An engineering analysis of the Falcon 9 first stage landing failure


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SpaceX founder and chief technology officer Elon Musk tweeted that “excess lateral velocity caused it [the booster] to tip over post landing.” In a later tweet that was subsequently withdrawn, Musk then indicated that “the issue was stiction in the biprop throttle valve, resulting in control system phase lag.” In this statement, Musk was referring to “stiction” — or static friction — in the valve controlling the throttling of the engine. The friction appears to have momentarily slowed the response of the engine, causing the control system to command more of an extreme reaction from the propulsion system than was required. As a result, the control system entered a form of hysteresis, a condition in which the control response lags behind changes in the effect causing it.

Despite the failure of the latest attempt, SpaceX will be encouraged by the landing accuracy of the Falcon 9 and the bigger-picture success of its guidance, navigation and control (GNC) system in bringing the booster back to the drone ship. The GNC also worked as designed during the prior landing attempt in January, which ended in the destruction of the vehicle following a hard touchdown on the edge of the platform.

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22 comments

  • Kelly Starks

    Copying this over from the other thread.

    it looked like it wasn’t vertical when it landed, then fell inward (back toward where it was coming from) toward the center of the barge. Both landings had a fairly high horizontal velocity, and seemed to have balance issues.

    One of the reasons this old ’50’s sci-fi idea of tall thin boosters landing no their tails was abandoned in favor off other designs, is its innately hard to balance, and the remaining fuel slosh’s back and forth every time you tilt it, or give a side thrust. Its like balancing a pole on your finger, but half way up the pole is a 3/4th empty gallon of milk.

    As normal, Musk starts out doing things the hard way, then does a sloppy job of it.

    I’m more then a little concerned that after only two flights their confident that can hit (pun not intended) their ground target reliably close enough to risk landing on ground, which presumably has neighbors …. for that mater.. what ground east of the cape is there for them to land on??

  • Tom Billings

    “for that mater.. what ground east of the cape is there for them to land on??”

    Only a few small uninhabited Bahama islands are East and South of it. However, SpaceX has already signed a lease for LC-13 as their future landing pad at the Cape. That seems the most likely candidate, now that they have demonstrated the ability to put it where they want it. If LC-13 is hit hard by first stage with a little LOX and Kero, the results will be for SpaceX to worry about, and not the AF. Clinging to no flyback forever will be politically infeasible for the AF. Once SpaceX holds the bag, they can feel comfy.

  • Kelly Starks

    >..Clinging to no flyback forever will be politically infeasible for the AF..

    Given congress ordered them to stick with expendables, and none of their providers are talking about flyback anymore (other then the Atlas update reusing the first stage motors) I doubt that’s true.

  • pzatchok

    We did not go with this vertical landing idea with any craft let alone a space craft because of control issues.
    We did not have the needed flight control computers and or the engines to make it possible.
    We have both now.

    You know SpaceX has the tech to make a first stage vertical landing very possible right now.
    It could just add the engines it has on hand for the Dragon v2 passenger capsule landing to the top of the first stage,
    They could then act as attitude control thrusters and also add their combined thrust into the landing attempt.
    Make the landing struts slightly controllable and they could possibly be in business to make somewhat rough field landings. Controllable as in auto leveling the ship as it touches down. Actually auto verticalling in this case.

    If you asked NASA to do this it would take 5 years of study to even see if it could be done then they would have to find a way to finance 10 years of design and testing before actual building begins.

  • “As normal, Musk starts out doing things the hard way, then does a sloppy job of it.”

    I’m not inclined to criticize people who are actually doing things in areas I have no expertise. Pissing on other’s efforts is not cool. Musk & Co. are bending tin and flying it. I have no doubt that with a target larger and more stable than a barge, they’ll achieve a recoverable landing. If the tyranny of the mediocrity can be held at bay, we’ll see a Golden Age of space exploitation on par, if not exceeding, the Golden Age of aviation of the 1930’s.

  • Kelly Starks

    > I’m not inclined to criticize people who are actually doing things in
    > areas I have no expertise. ..

    It is an area I have expertise in, and he routinely makes dumb mistakes by ignoring lessons learned by industry decades ago. Resulting in mediocre products, usually supported by government grants and a masterful PR spin ability.

    Worse, he lowers the expectations of all to the point this is considered the gold standard of what can be done, rather then the also ran.

    >..If the tyranny of the mediocrity can be held at bay, we’ll see a
    > Golden Age of space exploitation…

    He certainly lacks the ability and funding to do that without gov underwriting him, and they won’t do that since theirs utterly no advantage in it to them.

  • Kelly Starks

    > We did not go with this vertical landing idea with any craft let alone a space
    > craft because of control issues.

    Actually we did vertically landing rocket (and jet) craft decades ago. Just made sure they weren’t so tall and thin that balance and structural problems are such a issue. Such as the difference between Falcons attempts at a reusable first stage, or the DC-X design and test flights in the ’90’s.

    Really folks. Tgis isn’t innovative or ground breaking, or even terribly usefull in a case like this.

    > If you asked NASA to do this it would take 5 years of study to even see if it
    > be done …

    Didn’t happen that way when they hired someone to do it decades ago … of course first you’ld have to figure out a reason they’d want such a thing.

  • Edward

    > It is an area I have expertise in, and he routinely makes dumb mistakes by ignoring lessons learned by industry decades ago.

    Is he ignoring these lessons or is he attempting to find less expensive work-arounds? The problem that plagues the aerospace industry is that each time there is a problem, there is a new fix — sometimes amazingly expensive. These fixes keep adding up, resulting in an industry whose standard operating procedures are very expensive and time consuming.

    If we are ever to make access to space affordable, we have to find less expensive methods to get us there.

    I am an advocate for trying new methods in order to find better methods of operation. The government is not in favor of doing so, figuring that “the” solution has been found, and to deviate requires a waiver for each occurrence (each waiver itself being expensive and time consuming). I have yet to see a waiver become a new standard. Thus new methods are rare. For example, after all these years, prop planes still use magnetos.

    Kelly, to also continue from the other thread, I suspect that your problem with SpaceX stems from it not conforming to the tried and true (and expensive) methods of the past; it is proving that some less expensive methods work. Your preferences seem to be away from new innovations and favor existing or past — and expensive — hardware and methods. (e.g. the Shuttle; the Shuttle-derived Dream Chaser; and the scramjet — that you have said is off the shelf — for use in an airbreathing rocket such as Star Raker. You did not seem to be impressed with Skylon, the non-scramjet airbreathing rocket that is currently being developed.)

