agreement that demonstrates the innovative and efficient nature of what can be accomplished when the commercial sector and NASA work together.”

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Buyck
3.7 / 5 (13) Oct 21, 2011
Nasa is history, now private firms has the future !
It will save money for the taxpayers and will accelerate the development of space exploration !

This is a crucial moment !!!
Dokudango
4.6 / 5 (12) Oct 21, 2011
SpaceX, you are fucking awesome.
YawningDog
3.5 / 5 (8) Oct 21, 2011
Good riddance to the politico slugs who pushed out the good engineers who made NASA such a success in the push to land men on the moon. It's a shame the taxpayer will still be paying them for their incompetence in the form of pensions.
dschlink
4.6 / 5 (7) Oct 21, 2011
All developed for less than the cost of a single Shuttle flight.
One fiftieth the cost of the an Ares 1 flight.

D. D. Harriman your true name is Musk!
Nerdyguy
4.5 / 5 (8) Oct 21, 2011
Now this is a proud moment for space exploration and - dare I say it - American entrepreneurship! The sooner NASA turns over that $63 million per seat to SpaceX and its small group of competitors, the better.
Vendicar_Decarian
1.3 / 5 (7) Oct 21, 2011
Corpretization. America's perpetual failure.
Nerdyguy
4.3 / 5 (7) Oct 21, 2011
Corpretization. America's perpetual failure.


Surely you jest! While all systems -- political, religious, economic or otherwise -- have their shortcomings, America's focus on business has brought prosperity to billions of people around the world for more than 200 years. It has helped turn decay and squalor for millions into unprecedented economic growth and prosperity.

It has helped to bring education, high wages and better living conditions to untold numbers of people.

Certainly, there are excesses, faults, problems to be addressed, but this is true of everything, everywhere at every time.

However, for a New Yorker to paint all of America and its business institutions with the broad brush of "perpetual failure" is nothing more than a display of ignorance. And, perhaps, a display of emotional disturbance.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (4) Oct 22, 2011
"America's focus on business has brought prosperity to billions of people around the world for more than 200 years." - Nerdyguy

Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahah........

What a joke.

You don't actually believe that claptrap do you? If so then Americans are even dumber than I thought.
Ethelred
3 / 5 (2) Oct 22, 2011
This is very good.

BUT it is NOT privatization. In case you guys failed to notice NASA paid for it. Not the private sector. I am not saying that some parts of space travel can't be privatized it is simply that this is not case in flight.

If oh say GE paid for the test THAT would be private. Unless GE paid for it as part of a government contract. For another example Delta rockets did a LOT of private space launches but the research that got the Deltas in the first place was paid for by NASA.

Ethelred
ShotmanMaslo
4 / 5 (4) Oct 22, 2011
BUT it is NOT privatization. In case you guys failed to notice NASA paid for it. Not the private sector.


You are right in that commercial human spaceflight will still be payed for primarily by public money.

Anyway, SpaceX is awesome. NASA is a bureaucratic lobbyist mess, which is what you get when politics mix with what are essentially technical questions.

Go, SpaceX!
Ethelred
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 22, 2011
I think NASA's problems stem from two Presidents in a row, at least, not giving a rats ass about it.

Ethelred
ShotmanMaslo
4.4 / 5 (7) Oct 22, 2011
I think NASA's problems stem from two Presidents in a row, at least, not giving a rats ass about it.

Ethelred


No politician gave a rats ass about NASA ever since Apollo ended, except as a jobs program, IMHO.
Nerdyguy
4.3 / 5 (6) Oct 22, 2011
"BUT it is NOT privatization...."

Just to clarify, the "privatization" part is very real and it appears that you misunderstand the term. SpaceX is a 100% independent corporation that is engaged in the long term goal of space exploration FOR PROFIT. The company was developed from the ground up by private individuals, not the government.

NASA is only a current customer. This is no different from any of the 100s of thousands of large and small contractors that go after government contracts. I've worked for a few (IBM, ADP) and government work makes up a large chunk of some of these firms clientele.

