PayPal multihecamillionaire Elon Musk's rocket company, SpaceX, has announced that it will fly a genuinely private-sector space mission - including return to Earth - as soon as 2010. SpaceX concept of DragonLab - a Dragon re-entry capsule with unpressurised trunk attached We don't need no stinkin' NASA. SpaceX's plan to …
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Third time lucky!
I can't imagine many company building multiple instances on satellites just in case they get a repeat of Falcon X. I shouldn't think there will be much of a fight over first dibs.
Also the insurance pemiums for the deploying kit will be pretty scary!
"it will fly a genuinely private-sector space mission - including return to Earth"
Well I would only expect they'd sell return tickets!
Nothing new to see here... move along please...
We're still playing with non-reusable chemical rockets FFS... space will never be affordable while we insist on building large throw-away lumps of metal.
Some answers to the above..
Four flights to success is better than the original rocket pioneers as you would expect, but it still acceptable given the complexity. There may be a Falcon 9 fail as well, but since it relies on mostly the same components as Falcon 1, the odds are for success.
Non-reuseable chemical rockets are still currently the cheapest (and in fact only) way of getting to orbit. Nothing else has come close to matching their performance, and a lot of brain power has gone in to trying to think of something! In fact SpaceX stages are designed to be partly reusable, but they havent tried refurbishing one yet.
Most flights to orbit are in fact one way, and getting back from orbit without toasting is actually quite difficult, hence the comment.
Non-reusable space planes...
are the only way to go for the foreseeable future by the looks of things (unfortunately).
Reusable space planes are, without exception, much more expensive than non-reusable, for the simple reason that they have to be much more complicated, and therefore heavier, and riskier to launch, therefore requiring massive checking / overhauls between each use. Shame, but it just goes to show that those engineers might have been onto something when they said "Keep it simple stupid".
@Third time lucky!
I seem to remember that the rocket companies tend to offer incentives for companies willing to send up stuff on first launches of a new vehicle.
Honestly, I don't give a shit if the technology is lacking, because at least if private ventures are being made - given the precarious state of NASA and the lack of excitement in the ESA et al - then that at least provides some hope for the future. I have always and do still firmly believe that space is the way forward (eggs in one basket syndrome aside), and I'm glad to see that the human race as a whole hasn't given up on trying to get there. I don't care whether it's public or private, or what sort of technology is proud - success in space will breed commercial sponsorship which will enable technology research. The only thing missing is a starting point to get this ball rolling, and private ventures such as this can provide such a starting point. Reid Malenfant would be proud.
"Most flights to orbit are in fact one way, and getting back from orbit without toasting is actually quite difficult, hence the comment."
Well, let's be pedantic, but they're never truly one-way, they'll fall back out of orbit overtime if not maintained, but it'll take donkey's and won't really be a successful return trip :-)
Valid point you're making, but given they're using this as a step towards manned missions, I think it's safe to assume most manned missions are return flights.
@ Cutting NASA's apron strings?
Not in the next few years, and not with the $500 million (money well spent) NASA has awarded under COTS hoping to privatise launches to the ISS. Why would SpaceX not want a customer like NASA?
www.spacex.com/press.php?page=20081103 refers to Dragon docking with the ISS in 2010.
They're clearly looking far beyond supporting the ISS. Delivering people and cargo to the Bigelow inflatable habitats for a start. And what about beyond earth orbit? I wouldn't be surprised if they beat NASA back to the Moon.
@Non-reusable space planes...
"Reusable space planes are, without exception, much more expensive than non-reusable."
Are they? The Shuttle is the only one so far and it's a 40 year old design. And many of its problems are due to its size. I'm sure that a smaller version using today's technology would be a far different animal.
The biggest reason this stuff is expensive is that not enough people do it. Economies of scale and all that.
If SpaceX & Orbital & PlanetSpace and others can make it cheaper, than there can be much more flights.
Once there are a good number of manned flights to LEO, there's enough market to bother making a reusable system.
The Space Shuttle is actually a good example of this. The marginal cost of the shuttle is only around 60 to 100 million dollars, last I read! But it costs multiple billions a year to _own_ a space shuttle program.
If the shuttle did a heck of a lot more flights, than it would be much cheaper.
Well, assuming Soyuz is too expensive, there's always Ariane 5 ECA and the OTV- which flew its first ISS mission this year. Commercially available and way cheaper than the Shuttle (which isn't saying much).
"getting back from orbit without toasting is actually quite difficult"
No it isn't.
Getting back from orbit without toasting is pretty simple- it's just getting into a position that makes this easy is difficult.
The heat at retentry is because of air friction from movement, so so enter safely you'd slow yourselves down with a brake-rocket. Then fall very quickly back to earth. The only problem is that you'd have to be very high up to let yourself slow down gently enough to not kill a crew.
I guess you'd get up to geostationary levels (so you're always over the same spot- so your speed in relation to the ground is between zero and a few hundred mph) then just thrust downwards, taking care to deploy some parachutes (or employing some aerofoils) to stop you from descending uncontrollably, and making sure to keep your speed relative to the earth at approximately bugger all mph.
Get rid of the rockets, build up a Virgin Galactic style carrier-and-spacecraft pair and make sure you're going very slowly at reentry. Soon you'll be able to safely- and relatively cheaply- blast civillians into space and back again.
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