    Further, despite your insistence to the contrary, SpaceX really *is* having an important, non-trivial effect on the industry. This is only *one* recent example of industry opinion:
    http://spacenews.com/desire-for-competitive-ariane-6-nudges-esa-toward-compromise-in-funding-dispute-with-contractor/
    “I have told industry: SpaceX is maintaining its low prices and in Japan they are talking about cutting their launcher’s cost by 50 percent, so we better find a compromise.” — Johann-Dietrich Woerner, chairman of the German Aerospace Center and the incoming director-general of ESA

    ESA’s ATV was expensive, taking around 80,000 lbs of cargo to the ISS for about $5 billion. Orbital and SpaceX are each contracted to take a similar amount of cargo for less than half that price. It seems to me that commercial-space (including SpaceX) is doing better than government-space, at this task.

    SpaceX *is* successful, because their hardware is flying, and they are fulfilling contracts at lower prices. Few of the others trying to enter the commercial launch/delivery field are as successful, and some are going out of business in the attempt (e.g. Kister). SpaceX is maintaining its lower prices, and it is trying to find new efficiencies to reduce prices even farther.

  • Did Elon Musk steal your girlfriend in high school? Edward makes some salient points concerning industry practice and the resistance to new ideas. I’ve had experience with this. Technical professions have a real resistance to change, and not without cause. When lives and money are on the line, unexpected events are not desirable.

    Mr. Starks, if you have expertise in the field, I’m sure Space X would love to hear from you. They seem to be all about increased efficiency. If you have proficiency, then perhaps the space industry would be best served with your input.

  • Well said. Companies developing Ariane 6 also want full control a la SpaceX:

    http://spacenews.com/full-industry-control-of-ariane-6-nonnegotiable-exec-says/

    Bob Clark

  • Kelly Starks

    > Is he ignoring these lessons or is he attempting to find less expensive work-arounds?

    Ignoring. Musk himself has stated (and a lot of NewSpace states) that all those lessons learned, and standard industrial processes in engineering in general, are laughably wrong. (It was a shocking lesson when I worked on DreamChaser. A lot of the folks hired in for the project with years of engineer experience with various companies aerospace or not were shocked by how the DreamChaser management had them do things. And some of said management shuddered when discussing all the steps and processes SpaceX skipped) The idea that all engineering process, even though directly traceable to dramatic improvements in quality and cost, were just frivolous wasted effort is something I here/see a lot in NewSpace.

    Kinda reminds me how US and European car builders insisted for decades that the quality processes adopted by Japanese firm (from the US ironically) couldn’t work, even though decades of results said otherwise.

    > The problem that plagues the aerospace industry is that each time there is
    > a problem, there is a new fix — sometimes amazingly expensive. …

    Haven’t seen that much in industry (NASA but that’s another issue). But aerospace is very intolerant of mistakes. so cutting even little corners seldom results in little problems.

    > If we are ever to make access to space affordable, we have to find less
    > expensive methods to get us there.

    Its not the engineering, manufacture etc, that are contributing to the high cost of space flight. Spacecraft carrying x cargo/passengers are generally cheaper to develop and build then airliners or aircraft of similar capacities and very long range. So a 25Ton cap transd pacific range craft like the 787 is running about $22B in dev costs. Boeing says a fully reusable 2001 a Space Odyssey shuttle would rn about $17b if developed commercially up to full FAA commercial craft engineering standards. DC-X was projected to be $5billion for a cargo only one. etc.

    The high cost to space is just economies of scale. Boeing expects to sell several hundred to a couple thousand 787s, and they fleet should easily fly millions of flights a year. Shuttle flew 4 times a year, and lifted half the cargo tonnage, and 3/4ths the lifts of a person, brought to LEO in human history. So a million fold drop in economies of scale kill you.

    > Kelly, to also continue from the other thread, I suspect that your problem with
    > SpaceX stems from it not conforming to the tried and true (and expensive)
    > methods of the past;..

    no actually its skiping tried and true newer proven methods and designs, in favor of older and obsolete designs abandoned due to high cost and high failure rates. THEN it ludicurus ly cuts corners. So for example where Orion or Apollos capsule and SM costs $20B ish to develop. (and ignoring that expendables tend to be more expensive to develop, and capsules expensive etc) Just doing Orion under commercial contract rules, not NASA FAR would cut costs to $5B. A better experienced “tiger team” could lower it a lot from there, but even legends in the field (Rutan’s Scaled composites, “Kelly” Johnsons Skunk works, etc) would be hard pressed with super experienced teams, to get a 0 fold savings compared to NASA. But spaceX said finishing the Dragon only took them $200m. Falcon 1 or 9 $300m compared to $30B for NASA.

    >.. it is proving that some less expensive methods work. ….

    > Your preferences seem to be away from new innovations and favor existing or
    > past — and expensive — hardware and methods…

    No I’m for proven new or older systems methods shown to be cheaper and better. Hell I make my life helping companies do that to reduce costs and increase quality and speed dramatically (actually have a bit of a reputation in the industry at it). So contrary (to some of the less insulting) NewSpace folks insults and assumptions, I’m not a fossel who can’t accept change. I just have no tolerance for screw ups being swept under the rug

    Space has failed to lower its costs, or maintain standard performance and quality. That’s not obvious given the underwriting and PR, but they do cost more. Under NASA, even given the 4 fold cost advantages of non far contracts, the cost per ton to ISS was significantly higher, the margin cost per flight to NASA was more then twice as high as, as shuttle. They rae marketing their commercial launches far bellow cost (their base operating costs are $1+B a year, they fly 6 operational flights per year? So costs would be at least $200M a flight, and they market them down to $50M?

    Now you could argue that the political winds supporting these low costs are generating similar response’s with competing systems regardless of being highly subsidized (like Arien) or more commercially funded (ULA), but that’s different then saying SpaceX’s ability to reduce costs drives X..

    >..SpaceX *is* successful, because their hardware is flying, and they are fulfilling
    > contracts at lower prices.

    But they are not why their prices are lower, their ships don’t work well, etc. They are a artifact of political winds subsidizing them. When said winds die, they die as quickly as windturbine farms etc.

    Had they managed to succeed. Developed a quality product at a lower cost, and expended market I’ld be all for it. They couldn’t, but they love to claim they did.

  • Kelly Starks

    > Mr. Starks, if you have expertise in the field, I’m sure Space X would love to hear
    > from you. They seem to be all about increased efficiency.

    No actually Musk is infamous for hiring, then ignoring all the advise from experts in the fields. Hes a “I know better then anyone else” kind a guy.

    >..If you have proficiency, then perhaps the space industry would be best served with your input.

    Actually I’ve spend most of my career working in the space industry. Shuttle, station, Orion, DreamChaser, a failed attempt to do a start up (engineering Jelling, money not arriving) etc.

  • Kelly Starks

    > Mr. Starks, if you have expertise in the field, I’m sure Space X would love to hear
    > from you. They seem to be all about increased efficiency.

    No actually Musk is infamous for hiring, then ignoring all the advise from experts in the fields. Hes a “I know better then anyone else” kind a guy.

    >..If you have proficiency, then perhaps the space industry would be best served with your input.

