Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Techy Tuesday - SpaceX Raises Their Bar

Seems like only a month ago, we were talking about Jeff Bezos' company Blue Origin landing a rocket on land for reuse.  Oh wait... it was just under a month ago, November 23. 

At the time, I posted that SpaceX had done it already and was trying to land their first stage booster on a ship at sea. 
... I think the Engadget article headline, "Jeff Bezos beats Elon Musk's SpaceX in the reusable rocket race" is not just misleading, it's wrong.  SpaceX made a landing of a suborbital rocket on ground over a year ago, and did it with their Grasshopper technology demonstrator in 2012.  SpaceX has failed so far to land a Falcon 9 booster on small, moving ship at sea, dropping from a greater height.
Last night, December 21, SpaceX had a return to flight mission that included an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket and landing on a concrete pad on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.   This was an operational mission, with the Falcon 9 carrying 11 satellites for Orbcomm - Generation 2
SpaceX argues that reusability is the key to reducing the cost of flight and getting more people into space.  It was the original argument behind NASA's Space Shuttles, although I they never made their cost goals.  As time went by and it got progressively cheaper to build throwaway rockets, the gap widened again.  This is where companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin can make their name.  
We're all familiar with these time exposures showing rockets leaving for space and leaving a glowing trail image.  But this isn't two launches, and even if it was, what's that third arc, top-center of the frame?  The shorter arcs are two separate burns of the first stage for the return landing.

We went out in the yard to watch the launch last night, but came in to watch the landing on video.  We're far enough from the landing area that it's below our horizon, not to mention behind/below trees, houses and all. All we'd possibly see is the sky lit up from the rockets. 


  1. The accomplishment is amazing. It also illustrates why a government organization is not as effective as a profit motivated organization. NASA has devolved into a front for dubious AGW 'science' and a propaganda machine for Islam. It still costs the taxpayer as much as it did when it was landing on the moon but now it does little to nothing.

  2. Congratulations to SpaceX on a job well done! I sure hope, though, that AF Range Safety didn't bend to political pressure in letting them do the launch and landing. Ascent appeared to be significantly lofted beyond what is normal for vehicles launching into a 28.5 orbit. That would make it easier for the booster to return. However, that also increases the risk to the population of the area around the launch site. If Range did their normal analysis and decided this was sufficiently safe to meet their requirements, then all is well and good. On the other hand, Musk donates a buncha money to various political campaigns. And he expects a return on his investment.

    By they way, Anonymous, I hope you understand that Musk is getting a buncha bucks out of the government. There are still excellent people in NASA and its contractor workforce. The problem lies atop the District of Corruption. And "lies" is an apt term in more than one way...

    1. Most of my 45 years of work were in government including 20 years in the Air Force. I do understand a lot of good people are in government work and the fault of the failures is not necessarily theirs. The problem is two fold: 1. I generally does not make sense for a government entity to succeed. Why would you finish your job and put yourself out of work? So from the moment a government organization is formed and funded it's priority becomes to grow and increase funding. Whatever the reason for it's formation originally was is either totally forgotten or placed in the back seat. This happens at the management level
      2. Government tends to hire management types on criteria that has little to nothing to do with the actual work requirements. Race and gender are the most important today followed by the school the prospect graduated from, their family name and various under the table payoffs.
      (True story. A good friend of mine was a worker in a government organization that made the nuclear components of nuclear weapons. [incredibly this was in a large city 7 stories underground and I doubt anyone in the city even knew it was there] When his boss was planning his retirement my friend expected to get the job. His degrees, training and experience made him #1 on the list. The boss proudly announced that they were replacing him at retirement with a newly graduated black woman with a degree in biology! My friend confronted his boss privately and the boss was just stunned at his objections. He explained what a coup it was because not only was the new supervisor a minority but she was also a woman!! A twofer!! AND THAT is why our government organizations fail so often and so badly)

