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back to article SpaceX rocket reaches orbit but Dragon fails to spit fire

Upstart startup rocket biz SpaceX has had a seemingly successful launch on its second resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS), but as the Dragon capsule reached orbit the company announced there was an "unspecified problem" and cut its webcast of the mission. The announcement was made about 12 minutes into the …

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Alien

It's the Vogons!

Flee! Must find lager and a towel. I'll start with the lager.

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Re: It's the Vogons!

Don't forget a packet of peanuts!

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Joke

Re: It's the Vogons!

Hey. I used to work for Vogon International before they got taken over and we would never have sabotaged a space mission.

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Anonymous Coward

Range Anxiety

Battery probably went flat a bit sooner than expected.

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Re: Range Anxiety

Could be a Boeing battery ..

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Meh

It seems...

... like the space delivery business has a delivery rate about the same as terrestrial delivery businesses.

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Happy

Re: It seems...

The ISS crew will find a card in the airlock which says, 'we tried to make your delivery, but you were out. Please ring this number to arrange re-delivery or pick up from your local centre.'

Under normal circumstances the card basically means the driver walked up to your door, then made a run for it. In this case, who knows? But the local delivery centre will probably be a bit more of a trek than usual, and even phoning the call centre will cost a packet.

Space is big. Really hugely, mind-bogglingly big. I mean, you may think it's a long way round the corner to the chemists, but that's just peanuts to space.

Good luck to them fixing the bugger though. The problem with all this mucking about in orbit, is you just can't easily get an engineer to bang the thing with a hammer and make it go again.

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Coat

Re: It seems...

>The ISS crew will find a card in the airlock which says, 'we tried to make your delivery, but you were out. Please ring this number to arrange re-delivery or pick up from your local centre.'

Imagine how the crew member who had to take the day off to make sure he was there when the delivery arrived, because they 'can't give a more specific delivery time other than morning or afternoon', and he happened to be in the zero-gravity lavatory at the time. And we all know how time consuming that exercise can be, don't we?

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Re: It seems...

Oh woe is me!

I was having a zero-g pee,

In the orbiting lavatory,

That's got no damned gravity.

[with thanks to E. J. Thribb - Ed]

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It seems...

If I were a rich plonker with cash to burn, I'd pay for a launch just to leave a card on the airlock like that!

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Re: It seems...

I've had the delivery driver arrive on our extensive grounds in a tiny little car (it was dark brown), walk up to me in the front garden, and hand me one of those "You were not home" cards. Very strange.

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

This post has been deleted by a moderator

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Alien

So, not quite ready to be man rated then.....

or is it aliens?

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No, they are not expecting manned flights for two more years.

Or were you deliberately stating the bleedin' obvious?

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There wouldn't be a problem if there were men in it. They'd just get out and push. Problem solved.

But seriously, even with spacecraft designed from the ground up for manned flight, you tend to stick them in orbit empty (and on auto) a few times first, just to see what happens. I guess one of the big problems with space craft is there's no test-track just by the factory. So you can't do all your practising while hiding. Tests cots orders of magnitude more, due to that nasty gravity stuff, and everyone can watch them - and if they're so inclined point and laugh.

Hopefully they'll solve the problem, as they do have lots of redundant systems. I seem to recall that the reason the last one failed to launch those satellites was because by the time they'd fixed the problem the trajectory would have been too close to the ISS, and so they weren't allowed to risk it. And had to leave the things to re-enter.

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Unhappy

Tough news

(Speaking strictly on my own behalf only.)

We need a vibrant commercial space industry. SpaceX is (was?) a front-runner, and this is a pretty significant set-back for them. Elon Musk's attitude towards media (specifically, to bad reviews of Tesla cars) is likely to result in a retributive backlash against SpaceX in editorials. This is not good.

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Meh

Re: Tough news. Not so.

"SpaceX is (was?) a front-runner,"

Is, given OSC is months away from their first launch, despite them being the "safe pair of hands." They are the only player that have launched, are launching and have a manifest of stuff to launch.

"and this is a pretty significant set-back for them."

No it's not. The vehicle is in orbit. They are working the problem as any supplier would and they have backups in place to over ride the problem to continue the mission. Significant would be a failed launch.

It is an issue that this is the 2nd launch to ISS that has had problems. However it could be argued that finding bugs during this and the remaining 10 resupply missions is a very much better way to find them than when they are in a position to carry (or begin to carry) crew.

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Re: Tough news

Problem fixed, SpaceX still front runner.

There, sorted.

Not saying there won't be further problems, but perhaps you were a little too fast on the 'significant' setback comment.

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SpaceX is still very successful...

This failure justifies the cautious approach NASA has taken with COTS providers. It never is about lack of confidence in any one company. It IS about controlling risk. None of these providers will be perfect. Not SpaceX or other NASA providers.

There is a different feel from NASA-internal when a private company shuts off the webcast, though.

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Trollface

Surely, the zebra spider was killed by the red back?

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Re: Surely, the zebra spider was killed by the red back?

no toilet seat for it to do the ambush from - and dont call me Surley!

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Thumb Up

Good news everyone!

Musk tweeted this at 1640UTC:-

"Solar array deployment successful"

and this at 1702UTC:-

"Attempting bring up of thruster pods 2 and 4"

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Anonymous Coward

It's going to take forever to kill off all these damn spiders

if they're only going to try to take them up two at a time and then have a 50% kill rate

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Anonymous Coward

Give them a break!