    Actually I’ve spend most of my career working in the space industry. Shuttle, station, Orion, DreamChaser, a failed attempt to do a start up (engineering Jelling, money not arriving) etc.

  • Edward

    >> Is he ignoring these lessons or is he attempting to find less expensive work-arounds?
    > Ignoring. Musk himself has stated (and a lot of NewSpace states) that all those lessons learned, and standard industrial processes in engineering in general, are laughably wrong.

    Your statement confirms that he (and the others) are not ignoring them but looking for better solutions. You know, not “laughably wrong” solutions. Not expensive solutions. Expensive solutions are fine when you are working on cost-plus contracts, but when you are working on fixed price contracts, you need more efficient solutions.

    >> Spacecraft carrying x cargo/passengers are generally cheaper to develop and build then airliners or aircraft of similar capacities and very long range.

    >> The high cost to space is just economies of scale.

    I’m finding this somewhat difficult to believe. The evidence is that people are willing to pay more to go into space than to fly to Paris, yet in half a century of spaceflight, no one has yet to build a 787-type spacecraft to take passengers/cargo into space.

    Orion is costing somewhat more than $6 billion to take a mere 7 people into space, and the SLS rocket is costing significantly more. In fact, SLS is projected to cost about the price of a 787, yet only 7 people can ride her.

    Each 787 will make thousands of flights, but each Orion and SLS will make only one. Imagine if the airlines had to scrap each airliner after its maiden flight. Air travel/air cargo would not be so inexpensive.

    The high cost to space is the non-reusable hardware.

    > But spaceX said finishing the Dragon only took them $200m. Falcon 1 or 9 $300m compared to $30B for NASA.

    I thought that your point was that SpaceX et al. were using *more* expensive methods and designs, but here you tell me that they are less expensive — by far. Indeed, at those costs, it seems that SpaceX does not need subsidies in order to develop its rockets. Since it is that efficient with its development, you may likely be just as wrong about operating costs, too. SpaceX may have figured out how to operate resourcefully, without subsidies, and without charging as much as its competition.

    > its skiping tried and true newer proven methods and designs, in favor of older and obsolete designs abandoned due to high cost and high failure rates.

    Now you are trying to suggest that the guys at Boeing (60-year old Apollo-like CST-100), Lockheed Martin (60-year old Apollo-like Orion), Sierra Nevada (45-year old Shuttle-like Dream Chaser), and SpaceX are skipping whatever “tried and true newer proven” methods and designs you haven’t told us about, yet. What are they, where have they been proven, and why are they not flying anymore? As I recall, Star Rider was not built or flown, so your preferred rocket has not been proven. You also need to explain why companies competing with each other would choose non-competitive, expensive, and low-reliability methods and designs over the hypothetical “newer proven” ones.

    > They rae marketing their commercial launches far bellow cost (their base operating costs are $1+B a year, they fly 6 operational flights per year?

    Those are interesting numbers. Since Falcon 9 has been flying for five years, you are telling us that SpaceX has spent more money than it has taken in ($5+ billion outflow, and around $3 billion in income: 17 flights at $50 M, plus all of its current Commercial Resupply Services contract — for which I believe it has only received compensation for missions flown, not advances for future missions). Now I understand why you think that SpaceX is subsidized, but I fail to see where the subsidy payments come from or when they come. Can you enlighten us on this?

    My suspicion is that they do not have per-flight operating costs as high as you suggest, and that they do not receive subsidies, open or hidden.

    > Had they managed to succeed. Developed a quality product at a lower cost, and expended market I’ld be all for it. …

    Well, if 17 flights is not success, what is your definition of success? You have admitted that their development costs were lower. Their service has delivered several satellites at prices that are shaking up the competition and delivered quite a bit of cargo both up to and down from the ISS at half the cost of ATV. Has some other company expanded the market, or are you not for any space company?

    Also, from the sounds of it, several companies have noticed the lower launch costs and have based their business models on it. for example, Skybox intends to launch several small, inexpensive satellites, which fly low and need need to be replaced regularly.

    > … They couldn’t, but they love to claim they did.

    Actually, it is everyone else that is claiming that they did. Including Johann-Dietrich Woerner, chairman of the German Aerospace Center and the incoming director-general of ESA.

  • Kelly Starks

    >>> Is he ignoring these lessons or is he attempting to find less expensive work-arounds?

    >> Ignoring. Musk himself has stated (and a lot of NewSpace states) that all those
    >> lessons learned, and standard industrial processes in engineering in general, are
    >> laughably wrong.

    > Your statement confirms that he (and the others) are not ignoring them but looking
    > for better solutions. …

    By adopting failed ideas of the past that the replacement of leed to dramatic improvements in quality safety and price?

    “…looking for better solutions…” implies trying something new and potentially better, not repeating what was proven bad generations ago, and stubbornly insisting every other engineering firm and we rated school in same are wrong.

    > You know, not “laughably wrong” solutions. Not expensive solutions. ..

    No, he’s chosen the laughably wrong solutions, the expensive solutions, the ones everyone from Boeing to Toyota would fire a manager for doing.

    This stubborn insistence that every other significant engineering firm on the planet is wrong, but Musk and NewSpace are right, regardless of the pour results – then following with assuming every other engineering pointing out this detail is on the take or ripping off the gov regardless of what firm their in is just cultish.

    >> Spacecraft carrying x cargo/passengers are generally cheaper to develop and build
    >> then airliners or aircraft of similar capacities and very long range.

    >> The high cost to space is just economies of scale.

    > I’m finding this somewhat difficult to believe. The evidence is that people are willing
    > to pay more to go into space than to fly to Paris, yet in half a century of spaceflight,
    > no one has yet to build a 787-type spacecraft to take passengers/cargo into space.

    There are very very few people interested in paying big money to go into space. Handfuls are in line to go on the ISS as tourists. None of the NewSpace folks have secured huge new market – so they are back to scrambling for some of the gov pie.

    > Orion is costing somewhat more than $6 billion ..

    More like $22. Its been in development for 20 years under various names.

    >… to take a mere 7 people into space, and the SLS rocket is costing significantly more.
    > In fact, SLS is projected to cost about the price of a 787, yet only 7 people can ride her.

    When I was no Orion it was only rated for 4-6 crew at a time, and with no EVA capacity?

    The increased cost per flight was one of the things Griffen listed as a big plus for the agency.
    Yup, and NASA adamantly refused offers by all the big areo firms to make free of charge, vastly cheaper safer RLV’s, if NASA would just agree to use them. Which in fairness would almost be a death sentence for NASA.

    SDI had gotten DC-X most of the way through proof of concept testing, demonstrating a 3,000 fold reduction in labor hours per flight, virtually eliminating the need for the massive supporting infrastructure NASA uses, and projected total costs per flight down to a couple million or submillion. McDonnel Douglas figured this was a ship that could do for space travel what their DC-3 did for airtravel. ….then they couldn’t find any buyers..

    > Each 787 will make thousands of flights…

    Millions actually, thousands per craft per year.

