HN Theater @HNTheaterMonth

The best talks and videos of Hacker News.

Hacker News Comments on
SpaceX launch webcast: Orbcomm-2 Mission · 1284 HN points · 1 HN comments
HN Theater has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention's video "SpaceX launch webcast: Orbcomm-2 Mission".
Watch on [↗]
HN Theater Rankings
  • Ranked #10 all time · view

Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this video.
Dec 22, 2015 · 1284 points, 426 comments · submitted by clessg
So, I've lived within earshot of the Cape since 1985, and I'm pretty used to hearing launches. Tonight, I had a new experience.

I was working on a signal distortion problem with a colleague when I heard the rumble of the launch. "Rocket just launched", I said. He was on Google chat with me and said, "It did?". He lives a few miles south of me and so he gets the sound waves a few seconds later ;).

A couple of minutes later I did a double-take. "THAT's a new sound!". I've heard rockets blow before, but I've never heard one come back to land.

Then I checked the internet to confirm what my ears had already told me.

Congrats to SpaceX and thank you for not landing it on my house!

This is so epically awesome that I feel like we orbited a human for the first time or something. Bezos whining aside, its a huge deal to return 9 engines from a workhorse booster back to the pad to be refurbed and re-used. If the $5M each costs are correct, that is $45M in cost savings right there.

But perhaps more importantly its the first "first" for SpaceX which has not been done by NASA or anyone else. Launch a payload in to orbit and recover the booster back to the launch site. The SRBs from the shuttle were essentially shell refurbs, SpaceShip 1 and Blue Origin sub-orbital hops. This was, in my estimation, the real deal. It has to be an amazing feeling being on the team that made this possible. Congratulations, that is one way to write yourself into the history books.

Edit: I was so excited I couldn't even multiply 9 by 5!

The whole Bezos/BlueOrigin thing is kind of sad. They are nowhere near a "club" with SpaceX.

One of the huge differences (and there are many) is that Falcon 9 was doing 6,000 Km/hr (~4,000 mi/hr) when the first stage separated and turned around to come back.

The path was not straight up, but rather one to launch the second stage into orbital flight (which reached 26,000 Km/hr and 600 miles of altitude).

Then Falcon9's first stage FLEW a curved return path; fired three engines to slow down from holy-crap miles-per-hour, shut them down and then, at exactly the right moment in time, fired one engine to land.

The Bezos rocket went straight up to zero velocity and came straight back down.

It's like throwing a bottle straight up in the air compared to throwing one in a parabolic path to the top of the Empire State building and having that bottle then turn around, fly that same parabolic path to return and land at your feet.

Not sure why Bezos feels the need to try to imply his effort (which IS significant) is on the same league as SpaceX other than to potentially try to leverage the fabricated parity for publicity and external funding.

Bezos and Musk should NOT be on twitter for their sake. Imagine for a few decades no one tells you "no" or "you're wrong" and you have thousands of peons to kick around. Megalomania is 100% going to happen. Best just contain that behind closed doors.
Have you beenin twitter? There's plenty of people there, ready not only to tell you that you're wrong, but explain why and how in great excruciating detail
> excruciating detail

Sure in 140 characters.

The only thing that can be explained on Twitter in excruciating detail is its obnoxiously short character limit resulting in no possibili
Eh - I think a good bit of it is entertainment for public consumption. Competition keeps people interested. It's pretty neat how we've gone from two superpowers duking it out in a cold war to two rich dudes exchanging barbs on twitter.
I think it's great how Elon uses Twitter. It's better than him being a shadowy figure shrouded in mystery. Remember, he's doing this primarily for the passion, not money, and he wants to inspire others to join him. You don't do that by being a Mr ??? sat in the background.
Question: if what Bezos did was just launching straight up and then landing, why is it any better than this:

when SpaceX launched 1000m and landed? Just because it was higher? It seems like SpaceX has Bezos beat on both sides - they launched and landed a rocket before Bezos, and now theyve launched and landed a rocket higher than Bezos. So all Bezos did was launch his rocket higher than SpaceX's at the time. Is that right?

I am of the opinion that I don't give a damn, what both are doing is incredibly complex and from a nerd/geek perspective very cool. If there is some rivalry then so be it, but damn they are both working to make space accessible and for that we need to cheer them both on.
Still Elon is more geeky, technical, coder, not-care about money than Jeff is.
Not only this, but the spacex grasshopper test was the first that I saw that had the rocket do a vertical takeoff, and then land.

This has been done a dozen times, from DC-X to JAXA's RTV to Armadillo's Stig. What makes the SpaceX effort different is it's part of a practical launch system and not an SSTO concept prototype like the others.
get a load of this:

1995, DC-X, and it's pyramidal

Yeah, I still have a newspaper clipping on my wall from Aug 21st, 1993 (San Jose Mercury News) showing it in the take off, hover, and landing stages. I really wanted to work on it then too!
TIL that the DCX was canceled by Nasa not for technical reasons - looks more like politics. The program was 21 months old and cost $60M.

Is that correct? Amazing that this was achievable 20 years ago. Why no other re-usable rocket since 1996 if this was doable?


   > Why no other re-usable rocket since 1996 if this 
   > was doable?
Economics, technology, motivation. All were in short supply in the 90's. One of my favorites was Rotary Rocket. It made great strides but didn't have the right team to get it into production.
You should read one of Jerry Pournelle's rants on the subject. There was a lot of bitterness from people who supported the program.

The problem with SSTOs, in general is that while getting them to take off and land isn't a big hurdle, getting them into orbit with more than a nontrivial payload is pretty difficult.

It's a concept with its supporters, but there's a pretty large program risk - the numbers are so tight you may get to the end of your development and realize your rocket works but can take only, you know, 25 pounds of payload to LEO. Or maybe a few tons. Or maybe you can't get to orbit at all.

SpaceX's plan to land each stage individually probably makes a lot more sense from the risk perspective.

Stuck the landing! Congratulations! 10/10. Would land again.
Got my daughter out of bed at T-5 to watch the launch sequence and possibly history being made. Thrilling to watch it with her, tried to give her an idea of how momentous this is. Wonderful. Congrats to all at SpaceX!
Humanity just made progress! Amazing.
Yup, congrats to the whole team. Damn amazing achievement!
I had the whole family watch. They'll remember this moment for a long time to come. Well done!
History is made!
Congrats! Massive step into the era of reusable rockets.
Completely amazing! I'm sure I heard a "holy shit" or two there in the audience. :)

EDIT: One question for the rocket scientists here: exactly how reusable do they expect these returned first stage rockets to be? What is the process of certifying that a returned rocket is fit to fly, and what components are most likely to need repairing/replacing with each launch?

