SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea

SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea
The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. SpaceX is on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The private SpaceX company sent a supply ship soaring flawlessly toward the International Space Station on Saturday, but the booster rocket ended up in pieces in the Atlantic following a failed attempt to land on a barge.

"Close, but no cigar this time," the company's billionaire founder, Elon Musk, announced via Twitter shortly after the unprecedented touchdown effort.

Despite the high-profile flop in the dark ocean, Musk said he was encouraged. The 14-story booster managed, at least, to fly back to the floating platform from an altitude dozens of miles high.

"Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard," he said in a tweet. "Bodes well for the future tho."

He's already planning another landing test next month.

Musk, who also runs electric car maker Tesla Motors, maintains that recovering and reusing rockets is essential for bringing down launch costs and speeding up operations.

Until Saturday, no one had ever tried anything like this before.

The modified barge—nearly the size of a football field—was positioned a couple of hundred miles off Florida's northeastern coast. The uncrewed platform was spared serious damage from the impact, although some equipment on deck will need to be replaced, according to Musk. A recovery ship with SpaceX staff was a safe 10 miles (16 kilometers) away.

SpaceX's primary mission was delivering more than 5,000 pounds (2,268 kilograms) of station supplies ordered up by NASA, including hasty replacements for experiments and equipment lost in the destruction of another company's cargo ship last fall, as well as extra groceries. Belated Christmas presents were also on board for the six station astronauts.

"Hurrah! A #Dragon is coming to visit bringing gifts," Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti said in a tweet from orbit.

SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea
The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. SpaceX is on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Without interfering with the $133 million delivery, Musk had fins for guidance and landing legs installed on the first stage of the unmanned Falcon rocket.

Once separated from the upper stage of the rocket, the main booster reignited as planned for the flyback. Automatic engine firings maneuvered the booster down toward the autonomous, modified barge. The Air Force maintained the ability, as always, to destroy the booster if it strayed off course.

There was no good video of the "landing/impact," Musk said, noting the "pitch dark and foggy" conditions. Brief TV images from booster cameras, broadcast by NASA, showed only water bubbles.

"Will piece it together from telemetry and ... actual pieces," said Musk, one of the co-founders of PayPal.

Later in the day, Musk said the fins on the rocket ran out of hydraulic fluid right before touchdown. Regardless, he praised his team "for making huge strides towards reusability on this mission."

"Upcoming flight already has 50% more hydraulic fluid, so should have plenty of margin for landing attempt next month," he said.

In the weeks preceding the test, Musk had estimated there was a 50-50 chance, at best, that the Falcon's first-stage booster would land vertically on the platform. A pair of attempts last year to bring boosters down vertically on the open ocean went well, but company officials conceded before Saturday's try that a platform touchdown was considerably more challenging.

The platform measures 300 feet (90 meters) by 100 feet (30 meters), with wings stretching the width to 170 feet (51 meters)—a relatively puny spaceport in the vastness of the sea.

SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea
The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. SpaceX is on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

NASA watched the post-launch drama with keen interest, but its primary focus was on the Dragon racing toward the space station. The capsule is due to arrive there Monday.

The shipment—the sixth by SpaceX since 2012—is especially crucial given the recent loss of another company's supply ship.

Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket exploded seconds after liftoff in October, destroying the entire payload and damaging the Virginia launch complex. That rocket is grounded until 2016. Orbital Sciences plans to shift some of the backlog to an Atlas rocket later this year.

This SpaceX delivery was supposed to occur before Christmas, but was delayed by a flawed test-firing of the rocket. Then a problem with the rocket's steering system cropped up at the last minute during Tuesday's initial launch attempt.

SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea
The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. SpaceX is on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

NASA is paying SpaceX and Orbital Sciences to keep the space station stocked in the wake of the retired shuttle program. The $1.6 billion contract with SpaceX calls for 12 flights; the $1.9 billion contract with Orbital calls for eight. SpaceX also returns items to Earth; Orbital cannot.

