back to article SpaceX Dragon gets green-light for launch to Space Station

Elon Musk's SpaceX is getting ready to make history after its Dragon spacecraft was given the go-ahead for a 30 April launch for its resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Dragon capsule with 'Draco' rockets in action. Credit: SpaceX The cargoship test flight, assuming it goes off without a hitch, will mark …

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  1. Rustident Spaceniak
    Boffin

    Errr. software?

    I think "the software to get the craft to fly right beside the fast-moving ISS and stay there has not been tried" is a bit of journalistic licence (cough...) to say "the interaction between the hard- and software has not been tried in space".

    Would be most surprised to learn it was not tried on the ground...

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Re: Errr. software?

      Say what you want about the Russians, but it seems they've got the automatic self-piloting approach and docking system down cold on the Progress, as well as their backup manual human tele-operated system.

      Interesting to note here that the SpaceX unmanned cargo freighter -- as well as the Japanese and ESA freighters -- can still only pull alongside and stationkeep while the RMS is deployed to pluck them up and mate them to the hatch. No surprise, though, as I'm sure the hardware and software for unmanned autopiloted rendezvous, approach and docking cost a buttload to develop and test.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    got insurance?

    "the software to get the craft to fly right beside the fast-moving ISS and stay there has not been tried" - anyone else getting a mental image of the craft crashing right into the ISS?

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: got insurance?

      Apparently the answer is yes. The Russian probe that ditched it was insured.

      (Mine is the one with the insurance documents in the pocket)

    2. Audrey S. Thackeray

      Re: got insurance?

      "anyone else getting a mental image of the craft crashing right into the ISS?"

      I have to confess that was one of my first thoughts.

  3. Kharkov
    Pint

    No worries, she'll be right.

    If the European ATV can dock & the Japanese HTV can dock & the software's hardly a secret then I'm sure that Dragon can dock, no worries.

    1. 8Ace

      Not reall docking

      Dragon and the HTV can't dock themselves. They obviously have the "plumbing" to connect but they don't have the systems to dock. They rely on getting close enough to the ISS to be grabbed and manually docked by the crew on the ISS using the arm to make the connection. ATV however is completley autonomous. Once launched it finds the ISS, catches up and matches orbit with ISS, and lines itself up for docking. It then performs all the required manouvers itself to complete docking including lining up the ports and making the connection. ISS crew are only required as a failsafe. ATV includes much more than software to achieve this, GPS, laser guidance etc. plus a multitude of redundant safety systems.

      1. CD001
        Happy

        Re: Not reall docking

        Yeah but Elite on the Acorn Electron could manage auto-docking at a space station ... how hard can it be? ;)

        1. Audrey S. Thackeray

          Elite

          Docking computers used to scrape the sides quite often.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Go

            Re: Elite

            "Docking computers used to scrape the sides quite often"

            Well then, don't let those docking computers fly around freely where they can do that kind of damage.

            Anyway, fenders, strips of styrofoam, bits of old tyres are tried and tested ways of minimising scrapes. Or they should send a bag of polyfilla and a tin of paint up with the rest of the payload.

  4. Elmer Phud
    Holmes

    "Have you put the bins out"

    "1,400 pounds of material to take back to Earth."

    'Mom, the honey wagon has arrived'

  5. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Pint

    A toast to Elon Musk and his team! They will be first on Mars, I bet.

    1. Sceptic Tank

      First on Mars

      Only if they overshoot.

  6. Chris Phillips
    Trollface

    Who reckons the DragonX explosion will be bigger than the North Korean one last week?

    This will be one pricey firework...

  7. Tom Cooke

    I'm going to dust off my copy of Heinlein's "Rolling Stones" in homage to this.

    Goosebumps - seriously.

  8. TeeCee Gold badge

    "....the cargo isn't critical stuff for the astronauts...."

    They've put the cheese on another spacecraft this time then?

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: "....the cargo isn't critical stuff for the astronauts...."

      Unfortunately no-one had thought through the implications of a well matured Brie aboard the ISS.

  9. Rustident Spaceniak
    Boffin

    Cheese

    Confirmed. Cheese comes from the Russians. But I'm sure Elon will have thought to send some freeze dried shrimp cocktail.

  10. umacf24

    FoB LEO

    I hope they send up replacement solar cells for Sprit and Opportunity. Still a long way to go though.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    A job for PARISS?

    "SpaceX has already proved that the Dragon can clear Earth's atmosphere and fly about, and even be retrieved from the Pacific Ocean when it comes back"

    Sounds to me like PARIS almost met this criteria too....

    "El Reg Special Project Bureau already proved that their paper aeroplanes can clear Earth's atmosphere and fly about, and even be retrieved from the spanish outback when it comes back"

    So, after LOHAN, how about....

    Paper

    Aeroplane

    Rendezvous with

    ISS

  12. Dom 3

    Fast-moving?

    It's all relative, innit. If you're in more or less the same orbit already you are doing more or less the same speed. And the ISS is infinitely more predictable in its movements than that tosser in the hot hatch ahead of you on the M25.

    1. mhenriday
      Meh

      Agreed.

      But why do such elementary aspects of Galilean reference frames and Newtonian physics have to be pointed out to Reg bloggers, time and time again ?...

      Henri

  13. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    Phenominally (relatively speaking) quick from conception to now.

    I read they're knocking the dragons out at on every 3 weeks, the Falcon's the same!

    My God, it's gonna be like a scene out of 'Battlestar Galactica' up there in a few years!

    Raise a pint to a succesful mission. (I'll stick to my tin of tramp juice).

    1. Andus McCoatover
      Windows

      Re: Phenomenally (relatively speaking) quick from conception to now.

      My bad. I meant months, not weeks.

      1. Tom 13
        Pint

        Re: My bad.

        I'll drink to it anyway, and look forward to the day when it IS weeks or days instead of months.

  14. Lars Silver badge
    Headmaster

    "commercially made spacecraft"

    In the USA, but I do believe the Russians have been "awfully" commercial for some time.

  15. Beachrider

    Commercial means Free Enterprise...

    I just looked Commercialism in Wikipedia. They link that concept to Free Enterprise. Roscosmos is not Free Enterprise (neither is NASA or ESA)...

    SpaceX and Orbital Sciences are...

  16. Wombling_Free
    Thumb Up

    I hope the Docking Computers play 'Blue Danube'...

    and I also hope it isn't being flown by Jebediah Kerbal!

  17. Crisp Silver badge

    The cargo isn't critical stuff for the astronauts

    But I'd still like to know what they are sending up there.

    I strongly suspect that the cargo contains jars for catching moonbeams.

  18. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Watching with great hope

    This is really exciting! I will be keeping an eye on the mission with fingers crossed that it is successful. This could be genuinely future-changing stuff.

  19. ravenviz
    Holmes

    "A lot can go wrong"

    No sh*t!

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