As a more meaningful example, SpaceX just signed their 8th Non-US based client contract. Spacex.com, Media tab for more.
Cynical1
3 / 5 (2) Oct 22, 2011
VD - Corporatization.
As to the privatization aspect. Weren't Teflon,Velcro and semiconductors developed for the (at the time - government run)space program? Look what they are now... That was just a business model prep for capitalizing on the resources around our solar system. This will only bring even MORE value to space. And the technologies that arise from it should prove even MORE beneficial to humankind...
Ethelred
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 23, 2011
Just to clarify, the "privatization" part is very real and it appears that you misunderstand the term.
More likely you misunderstood me.

SpaceX is a 100% independent corporation that is engaged in the long term goal of space exploration FOR PROFIT.
Not in this launch.

The company was developed from the ground up by private individuals, not the government.
Paid for frequently by NASA.

As a more meaningful example, SpaceX just signed their 8th Non-US based client contract. Spacex.com, Media tab for more.
And when they start launching HUMANS for other customers they will be doing private human launches. THIS launch was no such thing. It was to meet Human Rated launch specs and was paid for NASA. So you misunderstood my post. Despite my giving an example.

Ethelred
Nerdyguy
2 / 5 (4) Oct 23, 2011
Ethelred - a corporation is either formed in the PRIVATE sector, or is created by the government as a pseudo-corporate entity in the PUBLIC sector. Privatization literally means a non-government entity formed by private individuals.

Who, or what, paid for services rendered has ZERO to do with the term "privatization". You misunderstood and should educate yourself prior to entering a debate with a superior opponent.
GDM
5 / 5 (1) Oct 23, 2011
The United Launch Alliance is a joint venture between two "private" corporations and developed the Delta series of launchers. However, the defense department paid for most of the research. As a result, if the DOD wishes to use the Delta IV, for example, they pay ULA only $300 million, whereas if you or I want to use the Deltal IV, it would cost us $700 million, as the DOD has stated they will not subsidize private launches. What does all this mean? Large private corporations depend heavily on government, and vice versa. Even the most indisputable private corporations might still sell their wares to government entities. I suppose the dividing line, if there can be one, is whether the company could survive at all without any government assistance.
ShotmanMaslo
5 / 5 (2) Oct 23, 2011
I suppose the dividing line, if there can be one, is whether the company could survive at all without any government assistance.


Id say that SpaceX launch department could, but manned spaceflight department could not.
Nerdyguy
5 / 5 (1) Oct 23, 2011
"I suppose the dividing line, if there can be one, is whether the company could survive at all without any government assistance." - GDM

Agreed.

We should keep in mind though that in historical terms, this industry is really still in in its infancy. To some extent, the moon shot was accomplished decades before most of the technology that would have made it a cheaper, more sustainable model. Fueled, of course, by the "national pride" effort to beat the Soviets.

In practical terms, the entire worldwide manned space effort is still more akin to a startup business. But, like all startups, there are some visionaries who seem to really understand the potential future payoff.
Ethelred
3 / 5 (2) Oct 24, 2011
Ethelred - a corporation is either formed in the PRIVATE sector, or is created by the government as a pseudo-corporate entity in the PUBLIC sector.
You mistake my point by being pedantic. It is a government launch. It would not have happened except with government money as there is not profit in this launch except for the Federal payout.

You misunderstood and should educate yourself prior to entering a debate with a superior opponent.
I meant what I said and fully understood it. And I will remember to educate myself when I run across that opponent.

There are some equals here. Maybe you will show yourself to be one. In the future.

Ethelred
Nerdyguy
2.4 / 5 (5) Oct 24, 2011
Ethelred, I say again that, while you may or may not be the smartest fellow on here, pedantics, semantics, or any other antics have literally nothing to do with it. You would last perhaps five minutes in a conversation about finance or economics with me or any other educated businessperson. But, hey, I'm sure you know a lot of cool equations. Again, privatization does not have anything at all to do with one's clientele. Period. SpaceX, as a Private company, has many paying clients. And, yes big boy, the U.S. government happens to be one.

BTW, using your ridiculous comments as a guide, IBM, AT&T, Microsoft, Intel, and the company that does the landscaping at the White House are all government corporation.

