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  • 2 weeks later...

Making it look boring. And shooting for a quick turnaround on the booster, trying to use it for June ISS. I love the livestream.

The video always cuts out from drone ship on landing. I understand the vibration and sonic energy it's experiencing, but how hard is to create a better camera and uplink system? At this point I don't think regs allow a drone to be flown anywhere in the entry area, but at some point in the future we'll have autonomous camera drones hovering away from the ship to catch the landings.

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For booster, next are Block 5 first flight and then Block 5 reflight, and a notable one will be Block 5 second reflight.

For rest of package, they're still trying to figure out how to recover the payload fairings. And longer term they're talking about trying to recover stage 2.

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  • 2 weeks later...
8 hours ago, Nice Guy Eddie said:

Blue Origin seems to quietly continue to move forward.  Are they going to surprise everyone by being the first commercial space company to launch people into space?   

Depends on your definition of "space." Blue Origin's orbital height is far less than SpaceX. Not taking away from Blue's accomplishments, but what they're doing is considerably easier than SpaceX. The 2 aren't really competitors at this point.

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10 hours ago, Sam Lin said:

Depends on your definition of "space." Blue Origin's orbital height is far less than SpaceX. Not taking away from Blue's accomplishments, but what they're doing is considerably easier than SpaceX. The 2 aren't really competitors at this point.

Completely agree that Blue Origin has obviously not achieved the same results as SpaceX.   But I'm curious if Blue Origin's approach could allow them to leapfrog SpaceX in terms of furthering human exploration in space.  And to answer your questions, I think of "space" as initial low earth orbit including docking with the ISS but ultimately expanding outside of low earth orbit.  

I know that Blue Origin is looking at the tourist angle now but Bezos has stated that Blue Origin is his most important work and that he doesn't mind selling his Amazon stock to fund it.  Bezos seems to be of a futurist mindset that we need to colonize the Solar System to allow for more humans to exist.  

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The 2 companies will be direct competitors whenever Blue reliably flies New Glenn. At that point it's a question of whether the "fail quickly" iterative approach of SpaceX vs the more R&D based development style of Blue is more efficient. I don't know that there's an answer there (and the 2 aren't mutually exclusive - space is on the way to becoming a commodity item, there will be multiple competitors).

Difficult to quantify your statement of "leapfrog ... in terms of furthering human exploration in space." We can set milestone achievements and see who gets there first, but at this point those are changing all the time. NASA bickering and Cloak Room politics aren't helping this at all. The reality is both companies will greatly further human access to space.

I share your curiosity of what the launch industry will look like in the future. It's an exciting time, in the next 5yr and 10yr window I think the industry will fundamentally change. I'll be surprised if we still have albatross projects like SLS throwing away money in the 10yr window (but also not surprised if they are still around, because CloakRoom). Once a second private launch competitor is regularly launching, the bloat and waste of government space will be very hard to justify.

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In all reality, I think both Blue Origin and SpaceX (or whatever other civilian competition creeps up in the future) have a really viable prospect at the longterm future of space exploration. These two companies are primarily focused on two different fields, one personnel the other cargo respectively. This is a good thing I think because if mankind is to ever actually set out to build an orbital spaceport and/or mass drivers that could launch ships deep into the solar system on the cheap, a way to get the materials into space inexpensively will be necessary as well as the people who would one day inhabit said orbital spaceport as well as anything destined for the moon, Mars or anywhere else. So it's going to require some level of coordination between the two at some point in the future. Probably not sharing of proprietary information about the methods they employ to get their fuel to the optimal mixture or engines to resonate at specific frequencies, but still some coordination.

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9 hours ago, Hagbard Celine said:



this was not a company founded to appease shareholders, plural. It was founded to appease a single shareholder. And he wants to go to Mars, damn it.


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  • 2 weeks later...

I thought this was a funny article.


The France-based Ariane Group is the primary contractor for the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, and it has also begun developing the Ariane 6 rocket. The firm has a reliable record‚ÄĒindeed, NASA chose the Ariane 5 booster to fly its multi-billion dollar James Webb Space Telescope‚ÄĒbut it also faces an uncertain future in an increasingly competitive launch market.

Like Russia and the US-based United Launch Alliance, the Ariane Group faces pricing pressure from SpaceX, which offers launch prices as low as $62 million for its Falcon 9 rocket. It has specifically developed the Ariane 6 rocket to compete with the Falcon 9 booster.


