back to article SpaceX successfully tests SuperDraco rescue rockets

SpaceX has confirmed the successful test of its SuperDraco rocket engine, which will form the backbone of safety and landing systems for its Dragon spacecraft. The SuperDraco system is an upgrade to the existing Draco propulsion system used to maneuver the Dragon spacecraft in orbit. Each SuprerDraco engine is capable of 15, …


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  1. davea0511

    gimee gimee. me want.

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Sounds expensive and complicated

    I thought you could make anything safer by simply hiring more layers of managers to produce presentations about safety - didn't NASA prove that ?

    1. SteveK

      I parsed that as "simply hiring more lawyers". I guess the principle is the same, at least as far as lawsuits are concerned.


    2. darkmage0707077

      Well, I admit more layers of management could make emergency landings safer. But only if the pile is deep enough.

  3. Robert Heffernan


    Not bad for a mere 9 months development. Taken an existing internally design engine, revamped and beefed it up, fabricated and tested it. Not only does it make a perfect emergency escape engine but it's dual purposed to land on other bodies in the solar system.

    There is NO WAY that NASA could ever achieve this level of productivity, and I doubt a publicly owned company could do it for the same price.

    So long as SpaceX stays a privately owned company, it's on a winner, it will be the first to land boots on Mars and I get the feeling it'll be Elon's wife wearing them.

    *Coat: Nah! Space Suit!

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Almost everything about SpaceX engineering ability is impressive.

      It reminds you of the sort of stuff Lockheed skunkworks used to do in the old days.

      There is a great interview with one of their engineers where he says: the trouble is that all the systems are designed for multiple cheap reuse for when we are eventually running like an airline - if we could just do good-enough for now the progress would be much more impressive.

      It already seems pretty impressive by the standards of any government space agency !

  4. Kharkov

    Yes but...

    SuperDraco Engines? Cool.

    But when will SpaceX make the first private delivery to ISS? Waiting, waiting, waiting...

    1. Robert Heffernan


      It was supposed to be this month but got pushed back for some reason.

  5. jungle_jim
    Thumb Up

    SpaceX constantly impresses me!

    they don't fuck about do they?

    1. Thomas 4
      Thumb Up

      Very true

      It seems like they hired the orange core from the end of Portal 2 to be their project director and have been diligently following his instructions ever since.

  6. GitMeMyShootinIrons

    Last western hope in space...

    Between the bureaucracy of government run space agencies and the greed of the massive corporates, SpaceX looks like the only western space operation who has successfully combined ambition with at least reasonable economics. Good luck to them!

  7. Big Al

    Doing Science


    This is the sort of drive and determination needed if space exploration/exploitation is to move forward at more than a snail's pace.

    All such projects are of course inherently dangerous - there will inevitably be setbacks and even deaths for the private sector, just as there have been for government agencies. When they happen, we must not let these be used as an excuse to stifle this kind of work.

  8. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    A round of applause for SpaceX, please!

    Brilliant stuff. These guys are putting the excitement back in space research and space travel. It really reminds me of the heady Apollo days, when I sat glued to the (black and white) TV for every launch. At age seven I badgered my parents to let me see the first lunar landing (they allowed it, bless them!, and yes, I am that old).

    Now let's go to Mars. SpaceX is the odds-on favourite in my books.

    1. annodomini2

      RE: Mars

      As much as I love the idea of the achievement of getting to Mars.

      Getting back to the Moon is a more probable near term goal.

      Once on the moon and the colony is self sustaining, it becomes much easier to get to Mars.

      I'm guessing as you watch the moon landing's, you want to see Mars in your lifetime?

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge


        I aten't dead!!.

        I will be happy if they first go to the moon. That will supply plenty of cool things to look forward to, and no, I wont be saying things like:

        <Yorkshire accent>

        "Call that a moon rocket? When I was a kid they made proper moon rocket, none of this luxury stuff with 64 bit computers and touch screens, why when I was small we had 8 bits, and we were happy with that!

        Grumble, mutter, ....

        </Yorkshire accent>

        1. annodomini2

          Accordin' t'hat there wikipedia

          t'Apollo Guidance Computer was 16-Bit.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      I was 6 when the moon landing happened. My parents woke us up to watch it live on TV and said "do you want to see the men on the moon?"

      Being on 6, I immediately looked out of the window!

      Yes, to so many other commentards, SpaceX has brought back the wonders and excitement of the early days of NASA.

      Maybe Elon Musk has Dan Randolph as a role model? (See Ben Bova, Grand Tour books)

  9. Phil Atkin

    Hmm - if it's working ...

    ... why is the 'Test fire' clearly a bad rendering? Love what they are doing, but surely they don't need to cheat.

    1. Graham Bartlett

      @Phil Atkin

      Eh? The "Test fire" part clearly *was* real. Bookended by rendered shots of what a capsule using it might look like, sure, but the static test fire was the real thing.

  10. Crisp Silver badge

    We should be handing these guys a blank check

    If we throw more money at them, then who knows what they could achieve.

