SpaceX Resuable Rocket Test Delayed At The Last Minute - Update

SpaceX Resuable Rocket Test Delayed At The Last Minute - Update

SpaceX will soon test-land a rocket to show that space travel is economical when you can reuse its parts.

Update: SpaceX's rocket test has undergone yet another delay, this one occurring at the very last second. Just over a minute before launch, the countdown was halted due to a steering mechanism malfunction. It's probably the best this was delayed; among the other supplies being sent to the International Space Station are the astronauts overdue Christmas gifts, and it would be a real shame if those were lost in the blackness of space.

Regardless, this shouldn't be another month-long delay; SpaceX is working to fix the problem, and the rocket should launch within the next three days.

Source: SFGATE

Original Story: Space travel is one of the most impressive things humanity has achieved, but its not exactly kind on the rockets themselves. Once you've fired a shuttle into space, the rocket itself usually breaks off and falls into the ocean. That's part of the reason why space travel is so expensive - We literally need to build a new launchcraft for every trip. SpaceX, however, thinks we make rockets reusable by letting them do one extra trick: Land on floating barge instead of crashing into the water. After originally planning such a landing in December, SpaceX will be conducting the test this Tuesday.

"Reusability is the critical breakthrough needed in rocketry to take things to the next level," SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk explained, who compares the current process to throwing away a 747 after its first flight.

Saying we should land rockets so they can be reused sounds simple enough, but this is literal rocket science, and therefore incredibly complex. The rockets SpaceX hopes to land are about 14 stories tall, which is exceeding difficult to land anywhere, let alone upright on the ocean. On Tuesday at 6:20 a.m. Eastern, a Falcon 9 rocket will be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. After the booster breaks off to send the payload into orbit, the rocket will reignite and attempt to navigate to a barge on the Atlantic Ocean.

Can it work? Musk himself put the odds of success at about 50% or less, since the rocket has a good chance of tipping over or exploding altogether. And he would know, since SpaceX has done similar maneuvers before. "We've been able to soft-land the rocket booster in the ocean twice so far," Musk said. "Unfortunately, it sort of sat there for several seconds, then tipped over and exploded. It's quite difficult to reuse at that point."

But if SpaceX can find a way to safely land rockets, that means they could one day fly back to the launch pad for refueling. That would be a huge boon to any industry looking for ways space travel can be made financially feasible. "I think it's quite likely, 80 to 90 percent likely, that one of those flights will be able to land and refly," Musk concluded.

Source: New York Times

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I think this has been posted before by the Escapist, but it may have just been a random person posting. Anyway I'll say it again, NASA used reusable rockets on the shuttle.

Personally I think they'd be best using either a plane to launch high up or a rocket that can deploy wings or something so that it's aerodynamic on the way back down, allowing it to land properly. It'd be the best way to go about it.

crimson5pheonix:
I think this has been posted before by the Escapist, but it may have just been a random person posting. Anyway I'll say it again, NASA used reusable rockets on the shuttle.

It was back on December 16 when the original story ran. The Dark Lord Google tells me NASA/ Space X postponed the launch until tomorrow (Jan 6th) because of some preliminary tests showed unusual results.

I was also thinking of the shuttle orbiters while reading this. The only thing not reused was the big orange fuel tank. Otherwise, the solid fuel boosters were fished out of the ocean, tested for damage and refueled, and the orbiter itself was examined and put back in rotation for the next missions. (Unless, they are referring to craft capable of going beyond a near-Earth orbit when talking about reusable rockets.)

Hairless Mammoth:

crimson5pheonix:
I think this has been posted before by the Escapist, but it may have just been a random person posting. Anyway I'll say it again, NASA used reusable rockets on the shuttle.

It was back on December 16 when the original story ran. The Dark Lord Google tells me NASA/ Space X postponed the launch until tomorrow (Jan 6th) because of some preliminary tests showed unusual results.

I was also thinking of the shuttle orbiters while reading this. The only thing not reused was the big orange fuel tank. Otherwise, the solid fuel boosters were fished out of the ocean, tested for damage and refueled, and the orbiter itself was examined and put back in rotation for the next missions. (Unless, they are referring to craft capable of going beyond a near-Earth orbit when talking about reusable rockets.)