Russia and Japan will make their own supply runs this year.

SpaceX, headquartered in Hawthorne, California, also has been contracted by NASA to develop beefed-up Dragons for astronaut rides to the space station, beginning as early as 2017. Boeing also is hard at work on a manned capsule. In the meantime, NASA is paying tens of millions of dollars to Russia for each U.S. astronaut launched aboard the Soyuz spacecraft.

  • SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea
    The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. SpaceX is on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
  • SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea
    The SpaceX rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 4:47 a.m. of for a resupply mission to the International Space Station early Saturday Jan. 10, 2015. The photo is a 90 second time exposure of the launch seen from just south of the Cocoa Beach Pier, as the rocket disappears into the clouds.(AP Photo/Florida Today, Malcolm Denemark)
  • SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea
    Photographers record the launch of the Falcon 9 SpaceX from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. SpaceX is on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
  • SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea
    The SpaceX rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 4:47 a.m. of for a resupply mission to the International Space Station early Saturday Jan. 10, 2015. The rocket lights up the Space Coast sky. In foreground is the Cocoa Beach Pier.(AP Photo/Florida Today, Malcolm Denemark)
  • SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea
    The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. SpaceX is on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
  • SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea
    The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. SpaceX is on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
  • SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea
    The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. SpaceX is on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
  • SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea
    In this photo provided by NASA-TV the Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon capsule lifts off from launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., early Saturday Jan. 10, 2015 enroute to resupply the International Space Station. (AP Photo/NASA-TV)
  • SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea
    The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket stands ready for launch on complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, Jan. 9, 2015. SpaceX is scheduled to launch its fifth operational resupply mission to the International Space Station for early Tuesday morning. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
  • SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea
    The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket stands ready for launch on complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, Jan. 9, 2015. SpaceX is scheduled to launch its fifth operational resupply mission to the International Space Station for early Tuesday morning. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
  • SpaceX launches for NASA, no luck with rocket landing at sea
    This undated image provided by SpaceX shows an ocean barge which SpaceX is planning to use during an attempt to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. The company's unmanned Falcon rocket is set to blast off before dawn Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and they hope to land the first-stage booster on the platform after launch. (AP Photo/SpaceX)

Explore further

SpaceX aims for pre-dawn launch to the space station

More information: SpaceX: www.spacex.com/

NASA: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

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Jan 10, 2015
You don't know if it can be done at all until you try and that's a damn good first attempt.. Seems they have the navigation sorted now to tweak the descent speed and they'll be recovering them time after time.

Jan 10, 2015
I don't understand, why do they have to make a powered landing and waste loads of fuel and payload fraction for that? Why not split the problem in half and parachute it down, then pick up by boat wherever it lands?

It's the rocket motors they want to save. The rest of it is just a thin tube of corrugated metal which is cheaply replaced if it happens to wrinkle up in the landing. Make it splash down nose first and inflate a couple balloons to keep the business end up in the water.

The question is, which weighs more - a parachute and inflatable floats, or the extra fuel and gear needed for a powered landing?

KBK
Jan 10, 2015
It's not a thin piece of metal. It is highly specialized alloys and materials that are very strong, very tough, very light, and very difficult to make. If it was not built that way, it would never launch effectively.

All the materials for a rocket are generally very expensive alloys made of rare and/or expensive elements. Hafnium, lithium/aluminum, etc. The components are brutally expensive to manufacture, machine, stress test, finalize,replace, etc.

The cost of the fuel, is about ..what did Elon say...about 0.01% of the cost of the given flight.

The rest is rocket and capsule costs.

Making them re-usable, even for a lousy 10 shots, with MINIMAL replacement costs of sensitive and degraded components, gets to about 8-to-1 to 9-to-1 flight cost reductions. And that is just with a 10 use per rocket (before replacement) scenario.

Jan 10, 2015
@Eikka, I would speculate that this capability has significant alternative applications, such as precision landing a craft on Mars and taking off again.

