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SpaceX Successful Static Fire 122

Posted by samzenpus
from the to-infinity-and-beyond dept.
ron_ivi writes "SpaceX's website is announced that they had a " great static fire today" where their Falcon rocket successfully had 3 seconds of thrust. Nice pictures and video of the test; and if analysis shows all was well, they'll be launching Thursday."
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SpaceX Successful Static Fire

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  • WOHO!!! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    In 50 years I will be traveling into space because of them!!!
  • by guru zim (706204) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @01:02AM (#14978550)
    It used to be a guy wouldn't brag if he only had 3 seconds of thrust.
  • ESD (Score:4, Funny)

    by EraserMouseMan (847479) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @01:06AM (#14978562)
    I'd though a static fire would be bad for the ICs?
  • hmm... (Score:2, Funny)

    by sxtxixtxcxh (757736)
    sounds like someone needs to start using dryer sheets...
  • Awesome (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Eightyford (893696) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @01:07AM (#14978567) Homepage
    I think this is great. I love Scaled Composite's X-prize winner, but this company is actually shooting for orbit! If you don't already know; it is a hell of a lot harder to reach orbital speeds as it is to only reach the outer limits of the atmosphere and descend.
  • If NASA designed cars,

    - They would only drive in clear weather
    - They would take millions of gallons of gas and burn it all at once and then coast the rest of the way
    - The rubber tires would be prone to blowout on cold days
    - The undercarriage would be made up of tissue paper
    - It would cost billions of dollars to maintain, even when it just sits in the garage
    - You would have to schedule your drives and be prepared to have them cancelled at the last minute
    - There would only be a handful of cars in the entire w
  • Sad (Score:3, Funny)

    by Eightyford (893696) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @01:10AM (#14978581) Homepage
    Does anyone else find it sad that the founder of Paypal [wikipedia.org] has a better rocket company than the creator of DOOM? [wikipedia.org]

    Ah well, at least they are both fellow geeks.
    • by Moofie (22272)
      No, not really. Why?
      • Re:Sad (Score:2, Funny)

        by Eightyford (893696)
        Because people hate paypal and love Doom. Because 3d game engine development actually has a lot in common with rocket science.
        • by Moofie (22272)
          Yeah. Not following you here. Guess I'm all, like, thinking for myself or something. Call me crazy.
        • by LWATCDR (28044)
          "Because 3d game engine development actually has a lot in common with rocket science."
          It does? How?
          Rocket science = Material science, chemistry, combustion, structures, fluid dynamics, hydraulics, electronics, machining, and some programing.
          3D game engine = programing heavy on geometry.
          One of things that programmers have hard time with when going into robotics or anything involving machining is learning that the world isn't digital. When you order a hundred 5 cm long rods not one is going to be 5 cm long an
    • Re:Sad (Score:3, Informative)

      by tsotha (720379)
      Fist of all, Musk isn't a co-founder of Paypal. Second, Carmack has spent much, much, less money than Musk. And Third, if Carmack is successful, his rocket will be much cheaper to operate.
      • Re:Sad (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Goonie (8651) *
        Third, Carmack is rally, trooly, rooly building his rocket himself in his backyard, just like Commander Keen. It's more a hobby (albeit a very expensive one) than a business.
    • Re:Sad (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Quantum Fizz (860218)
      Why is it sad? I mean, is there any reason a priori to expect a guy that excelled in programming FPS games to do better than another guy that set up an online banking/payment system?

      I mean, it's a whole different ballpark, aerospace. Whereas Carmack can change a few lines of code and recompile while at ID, it takes only a few minutes and is basically free. At Armidillo, if he tests his rocket and it doesn't perform right, then he has to rebuild the thing, it can take months and cost hundreds of thousan

      • by evanbd (210358)
        Actually, Carmack's development cycle is a *lot* faster than that. They've been known to do several tests in one day, and are intending to compete in NASA's lunar lander challenge, which requires a refueling turnaround time of under an hour.

        Also, a lot of the 3D math is related to the rocket control stuff. Carmack was the first person *ever* to demonstrate a fully computer-controlled stationary rocket-powered hovering vehicle -- that sort of flight control software is definitely related.