But there are a couple of problems with this. Despite efforts to cut costs, the two variants of the Ariane 6 will still cost at least 25 percent more than SpaceX's present-day prices. Moreover, the Ariane 6 will not fly until 2020 at the earliest, by which time Falcon 9 could offer significantly cheaper prices on used Falcon 9 boosters if it needed to. (The Ariane 6 rocket is entirely expendable).


With this background in mind, the chief executive of Ariane Group, Alain Charmeau, gave an interview to the German publication Der Spiegel. The interview was published in German, but a credible translation can be found here. During the interview, Charmeau expressed frustration with SpaceX and attributed its success to subsidized launches for the US government.

$100 million launches

When pressed on the price pressure that SpaceX has introduced into the launch market, Charmeau's central argument is that this has only been possible because, "SpaceX is charging the US government 100 million dollar per launch, but launches for European customers are much cheaper." Essentially, he says, launches for the US military and NASA are subsidizing SpaceX's commercial launch business.


However, the pay-for-service prices that SpaceX offers to the US Department of Defense for spy satellites and cargo and crew launches for NASA are below those of what other launch companies charge. And while $100 million or more for a military launch is significantly higher than a $62 million commercial launch, government contracts come with extra restrictions, reviews, and requirements that drive up this price.


Even as Charmeau decries what he calls subsidies for SpaceX from the US government, he admits that Ariane cannot exist without guaranteed contracts purchased by European governments. To make the Ariane 6 vehicle viable, Charmeau said Ariane needs five launches in total for 2021 and eight guaranteed launches for 2022.

No reusability

During the interview, Charmeau also addressed reusability when the interviewer raised this as a possibility for lowering the cost of launch. In response, Charmeau asserts that the interviewer cannot know whether re-flying boosters is less expensive, as SpaceX claims. "How do you know that?" Charmeau asks. "Do you know their real cost structure?"

We do not, of course, as SpaceX is privately held. And it is highly probable that SpaceX has lost money so far on its effort to develop a reusable first stage. But now that it has begun flying the Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 rocket, the company seems well positioned both to lower its prices as well as take profits from this research-and-development effort.

Charmeau said the Ariane rocket does not launch often enough to justify the investment into reusability. (It would need about 30 launches a year to justify these costs, he said). And then Charmeau said something telling about why reusability doesn't make sense to a government-backed rocket company‚ÄĒjobs.

"Let us say we had ten guaranteed launches per year in Europe and we had a rocket which we can use ten times‚ÄĒwe would build exactly one rocket per year," he said. "That makes no sense. I cannot tell my teams: 'Goodbye, see you next year!'"

This seems a moment of real irony. Whereas earlier in the interview Charmeau accuses the US government of subsidizing SpaceX, a few minutes later he says the Ariane Group can't make a reusable rocket because it would be too efficient. For Europe, a difficult decision now looms. It can either keep subsidizing its own launch business in order to maintain an independent capability, or it can give in to Elon Musk and SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin. Charmeau seems to have a clear view of where he thinks the continent should go.

"It is about future business," Charmeau said. "Why do all the billionaires invest in space? Why does Jeff Bezos come to Germany and declare that the country should not go to space? He makes money with your personal data. Today he knows your Amazon orders, tomorrow he drives your car."



The Greatest Leap, Episode 3: Triumph

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Apollo Program, Ars Technica brings you an in depth look at the Apollo missions through the eyes of the participants.
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Big Space in every country is worrying. There really isn't a way for them to "adapt" - their entire existence is based on government funding and not needing to be commercially competitive. As launch costs come down, the doors open for private launch to be more and more accessible, and these new "budget" customers obviously care about costs.

Great launch last night, getting to see a couple of Iridium satellites deploy on video. Reflying and dumping the Block 4 booster that was initially used on (failed) Zuma.

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  • 1 month later...

This Block4 reflight was a SpaceX record for shortest refurb time before reflight. Shuttle has done it about 2wk shorter, though the actual refurb time is fairly similar (this booster landed on a drone ship on its first flight, so there were days lost in transit before refurb could begin). This one was also allowed to orbit for 4 orbits before deorbit, to test engine refiring after long coast duration (same reason Falcon Heavy had a long coast before second burn). SpaceX has done a great job of using each flight to test and learn as much about their rocket as possible. The throwaways allow them to push boundaries and risk failures that they'd otherwise need to be conservative with if they knew they had to save the core.

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  • 3 weeks later...

They nailed today's launch and even recovered the first stage during pretty bad weather. They will have their next launch next Thursday (8/2), making for 3 in an 11 day period.  



