Skip to main content

View Diary: Historic SpaceX Launch Scheduled for Tomorrow Morning (+Sweet Rocket Pics) (30 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Definitely easier today than in the '60s. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Norm in Chicago

    SpaceX is actually freer to advance than NASA during the Space Race.  There are no time pressures, no political interference, and yet still plenty of money.  It's what NASA should have been from the beginning.

    Always apart, always asking Why.

    by Troubadour on Sat Sep 28, 2013 at 05:29:49 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  well... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour, Norm in Chicago

      There are still time pressures, and no doubt there are and will be political pressures. And the money is not as free as it was during the space race.

      Still, I'm hugely impressed by their vision and their progress. If they can re-use the first stages with any regularity, it will change the economics drastically. As they point out on their website, fuel is only a tiny portion of the cost of the launch vehicle. Imagine how many people could afford to fly if a new plane was needed for every flight.

      A bigger factor though, is that much of this could not have been done in the '60s or '70s. The computing technology wasn't there, either in the vehicular control or simulation, and didn't really arrive until probably 1995 or so. Certainly the simulation power didn't start to arrive until then, when FE and Navier-Stokes models moved off of Crays and onto workstations. (Nor could a lot of the manufacturing technologies, which either didn't exist or couldn't have been done then, e.g., friction stir welding. Many of the materials now used didn't exist then, either (e.g., carbon-fiber fibreglas.))

      It's telling though that nearly all of the other existing launch vehicles derive from '50s and '60s era rockets. When the moon launch era ended in the '70s, nearly all the research going on at the time ended as well. That research was aimed at big, manned rocketry, and was all abruptly thrown over in favor of the shuttle, whose re-use economics estimates were off by orders of magnitude.

      Everything else stagnated after that, and SpaceX and a few other companies look to be taking the first steps out of the technological smoking crater of Apollo and the Space Shuttle.

      The other enabling technologies for space flight are, I think, ion drive (e.g., Dawn), practical fly-by/orbital transfer mechanics as exemplified by Messenger and many other probes, and vastly improved "brains" and electronics and, hopefully soon, optical communication.

      •  It's all relative. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        eyesoars, Norm in Chicago

        The only time pressures SpaceX has to deal with are self-imposed, and completely flexible.  It obviously has less money than Space Race NASA, but it's not being tasked with a fixed goal on a fixed timeline, just an overall mission, driven by the internal sense of purpose of SpaceX personnel (and enforced by Elon Musk's personal vision).

        Agree with you about computing technology.  Most of the early predictions about space timetables were driven by ignorance about what was required.  Now we're back on track to making them practical.

        Definitely ion drive for in-space propulsion.  Particularly VASIMR.  I'd be curious to know what Elon Musk's plans are for in-space propulsion.  He could easily buy the company that owns the VASIMR patents.

        Always apart, always asking Why.

        by Troubadour on Sat Sep 28, 2013 at 06:48:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Are they? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Troubadour, Norm in Chicago

          I thought that SpaceX is and had been an active participant in one or more NASA projects, and was more-or-less bound by the times and terms there. I gathered that they were reasonably flexible, but they are/were still competing against other firms.

          That is, weren't there basic programs for man-rated rescue/return capsules to retrieve people to earth from the space station [SpaceX is developing Dragon for this, Sierra Nevada has Dream Chaser, OSC has Prometheus, and Boeing has one in development as well], launch vehicles and support to provide materiel to the space station (and optionally, later, human transport to the space station) [I'm pretty sure Orbital is in this same program with SpaceX, but isn't planning on providing man-rating.]??

          •  SpaceX's "competitors" are a joke. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            eyesoars, Norm in Chicago

            ULA/Boeing is a competitor only because it has such political pull, but it's a dinosaur.  SpaceX is already miles ahead of it and accelerating.  Orbital means well but it's not even in the same league.  And Sierra Nevada?  Forget about it.  Blue Origin?  Forget about it.  SpaceX's only real competitor is the Chinese government.  Everything else is fucked.

            Always apart, always asking Why.

            by Troubadour on Sat Sep 28, 2013 at 07:31:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  ... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Troubadour, Norm in Chicago

              It's nice to see them all working on things, and competition threatening ULA/Boeing, but I'm afraid your assessment is much truer than I should be happy about.

              What is really clear, however, is that there really has been no effort to do basic R&D on spaceflight technology for some time. I think these projects are good, because an outfit like SpaceX (or OSC or ...) can come along and do the basic work needed and help get their expenses defrayed. By splitting this up into multiple projects, smaller players can enter, and that is desperately needed.

              •  I really wish other companies would take a lesson (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                eyesoars, Norm in Chicago

                from SpaceX and try to seriously compete with them, but it's not really happening.  ULA is just using its influence to stall, and the rest are basically competing for second place to SpaceX.  No one dares to try to compete with them.  Which speaks well of SpaceX, but it means they're learning the wrong lesson.  SpaceX can only benefit from real competition.

                Always apart, always asking Why.

                by Troubadour on Sat Sep 28, 2013 at 07:45:23 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

  • Recommended (122)
  • Community (60)
  • Media (23)
  • Elections (23)
  • Civil Rights (22)
  • Culture (21)
  • Law (21)
  • Environment (21)
  • Trans-Pacific Partnership (21)
  • Josh Duggar (20)
  • Science (19)
  • Labor (18)
  • Economy (17)
  • Marriage Equality (16)
  • Ireland (16)
  • 2016 (15)
  • Bernie Sanders (15)
  • Hillary Clinton (15)
  • Climate Change (15)
  • Health Care (14)
  • Click here for the mobile view of the site