    >,… Imagine if the airlines had to scrap each airliner after its maiden flight. Air travel/air
    > cargo would not be so inexpensive.

    True, that’s why the margin cost per flight of shuttle, even with the crappy design implementation, and partly expendable bits, was only $50M a fight. DC-X or the competing offers were projecting dozens of times less then that with systems designed for easy serviceability.

    However given the overhead costs dwarf all operating costs (like shuttle flights costing $50 million with well over a billion a flight in fixed overhead, or SpaceXs $130M with over $300 million in overhead bills to NASA.) So reusability really isn’t the panacea many think.

    >> But spaceX said finishing the Dragon only took them $200m. Falcon 1 or 9 $300m
    >> compared to $30B for NASA.

    > I thought that your point was that SpaceX et al. were using *more* expensive
    > methods and designs, …

    They are. vastly more expensive. He could do a shuttle for what Dragon would cost .. IF HE’LD DONE THE WORK. He did. Hence the problems.
    Though to be fair after NASA started paying his bills he put something like a extra billion into Dragon, more in the falcons. Kinda bandaids though.

    >..SpaceX does not need subsidies in order to develop its rockets.

    And yet they have taken so much in subsidize etc the total for that per flight is about twice the official cost of the flights. As reported by CBO, SpaceX etc years ago.

    > you may likely be just as wrong about operating costs, too…

    No, they are burning a billion to a billion and a half a year given their scale etc. Probably high end of that given his capital expenses and fondness for delux facilities in high rent/tax areas.

    >> its skiping tried and true newer proven methods and designs, in favor of older and
    >> obsolete designs abandoned due to high cost and high failure rates.

    > Now you are trying to suggest that the guys at Boeing (60-year old Apollo-like CST-100),
    > Lockheed Martin (60-year old Apollo-like Orion), …

    No they are insisting on the standard aerospace standards or they will drop out. They are not going to take the bad press for a substandard design killing folks, for the little money NASA tec are going to pay for CST or Orion. I was no Orion when Hamilton-Sudtsrand simply shutdown the work no Orion’s life-support and cooling system contracts when NASA was insisting they cut out redundancy and safety – even pushing for single point failure systems in life support.

    >…Sierra Nevada (45-year old Shuttle-like Dream Chaser), and SpaceX are skipping
    > whatever “tried and true newer proven” methods and designs you haven’t told us about, yet.

    I did tell you. Systems engineering, requirements tractability and analysis, tracing and defining tests and design elements to the fully vetted requirements. That’s why SpaceX couldn’t get certified by the DOD. It was like auditing the books of a company that didn’t do any accounting or budgeting.

    >… where have they been proven, …

    Well Von Braun’s adoption of them and the resulting dramatic improvements (compare the ’50’s where until you killed a forth of your test pilots, your aircraft program wasn’t considered in real trouble. Or the fleets of rockets that blew up before clearing the tower. To the Saturn V, which after 2 mostly successful test flights (got to orbit, but with some issues) the third flight sent men around the moon.

    After that intro, the processes have been adopted by virtually all industries.

    >….and why are they not flying anymore? …

    They rae. They built all current airliners, cars, computers, all military or gov equipment and vehicles, most all consumer goods.

    As I said, everyone from Boeing to Toyota learned not to do it like Musk does it or you’ll pay a serious cost for it in the long run…or your customers will.

    >… You also need to explain why companies competing with each other would choose
    > non-competitive, expensive, and low-reliability methods and designs over the
    > hypothetical “newer proven” ones.

    Customer demand. They have repeatedly pushed the newer designs and at greatly reduced bid costs. But the bulk of the market is still the DOD and NASA. Congress ordered DOD to stick with old style boosters (though developed to modern engineering standards) rather then lower cost reusables. NASA has a more desperate need for higher costs, and is working to raise them high, since the public voter support for the money they spend is dozens of times greater then for the missions.

    The owners of these competing launch providers (stockholders) are utterly non convinced that dramatically lowering costs will result in a big market boost. (Hell even in NASA office of space access technology in HQ I heard folks literally break out laughing at the suggestion, and they likely repeat such assumptions to stockholders researchers.) Had musk or someone ni NewSpace managed to open up some huge new market, or even demonstrate real signs it could be there, the big firms figured they could get authorization to field low cost RLV’s and really get the market surging. They were drooling at the prospect. But NewSpace failed, so not this generation is seems.

    >> They rae marketing their commercial launches far bellow cost (their base operating
    >> costs are $1+B a year, they fly 6 operational flights per year?

    > … rae you telling me that SpaceX has spent more money than it has taken in
    > ($5+ billion outflow, and around $3 billion in income: 17 flights at $50 M, plus all
    > of its current Commercial Resupply Services contract — for which I believe it has
    > only received compensation for missions flown, not advances for future missions). …

    Actually the bulk of the COTS and CCDev fees are upfront dev fees. The first $850M award to “develop cots related changes” exceeded all R&D spending since the company was founded.

    And engineering organizations cost (by the time you add in salaries, benefits, buildings, tools, factories, etc) about $300K-$400K a year per person. SpaceX has a 4,000 person staff.. ergo. Plus Musk spend big on capital costs (buildings equipment, etc) so he’s likely at the high end of the range. Given his paid flights (most of his launches are demos and test flights) arnt that many .. do that math.. At $50M a flight he’ld needed to have flown a 100 paid flights by now.

    >… I fail to see where the subsidy payments come from or when they come. ..

    NASA and DOD mainly. NASA total cost per SpaceX launch to ISS was projected at $440M DOD has dropped a billion or so no them for studies. Also lately Google drop a chunk on them but I can remember if it was to buy in on SpaceX ops, or some other project.

    Nothing secret about it — though some folks prefer to overlook it.

    >> Had they managed to succeed. Developed a quality product at a lower cost, and expended market I’ld be all for it. …

    > Well, if 17 flights is not success, what is your definition of success?

    Fewer crashes, fewer inflight failures, developing those new markets they intended, costs a lot lower! Not dependent on constant subsidize, to sell well bellow cost services, at substandard quality.

    > You have admitted that their development costs were lower..

    Far to low, and it shows.

    >> … They couldn’t, but they love to claim they did.

    > Actually, it is everyone else that is claiming that they did. …

    No, its one of those smile for the press and play the game things.

  • Edward

    > By adopting failed ideas of the past that the replacement of leed to dramatic improvements in quality safety and price?

    Those “laughably wrong” “failed ideas” and “expensive solutions” have succeeded in resupplying the ISS a few times and launched several satellites for lower prices than the companies that have tried the “low cost” solutions. Your idea of failure seems to be NASA’s (and other experienced satellite operators’) idea of success, as they continue to sign contracts with SpaceX.

    > This stubborn insistence that every other significant engineering firm on the planet is wrong …

    Even those other significant engineering firms are looking for better ways to get into space, so they agree that the current methods are wrong.

