back to article SpaceX gets ready to crash barge-land ANOTHER rocket

Elon Musk’s other company is gearing up for its third attempt to land its Falcon 9 rocket booster on a drone barge anchored at sea. The attempt will take place after a launch this Sunday, which will also see the booster send an uncrewed Dragon cargo capsule on a supply run to the International Space Station. SpaceX’s first …

  1. et tu, brute?
    Thumb Up

    Good luck to SpaceX!

    Will be following online, with great anticipation!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good luck to SpaceX!

      Did anybody else read that the attempt "will take place after lunch this Sunday" ?

      Oh no, it's just me then :-)

  2. stizzleswick
    Boffin

    I'll go with Wernher von Braun there.

    He famously said that so long as you get telemetry about the failure, it's not a failure. We're talking about rocket science here, which often is edge-of-the-art and not just state of it. It's a high-risk business.

    So long as they get data as to what went wrong, and how, they can improve on it. That's how progress is made. So, scratch a few million US$ right now if this goes wrong, but in the long run, once the wrinkles have been ironed out, things become more reliable and far cheaper.

    Many people these days seem to have forgotten that big things don't happen overnight... big development takes big time, and in space technology, just about everything is big. Musk is sticking with it (like von Braun did, and many others during that crucial period in space travel development). I hope he will continue to do so.

    1. Alister Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: I'll go with Wernher von Braun there.

      Yep, completely agree.

      We seem to be so risk-averse nowadays that it makes you wonder if, were we to go back a hundred years, but keep the same attitudes as we have now, whether many of the technological advances we have today would have survived the initial experimental stage without someone calling for them to be cancelled.

      Would we have any civil aviation, or space program, if those who gave their lives in the early stages had meant that the testing and experimentation was deemed too dangerous?

      Indeed, if you go back further, would the original American settlers have decided it was too risky to explore inland and to the the west, and still be stuck on the east coast?

      Nobody wants to see people die, or expensive hardware get destroyed, but pushing the boundaries of technology means that accidents will happen, it is an essential part of the learning process, and we should embrace that.

      1. Thomas Whipp

        Re: I'll go with Wernher von Braun there.

        Given that anyone else would just ditch the booster (and presumably SpaceX are costing/charging on that basis) its not an overly big deal if they keep having these problems for a while.

        Also given its a drone barge there isnt any life at risk here - and I'd assume the barge is a relatively low cost item in the context of a launch.

        Its not as if their business model requires them to get this stage working in the next couple of attempts - its just that if they do suddenly they can charge a lot less or make a lot more profit.

        Naturally it'll be massively cool when it does eventually work, but realistically if it takes them another 20 attempts its probably not financially a big deal as they are already delivering the primary mission.

    2. macjules Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: I'll go with Wernher von Braun there.

      But as to where it comes down .. "That's not my department," says Wernher Von Braun

      Sorry, had to get that one in.

      1. ian 22

        Re: I'll go with Wernher von Braun there.

        "That's not my department". It was in 1944/45.

  3. lauwersw

    fuel?

    The first attempt didn't ran out of fuel, but hydraulic fluid: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/01/12/xwing_fluid_failure_caused_falcon_to_burn_its_landing_barge_says_spacex/

    1. David Knapman

      Re: fuel?

      It's both right and wrong, and so is your comment - since the hydraulic fluid used is fuel (after it's used by the hydraulic system, it enters the main fuel tank)

      1. lauwersw

        Re: fuel?

        Ok, but the direct cause of the crash was because the fuel in its role as hydraulic fluid ran out, not in its role of fuel...

      2. From the basement of the science building

        Re: fuel?

        "after it's used by the hydraulic system, it enters the main fuel tank"

        David,

        Do you have a source for that information?

        Thanks,

        1. James Hughes 1

          Re: fuel?

          No he doesn't. The grid fins as I understand it use separate hydraulic fluid tanks and are a total loss system, in that the fluid is not recycled back in to the tank. Hence it could and did run out. They don't use fuel (aviation kerosene) as far as I know.

