If there is nothing but an empty field or water downrange from the rocket, a sniper could potentially attempt many shots at the rocket without fear of discovery, lowering the odds of a successful shot considerably.
In its search for the reason behind last month's explosion that destroyed its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX has vowed to leave no stone unturned. Now one of its staffers may be taking things a little too far. The doomed Falcon 9 suffered a catastrophic failure while being fueled for a static firing test. It is believed a failure in …
You'd most certainly need a spotter as well as the shooter and ideally the spotter needs to be in a better position than just sat next to the shooter. And I doubt there are all that many people in the world capable of a shot like that who are not part of some military or other. On the other hand, has anyone seen the multi-talented Jake recently? :-)
I have been in the military, trained as a sniper, and I can tell you that with a rifle shooting .338Lapua, you can make a 1500-1800m shot on a fixed target without much issues. Moving target or beyond 1800m, that's when it gets difficult. And a spotter doesn't help you much in this scenario either, which btw needs to be close to the shooter or any range and other target information are not of much use.
But then the shooter would have indeed have to have exact knowledge of an exact spot to hit, likely not larger than a coaster, in order to cause damage that would result in such explosion. Or you really have to go into J.Bond land...
The .338 would work, but the .50 cal would work even better. Problem would be getting the spark needed and with the videos running, tracer or incendiary is not an option. At one point there were some .50 HE rounds but I think those were only experimental. But you're right on the target A/C... there's probably minimal sweet spots.
If we're looking at conspiracy, 3 weeks between the explosion and the "visit" would allow someone to at least pick up any empty casings and/or beer bottles <jk>.
However, as I recall, the strut failure on the previous big boom was detected by sound sensors. I would think they would have been operational during fueling if for no other reason then to ensure they worked. I do believe they would have picked up the sound of a bullet impacting the rocket.
I wish Musk, et al, lots of luck on sorting this one out
If they shot the Helium tank the explosive decompression of the Helium would compress the material that surrounds it if it is compressible. If the Helium tank is submerged in Liquid Oxygen then no compression and no heat, but if the LOX is still rising in the tank the gas surrounding the helium would compress to 5000 psi and a super hot wave will travel outward at near supersonic speed. Plenty hot enough to ignite aluminum or steel. I would also like to know where the range safety squibs are located and how many of them there are on the rocket and what explosive they are made from. Hitting some explosives with a high speed round would set them off. But again you would need to know the placement and composition of those explosives. That would take some very specific insider knowledge. Plus the target would be much smaller.
Its a bit more complicated if the location of the shot is the Helium bottle as described by SpaceX. That bottle is submerged in super cooled liquid oxygen if you shoot when the rocket is full of fuel, but this one was still in the process of being filled so the bottle may have been above the rising liquid. Getting any rifle shot to travel through more than a meter of a liquid is very difficult, doing it accurately is much harder. The projectile slows down quickly and darts in unexpected directions. But if the tank were just close to full and you know the location of the Helium bottle with its 5000 Lb PSI gas punching through the aluminimum shell of the rocket and carbon fiber wrapped aluminum of the helium bottle would be easy enough for me and my .224 Weatherby Mag. or any high velocity rifle. But you would have to have inside knowledge of exactly when the rocket was filled to the correct level. That would indicate an inside job. But then again, there is a long history of industrial espionage in the Boeing/Lockheed/ULA companies.
Nah, if Jake would ever do something like that (which I highly doubt) there wouldn't be anything fancy-schmantzy* about it. He'd just walk right on the launch pad with a swiss army knife or a Leatherman, done.
* Like long-range sniper rifles, lasers, hypothetical plasma guns or whatever...
lowering the odds
You mean increasing, right?
By the way, on a stationary target this size, the odds are much higher than quoted by the Register.
Similarly, you do not need a spotter located closer to the target - you just need a good telescope which, once again, you can accommodate on the roof of an industrial building.
In any case, this one is extremely far fetched.
>Problem would be getting the spark needed and with the videos running, tracer or incendiary is not an option.