How many Ariane launch vehicles have been lost? How many have NASA or the Russians lost?

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Re: Give them a break!

Ah well, so far as Ariane is concerned, very few have failed. Their success rate for Ariane 5 is currently 63 out of 67, and they've not had a problem since 2002. That is the current gold standard. Ariane 4 was phenomenally reliable too. They got so good at building those they ended up not bothering to test fire the upper stage engines prior to launch, and they weren't failing.

That's the success rate Space X have to aim at, and so far they're a long way from that. Being cheap isn't good enough if the failure rate is poor; customers and their insurers don't like losing expensive satellites at launch. As for manned space flight? I wouldn't....

Musk's strategy is bold, but it does depend on working group out the problems. So far they seem to be having different problems every time they launch; inconsistency is not very encouraging. This failure is a new one, it didn't happen last time. That means they've not built this one to the same standard as the last one. Unless they can cure that weakness in their manufacturing they'll never get it right.

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Thumb Up

Re: Give them a break!

This bazza man is in process engineering, I see.

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Devil

Re: Give them a break!

Soyuz: 724 successes, 21 failures, most of them in the early years. In the recent years its reliability is better than the UK railways for example or national express bus network.

Space X (and even Ariane) have a _VERY_ long way to go until _THAT_ gold standard.

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Pint

Re: Give them a break!

That's because you could use it to kill germans.

"Ask a Russian engineer to design you a shoe, and he'll give you something that looks like the box the shoe came in. Ask him to design something that will slaughter Germans, and he turns into Thomas fucking Edison."

But seriously, a great drink to The Chief Designer. No vodka here? Fracking UK.

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Pint

Re: Give them a break!

@Destroy All Monsters

"This bazza man is in process engineering, I see."

'Fraid not; digital signal processing's my thing. But I'll bluff my way through almost anything...

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Re: Give them a break!

Good man!

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Thumb Up

Re: Give them a break!

@Voland's right hand,

Re: Soyuz - it is indeed very good. As good an example of "if it ain't broke..." as you could hope to find.

It doesn't really compete with Ariane 5 (Low earth orbit: A5 21,000 kg, Soyuz R7 5,500 kg. Geo transfer orbit 9,600 kg vs 2,400 kg), but it's still mighty impressive.

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Ariane 5 is operational, but...

It is in a different league than F9. A5 lifts twice as much for 4x the price. It is more in the cost structure of Delta IV Heavy. Ariane 5 is more cost effective than the Delta. NASA chooses ULA-Delta or ULA-Atlas for NASA research or NASA planetary payloads.

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Facepalm

Re: Give them a break!

Funny, I'd hope you didn't see the same problem twice. Maybe that's just me? I worked with mask programmed ROMs for a while and having the same problem more than once would have been a very career-limiting event.

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Facepalm

Re: Give them a break!

Funny, I'd hope you didn't see the same problem twice - maybe that's just me? I worked with mask programmed ROMs for a while and having the same problem more than once would have been a very career-limiting problem.

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Coat

You are having a bad day and will not go to space today

"cut its webcast of the mission"

presumably replaced by elevator music and the unflattering picture of the dragon capsule on a flatbed tow truck.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You are having a bad day and will not go to space today

NASA TV covers missions from before launch up to the boring cruising phase, with all glitches and troubleshooting, re-rolls a few launch videos and finishes with a press conference.

SpaceX cuts the webcast because of failed thrusters on an unmanned capsule and the only information source are a few tweets? Seriously? It probably wouldn't have hurt shareholders' confidence if they had stayed live and shown how they fixed it.

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Alert

Re: You are having a bad day and will not go to space today

"shareholders' confidence"

SpaceX is a private company, what few shareholders it has probably have Elon on speed-dial.

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Joke

And what about the other one?

"The Dragon capsule has already carried two live passengers, one of whom made it back to earth without snuffing it." So only a 50% success rate then?

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Joke

Re: And what about the other one?

I wondered about that, too. Then I thought that they may have left the S.O. at the rest stop.

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Anonymous Coward

It's OK

the taxpayers will pick up the bill.

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No rendezvous tomorrow. SpaceX hopes to fix the problem for a further rendezvous attempt in a few days.

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Pint

OMG... Have another look at the Mission Patch

Dragon capsule curving off course, away from the ISS in the background.

A wish them good luck. If they can recover it then they'll deserve a cold one.

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Happy

I see the AC snipers are out in force today.

Not quite sure where there coming from but I could speculate.

The real question when organisations have problems is how they handle them.

So far Spacex has managed to identify and resolve every on thrown at them promptly and effectively.

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Gimp

Re: I see the AC snipers are out in force today.

Also random downvotes and deletions by moderators. Bizarre.

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Unhappy

Re: I see the AC snipers are out in force today.

"Also random downvotes and deletions by moderators. Bizarre."

But at least here you can see the deleted posts on the posters own list.

That is not always the case at other sites.

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All four thruster pods now working, and orbit about to be raised.

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Flame

To quote an earlier El Reg article

It took Corona *13* flights before one was successful. Remember that.

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Boffin

Re: To quote an earlier El Reg article

That's hardly comparable. They were lighting up something barely more advanced than a V2. SpaceX is working with 50 years of advances in materials science and the other associated technologies.

That's not meant to denigrate either the Corona team or the SpaceX team, but SpaceX do have a couple of extra levels of giants shoulders to stand on. They are innovators, not inventors. I expect them to far exceed the success rate of 50 year old technology and experience.

After all, this is rocket science and it's still exciting!

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