Yup, I found the thread. I eventually came to the conclusion that they were playing word games to claim first.

crimson5pheonix:

MinionJoe:

crimson5pheonix:

There are firsts here, SpaceX is just going overboard on labeling their firsts.

Are you sure you're not reading "reusable first stage" as "first reusable stage"? Word order is important in this instance...

Well the full quote from SpaceX, which is being truncated on the Escapist is:

A fully and rapidly reusable rocket-which has never been done before-is the pivotal breakthrough needed to substantially reduce the cost of space access.

They're either playing on the word "fully" or "rapidly" to claim first. Or possibly "rocket".

ok, there are a few things that should probably be cleared up, yes the boosters on the shuttle were designed to be reused, and were actually re-used. However, they landed in the ocean and had to be towed back to shore which wasn't necessarily a quick trip. Seawater does not do nice things to metal, so there was still quite a bit of work that had to be done to clean the boosters before they could even undergo the testing to ensure they were safe to fly again. Also solid rocket boosters are quite a bit easier to make, and also therefore cheaper (in terms of rockets) as they don't really have many moving parts, with the exception of any sort of control systems like thrust vectoring, or control gyros, if you have ever launched an Estes rocket they are basically a much larger version of that with some electronics to deploy the parachutes. They are also much less efficient than most liquid fuel systems, and cannot be shut off once lit so abort procedures are more difficult, they also cannot be throttled.

Liquid engines on the other hand have many moving parts as they have to use very heavy duty pumps to move the fuel from the tank to the nozzle, they can be throttled or shut off, and have better efficiencies than solid rockets. The machinery required to move the fuel makes them much more expensive to produce than solid boosters, and also much more susceptible to the damage from seawater which means that even if they are recovered they cannot be re-used once landed.

Therefore recovery and re-use of a liquid fuel booster stage does actually save quite a bit more money than a solid booster stage, but it cannot come in contact with seawater or it can't be re-used so if they want to re-use it, they have to land it safely on a structure, which has never been attempted before.

jab136:
ok, there are a few things that should probably be cleared up, yes the boosters on the shuttle were designed to be reused, and were actually re-used. However, they landed in the ocean and had to be towed back to shore which wasn't necessarily a quick trip. Seawater does not do nice things to metal, so there was still quite a bit of work that had to be done to clean the boosters before they could even undergo the testing to ensure they were safe to fly again. Also solid rocket boosters are quite a bit easier to make, and also therefore cheaper (in terms of rockets) as they don't really have many moving parts, with the exception of any sort of control systems like thrust vectoring, or control gyros, if you have ever launched an Estes rocket they are basically a much larger version of that with some electronics to deploy the parachutes. They are also much less efficient than most liquid fuel systems, and cannot be shut off once lit so abort procedures are more difficult, they also cannot be throttled.

Liquid engines on the other hand have many moving parts as they have to use very heavy duty pumps to move the fuel from the tank to the nozzle, they can be throttled or shut off, and have better efficiencies than solid rockets. The machinery required to move the fuel makes them much more expensive to produce than solid boosters, and also much more susceptible to the damage from seawater which means that even if they are recovered they cannot be re-used once landed.

Therefore recovery and re-use of a liquid fuel booster stage does actually save quite a bit more money than a solid booster stage, but it cannot come in contact with seawater or it can't be re-used so if they want to re-use it, they have to land it safely on a structure, which has never been attempted before.

True, but I'm still going to point out that they only say rocket. As I acknowledged in the previous thread (it's partially quoted in my above post), there are firsts being done, but SpaceX is going overboard saying what's first.

True, the space shuttle was an attempt at creating something 'reusable', but not a very efficient one.

I did a tiny bit of research on it, and ironically the 'reusable' shuttle came out to being more expensive to launch than using conventional non-reusable launch systems.

There's also claims that because it was part-funded by the military, they influenced it's design, and what they asked for it to be capable of made it bigger, heavier, and less efficient.