Ah, why do I bother.
ShotmanMaslo
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2011
Privatisation:

The term is also used in a quite different sense, to mean government out-sourcing of services to private firms, e.g. functions like revenue collection, law enforcement, and prison management.


http://en.wikiped...tization

So indeed, launches funded by public money, but executed by private companies are privatisation.
Ethelred
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 24, 2011
You would last perhaps five minutes in a conversation about finance or economics with me or any other educated businessperson.
Only if I got tired of your personal attacks.

But, hey, I'm sure you know a lot of cool equations.
No. I work retail. You know, business.

Again, privatization does not have anything at all to do with one's clientele. Period.
You seem to be having a problem comprehending what I said. The FEDS paid for this launch. It was NOT private.

Shotman, perhaps you too didn't understand my intent here. THIS was not a private launch and was only done because the government paid for it. In case you haven't noticed privatization has become more of a political agenda then a reasonable way to improve efficiency. I don't have a problem with the word. I have a problem with the ideological agenda.

Ethelred
Nerdyguy
1 / 5 (2) Oct 24, 2011
"...privatization has become more of a political agenda..."

Other than making this up out of whole cloth, do you have ANY evidence for this nonsensical statement?

We live in the world's greatest private-enterprise free-market economy. Privatization has been a godsend for many markets and has brought the US to the pinnacle of world economic power.

Yes, you are correct. The FEDS paid for this PRIVATE company's launch. They were what you folks in the retail sector call a "customer". In other business sectors, they're sometimes called "clients".

Oh, and lighten up a little. These aren't personal attacks. These are conversations/debates/philosophical musings on news site that probably under 100 people read. lol

Pyle
5 / 5 (2) Oct 24, 2011
These are conversations/debates/philosophical musings on news site that probably under 100 people read. lol
Nah. Physorg gets about a million hits a month, on average.
http://www.quantc...sorg.com
I'd say at least 102 people make it past the articles to read our drivel.

Regarding public vs. private.

Ethelred is smoking some semantic funny stuff on this one. I get his point, but he's wrong. This is privatization. It appears to be an example that actually supports further privatization.
This would be in contrast to the use of private companies to provide Medicare Advantage programs, or to provide food for the military, or to provide security services in Iraq. Those examples all show how private solutions are as easily corruptible and inefficient as public agencies, provide their own host of problems, and end up costing tax payers more in the end.
Pyle
5 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2011
Regarding the privatization "ideological agenda". I agree with Eth.

Here is a thought. There are opportunities where competition should be introduced to improve efficiency. Why does competition always mean privatization? Why can't there be competition within government?

Government has lots of problems. Most of them are fixable if we make them. The government is us. If there is a lack of oversight it is because we aren't doing our job, paying attention to our government. Let's fix it, instead of selling it.
Nerdyguy
not rated yet Oct 24, 2011
One question, and this is not intended sarcasm: to what "ideological agenda" are you two referring (as it relates to privatization)?
Fagamemnon
4 / 5 (4) Oct 24, 2011
They're most likely referring to the Chicago School of Economics: Friedman, Hayek, et al. The 2008 economic crisis succinctly demonstrated the failings of their models.
Ethelred
3 / 5 (4) Oct 24, 2011
Other than making this up out of whole cloth, do you have ANY evidence for this nonsensical statement?
You have been living in the US for at least a decade have you not? It IS a major political agenda with the Republican Party. Perhaps you have noticed the continuing efforts to privatize Social Security.

Privatization has been a godsend for many markets and has brought the US to the pinnacle of world economic power.
No. While many things contributed to the US success in economics Privatization is not one of them. You are mistaking private and public companies for PRIVATIZED companies. Britain privatized many of the formerly government owned businesses. That is privatization. If the Post Office was sold off that would be privatization.>>
Ethelred
3 / 5 (2) Oct 24, 2011
http://en.wikiped...tization

Privatization is the incidence or process of transferring ownership of a business, enterprise, agency or public service from the public sector (the state or government) to the private sector (businesses that operate for a private profit) or to private non-profit organizations.


Oh, and lighten up a little. These aren't personal attacks.
Lots of people say that. After they make personal attacks.

and should educate yourself prior to entering a debate with a superior opponent.


