Successful SpaceX launch

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The competition heats up: Though there is no word yet on their attempt to land the first stage on a barge, SpaceX today has successfully launched a commercial communications satellite.

Update: The barge landing did not succeed.


  • wayne

    First stage land safely?

  • wayne

    Mr. Z:

    How much does an “FAA” launch-license cost? ..and what’s the penalty for not buying one?

    Beautiful seeing the curvature of the Earth from the 2nd stage engine-cam!

  • Calvin Dodge

    Musk tweeted that the 1st stage did not survive a hard landing.

  • mpthompson

    I viewed the live feed of the launch on Youtube. Every time the vehicle went behind a cloud and the image of the exhaust dimmed by heart would skip a beat. Very exciting stuff. I can only imagine how nerve wracking these launches are for the folks a SpaceX.

    With regards to the landing, SpaceX is pushing the outer limits of when a landing might be possible so the loss of the 1st stage is still a valuable learning lesson. I’m fairly confident they’ll soon transition to landing more stages than they lose.

  • wayne

    mpthompson wrote:

    “Every time the vehicle went behind a cloud and the image of the exhaust dimmed my heart would skip a beat.”

    –Same with me. The “max-Q,” (& “go with throttle up” from the Shuttle launches) always gets me as well.
    — I about flipped-out when the barge-cam cut off at the last second! (have low-speed DSL over twisted-copper & can barely stream w/o buffering at the worst-times! But, I will say the SpaceX feed is generally rock-solid. (Enjoy the live-stream but always download the full file later for uninterrupted viewing.)
    -Not fond of the two younger guys doing color commentary, but like the gentleman at the control-center. Prefer the “technical” feed myself.
    -Absolutely enjoy all the “engine-cams” & other viewpoints. Favorite scenes from the Apollo launches were when the 1st & 2nd stages would separate & that large ring would slowly tumble back through the atmosphere.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s not an entirely “smooth” transition between MECO and 2nd stage ignition, is it? (It’s all Newtonian physics I get that, but from what I’ve heard from watching astronaut video, a person would definitely feels the transition from start/stop/start. ??)

    Tangent– there are some great high-speed “technical camera” video’s on YouTube, from the various Shuttle launches. The ones I’ve seen feature two guys from Nasa explaining the camera angles (film or video, frame-rate, location, camera #, etc.,) & exactly why they are looking at certain parts of the launches.

  • Edward

    Wayne wrote: “Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s not an entirely “smooth” transition between MECO and 2nd stage ignition, is it?”

    Interesting things may or may not happen between MECO and 2nd stage ignition.

    The first stage must separate and move away. Separation may come with a “bang” that could be heard by the astronauts. There may be an associated shock that travels through the structure, and some items do not take shocks well. Bearings are a good example, so the turbo-pump bearings want to be isolated from such shocks — I don’t know whether they are on any designs.

    In the movie “Apollo 13,” James Lovell says, “Get ready for a little jolt,” and then they are thrown against their restraints. Lovell meant that separation of the stages had a jolt, but on Apollo 13, the first stage’s reverse thrusters, intended to force the first stage to move away from the second stage, began to fire before the separation occurred. This turned the little jolt into a big one.

    In its early days, SpaceX learned that there needed to be a slight delay between MECO and separation. They tried separation at the same time as MECO, but did not realize that it can take a little time for the “residuals” to stop burning in the first stage engine(s). They watched their camera, on the second stage, in horror as the first stage separated, then came back and crashed into the second stage. An important — and expensive — lesson.

    After separation and before 2nd stage ignition, attitude control thrusters may fire in order to reorient the remaining rocket in the right direction. There can be some misalignment due to the forces of separation.

    Second stage engines probably start at low thrust level then quickly ramp up to the desired thrust, as starting at full thrust can cause problems for the engine. It is why first stage engines start at low thrust and then ramp up.

  • wayne

    Edward wrote:

    “They watched their camera, on the second stage, in horror as the first stage separated, then came back and crashed into the second stage.”
    -Wow-Za… is that video publicly posted anywhere?

