Pressure On SpaceX

Sometimes seemingly unconnected events can have an effect out of proportion to what seems rational. In this case SpaceX, having no connection to Orbital or Virgin Galactic, will have its next flight partially judged on the misfortune that fell on the other two companies. While there is no rational connection, in much of the public eye they are all commercial companies that stand in opposition to NASA. The negative tweets and comments that have accompanied the two failures have already affected some people’s minds on the viability of independent companies performing critical launch services.

The near worship of NASA by people with less information than most of the people reading this blog as the agency that got us to the moon, casts doubts on the ability of any other organization in the country to do the same job. The upcoming SpaceX flight will be performed in the limelight of both a critical and a hopeful public. The barge landing, whether it succeeds or fails, will be measured against the hundred plus Shuttle flights.

The SLS and Orion crowd will be using the previous two accidents to highlight any problem SpaceX may experience on this mission. They see themselves threatened and backed into a corner even though their budget has consistently been far in excess of anything SpaceX has used.They believe a failure will prove  SpaceX cannot do the job and cannot be trusted anymore than any other company, while a success will highlight their inability to provide reusable hardware. Even a failure to land on the barge would be used to insult all commercial companies, with the Anteres and SpaceShipTwo mishaps used to help make their points.

So I would suggest you be prepared to see a far more critical take on this mission than any reasonable person would use.For the next couple of missions a tendency to overpromise or under deliver by SpaceX or its fans will be used as ammunition to attack the company. And it should be remembered that some of these fairly low information people have a tendency to write their congressman.

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johnhare

johnhare

I do construction for a living and aerospace as an occasional hobby. I am an inventor and a bit of an entrepreneur. I've been self employed since the 1980s and working in concrete since the 1970s. When I grow up, I want to work with rockets and spacecraft. I did a stupid rocket trick a few decades back and decided not to try another hot fire without adult supervision. Haven't located much of that as we are all big kids when working with our passions.
johnhare

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johnhare

About johnhare

I do construction for a living and aerospace as an occasional hobby. I am an inventor and a bit of an entrepreneur. I've been self employed since the 1980s and working in concrete since the 1970s. When I grow up, I want to work with rockets and spacecraft. I did a stupid rocket trick a few decades back and decided not to try another hot fire without adult supervision. Haven't located much of that as we are all big kids when working with our passions.
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14 Responses to Pressure On SpaceX

  1. ken anthony says:

    Let the idiots make noise. SpaceX is now past the point of any single failure. Should there be one it’s trivial to point out they are pushing the envelope… especially if they continue to be successful in primary commercial objectives.

    The fact is they could stop research right now and still expect to gain market share away from the business as usual crowd which has kept us in an almost stasis for half a century.

    Nothing beats success. SpaceX has the orders and cash flow to deal with its enemies. They have demonstrated good management. They will survive the storms.

    The biggest issue is will any offer them some healthy competition?

  2. johnhare johnhare says:

    It may be a tad early for complacency.

  3. Tom Billings says:

    In particular, this is important with Senator Shelby inheriting a key committee chair in the Senate. While it is true that SpaceX has a good track record, any memory of it not dinned into people’s heads by current media will not shield them from Shelby’s wrath. Yes, it is true that SpaceX will *survive* that, but it could still cripple their schedules for development.

    In particular, a shortage of money could make it more difficult to expand production of launcher cores, and thus slow development/test of the Falcon Heavy. That has to be Shelby’s true near-term target. Slowing the development of Raptor, through lack of money, wouldn’t make Shelby’s coalition weep anything more than crocodile tears, either.

    One truly *good* thing is that the new ULA President seems to have decided he cannot depend on political influence to keep his company alive. Thus, he may not bother to be the lobbying juggernaut his predecessor was, because he’s spending too much time developing new rockets that can actually compete with SpaceX. Whether he uses the Delta 4 tankage wi

  4. Tom Billings says:

    In particular, this is important with Senator Shelby inheriting a key committee chair in the Senate. While it is true that SpaceX has a good track record, any memory of it not dinned into people’s heads by current media will not shield them from Shelby’s wrath. Yes, it is true that SpaceX will *survive* that, but it could still cripple their schedules for development.

    In particular, a shortage of money could make it more difficult to expand production of launcher cores, and thus slow development/test of the Falcon Heavy. That has to be Shelby’s true near-term target. Slowing the development of Raptor, through lack of money, wouldn’t make Shelby’s coalition weep anything more than crocodile tears, either.

