back to article SpaceX Dragon SPLASHDOWN in Pacific! Private space triumph

The SpaceX cargo capsule Dragon, first privately built ship to visit the International Space Station, has splashed down safely in the Pacific ocean at 10:42 Central Time after nine days in space. The cargo capsule landed as planned 560 miles off the Californian coast, and rescue boats are already on their way to pull the capsule …

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Happy

(as opposed to being made by a government space agency)

NASA doesn't build hardware. Prior to COTS it paid the big aerospace companies to build stuff. SpaceX funded Falcon/Dragon, and was paid for meeting various objectives. Now it will be paid for future ISS resupply flights.

Dragon landed right way up (Stable 1), and the parachutes detached after SpaceX sent a manual command. I'm not sure if it should have been automatic.

A flawless mission.

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Black Helicopters

Re: (as opposed to being made by a government space agency)

From what they were saying, although they want to get rid of the parachutes as soon as possible they also want to get a sighting of the capsule first. It's a lot easier to spot the slightly singed off-white capsule while there's still a bit of string tying it to three enormous red and white hankies than it is to find it when the wind has taken the chutes one way and the current has taken the capsule somewhere else.

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Thumb Up

Congratulations to SpaceX

That's a job well done for a newcomer to the space sector, and not just the land based part of it..

Particularly the fact they can return experiments and equipment.. looking foward to their controlled landing pad version.. should be epic to watch if nothing else.

Now, just fix your Tesla batteries and drop the charge time, and i'll consider getting a 3-phase charger down at my business park.. :)

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Go

Yay!

*clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap*

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Happy

so dragons /can/ fly then ..

congrats to SpaceX - hope the contents "landed" intact ...

Hope it inspires others to follow.

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Happy

Re: so dragons /can/ fly then ..

Maybe the fist manned one should be called Mnementh.

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Re: so dragons /can/ fly then ..

Good idea. Hopefully someone will suggest it to E'lon.

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B-D
Headmaster

I made that mistake too for a moment.

"The cargo capsule landed as planned 560 miles off the Californian coast"

Baja California is in the territory of Mexico.

A huge congratulations to all involved! :)

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Happy

Re: I made that mistake too for a moment.

But at 560 miles out, it's beyond any economic zone. The splashdown occurred in international waters, well away from known shipping routes. Add to that the fact splashdown occurred on target and just slightly early, it looks like the entire Dragon mission went off just about as planned (only a minor launch hiccup which was detected and fixed and a minor delay in docking that was compensated), which as the article says has both SpaceX and NASA slapping backs.

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Um... I'm very glad everything went OK and all but... is it really THAT big a triumph that after multi-billion dollar investment all there actually was was something people have already been doing for half a century? How is this as good as throwing a multibillion dollar investment towards something we don't already know how to do quite well?

The people involved are talented, no argument. And it's a feat on engineering, also no argument. But I'm genuinely finding it hard to get THAT enthusiastic about what is fairly routine stuff in space exploration terms. Just because some rich dudes paid for it to be built rather than everyone in the country indirectly paying for it to be built?

I'm genuinely not trying to denigrate the job the people on the Dragon project have done, but I can't honestly see how this is different to or better than what we've been doing since the 60's already. I'd really, honestly like someone to explain to me what the deal is because I'm obviously not seeing it..

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A few things to consider

1 - This is the first step. It's like learning to walk before you start running or, introducing an IT angle, it's like each generation of PCs is an advance over the previous. SpaceX is their start and one suspects they intend making it better and more efficient in the future.

2 - "fairly routine" is what killed 7 astronauts when Challenger disintegrated. Nothing in space is "fairly routine" and every successful launch is an achievement in its own right.

3 - Seeing as every successful launch is an achievement, this provides everyone involved and everyone watching an excuse to have a beer. We, (El Reg Commentards), have taken SpaceX as our excuse to have a beer at regular intervals and we are not going to let anyone take that away from us.

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Headmaster

The big difference is the cost

It didn't cost several billion dollars, involve a cadre of engineers bigger than the US Army, or several gigabytes of Powerpoints.

Look at the Boeing capsule that's supposed to do essentially the same job. It's still several *years* to its first flight IF it flies, and it's already cost something like twice the SpaceX program and produced nothing but one mockup and a couple terabytes of powerpoints and mission animations.

NASA is ecstatic that SpaceX got the job done so well because now they can turn to Congress and say "See! 'business as usual' does NOT get the job done!"

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Happy

In mission terms this was a test flight where it was a brilliant surprise that everything went smoothly for a start.