          EDIT: I take that back. There is some evidence that it does use RP1 that drains back in to the tank. Apologies. http://space.stackexchange.com/questions/7771/why-does-the-falcon-9-consume-hydraulic-fluid

          1. DrMordrid

            Re: fuel?

            The RP-1 is used for the Merlin engine hydraulics and is recycled. The grid fin hydraulics is separate, at the other end of the rocket, not recycled and does have a limited supply. The latter is what ran dry, after which SpaceX put in a larger hydraulc fluid tank.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: fuel?

        Sorry that's incorrect. It's a vented system and once used it goes overboard. The problem was they ran out of fluid so the fix was to have a bigger tank to begin with.

        1. James Hughes 1

          Re: fuel?

          I believe the consensus is that it's a lossy system, not using RP-1, but it is not yet known whether it vents overboard, or to a low pressure catch tank.

          It's not transferred back to the fuel tank as that is on the other side of the LOX tank and the pipework would be too heavy and awkward.

  4. werdsmith Silver badge

    Thunderbirds Are GO

    To make this perfect, the rocket stage should land underneath a swimming pool that has slid out of the way to reveal an underground landing pad.

    1. Bill B
      Flame

      To make this really perfect it should do this WITHOUT BURNING ANY OF THE DECK CHAIRS.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Happy

        "...WITHOUT BURNING ANY OF THE DECK CHAIRS."

        Version 3...

    2. Vulch

      Deary me, no. It should lower itself down through the hole in the middle of the Round House.

      Mind you, it should also be painted pillar box red...

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Coat

        "... hole in the middle of the Round House."

        TB3...

      2. x 7

        "Mind you, it should also be painted pillar box red..."

        What????????? Thunderbird 3 was ORANGE (and incidentally for info the main power source was three particle accelerators, though take-off used liquid fuel rockets for initial thrust)

        1. Vulch

          "What????????? Thunderbird 3 was ORANGE"

          On a 1960s black and white television it was Red!

    3. Blofeld's Cat
      Coat

      Er...

      "... should land underneath a swimming pool that has slid out of the way to reveal an underground landing pad."

      I believe that part of the scheme has had to be abandoned as nobody was able to source a large enough lemon-squeezer ...

      My sources tell me that a sliding, fake volcanic crater lake is now under construction.

    4. JJKing Bronze badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Thunderbirds Are GO

      "To make this perfect, the rocket stage should land underneath a swimming pool that has slid out of the way to reveal an underground landing pad."

      F A B.

    5. hplasm Silver badge
      Joke

      re:Thunderbirds Are GO

      That's version 2.

      (Not V2, that lands much harder on the house)

  5. Ashton Black
    Joke

    Oh ok.

    He's just hit the "Revert to Launch" button on his personal Kerbal Space Program I see.

  6. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    On a sunday afternoon

    ... At least I won't have to tell the morning desk line up to go away.... (last two times this was shot for)

  7. Annihilator
    Meh

    " the rockets could then be re-used, leading to considerable cost savings in terms of ongoing launches"

    While I've no doubt this is the aim, I recall the same thing being promised of the space shuttle programme...

    1. ian 22

      @Annihilator

      Good point. Also, assuming SpaceX successfully implements first stage reuseability, how many customers will want to risk their precious payloads to refurbished launch vehicles? I understand the mechanical stresses of launch (and now landing) are immense and may seriously degrade the launch vehicle's airframe.

      I hope SpaceX succeeds, but won't be surprised if reuse is more expensive than anticipated.

  8. x 7

    you're probably going to get differentially charged launches.....full price for new kit, 2/3 for a second-use launch, 50% for subsequent re-uses

    1. Martin Budden

      I'll go for a second-use launch, thanks. I know it works because it has already been tested, and it's not old & over-used yet.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If this one goes wrong?

    "Listen, lad. I've built this kingdom up from nothing. When

    I started here, all there was was swamp. All the kings said I was daft

    to build a castle in a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show

    'em. It sank into the swamp. So, I built a second one. That sank into the

    swamp. So I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, then sank

    into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. An' that's what your gonna

    get, lad -- the strongest castle in these islands."

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