SpaceX launches Dragon to ISS

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SpaceX successfully launched a reused Dragon capsule into orbit yesterday, once again using a reused first stage.

To show you how routine this has become, I myself completely forgot the launch was happening yesterday, and spent that time doing my monthly bills. Oy.

They did not attempt to recover the first stage, using it instead to do re-entry flight tests as it landed in the Atlantic Ocean. I suspect they have decided that it is not cost effective to recover used first stages, and would rather dump them in the ocean than pay the cost to recover, test, and store them.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

10 China
7 SpaceX
4 Russia
3 Japan

China and the U.S. continue to be tied in the national standings.



  • Jim H

    Or it might be because they are going to Block 5 only as you reported and would rather gain engineering information off of the older versions.

  • geoffc

    The theory is Block 3 (all used up now) and Block 4 first stages are good for two flights. Block 5 is the big reuse model. It is due to launch end of the month, so rather than spend on refurb to try and eke out a third launch, they are waiting for B5. And the cost of landing one, moving it, and then storing it somewhere, if it cannot be used a third time is not worth it.

    Plus this lets them push the limits of landing on minimal fuel, and try out experiments to optimize the process, when it does not matter if it succeeds or fails, so long as it collects data at the edge cases.

  • Kirk

    From the SpaceX/CRS-14 post-launch press conference:

    Randy Segal, WSTU Radio: When you brought it down, did you use it as a soft landing on the ocean? What was the final determination of it?

    Jessica Jensen, SpaceX Director of Dragon Mission Management: It was a hard landing in the ocean.

    Randy SegalRadio: So you didn’t try slowing it down or anything like that?

    Jessica Jensen: No, we wanted to get data. Basically the main thing we were interested in was actually the re-entry data for this one. Not so much the landing data.

  • wodun

    SpaceX sticks with their method of getting as much use of something as they can but it’s cheaper to throw it in the ocean than throw it in the dump.

    They produce a core a month, so they will have plenty to meet the demands of the immediate future and will soon have a nice stable of Block V cores.

    Maybe they could keep the Block IV’s around a little longer but there isn’t any reason to. Production can focus on churning out Block V’s and the designers can focus on BFR/BFS. There are probably a lot of operating inefficiencies to be gained by using all Block V’s but it is also great for marketing, satellites will be flying on soon to be human rated launchers. Since one of the attacks against SpaceX is safety/reliability, this will solidify their status as the industry leader.

  • Richard M

    “The theory is Block 3 (all used up now) and Block 4 first stages are good for two flights.”

    Actually, it’s not so much that they are unsafe to fly a third time, but more that Musk does not want to develop different sets of recovery and refurbishment procedures for multiple block types. He wants the Block 5 to be it.

    (There are secondary considerations, too, of course. Retrieving and storing used stages costs money. So would disposing of them. They will also be more expensive to refurbish for subsequent uses than the Block 5 will be.)

    It’s a bit of a gamble, because he’s throwing away most of his inventory of earlier blocks – rockets which in many cases could still theoretically be used again with some (considerable, in some cases) refurbishment – before the first Block 5 even flies. Obviously, they have a great deal of confidence in how they think it will perform.

  • Localfluff

    You Americans are so happy to have a president like this!
    – Let the rich launch their rocket ships, why should we pay for it?
    – They are using our facilities, I’m a landlord again.
    – I looked at the tanks coming back the other day. It looks like Star Wars.
    – 85 millions. If the government had done it, it would’ve cost billions and maybe hadn’t worked out so well. (I think that SLS+Orion+LOP-G are smoked, this guy knows something numbers and the conclusion is obvious).

    And he is looking for some infrastructure program greater than the panama Canal to put his name on. Next to the panama Canal, there can only be the moon.

  • pzatchok

    At least ours doesn’t wrestle bears to impress people. Which its really doesn’t.

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