KBK
Jan 10, 2015
If they actually managed to get the craft to the floating platform accurately, but the actual landing flubbed, well, I'd count that as a huge success, regardless. The final landing was probably a problem due to lack of fuel more than anything, If I was forced to guess, or even an acceleration issue due to platform vertical motion, possibly, or both issues combined.

Elon's wording on the result says much the same. This is far closer than 50-50%, this is closer to a 75-85% success, even though the rocket failed to land properly.

Getting to the platform accurately was considered to be the hard part and that is the part they seem to have succeeded in doing.

Jan 10, 2015
@Eikka, I would speculate that this capability has significant alternative applications, such as precision landing a craft on Mars and taking off again

Perhaps

The cost of the fuel, is about ..what did Elon say...about 0.01% of the cost of the given flight


The cost of the lost in payload fraction is far greater than the cost of fuel. The first stage booster goes up to mach 10 before it separates, but it has to separate at mach 6 to have enough fuel left over for a powered landing.

The difference is that the booster imparts 2/3 less kinetic energy to the rest of the rocket. It's spending most of its fuel coming back instead of putting stuff into orbit.

Jan 10, 2015
t is highly specialized alloys and materials that are very strong, very tough, very light, and very difficult to make.


The fuel tanks are made of aluminium-lithium sheet which is stir-welded together. A common material in the aerospace industry. Helicopters and jetliners are made out of it.

Jan 10, 2015
The extra fuel that is needed can be compensated later by using more efficient engines, like those from the shuttle. That type of engines are two expensive to produce for one only use, but not if you can reutilise them. The same applies to building materials. However, first thing is to make it work with the cheap ones

Jan 10, 2015
I don't understand why they would want to try to set down in a platform that's rocking in the waves. Yes, I realize it's for safety but would it even keep standing if it did manage to land? I spent ten years in the navy and I've never seen the sea smooth enough that a barge or ship wouldn't rock but one time and that was up in the north Atlantic ocean past the arctic circle.

Jan 10, 2015
I don't understand, why do they have to make a powered landing and waste loads of fuel and payload fraction for that? Why not split the problem in half and parachute it down, then pick up by boat wherever it lands?
Im sure they have very good reasons. Lets find out what they are.

"If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred. A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space." --Elon Musk

"The majority of the launch cost comes from building the rocket... a rapidly reusable space launch vehicle could reduce the cost of reaching Earth orbit by a hundredfold."
http://www.spacex...lanetary

-Apparently the costs of building them, including testing and validating the assembly, outweighs component costs.

Jan 10, 2015
but would it even keep standing if it did manage to land?
Uh why would they land a rocket on a platform that wasnt stable enough to keep it from falling over??
I spent ten years in the navy
-And in that time did you see the navy build ships with things falling off the decks?

Im not understanding why eikka and you think that designers and engineers are exceedingly stupid. Dont you think that what occurs to you in 2 minutes wouldnt also occur to dozens of engineers over the course of many months of design and testing??

Perhaps you should expend some effort to find out HOW they are able to do this, and then learn something new.

Heres a nice simulation of the system in operation.
https://www.youtu...81yjVbJE

Jan 10, 2015
Payload fraction is not that important anyway. Fuel is cheap. Cost per launch is more important.

And in the long term, landing the stage on a platform is bound to be cheaper and less complex than fishing it out of the ocean.

Jan 10, 2015
Actually Otto. I did see things fall off decks. Anyone that's ever spent any time on ships have seen that happen. We went to within about 3 degrees of losing the front 5"-54 gun off the front of the ship on the last one I was on one time.
I didn't say or imply anyone was stupid but I've never seen ANY platform on the ocean not rock back and forth either. 10 years of experience on the big ponds is a lot more than 2 minutes also. Don't bother to reply with another one of your normal insulting responses either as I won't be reading it. You are going back on my ignore list where you belong. I took you off because you had started posting replies to people without all the insults but I see now your back to your normal pathetic routine.