How reusable this first stage is? They'll have to study it meticulously to find out. But what they're aiming for is to be able to just refuel it, mount new payload on top, and relight it in the span of hours.
That's an impressively ambitious goal. Has SpaceX mentioned any willingness to use returned first stage rockets to launch astronauts? That would be the ultimate expression of their confidence in this approach, though understandably it may be a long ways off.
Can't find any direct quote about it, but I imagine they're thinking about it and considering it in not-so-far future, given that the new Dragon, which is going to be certified to carry astronauts, is designed to be capable to perform an abort at any time during the mission - which means it's supposed to be able to escape from the blast of an exploding first stage :).
It's funny, with most vehicles you want to avoid being on a completely new, untested one. Think about it: would you be comfortable flying on a brand new 787 that had never been flown before, not even once? I sure wouldn't. Before long, maybe rockets will be like that too.
You know, that's a very good point. :)
Well you want to be in the middle of the curve - you don't feel particularly comfortable flying a 30-year-old plane either (at least I don't). It's just that so far the curve for rockets is more of a spike.
Depends if the first flight almost destroys the vehicle. It'll be very interesting to see how well this rocket stood up to the flight. Since orbital rockets are within epsilon of just blowing up every time any way!

Incredible project. Reusable rockets. It's science fiction coming to life again, like the 1960s.

Would you fly passengers on the test flight of a new plane? Yet we do that with rockets. After they've done this a bunch of times to understand any fatigue and thermal degradation problems properly, it should be safer to fly a reused rocket than a new one.
A follow-up question to that would be - how much $$ do you save per launch by reusing the first stage?

There's really not a lot of costs that can add up for reuse of these stages. It'll require a bit of cleaning up, a few new bits and pieces replaced and added, and a lot of inspection work. But most of the cost of the stage is in manufacturing the engines and tanks, so it should add up to enormous savings, even if it's relatively costly to reuse each stage compared to the theoretical limits.

Edit: the flip-side is that the reliability and robustness improvements from reusability may be as big a win as cost. Currently it costs tens of millions of dollars to launch a rocket to orbit, which means it's almost never done except as part of a paid launch. Moreover, despite the seemingly high number of launches very few of those launches represent expanding the test-envelope much, every single launch is typically straight down the middle of the performance envelope, to maximize the chance of success. That results in learning very little about these vehicles despite how much they've been flown. By introducing reuse and dropping the cost of flight it may become possible to do real test programs, which would make it possible to determine the flight envelope characteristics of vehicles and help lead to improving designs over time.

Good point. Orbcomm already paid off the booster. Now SpaceX can take it up for a joy ride for only a few hundred grand of gas and really fly the fins off it.

I bet they relaunch this booster on their own dime as a demo.

I have no inside knowledge, but I'd suspect Orbcomm paid next to nothing for this launch.

Between "You'll be the first launch since the last one... You know, that one with a small anomaly..." and fact that this was the first launch of a new version of the falcon 9 (with slightly different engines, cooler/more pressurized O2), I know that if I were negociating for Orbcomm, I'd ask spaceX to cross the last digit on their bill (and probably have a much more expensive insurance policy in return).

And to delay a _commercial_ launch in order to accommodate weather for the _landing_ ? AFAIK, that's another world's first in history and I think that tells a lot on the underlying story.

Don't get me wrong, this is an amazing achievement, and the economics of it don't really matter when it comes to the technical prowess

The launch service provider has the last say on the date of the launch. The customer provides orbital parameters, and the launch just needs to make sure that insertion happens. Delaying for weather is pretty common, and as long as the payload gets to where it's supposed to, everyone's happy. The Orbcomm contract wouldn't have had a launch date specified, except in terms of NET (no earlier than) or similar. The launch windows are decided by SpaceX based on the requirements, and are the other constraint, and there was a window on both days.
For this launch, Orbcomm paid a pittance. They paid Falcon 1 prices for a Falcon 9 launch.
Not quite. These satellites were indeed originally supposed to go up on a Falcon 1, but not 11 at a time. They got a pretty big discount, but not quite a pittance.
Total nonsense. They pay a lot. It's the Insurance company who covers the losses.
Is was a substantial discount, but not "next to nothing". Something like $42 million for two launches, versus $65 million for one launch. And they've been patient with delays and such, which costs a lot of money too.
And with the amount of redundancy built in they might even go with 'acceptable loss' in terms of engines that cut out early in flight. Which makes you wonder how many engines they could lose and still complete a mission.
Falcon 9 is designed to withstand losing one engine and still make it to orbit.

Reusability makes it more interesting. There's a lot of extra fuel on board now which could be used to make up for lost engines if you're willing to throw away the first stage.

Depends on the procedure they ultimately decided to use for the prep. Originally the the shuttle main engines had to be taken apart, with every part inspected before the next launch. If they have to do something like that there's not much point.

But if they can get it to point where it's a matter of gassing it up for the next flight, that's a huge savings. Fuel is a few hundred grand for a rocket that costs sixty million dollars. It's nothing, basically.

Hopefully it won't be anything like the Shuttle. The Shuttle was bleeding edge in a dozen different ways. The engines were extremely high performance and that made them fragile.

SpaceX seems to build things a lot more low-key. They don't use fancy propellants, their engines aren't particularly efficient, and overall they seem to go more for robustness and simplicity.

(Simplicity doesn't really apply for a crazy-ass landing scheme. But aside from that....)

Obviously it remains to be seen, but I think it's likely to be a lot more gas-and-go than the Shuttle.

Yes, I expect you're right about that, and furthermore I expect SpaceX will be willing to make substantial design changes in support of that effort.


The money quote:

> Musk said that a rocket's first stage accounts for three-quarters of its total price tag, so a vehicle with a reusable first stage can be produced at far less cost — assuming the hardware is fully and rapidly reusable.

~75% savings seems like a "best case scenario" number.

The other important factor is how many times you get to re-use the stage, because that tells you the saving per launch. If you get to re-use it once, then on each flight you save 37.5% of the launch cost. If you re-use it again twice (3 launches of the first stage) you save 50% of the launch cost per flight (each flight costs you 1/3 of the first stage cost). And so on. That's not factoring in refurb and re-fueling costs, of course.
If I understand correctly, even if they can only reuse the rocket motors, that would still be most of the 75% figure.
Aside from the cost savings, the other goal of reusing boosters is to reduce the time between launches.

The challenge for SpaceX is to inspect the booster, integrate a new second stage & payload, and relaunch in a few weeks. With a few years of work, it should be almost like a cargo jet turnaround.

ULA's Vulcan plan is to parachute the engines and pumps back, catch the rope with a helicopter, inspect and reattach to a new set of tanks. That seems likely to be a little more complex to me.

The catching with a helicopter part is complex, but not time-consuming - either it works or it doesn't. The rest is probably if anything easier - I'd imagine SpaceX will have to tear down the booster entirely for inspection, at least for the first few hundred. These things are (or will be) built to be disassembled and reassembled, attaching engines and pumps to a new tank is not going to be a long and complex process.
Good enough for me. Even if it is only 25% in practice they'll own the market.
They're already insanely cheap compared to most competitors. This should take them to being ludicrously cheap.
Let's see who tries to imitate them and do a re-use, some real competition is what's needed next.

Now for second stage re-use ;)

And then for the crew capsule reuse... oh wait :).

Seriously though, now I'm just waiting for updates on BFR / Mars mission development progress.