        The real reaso

      • > Why would you expect him to be necessrily better at aerospace?
        > Because he knows how to optimize 3D rotation matrices to make
        > a 3D first-person game?

        No. Because he doesn't bring his head-up-butt style of groupthink that "many" (not all) aerospace engineers seem to adopt. The "not invented here" or "we don't think it will work, so it won't work" thinking that has left the space industry behind where it should be for the last few decades.

        What John Carmack brings is an willingness to learn an

        • So what you are saying, then, is that all aerospace engineers by trade are "head-up-butt" types that sit in comfy chairs, and that John Carmack is willing to learn. And therefore he is expected to surpass all other aerospace engineers? okay, i see where you're coming from now.
    • by everphilski (877346) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:36AM (#14980107) Journal
      Elon is copying technology that already exists and making a fairly conventional rocket - single engine pintle motors. He's also funding a full-scale production facility.

      John is not. He is funding it by selling off his collection of cars. His development team is a group of friends. His idea is a little different - a VTVL with a hovering tail setdown, not a splashdown. He's working on four throttled throatless engines on his stage - a radically different beast. Control law between multiple engines is a pain. Quite frankly it hasn't been done yet - Apollo used 1 single gimbleable engine, and even that was in reduced gravity! Much easier since your closing velocities will be slower. Etc.

      Long story short, Elon is repeating history but trying to cut costs and make it manageable. John is trying to do things a new way.
      • Wake me up when John reaches even 250 ISP and doesn't crash or otherwise damage/destroy his vehicle every fifth time he starts up the engines. Wake me up when he sticks with a single fuel/oxidizer combo for a year (some he stuck with for less than a few weeks).

        I could easily keep going. It's a hobby rocket club. Nothing of any sort of use will ever come out of it. And I say this as someone who grew up admiring John.
        • 210 with no throat could easily = 250 with isentropic expansion. The flow is severely underexpanded. Come on man you should know this.

          He switched to LOX in April of last year. That was LOX/Methanol. He's using Ethanol now and according to my email archive that's been since July. Methanol and Ethanol are pretty similar though, the issue was film cooling with the Methanol, IIRC.

          VTVL is big. He's no Elon (I said that in my original post) but his head is in the right place. Elon is replicating, John is inno
          • He's made both normal and throatless engines, and has gotten no decent ISP with either. The reason he's working more with throatless engines now is because he kept damaging his engines before ;) I swear, the armadillo aerospace blog is one disaster after another, half of which would have been resolved simply by reading history and the other half of which would have been resolved by doing the math first.

            John is not "innovating". He's repeating the mistakes of the past. Remember his doomed experiments wit
            • 200 isp with no throat = a cf (coefficient of expansion) of 1. IIRC (im at work) a 1.4 cf is very conservative. That puts him at 280, right now, no design changes other than slapping a nozzle on the end.

              He's a tinkerer. He isn't in a race with anyone. He's said that before. He puts 1% of Id's revenue into it (not much) and then his own personal money. This is a diversion for him. He's not trying to be Elon. He's trying to do something different (I've said it the third time now, sunk in yet?)

              And on the p
              • 200 isp with no throat = a cf (coefficient of expansion) of 1. IIRC (im at work) a 1.4 cf is very conservative. That puts him at 280, right now, no design changes other than slapping a nozzle on the end.

                Except for the little fact that I just pointed out that he hasn't been able to get engines with nozzles and any sort of reasonable thrust behind them not to damage/destroy themselves, which is why he's working without a nozzle in the first place.

                He's a tinkerer. He isn't in a race with anyone. He's said that
            • Sure, book learnin's all well and good, but nothing surpasses experience. I wonder how many people are still alive that have hands on experience with ALL the engine designs that john has tried, or has yet to try?

              since he doesn't have an aerospace engineering degree(or any degree, for that mater. book learnin' ain't for everybody), I think he is doing pretty well for himself.

            • He's repeating the mistakes of the past.

              I'm not saying this as a rocket scientist (because I'm not), or even as someone who knows anything at all about the details or pros&cons of the rocket technologies that you guys are talking about (because I don't -- well, a little, but not enough to contribute much to the discussion at that level). But I often like to point out that, to the scientific/inquisitive mindset, sometimes there can be value in "repeating the mistakes of the past".

