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  [Discuss] SpaceX "big announcement" (4.25.2014)

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Author Topic:   [Discuss] SpaceX "big announcement" (4.25.2014)
Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 04-25-2014 07:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX has issued a brief media advisory:
Elon Musk will make an important SpaceX announcement today, Friday, April 25th at 1:00 p.m. EDT at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
No other details have been released as of yet.

Glint
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posted 04-25-2014 08:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the Washington Post's Brian Fung — Musk announces mysterious announcement, mysteriously:
At 17 minutes past midnight Eastern time Friday, reporters got a cryptic e-mail in their inboxes...

That was it. No further explanation. What has the entrepreneur got up his sleeve? Has he found a way to loft rockets into space on Tesla batteries? Has he made first contact with aliens? Maybe he is an alien?

dabolton
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From: Minooka IL, US
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posted 04-25-2014 09:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dabolton   Click Here to Email dabolton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is it time to unveil the DragonRider 2 i.e. MCT (Mass Cargo Transport)?

dabolton
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posted 04-25-2014 11:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dabolton   Click Here to Email dabolton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is there a link to watch live?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-25-2014 11:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It does not appear the event will be streamed live. I'll be on the media telecon though, and will post updates here.

Also follow the Twitter accounts of The Space Review's Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) and Space News Dan Leone (@Leone_SN). According to the latter:

Spoiler alert: @SpaceX presser is about national security space launch.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-25-2014 12:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NBC News is airing the press conference live on its website.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-25-2014 12:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From Jeff Foust:

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-25-2014 12:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Press conference begins:

Elon Musk confirming they were able to do a soft landing of the Falcon 9 first stage over the Atlantic Ocean.

"It does look like the stage was destroyed by wave action... but the data is clear, shows a soft landing, deployment of the legs."

There is a video of the landing. SpaceX is working to clean it up and will post it to their website.

"If we can recover the first stage intact and reuse it, it is revolutionary... There is a potential there for 100-fold improvement in the cost of access to space."

Securing a much bigger boat for the next try (Orbcomm launch). "We got unlucky that we landed the stage in the midst of a big storm. We'll be landing much closer to land on the next launch, so hopefully avoid deep ocean [conditions]."

Hoping to land (on land) back at Cape Canaveral by the end of the year, and reuse a stage by next year.

Worked with Air Force range safety to identify several locations along Cape Canaveral to land. Kind of depends on how tightly we can control the landing point. If we can demonstrate tight control, there are actually several places we can land.

Was anything recoverable? Couldn't get out there for two days (even Coast Guard refused). Found pieces of interstage. Recovered most of the interstage, recovered portion of one leg and a "bunch of other little bits and pieces."

How close to your target did you land? Landed within a few miles of target, can easily tighten that up. "In principle, we should be able to land with the accuracy of a helicopter."

The boost stage is roughly 70 percent cost of the launch. If we can reuse it, and it may take several years for customers to get comfortable with that, we could reduce costs by 70 percent.

If the stage can land back at launch site, then in theory, could reuse it again on the same day.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-25-2014 12:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX has filed suit to break the Department of Defense's sole-source national security launch contract with United Launch Alliance (ULA).

"This [sole source contract] isn't right. The only option left open to us was to file protest."

ULA's rockets are four times more expensive than SpaceX's.

"We think this deserves to have a spotlight on it. Let's put sunshine on this, they say sunshine is the best disinfectant, and if everything is fine, that's great, but that seems unlikely to me."

Protest filed with Court of Federal Claims. Not protesting to get contract awarded to SpaceX but to open the contract to competition.

"We did inform the Air Force just before the press conference. We're not battling the entire Air Force. We're on good terms with a vast majority of the Air Force. Our concern is with just a handful of people in the procurement office of the Air Force."

garymilgrom
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posted 04-25-2014 12:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So was the "important announcement" the soft landing news and plans or the lawsuit? Either way I don't see much coverage anywhere.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-25-2014 01:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This was announced in real time — no advance word to anyone — so you're not going to see coverage until writers have a chance to file.

The "important news" was the lawsuit; the first stage landing was the lead-in.

Glint
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posted 04-25-2014 01:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So does that mean that there were no aliens at the press conference? How disappointing.

Anyway thanks so much, Robert, for bringing us advanced notice followed by the breaking details of this news scoop!

Michael Davis
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posted 04-25-2014 01:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Davis   Click Here to Email Michael Davis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There seemed to be another bit of news here. This was the first time that I heard SpaceX formally commit to the Brownsville Texas launch site. It was pending the final environmental review, but it appeared that plans for the use of the facility are underway.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-25-2014 02:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'll be filing an article about the first stage recovery, but I am going to wait for the video to be available and possibility one other asset (SpaceX has agreed to provide when available). I have an idea for a particular angle that I think readers here will appreciate.

dabolton
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posted 04-25-2014 02:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dabolton   Click Here to Email dabolton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Do you think Cape range safety will require the ability to remotely destroy the stage if it appears to be off-course when attempting a hard landing? Much like the shuttle SRB's required if they went askew.

cspg
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posted 04-25-2014 03:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If we can recover the first stage intact and reuse it, it is revolutionary... There is a potential there for 100-fold improvement in the cost of access to space.
Weren't the shuttle's SRBs part of the first stage of the vehicle, recovered at sea and re-used? Revolutionary? Either I missed something or I'm being fooled.

