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back to article SpaceX Falcon 9 flameout leaves commercial satellite in wrong orbit

The Falcon 9 rocket from upstart rocket firm SpaceX, which lifted off yesterday with supplies for the International Space Station, will deliver those supplies successfully following loss of an engine during launch. However a commercial satellite which was also aboard the rocket has been placed into a lower orbit than planned as …

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Frequent flyer

Just give Orbcomm some extra frequent flyer points...

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Boffin

Re: Frequent flyer

Agreed - suspect Orbcomm would have known the risk parameters when they signed up to be an additional customer on that flight. From reading the article it appears it technically could have placed the sat in orbit but due to ISS constraints it wasn't allowed, Orbcomm would have known that this sort of variance was possible.

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Insurance

Is insurance available for this type of thing?

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Re: Insurance

Usually - I believe so.

I sorta suspect that once a bit more established SpaceX may even attract lower premiums as the chance of a total loss would be lower. A shorter life span satelite is still better than no satellite at all.

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Anonymous Coward

Self destruct?

Hmm, isn't a lower orbit likely to bring it down where it came from? Do these things now self destruct or is everyone waiting until one of these returning gadgets makes a possibly radioactive hole where it's really inconvenient, such as in the middle of a cricket ground?

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Re: Insurance

To attract lower premiums, the insurance groups would have to have better confindence in it than e.g. Ariane 5, which has 50 consecutive launch sucesses. Surviving with an engine out doesn't help if you didn't manage to deliver the payload.

The issue is that they claim a significantly cheaper launch, and if they deliver on their promises, you coukd buy the launch and forego insurance and save enough money to buy a new sat. Of course your business plan probably took that into account and so doesn't have the spare money, nor an extra 2-3 years to wait for the new sat.

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Re: Self destruct?

"Hmm, isn't a lower orbit likely to bring it down where it came from? Do these things now self destruct or is everyone waiting until one of these returning gadgets makes a possibly radioactive hole where it's really inconvenient, such as in the middle of a cricket ground?"

The gadget is not radioactive. Normally, only deep space probes and exotic milsats feature nuclear power.

All sats in LEO will _eventually_ come down. They do so as artificial meteors.

Compared to meteors, parts are less likely to hit the ground. Meteors tend to be dense iron blobs while sats are made of a lot of delicate, light-metal parts which break up easily and evaporate from the heat.

Sats tend to be disposed of by intentionally de-orbiting them so the debris doesn't hit a populated area; they target the ocean. Even very large sats like Mir can be disposed of this way.

This gadget in particular still has control and fuel, therefore they can dispose of it properly when appropriate.

In short; this is unfortunate, but the damage may be little more than an insurance payout and some embarassment for SpaceX.

It's all OK.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Insurance

> Of course your business plan probably took that into account and so doesn't have the spare money, nor an extra 2-3 years to wait for the new sat.

There is almost always a flight spare built as well as the original bird (most of the cost of satellites isn't in the actual flown hardware, it's in the R&D to build it - it's not uncommon to build 100 preflight models on esoteric probes to ensure that every possibility has been thought of and all that cost goes into the final product).

Any outfit which has to build a replacement for a failed launch (and wait for it) is likely to already be in financial problems (Looking at Beagle particular, the most likely reason it failed is that the airbag was already _used_ as a test article and full of water vapour (as well as having been damaged/repaired and failed initial tests) - despite some pretty heroic efforts by the people involved, the bag wasn't fully dehydrated before time ran out to include it in the launch package. As a result it probably didn't inflate properly due to being iced up and the whole thing would have hit the ground like a soggy pudding(*). Similarly the oxygen tank which exploded on Apollo 13 was a test article earlier in its lifespan and the fatal damage to it was done while it was in that phase of its life. It got pressed into service when NASA started getting budget cuts)

(*) If money had been found to build 12 beagles it's quite likely that at least 11 would have landed sucessfully. The dangers of building one-off devices on a shoestring budget are legion.

Anon, because I work for the space lab which (tried to) dry out the airbag - it got dumped in our lap at the last possible moment...