    > they are burning a billion to a billion and a half a year given their scale etc.

    Given their scale? You are assuming their expenses; you do not know their expenses, and you base your conclusions on assumptions.

    Are the rest of your statements likewise based upon assumptions and thus are just as unreliable?

    > I did tell you. Systems engineering, requirements tractability and analysis, tracing and defining tests and design elements to the fully vetted requirements.

    > Well Von Braun’s adoption of them

    By this standard, Falcon 9 did better than the Saturn V, as it flew one test flight before flying a payload on its second flight: a contracted and successful test flight of the Dragon spacecraft. Just because the third flight of Falcon did not take men to the Moon does not mean that Falcon is poorly designed, sloppily tested, or its requirements badly vetted. Are you assuming that SpaceX has not also adopted them, or do you assume that they cannot be improved upon? After half a century, do you think that the methods adopted a decade into the space age cannot be improved upon? How safe would air travel be, now, if we were still using 1914 aircraft design, test, and operation standards?

    > After that intro, the processes have been adopted by virtually all industries.

    You put some words onto the screen, but you failed to document them in any way. For example, what method of traceability is SpaceX using, how does that deviate from Von Braun’s methods, why is that worse, and where is your documentation?

    It sounds like you are just making up facts, again. More assumptions, based upon … what? Given their “scale etc.”? Where are your concrete, verifiable examples? How can we trace your claims back to their sources? I could make the same unsubstantiated claims that SpaceX is doing all those things better and for lower cost than “every other significant engineering firm on the planet.” And to prove my point, consider that I just have; now *prove* me wrong. (BTW: the performance and price of the Falcon 9 is on my side.)

    On the other hand, when I tell you that the industry thinks that SpaceX is serious competition, I give you a source: Johann-Dietrich Woerner, chairman of the German Aerospace Center and the incoming director-general of ESA. (See also the link in one of my responses, above.)

    >>> its skiping tried and true newer proven methods and designs, in favor of older and obsolete designs abandoned due to high cost and high failure rates.
    >>….and why are they not flying anymore? …
    > They rae. They built all current airliners, cars, computers, all military or gov equipment and vehicles, most all consumer goods.

    1) None of these are rockets, much less currently flying rockets. Apparently, we are arguing at cross purposes. I am talking about rockets, and you are talking about pretty much anything but rockets.

    2) All of these have been improved over the past half century, not just the designs but the methods of designing, testing, and operating. You have not shown that SpaceX is using obsolete methods and designs, or that SpaceX has higher costs and failure rates; you merely state that they are. Indeed, you assumed SpaceX’s expenses based upon “their scale,” showing that you are giving them credit for operating just like a modern aerospace company. Or is it that you are assuming they operate like all current airline, auto, computer, military/government, and consumer goods companies? Which would contradict your claim that they use obsolete designs and methods.

    >> You have admitted that their development costs were lower..
    > Far to low, and it shows.

    I know! A mere 17 successful flights out of a whopping 17 attempts is proof positive of failure due to poor development funding, low quality engineering, and sloppy operations. You, at least, are not impressed by such lousy performance, but NASA *is* (giving SpaceX two contracts), and the Air Force appears to be (still considering the Falcon 9 for a possible alternate to ULA’s rockets, and it seems as though they may be preparing to certify it). SpaceX sure pulled the wool over those guys, huh? Plus all those other gullible customers lining up for their satellites to be launched on the rocket.

    >>> … They couldn’t, but they love to claim they did.
    >> Actually, it is everyone else that is claiming that they did. …
    > No, its one of those smile for the press and play the game things.

    Add in the space community’s reaction of at least two new rockets being designed to compete with what you say SpaceX didn’t do, then you would be right. If they didn’t, then their wouldn’t be the new designs to compete with SpaceX, and everyone else soiling their underwear because they don’t yet know how to compete with them. Too many people are too wrapped up in the old expensive methods to embrace better and cheaper methods.

    >> >… I fail to see where the subsidy payments come from or when they come. ..
    > NASA and DOD mainly. NASA total cost per SpaceX launch to ISS was projected at $440M DOD has dropped a billion or so no them for studies. Also lately Google drop a chunk on them but I can remember if it was to buy in on SpaceX ops, or some other project.

    And now we are back to “a contract for specified goods or services constitutes subsidies.” By your definition, that contracts are subsidies, all companies that do business with NASA, DOD, and (presumably) any other government agency are receiving subsidies. So, why do you complain that SpaceX is any different than any other aerospace company? For that matter, why do you complain that SpaceX is subsidized for having government contracts, but you don’t complain about all the other equivalent contracts as SpaceX’s (e.g. Orbital for CRS, or Sierra Nevada for CCDev)?

    I don’t buy it. Subsidies are very different from contracts.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/subsidy?s=t

    >> Well, if 17 flights is not success, what is your definition of success?
    > Fewer crashes, fewer inflight failures, developing those new markets they intended, costs a lot lower! Not dependent on constant subsidize, to sell well bellow cost services, at substandard quality.

    SpaceX and Falcon 9 have all of these qualities. Zero Falcon 9 crashes for operational flights (Even Ariane V can’t boast that one, as they destroyed the Cluster cluster of satellites on maiden flight 501). One inflight engine failure, but the primary payload reached its destination. They are in markets for CRS, CCDev (etc.), GEO satellites, etc. all as intended. Even you agree that they have lower prices (low prices seems to be your complaint, not the goal you seek). Zero subsidies (since contracted services are not subsidies). Services are not below cost (although that is your assumption, because you cannot imagine or don’t want to allow doing things a better way than your preferred way), and the quality is excellent for primary payloads, as all have been placed in their intended orbits.

    For an example of poor quality, see the Russians’ record over the past half decade. For an example of standard costs, see any other rocket. For an example of subsidies, see Ariane (or, per your definition, all other rockets that contract to launch government payloads).

    Therefore you should be calling SpaceX and Falcon 9 successes, as the rest of the aerospace world does.

  • Kelly Starks

    I gave a long detailed point by point response which follows, but mostly your argument (aside from some factual errors) boils down to:

    1 – Musk is God, and you shouldn’t doubt his routinely exceeding by orders of magnitude cost etc economy numbers then anyone in any remotely similar engineering company.

    2 – Musk doing something that was proven a failure (in some cases disastrously bad) over half a century ago, is new and innovative. You shouldn’t in any way be suspicious about his claiming results radically different then everyone else in history has doing things that way, or using designs like that.

    3 – normal standards of business, quality metrics, etc don’t apply.

    4 – the gov pumping billions into his contract, making his contracts about the most expensive gov contracts per size in history, significantly higher the ULA or shuttle, still should be counted as a cost saving and not counted as a subsidy.

    All these points strike me as basically nonsensical and cultish.

    ==========
    >> By adopting failed ideas of the past that the replacement of leed
    >> to dramatic improvements in quality safety and price?