You would last perhaps five minutes in a conversation about finance or economics with me or any other educated businessperson.


BTW, using your ridiculous comments as a guide,
Which is based on a false version of my comments.

Your statement was rather similar to 'I was just joking' when the person was doing nothing of the sort.

If I make a personal attack I do not try to pretend it was a joke. Even when it is funny.

Ethelred
Cynical1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 24, 2011
Ethelred, I believe the key words of your inclusion are "process of". That is what SpaceX and all the others are in the process of accomplishing.
Cynical1
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2011
And lest we forget the LAST part (and most important) of that Wiki definition -
Privatisation generally improves the output and efficiency of the organisations that are privatised.
GSwift7
5 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2011
to Ethelred:

I think NASA's problems stem from two Presidents in a row, at least, not giving a rats ass about it]


The biggest problem with NASA is the Congressional funding process. Any time a new funding measure comes up, there are a drove of hungry mouths to feed. Provisions are written into the funding which force the money to be spread out amongst various Congressional voting districts. You end up getting approval for a new widget, but it might require that some percent of the work be done in some specific State. That's why you have NASA offices and subcontractors in nearly every State in the Country. You frequently read that satellite components are being designed in several different States, then assembled in another, tested in a third, then mated with other parts in a fourth, and integrated testing of the fully assembled aircraft is done in a fifth, with NASA oversight of design done in a sixth, and mission control in an eighth. Shipping alone is outrageous.
GSwift7
5 / 5 (3) Oct 25, 2011
Continued:

The shear overhead needed for administration of the NASA piecemeal cobblestone patchwork of subcontractors is staggering. Each of the subcontractors has its own president, vice president, board of directors, accountants, etc. The paper trail needed to communicate between them all is mind-boggling as well. The auditors and oversight needed to make sure everyone is meeting obligations, coordination of time lines, external review boards with anything goes wrong, etc are financially crippling. Imagine making a Big Mac burger, but each layer of it is designed and pre-fabricated by a different location, one-of-a-kind, so that it can be tested and assembled somewhere else. Imagine having to place the same level of care into the pre-sliced onions, for example, as you do a mirror. The onions alone might cost millions of dollars, after building a facility to produce them. It might take months just to decide where to puchase the onion and get it approved! SpaceX is just efficient.
GSwift7
5 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
to Cynical1:

Privatisation generally improves the output and efficiency of the organisations that are privatised


I worked for the Foster Care contractor for Kansas for a couple of years. They have completely privatized their foster care/adoption system. There are contract bids every few years. By comparison, Missouri has a non-privatized system. The two states share work within the city of Kansas City. Kansas handles KCK and Missouri handles KCMo. KCK is arguably the more difficult of the two areas, with much higher rates of at-risk children and crime. There are four case workers in KCMo for every case workwer in KCK, yet the KCMo case backlog is astounding and in-home visits are rare. In KCK, one quarter of the number of workers are able to attend to a larger case load and somebody's ass is in a sling if there isn't a home visit in 48 hours. The cost is also lower per case, although Kansas social workers all have degrees, and Mo workers do not.
GSwift7
5 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
continued:

The down side to privatization is the potential for corruption and cronieism (spelling?). I know that the directors and board members of the not-for-profit agency I worked for in Kansas were politically connected to the Governor's office and family members were given do-nothing positions. Campaign contributions were probably also involved but I never had access to that kind of information, and didn't go looking for it.

The taxpayers still get more for le$$ though. The kids in the system also get better treatment, with far less average time trapped in the no-man's land between State custody and either adoption or re-unification of the family. Kids in Kansas rarely end up spending weeks or months in group homes or juvinile offender facilities while waiting for a foster home either. Cases there also don't usually wait months or years before being heard in Family Court either. The cost versus benefit analysis on privatization is clearly one-sided.
Pyle
5 / 5 (1) Oct 25, 2011
It's kind of funny. The above example doesn't support any of the reasons one typically hears when people rant and rave about privatization.

Competitions sure doesn't seem apparent.

Profit motive surely wasn't driving the people.

