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Comment Re: Threshold (Score 1) 401

The used Honda Civic will be a better car in every way than the new 70s Malibu, is the thing.

The real argument here is that "a new car that keeps up with the Jones's" doesn't get cheaper. That's just the thing: status symbols, even small ones like a new family sedan, can never get cheaper, by definition. People complaining about how stuff doesn't get cheaper are usually talking about that. The equivalent car keeps getting cheaper, but that stops being the car that impresses over time.

Yup, no matter what happens with technology, or Socialism, or anything else economic whatsoever, it can never get cheaper to impress your neighbors with your status symbol. The upside is: that's why automation will never leave everyone jobless, as the cheaper it is, the more it fails the status test, so there's always something left to do.

Comment Am I the only one... (Score 4, Interesting) 122

.... who can't help but cheer at my screen when they nail one of those landings? Now I finally understand how sports fans feel when they watch a game and do the same thing ;)

One thing nobody can deny about them is optimism. ;) Seriously, their IPS numbers are, pardon the pun, out of this world. $200k per booster launch. $500k per tanker launch. I mean, really? Good luck with that. No, seriously, good luck with that; I won't be expecting anything close to that, but please by all means prove me wrong ;) ITS would be a great system to have, I've been playing around with some Venus trajectories with it recently. Looks like it can do a low-energy transit with nearly 300 tonnes of payload from LEO and back again with the same, over 400 if starting at a high orbit - but from an economics perspective the high energy transfers actually make more sense.

I noticed a lot of people were confused about why Musk wanted the trips to be so short and was willing to sacrifice so much payload to do so - many assumed it had to do with radiation or something. But the issue is, when your craft costs so much but your launch costs are cheap, you can't have it spending all of its time drifting in deep space, you need to get it back for a new mission as soon as possible. There's a balancing point, in that if you try to go too fast, you reduce useful payload below the point of making up for it with going faster - but a minimum energy trajectory is just not optimal when the ratio between launch costs and transit vehicle cost is so extreme. I come up with the same thing from Venus as they were getting for Mars, although for the Venus case you end up aerobraking to a highly elliptical orbit rather than to the surface for ISRU refill (you need ISRU, but for the ascent stages, so it's not realistic to do so for the return stage in the nearer term). So for Venus they get no refill like on Mars, but they also don't have to do a powered landing nor do an ascent on return - it's six of one, half a dozen of the other. Both are quite accessible with it.

Comment Re:Great strides (Score 1) 122

It depends what you mean by "refurbishing"; each element is different.

The solid rocket boosters, for example, suffered a hard impact into salt water. They then had to be fished out of the water. And of course you don't just "refill" a SRB, they have to be taken apart and recast, then put back together.

The ET is disposable, and had to be rebuilt from scratch.

The orbiter was legitimately reusable, but with design flaws.

I don't blame the shuttle program - they were sort of pigeonholed into this dead end by circumstances. The concept came about during the heyday of the Apollo Programme, when NASA budgets were serious. It was supposed to be a much more reusable, much more maintainable, and somewhat smaller system. It was supposed to then have a huge flight rate supporting all of these big projects that were on NASA's docket, including a permanent moon base and a huge manned orbital station dwarfing ISS, which was supposed to replace Skylab.

But of course, Vietnam and the realities of having soundly trounced the USSR in the space race led to their budgets being slashed, which pushed the program into ever more untenable positions until it was nothing more than a jobs programme. Forget full flyback reusability of all parts. Forget the titanium frame for the shuttle, which would have let it run hot and thus not required so sensitive of a TPS. Go begging for money and be forced to modify the design to meet Air Force requirements, pushing you into an inferior design position. On and on.

If I'd fault them for anything, it'd be for going straight for a full reusable workhorse rather than a small-scale pilot programme first. But those were the days of optimism. Optimism which only recently seems to start being regained.

Either way, the Falcon boosters are a very different beast. A vertical soft landing is hugely different from the SRBs, yet the thermal issues are far easier than with the Shuttle. And the Merlins were designed from the start under the principle of preventing the need for a full teardown. That doesn't mean that they will be cheap to reuse. But it does mean that they have the possibility of it.

I do think SpaceX had a rather clever strategy, in that while their goal was reusable, they made a rocket that in the process was cheap as a disposable. So they could get volume and flight history while working on getting the kinks out. They may have flown too close to the sun with the densified propellants and (externally) unlined COPVs, but obviously, with a company like this, their whole existence is to push the envelope.

Comment Re: Awesome (Score 2) 122

Most of Europe agrees with you. And even the US agrees with you up through high school plus with various forms of assistance for college, including state-subsidies, particularly for state colleges, and federal subsidies (direct subsidies, tax credits, and tax breaks), roughly $80B/year each. Pell grants alone cost the government $35B.

Comment Re: Is more education, better education . . . ? (Score 2) 474

You are simply mis-reading what is stated in that document. The US citizen parent had to be resident in the US for ten years (prior to the birth). How can I be so certain? I am in a similar category, but was born outside the US to a US mother and a father who had not been ten years resident in the US. I had, since birth, US citizenship until I renounced a few years ago.

