Author Topic: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)  (Read 757019 times)

Online Chris Bergin

Thread 4 for general discussion on SpaceX and their vehicles.

Thread 1:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=19228.0

Thread 2:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=22769.0

Thread 3:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=24179.0

About 700,000 views for the three threads above, and while it doesn't really matter if a thread has 10 views or a million, remember that a lot of views are coming from 'guests/visitors' (the vast majority) - not actual members/posters - on here, so don't let yourself down by getting argumentative to the point you are being uncivil. We won't stand for armwaving or general rudeness. It costs too much money to host this site to allow people to run into this forum without wiping their shoes on the doorstep beforehand.

Don't be tempted to dominate the thread either. That tends to annoy people on these very long threads. Threads aren't person to person phone calls, they are large gatherings where everyone has something to say and may wish to jump in with a question without feeling they are interrupting.

Some links:

SpaceX news articles on this site:
Old: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=21862.0 (links)
Recent: http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/tag/spacex/

L2 SpaceX (Internal, but nothing restricted, for those making assumptions):
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?action=tags&tags=SpaceX

Remember, this is for SpaceX related chat, and that only. It allows the other threads on the SpaceX section of the forum to remain specific to that particular news.

So, keep it on SpaceX and use it for discussion. For new news, use the SpaceX section, which contains threads for the F9 launches and new news from SpaceX etc.

Be civil at all times.

++++++++++++
NOTE: This is NOT for discussing the legal case between SpaceX and Fragola. Legal cases are not for the subject of rumor or alleged assumptions on this site's forum. Any posts will be deleted and repeat "offenders" will be banned.
« Last Edit: 06/18/2011 11:06 pm by Chris Bergin »

Offline Silmfeanor

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #1 on: 06/19/2011 01:25 am »
I'll just post my thoughts on SpaceX in general, about SpaceX, The Falcon and Dragon.

From what I have read on this forum and on the internet in general, there are 2 camps that are divided pretty much, or at least seem to be divided.
It is true that there should be quite a bit of worry about SpaceX and their rockets, spacecraft and the like; they are, after all, relatively new to the scene, and this is a field where there are no easy solutions.
On the other hand, one should not deny the fact that SpaceX has achieved a whole lot, for prices below the established companies.

Arguments for both sides should not forget to include the opposing side. When someone says that SpaceX has anomalies during its flights, one should acknowledge these anomalies; however, you also should not forget the fact that they flew and a whole lot of things went correctly and where way cheaper then possible before.

When someone has high expectations for Lord Elon and his glorious mars retirement plans, one should also respect these ideas, but also point towards the delays in launch schedule.

I'd just like to say that I hope that noone here really hates spacex or doesnt think that they did great things so far, but also that spacex is not some kind of physics-breaking wonderland where everything will go smoothly and that will bring us all the oneill cylinder around mars.

Offline Tcommon

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #2 on: 06/19/2011 01:47 am »
I'll just post my thoughts on SpaceX in general, about SpaceX, The Falcon and Dragon.

From what I have read on this forum and on the internet in general, there are 2 camps that are divided pretty much, or at least seem to be divided.

...

Arguments for both sides should not forget to include the opposing side.

A rational person is on neither 'side'.

You're right though, Silmfeanor, there are plenty of gushing fanbois and plenty of gnarled 'oldspace' grumpymuffins.

So let's set aside the us vs. them attitude and ask when the hell SpaceX is going to start launching payloads regularly.
« Last Edit: 06/19/2011 01:47 am by Tcommon »

Offline NotGncDude

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #3 on: 06/19/2011 05:21 am »
What's a grumpymuffin?

Offline Cog_in_the_machine

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^^ Warning! Contains opinions. ^^ 

Offline Ox

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #5 on: 06/19/2011 09:32 am »
This post is in response to the Nate_Trost post in thread #3 I've qouted below.

Quote
Are we supposed to be impressed they were profitable in 2007 and 2008 without successfully launching a single customer payload?
Is it impressive if they are profitable in 2011 without launching a single rocket?
We'll see if they're profitable when they are actually operating at some meaningful percentage of their planned launch rate.