Also don't forget that this entire effort was done using a rocket, capsule and launch site that didn't exist less than five years ago. All for less than a billion dollars which was less than an eighth of the effort expended on the Constellation system before it was cancelled where there was only one test launch and we have had two of the Dragon so far.

A terrific and successful effort. It's not mundane because unlike the sixties it shows the start of much more routine access to space! The speed at which they can start launching is what will be really significant.

Note that 75% of launch vehicles have had a failure in their first three launches while the Falcon 9 has been an unqualified success.

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Um... I'm very glad everything went OK and all but

SpaceX has spent $1 billion so far. For that, it's developed two new rockets, flown three Falcon 9s, flown and returned a Dragon to the ISS, and is a year away from the first Falcon Heavy launch (twice as powerful as anything currently in service. For only $1 billion.

It's the start of a new era in space.

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Well, I could go on about the tech detail, but the exciting thing it is exactly like the 60s! Develop a new rocket design from scratch in 7 years, getting it man rated, talking about trips to Mars - the 60s rocked for space innovation and so does this!

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Facepalm

Please don't troll

This is the first privately-designed, built, and flown orbital craft. It just proved it can do the work the big boys can do, at a fraction of the cost and without being at the mercy of political cutbacks. Yes, it's a big deal. A REALLY big deal.

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Alien

then think a little harder...

Um., the answer is there right in front of you. The difference is that "Governments" have been doing this since the 60s (kind of), but what this is, is "Private Enterprise". That's the exciting thing. It looks like they have found a way of doing this profitably at a fraction oft the cost of what government was doing it at (read that anywhere before).

When big business has worked out a way to make money out of something, then the pace of innovation accelerates accordingly. I believe that space exploration, and of more immediate relevance, space exploitation has just got a huge kick up the backside, and is on the cusp of expanding rapidly (I was going to say "take-off").

I also believe that I will now see full scale asteroid mining and associated habitats in my lifetime (I'm nearly 40).

If you still don't get it, go and read just about any science fiction book ever written...

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Pint

Re: A few things to consider

Geoff May is my hero.

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Anonymous Coward

Also consider

If manned flights do happen, the pressure on the team increases severalfold, not like the challenger and columbia disasters where some unknown bin emptier from Domestic services gets the blame and the rest carry on collecting their huge salary's paid for by the tax payers.

These people will be accountable to congress for errors

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A few things to consider

1. So the first step is to repeat what's been going on since the 60s? Doesn't sound like much of a step to me.

2. Yes, fairly routine. This has been done hundreds of times over the years. The vast majority have been without incident.

3. Given that it's Friday today is there a need for an excuse to drink beer?

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Re: The big difference is the cost

Of course, SpaceX has a lot more focus and doesn't have all of the distractions that Boeing does. Congress is very fickle when it comes to direction, preferring to change direction and spend a few billion more to "save money" and go somewhere else. This isn't to say Boeing could beat SpaceX in the cost department, but there are complications!

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@bamalam

"Note that 75% of launch vehicles have had a failure in their first three launches while the Falcon 9 has been an unqualified success."

Although to be fair they lost 3/3 Falcon 1 vehicles. However, having learnt how to launch a rocket without shunting stages into each other they've done very well with Falcon 9.

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I take your point -- the physical achievement has been done before, but it's who did it that's different.

Do you remember that awesome Pan-Am space clipper in the space-docking scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1m30s in to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpvOUnz4T7Q in case you don't)? That was the future of space travel as seen in 1968. 11 years late, but Dragon is the first one of those.

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Pint

Re: Please don't troll

You hit the nail on the head witrh this:

"It just proved it can do the work the big boys can do, at a fraction of the cost and without being at the mercy of political cutbacks. "

Which is EXACTLY why it is such a success!

The fucking politicians can not meddle in it, and parcel out pieces to each and every congressional district as political payback.

Secondly, we all know the motto of Big Business-Political Opportunity Agreements, don't we??

It is:

"Money Talks, Bullshit Walks"

Pint, because the people at SpaceX deserve one!!

Congrats, job well done!!!!

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Big event, mundane response from SpaceX mission control

I've watched/listened to the live NASA feed while at work for the de-orbit. Gotta say, those guys at SpaceX sure know how to curb their enthusiasm. Not a whole lot of reaction as the capsule splashed down.

I most certainly applaud these guys. They've achieved a set of massive milestones in a very short time!

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B-D
Pint

Re: Big event, mundane response from SpaceX mission control

Did you see their live press conference when the Dragon berthed with the ISS?, for a moment I thought I was watching the episode of The Simpsons where Homer goes to work for Hank Scorpio, utterly amazing, rounds of cheers and woooohs whenever Elon spoke, a complete contrast to the prim and proper conference from NASA.

