The first private-sector mission to carry supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) has been delayed, according to reports. Meanwhile NASA funding for such contracted-out missions is to be cut back. The Dragon capsule and upper stage separate from the Falcon 9. Credit: NASA Not happening again until next year, it seems …
"which is intended to dock automatically with the ISS"
Not quite. It gets very close automatically, but is grabbed by the station's robotic arm and docked.
Another one? I could maybe understand the Japanese; they are very into their video games, but the US don't seem to be able to manage to auto dock either; only the Europeans and Russians!
Dragon mating with an orbital research facility?
The offspring is potentially too horrifying to contemplate.
It's been moving later. Spacex early date of early Dec has been becoming *much* more optimistic.
April however sounds *very* worst case.
How much more do WSJ know thany anyone else? Who knows.
I read something somewhere else that they wouldn't be able to dock the first one either. There were lots of conspiracy stories about the Russians not wanting to loose their delivery contracts and forcing Spacex to do lots of trials first.
The thing is, I remember the first ATV did about a month's worth of trials before docking. If the first Spacex cannot dock, maybe it is because they don't have enough fuel / power to be in free flight long enough to complete all the tests and still be able to actually dock?
Few Things Here...
1) If by "designed from scratch" you mean "SpaceX took existing features from other rocket engines and put them together", then yes, it's all new.
2) The Delta IV and Atlas V rockets are not from the 1960's. They are designs that evolved from earlier designs, including the Delta II rocket, the vehicle that made launches routine.
3) The government's EELV program contract specified an American-made cryogenic engine. Some yonks are no doubt still trying to figure out how the Atlas got in. It has a kerosee engine, and is currently the commercially preferred vehicle.
4) 9 engines is a bad idea. SpaceX knows this, thus their work on the Merlin 2.
5) Before you can say that a system is cheaper, you must first consider its reliability. Witness Orbital Science and the Taurus XL. The cost of the satellite generally dwarfs the cost of the launch, so one failure of a cheap rocket instantly outcosts one success of a more expensive rocket. The Air Force and the NRO know this. Congress and the general public are having trouble remembering.
6) No matter what Musk says, the Dragon is not man-rated. It is in a form at or close to what they intend to submit for man-rating. This process takes 2 years.
7) SpaceX's cost estimates have risen as time has gone on, and will rise further as they try to move into areas of business with more regulations and requirements.
On the good side, the competition is making both companies refine and improve their products.
Dragon capsules meets the same flying standards as Nasa capsules designs from the 60/70s, and NASA is just so risk adverse today that they are not willing to launch without an abort system in place. I would not be surprise if Mersks has plans for a private launch using a manned capsule without the abort system in place before 2014.
It a catch 22 situation, you cant prove the safety of a craft without launches and you cant gain launches without a safety record.
But Space x already has billions of dollars worth of business, more than enough to prove the reliability of its Falcon system.
As I understand the Merlin 2 engines will just be an engine upgrade to the Falcons rockets, they will still be keeping 9 engines on each craft. As decreasing the number engines would require Space X to completely redesign there rockets from the ground up. They will just replace the Merlin 1 engines with Merlin 2 Engines, which will provide more lift capacity or higher orbits.
The real advantage in Space X to moving to Merlin 2 as it will allow them to scale up there Falcon system to higher orbits, bigger payloads and evolve the Falcon system to falcon ten which will have 150+ tons to orbit capabilities but will only be developed if there is a commercial need for such launch capabilities.
I suspect Falcon 10 will be built in the end with or without commercial demand as it fits in with Mersk vision of retiring on Mars.
NASA approved the Dragon escape system last month, so SpaceX can no start building the hardware.
I can see a manned Dragon test flight within two years.
"6) No matter what Musk says, the Dragon is not man-rated."
Neither was the shuttle. Neither was Orion when launched on a solid rocket with no thrust termination system. It seems "man-rating" applies only to spacecraft NASA doesn't build.
Federal money spent on jobs
So SpaceX can do it cheaper but with fewer people employed. Therefore it's a bad idea so let's do the expensive thing and keep people employed doing something that's not as good/efficient as SpaceX.
Why not ban Car factories from using automated procedures? You'll get more people employed... Oh, no, you won't, not in the long term.
Same applies here.
Repeat after me
Jobs are a cost, not a benefit!
"presents a terrible threat to a lot of American jobs"
Short-term maybe. But if this opens up a new stream of technology and a new competitive market then long-term it will be massively jobs-generating.
Yes but that does not fit in with the current senators pay masters nor does it fit in with short tem vision that congress is plague with 4 years about as far in the future you will get a congress to think about.
Perhaps Mr Musk should take contact with the Chinese National Space Administration
(国家航天局), which recently has attained a certain degree of automated docking capability and which has said it is open for international cooperation. Or has Frank Rudolph Wolf managed to forbid even private ventures in the US from cooperating with the Chinese ?...
Problems with co-operation
The ITARS treaty is a massive disincentive for non-Americans to partner up with American technology-intensive companies like SpaceX. Basically, all of their technology becomes American technology which they then have to licence back from the Americans and seek permission from the Americans to use the technology in other areas or with other partners.
This is why Reaction Engines Ltd (the English company behind the Skylon spaceplane) have made it clear that they are NOT seeking partnership/co-operation with any American organisations/corporations for the development of Skylon.
In fact, I'm not even sure that, assuming Skylon works and is produced (by BAE or EADS?) and sold, American corporations can buy it under the ITARS regulations. Reaction Engines and the manufacturing consortium (whoever they wil be), at that point, certainly won't be interested in signing over their technology.
The goal for Alan Bond and the others is mostly to get as many Skylons up and flying as possible. It's a labour of love for them.
As an American corporation, SpaceX is effectively barred from co-operating on any meaningful level with the Chinese Space Program. ITARS and various laws ban it from sharing technology.
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