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Re: Insurance

"To attract lower premiums, the insurance groups would have to have better confindence in it than e.g. Ariane 5, which has 50 consecutive launch sucesses. Surviving with an engine out doesn't help if you didn't manage to deliver the payload."

That is specifically "primary" payload, which was Dragon in this case. The fact it not only *survived* an engine failure (violent but not technically an actual explosion) and has not just got to orbit but the *correct* orbit will definitely have both sat users and insurers paying attention.

*Secondary* payloads may have *no* insurance (student payloads) and just build an extra payload and/or accept that in the event of trouble the *primary* payload gets priority for emergency responses. It's like a "stand by" air ticket. Best effort but *no* guarantees. May not happen at all or outcome very different from ideal.

Note that it was NASA's concern about their not being enough stage 2 propellant to do a *complete* burn to get Orbcomm into the right orbit *without* it (or the stage) ending up on a collision course with the ISS (sounds like a plot from Thunderbirds) that stopped it happening.

None of this is a spur of the moment thing and Orbcomm should have been *fully* aware it could happen and have contingency plans for it.

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Re: Self destruct?

will it be announce its arrival with a noise like a hundred thousand people saying "wop" ?

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"a satellite belonging to sat-tracking firm Orbcomm"

A satellite-tracking satellite eh? At least they'll have no trouble knowing where it is!

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Re: "a satellite belonging to sat-tracking firm Orbcomm"

But who tracks the trackers?

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Re: "a satellite belonging to sat-tracking firm Orbcomm"

Well obviously they'll launch a satellite-tracking-satellite tracking-satellite on the next Falcon launch...

Why is satellite such a hard word to type/spell? Could we just call it whizzy-go-roundy-thing and have done with it?

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Facepalm

Re: "a satellite belonging to sat-tracking firm Orbcomm"

Obviously the the Trackers track the satellite & the Tracker-trackers track the trackers while the Tracker-tracker-trackers track the...

More seriously, I'm sure Orbcomm is insured so it doesn't really matter.

It does take the shine off though...

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Re: "a satellite belonging to sat-tracking firm Orbcomm"

"But who tracks the trackers?"

"I dunno, coastguard?" - Homer J Simpson

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Happy

Re: "whizzy-go-roundy-thing"

I think 'Sputnik' is the word you want, to banish that perennial spelling conundrum and (as a bonus) poke Yanki masterracers in the reflex centre!

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Happy

Re: "whizzy-go-roundy-thing"

Knochen Brittle,

Interesting suggestion. I hadn't realised Sputnik was such a complicated word, until your post made me look it up. So you've forced me to learn something... You bastard!

It means satellite, is the name of the first few Soviet satellites, astronomically seems to mean bodies in relationship with each other (which I suspect could be subtly different from the satellite meaning) and was used as a greeting between early Bolsheviks. Literal meaning being something like fellow traveller. Then to add to the fun, 'fellow traveller' became an insult used in the West to mean people who might not be members of the communist party, but might as well be. And also apologists for Soviet actions.

Easier to spell too. So I guess you get an upvote. Cheers.

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Excellent

Carried on despite an engine failure?

Primary mission objective achieved anyway?

Secondary objective partially achieved?

From a private company?

On its first real job?

Bloody good effort, given the complexities involved.

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Re: Excellent

Indeed,

I just think back to all those early NASA shots of rocket testing...........

In this case I think they can still break out the cigars.

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Unhappy

Re: Excellent

Though their insurers may be cancelling the Christmas party.

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Joke

Re: Excellent

Oh dear. What a shame. Never mind.

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Mushroom

Satellite Tracking??

Not tracking satellites by the look of it, just using them to track??

quote "The ORBCOMM network uses low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites to provide cost-effective tracking, monitoring and messaging capabilities to and from anywhere in the world. Similar to two-way paging or e-mail, the system is capable of sending and receiving two-way alphanumeric packets of data." unquote.

now probably "very low-Earth-orbit" rather than just "low-Earth-orbit"

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Manned spaceflight

So apart from wasting $billions subsidizing Boeing to make up for the end of the cold war, being used as an excuse to spend more $billions keeping the Shuttle flying to keep a few senators with Nasa facilities happy - the ISS serves no useful purpose.