The Dragon mission briefing is about to begin, so off I go. :)

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Alert

Re: Big event, mundane response from SpaceX mission control

Hank Scorpio, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, as long as Elon doesn't get a... Oh dear...

http://twitter.com/elonmusk/statuses/192701084932907009

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Black Helicopters

Re: Big event, mundane response from SpaceX mission control

And, "Elon Musk", "Hugo Drax". Both with two four letter names. Both with a private space operation. Coincidence?

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Pint

Re: Big event, mundane response from SpaceX mission control

Elon Musk is quite aware of the similarities. When interviewed by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, he acknowledged he should get a white Persian cat.

Great guy, great achievement by the whole SpaceX team!

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Anonymous Coward

SpaceX is the most exciting thing that has happened for my generation so far (no, I don't get out much). I have been glued to their progress and amazed that a private company has got this far this fast.

Without guys like Elon Musk the only hope for space exploration we have as is to rely on the whims of global politics. Now we - as a species - can finally get excited about space again and if I was 10 years younger I would absolutely have been inspired enough to make a career in space technology.

Why am I so excited? Think about how in this short time this relatively small private company has beaten national space agencies to a cheaper, more efficient and more reliable spacecraft. Now think about how much progress will be made when the really serious corporate money starts flowing in and even more talented people jump on board.

Holy shit, this is going to be an exciting century!

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Pint

Secret cargo?

Any news of what it was?

Beer?

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Re: Secret cargo?

Elon said there wasn't one, during the press conference. at least, not that he knows about...

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Angel

Re: Secret cargo?

The secret cargo this time was the ashes of James Doohan, Gordon Cooper, and 306 other people who are all still in orbit for the next year on the spent second stage of the Falcon 9

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Re: Secret cargo?

Lamarr?

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Please, before I die!

Humans on Mars!

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One thing at a time.

I think we may wanna work closer to home first. First let's see if they discover commercial uses for materials that can only be produced in microgravity. Plus we'll want to see about the commercial viability of space mining (one big problem I see right now--transportation costs and re-entry logistics). Might also want to look into further research into better propulsion technologies--preferably ones that don't rely on combustion.

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Boffin

Re: One thing at a time.

The trick with space-mining is that if you do it right, you refine and use the materials without ever de-orbiting them, to build things like spaceship components, habitats, fuel depots, etc. in space. This give you double-savings - you don't have to expend lots of energy bringing them down to Earth, and you don't have to waste even more getting the end products back up again.

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Re: One thing at a time.

That's assuming all the space-mining is for materials meant to be used only in space, but what if the space mining turns up something of great terrestrial worth? Then the problem of getting it home hits home.

Another problem is the idea of performing any serious kind of mechanical work in space. Just linking up the pieces of the ISS was a serious undertaking, and you were talking about an outer space jigsaw puzzle, basically. Now think of all the stuff you'll need to perform proper metallurgy in space. That's going to require significant amounts of energy, not to mention a wide range of both gross and fine motor skills. If they're not done in vacuum, you'll need some kind of space station to house the works, and this will require resources of its own. Better hope some of the things the space miners discover is a source of oxygen.

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Definitely Beerworthy

I'll bet there's some champagne corks popping at SpaceX right now too.

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Next term at LSE: MBA in Spaaaace!

Success as in they delivered the goods, but did they turn a profit? How long before Parcelforce can do the same run cheaper?

Oh yeah, congrats BTW.

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Devil

Re: Next term at LSE: MBA in Spaaaace!

ParcelForce? Cheaper? Maybe, but you don't really want your space cargo to arrive a completely different shape and functionality (ie broken)..

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"Um... I'm very glad everything went OK and all but... is it really THAT big a triumph that after multi-billion dollar investment all there actually was was something people have already been doing for half a century? How is this as good as throwing a multibillion dollar investment towards something we don't already know how to do quite well?"

Yes it is. This is using modern technology, it's far lighter, it's cheaper, it's ACTUALLY reusable (a space shuttle was nominally reusable, but there was so much refurbishment per-flight that flights cost at least $450 million apiece). From what I've been reading, the Orion (the ready-by-2020 shuttle replacement) appears to be a big Gemini with modernized electronics rather than any majorly new technology (there was a big Gemini prototyped by the late 1960s). The SpaceX module is essentially a high-temperature-resistant styrofoam -- very light & strong, the material it simply didn't exist when Gemini, Apollo, the space shuttle, or Soyuz were under development.

I heard a quote from the guys on the ISS, they said it was quite roomy inside and had that "new car smell".

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