And I'll opt for the latter because of the lawsuit. He wants a share of the pie, that's all. SpaceX is no different than the others.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-25-2014 03:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by cspg:
Either I missed something or I'm being fooled.
What you missed is the difference between a flyback and recoverable booster. The shuttle's boosters were reusable, but with that came the expense of recovery and servicing (in part because they were solids, but also because of exposure to water).

In theory, says Musk, those expenses disappear if the booster flies back to the landing site, touches down on land and only needs to have its tanks refilled to fly again.

On edit: Here are Musk's exact words:

In terms of it being ready for re-flight, if we recover the stage from the ocean it would probably take a couple of months to refurbish it for flight. However, for a stage landing back on land near the launch site, first of all, we should be able to re-fly it the same day. So it is a huge difference.

That's why we are really focused on trying to get it back to the launch site. That's what is really going to make to the hugest difference, the reusability.

With the space shuttle, we had a case where there was a partially reusable vehicle, but the space shuttle was neither rapidly nor completely reusable. In order to achieve a revolutionary improvement in the cost of spaceflight, its reusability has to be both rapid and complete.

As for Musk "wanting a share of the pie," whether or not that's true (and I don't think he's made any secret of his desire to pick up Department of Defense contracts), he says with regards to the lawsuit specifically:
Something I want to be really clear about, this is not SpaceX protesting, saying that the launches should be awarded to us, we're just protesting and saying that these launches should be competed. And if we compete and we lose, that's fine. But why would they not even compete it? That just doesn't make sense.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-25-2014 03:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by dabolton:
Do you think Cape range safety will require the ability to remotely destroy the stage if it appears to be off-course when attempting a hard landing?
You wouldn't want to detonate an off course stage over land. That said, an emergency fly-away followed by a range safety command over the water might be something they look at.

JBoe
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posted 04-25-2014 03:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JBoe   Click Here to Email JBoe     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm sorry I missed it, it seemed like big news! Robert, thanks for your most timely and relevant reporting! I didn't see details of the news conference on SpaceX's website as of yet.

Since they signed an agreement or awaiting the environmental impact for the Brownsville site, what type of "cargo" will be launched from there? Also, is it the hope to keep KSC the "sole site" for human spaceflight or use alternate sites?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-25-2014 06:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
With regard to launch sites, here is what Musk said:
Our primary launch location is Florida with Cape Canaveral. We've got Pad 40 on the Cape Canaveral side and then Pad 39A on the NASA side. We're actually building up 39A with relation to the Falcon Heavy. So probably the first off Heavy launch will be out the 39A pad, which is a fairly amazing pad with an amazing history, it's where Apollo 11 launched from.

For the foreseeable future, we expect much of our activity to go out of the Cape Canaveral/Cape Kennedy area.

We're also developing a launch pad on the south coast of Texas near Brownsville. We're awaiting on the final environmental approvals. We expect to get those soon. And we'll probably have that site active in a couple of years.

Then of course we have our site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for polar launches.

As a rough guess, we'll have the NASA flights tend to go out of Pad 39A, Air Force intelligence flights go out of Pad 40, commercial geosynchronous flights go out of the Brownsville location and then all polar flights, government or commercial, out of Vandenberg. That seems like the logical breakdown.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-25-2014 08:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX release
SpaceX Announces Court Action to Open Air Force Space Launch Missions to Competition

Official complaint available Monday, April 28 on freedomtolaunch.com

SpaceX announced today that they are filing a legal challenge to the U.S. Air Force's latest Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) contract with United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The long-term contract, which guarantees the purchase of 36 rocket cores from ULA to be used in national security launches, was granted to ULA on a sole-source basis without any competition from other launch providers. SpaceX is seeking the right to compete for some of these same launches.

"This exclusive deal unnecessarily costs U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars and defers meaningful free competition for years to come," said Elon Musk. "We are simply asking that SpaceX and any other qualified domestic launch providers be allowed to compete in the EELV program for any and all missions that they could launch."

EELV is the fourth largest procurement program in the entire Department of Defense (DOD) budget, and it has been plagued by significant and sustained cost breaches. DOD officials have reported that EELV has exceeded its original estimated per unit cost by 58.4%. Each launch by ULA costs American taxpayers roughly $400 million per launch – four times as much as a launch by SpaceX.

SpaceX currently provides launch services for NASA as well as numerous commercial customers. SpaceX is ready and able to reliably provide launch services at an estimated cost savings of 75%.

Additionally, ULA's launch vehicle, the Atlas V, uses the RD-180 engine – an engine of Russian design and manufacture produced only in the Russian Federation. The company that produces the RD-180, NPO Energomash, is majority owned by the Russian Federation. The head of the Russian space sector, Dmitry Rogozin, was sanctioned by the White House in March 2014 in the wake of Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

"In light of international events, this seems like the wrong time to send hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kremlin," said Elon Musk. "Yet, this is what the Air Force's arrangement with ULA does, despite the fact that there are domestic alternatives available that do not rely on components from countries that pose a national security risk."

SpaceX is seeking a legal determination that would open certain launches under the sole-source contract to competition. The official protest document will be available Monday, April 28th at freedomtolaunch.com and will be filed with the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C.

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