There was a '007 special' episode of Mythbusters in which they tried to blow up gas cylinders with bullets (a la the opening sequence of 2006's Casino Royal). Nothing went 'bang'. Of course they were using a handgun instead of anything bigger, but one assumes (I'm assuming, cos my memory isn't that good) that any spark occurs on first contact with the cylinder, i.e before there is any gas available to ignite because the puncture hasn't occurred yet. Additionally, the lead round didn't penetrate the cylinder. Also, lead anti-personal rounds don't spark (though projectiles of other metals for your bangbang-stick are available)
Gas bottles are ASME certified pressure vessels and they are extremely robust.
HOWEVER, the fuel and oxygen tanks in any missile are not designed to be as robust, only to handle the internal pressure and gravitational forces.
You could EASILY put a hole through a Falcon 9 with a .223 caliber round!
Long shots indeed.
For anyone to even contemplate such an explanation is not good for an organisation's culture. If this rumour that an accusation was made is actually true, whoever came up with that line of investigation should be pushed out the door quickly before that kind of reasoning becomes the standard approach to problem solving.
As the article says, Occam's razor applies. This is a relatively young design, they have had failures before due to poor quality control, and it went bang just as they were loading it with 100s of tonnes of propellant and O2. If they don't know why it went bang then that means their telemetry isn't up to scratch, simple as, and must be improved.
If in making improvements to their telemetry they add shock wave sensors to detect any incoming rounds, that's fine, just don't ever say why.
If this accusation was actually made, even if privately, with little evidence it is highly risky. It'd never remain private, It’ll worry their investors who will be keen that the company as a whole behaves in a sober and professional manner (traits essential to success in the rocket business). The investors won't welcome the legal bill either should ULA choose to make something of it in the courts.
And worse of all it'll put off customers, who really won't want to be dealing with amateurs.
Broadly, I agree with you Bazza.
However, this plot, reminiscent of a 1960's espionage B-movie, does fit Elon Musk's aesthetic (he bought the submarine Lotus from The Spy Who Loved Me, and for ages his Twitter photo was of him stroking a white cat - I kid you not).
In the past though, SpaceX have been pretty efficient at identifying and rectifying the causes of their Rapid Unplanned Disassemblies - they have an edge over NASA in that they don't have to dig through a stack of sub-contracting manufacturers.
For anyone to even contemplate such an explanation is not good for an organisation's culture. If this rumour that an accusation was made is actually true
Did you notice that nobody is claiming that anyone at SpaceX has actually made an accusation? They were investigating an explosion, saw that *something* happened at a nearby building at that time, and asked the owner of the building if they could check it out. It's the drama-hungry public and media who have come up with the "OMG sniper!" story.
Perhaps the event on the roof was an equipment failure caused by an electrical surge, which moments later also caused an equipment malfunction in a nearby rocket? Nah, that wouldn't be sensational enough.
"If this accusation was actually made, even if privately, with little evidence it is highly risky. It'd never remain private,"
These accusations are often made within security but as you point out it is never in the interest of the company to have it leak out even when proven, by security, to be true.
And these accusations are true much more often than most people realize. Espionage, passive and active, is always a risk and even more so when a company is working in certain areas, gets large enough or can impact the flow of massive amounts of funding.
SpaceX has a constant and ongoing espionage problem from many different sources. They think they are working with various lettered agencies in the USA but those agencies also have sources inside to ensure what they are being told is accurate. With big money comes big problems.
Active industrial espionage takes many forms and when done properly is invisible and impossible to prove, often the evidence is at very best circumstantial. Sure sometimes a Stuxnet is found but not usually. When evidence is found it is almost never in the interest of the company to go public so that information stays with security who uses it to improve their defenses.
SpaceX is under attack, at the very least passive surveillance attack. Others have a lot of money riding on their failure, or at least against them dominating their field. Those players have a fiduciary and in some cases national responsibility to take whatever measures they can to at least understand current status. Doesn't mean recent problems are the result of active espionage but if it was they wouldn't be telling people they suspect it.
For example the construction of the Nicaragua Canal seems to have had some set backs, some data was lost, some deadlines missed, and all we hear is how well everything is going. I'm sure it is.
IMO there may or may not be a sabotage problem at SpaceX but it feels to me that this story is media created and driven. Nothing to see here, resume trying to look normal.