              For one thing, i
  • by ChicoLance (318143) * <lance@orner.net> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @02:10AM (#14978780)
    Doesn't anybody else think it's odd that the picture of this rocket being fired (very cool, BTW) has a couple of tanks in the foreground. Not sure what's in the tanks (probably fuel), but I'm sure they don't want to be next to an firing rocket if the rocket has an unfortunate explosition.

    It's hard to tell distances in the picture -- there could be a mile separating the two. But having these in the foreground just struck me a little bit odd.

        --Lance
    • Rockets really aren't that prone to going boom these days. Most of the big rocket disasters have been during assembly, fueling, etc, not actual firing. Any structural failure tends to cause the combustion to slow down .
      • They still go boom (Score:4, Informative)

        by A non-mouse Cow Herd (67426) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @04:22AM (#14979039)
        I gotta disagree with that statement. They certainly still go boom.

        The recent (October 2002) photon M2 launch failure is a good example (there's a truly spectacular video of it floating around, but I'm not gonna subject the only host I know of to /.)

        Or the zenit launch failure in the '90s that left a big smoking hole where the launch pad was. Both these involved the rocket failing shortly after liftoff, basically falling out of the sky fully fueled. When the tanks break up, you get many thousands of pounds of fuel and oxidizer nicely mixed. What happens after that is usually "Boom!"

        Most US, European and Japanese launchers have range safety (aka self destruct) systems, which help if the vehicle is actually flying, but they aren't likely to make difference if the failure happens very near the pad.

        I suspect the tanks that the OP asked about are actually quite far away, and just look close due to the
        foreshortening effect of a long lense.
      • Actually, I believe that any new systems tend to have issues. [wikipedia.org] Sadly, here is 21 ppl that would agree with me.
    • The launch is taking place on a 7 acre island near Kwajalein Atoll. The island is evacuated before the rocket is fueled. You can read about it here [spaceflightnow.com]. I wish these guys luck. There're going to need it.

    • Those are trailers used to transport liquidified gas. Around here you see them all the time on the road because there is a "Liquid Air" plat nearby and many aerospace companies that use various type of gas. No there is not a mile between the rocket and the tank trailers. You kind of have to leave the tanks near the rocket becase you can't make the plumbing a mile long. They put the fule into the rocket then fire it and after that pump the fue out of the rock and back to the tanks. There really is no wa
  • FIRE! (Score:5, Funny)

    by JonathanR (852748) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @02:11AM (#14978781)
    Coming from the petrochem industry, I'm not used to seeing the words great, static and fire all in one sentence
  • So, when will these guys start flying their rag-tag rocket to the Moon to fetch left behind hardware from Apollo and all the lunar probes, and sell them on Ebay when they get back? They were so advanced, though, in that they had a SSTMAB (Single Stage To Moon And Back) rocket...

    (this was the main plot line of a cheezoid TV series in the early 80's).
  • Somehow... (Score:4, Funny)

    by linguizic (806996) * on Thursday March 23, 2006 @03:06AM (#14978897)
    Somehow, in some way this proves that Microsoft sucks.
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @03:07AM (#14978899) Journal
    As the first link mentions, the launch is scheduled for Thursday, 1PM PST (4PM EST). According to RLV News [rlvnews.com], here's a few good sources for real-time commentary and info about the launch:

    * Mission Status Center - Falcon Launch Report - Justin Ray [spaceflightnow.com]
    * Out of the Cradle [outofthecradle.net]
    * NASASpaceflight.com - LIVE: SpaceX/Falcon 1 - 23rd March: launch coverage thread [nasaspaceflight.com]

    Also, it was recently revealed that SpaceX has been secretly developing their SpaceX Dragon [spaceref.com] orbital capsule, which will be able to carry up to 7 people to and from orbit. A full-size prototype of the capsule has already been constructed, and the capsule is expected to enter service by 2009 (several years before NASA's CEV).
    • by FleaPlus (6935) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @03:39AM (#14978964) Journal
      As the first link mentions, the launch is scheduled for Thursday, 1PM PST (4PM EST).