And we now have the problem that having the ISS there, restricts the flight paths of commercial sat launches.

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FAIL

Re: Manned spaceflight

The ISS imho is by far NASA's biggest screw up in their entire history (at least when nauts died it was for something). Just the fact they have to rely on private companies and Russia at this point speaks volumes about this mistake. Our space capabilities (the US) are now arguably less than before Apollo.

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FAIL

Re: Manned spaceflight

In fact I am pretty sure if we tried to go the moon again today we might not even be able to do it. The cost would be much greater and frankly the people are not as good. The politicians would pull the funding (after the next regime change) before we would get there if we could ever get it approved in the first place.

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Unhappy

Re: Manned spaceflight

"So apart from wasting $billions subsidizing Boeing to make up for the end of the cold war, being used as an excuse to spend more $billions keeping the Shuttle flying to keep a few senators with Nasa facilities happy - the ISS serves no useful purpose."

Wrong.

Without ISS and the fact the Shuttle has been retired there would be *no* reason to go anywhere in low earth orbit for the US.

Meaning there would be *no* reason for the USG to partially fund new launch vehicles, cargo and (ultimately) crew carriers *not* owned, operated and managed by NASA for their *exclusive* use.

Which breaks the NASA *monopoly* on carrying people into space in the US.

Which could start a whole *new* industry of transporting people into LEO, given Virgin Galactic signed up 5000 early seats for just a *sub* orbital flight.

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Unhappy

Re: Manned spaceflight

"In fact I am pretty sure if we tried to go the moon again today we might not even be able to do it. "

Which suggests you have no idea that NASA has been running a programme to do *just* that.

Do you actually know *anything* about the recent and current US space programme?

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Re: Manned spaceflight

>Which suggests you have no idea that NASA has been running a programme to do *just* that.

Believe it when I see it. It takes money obviously to get to the moon and unfortunately space seems to rate about as high as Planned Parenthood and PBS on the Republican spending scale and the Dems aren't much better.

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FAIL

Re: Manned spaceflight

Besides Moon hell at this point NASA can't even get to the ISS without help. Give it 5 years just like the last 10?

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Re: Manned spaceflight

You think the NASA programme will get any place with all the pork? After each election there is new people and new pork. Drop what your doing, we are starting over... again. Maybe they will decide to have another war and divert the money there.

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Re: Manned spaceflight

So the whole purpose of the ISS and Nasa was to provide an incentive for commercial airliens to offer free-fall fun trips?

And WWII was justified as a publicity stunt to promote Vera Lynn's latest single

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Joke

Re: Manned spaceflight

"And WWII was justified as a publicity stunt to promote Vera Lynn's latest single"

It worked great but she was totally screwed by her management.

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Unhappy

Re: Manned spaceflight

"Believe it when I see it."

I guess you didn't happen to notice the roughly $11Bn NASA spent over a decade on CxP or as it was (unofficially known) Constellation. Shrubs contribution to the exploration space which resulted in *one* flight of a 5 segment Shuttle SRB (5th being a dummy) and a dummy 2nd stage after about 11 years, along with a chunk of what is now the Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle.

Still it kept a whole bunch of Mormons happy and the Utah Senator happy until SLS started running and they could start working on yet another solid rocket booster.

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Unhappy

"I blame you for the moonlit sky and the dream that died with the eagles' flight."

> Do you actually know *anything* about the recent and current US space programme?

1) Glorious proclamations on a scale akin to "unbreakable" healthcare promises. Moon tomorrow, Mars soon etc.

2) Let the elections pass.

3) ????

4) Become aware of decatrillion [actually hectatrillion] debt hole, economy in the crapper, central bank thinks it's the Weimar Republic all over again, encroaching fascialism, several ongoing "Wars On Stuff/Terra", sliding transformation into Banana Republic, only with nukes and better uniforms. Space program of the non-military kind? Uh... yeah? Maybe? Let's build a few more aircraft carriers and nukesubs instead.

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Meh

Re: "I blame you for the moonlit sky and the dream that died with the eagles' flight."

During the Apollo era NASA funding was roughly 5% of US GDP (at a time when the USG was involved for a decade in a little unpleasantness in Vietnam)

Today the *whole* NASA budget is 0.5% of GDP. c$18Bn.