    > Those “laughably wrong” “failed ideas” and “expensive solutions” have succeeded
    > in resupplying the ISS a few times and launched several satellites for lower prices
    > than the companies that have tried the “low cost” solutions. ..

    not really – but more no that bellow..

    >> This stubborn insistence that every other significant engineering firm on the planet is wrong …

    > Even those other significant engineering firms are looking for better ways
    > to get into space,..

    None by copying ways that failed badly in the past and continue to plague Musks ops. They actually developed new methods and designs that worked better.
    >> they are burning a billion to a billion and a half a year given their scale etc.

    > Given their scale? You are assuming their expenses; …

    So your assuming they have foiund a way to aquire personal, facilities, equipment, realestate, tax costs, etc, for a tiny fraction of what everyone else in busness like theres in any way can? I.E. Musk is god smarter then everyone one else in busness? Yeah really likely.

    >>> I did tell you. Systems engineering, requirements tractability and analysis, tracing and defining tests and design elements to the fully vetted requirements.

    >> Well Von Braun’s adoption of them

    > By this standard, Falcon 9 did better than the Saturn V, as it flew one test
    > flight before flying a payload on its second flight: a contracted and
    > successful test flight of the Dragon spacecraft. ..

    Actualy the first two falcons blew up in mid air, and they were advertized as products and system testbeds for Falcon9. And a Falcon carrying cargo anf not failing isn’t anymore not failing, then delivering a test palet and not failing. They are both the boosters cargo.

    >> After that intro, the processes have been adopted by virtually all industries.

    > …what method of traceability is SpaceX using, ..

    They arnt. Nor detaioled requirements analisis or test plans given what aeospace execs I knowe who got behind the scenes tours, and off the record DOD folks “quoted” in the press as to why the issues with certifying SpaceX.

    Nor are they big no configuration management and keeping records of what configuration of craft things were tested no, compared to whats launching (another issue the DOD certification folks commented on.

    >… where is your documentation?

    As stated, articles ni the press (WSJ Forbes especially) and personal contacts in the industry.

    >.. I could make the same unsubstantiated claims that SpaceX is doing all
    > those things better and for lower cost than “every other significant
    > engineering firm on the planet.” ….

    Given your claiming that SpaceX, by its own sttaements, is doing workdozens of times cheaper then anyone else in any tpe of engineering – your claims would be rather suspect. Extrodanary claims require extrardanary proof.

    >… the performance and price of the Falcon 9 is on my side.)

    Only because your assuming favorable performance and price for the Falcon 9 that doesn’t get supported by the economic facts, but based on your assumption that no matric from any industry, the funding numbers, etc are applicable to SpaceX.

    Again, the “Musk is a god who always done what no one else in any other vaguely related field can do” assumption, really doesn’t leed cradability to your argument.

    And of course no ones in any industyry is raving about how they are going to copy his methoulds etc.

    >…On the other hand, when I tell you that the industry thinks that SpaceX is serious competition..

    And given I’m ni the industry, read the trade, have heard lots of contradictory public and private statements, etc….

    , I give you a source: Johann-Dietrich Woerner, chairman of the German Aerospace Center and the incoming director-general of ESA. (See also the link in one of my responses, above.)

    >>>> its skiping tried and true newer proven methods and designs, in favor of older
    >>>> and obsolete mthouds and designs abandoned due to high cost and high failure rates.

    >>>….and why are they not flying anymore? …

    >> They are. They built all current airliners, cars, computers, all military or
    >> gov equipment and vehicles, most all consumer goods.

    > 1) None of these are rockets, much less currently flying rockets.
    > Apparently, we are arguing at cross purposes. I am talking about rockets,
    > nd you are talking about pretty much anything but rockets.

    Again, skiping tried and true newer proven methods and designs, in favor of older
    >>>> and obsolete mthouds and designs. This includes methoulds of doing engineering, and designs of rocket systems. The methoulds are standard across aerospace etc. The design are (or were depending no the specific design) in or was inflight in rockets or other systems for decades.

    > 2) All of these have been improved over the past half century, not just the designs
    > but the methods of designing, testing, and operating. ….

    Exactly, which what Musk has said were NOT improvements, has implemented the old processes, copied old designs, etc.

    > You have not shown that SpaceX is using obsolete methods and designs, ..

    If theres something I haven’t gone over reltaed to this a couple times her – point it out and I will.

    >… or that SpaceX has higher costs and failure rates..

    Thats pretty well documented. Higher costs with the costs to NASA (CBO numbers etc) costs to customers before NASA and DOD started paying most of their bills. The cost numbers for a engineering company their size (which yes is a pretty normal cots metric across all engineering companies).

    >>> You have admitted that their development costs were lower..

    >> Far to low, and it shows.

    > I know! A mere 17 successful flights out of a whopping 17 —

    They flew more then that, they aren’t all that successful, the failures and issues are indicative of process failures, etc etc.

    > You, at least, are not impressed by such lousy performance, but NASA
    > *is* (giving SpaceX two contracts), and the Air Force appears to be
    > (still considering the Falcon 9 for a possible alternate to ULA’s rockets..

    Actually they both reported serious issues with SpaceX, and were ordered by congress to change the rules of the game to give SpaceX contracts 9another thing that really bugs me).

    > and it seems as though they may be preparing to certify it..

    They have been “preparing” for a long time, and reportnig SpaceX doesn’t qualify, and SpaceX itself is suggesting alternat certification processes skiping over the normal rules for auditiong their engineering. When I company demands alternate rules of auditing the books – run.

    >..all those other gullible customers lining up for their satellites to be launched on the rocket.

    Note the nature of said customers. Predominently fleet launches like Irridium, where the loss of a few early ni the deply cycle wuoldn’t impact them much since they can easily order more while the serries are ni production. nzewbees needing a cost edge as long as they are gov subsidized, or folks launching cargo they can well afford to lose – like NASa ISS suply flights.

    > two new rockets being designed to compete with what you say SpaceX didn’t do,..

    Rockets also being designed for completly unrelated reasons? Like the new Atlas-V first staege Vulcan, aftre concerns over the old first sttaeges RD-180’s being iffy? The Russians new booster to replace the ’60’s era Soyuz design that they rae having a hard time keeping ni production?

    >>> >… I fail to see where the subsidy payments come from or when they come. ..

    >>> NASA and DOD mainly. NASA total cost per SpaceX launch to ISS was projected at
    >>> $440M DOD has dropped a billion or so no them for studies. ====

    > And now we are back to “a contract for specified goods or services constitutes subsidies.

    And how is a patjment no a COTS contract to develop a previously never developed capacity, so you then have a capacity to honor the requirements to bid for the contract, a payment for specified goods or services?

    Given most all NewSpace, and most folks here nicluding Bob explicitly don’t consider it that for oldspace companies, it shuold not by your def be so now.

    >>> Well, if 17 flights is not success, what is your definition of success?