      Oops, never mind... looks like there's going to be a day's delay:

      No major issues were discovered following the static fire, but, as a cautionary measure, we are going to take one more day to review data and verify system functionality. Launch is now scheduled for Friday at 1 p.m. California time.
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @03:10AM (#14978908) Homepage
    Very nice. Reasonable design. And roughly comparable to the Atlas ICBM booster [astronautix.com] of half a century ago.

    The proposed bigger model, the Falcon 9-S5, is comparable to the modern Atlas V [astronautix.com]. 6 launches to date, 100% success rate. About 2x the price the new guys claim, but then, the Atlas is a proven product.

    But the commercial launch market has collapsed. Iridium is done, and nobody wants to launch that many sats again. The geosync comsat market is saturated; everybody is going fibre optic. There's just not that much going up.

    • Some moderator seems to be on drugs.
    • The proposed bigger model, the Falcon 9-S5, is comparable to the modern Atlas V.

      With three primary differences:

      1. The 9-S is intended to carry up to 23% more cargo to LEO.
      2. The 9-S will be man-rated with full "engine-out" features.
      3. The 9-S is intended to be somewhat reusable, thus helping keep the costs down.

      These sorts of features are a BIG DEAL in the rocket industry.

      About 2x the price the new guys claim, but then, the Atlas is a proven product.

      Tis' true. That's why we're all holding our breath to see if Musk delivers.

      But the commercial launch market has collapsed. Iridium is done, and nobody wants to launch that many sats again.

      I don't know where you get this idea. There have been healthy numbers of sats going up in recent years to support all kinds of network infratructures. Here's a list of past and planned launches. [skyrocket.de] Looks pretty healthy to me.

      You may be thinking of the slowdown in the market caused by the loss of the Challenger. With the Shuttle out of commission, the market suddenly realized that it had no other way to get to space. Thus the commercial launch business was forced to retool to build rockets like the Delta and Atlas. Russian rockets also became popular, especially after Boeing and Lockheed started buying them up.

      In any case, Musk is aiming for manned space travel. The commercial launches are a side business to help support that goal. He wants to go to Mars.
    • > But the commercial launch market has collapsed. Iridium is done,
      > and nobody wants to launch that many sats again.

      Um, what about the Gallileo GPS system? [wikipedia.org].
      30 satellites to launch in the next few years.
    • But the commercial launch market has collapsed. Iridium is done, and nobody wants to launch that many sats again. The geosync comsat market is saturated; everybody is going fibre optic. There's just not that much going up.

      It's a classic chicken-and-egg problem: There is much being launched, because launch costs are so high, and there isn't much of a motivation to improve launch economics, because there's so little demand. Hopefully SpaceX can break the shell.

      That said, between the SpaceX Dragon manned capsu
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @03:28AM (#14978947) Journal
    Recently Sam Dinkin of the Space Review had a chance to tour SpaceX's facility, and wrote a 4-part article series about it. It's a pretty neat read, and gives you a good idea of the culture of SpaceX and where it's headed. Also, they're apparently looking for good people to hire. ;)

    *Part 1 [thespacereview.com]
    *Part 2 [thespacereview.com]
    *Part 3 [thespacereview.com]
    *Part 4 [thespacereview.com]

    Also, an interesting bit of recent news: Apparently the President of Sea Launch [wikipedia.org], which is "arguably the world's most successful commercial launch company," has left Sea Launch to join SpaceX [aero-news.net]. Anybody care to speculate about why he would leave such a cushy position for a start-up?
    • They say they're looking for good people to hire, but the fact that they don't have any specific positions listed on their website leads they don't really plan on hiring anybody new unless you've got an absolutely killer resume, in which case they'll find something for you to work on.

      I would send in my resume just in case, but I loathe the thought of living in southern california. I don't know what is wrong with aerospace companies that they have to set up shop in places that are clicking hot like LA, Ne
  • The launch of ST5 happened at last [spacedaily.com] on Wednesday after being postponed several times.
  • I thought "thrust" was measured in Newton Seconds?