Jan 10, 2015
I don't understand why they would want to try to set down in a platform that's rocking in the waves. Yes, I realize it's for safety but would it even keep standing if it did manage to land? I spent ten years in the navy and I've never seen the sea smooth enough that a barge or ship wouldn't rock but one time and that was up in the north Atlantic ocean past the arctic circle.


On the SpaceX interweb page about doing this says doing on the barge is necessary because the thing pretty much has to come straight down, they can not drive him around the sky trying find a place to land on land.

They are not allowed to choot off rockets anywhere but over the oceans. Not even the Nasa-Skippys are allowed to do that. All their rockets go up over water just like the Air Force rocket-Skippys in California.

I think the Russian-Skippys and the Chinese-Skippys are foolish enough to to it over land. But not the European-Skippys.

Jan 10, 2015
-Apparently the costs of building them, including testing and validating the assembly, outweighs component costs.


That was the problem of the Space Shuttle. Even though it came back in one piece, they still had to pull it apart and check virtually every nut and bolt to make sure it would come back again another time. There's tremendous forces at work shaking and twisting everything, so fractures grow and things break even in a perfectly successful flight.

I figure they need to rebuild, re-test and re-validate the rocket each and every time anyways, and it's going to be just as expensive. They only save the cost of the individual components, which isn't really all that much.

That's why I think they shouldn't sacrifice too much payload fraction for a powered landing. If they're going to rebuild the thing anyways, it doesn't matter if it gets a few dings from a parachute landing.

Jan 10, 2015
Im not understanding why eikka and you think that designers and engineers are exceedingly stupid. Dont you think that what occurs to you in 2 minutes wouldnt also occur to dozens of engineers over the course of many months of design and testing??


I don't think they're stupid. They're designing what Mr. Musk is telling them to, and I think Mr. Musk is taking a large dose of wishful thinking here.

IF the rocket is cheaply re-usable dozens of times, it doesn't matter that it lifts smaller payloads, but if it turns out the same as the Space Shuttle and the cost of refurbishing the thing becomes a significant fraction of what it costs to build it anew, they're not going to see any savings and in the worst case the whole thing fails miserably.

So keeping it simple would be a bet on the safe side. Musk has already had to abandon the original idea that the rocket would actually reverse and fly ballistically back to the launchpad.

Jan 10, 2015
But we'll know the case after the first accident that happens to the re-usable Falcon, just like what happened with Challenger.

That was the turning point where NASA had to admit they had been grossly too optimistic with the Shuttle plan and disregarded safety, and started to spend millions and months in maintenance after every flight.


Jan 10, 2015
IF the rocket is cheaply re-usable dozens of times... ... but if it turns out the same as the Space Shuttle and the cost of refurbishing the thing becomes a significant fraction of what it costs to build it anew, they're not going to see any savings...

Well, that's the big question for SpaceX. They have an idea of how they want things to work, but they can't yet be sure everything will turn out that way.

They're designing the rockets to be used 10 times (and 40 engine firings) before they need *any* maintenance other than standard system checks and pre-flight qualifications (which need to be done on new rockets anyway). If that ends up being the case, then these rockets will be cheaper than anything else on the market by an order of magnitude. If they end up maintenance heavy, then SpaceX is going to need to iteratively change the design until they *aren't* maintenance heavy, just like aircraft a century ago, before they became (relatively) low maintenance and safe.

Jan 10, 2015
before they need *any* maintenance


That's what the shuttle engineers aimed for as well, but a rocket launch is a brutal event and parts experience such a shaking that metal fatique sets in, especially when they're optimized for mass.

And it's an insiduous problem, because a highly stressed part may show no symptoms for a million stress cycles, and then suddenly break over the next hundred. A gear may turn for 30 years and then just fall in half one day because fracture growth is exponential. It starts off very very slow and then at some point accelerates.

You can't wait till you detect the problem by seeing a crack in an x-ray or magnetic or ultrasound scan, because each launch shakes the part with such force and frequency that if you see a crack afterwards instead of an exploded rocket, you might as well have won the lottery.