    Thank you greatly for explaining all this. I realize it takes time & effort to type it all up in a logical fashion.
    For some reason, I’ve been under the assumption all this (fantastical) engineering was mostly “perfected” in the 1960’s and it was “simply” a matter of continually updating already well-understood problems & “just” employing new hardware/software/materials, etc.
    [This is all way more Cool than I realize, and I’m already at an “11” on the Cool-Factor Scale!]

    Now that you mention it– the Apollo 13 movie, is exactly where I got that impression.

    Don’t expect you to give me a tutorial—but I’m fascinated with ICBM’s, (among everything else!) especially the “suppressed trajectory” & “fast-boost” (??) launch methodologies. (If I’m using those terms anywhere near correctly.)
    –or is that largely classified? (or should I ask the Chi-coms? I’m convinced they pilfered all our secrets during the Clinton administration, har.)
    I assume rockets such as ICBM’s are structurally hardened to withstand extreme launch forces? Someone told me part of the “safe” mechanisms for the warheads, involves having to undergo the G-forces associated with a launch, in part, to prevent inadvertent detonation.

    Again– thank you sharing your knowledge! ( Spock would say, “Fascinating!)

  • Edward

    Wayne wrote: “Don’t expect you to give me a tutorial—but I’m fascinated with ICBM’s”

    I am less familiar with ICBMs and any need for the warheads to withstand larger G-forces than a manned or commercial launch. However, I am under the impression that ICBMs are designed to climb out of the “danger zone” quickly (avoiding any incoming warheads) and arrive at their targets in short amounts of time in order to reduce the reaction time from the enemy.

    Warheads are much more pointy than manned capsules, because the point allows them to remain at high speed deeper into the atmosphere — less aerodynamic drag, and they arrive at the target quickly.

    If you have seen early, 1960s on-board video of ICBM class rockets (e.g. Atlas and Titan), you may have seen the rocket rock and yaw a bit. This is because in the early days, the horizon sensors were stationary and the rocket moved to allow the sensors to find the horizon.

    ICBMs were not designed to carry humans, so they could vibrate, shake, rattle, and roll in ways that a man-rated rocket should not. The large satellites that go into orbit are also not so keen on vibration, but warheads have long been designed to withstand high g-forces, especially warheads that are fired from cannons or guns.

    Human internal organs have a natural frequency of around 20 to 30 Hz, so if there is a vibration mode on the rocket of that frequency, then humans should not ride it. It could be that this is one of the problems that Virgin Galactic is having with its hybrid rockets, and my understanding is that the Ares rocket had this problem when it was cancelled half a decade ago.

    Don’t worry about asking questions. I often do research to verify my memories, so I learn something new as a side effect. I have embarrassingly learned that my memories are not a reliable as they used to be, thus the research. When others answer questions, I learn something new, too.

  • wayne

    Edward My Man!
    Again, thanks!

    –So much COOL stuff to learn, & so little time to learn it!

    (I as well, research stuff to refresh & correct my memory. I’m getting close to “maximum storage space” myself.)

    Yes– ref Atlas & Titan class rockets– I’m putting that all together now.
    Yes–The “fast-burn” and “suppressed trajectory” type stuff was apparently developed, in part, during the 70’s/80’s to counter anti-BM countermeasures. -They are most vulnerable when actively climbing & before the warhead package is released from the main-stage. Faster they can reach the upper atmosphere, less time for the commies to react.
    Yes– “pointy conical shape,” interestingly, the decoy warheads were not as “heavy” as the real one’s early on, & could be detected “slowing down” during re-entry. Now even the decoy’s are exactly the same weight & profile. (make the Commies work for it!)

    Oh man!–Yes, it’s absolutely amazing how small they can make warheads. Reference the “W23” & “W33” designs.

    –Been reviewing video of test-detonations 40’s & 50′. “Fascinating!”
    –“mach stem” (?) shock-wave is wild.
    –There’s a good film, Atomic café, that has excellent color video–narrated by Kirk (Shatner) but completely anti nuclear bomb in political bent.

