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Comment Re:John Carmack (Score 5, Interesting) 136

John Carmack was simultaneously working for Oculus, ID Software, and not mentioned at all here is Armadillo Aerospace where he was even doing NASA contracts all at the same time. Trying to be Buckaroo Bonzai by doing everything at once is more than most normal people could do. It was about the time Zenimax took over ID Software that John Carmack wanted to continue doing this sort of multi-tasking, but they insisted he decide who he was going to work for exclusively.... and he told them to go take a hike.

If you are an engineering who is moonlighting on multiple side projects, it can definitely get a little bit fuzzy about what stuff you develop on your own time vs. what you develop for your employer. In Carmack's case, the previous management was a whole lot more open to him pretty much doing as much as he wanted to do and however he wanted to do it as long as they got a piece of the action. ID Software got the better end of the bargain in that situation and made a whole bunch of money off of the work that John Carmack was able to perform on their behalf.

That these asshats tried to kill the goose that laid golden eggs... is what they are pissed about. Even more because that goose flew away rather than them getting to eat goose for dinner and laid some golden eggs for somebody else instead that made billions of dollars for those investors.

Comment Re:Will they only make car batteries? (Score 2) 201

Indirectly, it is going to be making a huge difference for consumer cells. Most importantly, all of the production capacity that has been sucked up by Tesla for building their automobiles is going to be available for other folks (likely to be snatched up by other automobile companies for awhile) but in the long run it will simply imply that the whole market for Lithium-ion batteries is going to grow as a whole. All of the chemicals (besides Lithium) are also going to be made in much larger quantities, the machines which make the batteries are also going to be made... even to be made on an assembly line themselves... and more people simply getting familiar with how to cheaply and efficiently being able to make these batteries.

Besides automobiles, the one market that Tesla is getting into is power storage systems for homes and businesses. It is possible that you might end up having a bunch of these batteries in your home in the form of a Tesla power wall... especially if you have solar panels on your house. Other applications that require the storage of large amounts of electricity are likely to be the primary customers from this factory for awhile.

Tesla actually plans on building several of these factories in other locations too, because they anticipate that all of the production from this Gigafactory is going to be used for internal purposes (aka products that Tesla themselves are making where the batteries are but a part of those products). It is pretty odd that their planned consumption of batteries is going to outstrip this production facility.

Comment Re:Spaceflight is risky (Score 1) 239

No, a legitimate grammar rule is to convert a "y" into an "i" when adding a suffix. A few exceptions happen also... hence why "hobbyist" is a thing.

Otherwise..... learn a little about the language you are using and realize it is convoluted and that stuff like standardized spelling is not nearly as standard as you think. Besides, you understood the context when it was originally given, or are you that clueless about context too?

Comment Re:Spaceflight is risky (Score 1) 239

That is like complaining about the difference in spelling between dwarves and dwarfs (something that JRR Tolkein himself spilled far too much ink over if you want to get into the details.... and it was Tolkein who coined "dwarfs" too). Spelling something "hobbiest" really is a valid, if perhaps from a 21st Century rather archaic way of spelling things.

Really, complaining about this as a grammar Nazi is about as low and uninformed as you can get.

Comment Re: Don't put your one egg (Score 1) 239

Given the circumstances of how this rocket exploded, it seems entirely reasonable that SpaceX should open up another flight spot to send up a replacement vehicle. The contract was for the flight, not the launch vehicle itself.

As for who is going to foot the bill for that flight... after Spacecom has already paid for this flight that never happened in the first place... that is between SpaceX and any insurance companies they may have against this kind of disaster. In this context, it is likely to be seen as an industrial accident rather than a space transportation issue, so there likely will be other insurance companies getting into the fray. As a matter of fact, the insurance on the satellite itself is covered under a marine transportation insurance contract that was valid until the moment of launch when other contracts kicked in.

Most of what Spacecom is talking about here though is that there was a contract clause that either refunded the launch cost (which was about $50 million) or an assurance that a loss of vehicle would result in a flight getting scheduled at a later time. I would expect the same sort of thing from FedEx or even the USPS if a package was lost and never delivered. Of course package insurance applies even in that situation.

