back to article Elon's SpaceX gets permission to blow up another satellite or two

America's Federal Aviation Administration has cleared SpaceX to launch satellites into Earth's orbit using the science upstart's rockets. This comes after the watchdog scrutinized the cause of last year's dramatic explosion on a SpaceX launchpad: on September 1, a refueling cockup strongly encouraged a Falcon 9 rocket, along …

  1. Beachrider

    Soooo, crashing it into Mars would be OK?

    Just askin'

    1. Big John Silver badge

      Re: Soooo, crashing it into Mars would be OK?

      Only if they arranged to get decent video of the event.

  2. Semtex451 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    "The FAA seems happy with this arrangement"

    Either way, who doesn't like a great big explosion?

    1. Semtex451 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: "The FAA seems happy with this arrangement"

      Oh wait. Didn't think that through.

  3. Ugotta B. Kiddingme
    Pint

    what goes up

    must come down - HOPEFULLY in a very similar number of pieces.

    Best of luck to SpaceX, et.al. Have several AFTER successful launch -------->

  4. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Curious

    I wonder why people latch on to the very rare failures of SpaceX while remaining silent about those others.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      " wonder why people latch on to the very rare failures of SpaceX"

      Because they are not that rare.

      F9 has now had 2 in 36 failure rate. You could argue it's 1 in 35 as the 2nd never got to a launch, but the satellite owner whose payload got turned into confetti would probably disagree with you.

      Atlas V has 51 straight launches without a failure and manages to launch about 1 every 1-2 months..

      Ariane 5 has 74 launches since its last failure (early dec 2002). about 1 every 2-3 months.

      You can argue that's the price you pay for innovation but SX has a hell of a back log and some have already swallowed the hit and gone with other launchers.

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: " wonder why people latch on to the very rare failures of SpaceX"

        Atlas series of missiles has a very very long history behind it, most of it paid for by the US taxpayer, and even then, some never made it to orbit for various reasons, and who can forget the very first Ariane 5 launch... where to save money they used the Ariane 4 flight software.

        Which was fine until it decided it couldnt handle the flight and decided to do a 180 turn at mach 1.5

        SpaceX have done a good job so far, let down in one accident by a faulty component, and by pushing the envelope on rocket fueling in the other one.

        All done on a budget a lot lot lot lot smaller than Ariane or Atlas had.

        Oh and they've been the first to recover a used first stage on land.. and on a barge 100 miles out at sea

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          "who can forget the very first Ariane 5 launch..."

          Indeed. A masterclass in fu**ked software engineering. But note also it was a case of "If it's not broke, don't fix it." In fact the SW should have been stripped out.

          However 74 launches later they have not repeated it.

          "SpaceX have done a good job so far, let down in one accident by a faulty component, and by pushing the envelope on rocket fueling in the other one."

          Actually it's starting to look like they have had a recurring problem with COPV's (which BTW have historically had a pretty good safety record on all other LV's)

          "All done on a budget a lot lot lot lot smaller than Ariane or Atlas had."

          True, although it had long been suspected that industry cost models (which institutionalise mediocrity), government cost plus contracting and purchasing regulations (also "Just return" for European projects and the US practice of a contractor in every Congressional district), not to mention the "sub contract everything" meme multiplied the cost of such a project.

          Surprise, surprise. The answer turned out to be yes.

          The problem is the Aerospace Corporation have a thing called the "5/8" rule. A failure with in 5 launches of initial launch is probably a mfg flaw. At 8 or above it's likely a design flaw. This is the 2nd time a COPV issue has destroyed a payload (and it looks like the third serious incident they've had with COPV's).

          That's looking to be a bit of a pattern.

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: "who can forget the very first Ariane 5 launch..."

            One of the problems they had with the tanks was a strut that did not meet it's manufacturing standards. And they found a whole heap of them when they tested the others. That means it's a MASSIVE, MASSIVE supply chain problem with a lack of proper supply chain management. Now they are encountering COPV problems that seem to indicate they made a change in the fueling that was not properly tested or thought through, indicating a failure to perform any sort of FMEA or due diligance when making this change. All of this is indicative of structural problems within the SpaceX organisation. (And from what I've heard, they have a massive churn rate, higher even than typical of other US based startups. SOME engineers thrive in that sort of environment, but in my experience the best engineers for keeping safety and failure modes in mind are typically those that like a bit of peace and quiet every once in a while)

            I'm pretty sure NASA is not actually going to say it but I'm confident major alarm bells are going off within the organisation with regards to the manned program of SpaceX. These are the sort of lessons that NASA learned the hard way. Let's just hope SpaceX doesn't have to rack up a similar bodycount to learn those lessons, because I doubt the commercial space branche is going to survive even a single death.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: " wonder why people latch on to the very rare failures of SpaceX"

        "Because they are not that rare."

        Nor were US/Russian/EU/Chinese/Brazilian government RUDs in the early stages of their development.

        Let's not forget Apollo 1 either.

        1. Brangdon

          Re: US/Russian/EU/Chinese/Brazilian government RUDs

          And lets not forget a Russian Soyuz-U lost its cargo on the way to the ISS only last month. Space is hard.