You are correct, the simplest explanation is best, but also remember that just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you. The last failure was blamed on a failed strut, and they did indeed find some bad struts in their inventory of hundreds or thousands of those struts. But if the struts are not carefully inventoried and serial numberd and traceable to the date and manufacturing batch nobody will know for sure if they were really defective, or if somebody simply "salted" the warehouse with defective ones. Thus sabotage might never have been ruled out on the last failure blamed on defective materials. In fact if this big bang turns out to be sabotage it may turn a light on rethinking the last failure. Sabotage is a big risk, but these are big rewards. In fact I can not think of a bigger reward for even murder than the stakes involved here. Boeing/Lockheed/ULA have been involved in Industrial Espionage legal cases in the past, in fact that is the reason they were forced to create ULA. Is sabotage really that far fetched for a company willing to hire spies and plant listening devices? If I were Mr. Musk I would be taking all sorts of security matters very seriously. Even his personal safety is at risk when there are hundreds of billions of dollars on the line. When has there ever been bigger rewards available for unlawful behavior for any individual or corporation.
...of the infamous truffle-squishing incident of '07:
In fact maybe it's the same guy. His photo in that article looks suspiciously like a dry-run to me.
That this was even suggested proves that elon musk is a delusional idiot with no connection to reality. He's attempting to pass the buck for his own greed and incompetence on to any random targets in his field of view.
Just like his stupid electric cars, he's created a badly-engineered product which doesn't work, and costs lives and money; and is attempting to blame everyone else for his own failings.
All of his borderline criminal enterprises should be shut down immediately and he should be bankrupted and held criminally liable.
>Possibly a camera on the roof. They want to find/get/expose it either for data or a red face on their competitor. Using this "excuse" to get at it.
That is plausible. In fact, It'd be surprising to learn that ULA didn't have a camera trained on their competitor's test, if they already had a convenient vantage point (unless of course there were more suitable, publicly accessible vantage points available to them closer to the test site)
"Funny how everyone else here is supporting him then."
@UT :- Downvoting you because you appear to have missed your meds/seen some billy goats does equal "supporting Musk".
No one has (yet) said "ULA blew up our rocket", but people to appear to be trying to be very thorough in trying to figure out why a seemingly normal rocket went kaboom, which I kinda expect when it's a couple of hundred mill for the rocket alone, let alone clean up, poor PR, etc etc etc
As for other El Reg bods and the discussion of snipers and what it would take, that's kinda normal... someone chucks a problem in here, people try and solve it. No one is actually stating that that IS what happened, merely how it could happen.
PS you do know Musk doesn't actually personally design this stuff don't you? Just checking.
"... conspiracy theorists going nuts on this one for a while" ???
Conspiracy theorists are nuts, and they never, ever stop, in my experience
Just look at all "the moon-landing hoax" theorists. I mean, it was nearly 5 decades ago, and still these idiots go on. Love Buzz Aldrin's response seen here
Just a thought, but rather than concentrate on a standard rifle and slug would a strong enough laser do the job? No worries about wind or leaving behind evidence. I'd imagine that a non-moving target full of stuff that goes bang wouldn't react too well to a prolonged thermal spot. the flash seen might just be standard light reflecting off the optics/casing....
I'm not really suggesting that ULA were really to blame but.............Okay I'll get my coat.
Depends... even lasers in non-visible spectra could hit dust particles and heat them. SpaceX could well have IR cameras in operation which conceivably show a line of heated dust from enough angles to show the origin.
I was thinking a laser shark.
Maybe the flash was them launching an invisible high-speed laser shark at the launch pad.
It might have been close enough that heating would be minimal
Close your eyes and just listen to the tape of the explosion, from the screeching sound to the big bang.
What it sounds like exactly is something gets loose near the top of the strongback, drops down inside there - hitting the structure (and possibly Ox tubing) a few times - then lands on the launch pad. Unfortunately for SpaceX, it seems they didn't have many sensors outside of the rocket to find out what it was. But I'd take a good look at the debris down there and search for something that looks like it was damaged cold, before the explosion; that should be their trace.
I think "unproven" may be "as yet unproven". On the other hand, in a court of law in Scotland "Not Proven" means you are deemed innocent, if not quite innocent enough for a "Not Guilty" (this is often debated). I mean it's conclusive, unless double jeopardy is allowed, which it now is.