ULA is already trying to imitate them with their announced 'Vulcan' concept, where the engines eject and parachute back, but that's (many) years away from actually happening.
I think SpaceX is sufficiently motivated by their man at the top that they'll keep doing great things even in the total absence of competition. But it would still be great to see others go this way, to see different approaches tried and such. It sounds like some other launchers were looking at reusability plans before (Ariane had plans for some wacky thing that would fly back just the engines) but now that it's been demonstrated to work I imagine it will become much more serious.
NARS but probably comparable to shuttle engines and body.
The Shuttle engines operate on hydrogen which burns very cleanly. RP-1 will leave the engine dirty with coking, so they definitely need to clean re-assemble each engine.

On the other hand, the solid boosters of the Space Shuttle were severely damaged by the impact and corrosion of the sea water, after "recovery" they were essentially a source of parts for new boosters.

Overall, I really hope they can improve re-usability above what the Space Shuttle achieved.

The first stage goes through at least one full mission duration burn and another ignition before finally launching. So they don't need to be reassembled completely between each firing. I assume they have been repeatedly firing engines for a while now to see how many relights they can get.
The hydrogen in the Space Shuttle Main Engine creates embrittlement in the alloys of the engine. [1][2] The launch sequence also involved running the engines at 104.5% of rated capacity. [3] Before Block II of the engines, the turbopumps needed to be disassembled and rebuilt between flights. [4]

I have no real idea how significant coking of the Merlin engine is, but the SSMEs were hardly "clean".

[1] [2] [3] [4]

IIRC the 104% was additional performance they enabled through upgrades and design improvements beyond the original design not over-driving them.
That right. The 100% level was set at some point during the design process. Later they found ways to slightly increase the thrust. Rather than recalibrate all the numbers, they just kept using the original "100%" and called the new level "104%."

Basically, it's "104% of what the engineers circa 1975 thought the level would be," not 104% of what the hardware was rated for.

They did re-light the engines, curious how many times in a row they can pull that trick before contamination becomes a problem.
FWIW, SpaceX has launched stages after full-length (3 minute plus) burns on the test stand, on a schedule that wouldn't allow time for that kind of teardown. They'll need to do something to clean the engines out eventually, but if several minutes of operation were enough to cause serious gunking, then between those test runs and the multiple runs of the grasshopper test vehicle for landing sequences, they've seen it and know how to deal with it.

(Incidentally, SpaceX is known for keeping some aspect of their operations trade secret, rather than patenting. So, if they had some solvent that dissolved the gunk and simplified the cleanup process, or some such similar trick, it's likely that no one outside the company would know about it.)

The first stage rocket doesn't go nearly as high or as fast as the shuttle though, no? AFAIK the shuttle had to have its heat shield replaced after each return trip, and it landed aerodynamically rather than via rocket power. I'd presume that the powered descent of the first stage means that it doesn't need any sort of heat shielding, at the expense of more stress on the engines, thus requiring a bespoke inspection process.
It doesn't have a heat shield because it simply doesn't go fast enough relative to the atmosphere to need one, it does not 're-enter' the atmosphere at nearly the same horizontal speeds the shuttle did (from full orbital velocity down to landing speed). Even so, the stresses from heating up, cooling down, launch and landing are such that they will likely magnaflux that whole thing from one end to the other just to be sure there aren't any defects, especially until they have more experience, they'll pick it apart and inspect each and every bit to see how well it performed. Later on when they have much more data they might decide to swap out parts only every so many launches if possible.
The shuttle's main engines were extremely high-performance. They were marvels of engineering but required a lot of work between flights. Just like cars can be optimized for performance or reliability (think Honda Civic versus Ferrari) rocket engines can be made more maintainable and tolerant to long use periods. Not saying Spacex engines are Hondas, but they are probably way less trouble than SSMEs.
Soyez has been flying nearly 50 years. It's the dump truck of space, with 1700 launches to date. Compare that to the much more elaborate Shuttle's 135. Elon would rather have the dump truck than the Ferrari.
This is in the "to be optimized" bracket. If they can get any kind of consistency landing even heavily strained rockets, they can reframe/readjust/redesign as necessary (like adding more support in areas etc).
Exactly. Now that they got one back they can actually start the process of figuring out what needs to be done to make the first stage as reusable as possible. It's a long road, but they can finally make some headway now.

hah! Tears in my eyes here this is absolutely incredible to watch.

I stayed up for this, I hope I didn't wake up the neighbours and it will take days to wipe the grin of my face.

We just witnessed a major moment in history. Unbelievable.

edit: haha, nice downvote, whoever it was. :)

Biggest step since man on the moon for me. Really, the cost of access to space just went down the biggest step since we started making rockets.
We've reached some amazing heights since then - the flyby of Pluto, intercepting 67P/C-G - but I have to agree. It might not be the biggest step up - but it sure seems like the biggest step forwards.

Government space missions are limited by taxpayer interest/funding, and the high cost of access to space has mostly limited commercial interest to things like communication and surveying satellites. I'm really looking forward to what new opportunities open up in both spaces when we can do so much more for the same cost.

I called this arguably the biggest thing in space travel since 1969. I was thinking about those remarkable missions to Pluto and such, and I really think this is a whole different level. It's a multiplier.

Those missions are remarkable partly because they're amazing firsts, and partly because of what they've been able to accomplish with huge limitations and cost restrictions. They're amazing because of finesse, and if this whole reusability thing works out, you'll be able to brute force them instead. Visiting a comet is amazing. Making launches so cheap that it becomes practical to visit fifty comets would be astounding.

It's a bit like the invention of the steamship. It doesn't take you anywhere new. Sailing ships got the job done. But it transformed the world just the same.

I had to stay late at work to finish last tasks before my vacation time; I was worried I'll miss it, but I managed to tune in just few minutes before the landing. I have a huge grin on my face that won't go off easily. I've been waiting for this moment for a long time, and I'm going to be an insufferable person tomorrow, yelling to everyone in the earshot about it!

EDIT: To quote my friend's reaction,


Let's Kerbal the shit out of Space."


     "Congrats @SpaceX on landing Falcon's suborbital booster stage. Welcome to the club!"
Oy... someone needs to tell Bezos it's a whole different scale than what he did.

He knows, but the public doesn't and he can say what he wants to twist the perception in his favor and give the impression that the feats were equally challenging.

Not to remove any merit to Blue Origin's achievement, but it's nowhere near what SpaceX just pulled off.

The public that cares about this achievement (or Blue Origin's) likely understands the difference.
As does the public that might decide to host a bunch of stuff with AWS (or not). Really bad move on Bezos' part, not everything is economics.
I guarantee our ops team will not make infrastructure buying decisions based on the quality of their aerospace side-projects.
I disagree. There are a lot of people out there who are interested in space but don't really understand it. Just one anecdote, I spent twenty minutes explaining the difference to my father after BO's landing, which he genuinely thought was beating SpaceX to the punch.
Can someone explain exactly what Bezos/Blue Origin did, and how it is different than what SpaceX did?

EDIT: Here's a video that compares/contrasts:

This video ain't bad, but it skims over the two most important points and skips one completely:

- SpaceX rocket goes really fast horizontally; it has to flip around and boost back, and then correct from horizontal to vertical orientation.

