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    SpaceX Omnibus Thread

    NASA, SpaceX Aim To Launch Private Era In Orbit

    by Nell Greenfieldboyce
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    [5 min 58 sec]

    NASA, SpaceX Aim To Launch Private Era In Orbit : NPR

    A SpaceX rocket waits to be launched at Cape Canaveral, Fla., in March. If all goes as planned, the private company's rocket will be the first commercial spacecraft to visit the International Space Station.
    SpaceX

    A SpaceX rocket waits to be launched at Cape Canaveral, Fla., in March. If all goes as planned, the private company's rocket will be the first commercial spacecraft to visit the International Space Station.
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    May 18, 2012

    A private spaceship owned by a company called SpaceX is scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral in Florida early Saturday morning.

    If all goes well, the unmanned capsule will rocket up on a mission to deliver food and other supplies to the International Space Station, becoming the first commercial spacecraft to visit the outpost.

    The highly anticipated mission could mark the beginning of what some say could be a new era in spaceflight, with private companies operating taxi services that could start taking people to orbit in just a few years.

    SpaceX and NASA have been working hard to make this launch happen — and that has meant navigating the cultural differences between this small, young startup and the huge veteran space agency.

    "I feel very strongly that SpaceX would not have been able to get started, nor would we have made the progress that we have, without the help of NASA," says Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX in 2002 after making a fortune with the Internet firm PayPal.

    Musk says he runs his rocket company like a Silicon Valley tech firm. "That's the operating system that I have in my head of how to run an organization. And that's how I've created SpaceX," says Musk. "NASA is obviously coming from a different heritage."

    For five decades, NASA was American spaceflight. Now, the space shuttles are going to museums — Discovery is already in the Smithsonian. And the government wants NASA to focus on deep space exploration, while relying on private space taxis to take cargo and people back and forth to the nearby space station.

    NASA has been working with companies to make sure that vision of the future will happen. It has a cargo delivery contract with SpaceX worth $1.6 billion. The space agency has also been handing out plenty of advice.

    Musk says so far, their collaboration has worked well: "No relationship is perfect, certainly. But on balance, it's really good."

    The relationship involves daily calls and emails between people who live in two different worlds.

    For example, the workforce at NASA is generally older. Many top managers cherish their childhood memories of watching the Apollo astronauts on TV.

    Not so at SpaceX, where Musk says the average age is around 30. "At age 40, I'm relatively old," says Musk, who notes that he was born after the moon landing.

    Like other tech companies, SpaceX tries to have a flat organizational structure, says Musk. The idea is that everyone can talk to everyone else, without having to go through chains of command.
    NASA and SpaceX partnered closely to make the mission to the International Space Station possible. Above, the SpaceX control room.
    Enlarge SpaceX

    NASA and SpaceX partnered closely to make the mission to the International Space Station possible. Above, the SpaceX control room.

    "We really try to minimize any unnecessary paperwork or any bureaucratic elements," says Musk. "I think it's also easier, if you are a smaller organization than if you're a larger organization, to be more nimble."

    SpaceX and NASA also have deeper cultural differences. People at NASA feel the weight of the space agency's long history, which includes heartbreaking tragedies.

    Wayne Hale, a former space shuttle program manager who recently retired from NASA after working there for more than 30 years, notes that "you go through life and you have experiences and bad things happen, and from those experiences you learn perhaps to be more contemplative when you have to make choices."

    For engineers, that contemplation means running more tests and doing more analysis. To a certain extent, that's a good thing, says Hale, but it costs both time and money.

    "To build a lower-cost system, you need to perhaps draw the line back and not do so much," says Hale. "And that's what we're seeing with the commercial space people."
    SpaceX founder Elon Musk runs his rocket company like a Silicon Valley tech firm. "That's the operating system that I have in my head of how to run an organization. And that's how I've created SpaceX," he says.
    SpaceX

    SpaceX founder Elon Musk runs his rocket company like a Silicon Valley tech firm. "That's the operating system that I have in my head of how to run an organization. And that's how I've created SpaceX," he says.

    Michael Horkachuck, a NASA official who has been managing work with SpaceX, has noticed cultural differences.

    "They're a little bit different in that they like to build the hardware and test it, and if it doesn't work and breaks, then they'll build another piece with a little change and test it again, and not do quite as much documentation and detailed analysis as necessarily NASA would typically do," says Horkachuck, who notes that it reminds him a bit of how the Russians approach space technology.

    But he says sometimes SpaceX sees the wisdom of NASA's ways.

    "SpaceX is learning how we do things and why we do things," says Horkachuck, "and I think they are pulling some of the best ideas and methods that NASA has had and applying those to their program."

    One thing that makes this give-and-take go a bit more smoothly is the fact that a fair number of the approximately 1,700 people working for SpaceX used to be employed by NASA — Musk estimates that's true of about 10 to 15 percent.

    Jon Cowart, a NASA manager assigned to partner with SpaceX as it develops a vehicle that can carry astronauts, says having former NASA colleagues at meetings can really help when agency officials and SpaceX are trying to relate to each other.

    "It makes it a lot easier to find that common ground as we struggle to find the right answer on a way they plan do to something that we may or may not be comfortable with," Cowart says.

    Despite their differences, NASA and SpaceX share a set of core convictions. They both have an almost religious belief in the need for humans to venture forth into space, a geeky love for rockets, technical know-how — plus, they both need each other to succeed.

    Some people even say SpaceX reminds them of NASA, back in the good old days.