You have to make an educated guess, maybe a computer simulation, and hope for the best.

Jan 10, 2015
I think it is just a proof of concept. It could be made more stable and even hard landing capable later. For example by making the barge in a T-shape, with a cylindrical tank sunken in the middle, maybe partially filled with still water, and a donought shaped airbag around the central ring . They are just developing testing and learning, and looking at the whole picture they have already solved the most difficult part. It is going to work sooner or later

Jan 10, 2015
That's what the shuttle engineers aimed for as well.

And if NASA's purse-string holders (congress) had the political will to continue facing the issues that arose with an iterative design, testing, and replacement process, they might have met their goals.

Instead, NASA built shuttles, and they didn't work *quite* as intended, right out of the gate (but still worked surprisingly well, given the compromise design). Instead of learning from the design flaws, they just kept (knowingly!) flying the same expensive, unsafe vehicle for 30 years.

That's absurd. It wasn't so much that the initial shuttle program was a bad idea, it's that there was no followup. Development just... stopped.

Jan 10, 2015
And it's an insiduous problem, ...
Not at all.

Won't be long before you can print the whole first stage, etc. They're already printing, for example, fuel injectors for jet engines which are lighter and stronger than the parts they replace, and they have an internal geometry and combination of alloys that make it more efficient in use; the design couldn't possibly be produced using machining, molds or any other type of manufacturing process, and the printed injectors require no assembly whereas the ones they replace must be assembled from different types of metal and nonmetal parts and materials...

KBK
Jan 10, 2015
To add, the amorphous aspects of a continual weld/bead, can be manipulated,and worked on, over time and in many iterations, to be the most perfect glass they can provide, even to making 'shake' and 'stress relief' areas in what looks like, on the surface, as a smooth part.

Yet the tensile and other aspects of some areas are different than others. This can all be done in the print/weld, on the fly.

This deals with the issue of abrupt changes in materials and joining, mass and loading, etc etc..that plague the given structures of this day. Future materials from these printers will FAR outshine the best that we currently have.

I'd guess that this is 5 years away, not even a decade.

Jan 10, 2015
- late edit -
@Eikka, the points you raise are valid, but consider that sensors of all types can be printed/embedded within the critical systems/structures. Future's here and it's bright... :)

Jan 11, 2015
I'd guess that this is 5 years away, not even a decade.


That's the main difference in wishful thinking.

There isn't even a working prototype that print-welds in aerospace grade aluminium-lithium alloys, and you're claiming it'll be the state of the art in five years, and we'll be printing space rockets almost as soon as the first production model of these printers comes out of the factory. That'd be like doing the Paris-Dakar rally in the first ever Ford Model T that rolled out of the production line.

If that happens in 5-10 years, and not 20 years, or 50 years instead. Don't call it done before it's done.

KBK
Jan 11, 2015
Sure thing.

I just introduced a critical next step domino in the logical path and deep thinking aspects of 3-d metal printing, probably 5 years before it would normally happen.

This generally results in high levels of clandestine and open attacks on my person by various means and various groups.

What have you done for humanity lately?

Jan 11, 2015
That was the problem of the Space Shuttle. Even though it came back in one piece, they still had to pull it apart and check virtually every nut and bolt to make sure it would come back again another time
The shuttle was a lot more unconventional and more experimental than this commercial rocket. We learned a great deal from the shuttle. If you read the site you see that musk wants to make his as serviceable and versatile as airliners.
They're designing what Mr. Musk is telling them to, and I think Mr. Musk is taking a large dose of wishful thinking here
Musk won a competition based on performance, reliability, and cost. He's a businessman and less apt to take chances than NASA.

The rockets he is flying are already capable of returning and landing themselves per the video and so they must be cost effective.

Jan 11, 2015
wishful thinking
Eikka, the printers are already being produced and the company Local Motors printed an electric car in 44 hours at the Chicago car show last September. It has a top speed 40 mph, has only ~40 parts compared to 20,000 in a standard vehicle, and a range of 100-120 miles depending on choice of battery pack.