    Human internal organs— very interesting. That’s apparently a concern on the other end as well– Overpressure shock-wave can turn your organs into jello, even if you survive the initial radiation burst & heat.

    Oh– being really tangential– I just watched multiple documentaries on
    the British “Windscale” event — their largest nuclear disaster.
    — Just Google “Windscale” amazing stuff.
    –Their version of “B-Reactor” but cooled by AIR. Reactor pile caught on fire & in went downhill from that point. They were doing it on the cheap & cutting engineering corners. (While our B-Reactor was over-engineered.)

    Had a chance to visit Oak Ridge as a kid, but would really like to tour “B-Reactor” in Washington State. (yeah.. I like this stuff!)

    Never been west of the Mississippi, but have been to damn near every Historical Landmark east thereof.

    St. Louis gateway Arch is way cool– you can go up inside it & the museum is underground. Went up the Statue of Liberty when it was heavily rusted inside– amazing. (I so wanted to climb up the Arm, but they don’t let the Public do that & it was literally falling-apart when I visited.)

    Anyone been to the Adler Planetarium since it was re-habbed?? Used to go every year until 1996-ish, but haven’t been since the reconstruction/expansion. (always love the Museum of Science & Industry– lots of hands-on “buttons” and interactive stuff.) Definitely taking my Grand-daughter this summer to both. We’re going to take the Amtrak train.
    –Chicago Worlds fair of 1933 is a favorite subject-matter of mine. Basically the only thing left, is the Adler Planetarium

    Great stuff! Thanks again for your input.

  • Edward

    Wayne wrote: “Overpressure shock-wave can turn your organs into jello”

    My recollection (there is that memory problem again) is that O’Neill said in one of his space colony books that an overpressure of 5 psi can kill you. I don’t think he specified whether it caused massive internal hemorrhaging (turning organs to jello) or if death was instantaneous.

    A friend of mine did her residency in St. Louis, and I’ve been up the arch twice. It is a fun trip up and down, if you aren’t claustrophobic. The windows are better than I remember from the Statue of Liberty, but I was pretty young when I went up her, and all I really remember is that we spent a lot of time in the spiral stairs while everyone else looked out the tiny windows. The arch is much more friendly for long looks. At the time, my six-year-old self thought that the brief view from the Statue of Liberty was not worth the wait, but in retrospect, I’ve been there and seen that, so it was worth the wait after all.

    When you make it out west, be sure to visit the geysers of Yellowstone and the valley of Yosemite, including taking the drive up to Glacier Point, as the view is spectacular, and a redwood forest is a brief detour on the way to or from the point. Way back when, they used to throw burning logs off of Glacier Point, but now all that is left of that spectacle seems to be what is in the movie “The Caine Mutiny” (my father tells me that there was a lot of ritualistic calling back and forth before someone called “let the fires fall!”):

    Long Beach, near Los Angeles, has the Queen Mary, and just off her bow a Soviet diesel submarine, Scorpion. In a different location in Long Beach is the victory ship Lane Victory, but the Spruce Goose has moved to Oregon. San Francisco has a WWII submarine, Pampanito, and the liberty ship, Jeremiah O’Brien.

  • wayne

    Edward my Man!