    "I would characterize them as almost being like back during Mercury, and Gemini and Apollo," says Cowart. "That kind of youthful, you know, young enthusiasm that you have when you're first starting something."
    “the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all” -- Joan Robinson

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    next launch window is early tuesday, roughly 12:44 AM

    I think they will attempt to launch at that time, but am not sure.
    Last edited by diablo49; 20 May 12, at 05:50.

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    Senior Contributor Stitch's Avatar
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    After Much Hype, Elon Musk Unveils His High-Speed 'Hyperloop'

    You can thank brainy billionaire Elon Musk's Hyperloop proposal for bringing electro-magnetic-powered transportation and the linear induction motor back into the public consciousness.

    The Hyperloop is a system for really-really rapid transit. If built, Musk claims it can carry people about 800 miles per hour, which could get you from Los Angeles to San Francisco in about 30 minutes.

    http://www.teslamotors.com/sites/def...loop-alpha.pdf
    "There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you're not there any more." -Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge

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    Senior Contributor antimony's Avatar
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    I love it when people dare to dream like this
    "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" ~ Epicurus

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    Senior Contributor Doktor's Avatar
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    What would be the full stop distance?
    No such thing as a good tax - Churchill

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    11.9 km at 0.5g regular deceleration.
    5.9 km at 1.0g maximum deceleration.
    Physically at least. Both only in those places where the linear motors are mounted in the tube though, which is the case about every 110 km.

    Probably a lot shorter if the mechanical emergency brake deploys.

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    There are a lot of technical details that need to be sorted out.

    Suppose the govt. does an in depth feasibility study of 1 million dollars *1) and the idea turns out not to work.

    Government waste, or money well spent?

    Because in some circles the govt. will be blamed either way.

    *1) One million dollars may be cheap for such a study.

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    Liberté, Unité, Egalité Senior Contributor Tronic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FJV View Post
    There are a lot of technical details that need to be sorted out.

    Suppose the govt. does an in depth feasibility study of 1 million dollars *1) and the idea turns out not to work.

    Government waste, or money well spent?

    Because in some circles the govt. will be blamed either way.

    *1) One million dollars may be cheap for such a study.

    I believe Elon Musk has went on to say that if no one else builds a prototype, he will do so himself.
    The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.

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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tronic View Post
    I believe Elon Musk has went on to say that if no one else builds a prototype, he will do so himself.
    Good. Do it. Don't rely on government money. Show us how.

    I can tell you how this will fail.

    1. environmentalists
    2. farmers
    3. consumer safety advocates

    We can't even build a pipeline that transports oil at low speed. Environmentalists will ask for study after study to make sure not a fly will be hurt by this rail line, and then will sue for more studies.

    Farmers will not give up their land. Good luck buying up all the land needed to build this line.

    If you think airline security is tough, what's gonna happen when someone sabotages an object traveling at 800 mph carrying hundreds of passengers, literally within reach of someone standing on the ground? Or how about just an accident? There's lots of room in the sky in case if a jetliner needs more space. This thing traveling at 800 mph within a tube?
    Last edited by gunnut; 18 Aug 13, at 11:25.
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    Senior Contributor Doktor's Avatar
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    Yay, ban the trains.
    No such thing as a good tax - Churchill

    To make mistakes is human. To blame someone else for your mistake, is strategic.

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    In Memoriam Military Professional Minskaya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FJV View Post
    There are a lot of technical details that need to be sorted out.
    Musk is very bright, but he published this concept as open source. This usually means that all the engineering dots are not connected and technical assistance is necessary.

    The first question I have is the method utilized to evacuate the leading air pressure... which would be substantial.

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    In Memoriam Military Professional Minskaya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doktor View Post
    What would be the full stop distance?
    It would have to be gradual or passengers could experience significant g-force.

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    No matter what happens, outside of the metropolitan limits, airplanes are the most economic way of moving people and things around on a capital basis and cash flow basis. Why?

    Air is free. Land is not free. It costs huge amount of money to lay down rails or vacuum pipes and that means the route is static and you cannot adjust the route according to the peaks and valleys of customer demand. With airplanes, you can. Even several small regional airports are much cheaper than building the routes. If demand goes down, you can always reduce the flights and save some money and you can use the small regional airport for other things such as cargo transport, etc.

    Even operating helicopters would be cheaper than the hyperloop from an energy standpoint.

    Don't get me wrong, I love fast trains and maglev trains but in terms of economic evaluation, they suck.

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    Senior Contributor Doktor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Minskaya View Post
    It would have to be gradual or passengers could experience significant g-force.
    "Everybody out, Inertia stay in as a main suspect"
    No such thing as a good tax - Churchill

    To make mistakes is human. To blame someone else for your mistake, is strategic.

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    Liberté, Unité, Egalité Senior Contributor Tronic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Minskaya View Post
    Musk is very bright, but he published this concept as open source. This usually means that all the engineering dots are not connected and technical assistance is necessary.

    The first question I have is the method utilized to evacuate the leading air pressure... which would be substantial.
    Minnie, I believe he proposes using a large diffuser-compressor at the front of the transport capsule to channel in that leading air and use it as an additional propulsive force (although, it probably wouldn't be very high). The air cushion, which lifts the capsule, is also formed using compressed air from the compressor.

    Edit: Just reading from his report; the tubes are also de-pressurized to about a 100 Pascals, which drastically cuts down the drag acting on the capsules.
    Last edited by Tronic; 19 Aug 13, at 04:47.
    The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.

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