Snopes has "Undetermined" as well. This means about the same. I think Google indicated no cases found of "Status. As yet ..." on Snopes, but the words "as yet" are in their collective vocabulary. I haven't found a list of all possible Snopes verdicts, I think they may be editorially flexible, and lately "Hebrews 13:8" comes to mind.
I recently notified them that one of their dismissed stories appears to be true to the extent that John Kerry has indeed been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in connection with Iran's nuclear industry. It is quite easy to get nominated because a lot of people worldwide are qualified to write in with a nomination. Donald Trump was nominated this year as well. I don't know if they believe me. This is secret for fifty years but they don't and can't stop -you- from telling the world that you have nominated that person. On the other hand, it may hurt their chances, and yours.
"I'd suppose that if you blow up a rocket deliberately like that then there isn't much of it left to be investigated, so, pretty safe."
No, there's lots of evidence left even after a major explosions. So not safe for the saboteur at all. Over the years forensic investigators have got good at picking through the debris and determining what happened. This is one way that those who set roadside bombs are identified and arrested. Explosions are not big bangs that handily incinerate all evidence.
While I also want to withhold judgment on this theory it does remind me of a previous scandal:
Watergate must've seemed far-fetched at the time too.
"Why would Nixon's cronies orchestrate a bungled burglary at the campaign offices of the Democratic party?"
"Why would they then break into the offices of an adversial lawyer's psychiatrist looking for dirt?"
"How could the optics of having hours of crazy paranoid recordings but THEN having an 18-minute gap in them not be understood to be terrible?"
"How can you order the deputy attorney general to fire the special prosecutor in charge of the case and not think that would give off a bad smell? - a smell amplified by the subsequent resignation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general in protest?"
It all seems crazy when summarized like that but, in hindsight, all that crazy shit took place! Some powerful, otherwise intelligent people, decided that that would be a winning game plan!
So, yeah, I gotta say I'm pretty interested in how this SpaceX/ULA thing shakes out.
Too exposed. Shoot from inside, well away from the windows. What's another three yards when you're this far away? Less chance of random satellite or aerial photo turning up. "Hey isn't that a gun?"
Would be totally possible, that's the disturbing thing about this theory. But it's a pretty nefarious scheme. What kind of person would... oh right, it's a corporation. No ethics.
We have motive and we have means. One snitch though and there'd be deep trouble. I assert that the risk is too high to be acceptable by corporate shareholders.
The UFO idea (not the alien thing, just the fact that a straight line object moving incredibly fast across a large distance in the exact 4 frames of video when this explosion happened is very coincidental. You can tell the object is further away than the rocket by the way it lights up during the initial explosion as do the payload fairing and any object further away than the rocket. Plus it seems to be moving behind the lightning protection towers. Calculating the distance traveled and knowing the video frames are 1/30th of a second long you can calculate the object speed at or above 1150 miles per hour, very much supersonic which means there had to be a sonic boom of some sort. I have heard supersonic bullets wizzing over my head and they don't go boom like an F4 phantom doing the same thing and the sound is even more different for a supersonic artillery round passing over head. (Vietnam provided a number of interesting experiences for me) Now thinking back on the video and audio of the rocket exploding I remember the sound that I thought was microphone feedback happening, then the "quieter bang" musk tweeted about, then the big bang. I am beginning to think the sound I dismissed as microphone feedback might have been the sound of that high speed object that many dismiss as a bug or a bird. The softer bang might have been the sound of the object being launched, the timing is right. If the timing of the white flash coincides with these other seemingly inconsequential things then why wouldn't you want to run it all down. I am beginning to think that sound of microphone feedback might be more important than I may have thought before. Could a sonic noise (not necessarily a boom) cause a sympathetic detonation of the launch safety squib explosive? Talk about going down the rabbit hole!!!!
Due to hydrodynamic shock any projectile penetrating the thin pressure shell will cause rupture. The people who have the most to lose are the foreign governments losing commercial business to SpaceX. A frogman from a submarine sneaks on shore and shoots it with a cryogenically stored ice bullet to destroy the evidence. It must be the SAS protecting ESA launch systems. Or maybe not.
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