    1. annodomini2

      More Money, More waste.

    2. Yag


      Getting sloppy, unefficient and wasteful may be the answer, unfortunately...

      Looks at most state sponsored space agencies :s

    3. we all know how irritating it is having to interact with the shopkeeper in any way

      Might even...

      ... be able to get in and out of London in under an hour.

    4. Ed 13

      Quite the opposite

      That's exactly what you don't want to do.

      Herman Hauser said of the original ARM development: "I gave them the things that Intel and Motorola would never do: No money and no resource"

  11. Derk

    Well done to Space X!

    Have space suit, will travel

  12. IglooDude

    The comment about the honeymoon was taken out of context. What Mr. Musk told his wife was that if she ever left him to marry another man, he'd send them to Mars for their honeymoon. Sans spaceship.

  13. Matthew 17

    awesome, but

    Do they have an engine that could lift that out of Earth's Orbit yet?

    not going anywhere without that, will get very interesting if/when they produce one.

    1. annodomini2

      "You need to learn to crawl, before you can walk"

      Although it doesn't stop some!

      Seriously though, they haven't put a person in orbit yet, they'll deal with it one step at a time.

    2. Swoopert

      @Matthew 17

      Really? The links at the bottom of the page, <insert favourite search engine here>, or even the Space section of El Reg is your friend...sod it, even just typing in would do the trick!

  14. mhenriday

    Wow, that jazzed-up video

    really did inspire me to trust everything this company and Mr Musk says about how great things are going ! By comparison, little things like failing to make the date (30 November 2011) on that first «private» delivery to the ISS don't mean a thing....


    1. James Hughes 1


      Try looking up why they were not ALLOWED to dock with the Space Station. The Russians said no I believe.

      You know, those same Russians who current have a monopoly of launching to the Space station.

      1. Anonymous John

        Only astronauts.

        Europe and Japan are also sending up cargo, and the ESA vehicles can dock by themselves. The Japanese ones are grabbed by the station's robot arm and docked. As the SpaceX ones will do. I imagine it keeps the cost down a bit.

  15. b166er

    How many blowjobs do you get for a honeymoon on Mars?

  16. Stevie Silver badge


    Everyone here *does* understand that NASA doesn't make the stuff it uses, but bids it out to...private industry, don't they?

    Yes, the Apollo 1 Command Module, the SRBs and the ceramic tiles and glue used to hold 'em on were all manufactured by private companies.

    Private companies funded by taxpayer dollars, available in unbelievable amounts.

    Which I see people here calling to be given to SPACE X.

    If SPACE X needs cash, let 'em raise it the private industry way - by getting private investors to pony up.

    The problem with NASA isn't that it is a government agency, it is that it doesn't have the freedom to pay top dollar to the people it wants to. You get what you pay for. In the case of the space shuttle, pork-barrel projects that prioritize jobs in states rather than adhering to the design goals.

    Anyway, talk of landings on other worlds is pointless. The only use the public can be made to see for space is to park stuff that makes the internet, GPS and TV work.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Private Industry

      Yes, a bunch of incumbent leeches who overcharge for everything NASA has to buy.

      If that money went to SpaceX (It shouldn't, from what I hear they have line of investors waiting at the door to get in on the action) it would go a lot further.

  17. James Hughes 1

    In other Space News

    Armadillo aerospace launched their STIG-A rocket to 50 miles last Saturday. Next stop space.

  18. darkmage0707077

    SpaceX's constant development and continuous success is the reason I was able to get over the sense of loss from the Space Shuttles' retirement so quickly, and they're currently one of my leading (and few) sources of hope that my country hasn't gone COMPLETELY into the jack-boot strapping cesspit that the government and corporations are pushing us towards with enthusiasm.

    I seriously wish them best speed and best luck, and I plan to buy a ring-side seat for the day that they finally launch for Mars.

  19. DryBones

    Steady Now...

    If I might provide a bit of context, I suggest everyone look up "hypergolic propellant" on your informational site of choice. Go on, I'll wait.

    Done? Good. The engine responds fast and is throttleable as these are big versions of the RCS thrusters that satellites and second stages use. There is however, a risk. They are putting 8 hypergolic engines around the bit where the people go. If there is a leak, toxic vapors will escape. If there are two leaks, there will be an explosion.

    I sincerely hope that this system works perfectly, every time. Because if it does not, or they do not have sufficient failsafing, people are going to die.

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      If there is a leak

      and toxic vapours manage to reach the crew I think the crew might already have had problems - like not being able to breathe in the vacuum of space. And yes, if there are two leaks there could be an explosion. If I were designing the system I would separate the tanks for the component fuels. And since the SpaceX people are smart I suspect they have come up with something even better.

      Hypergolic engines are a tried and proven reliable technology, widely used without problems (the Apollo Lunar module main engine was hypergolic for a start). I'd certainly rather have eight of these things around me than a singe rocket above me as in conventional launch escape systems (or nothing as was the case with the shuttle).

      This is impressive stuff - if they keep it up the Martian Alliance may have to consider breaking cover.

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