In the next few months they expect to be able to produce a car in under 10 hours, comparable to Germany or Detroit with their centralized assembly lines utilizing over 100 years of progress – 11 months ago LM didn't even own a printer, so look how far and fast they've come in just a matter of months.

More to the point, a game changing realization has occurred on the part of Elon Musk (wrt Tesla Motors) and other major innovators regarding the obvious benefits of open source collaboration vs. patent protectionism, see this SciAm article: http://www.scient...chicago/

Jan 11, 2015
So keeping it simple would be a bet on the safe side
Youre making a whole lot of assumptions here. That the configuration is overly complex. That the tech is not sufficiently developed. That musk is willing to risk the program on an unsafe configuration. That the US govt is willing to let him.

The fact that he is doing what he is doing under govt contract means your concerns are probably exaggerated.
Musk has already had to abandon the original idea that the rocket would actually reverse and fly ballistically back to the launchpad
??? Then why is the vid still on the site? Isn't that exactly what this rocket just did?

Jan 11, 2015
took you off because you had started posting replies to people without all the insults
I only insult those who insult others. You insulted designers by asking why they would design systems to fail. You insulted fellow posters by asking thoughtless questions and doing no research to check on your assumptions.

Quid pro quo. Tell me please why lazy posters who post without thinking or checking, shouldn't be insulted?
You can't wait till you detect the problem by seeing a crack in an x-ray or magnetic or ultrasound scan
Rocketry is a mature technology. We've been flying them for a century.

The fact that NASA has turned this over to the private sector means that the experimental phase is over. These are now airliners.

Jan 11, 2015
Heres a nice interview with musk and NASA which addresses your concerns.
https://www.youtu...XxuQIKlc

Jan 11, 2015
the very hardest part is the last few feet of balancing a major tower from hover mode to land .

if the rockets are actually that valuable as a percentage of the mission ( which they are not ) , then it is bizzarre they don't just let the rockets however down to the ocean and then drop them into the water as they set off a bunch of flotation air bags. the impact would not affect the integrity of the rocket and the 'drone' platform could be used to recover the rocket out of the water quite easily with a penning gate system or a custom lift .

it is bizarre than not even a gopro video or on dock videocam has videos of the so called failure . something makes me very suspicious of spaceX. reuseable rockets are not valuable enough to actually upend the rocket industry/cartel.

Jan 11, 2015
Eikka, the printers are already being produced and the company Local Motors printed an electric car in 44 hours


Out of plastic.

11 months ago LM didn't even own a printer, so look how far and fast they've come in just a matter of months.


They scaled up existing commercialized FDM printer technology. No such technology exists for printing in large scale with aerospace grade metal alloys.

Musk won a competition based on performance, reliability, and cost. He's a businessman and less apt to take chances than NASA.


Past performance doesn't predict future performance. Everyone has limits to their competence and luck.

The rockets he is flying are already capable of returning and landing themselves per the video and so they must be cost effective.


Non-sequitur error.

Jan 11, 2015
That the configuration is overly complex. That the tech is not sufficiently developed.


I'm not criticizing the rocket but what they're trying to do with it. Besides, you give Musk way too much credit for the design of it; the rocket itself is based on old NASA technology that dates back to pre-Apollo times, which is why the gov were so easy to approve it. It's already been proven before.

The fact that he is doing what he is doing under govt contract means your concerns are probably exaggerated.


The same government that let NASA fly an unsafe space shuttle for 30 years.

Then why is the vid still on the site? Isn't that exactly what this rocket just did?


No. It doesn't return back to the launchpad, since that would take even more fuel and eat up the entire payload fraction.

Rocketry is a mature technology. We've been flying them for a century.


But never the same rocket twice.

Jan 11, 2015
Non-sequitur error
?? NASA set parameters for these vehicles whether they soft-land or not. Musks rockets won the competition against expendable vehicles. Obviously he has been able to make the tech cost effective.
No. It doesn't return back to the launchpad
YES it WILL.