- Falcon 9 is an actual space launch system; it has different (i.e. much stricter) engineering constraints than a suborbital rocket. In particular, this affects the engine design.

- Most importantly, the first stage of Falcon 9 does what's known as "suicide burn" - it waits until the last possible second to fire back the engine, so that it reaches exactly zero velocity relative to the ground as it touches down. It does so, because it can't hover - even the single one one of the nine Merlin engines, throttled down to minimum, still generates more thrust than the now almost empty booster weights. On the other hand, Blue Origin's rocket can slow down to a hover, and then take its time to stabilize and land.

Why don't they put a smaller engine in the centre for landings?
The turbopumps that pump fuel into the main engines are basically mini rocket engines. They even contribute a small amount of thrust. So it's possible that the rocket could be redesigned so that the center return/hover engine could also be a fuel pump for the outer ring of main engines. However, this introduces a single point of failure for the main mission of launching payloads.
You won't be able to adjust thrust vector (and stabilize the landing booster) with just one engine.
SpaceX's Falcon lands with only one engine. The other 8 are off.
The Falcon 9 does not rely on differential thrust - the center engine (and the others, I believe) can gimbal ("rotate").
It would make the rocket too heavy. To add another engine, they would have to make the rocket larger in diameter, increasing the weight by a fair amount (they currently have the 9th engine in the middle, so it would have to get moved to the ring with the rest). Reducing the power of the center engine would also reduce the amount of payload to orbit.

Rockets that can reach orbit have very bad weight to payload ratios (Falcon 9 is ~2.5% takeoff weight to LEO) so there isn't much room for dead weight.

It's actually more about complexity. They could simply replace the center engine with a lower power design and still get plenty of mass to orbit. The issue then is that you have to design a completely new engine and have 2 different engines in your first stage. More complexity generally equals more risk, and historically SpaceX has sought to maximize simplicity for the sake of reliability and rapid iteration.
And you suddenly introduce a single point of failure for the return part of the mission.
Can the first stage land with a failed center engine?
Theoretically it would still have ample thrust but I don't know about the other factors like gimballing and asymmetrical thrust.
On a parachute maybe, but then it will still be damaged on landing.
What I meant was I don't think a different-model center engine would be any more of a single point of failure than it already is.
They're talking about the center engine of the first stage, not the single engine of the second stage.
Yes. How would making that a different engine "introduce a single point of failure for the return part of the mission" that wasn't there already?
Because the return part of the mission relies on nine identical engines right now. So if one fails it is not a problem. But if you replace the central one with a different one that becomes critical for the return mission then you have made matters worse.
For future reference, the return part is made up of 3 burns. The first two use three engines, and the landing burn uses just the one. Coming back, it's obviously much lighter without all the propellant and 2nd stage/payload weight, so it needs much less thrust to reverse course. See for more info.
> Because the return part of the mission relies on nine identical engines right now. So if one fails it is not a problem.

Is that true? Doesn't the landing have to use the center engine - any other single engine would be asymmetric, and multiple engines would have too high a thrust.

Yes, if the center engine fails, the landing fails. There's no way to recover from that.

But the great thing about SpaceX's system is that it starts with a cheap expendable rocket, then makes it recoverable. You lose one? Who cares, build another one. They could have a 50% success rate recovering the first stages and it would still make things amazingly cheaper.

It has eight other engines to fall back on, and engine restarts are already normal part of the return flight. Centre engine failure before the final burn starts would certainly be survivable. It's just a question of the software using two or three engines in a symmetrical pattern for a 1/2 or 1/3 of the length of the 1-engine burn.

I don't think that the software is enabled yet -- SpaceX usually press forward with the main objective first, and flesh out the contingencies later (for example, abort hardware was present during the last failed launch, and it had been tested before, but the software wasn't enabled, and they lost the vehicle).

It has eight other engines to fall back on, and engine restarts are already normal part of the return flight. Centre engine failure before the final burn starts would certainly be survivable. It's just a question of the software using two or three engines in a symmetrical pattern for a 1/2 or 1/3 of the length of the 1-engine burn. I'm not sure if they could also fire one engine asymmetrically and use momentum and the secondary positioning system of cold thrusters to counter the asymmetry.

I don't think that the software is enabled yet -- SpaceX usually press forward with the main objective first, and flesh out the contingencies later (for example, abort hardware was present during the last failed launch, and it had been tested before, but the software wasn't enabled, and they lost the vehicle).

Landing is already severely constrained by the minimum thrust of the engine though. At a minimum using two would make the tolerances much, much tighter. Remember it wouldn't be double the thrust but rather several times the net thrust, since the downward thrust from gravity would stay the same.
And besides, it would be a waste. Landing with the engines they have is "just" a software problem. (Technically a control system problem.) Assuming they can make it work consistently, the save the added cost and inefficiency of a separate landing engine for all future launches.
So, the falcon 9 could, in theory, do multiple attempts (given it has enough fuel)? If the first attempt doesn't work out, pull itself up a bit, correct, and then fall down again?
It doesn't have enough fuel, and keeping more in the booster would mean reducing the payload it could carry. I think most of the ways the landing could go wrong involve the rocket falling over, which wouldn't be recoverable (the fins do nothing at low speed, and the engine can gimbal but only a little bit).
On-pad airbags to cushion a toppling rocket that's had an otherwise near-perfect approach?
Sometimes the pictures lose the sense of scale - the stage they're landing is something like 20 stories high, and the engines alone weigh around 4 tonnes. Also anything you put on the pad has to survive being torched by a rocket plume as it comes in for landing - even the concrete is pretty scorched. So that kind of system would be pretty hard to implement - and even if it were workable, Musk is mainly interested in landing systems that will work on Mars too.
In addition to fuel, the engines also can't restart an unlimited number of times. Starting the engines requires a special chemical charge to get the fire going, and it only carries as many as it actually needs.
"Welcome to the club"? Wow, that was classless. What Blue Origin did was impressive, but it was utterly trivial compared to what just happened with this flight.
Really, 'classless'? The achievement is landing a space-capable booster vertically, after an actual mission above 100km, which can then be reused. And, Blue Origin managed that first, no two ways about it. I think it's probably pretty classless to imply that what Blue Origin managed to do was 'trivial'. Just because SpaceX is the current hacker's favourite, doesn't mean you have to downplay everyone else. I think Musk's tweet about the difference between 'space' and 'orbit' was actually pretty pointless hair-splitting. Now, you can get technical and say that the achievement is landing a booster that is part of an orbital launch system but really, what the rest of the system does has no real part to play in the landing of the rocket stage, and I think everyone else understands that.
New Shepard is able to make several compromises that make landing _much_ easier. New Shepard doesn't have to get anywhere close to orbital velocity, so it can use a far less powerful engine. That means it can throttle down far enough to hover. That is a _huge_ advantage over Falcon 9, which must time the landing burn perfectly to hit 0 velocity at the exact moment it touches the ground.

They're in the same club like a general aviation pilot landing his Piper Cub on a giant runway and a navy pilot landing his F-14 on a carrier are "in the same club". While it's technically true, pointing it out would be pretty tacky...