      I once worked in a military installation with 1100 civilians there were only 20 or so of us "blue suiters". I was a programmer analyst and in heaven because we had 20-30 state of the art advanced computers and half a dozen different programming languages I was working in. Almost everyone there was called an "analyst" and except for the secretaries everyone was GS11 or above. You would not believe how many incompetent people were working there. One day as I was waiting to load a program using a card reader (yes it was that long ago) a very nice older black gentleman was fighting with the card reader. So to get my chance to use it I offered to help. He was putting the cards in wrong. I asked a few harmless questions and determined that this particular GS11 'analyst' didn't program anything he simply inherited the job and the card deck and was told when to load them and how to run the job. Nice guy, I'd been to lunch with him and others, but he like so many others there was clueless. I would often be sitting at my desk watching the civilian in front of me nodding off to sleep, the civilian lady next to him knitting, the supervisor laughing and joking with others. I'm not sure what their jobs were but unless it was screwing off I suspect they weren't doing it. Not 100%. There were some workers who both knew what they were doing and kept busy but for the most part smart people moved on to real jobs.

      I don't doubt that a lot of good people work at NASA but I stand by my statement that they have become a front for AGW and Islam.

    2. I would just say that my experience, and that of everyone I know, parallels Anon here. Mrs. Graybeard worked on the KSC for over a decade and came away convinced the greatest accomplishment at NASA was that people were getting things done despite the management crap.

      The situation you describe, Anon, is made worse when the 1080 out of 1100 who aren't qualified are actively trying to keep you from accomplishing anything.

      And it's really a shame. Nowadays, when one meets a black official in any government body - or a doctor, lawyer or engineer in the real world (private sector) - the inclination is to think "affirmative action baby" and not that they got to that position by being good at their job. It makes it worse for all the people really trying hard to be good at their job.

    3. I agree and it pains me to have to say it. Both for my government and race/gender relations.
      A personal story: I have worked with some very good people and some very smart people (not always the same) over all the years. The one person, a man, who I most looked up to was a black man, a Chief Master Sargent. He was to the Air Force what Pete Rose was to the Cincinnati Reds and I don't mean any of his bad stuff. Pete rose literally gave 110% and that is what this man did as well. How do you reconcile that with what is going on today (at least what we see on TV) in the black community. I am old enough to remember when black families included a dad and usually marriage. I remember when collecting welfare (called assistance) was something to be ashamed of. I also remember that life wasn't fair or equal for blacks but I lived through the years when we turned a lot of that around. But in the process we lost control and it became a foil for any minority to get special treatment and to simply seek more and more free stuff. The only way we can fix this is to go cold turkey, end welfare, end affirmative action, end the 'hate' studies in colleges. Make no mistake it will end, our country is bankrupt and doing almost everything wrong rather than trying to fix it. We would be wise to return pride and opportunity to succeed to minority communities and remove the addiction of free stuff that destroys lives and families.

  3. It is so encouraging to see what free market forces can accomplish when given a little elbow-room, even if both of these companies are receiving some sort of subsidies. Any idea of which company is getting the most funding, as opposed to spending their own money?

    Whatever money the Feds/NASA provided, it beats the hell out of grants to study what gerbils see when used in colonic exploration, or money provided to scum wads who depict a crucifix in a jar of urine as "art". IIRC, every military aircraft developed and then produced starts out being funded by DOD (or some Fed agency) before the company that wins the contract starts production on the final design.

  4. I believe the return arc is interrupted by a layer of cloud or smoke. I saw it happen in some of the amateur videos of the landing, i.e., it disappeared for a short while.

  5. The competence of Bezos' and Musk's efforts along with EM drive and LENR research are the things which give me hope in the face of the despair of all things PC which are promoting incompetence.

  6. The competence of Bezos' and Musk's efforts along with EM drive and LENR research are the things which give me hope in the face of the despair of all things PC which are promoting incompetence.