I think it is impressive that a company with no experience and no history of building or flying rockets and spacecraft was able to bring in enough revenue over the past few years to remain profitable while only launching 2 Falcon 9's and a Dragon capsule. Just because SpaceX was not launching many payloads does not mean they didn't have some significant expenses. In a recent interview (Shotwell in front of congress?) SpaceX said they had built (my memory may not be perfect on these quantities...feel free to correct me) 5 first stages, 3 second stages and were working on 2 or 3 Dragons as well. On top of this they were still doing development work on the Dragon and it's trunk as well as Merlin upgrades and the corresponding changes to the Falcon 9. In addition they said they are reworking their production lines/facilities to streamline production.

While I think there remains many questions as to how successful they will be as they move from R&D to production, these are completely separate to the  "are we supposed to be impressed?" question. To which I respond yes, I think their profitability has been impressive.

Offline RocketEconomist327

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #6 on: 06/19/2011 12:22 pm »
Trying to fit a square peg through a round hole.

Something doesn't fit the traditional economic model and people immediately dismiss it.

VR
RE327
You can talk about all the great things you can do, or want to do, in space; but unless the rocket scientists get a sound understanding of economics (and quickly), the US space program will never achieve the greatness it should.

Putting my money where my mouth is.

Offline libs0n

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #7 on: 06/19/2011 05:32 pm »
I get the impression from their launch manifest that 2013 is the first year of standard operations with the Falcon 9, and everything prior to that is preparatory work.

Offline Antares

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #8 on: 06/19/2011 07:08 pm »
I think it is impressive that a company with no experience and no history of building or flying rockets and spacecraft

They did hire a lot of people with experience in other space, aircraft, auto and high-tech companies.  So they didn't start from zero.  It was an integration problem not a knowledge problem.  I don't think SpaceX would claim otherwise, and what they've done is still impressive.  It just needs to be accurately characterized.
If I like something on NSF, it's probably because I know it to be accurate.  Every once in a while, it's just something I agree with.  Facts generally receive the former.

Offline baldusi

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #9 on: 06/19/2011 07:29 pm »
Shotwell also stated that they had something like 30M in the bank. But a burn rate would be more interesting. Part of the profits must come from the down payments of all the launch manifest.
In any case, Elon has stated repeatedly that he couldn't have done anything without all the work and research that NASA did before. That he was innovating on the business side, not on the technological side. In fact, he has repeatedly made the technologically simple choice (RP-1, Gas Generator, multiple small engines, redundant non radhard computers, etc.), while doing impressive development in their documentation system, factory integration and such.

Offline joek

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #10 on: 06/19/2011 08:40 pm »
Shotwell also stated that they had something like 30M in the bank.

if you're referring to House hearing last month Shotwell didn't actually say how much they had in the bank; exchange starts at about 1:15:00 into the webcast...

Rep Edwards: "How much do you have in reserve that you are holding in case there is a delay or failure?"
Shotwell: "Currently we have about $30M worth of reserve and that grows monthly ...".

Shotwell made a distinction between those reserves and their bank balance, which she didn't disclose.
« Last Edit: 06/19/2011 08:40 pm by joek »

Offline Ox

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #11 on: 06/20/2011 01:10 am »
I think it is impressive that a company with no experience and no history of building or flying rockets and spacecraft

They did hire a lot of people with experience in other space, aircraft, auto and high-tech companies.  So they didn't start from zero.  It was an integration problem not a knowledge problem.  I don't think SpaceX would claim otherwise, and what they've done is still impressive.  It just needs to be accurately characterized.

I think both our statements are true. SpaceX, as a company, had no history or experience.  They started EVERYTHING from scratch. That includes things beyond just the engineering and production of their rockets (although this can be a good thing at times as well...you're not tied to certain hardware or processes that only tenuously fit a new line of business). However, you're also correct that they brought in very talented individuals with previous experience. So I think as a company, they did start from zero. However as individuals they did not.

Offline beancounter

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #12 on: 06/20/2011 01:21 am »
I get the impression from their launch manifest that 2013 is the first year of standard operations with the Falcon 9, and everything prior to that is preparatory work.