    >> Fewer crashes, fewer inflight failures, developing those new markets they intended,
    >> costs a lot lower! Not dependent on constant subsidize, to sell well bellow cost services, at substandard quality.

    > SpaceX and Falcon 9 have all of these qualities. …

    Again
    > Fewer crashes, fewer inflight failures, ..

    We’ve had several crashs of falcons, most seem to have some serious issue,

    >..developing those new markets they intended,..

    Fail here, they had to fall back on getting some of the gov pork.

    >…costs a lot lower! Not dependent on constant subsidize

    Costs were consistently reported at similar or higher then current by commercial and gov customers or potentuial customers before the big NASA DOD subsidize started underwriting them. Again given the costs for a engineering company of that scale, they rae reporting commercial prices far bellow break even (tough customers repeatdely report actual prices when fully worked out are significantly higher then whats quoted on the web pages etc.

    Generating a system with much lower costs, similar quailty, etc was one of the of stated goals of Musk for SpaceX.

    >.. Even you agree that they have lower prices …. Zero subsidies ..

    Oh I definatly don’t agree with those… ;/

    >… Services are not below cost (although that is your assumption, because you cannot
    > imagine or don’t want to allow doing things a better way than your preferred way..

    Given he does things by ways proven worse long ago – he can’t be saving money three unless hes just npot doing the work (a issue I’ve frequently seen in such cases).

    The cost numbers for any engineering company with staffing equip etc that size, are driven by factors he couldn’t change regardless how he does busness etc. everything frmo realestate costs, retail costs of his suplies furniture, electricity, etc are all a fraction of what everyone else pays.

    >… and the quality is excellent for primary payloads..

    Ignoring cargo damage, lost and dumped ni the ocean, the need for a lot of test flights and redesigns, etc.

  • Edward

    > I gave a long detailed point by point response which follows, but mostly your argument (aside from some factual errors) boils down to: …

    There you go, making stuff up, again.

    I am beginning to think that this is your strategy when you run out of valid arguments.

    > Musk doing something that was proven a failure

    Which company/government/project tested tall ICBM-style liquid fuelled first stage non-SSTO demonstrator rocket that has reentered an atmosphere from altitude on a ballistic trajectory (TISLFFSNDRTHRAFAOABT) half a century ago? I do not remember such a thing, except in science fiction stories.

    > normal standards of business, quality metrics, etc don’t apply.

    You still have failed to demonstrate that SpaceX operates outside of “normal standards of business, quality metrics, etc.” just because you want it to be so does not make it so.

    > the gov pumping billions into his contract, making his contracts about the most expensive gov contracts per size in history, significantly higher the ULA or shuttle, still should be counted as a cost saving and not counted as a subsidy.

    Except for notable contracts such as CRS with Orbital or Boeing’s CCtCap contract. Or the B-2 bomber, for that matter. Once again, you consider a contract to be a subsidy.

    Indeed, since government paid for the *entire* cost of ULA’s rockets, why do you not consider ULA as being subsidized? Oh, wait. They *are* being subsidized:
    https://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/air-force-subsidies-to-ula-to-end/

    Since Sierra Nevada had a contract under CCDev, just as SpaceX did, why do you not consider SN or the other companies with similar contracts as having been subsidized?

    Do you consider NASA’s (or NACA’s) wind tunnels to be subsidies for the US aircraft industry? We would not have been the world’s aircraft leader if it weren’t for those wind tunnels. You may thank me, now, for paying the taxes that subsidized the airplanes (via NASA’s wind tunnels) that you fly on.

    No, for you, only SpaceX has been subsidized. Just because you say so, does not make it true.

    > All these points strike me as basically nonsensical and cultish.

    Just because you say so, does not make it true. Why is suggesting that SpaceX is successful considered cultish, but you longing for the days of the Shuttle is not?

    Instead of having valid arguments, you accuse as a cultist anyone who does not denounce SpaceX. Insults, no matter how mild, do not constitute valid arguments.

    >> Those “laughably wrong” “failed ideas” and “expensive solutions” have succeeded
    >> in resupplying the ISS a few times and launched several satellites for lower prices
    >> than the companies that have tried the “low cost” solutions. ..
    > not really

    And now you deny reality. Falcon 9s and Dragons really *have* resupplied ISS on six occasions for less cost than ATV, and they *have* launched satellites for lower prices. Just because you say they haven’t, does not make it true.

    >>> This stubborn insistence that every other significant engineering firm on the planet is wrong …
    >> Even those other significant engineering firms are looking for better ways
    >> to get into space,..
    > None by copying ways that failed badly in the past and continue to plague Musks ops.

    At this point, I am claiming a victory point. Once again, you change the argument so that you can be right. You agree that “those other significant engineering firms are looking for better ways to get into space,” so they currently are wrong.

    > So your assuming they have foiund a way to aquire personal, facilities, equipment, realestate, tax costs, etc, for a tiny fraction of what everyone else in busness like theres in any way can?

    I have made no such claim or assumption, but you have stated your assumption and refused to supply evidence to back up that assumption. On the other hand, SpaceX, being vertically integrated, buys less hardware and services from other companies, so its cost structure cannot fairly be compared to companies that do. This is a mistake on your part.

    >> By this standard, Falcon 9 did better than the Saturn V, as it flew one test
    >> flight before flying a payload on its second flight
    > Actualy the first two falcons blew up in mid air

    Again with the changing of topics. Even after I was very, very explicit that I was talking about Falcon 9s, you changed the topic to the Falcon 1. This is another point to me, as you ran out of valid arguments.

    >>> After that intro, the processes have been adopted by virtually all industries.
    >> …what method of traceability is SpaceX using, ..
    > They arnt. Nor detaioled requirements analisis or test plans given what aeospace execs I knowe who got behind the scenes tours, and off the record DOD folks “quoted” in the press as to why the issues with certifying SpaceX.

    Once again, just because you say so does not make it true. What article has quoted DOD folks. Were their opinions justified and proper, or were they among those who demanded too much in SpaceX’s certification process?
    https://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/points-of-information/air-force-demanded-too-much-in-its-spacex-certification-process/

    >> … where is your documentation?
    > As stated, articles ni the press (WSJ Forbes especially) and personal contacts in the industry.

    You need to provide links, because I can’t find this information. Personal contacts are not documentation; once again, it is just you saying so.

    It actually sounds like you consider anyone who does not follow *your* preferred expensive methods must be wrong. You assume that the expensive methods must be correct, but I have worked to these methods, and I have found many of them to be unnecessary and too restrictive. Newer and better methods are needed so that we don’t end up with our hardware following the same cost curve as our military aircraft. It has become so bad that there are very few military aircraft in production, and each one is tremendously expensive. The shameful part is that after six decades, we still can’t make a bomber to replace the aging B-52s. It would be terrible if our rockets and spacecraft likewise became so expensive and low quality that we ended up relying on 1960s technology, such as the Soyuz. Oh, wait. That’s what happened with the Shuttle.