I guess it's like Hilary and Tenzing being the first to climb Everest, and then someone else (can't remember who it was) coming along and doing it without supplementary oxygen. Just because that was harder doesn't detract from the fact that Hilary and Tenzing were first and anyone else is just joining the ever-growing club of Everest summiters.

Now, if you want to invent an extra category of 'first VTOL landing for a first stage booster for an orbital rocket system that uses boost-back to change trajectory mid-course' or similar, they SpaceX are first with that, and of course it's an awesome achievement.

Ok, in that case, SpaceX was 'first' to land a VTOL rocket with Grasshopper... unless you want to invent an extra category of "first VTOL landing for a ground launched rocket that crossed an arbitrary altitude threshold before returning at terminal velocity".
Actually, that prize goes back as far as DC-X (, if not farther. Grasshopper and F9R-dev were evolutionary, in that they were larger than what had been done before, not revolutionary.

Landing the F9 stage is not even the first "reusable part of an orbital launch system", the Space Shuttle was that. It just wasn't very effective in terms of lowering the cost, which is where F9's true claim of being a game changer is going to be. Let's hope that pans out.

But the F9 first stage doesn't get to orbital velocity, either, remember.

The achievements are comparable, despite the fact it makes SpaceX come second. Blue Origin was first with a VTOL rocket stage, as part of a space system.

Sure, Bezos gets the "first rocket that went to 'space' and landed vertically" prize. It might even be cool sounding for the laypeople who really don't know what values 'space' can take.

But it's not what matters, in fact it's irrelevant, was not a disputed trophy, and won't be mentioned 50 years from now.

The huge difference is the Falcon 9 first stage is part of a system that puts a few thousand kilos in orbit, and it flys half a dozen times per year.

Getting to space is just getting high off the ground, its not very useful unless you can achieve orbit.

They're barely comparable. If at all. The F9 isn't at orbital velocity (although, much faster and on an orbital trajectory that has to be cancelled out). Sure. But the F9 was actually taking a payload to orbit. The Blue Origin never will, it's just a mega rich tourist toy.
Actually, I'm sure NASA managed that first a long time ago.

In fact, didn't they do it on the moon several times?

At any rate, John Carmack's Armadillo Aerospace managed it long before Bezos did. But wait, he didn't get to space? Hair-splitting.

At the end of the day, you could do what Blue Origin did with a balloon. The practical aspect of actually being able to put something on orbit is what's special.
> But the F9 first stage doesn't get to orbital velocity, either, remember.

It gets a whole lot closer (and is _much_ larger).

I really can't emphasize enough how much of a difference the ability to hover makes for New Shepard. SpaceX has been doing "New Shepard" type flights for a long time now (they didn't bother going that high, but 'high' isn't really that interesting, it's 'fast' that matters). However, Grasshopper (like New Shepard) was able to throttle down to a TWR less than 1. That makes landing so much easier (the rocket can 'stop' and get settled before it proceeds to land).

To give people an idea, this is the difference of scale:

Blue Origin's achievement is nice; just as older prototypes that achieved suborbital landing (Grasshopper, DC-X), but it's unclear yet what it meant for the industry (hope they keep going though, they're a good track). SpaceX's landing is a landmark for space travel, rapid reusability is now much closer. I'm much more confident now this will change the cost structure of the whole industry, seeing how launch is a dominant factor.

"what the rest of the system does has no real part to play in the landing of the rocket stage"

That assertion is ridiculous. The rocket is optimized to do one thing, push it's payload into orbit, this is a very strict restriction, especially on a two stage rocket. On the other hand, the designer of a suborbital vehicle has ample design space to play.

It's like comparing your practice free throw, in your back yard, with a slam-dunk in the NBA.

I think you underestimate the degree of difficulty between these two achievements. They are both very impressive but what SpaceX just did is many times more difficult than what Blue Origin did.
OK, explain how the landing of the SpaceX first stage was many times more difficult? They used different mechanisms, yes (suicide burn vs. hover-capable) and the purpose of the overall system was different, but they are both VTOL rockets.

Blue Origin was first, and Bezos can quite rightly welcome SpaceX to 'the club' as the second company to achieve this, without being accused of being classless, surely?

If we downplay the difference between the landing modes and vehicle's missions, then SpaceX has beaten Blue Origin anyway - they had Grasshoppers doing VTOL years ago. After all, what's the difference between 700m and 100km, especially if in the latter case you're falling at terminal velocity for most of the way?

Because Falcon9 is a big launcher taking a serious payload into orbit. This means that the first stage has to have very large engines - so large that they can't be throttled down to hover, they have to kill velocity at the point of touchdown.

It's the difference between slowing your car down gently to stop at a red light, and having your car going at max speed and slamming on the brakes as hard as you can at exactly the right moment so that you will eventually stop at the lights. One is easy to do, the other will most likely get you killed.

How is BO's achievement different from what SpaceX did with their Grasshopper test vehicle years ago?

If you want to say it's about VTOL rockets, SpaceX was first by a long way. If you want to say it's about reusing an orbital launcher, BO is nowhere close. You have to torture the categories into uselessness to say BO did anything first.

Why is this downvoted? There is some serious tribalism going on in this thread. You all need to chill out and start thinking again.

Who cares whether BO or SpaceX was first, or whether China or America was first? We should be happy that humanity is closer to Mars.

This is not tribalism; those two achievements have an order of magnitude difference at difficulty and practical meaning, and Bezos wasn't first in his class either. I was very happy for Blue Origin then and I'm happy for everyone who pushes the boundaries of space technology (hell, I even start to like ULA), but those two landings are not comparable, and trying to do so diminishes what just happened.
It's not "tribalism" to understand that Blue Origin's landing was fun but irrelevant unless you want to play five-minute space tourist, while SpaceX's landing is a massively significant event for the future of space travel.
It probably wouldn't have come up if Bezos hadn't thumped his chest in Musk's direction, or if Musk hadn't taken the bait.

Competitive people are competitive. Film (and Twitter fight) at 11...

I for one think that giving credit where credit is due is an important thing.
Getting off this rock is probably the only thing that matters. Credit is irrelevant when Earth is no longer habitable and we never left.
That, and I want to see an Epic Rap Battle of History between Musk and Bezos some day. It will take a lot of competition and a lot of progress before they have enough dirt to throw at each other.
Hahaha... Thanks, that cheered me up.

Someone should totally do rap battles while pretending to be some famous figure. The possibilities are endless. Faux Bill Gates vs Faux Steve Jobs.


It's a bit silly, but entertaining. It doesn't get too technical, but usually gets the generic facts right.

Best Christmas ever. was hilarious.
Yeah, don't follow that link pnt12 posted until you have a whole afternoon to kill.
If you're being serious, one of the most viewed Youtube channels is "Epic Rap Battles of History" which did exactly that.
I agree the tribalism is not helpful on either side, but Blue origins is nowhere near getting off this rock, or even into orbit around it.
People who compete want to get recognition for their accomplishments. "Getting off this rock" has so far been led closer to becoming true by cold hard competition. So sorry bud, people will always want credit for their success whether you like it or not. And hey, who said we won't get off this rock during the process of all that?
>Why is this downvoted

I can't give the exact answer but if I had to guess, I'd say it's a consistently argumentative attitude under the guise of asking questions. The commenter has asked the same question "what makes this SpaceX thing so special?" at different points of this thread and has gotten many different answers providing a bunch of different view points. They're not trying to get clarity, they're trying to convince people that this isn't an accomplishment, and there seems to be a hint of accusation ("you only think this is better than BO because HN loves Musk and hates Bezos") in the questions.