It seems the added size that resulted from the 'military mission profiles' (which ironically it never ended up flying in it's operational life), compromised the design quite a bit.

It's one of the reasons it was mounted to the side of the primary fuel tank, even though that makes for a very awkward rocket. (Anyone that's messed around in kerbal space program likely has practical experience about how much more difficult that is).

Good idea, bad implementation.

Anyway, the idea of landing a rocket is an amusing one, and may prove useful.

I think the 'sabre' engine being developed by a british company shows more long-term promise though.

A SSTO spaceplane has major advantages for reusability if you can get it to work.

Imagine if the space shuttle had just been the shuttle, and all the rocket stages used for launch had been redundant.

Still, given that the engine is still in prototype stages, and a spaceplane to make use of it only in the theoretical design stages, it'll take a while before we have any idea if it works properly...

crimson5pheonix:
I think this has been posted before by the Escapist, but it may have just been a random person posting. Anyway I'll say it again, NASA used reusable rockets on the shuttle.

Ehhhh, sort of. The solid rocket boosters were indeed recovered and reused, but it was a very lengthy and expensive process. Remember that these used solid fuel, so the fuel had to be recast into the rocket in a factory rather than simply refueled on the launchpad as liquid fueled engines are. They are more dangerous to use as, once ignited, can't be turned off or even throttled down; they're basically massive bottle rockets. Not only that but the SRBs were only about 60% as efficient a liquid propellent engine. All the fuel for the Space Shuttle's main engines were kept in that big orange tank, which was not reusable and burnt up after being jettisoned from the orbiter.

The Space Shuttle was not a particularly efficient launch system. It just looked cool. Sure it could land like a plane, but those wings and tail added mass; mass that could've been used for more cargo. As a comparison, the Space Shuttle could launch about 24,500 kg to orbit, while the Saturn V used for the Apollo program could manage about 118,000 kg. Of, course the problem there was that all the lower stages were expended. This is why SpaceX is so keen on making these stages reusable. They could massively cut the cost of space launch if they succeed.

TheMann:

crimson5pheonix:
I think this has been posted before by the Escapist, but it may have just been a random person posting. Anyway I'll say it again, NASA used reusable rockets on the shuttle.

Ehhhh, sort of. The solid rocket boosters were indeed recovered and reused, but it was a very lengthy and expensive process. Remember that these used solid fuel, so the fuel had to be recast into the rocket in a factory rather than simply refueled on the launchpad as liquid fueled engines are. They are more dangerous to use as, once ignited, can't be turned off or even throttled down; they're basically massive bottle rockets. Not only that but the SRBs were only about 60% as efficient a liquid propellent engine. All the fuel for the Space Shuttle's main engines were kept in that big orange tank, which was not reusable and burnt up after being jettisoned from the orbiter.

The Space Shuttle was not a particularly efficient launch system. It just looked cool. Sure it could land like a plane, but those wings and tail added mass; mass that could've been used for more cargo. As a comparison, the Space Shuttle could launch about 24,500 kg to orbit, while the Saturn V used for the Apollo program could manage about 118,000 kg. Of, course the problem there was that all the lower stages were expended. This is why SpaceX is so keen on making these stages reusable. They could massively cut the cost of space launch if they succeed.

We'll see if that happens, but I feel like they'll run into the same problem NASA did with the shuttle. The cost of refurbishing space equipment that goes through the strains that these things do balloons quickly. It eventually gets to the point that it costs just as much to refurbish equipment as it does to just buy new equipment.

Now if only Kerbal Space Program would allow you to slap parachutes on things like booster rockets and just have them automatically recovered... isntead of them being automatically lost once they go more than 2.5 Km from you.

because then I could replicate the SpaceX rocket completely in the game - and that would be awesome

There's a mod that does that, but I haven't tested it yet. Also the 2.5km limit only applies below 25km, stages jettisoned above that will persist, so if you can time it right you can switch focus to the booster and land it while your orbiter coasts to apoapsis. Keep in mind you'd need a probe attached to that stage to maintain control.

 

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