Comment Re:Do you know how to read? (Score 1) 401

Tehre are over a million skilled manufacturing jobs sitting unfilled in the US. There's a vast labor shortage in all the skilled trades. We're failing as a nation to enable people to take skilled blue-collar jobs. Our obsession with "everyone goes to college" is making high school worthless for half the population. The near absence of quality, reputable vocational training is really sad. But the jobs are there.

Comment Re:Kill it with fire (Score 1) 517

A visa program where you get into the US by having a company sponsor you for a professional job is a good thing - it's sold evidence you'll be a net-contributor to the system. But it needs to covert to a green card quickly. If the median H1-B holder got a green card in 1-2 years, it would be fine. But now its, what, 3-5 years depending on whether you have a master's? Too long; allows for too much exploitation.

Comment Re: Threshold (Score 1) 401

You're arguing causation from correlation. Stop that. Car cost more because of a tall stack of regulations about safety and emissions. They cost more because we collectively decided it was better that they should cost more. And you can certainly buy a decent used car for $5000 today (and even more so an inflation-adjusted $5000), and that Honda Civic will outperform the 70s Malibu in every way.

Comment Re:No H1-Bs for high rent areas (Score 1) 517

Silicone Valley blows goats climate-wise. Only Southern Ca, and a bit of Napa Valley are nice. And, sure Northern Cali has culture - like a Petri dish has culture.

Silly Valley sucks less than the Midwest and the rust belt, no doubt, but that's not saying much.

It's just the network effect. There are very few hubs for tech jobs, because companies want to hire locally if possible, and smart people move to where the jobs are, so you get the normal sort of power law distribution.

Comment Re:100k minimum won't impact Microsoft or other te (Score 1) 517

Plenty. Less at MS than most tech companies, but when I was there it seemed about 1/3-1/2 (as opposed to about 2/3 at most left-coast tech software companies).

In software development, H1-Bs are just where most talent enters the pool, and as the industry is still so biased towards young talent, most of the workforce is still in the first 5 years of the industry. Most H1-B holders I've known over the years have green cards now, BTW, as the years went on.

Comment Re:Well Trump has one thing right (Score 1) 517

Every large company in Silly Valley has a legal team and things nothing of hiring H1-Bs away form competitors. It's not any harder to change jobs - but you make about $10k less than someone not needing sponsorship, because that's the cost of the legal team.

All the problem with H1-Bs are in the consultant body-shops. Simply banning B1-Bs from consulting jobs would fix basically everything, though a $100k minimum would fix it as well.

Comment Re: Threshold (Score 1) 401

You're talking about new inventions, which misses the point. Any technology will experience a cost decrease in its beginning but then it levels out. I'm sure before the Ford Model-T came out cars were considered a luxury item for the wealthy, but people were also doing fine without cars. Yet the Chevy Malibu of 1970 when adjusted for inflation was cheaper than a Chevy Malibu of today. There will be no point in time where a new vehicle costs $2000, it just won't happen.

Below a certain price point, people want more features instead of a cheaper product. The Chevy Malibu is not the same product it was in the 70s - it's barely comparable. In terms of safety, reliability, performance, and fuel economy, the modern version (which is pretty bad across the board by today's standards) blows away the 70s version. There's both called the same name, but they aren't equivalent.

There is no connection to the price point of a product and the cost to make it, what matters only is demand.

And, you know, supply. That's why the price levels off at some point: stuff becomes fully commoditized, margins fall to where there's little point in new manufacturers getting involved. But even then, over decades, things change. Washing machines, TVs, and refrigerators are much better product now feature-wise that 60 years ago, even if they don't last as long. (And I don't know what fancy rich enclave you grew up in, but where I grew up most households were single-mother-income, and still TV and fridge were taken for granted).

Comment Re:No Gut no Glory (Score 1) 66

To be clear:

  * Getting the failure rate down in the lower tenths of a percent or better is what they need to be able to ~10x their launch rate and still be economically viable, since a pad explosion will leave them stuck for just as long and scare off just as high a percentage of their customers whether they're launching 12 a year or 120.
  * SpaceX wants to have reliability like airplanes, and has talked about this frequently.
  * What they want to achieve, and what they need to achieve, are not the same thing. They do not need to achieve airplane-like reliability for the Falcon 9 to be viable.
  * That said, if they ever want to achieve their ultimate IPT plans, they absolutely will need airplane-like reliability. Because they're calling for ~1000 launches per booster on that thing with a turnaround cost of ~200k. They really cannot have anything go wrong with it.

Comment Re:No Gut no Glory (Score 1) 66

It most certainly would be extreme reliability by the standards of the launch industry. The only ones that have better reliability than that that don't have nearly a statistically significant enough number of launches under their belt to assert that. Aka, "they haven't had a failure yet but nowhere near the several hundred launches required to assert a lower fraction of a percent or better failure rate".

We're not talking about airplane reliability here, we're talking about economics (the title of the article is "SpaceX Accident Cost it Hundreds of Millions"). Airplane-like reliability is for the future. We're living in the present.

All COPVs use an inner liner. The problem with SpaceX's COPVs is that they have no outer liner to separate the carbon fibre from the LOX. Outer liners are optional. SpaceX didn't use one. They lost a rocket because of it. They're going to keep trying doing without one. I really hope it doesn't cost them another. CF and LOX aren't fast friends.

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