That's my guess.

Sort of... I knew I would get downvoted, mostly because of my failure at SpaceX cheerleading ;)

I actually agree that SpaceX did an awesome thing, and really do understand that its more complicated, and difficult, and challenging, and so on, than what Blue Origin managed to do; yes. My point was more of a "HN loves SpaceX and cannot acknowledge that they might not be the best in the world at everything, ever" thing, rather than any technical breakdown. I would also maintain that the 100km altitude flight is important - it's the internationally recognised boundary of space - and that the 'first' that Blue Shepherd claimed was valid, since the SpaceX Grasshopper did not cross the 100km Karman line.

The important parts are that the flight is of a 1.) reusable, 2.) VTOL, 3.) rocket after a 4.) 100km altitude space flight. Since all four points are valid for SpaceX's Falcon 9 first stage booster, I think it's technically correct to place its landing in the same category as Blue Origin's New Shepherd landing. SpaceX's achievement is more technically interesting and useful, but that should not detract from what Blue Origin managed to do with a much smaller team and budget.

> I would also maintain that the 100km altitude flight is important - it's the internationally recognised boundary of space - and that the 'first' that Blue Shepherd claimed was valid, since the SpaceX Grasshopper did not cross the 100km Karman line.

Having a flight control mechanism that function outside the atmosphere is valuable/important. Landing a rocket without relying on atmosphere is valuable/important. Gluing those two things together is much less so - like being the first person to climb Everest and swim across the Channel.

Honestly the F9 landing isn't much of a "first" - landing a rocket vertically has been done, and landing the main engines of an orbital launch vehicle so that they can be reused has also been done. What makes it exciting is a) the technical difficulty b) the potential for making things there's actual commercial demand for (satellite launches) much cheaper - and in both those regards Blue Origin's landing isn't comparable.

I suspect the main region for the popularity is that SpaceX has done a lot of community engagement, webcasts and all the rest of it, while Blue Origin has done everything in secret. But I'm fine with that - if it encourages companies to be more open then that's all for the good.

The key difference is, again, space vs. orbit, i.e. 4). 100km vertical hop is not meaningful for lowering costs of spaceflight. Comparable feats have been done before, as pointed out multiple times in this subthread. You can't just take New Shepard and use it as a first-stage booster; it's a rocket designed for the very easiest component of spaceflight, i.e. going high, and completely unsuitable for putting anything in orbit - which means going very very fast horizontally. OTOH, SpaceX landed an actual booster - a much bigger rocket designed to put payload into orbit - which again, means going very very fast horizontally, and then having to reverse that flight and navigate to a proper landing site. What SpaceX did impacts spaceflight significantly. What Bezos did (and SpaceX before him, and others before them) does not.
Didn't SpaceX go around the entire earth before landing? I don't think Bezos'did
Could someone clarify the stage one path? Where did it launch, and where did it land, and where did it go horizontally in the meantime?
It flew 100's of kms away from the launch site, flipped around, flew back and landed a mile or so from the launchpad.

Actually 9KM from the launchpad I believe.
No, but it lifted a second stage that continued on to orbit, delivering 11 satellites.

Because the Falcon 9 traveled at several thousand miles per hour horizontally when it did its flip and then the first retro burn. By contrast, the Blue Origin rocket went straight up, and straight back down. It never moved away from the launchpad in any appreciable amount and it never had to change orientation. From a space applications perspective it is not much more useful than a blimp.

Today, history was made. Blue Origin: not so much. Nice but nowhere near in the same league (or the same club, to stick with Bezos).

History is being made wheter you like it or not.
By contrast, the Blue Origin rocket went straight up, and straight back down...From a space applications perspective it is not much more useful than a blimp.

Actually, the "pop-up" 1st stage trajectory is interesting from a space applications perspective. You can think of it this way: a SSTO spaceplane is just beyond the cusp of possible for technology made out of normal matter and fueled by chemical rockets. But what if you could somehow cheat and launch an SSTO at very high altitude? Then it's just below the cusp of possible. So you wind up with a completely reusable TSTO craft.

So how is that more interesting than a high altitude blimp? You get the craft back faster, directly to the facility. Recovery is more straightforward. The equipment and technology is the same sort of equipment and technology as in the orbiter craft. Also, if you're able to get up to a "mere" 600 mph or so downrange velocity, due to the mathematics of the rocket equation, you're still saving a sizable chunk of vehicle weight in fuel.

Even for that application Falcon would be a lot more usable due to the increased payload compared to BO's offering.
True. But I'm not defending BO's craft. I'm just pointing out that the "pop up" first stage trajectory is indeed interesting. You wind up with a godawful huge 1st stage and a rather tiny orbiter, but lots of things are simplified, especially with 1st stage logistics.
BO was not trivial, just as grasshopper was not trivial years before, but there is a significant difference. Going up into space can be done in a balloon or plane, but not orbit. The difference is qualitative.

F9 will significantly reduce the cost of putting things in orbit.

NS will reduce the cost of space tourism (momentary views of earth), but would require new engines and a different design and landing style to put things into space, something like F9.

Hence implying they are the same is a bit tacky and inappropriate as it will mislead lots of people.

What, exactly, did Blue Origin do that the X-15 didn't do 50 years ago? Other than the terrestrial launch, that's about all I can think of.
That's pretty much it. As I understand it, the difficult bit was landing your rocket safely after launching it 100km up.
Not really... terminal velocity is terminal velocity. There is a limit to how fast you can fall through the atmosphere, regardless of how far up you start falling from.
I don't think you understand the big picture. Musk = Good, Everyone Else = Bad. The Musk sycophants are peeing their pants in excitement over this achievement, and you are just not allowed to question any part of it.
The achievement is landing a space-capable booster vertically, after an actual mission above 100km, which can then be reused.

Who said that was the achievement? What is important about that achievement?

The important achievement is dramatically reducing the cost of sending things into space (such that they will stay there). SpaceX's rockets achieve this, Blue Origin's don't even attempt to be in that league. Using your Everest analogy, Blue Origin was the first to climb some lesser peak nobody cared that much about (still, nice job), then SpaceX climbed Everest, and Bezos said "welcome to the tall mountain club."

"Who said that was the achievement?"

Anyone who understood what was being achieved. That doesn't mean that a single achieve or being first in itself is that meaningful, but it's still an achivement.

Just like anyone who understands mountaineering knows that climbing Everest isn't the greatest norvthe hardest achivement among tall mountains i.e. the eight-thousanders.

Someone should return the favor whenever he gets into orbit
That's pretty low.
and geohot
Dear Mr Bezos: people will care about your rocket when you offer free shipping to space for Prime customers
I think his remark was an ugly bit of ego, but I care about any endeavor to develop space travel technology.
I think it was all in good fun, and everyone is making way too big a deal out of it.
I have a vague feeling he's being snide to pay Elon back for those mildly snarky tweets back when Blue Origin landed their rocket.