SpaceX nails second Falcon 9 landing in 48 hours, fairing catch foiled by weather
By Eric Ralph Posted on July 25, 2018 

Just a handful of days after SpaceX’s second-ever successful launch and landing of their upgraded Falcon 9 Block 5, the company has completed the same feat on the opposite side of the United States, debuting the Block 5 rocket with a launch and booster recovery from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB).

The booster in question, Falcon 9 B1048, is the third Block 5 booster to roll off of SpaceX’s Hawthorne, CA assembly line and is now the first Block 5 rocket to launch from the company’s California launch facilities. On the opposite coast, SpaceX’s second Block 5 Falcon 9 booster (B1047) completed its own successful launch and landing, lofting the heaviest commercial satellite to ever reach orbit (Telstar 19V).

Today’s near-flawless predawn mission saw Falcon 9 place 10 Iridium NEXT satellites in a polar Earth orbit, during which the rocket’s Block 5 booster completed the first landing on Just Read The Instructions in nearly ten months and Mr Steven made his first attempt at catching a parasailing Falcon fairing with his massive net and arms upgrades. Those upgrades, tracked tirelessly by Teslarati photographer Pauline Acalin for the better part of July, took barely a month to go from a clean slate (old arms and net fully uninstalled) to operational, fairing-catching status, an ode to the incredible pace at which SpaceX moves.

Sadly, the vessel‚Äôs Iridium-7 fairing catch attempt was sullied from the start by inclement weather ‚Äď primarily wind shear ‚Äď ¬†that significantly hampered the accuracy of each fairing halve‚Äôs parafoil guidance, meaning that Mr Steven‚Äôs crew did see the parasailing halves touch down, but too far away to catch them in Mr Steven‚Äôs large net. Falcon 9 B1048 had its own difficulties thanks to what engineer and webcast host John Insprucker described as ‚Äúthe worst weather [SpaceX] has ever had‚ÄĚ for a Falcon booster landing. Nevertheless, Falcon 9 appeared to stick an off-center but plenty accurate landing aboard drone ship JRTI, although SpaceX technicians are likely going to wish they had the same robotic stage securer located aboard OCISLY on the opposite coast.

Just Read The Instructions, on the other hand, was similarly tracked but primarily to verify that nothing was happening ‚Äď the vessel‚Äôs last operational trip to the Pacific Ocean dates back to the first half of October 2017. Since then, SpaceX began a process of intentionally expending Falcon 9 boosters that had already flown once before, choosing to essentially start from scratch with a fresh fleet of highly reliable and reusable Falcon 9 Block 5 boosters rather than recover older versions of the rocket and attempt to refurbish them beyond the scope of their designed lifespans.

The Block 5 design, however, has taken the countless lessons-learned from flying and reflying previous versions of Falcon 9 and rolled them all into one (relatively) final iteration of the ever-changing rocket. With any luck and at least a little more iteration, Falcon 9 Block 5 boosters should be capable of launching anywhere from 10 to 100 times, 10 times with minimal or no refurbishment and 100 times with more regular maintenance, much like high-performance jet aircraft do today.

Looks good, but so many details need to be right. Journey back from hypersonic becomes extremely difficult as velocity increases. Altitude is easy, velocity is hard.

‚ÄĒ Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 23, 2018

With three successful launches of new Block 5 boosters now under the new version’s belt, it’s safe to say that the rocket is off to an extremely good start. The most important milestones to watch for over the next several weeks and months will be the first reflight of a recovered Block 5 rocket, the first reuse of a Falcon 9 payload fairing, and then the first third/fourth/fifth/etc. reuse of Block 5 booster. On the horizon, of course, is SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s challenge to launch a Falcon 9 Block 5 booster two times in less than 24 hours, and do so before the end of 2019.

2018: I‚Äôm watching a livestream of a rocket sending satellites to orbit and then landing on a droneship in the ocean ‚ÄĒ while watching the company‚Äôs other droneship return to port with a rocket that did the same thing on the opposite side of the country three days ago. pic.twitter.com/wWA8ZCBAeY

‚ÄĒ John Kraus (@johnkrausphotos) July 25, 2018

Roughly 3,000 miles to the East, SpaceX’s just-recovered Florida Block 5 booster wrapped up a picture-perfect arrival in Port Canaveral aboard drone ship Of Course I Still Love You at the exact same time as another Block 5 rocket was launching (and landing) on the opposite coast.



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This is pretty huge for SpaceX:




After 25 years, military told to move from ‚Äúexpendable‚ÄĚ to ‚Äúreusable‚ÄĚ rockets

This is a big boon for SpaceX after more than a decade of fighting.