    One truly *good* thing is that the new ULA President seems to have decided he cannot depend on political influence to keep his company alive. Thus, he may not bother to be the lobbying juggernaut his predecessor was, because he’s spending too much time developing new rockets that can actually compete with SpaceX. Whether he uses the Delta 4 tankage with the BE-4, or something else, …whether he uses the new ULA/XCOR aluminum upper stage LHY/LOX engine, or uses the BE-3, are all far less important than the point that he has really decided to compete on costs.

    This does *not* mean that LockMart or Boeing will starve their lobbying effort, of course, …not while they are slurping from the SLS/Orion trough. Still, they don’t seem to be reining ULA in, and that is all to the good.

  5. john hare says:

    Buzz Aldrins’ Starbooster had an Atlas or Delta core as a couple of the concepts. It could be possible that ULA has done a bit of work on that in the decade and a half since it was proposed. We wouldn’t necessarily know about a low key effort that was intended as a back up in case something like SpaceX happened. A fly back booster by the politically connected (and better funded) players could cut into the SpaceX lead in a hurry. Unlikely, but possible.

    They could win the desired spot of “first to be second”.

  6. ken anthony says:

    I would never advocate complacency (come on, it’s me!) But the knives have been out for SpaceX since the early days. Sure they could stumble or be tripped, but they simply can not be knocked out of the game at this point… even if they never get reusability (which they will even if they destroy their floating landing pad.)

    SpaceX has set the bar (and is nowhere done.) Now it’s up to others to show they can compete because the market in the next decade is going to be huge compared to all that has come before.

  7. Richard M says:

    I suspect this post by Jon is a useful background behind today’s decision to postpone the launch until Jan 6 – especially given the SpaceX statement that they’re choosing to be extra cautious with this static fire glitch.

    Better a delayed launch than a failed launch.

  8. ken anthony says:

    Suppose you put a heat shield on the nose of an aerodynamic unfueled pod. Is there any initial velocity, angle and shape from the surface of the earth that would result in orbit? That is with no thrust after initial velocity?

  9. George Turner says:

    I think one possible effect of a successful SpaceX first stage recovery (and they will eventually succeed because it’s doable), is the realization that a Falcon 9 core is very cheap by industry standards, and yet they are being reused. An SLS core is hideously expensive (especially the RS-25’s) and yet no attempt is made to recover them, even though Space X already has the guidance and control software to make such a thing possible. The production rate on the SLS core stage is bottleneck on boosting the SLS flight rate, and the RS-25 is already a re-usable engine. I could see this putting some political pressure on NASA to follow the leader and save taxpayer dollars.

  10. johnhare johnhare says:

    They could use the RL10 based Delta Clipper hardware and software to avoid the appearance of being dependent. Both RL10 and RS25 being LH2 fueled would facilitate the possibility.

  11. George Turner says:

    The RL-10 would make it far, far easier, since otherwise they’d have to add multiple air-restart and deep throttling capability to the RS-25. If this were going on back in the 1970’s, NASA would treat the Falcon 9R as a test bed and have their engineers hovering over the shoulders of the SpaceX team, pouring over the data to glean everything they could for their own development effort, since a fully re-usable first stage was one of the original concepts for the Space Shuttle.

  12. ken anthony says:

    Yes, my whim sounds stupid… but by surface of the earth I mean somewhere at altitude where the air is thin. By initial velocity I mean after 3 or 4 Gs in a vacuum maglev tube?

    I just don’t know how to include the calc for air friction. Everything else is straight forward. The idea just nags me. What kind of negative Gs would the atmosphere impose (assuming a narrow teardrop or sphere?)

    Forgive me; I just can’t sleep thinking about it.

  13. john hare says:

    4 gee acceleration is 200 seconds to 8 km/sec at an average of 4 km/sec for an 800 km tube. Any curves in the tube can create massive side gees. Hundreds of gees deceleration at tube exit in every reference I have seen. With no further burn to circularize orbit the perigee on first orbit intersects the launch site. This has been looked at extensively, but much like scamjets, the only people that remain for it after initial evaluation are getting paid to look rather than perform.

  14. ken anthony says:

    Thanks John,

    Unlike a capsule, you want a massive pod to reduce negative Gs and you want 100s of Gs to slow the truck that carries the pod. I was thinking a conventional craft that was a sabot inside a very massive heat shield (iron rather than pica.) The craft would circularize itself with chemical thrusters after discarding the shield.

    Not going to work of course, but it’s maddening what your mind will cling to while sleeping. Even worked out the breech and end caps to maintain vacuum. Also considered the side Gs.

    Now if I can just get F. M. and A. to stop swimming around in my dreams. …and images of meteors blasting chunks of earth into orbit.

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