Musk: "Congrats to Jeff Bezos and the BO team for achieving VTOL on their booster"

Musk: "It is, however, important to clear up the difference between "space" and "orbit", as described well by"


NASAWatch: "Gee Jeff @SpaceX just put a bunch of stuff into orbit - again. Something you have yet to figure out how to do."

I'm not sure if they're all joking around, or are there serious ego issues at play here.

your link works fine, the one above had a bad double quote at the end
>Gee Jeff @SpaceX just put a bunch of stuff into orbit - again. Something you have yet to figure out how to do.

That's not even fun banter. Just a squeaky voice trying to get a sucker punch in.

Your link has a little extra on it :)

Randall must feel pretty snide when even Elon is referencing his comics..
I don't think you meant to say "snide" [1] which means "derogatory in a nasty, insinuating manner" but I can't for the life of me work out what you did mean to say instead before autocorrect (or typo) took over?


Gates, too. XKCD has arrived, even if the world doesn't know it yet.
So it's very strange to me that this comment made it all the way to -2. What makes this comment about an old billionaire liking XKCD different from the parent comment about a new billionaire also liking XKCD?

This is not a complaint; inquiring minds want to know.

I've talked to both the director of DARPA and Charles Bennett (cosmic background explorer of "science it works bitches" xkcd fame), and both love the XKCD's referencing their relevant work. I've also met Randall himself a few times and he's incredibly humble and would pass anyone's "normal guy" threshold.
Actually, thinking about it, if they staged a faux-rivalry, it would probably get more public interest in space. People can choose their team and have someone to root for and someone to hate.
They've been in a hiring war for talent too though, lending weight to a genuine rivalry.
I've said it before: we need another space race. If we can't convince the superpower countries to do it, might as well be two billionaire CEOs.

Think we can get Gates or Buffet into it as well maybe?

Buffet no, but Paul Allen has invests in space (SpaceshipOne, and Vulkan)
In a single moment, SpaceX earns itself more than $50 million dollars, right? That's a big bonus for everyone who made this possible and some well earned time off, and then back to work changing the world!

So from what I've read, the returns are immense; the amount of learning they can do from examining their own rocket is the real initial treasure. Their rocket design should advance considerably based on this trove, and I suppose the source of many papers, publications, and public-sourced patents. Reusable rockets seems not quite a glorious enough term? There's a massive dividend any time this actually works, and imagining the future of this tech is joyous.

We can guess how much this will bring down the cost. How much will it bring down the price? Say it's just following the supply/demand curve to get more customers. If landing was reliable and the rockets were durable, what would it really take to scale? If you actually got 10 of these going full-duty. How close can you back-to-back launches? The scale of that operation in terms of engineers to manage the workload... The return-on-automation (in other words, software) is immense the first few billion dollars you spend on it. That means they need to hire a fuck-ton of very good developers. Cool!

But what if it's more of a binary market and the only new customers are only at a much lower price point? In that case it's just serving the existing market at much higher margin. I believe this will make space more accessible -- cost savings ultimately flow through.

BTW, one of the advantages of pledging your patents for free use is you can really show off the right way to write a patent. The whole point is forcing disclosure in return for a benefit, so now make that disclosure top-notch. In theory, what if patent applications were examined by the top-of-the-field peers and only real advancements in the field which were fully and properly documented by the patent would be granted? I hope not all software patents are evil. The "provisional patent" is an interesting form of self-publication at least, but it does create a pesky 1-year ticking clock.

As a talent/recruiting event this is pretty much about as good as it gets.

Technically they only earn the $50m when they use this stage to actually launch another mission. Even then, you'd have to subtract any discount offered to the purchaser of the second mission. I'm not in any way trying to detract from this stunning, tear-inducingly great achievement, but that's the reality.
Why would they offer a discount? The rocket is not going to fly a second time unless it has the same reliability rating as the first.

They might end up offering lower cost launches, reducing the margin, but discounts on Nth-launches don't make sense.

At this point, they have the functional monopoly advantage of being able to set prices where they want them (in terms of having an exclusive technology their competitors do not have; they have competition, but if they can really slash their costs by 50% they have the capacity to set their price ten bucks below the competitions' prices and win).

... but if I understand correctly, one of the points of the reusable rocketry experiment is to be able to lower the price point to allow new customers who couldn't afford to launch at the previous per-pound cost. To give a terrible but not inaccurate analogy: Think similarly to how the Nintendo Wii found itself in entirely new markets of game players by droppping a $200 console onto the market alongside competition that was nearly double that price-point.

Opening up space to new markets must be an essential component of their strategy. If they charged say 90% of the cost for non-reusable launches but their rockets were reusable, they would only need to manufacture a dozen or so vehicles, plus a few a year as replacements. To maintain economies if scale in their factory, they need to have a sustained production line and that means at even a steady pace, with high re usability they will soon be awash with rockets. They will have to bring prices down just to keep their fleet operating.
It isn't just another launch, every future launch with this same rocket is now an experiment. It can't have the same reliability rating because a second launch hasn't been tested and these aren't freshly machined parts. Every piece in the rocket has experienced a level of wear and tear that previously launched rockets didn't have. Maybe it's exceeded the amount of cyclical stress it can handle? Who knows, but most satellite companies wouldn't pay the same for a re-used (never before been re-used) rocket as they would for a brand new rocket because of the increased risk. I would not be surprised if they did in fact give a discount to the payload of anyone who rides this same rocket. If they don't give a discount the only reason someone would purchase a spot on it is for the prestige.

Note: The never before been re-used part is probably the most important factor here. Once they have re-used rockets a few times they'll have a reliability factor for these situations.

They have competition - elsewhere in the thread it sounds like ULA are planning to start reusing engines. They'll get a few years of pseudo-monopoly rent while they have the monopoly on reusing launchers, but ultimately rocket launches are going to be commoditised, just like every innovation.
I guess this would be a good place to point out that we are hiring! :-)

I don't see any spots open for a nurse! Phooey. :)
Or a farmer. Guess I'll have to wait until Mars is ready for ploughing :)
They're going to need both you (a farmer) and me (a nurse) on Mars, that's for sure buddy! :)
I'm pretty sure they have hired at least one farmer at their Texas site.

Wish I could. As a Canadian though seems ITAR would block me.
Don't let it stop you from applying. It might stop them from hiring you, but let them decide that.

Seriously, if a position interests you, apply. There have been plenty of ITAR exceptions.

> Seriously, if a position interests you, apply. There have been plenty of ITAR exceptions.

No there haven't. Don't get his hopes up.

> Seriously, if a position interests you, apply. There have been plenty of ITAR exceptions.

No there haven't. Don't get his hopes up.

This is so exciting. Not quite a moon landing, but still feels like watching a significant moment in history.

Does anyone know what specifically changed to allow a landing attempt on land as opposed to barge? Was it just that they gained enough confidence with the barges that they would at least be able to hit the target (and not crash into a building or something), or was some regulatory clearance received or something? Or something about this launch (ie lighter payload?) made a return to land feasible?