The US spends $27Bn on home *pizza* delivery.

The DoD spends $40Bn on the aircon for overseas military bases.

F9/Dragon Cargo, Antares/Cygnus, Dragon Crew, SNC Dream Chaser and Boeing CTS100 (regardless of which ones are funded) will return US *independent* crew and cargo transfer to ISS (as well as *potentially* putting the US back on the list of countries would consider *affordable* for their satellite launches) for a cost to date of (roughly) 2 yrs Shuttle support costs.

They may *also* open up the field of staying at *non* government orbital sites and the idea of orbital "servicing" of satellites to extend their lives, bringing Hubble style life expectancy and upgrades to comms sats and other users.

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circle of life

the falcon fledges

the eagle (crash)lands

Congs to SpaceX

NASA playing with RC toys while privatiers conquer the cosmos.

I hope SpaceX is not using any Huawei parts. Congress will outlaw them.

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Anonymous Coward

We can only hope

That the promised anti-gravity breakthrough happens soon.

I read somewhere that China is working on a variant of Nig Li's "AC Gravity" experiment, with the view to using it for propulsion in space.

Essentially launching a relatively small craft with minimal engines and "shunting" it into orbit on a beam of reduced gravity using beamed power sent along the G-beam using light and avoiding inverse square law losses by exploting atmospheric focussing.

The physics such as they are seem sound, the mechanism appears to require a spinning superconducting disk pair rotating in *opposite directions* with a very specific gradient of different materials and bombarding the disks with near UV light and HV discharges of a specific repetition rate tuned to the Cooper pair resonant band.

The earlier work of Eugene Podkletnov may have been valuable as it let Ning Li to "rediscover" the effect of HV discharges on superconducting ceramics such as YBCO.

It looks all the world like a classic "Orion" drive but without the messy nukes.

In fact the initial surge of energy required may need a small blast comparable to about .5kt energy equivalent to get the craft airborne and then the AG drive takes over to orbit with the onboard engines getting it the rest of the way.

AC/DC 6EQUJ5

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Re: We can only hope

Ahhh, "Orion" drive. 1.6i Ghia, the thinking chav's XR3i.

As much an icon of the 1980s as the Space Shuttle itself.

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Paris Hilton

Re: We can only hope

The thinking chav - putting the moron into oxymoron!

Paris because her icon looks like a thinking chavette.

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Re: We can only hope

> The physics such as they are seem sound

END OF LINE

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In spite of partial failure of first stage engine cluster and resultant parking of satellite at a lower trajectory, the mission could be salvaged is a creditable thing for the designers of the rocket system and they deserve full appreciation and I congratulate each and everybody involved in the venture. Reduced life span of satellite is the inevitable end result of that minor deficiency comparing to otherwise would have caused total mission failure.

James John

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Anonymous Coward

Re. END OF LINE

Um.. have you even done the calculations for this?

Seems that if you try and calculate the permittivity of a spinning *superconducting* disk, around 780rpm the equations break down near the edges of the disk and this spreads further in the faster the spin.

So it seems that nature may be attempting to divide by zero and antigravity is the result of thermodynamics trying to correct itself, as the effect only manifests at quite high radial velocities.

This effect can be seen on a smaller scale if you obtain a piece of YBCO, mount it in carbon fibre doped Epoxy for strength then spin it up to RidiculousSpeed (tm) while cooled to LN2 temperatures.

At £90 for the kit and £10 for a cheap CD motor and a few odds and ends such as a cheap accelerometer with all the outputs wired into a summing amplifier with temperature compensation you should see a brief effect just as the superconductor begins to return to normal, in line with the axis of spin.

The effect should increase with spin speed, providing a control and a way to determine that it isn't merely LN2 boiloff causing the weight reduction.

The gap between the two SC disks is the most critical factor, as it behaves like a dielectric.

The phonons "see" huge radial velocities in much the same way as a countercurrent multipler so any effect should be multiplied exponentially.

The other critical factor here is that the surfaces have to be exposed to UV light in order to keep them in the SC phase or the effect breaks down.

AC/DC 6EQUJ5

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