Next year (2012) they have manifested 3 CRS flights (4 if you include catchup for 2011 if that doesn't happen then) plus potentially a couple of commercials being ORBCOM and MDA Corp.  Don't know where those are at but anyway the CRS flights will definitely be operational flights for both F9 and Dragon Cargo and by definition, that means SpaceX will be in ongoing commercial mode.  Doesn't matter that the flights are for NASA.  There may be more oversight than for other non-gov't flights but the essentials will be the same.
Crunch time for SpaceX.  Will they be able to manifest 3 - 5 flights per year as promised? 
Beancounter from DownUnder

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #13 on: 06/20/2011 02:38 am »
I think it is impressive that a company with no experience and no history of building or flying rockets and spacecraft

They did hire a lot of people with experience in other space, aircraft, auto and high-tech companies.  So they didn't start from zero.  It was an integration problem not a knowledge problem.  I don't think SpaceX would claim otherwise, and what they've done is still impressive.  It just needs to be accurately characterized.

I think both our statements are true. SpaceX, as a company, had no history or experience.  They started EVERYTHING from scratch. That includes things beyond just the engineering and production of their rockets (although this can be a good thing at times as well...you're not tied to certain hardware or processes that only tenuously fit a new line of business). However, you're also correct that they brought in very talented individuals with previous experience. So I think as a company, they did start from zero. However as individuals they did not.
Not COMPLETELY from scratch. They bought some designs from other companies (not entirely sure how useful they were), and the turbopump they have been using for Merlin is made by Barber-Nichols based on their FasTrac turbopump (SpaceX is in the process of bringing it in-house, though).

Not that that detracts from their accomplishments, but I know a lot of people interested in space (but who aren't experts and don't frequent this forum) don't necessarily know those things.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline Jkew

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #14 on: 06/20/2011 04:07 am »
On the topic of SpaceX employees I've been having a bit of fun reading spacex employee reviews from GlassDoor.com

http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Space-Exploration-Technologies-Reviews-E40371.htm

As always take these with a hefty lump of salt and these reviews always trend to the negative. Some of these reviews may indicate the normal problems of a quickly growing company.

Offline Ox

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #15 on: 06/20/2011 06:43 am »
I think it is impressive that a company with no experience and no history of building or flying rockets and spacecraft

They did hire a lot of people with experience in other space, aircraft, auto and high-tech companies.  So they didn't start from zero.  It was an integration problem not a knowledge problem.  I don't think SpaceX would claim otherwise, and what they've done is still impressive.  It just needs to be accurately characterized.

I think both our statements are true. SpaceX, as a company, had no history or experience.  They started EVERYTHING from scratch. That includes things beyond just the engineering and production of their rockets (although this can be a good thing at times as well...you're not tied to certain hardware or processes that only tenuously fit a new line of business). However, you're also correct that they brought in very talented individuals with previous experience. So I think as a company, they did start from zero. However as individuals they did not.
Not COMPLETELY from scratch. They bought some designs from other companies (not entirely sure how useful they were), and the turbopump they have been using for Merlin is made by Barber-Nichols based on their FasTrac turbopump (SpaceX is in the process of bringing it in-house, though).

Not that that detracts from their accomplishments, but I know a lot of people interested in space (but who aren't experts and don't frequent this forum) don't necessarily know those things.


I seem to be wording my posts very poorly as my main points are not coming across...so I will try one last time and then leave it at that.

A company is much more than just the product or service that it provides. SpaceX did start from scratch by definition. Let's look at the Barber-Nichols turbopump. Did Elon found SpaceX and then immediately declare, "Whew! I am so glad we have this already signed document with Barber-Nichols to provide our turbopumps!"? Let's backtrack how that decision was potentially made (this is for illustrative purposes only, I am not saying SpaceX did all of these steps or only these steps).

12) Agreement signed with Barber-Nichols
11) Lawyers ok the wording of the contract
10) Business side OK's the final prices
9) Bargaining between the companies finalizes a terms of sale
8) Engineering Requirements are finalized
7) Someone makes overtures to Barber-Nichols
6) Engineers decide to outsource turbo pumps
5) Engine design reaches a muture enough level to start on turbo pumps
4) Engineers are hired to work on propulsion system
3) Hiring policies and processes are put in place
2) Funding is found to hire people
1) Elon Starts SpaceX

Actually getting to the turbo pumps was just one step out of twelve in this example. Each of those steps could (and probably were) be broken down further until the actual reception of that turbo pump was just one out of hundreds of steps to get to that point. An important step in the big scheme of things...and yet only one step along the way. Further, this is just one small part of the rocket. Again, it's an important part, but still only one part.