    BBH
  • "Falcon 1 Maiden Flight Update: Posted March 22, 2006 No major issues were discovered following the static fire, but, as a cautionary measure, we are going to take one more day to review data and verify system functionality. Launch is now scheduled for Friday at 1 p.m. California time" Well good to see they are looking after safety
  • I'm just wondering about how they keep the rocket down. Probably the engines give only a percentage of their power or something. But I'm not really sure.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      They use big hunking clamps, frequently held in place by explosive bolts. Even during a launch, the clamps hold the rocket on the launch pad until the engines reach a stable power level. You want to make sure the engines run cleanly before you risk it leaving the launch pad.
    • No, they probably fire it horizontally into a huge load sensor with brackets to keep it facing forward. At least, that's how the test the solid rocket boosters for the shuttle. I've had the opportunity to watch a test fire and it's a quite impressive 120s burn time.
      • Depending on the needs and constraints of the program, individual engines can be tested either horizontally or vertically on test stands without being attached to the full up vehicle. This was a flight readiness firing; essentially a dress rehearsal for the launch where they did everything except release the hold down clamps.

        You can find some information on NASA engine testing here. [nasa.gov]

      • I guess you didn't look at the picture? [spacex.com]
        • Nope. I had heard about the vertical testings but haven't seen one. It appears to be basically the same thing except, as the previous replier stated, they didn't release the clamps. I'm sure there are still plenty of sensors and it's a full powered burn.

          This [nasaspaceflight.com] is the kind that I'm used to. Just the rocket, not the whole assembly.
  • One thing I wonder (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    SpaceX's info page states triple redundant systems as a reason for increased reliability.

    One problem - pretty much every other rocket out there has dual or triple redundant avionics too.

    Also, SpaceX doesn't state whether they do things Boeing style (External interfaces and functionality of the flight avionics boxes are specified, and then each of the three units comes from a different manufacturing and design team, resulting in them not only having different software but different hardware), or Ariane style
  • Isn't that fuel tank a little close? ;-)
    • Probably not...the rocket can only blow up as fast as the oxygen can mix with the kerosene following a structural failure of the tanks (something the people who are deathly afraid of LNG tankers don't understand). Yes, it could potentially be a big boom, but most likely it will be a big fireball. Besides, if the rocket explodes, people aren't going to cry as much over a few thousand dollar fuel tank as they are over their 6.7 million dollar rocket. Not to mention their island isn't very big. Probably no oth
    • That's likely an optical illusion caused by taking the photo with a telephoto lens. Telephoto lenses tend to squash things at different distances together.


  • Anybody else think that all that hot fire of death was a little close to the fuel tankers and trees?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Anybody else think that all that hot fire of death was a little close to the fuel tankers and trees?

      Anybody else think that the average geek, wanna be rocket scientist, is full of crap?

      Points to ponder:
      + This island is tiny. Even a geek like yourself could throw a ball from one side of the island to the other.
      + You actually want your propellant tanks, particularly the LOX tank, close to the launch vehicle, as handling propellant is troublesome, particularly on a hot, humid, tropical island.

      Man
    • Well...were there any problems as a result of it? No? Then I guess it wasn't too close after all. Maybe...just maybe they have some clue what they're doing, considering they've fired this engine dozens of times before.
  • Don't know about you, however I want an engine that fires for more than 3 seconds before I'll feel comfortable flying into space with it.
    • Re:3 Seconds (Score:3, Informative)

      by Somegeek (624100)
      This was not a test of the engine. They have already done test firings of the engine that last longer than the trip to orbit.

      This was a final systems check of the whole rocket. This is (as far as I know?) a unique ability that they have in being able to clamp down the rocket and test it in a completely ready to launch condition. If nothing wrong shows up in the data from this test then they have a good indication that they are really ready to launch.

  • They warned me the web streaming video (via satellite) would be stop and go.

    And I got to see it up to about +1 second (hadn't cleared the tower yet) and hear it up to around +6 seconds (counting up, and going up).

    Then the web stream stopped. I haven't been able to reconnect. No news yet on the website.

    Wha' Hoppening????

You know, the difference between this company and the Titanic is that the Titanic had paying customers.

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