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          "Nor were US/Russian/EU/Chinese/Brazilian government RUDs"

          And since we're being honest about this let's also have in the first 3 F1 launches which also went bang at various flight stages.

          The idea is that as you get better at things that's meant to happen less frequently.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Curious

      They blew one up in 2015 as well. There have been other issues that haven't been as catastrophic, but problematic.

      NASA hasn't stated that they are signed off on the explanation and fixes yet so it remains to be seen when Space X will be able to resume shipments to the ISS. SX also planned to fuel manned rockets with the crew onboard instead of the tried and tested procedure of installing the astronauts after the fueling is complete. Something else that NASA isn't going along with.

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    FUCK YEAR!

    I spite of Mr. AO.'s uncalled-for character assassination only comparable to a liberal talking about Trump, I'm totally rooting for this.

    GO SpaceX!!

    1. Big John Silver badge

      Re: FUCK YEAR!

      I noticed that too. While Obama is toying with war in his last days in power, toe-to-toe with the Rooskies as it were, who is positioned by this author as the dangerous one? Why, the one who tweets a lot, that's who.

      I guess there's nothing to be done when so many are so delusional, D.A.M.

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: FUCK YEAR!

      I too hope this is a fuck year.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SpaceX reworded a few safety documents...

    Light blue touch paper, stand well back.

    to

    Light blue touch paper, stand a little bit further back than that.

    The FAA were happy with that.

    (afterall, you can implement every safety procedure/sensors you can think of, you're still dealing with Rockets here). Things (the end goal) have to be kept in perspective.

    Keep going EM, you're doing great.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Elon's Personality

    Elon should really program the first stage booster landing {fuel permitting} to stop a few seconds from the ground, shoot back up, do a loop the loop and then just re-land.

    That's would be Elon's personality, right there.

  8. x 7 Silver badge

    judging from that masthead photo, Musk is a mere youth with bumfluff for facial hair

    Impossible to take seriously a company manager who can't grow a proper beard. Can't trust them - too young and inexperienced.

    When he's grown up a bit and can show a proper full set then I'll think about believing him

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Presumably why you prefer Thatcher to May ?

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Pint

      "judging from that masthead photo, Musk is a mere youth with bumfluff for facial hair"

      Nicely plaid piece of "Bluff old duffer"

      I raise a glass.

  9. Death Boffin
    Mushroom

    Weather likely not permitting

    From the US Weather Service forecast for Lompoc/Vandenberg:

    Sunday Night

    Rain. The rain could be heavy at times. Low around 54. South southeast wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%.

    Monday

    Rain likely before 10am, then a chance of showers, mainly after 4pm. Cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny, with a high near 63. South southwest wind around 10 mph, with gusts as high as 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%.

    Visibility is a big problem in these conditions.

    1. Steve Todd

      Re: Weather likely not permitting

      Scheduled launch time is 13:22 EST, sounds like it's quite possible given the above forecast.

  10. wolf2600
    Trollface

    They're not failures, they're "learning opportunities".

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      They're not failures, they're "learning opportunities".

      Quite true.

      SX like to say it's all engineering but I suspect a fair bit of this has involved pushing well past what's in textbooks.

      The technical term for when you're discovering new things is "Science"

      And Science does not make discoveries on schedule (outside of a DARPA funding pitch of course).

  11. James 51 Silver badge
    Big Brother

    The FAA approve this and how long have the special projects been waiting?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rocket launches always going to be a hit and miss affair

    I reckon rocket launches will never become routine.

    When you have basically a massive flying bomb travelling supersonic, always going to be a risk of something going wrong.

    It is amazing that the space programs are actually quite reliable and not more more of a 1 in 2 chance of it blowing up.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Meh

      "When you have basically a massive flying bomb travelling supersonic, "

      Not very well known fact about space launch.

      The amount of energy needed to put 1 unit of mass into low earth orbit is the same as that burnt in the fuel to take it on a round trip between London and Australia (Bono & Gatland, Frontiers of Space).

      Yet somehow all those "massive flying bombs" manage to fly that trip (and equally long ones) every day without blowing up at an average of 1 in 20 flights.

      Funny how that works, is it not?

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: "When you have basically a massive flying bomb travelling supersonic, "

        On that round trip you get to release that amount of energy over the course of probably about 30 hours of flight. On a rocket you release that energy in less than 15 minutes. Just the turbo pumps by themselves are a feat of engineering and it's nearly a miracle we can now build pums that can squeeze thousands of gallons per second at extremely high pressure into the engines.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: "When you have basically a massive flying bomb travelling supersonic, "

          I should also add, those long haul flights don't need to bother bringing a few tons of liquid oxygen with them. It makes things "slightly more interesting" so to speak.

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Meh

          "release that amount of energy over the course of probably about 30 hours of flight."

          And if it explodes you get to release it in a few seconds.

          Yes turbo pumps are high powe devices. Not high energy. That's why some launchers are starting to run battery powered turbo pumps.

          However in the 8 decades since they've first been used in a rocket their design process has got considerably better.

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