    –As I recall, military-planners specify 5-6 psi overpressure to kill humans, but not sure exactly how that does you in. They don’t even worry about radiation or heat. The entire Soviet Union was targeted to achieve that level “pretty much everywhere.” Firestorms were considered a bonus.
    –Yeah– the Arch elevator cars are tiny! (I was young) It was windy that day & you could feel the back-n-forth sway of the structure. Designed for something like “17 feet” either way. I had no clue it was “hollow” until we were going up.
    –I as well thought, at the time, the long trek up the Statue of Liberty was disproportionate to the 10 seconds at the top, but glad I had a chance. Har– we camped at a campground that was on a landfill of sorts, right outside the City, and took city-buses to get around. –The NYPD folks were GREAT at telling my dad which bus to catch, etc. Never forgot that, even though I disliked the actual City. (Too big for me, Chicago/Detroit, I can handle very well.) Planetarium in NYC was HUGE. (Boston had a great Museum right downtown.)
    Even had a chance to go to the Palisades Amusement park in New Jersey, great! Old school, big-time.
    –Saw Apollo 8 launch, so I must say the Florida trip was “life-changing!”
    –My final trip is to take Amtrak from Milwaukee, to Portland Oregon. (The “Empire Builder” route.) Maybe make it to California & Nevada. (Have numerous friends in PDX.)
    –Would absolutely, positively, love to see all the Western Parks but probably won’t have a chance. The spirit is willing, but the body is just not up to the task anymore. (late onset Parkinson’s.)
    –My parent’s went to see the total eclipse of the sun in Baja in 92 (93?) Have a huge color print my dad took during totality, and hours of video & slides. He said the birds started chirping when everything went dark. (something like 7 minutes totality)
    –Saw Halley’s Comet! – My grandfather saw it in 1910 (correct ?) but didn’t make it for the return trip, he told me it was very (very) bright.
    –Good clip, enjoy Caine Mutiny. (Bogart literally lost-his-marbles!) “…proved with geometric mathematical, quantum physical certainty, that a 2nd key to the strawberry stash did in fact exist… HAR

    Great post!

  • Edward


    I remember the NYC planetarium. A couple of decades ago, I went back, and the meteorite that had so impressed me as a kid was still there, looking just as I remembered it. Two decades ago, the planetarium had a presentation of how light and electromagnetic waves are used to explore the universe, and they asked a coworker of mine for a sample of data our instrument made of the x-rays coming off of the auroras. See figures 5 and 6: While he and I were on travel to New Jersey, a little later, we went to the New York City planetarium to see the show.

    I have long been jealous of people who work on consumer goods, as they get to show their friends and families what they worked on (and movies have credits that mention everyone, including the caterers and lawyers). Pointing to these abstract figures (and satellites passing by overhead) is about all that I get to show my own friends and family. I did a tiny amount of work on the PIXIE instrument, mentioned in the article, but I was the main mechanical designer of the AXIS sensor and electronics box.

    For me, it was Apollo 7, which I only saw on TV. That was when I changed from wanting to be an airline pilot to building rockets, when I grew up. I never saw a Saturn launch, but I did see a few other launches.

    1910 is correct for Halley’s Comet. It turns out that the Earth passed through the tail, so the comet came pretty close.

    Sorry to hear about the Parkinson’s. I wish you the best.

  • Wayne

    Edward ma’ Man!

    Shouldn’t have let that slip out, but sincerely appreciate the thought. Doing ok overall.
    Just me & the Cat left now. Daughter is out-state, had the g-daughter for 3 weeks recently (looks exactly like my wife as a child.)

    1910– The g-father was in his early teen’s– said you could “almost read by it.” He became a Civil Engineer and Surveyor, taught Drafting, Blue-Print reading, wood-working, etc. Later on, helped design a bit of our local highway-system in the ’50’s, while with the local Road Commission.
    –I was amazed to find him Google-indexed in Popular Mechanics & Science; wrote tiny little articles in the Depression to help pay the bills. (been slowly acquiring the original issues.)

    For me, it’s was the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. Close enough for day-trips. Haven’t been since they expanded it (2000-ish?), but definitely going this summer.
    Acquired from the gift-shop one of those — forget the name– “evacuated bulb with delicate internal fins, that spun around when exposed to the Sun”– fascinated me. Something like a “radio-graph” jeeze, memory is failing me now! (Still have it…somewhere.)

    –WAY COOL! I am sincerely impressed!! (!!!)
    Suspected you were a “rocket-scientist” or similar. Thanks for the link! I will read it thoroughly & remember YOU!
    Always wondered about the hundred’s of folks who work on all that cool-stuff, but never get their name’s ‘in lights.’
    Be Proud!
    –Never had any of my work published while in the private-sector, it was always a group-effort & very esoteric, primarily for internal planning & evaluation.
    -Apollo 8 (& the NASA complex); most fantastic thing I have ever witnessed in my life, bar none.
    -Been semi-following Mr. Z since his Genesis Book & before that his Articles in Sky & Telescope, but I didn’t connect all that, until I caught him on the John Batchelor Show last year.
    Was always glued to our B&W TV for anything “NASA.” (Remember when the Media actually covered all that?)
    –Couldn’t handle advanced Math in my teens so drifted to a less “technical” field, only to get into behavioral-analysis, which still had a lot of math.
    –Only recently have I gotten a rudimentary grip on some aspects of “Physic’s” & quantum mechanics. (“fascinating!”) My Dad was an active amateur Astrophotography but I didn’t take full-advantage until later in life & then it was sorta “too late.”
    Again– I’m impressed! And Thank You for your contributions!!