"The project's long-term objectives include returning a launch vehicle first stage to the launch site in minutes and to return a second stage to the launch pad following orbital realignment with the launch site and atmospheric reentry in up to 24 hours. Both stages will be designed to allow reuse a few hours after return."
But never the same rocket twice
Musk states that his tech will operate the same as commercial air liners which fly hundreds of flights. The shuttles were rated for -what- a hundred missions? And the boosters were recoverable and reusable.

According to both musk and NASA, in the video I posted, the tech is mature and dependable. Did you watch it?

Jan 11, 2015
No such technology exists for printing in large scale with aerospace grade metal alloys.
Incorrect – did you miss my post above about fuel injectors in jet engines? GE currently has over 300 printers operating. Consider that printers can print printers, Eikka. Others have done the maths that give an idea of how production scales – you can run the numbers yourself or look them up.

Jan 11, 2015
No such technology exists for printing in large scale with aerospace grade metal alloys.


That's complete bull. You might have heard of the RS-88 LOX engine?

http://en.wikiped...ki/RS-88

Aerojet 3D-printed that entire design (reducing manufacturing time from 12 to 2 months!) and has been bench testing it for several months.

Meanwhile, several companies have completed POCs for 3D printers suitable for orbital work (low grav and self-contained):

http://3dprinting...e-china/

And finally, printing aerospace alloys has now become mainstream:

http://3dprinting...-metals/

Maybe subscribe to 3dprintingindustry.com or something?

Jan 12, 2015
then it is bizzarre they don't just let the rockets however down to the ocean and then drop them into the water as they set off a bunch of flotation air bags

A 14 storey tower that toppels over -even on an inflatable raft- is going to take major damage. At the point where it touches down it's basically hollow - which is not the best configuration for structural strength.

Jan 12, 2015
Incorrect – did you miss my post above about fuel injectors in jet engines?

That's complete bull. You might have heard of the RS-88 LOX engine?


Yes, and it's apples to oranges.

They printed parts of an engine, not the entire rocket. The difference is that small parts can be printed in the vacuum chamber of a laser sintering machine, but a whole fuel tank for a Falcon launcher cannot, because it's simply too large.

No technology exists to print in actual aerospace grade metals even in the size of a passenger car. The technology we have is limited to small objects.

Musks rockets won the competition against expendable vehicles. Obviously he has been able to make the tech cost effective.


Musk's rockets won the competition for an expendable rocket. The Falcon launcher is an expendable rocket.

The re-usability is not part of the NASA contract he won. He's simply launching their stuff into space, and developing for re-usability on the side.

Jan 12, 2015
YES it WILL.


That's their objective, but they simply haven't made any headway towards it, and they won't because the rocket is travelling at speed away from the launchpad, and reversing it would require too much fuel.

This is not a limitation of design, this is a limitation of physics. The rocket needs to first stop, and then accelerate in the opposite direction to return, which requires almost precisely as much fuel as it can carry, so they have to land it at sea away from the launchpad to have any margin for cargo left over.


Jan 12, 2015
Obviously he has been able to make the tech cost effective.


The problem here is that you confuse two things. SpaceX won the contract for orbital launches with an expendable Falcon rocket. This is the contract they have with NASA. This is what they have validated and approved initially.

Elon Musk is now adding bits and bobs to the Falcon launcher to experiment making it re-usable. It doesn't mean the rocket is already cost effective in its return capable configuration, and it doesn't mean it will be.

That is left to be seen.

The shuttles were rated for -what- a hundred missions?


But did that actually come to?

Jan 13, 2015
this is a limitation of physics. The rocket needs to first stop, and then accelerate in the opposite direction to return,

Read more at: http://phys.org/n...html#jCp

Jan 13, 2015
Not necessarily, the barge is currently working at 200 miles or so, that is nothing for an empty rocket with just small aerodynamic surfaces (not sure if current fins are enough, probably not, but doable)

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