Comment Re:First Time == Unknown Risk (Score 2) 239

The first re-launch is scheduled to happen in October with SES-10.

Not anymore. At best you can say it is "to be announced" after some significant return to flight effort that will require the FAA-AST to recertify the Falcon 9 as being eligible to launch at all. A total loss of vehicle tends to do that with air and space based vehicles.

Otherwise, you are correct that was when it was previously anticipated that the first lower stage was going to be reused.

I really hope that SpaceX finds and can replicate the problem which caused this disaster. The replication, like what happened with the struts, is important so far as it is something that can be addressed and eliminated as a source of problems in the future. By replication here I'm also talking about showing how a pipe fitting or some other component failed, not about sitting another whole Falcon 9 up to deliberately blow it up.

Comment Re:Depends on the contract (Score 1) 239

When the N1 rocket was being developed in the Soviet Union, a similar explosion create what could arguably be called one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. There were unfortunately people near/on the pad of that N1 rocket that died.

SpaceX also dodged a huge bullet so far as window glass of buildings with people in them did break from the explosion of this Falcon 9 rocket. People could have definitely been injured even if it wouldn't have necessarily been life threatening in terms of the distance they were from the launch pad.

Yes, saying that no lives were lost in this explosion is something of a legitimate statement to make, as lives could have definitely been in danger of being lost even if it wasn't astronauts sitting on top of the stack.

Comment Re:Spaceflight is risky (Score 1) 239

So this "$50M or free flight" may just be them trying to save themselves the money that they paid SpaceX for the launch....

It has an even easier explanation:

This was something in the launch contract and a previously agreed upon penalty that would happen if the launch didn't happen. Spacecom is just stating publicly that this clause exists.... something that seems prudent if they are trying to assure their investors that they can financially recover from this disaster.

Comment Re:Spaceflight is risky (Score 1) 239

Who in their right mind would insure a satellite of that cost for flight on an experimental vehicle?

First of all, how is this an experimental vehicle and how do you jump to the conclusion that it is such? What was done in this particular SpaceX flight was to do the equivalent of somebody sitting down and turning on the engines and checking the fluids of their car and doing other basic diagnostics evaluating the status of a vehicle before going on a long trip. While unusual for most other companies, it speaks volumes about the reliability of the engines that SpaceX is willing to have them fire multiple times even before they go into space in the first place.

This was not an experimental vehicle in the first place.

Comment Re: Don't put your one egg (Score 1) 239

In some cases, insurance is legally mandatory.

Which is why this whole thread is just silly including all of the counter arguments..... as in this particular case for spaceflight it is required due to regulations made by the FAA-AST (the guys who regulate private commercial spaceflight in the USA). It is also required by treaty so far as it is the government itself that assumes liability for any 3rd party damage... and the government gets that out of the hide of the people who send stuff up.

This payload wouldn't be uninsured because it can't be uninsured. The insurance policies in place are required even before a launch permit is issued.

Comment Re: Senile? (Score 1) 951

There is still a whole lot of work that needs to happen before boosters are even reused. At the very least, SpaceX needs to restart their F9R development program, which halted due to the one test vehicle blowing up over central Texas. Legitimately SpaceX decided against building a replacement because they thought they were far enough along to at least recover in one estimate about 50% of the boosters and with the launch rate that would have a half dozen by the end of last year. The CRS-7 explosion also set that timeline back a bit further.

I am expecting that the current recovered boosters (beyond the first recovered booster that is already slated to become a monument at SpaceX headquarters) will be flown extensive in both Texas and in New Mexico (Spaceport America). It will likely be an aggressive program to fly and refly those boosters over and over again until several of them crater into the ground to push the limits of what they can be doing, spending just manpower to deal with them and the minor cost of the fuel. SpaceX has also said that a couple of the boosters have already been pulled apart for a deep level engineering review to see how the engines have performed, and that at least some of the parts and pieces are already slated to be reused in future flights even if it isn't the full cores yet. Very likely there will be at least some Merlin engines that will make a flight very soon a second time, which is already a huge savings.

It will take several years before SpaceX will take a recovered core and re-integrate on the spot with a new upper stage and payload. I agree that is the standard being aimed for, but the recovery is just the first of a long, long process of getting there.