  • Wayne

    Totally babbling now but you & others might enjoy:
    G-daughter likes Big Bang Theory & trending toward “science.” The episode with Parson’s (Sheldon) playing bongo’s is a favorite of hers. I dug up the Richard Feynman clip where’s he’s playing “Orange Juice,” on bongo’s for her & downloaded the entire Feynman Messenger Lecture’s into her computer (along with the movie about him helping with the Shuttle investigation.)
    She was hooked. “Dr. Feynman plays the bongo’s, studying the Universe..”

    (being a “science-geek” is in-fashion among her age-cohort & she was pleased to show her friends at school the “old B&W films of Sheldon’s hero.” Her current interest is Alan Turing & Stephen Hawking. (Can’t beat that, eh!)

    Like-mind folks need to take back our Culture & make sure our heritage & brilliant people are presented in a positive light, rather than the lefty so-called “scientists” who preach their Religion of the State under the guise of “science.”

  • Edward

    I understand the math problem. I had a harder and harder time as I got into the higher mathematics. It got harder and harder to move it from abstract concept to everyday reality, but differential equations made a little more sense after I took an orbital mechanics class, years later. Fortunately, the profession of mathematician was not my goal, but I worked with a few, and they really grok it.

    “Big Bang Theory” is fun! I am a bit disappointed that they present the real-life people in a poor way. Hawking is a sore loser and nasty winner; Wheaton will break up a couple just to win a bowling tournament; Spiner rips open a mint-in-box collectible, etc. LeVar Burton is the only one they didn’t really pan.

    Turing and Hawking should keep you granddaughter interested for a while. My father got interested in code breaking four decades ago, but eventually the topic became overwhelming (kind of like that problem with increasing levels of math).

  • Wayne

    -Know what you mean about Bang-Theory. It is “just” TV after all. (but, extremely popular– so I get your point…)

    I could just not get into it for maybe 4 Seasons then was sucked-in completely. It has perhaps already “Jumped the Shark,” but they still have a chance to develop good plot-lines for the eventual ending.
    Read internet “stuff” about maybe having Sheldon develop a terminal-illness, but that sounds a bit over the top for a situation-comedy.

    For me– it’s the whole “Sheldon is Autistic” ‘thang.
    If you watch the Pilot or the 1st episodes, they perhaps capture his “autistic traits” infinitely better & more realistically.

    Intend to get a copy of Mr. Z’s encyclopedia for the G-daughter soon. She’s quite the “techie-girl” in the making. (My daughter is very analytical & “brilliant,” (and a twinge “autistic,”) but I think that’s from my wife– she was a very skilled Geologist.)

    HAR– The “Math-Stuff.” I memorized the proof for a Triangle to pass Geometry, but in retrospect, I think I was perpetually “6 weeks behind.” Liked the Concepts better than the actual work. Don’t fault my teachers so much, but 50 years later I can now listen to a Dr. Penrose, for example, & actually follow him fairly well.
    –For me– I had to take “Statistic’s & Regression for Behavioral Science” twice. in College, to get a full rock solid grip. Served me well later on… (That and my HP calculator’s!)

    Orbital Mechanics sounds COOL but “intricate!” I’m glad other people know-their-stuff, so we can travel in Space!

    Have a friend who is a chemical-engineer– brilliant! (He “can’t read Novel” worth a darn, but doesn’t need-to…)

    Always interesting comments. I perhaps compose-on-the-fly to often, but appreciate your thoughtful remarks & commentary on all subject matter here.

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