    > Given your claiming that SpaceX, by its own sttaements, is doing workdozens of times cheaper then anyone else in any tpe of engineering – your claims would be rather suspect. Extrodanary claims require extrardanary proof.

    > Only because your assuming favorable performance and price for the Falcon 9 that doesn’t get supported by the economic facts, but based on your assumption that no matric from any industry, the funding numbers, etc are applicable to SpaceX.

    I point to delivered hardware. It is not an extraordinary claim, it is the published prices that customers are paying and the resulting delivered payloads – the same prices that you have agreed are being paid, but you refuse to believe that it can be done for those prices (hence your unsubstantiated claim that SpaceX is subsidized).

    Your economic “facts” are based upon the assumption of the same expenses per employee between a vertically integrated company (making its own hardware and performing its own services) and a horizontally integrated company (which buys outside goods and services). Your assumption and your “facts” are flawed. You have complained in the past that SpaceX makes its own engines (an expensive component) rather than buy them from another company. This is one way in which SpaceX’s methods can make them have lower expenses per employee. Some of those employees are making those otherwise expensive engines, so the per employee expenses are way below your assumptions.

    There are no god-like powers needed, just a different business model; a more efficient business model. They don’t even have to skimp on engineering or quality to lower their per employee expenses, because for each component that they make in house rather than buy, it dramatically lowers their per employee expenses. Indeed, to make a fair comparison between vertically and horizontally integrated companies, you would have to add in the number of employees at the external vendors who are working on hardware and services. You have failed to do that in your cost assumption. Again, no god-like powers are needed, just a more efficient business model.

    > And of course no ones in any industyry is raving about how they are going to copy his methoulds etc.

    Maybe not, but Airbus is desperately trying to get ESA to agree to move away from their expensive methods.

    > And given I’m ni the industry, read the trade, have heard lots of contradictory public and private statements,

    You are not the only one among us who is in the industry or who reads the trade magazines, newspapers, and websites. We know that there are contradictory statements, but we also are looking at results and at actions taken. These actions make clear that SpaceX is shaking up the industry, and that companies are becoming more and more interested in reducing their own costs. Will you likewise denounce them when they succeed in reducing costs, or is it only Musk that you demonize?

    >> You have not shown that SpaceX is using obsolete methods and designs, ..
    > If theres something I haven’t gone over reltaed to this a couple times her – point it out and I will.

    Document the obsolete methods and designs. Give us links, not just declarations. You have not done this even once. Just because you say something, does not make it so.

    >>… or that SpaceX has higher costs and failure rates..
    Thats pretty well documented.

    If it were so well documented, then you would have provided links.

    >> I know! A mere 17 successful flights out of a whopping 17 —
    > They flew more then that, they aren’t all that successful, the failures and issues are indicative of process failures, etc etc.

    No, there have only been 17 Falcon 9 flights, stay on topic:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_9#Launch_history

    Well, this is getting too long, I have put in too many links and Robert has to approve this lengthy comment, you have run out of valid arguments or you don’t document your “facts,” your assumptions are low quality, and I have other things that must get done, so I will end it here at six pages without addressing your remaining points.

  • This is really a comment to Kelly, but it is inspired by Edward’s response above.

    The bottom line, Kelly, is that you have not been very convincing. In fact, I sincerely hope that you have not been using your real name, or that no rocket company executives have been reading your many comments. Your comments — where you have repeatedly attacked SpaceX with no documentation and little solid connection with reality — have not made you look good. If I was an engineering firm looking for engineers, I would be very disturbed by the animus you seem to hold for SpaceX and Elon Musk. It isn’t so much that you don’t like them, but that you apparently have allowed that dislike to cloud your thinking.

    And cloudy thinking is the last thing any company needs in the engineers it hires.

    I make this comment sincerely and with no ill will.

  • Kelly Starks

    >..In fact, I sincerely hope that you have not been using your real name, or that no
    > rocket company executives have been reading your many comments.

    You know very well I’m using my real name, and no rocket and aerospace companies I deal with generally agree with me. Its the fan attitudes they shake their heads about.

    But if its making you uncomfortable I’ll drop it.

  • Hey, you can say what you want. You know I allow all opinions here, as long as they are said civilly (which you do). It is entirely up to you.

  • Edward

    Kelly wrote:
    > rocket and aerospace companies I deal with generally agree with me.

    The companies that do things the “standard” way *would* agree with you. Enforcing the “standard” way makes it harder for the fixed price companies to get into or survive in the market. But companies that do not work for cost plus are going to have to work more efficiently in order to perform fixed price contracts without going bankrupt. If the government wants to buy goods and services for fixed prices then they will have to put up with new ways of doing business, new concepts for hardware, and new ways of operations.

    For example: no more requirement changes after the hardware is in production (preferably these changes would stop before the preliminary design review). Fewer bean counters. A decision making process (by the government customer) that works in a timely manner. Generally, fewer unproductive people on the project.

    The purpose of going commercial is to get away from “space as a jobs program” and go toward space as a useful place to do business.

    As for our discussion about certification (from whichever thread or posting):
    http://spacenews.com/report-highlights-misunderstandings-between-spacex-air-force-on-certification/
    “It bears noting that the New Entrant Certification requirements that SpaceX must live up to vastly exceed the requirements that the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 launch vehicles had to meet in 1998”

    SpaceX was treated to greater scrutiny than ULA. Why? It is hard to say, but the result is that SpaceX certification is once again not possible in time to compete for an important contract.

    This greater level of scrutiny would also explain why SpaceX was confused about the extra paperwork it was being required to deliver. Their certification experts likely added to the confusion by being surprised by the added requirements. (For the Air Force to impose such additional requirements is a poor sign of the Air Force’s commitment to lower costs and greater productivity.)

    From the article: “The Air Force, the report said, was slow to embrace SpaceX’s innovations.”

    Again, without innovations, there is little or no improvement in hardware or methods or reduction in launch prices; the whole idea behind competition in the first place. I know that the “not invented here” and “change is bad” attitudes are prevalent in aerospace, but in order to improve, we have to be willing to accept improved methods of operation, improved designs, and improved business models in order to get improved access to space, and we have to be brave enough and bold enough to try them.

    It is the poor access to space that is hurting this industry and making it so difficult to implement the dreams, ideas, and plans of the 1960s. With the renewed hope for easy access, those dreams, ideas, and plans are now being dusted off and re-proposed. Going to Mars is a dream to Musk, an idea to NASA, and a (no longer feasible, for 2018) plan for Tito.

    I do not think that SpaceX is perfect, and I expect problems (we always seem to get them when we innovate), but the article I linked, above, suggests that the certification process seems to be bogged down by smaller, fixable problems, not conceptual or operational (method of doing business) problems:
    “James said in a March 23 press release that the two parties are focusing on second-stage-engine and fairing qualification and contamination control.”

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