Comment Re:Senile? (Score 5, Insightful) 951

I fervently wish he'd leave off the Mars stuff until SpaceX was on a solid footing as a profitable launch company with rapid cadence.

How can you say that SpaceX is not profitable at the moment? They have not had an investment round for several years now, except for the Google investment that seems to be aimed at something other that building rockets. SpaceX is also going to have well over a dozen launches at the current launch rate unless there is a major glitch that appears which would ground the launch fleet.

This comment would have been appropriate in 2009 or earlier when SpaceX was still flying the Falcon 1 and still struggling to simply get into orbit with only announced plans for the Falcon 9 and some test hardware in the assembly line. That is no longer the case right now.

If Elon Musk succeeds at sending a probe to Mars in 2018 like he already announced, it isn't just talking about Mars but rather actually going there. He also committed to sending at least one payload to Mars on every Hohmann Transfer Orbit opportunity between the Earth and Mars for as long as the company exists in the future (and mentioned in the above video). The question isn't just pontificating about what the future could be like, but rather holding actual hardware that will be on the surface of Mars in a definite time table.

When companies talk about spaceflight, I always look at "bent metal" to see how serious they are about getting the job done. SpaceX certainly has plenty of bent metal to prove they are serious about going into space and a growing resume of completed missions in space.

Comment Re:SpaceX's Next Big Challenge (Score 3) 150

But the big challenge for SpaceX now isn't one with astounding demonstrations of technology. It's doing the same thing over, and over, and doing it quickly, and making a profit.

I agree with you that is a core problem for the company. Having two launch pads in Florida and getting the third launch pad in Texas (not ignoring the one in California.... but that is specialized for polar/military payloads) is going to help a lot in terms of clearing their manifest too. Gwynne Shotwell just gave a speech with a Q&A recently about the Falcon Heavy and made a few remarks about the work done on pad 39A too. They are just about ready to start using that site for launch operations there, where a second launch team is likely to help increase that flight rate.

I'll also point out that at the moment range operations at Cape Canaveral in general needs to be streamlined if launch rates are to be increased. That involves more than just SpaceX and might even require a general rethinking for flight operations there for the other launch providers that use the same site. I know for a fact that the Space Shuttle really messed up launch schedules where a Shuttle launch not only took priority but also blocked out a huge hunk of the calendar for nearly a 3-4 week period of time. I would expect that the SLS and the crewed launches (both SpaceX and Boeing are launching out of KSC) are going to be in a similar situation.

By Texas law and the contract signed by SpaceX with the City of Brownsville and the surrounding communities, the Brownsville spaceport can have at most 12 launches per year and each one must be no closer than 20 days from the previous launch. While that might help work around some scheduling problems for some payloads when stuff is happening at the cape, it doesn't mean there is going to be much more of an increased launch tempo.

In other words, I think about the most that almost any private commercial launch provider could ever do right now with the current launch infrastructure for orbital spaceflight in America is about 20 launches per year... and that is being very generous. Last year SpaceX got in seven flight, with one catastrophic failure that required a full engineering review and a return to flight program that satisfied not only the FAA-AST regulators but also all of the customers... especially NASA and the DOD. If they get over a dozen flights in this year, I would be surprised.

Comment Re: So what? (Score 4, Interesting) 150

Part of that effort to build the satellite network resulted in the Iridium satellite constellation. A combination of 1990's electronic technology (it wasn't all that good... really) along with as you said the extremely high launch costs caused the companies to go bankrupt. Iridium itself has gone through several sets of owners, and it was kept on life support financially basically because the U.S. military couldn't find any alternative that could provide global coverage like Iridium was doing.

To give an example of the technical capabilities of Iridium, the first generation had a data throughput speed of 2400 baud for individual customers. That might have been sufficient for reading a few e-mails in the 1990's, but is grossly slow for current needs. The costs for Iridium phones are also insanely expensive compared to what was promised.... and frankly the satellites couldn't handle the crush of millions of users in that first generation either to spread those costs around.

Bill Gates' plan to have a large number of cheap satellites might have worked, but as you have pointed out it needed cheap launch costs to make it possible. $10k/kg to orbit is not cheap.

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