Heck, Eth has quite a bit more of a point on this one, given it is a not for profit performing a service paid primarily by the government. Is this really privatization? This just feels more like "unencumbering". Freeing the service providers from a broken bureaucracy.

Again, what we need is to get involved. In this example, push the elected officials in Missouri to recognize the superior system next door and enact a similar solution on their side of the river. At the same time, push the elected officials on the Kansas side to end the corruption that seems to be involved.

I'll agree that this appears like a great example of successful outsourcing to a privately controlled group. Let's model after it, not generalize from it.
Ethelred
3 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
Privatisation generally improves the output and efficiency of the organisations that are privatised.
Generally. And the main example is Britain. Not sure how well it has gone in Russia as much of that included vast amounts of corruption before and maybe even worse after.

In the US there really isn't much privatization of Government businesses. Mostly the Feds have contracted stuff out for the entirety of it's existence. NASA is about research not business. Hiring SpaceX for government launches is perfectly reasonable now that rocketry SHOULD be able to function at a profit.

However I think Musk is engaged in fantasy if he thinks he can make a profit sending men to Mars except with government money.

The biggest problem with NASA is the Congressional funding process.
If you include the Military's needs then yes. The Military vastly increased the cost of the Space Shuttle by insisting on a lot of spec changes.>>
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
"Privatisation generally improves the output and efficiency of the organisations that are privatised." - Cynical Tard

Enron.

The fact is that as electric utilities have been privatized in the U.S. quality of service has gone down and cost of service has gone way up.

Three generally is no compelling reason for the state to be involved with the production of consumer goods, with the exception of regulating their efficiency and durability. But for public services it is almost universally true that the state is the best operator.

Privatizing police forces, standards enforcement, public utilities and natural monopolies or extremely limited resources like the radio spectrum is an exceptionally bad idea as has been proven time and time again.

Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
"That is what SpaceX and all the others are in the process of accomplishing." - CynicalTard

Other than providing another avenue to spend government money, I fail to see what SpaceX is accomplishing.

Who do you think is going to fun space flight? Only Government has the combined resources for such a thing.

Vendicar_Decarian
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 25, 2011
"They're most likely referring to the Chicago School of Economics: Friedman, Hayek, et al. The 2008 economic crisis succinctly demonstrated the failings of their models." - Fagamemnon

You would think that the huge U.S. Federal Debt would have illustrated their failure well enough.

Do you remember when their supporters claimed that Supply Side economics had "repealed the business cycle."?

Ignorant Filth.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
"We live in the world's greatest private-enterprise free-market economy." - NergGuyTard

You mean world's greatest BANKRUPT free-market economy.

Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (3) Oct 25, 2011
"I think NASA's problems stem from two Presidents in a row, at least, not giving a rats ass about it." - Ethel

What is a bankrupt nation to do in space? Bankrupt itself further?

The Republicans have succeeded with the complicity of the American people, in destroying their own nation.
ShotmanMaslo
5 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
Other than providing another avenue to spend government money, I fail to see what SpaceX is accomplishing.


More bang for less buck?

Launching stuff to space is an industry that has evolved to the point where government does not need to be involved beyond buying launches on the market.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
You can't reduce everything to: "there are other problems, let's not spend another dime on anything else until tese problems are fixed"

By that argument you'd never do ANY research at all. I think it's easy to argue that research and exploration sometimes yield incredible payoffs down the line. Just pumping money into keeping everyone a bit happier now is sure fire recipe for slow decline. The world does not stand still.
Ethelred
3 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
Provisions are written into the funding which force the money to be spread out amongst various Congressional voting districts.
That is politics. Happens with the private contractors as well. That is the contractors have a better chance if they have jobs in the right places.

and mission control in an eighth.
Johnson was the cause of so much being in Texas.

Shipping alone is outrageous.
Naw. It makes so much sense to build rocket boosters in sections in other states and not just assemble things in Florida next to the launch pads. No rrealllyy. That way they can blow up real good.

A President that gave a damn could have cut out a lot that nonsense.

It might take months just to decide where to puchase the onion and get it approved!
You might want to look at just how long fast food businesses take to create a new burger. They DO argue over the onions. I found that out when I read about Wendy's new burgers.

Ethelred

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