Just because they hired employees with experience doesn't mean that the company had any experience or knowledge. At some point along the way for every single decision a process or mechanism had to be created.

Judging SpaceX solely on how many rockets they have flown to this point or comparing them to Boeing, LM or ULA and their recent development projects is unfair. SpaceX wasn't just developing new hardware; they were developing a company and a company is more than just the services and products that it provides. From that perspective I say yes, I am impressed.
« Last Edit: 06/20/2011 06:47 am by Ox »

Online Halidon

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #16 on: 06/20/2011 06:47 am »
On the topic of SpaceX employees I've been having a bit of fun reading spacex employee reviews from GlassDoor.com

http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Space-Exploration-Technologies-Reviews-E40371.htm

As always take these with a hefty lump of salt and these reviews always trend to the negative. Some of these reviews may indicate the normal problems of a quickly growing company.
I think the negative reviews fit within what Gwen and others have said about SpaceX, specifically how "fitting in" is key and people who don't won't be staying long. For good or ill that's how they tick.

Offline Dave G

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #17 on: 06/20/2011 11:55 am »
Will they be able to manifest 3 - 5 flights per year as promised? 

"Our rough ball-park estimate is something on the order of 20 launches a year, of which roughly half are Falcon Heavy and roughly half are Falcon 9, and of those roughly 60%-70% going out of Cape Canaveral."

Comments above starting around 15:40.



« Last Edit: 06/20/2011 11:59 am by Dave G »

Offline Comga

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #18 on: 06/20/2011 02:33 pm »
I get the impression from their launch manifest that 2013 is the first year of standard operations with the Falcon 9, and everything prior to that is preparatory work.

Next year (2012) they have manifested 3 CRS flights (4 if you include catchup for 2011 if that doesn't happen then) plus potentially a couple of commercials being ORBCOM and MDA Corp.  Don't know where those are at but anyway the CRS flights will definitely be operational flights for both F9 and Dragon Cargo and by definition, that means SpaceX will be in ongoing commercial mode.  Doesn't matter that the flights are for NASA.  There may be more oversight than for other non-gov't flights but the essentials will be the same.
Crunch time for SpaceX.  Will they be able to manifest 3 - 5 flights per year as promised? 

SpaceX has stated that the 7th Falcon 9 will use the Merlin 1D engine.  That will likely be when they introduce the longer tanks with a strengthened structure.  That is supposedly two flights before the debut of the Falcon Heavy and includes at least one flight of the 5 meter fairing.  At that point, they will have the stable of rockets they have promised.

FWIW, and admittedly it's not much, my opinion is that they will be in "standard operations" when one can order a rocket that has flown, as opposed to a planned redesign.  Secondarily it will be when burning down the manifest no longer requires a step increse in their flight rate.
What kind of wastrels would dump a perfectly good booster in the ocean after just one use?

Offline Prober

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Re: SpaceX: General Falcon and Dragon discussion (Thread 4)
« Reply #19 on: 06/20/2011 06:12 pm »
I get the impression from their launch manifest that 2013 is the first year of standard operations with the Falcon 9, and everything prior to that is preparatory work.

Next year (2012) they have manifested 3 CRS flights (4 if you include catchup for 2011 if that doesn't happen then) plus potentially a couple of commercials being ORBCOM and MDA Corp.  Don't know where those are at but anyway the CRS flights will definitely be operational flights for both F9 and Dragon Cargo and by definition, that means SpaceX will be in ongoing commercial mode.  Doesn't matter that the flights are for NASA.  There may be more oversight than for other non-gov't flights but the essentials will be the same.
Crunch time for SpaceX.  Will they be able to manifest 3 - 5 flights per year as promised? 

SpaceX has stated that the 7th Falcon 9 will use the Merlin 1D engine.  That will likely be when they introduce the longer tanks with a strengthened structure.  That is supposedly two flights before the debut of the Falcon Heavy and includes at least one flight of the 5 meter fairing.  At that point, they will have the stable of rockets they have promised.

FWIW, and admittedly it's not much, my opinion is that they will be in "standard operations" when one can order a rocket that has flown, as opposed to a planned redesign.  Secondarily it will be when burning down the manifest no longer requires a step increse in their flight rate.

FH is end of 2012 no?

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