ERIC BERGER -  7/27/2018, 9:45 AM

Less than a year and a half has passed since SpaceX first flew a used first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket, but this achievement has already shaken up the glacial process of lawmaking and military budgeting. The final version of the defense budget bill for fiscal year 2019 will make both a symbolic and a significant policy change when it comes to reusable rockets.

The conference report from the US House and Senate calls for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program of the Department of Defense, commonly known as the EELV program, to be named the "National Security Space Launch program" as of March 1, 2019. No longer will the military rely solely on expendable rockets.

Moreover, the report says the US Air Force must consider both expendable and reusable launch vehicles as part of its solicitation for military launch contracts. And in the event that a contract is solicited for a mission that a reusable launch vehicle is not eligible to compete for, the Air Force should report back to Congress with the reason why. The US House has already agreed to the conference report, and it should be taken up in the Senate next week. After that, it will need the president's signature to become law.

EELV history

The new policy marks a significant change in a program that dates back about a quarter-century.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the US military relied largely on¬†modified intercontinental ballistic missiles‚ÄĒthe precursors to Lockheed Martin‚Äôs modern-day line of Atlas rockets and Boeing‚Äôs Delta vehicles‚ÄĒto get its satellites into space. At the direction of the White House in the late 1970s, the Air Force worked with NASA and its Space Shuttle program to fulfill the military's launch needs. The shuttle‚Äôs first Department of Defense flight launched in June of 1982 on just the program's fourth flight, but the¬†Challenger¬†accident in 1986 would ultimately end the relationship.

Under the Reagan administration's National Space Launch Strategy, the military was told to develop multiple ways to get into space, and this led to the concept of the EELV program in 1994. The Air Force’s then-vice chief of staff, Thomas Moorman, urged Lockheed and Boeing to "evolve" the Atlas and Delta fleets by improving their reliability and lowering their cost. Before the end of the 1990s, the Air Force awarded Lockheed and Boeing $3 billion for this modernization effort.

The companies had hoped that they could compete for the emerging and lucrative geostationary satellite launch market with their new rockets, but the Atlas and Delta rockets were more expensive than Russian and European boosters available at the time. So Boeing and Lockheed were left with only the US national security market. Both companies began to consider whether they should continue flying if they would only have a split share of the military market.

To ensure its access to space, the Department of Defense brokered a deal in which Lockheed and Boeing would merge their rocket building ventures into one company, United Launch Alliance (ULA). Each parent retained a 50-percent stake in the new firm, which would be required to maintain both the Atlas and Delta fleets of vehicles. The military had redundant access to space, and the big aerospace companies, Lockheed and Boeing, had a monopoly.

Rise of reusability

Elon Musk and his new SpaceX company were not happy and sued to stop this merger in 2005. It didn't work. Undeterred, SpaceX went off and developed the Falcon 1 rocket and then won a NASA contract to finalize the Falcon 9 rocket and deliver cargo to the International Space Station. With this powerful new rocket, SpaceX wanted to compete with United Launch Alliance for these national security launch contracts.

SpaceX sued again four years ago, filing a suit against the US government's sole-source award of launch contracts to ULA. SpaceX sought the right to compete for those launches, and this time the lawsuit worked. The Falcon 9 rocket would become certified by the Air Force to compete for some national security launches.

In December 2015, SpaceX successfully landed a first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket for the first time. Then, in March 2017, it flew one of these used rockets for the first time and has since flown a used first stage booster 14 times. Earlier this year, it flew the Falcon Heavy rocket. The significance of this larger rocket, powered in part by reused Falcon 9 cores, is that it can hit all nine of the Department of Defense's reference orbits for missions. This effectively means that there are now no military missions that a "reusable rocket" cannot reach.

The US Congress appears to have noticed these significant achievements. As part of the conference report, Congress directs the Air Force to report back on how the military will ensure the used rockets are safe to use and how much money the government will save as a result. It is quite a change from the state of play just 13 years ago, when ULA was dominant and SpaceX was roundly dismissed by the courts and the broader aerospace community.


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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...
On 7/27/2018 at 10:34 PM, Llogg said:

I never would have imagined that SpaceX would end up a more successful venture than Tesla.

Tesla cars are poorly made and the company is run like a whorehouse. I am thinking Musk must not have much to do with SpaceX. Doubt if the military would let them launch some of the stuff that they do if he was truly hands on.

Really disappointed in Musk and I feel bad for him.  He apparently has gone off the deep in and I wouldn't be surprised to see him overdose or him killing himself. 


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