The FAA did have to approve this. I'm assuming approval was much smoother since they demonstrated on the two barge attempts that they could successfully steer the rocket to a precise landing.
You guessed right with the lighter payload. They could afford the fuel to burn all the way back rather than landing downrange on the barge.
> Does anyone know what specifically changed to allow a landing attempt on land as opposed to barge?

I believe the main concern was not putting what amounts to an ICBM into Disneyworld. Hitting the barge (even though they hit a little hard each time) proved they could hit within a few feet of where they planned reliably.

It was three things. They had to get multiple government agencies to approve the landing pad and plan. They had to have a relatively light payload. And they had to "deep freeze" the fuel to squeeze in enough for a return.

I suspect even as this becomes routine most landings will still be on the barge. Every ounce of fuel you use to reverse your direction is an ounce you could have put toward a larger payload.

OTOH sometimes the payload just isn't that big.
They really poured on the PR, lots of people going "Hi, I'm lead mechanical engineer for this or that" and then delivering a perfect speech that would have taken a lot of prectice to deliver to a camera as smoothly like that.

It's nice to see a lot of the lessons from media training. :D

Earlier today Tim Urban mentioned in his post that there were a few dry runs, even including high-fives.
If you're referring to Trip's speech (guy with sunglasses and beard), that's one of my buddies and that's exactly what he's like. He's extremely personable and likely did that with very few takes.

I used to sell test equipment and software to SpaceX's launch ops, avionics, and calibration crews, starting between launches 2 and 3. It was touch and go back in those days. These guys have worked their tails off for over a decade and deserve every bit of congratulations they receive.

Walking into the SpaceX facility in Hawthorne was always a humbling experience. Instant "I am the dumbest person in this room" syndrome.

Congrats guys!!

Youtube link for people for whom livestream videos won't work. (I believe the embedded player is livestream).

Thanks! Got a link to the replay for those of us tuning in late?
The YouTube link should be a replay now; working for me :)
That YouTube link is a replay too.
If you look carefully at the YouTube live streams, you'll notice you can scroll them back all the way to the beginning - the "live" part is always at the very end :).

EDIT: and here's just the landing itself:

thanks, that was enthralling to watch
Thanks! Here's the link about 9 minutes in when it begins:
Falcon 9 First Stage Landing - view from helicopter
This long-exposure image is pretty awesome too:
Elon Musk posted an article "BACKGROUND ON TONIGHT'S LAUNCH" on SpaceX's website 15 minutes before the launch.

Link :

I must have missed it, but can anyone explain why Orbcomm wants 11 satellites in the same orbit? The stage 2 engine isn't firing in between letting the satellites go.
Leo, they are so low they don't cover a whole lot of territory. The oribits may be at slightly different altitudes simply because of the inertia of the second stage, I really should have monitored that altitude indicator during the releases, were they identical?
Whatever the second stage's inertia was, it was more or less identical to that of the satellites' (outside of the minimal thrust to separate the payload from the second stage).

I too am confused about the utility of launching 11 satellites into virtually the same orbit.

Pretty sure both altitude and speed were constant during the satellite deployment phase.
Maybe there was a secondary thruster somewhere to provide some separation.

I went back and recorded the release speed (km/hr), altitude (km) for each drop:

25960 626

25954 627

25950 628

25944 630

25937 632

25935 632

A circular orbit at that height is about 29000 km around; 25 km/hour of difference between release 1 and 6 would give them a separation of 6 degrees longitude/day, or ~50 days until the faster satellites 'lap' the slowest one.

Not any sort of rocket scientist, but I gather the strategy with these kind of LEO satellites is to just throw a pile of them up there semi-randomly, and count on at least one being in the neighborhood when you want to talk to it.

edit: Last paragraph is wrong. See my comment two levels down for the answer.

The satellites themselves usually have small thrusters but I'm not sure what kind of orbital change the can effect, usually they are there for detailed maneuvering and to boost the satellite to a slightly higher orbit as it decays. When it runs out of fuel it dies so you'd try to use as little of that as possible during launch.
Even a small difference in orbits adds up over time. You don't need much fuel for orbital adjustments, as long as you're staying in the same plane.

Say one satellite's orbit is a bit smaller. That means that, over time, they will naturally drift farther and farther apart, until they end up on different sides of the globe. At that point, just raise the smaller orbit slightly.

Kerbal Space Program is really good for understanding stuff like this.

You just described the way I launched my first comms network constellation[0] - basically loaded a whole bunch of satellites on a single rocket and deployed them on slightly different orbits, so that they'll spread themselves out as the time goes.

Only mid-launch I figured out I could just put three of them on Kerbisynchronous Equatorial Orbit at 120° phase difference :/.

Yes, KSP is absolutely amazing for learning this stuff :).

[0] - useful if you're playing with RemoteTech mod, which prevents you from operating unmanned spacecraft if they don't have a radio connection back to a proper command centre.

is it this one?
>A hydrazine propulsion system is installed on the spacecraft for orbit adjustment maneuvers and orbit maintenance providing a delta-v budget of more than 100 meters per second for each satellite.

>Because OG2 satellites are launched in groups of several spacecraft, they require propulsion systems to place the satellite into different nodal planes to begin operations.

There's the answer, courtesy Orbcomm.

Neat :) So they do their own placement. Nasty stuff, hydrazine. F16's use it as emergency fuel.
But you can use it to grow space potatoes! :).
After it chemically burns and then ignites you, yes.
You'll notice that the speed decreases as the altitude increases. That's not maneuvering, that's just an elliptical orbit. There is no actual speed or altitude difference between the various releases, that's just the whole group coasting slightly uphill. Separation will be done by maneuvering the satellites afterwards.
The satellites themselves can adjust their individual phasing within the same orbit with minimal propellant.
Yes, it absolutely was firing continuously around 17,000 MPH. Doesn't take long at that speed to get some distance between sats.
why do you think that? the second stage engine was off during deployment.
The satellites are moving at that speed too....
But they're not all moving at the same speed if the second stage was still firing between satellite releases.
True but irrelevant, as the second stage engine cut off before satellite deployment.
The satellites have their own thrusters and will use that to reposition. Changing your position within a single orbit is fairly cheap - even if you just go a few m/s, with enough time you can space out quite far.
What changed that made this cost-effective?

1) The companies pursuing this, SpaceX, Blue Orgin, etc., can't be the first to think of it. If the first stage accounts for 75% of the cost of a launch, as one article I read says, I'm sure many have considered, going back to the first launches decades ago, how to reuse it.

2) The technology to land rockets vertically has existed for a long time, going back to the lunar lander at least.

2) The technology to land rockets vertically has existed for a long time, going back to the lunar lander at least.

Landing the Lunar Lander on the moon is completely different to landing a tall, thin high-centre of gravity rocket full of explosive fuel, using AI because there's no crew onboard.

Or did you mean something else?

I'm pretty sure the first vertical landing of a rocket was only achieved in the last few years.

Expendable rocket design is a local maxima which reduces fitness for reuse. This is because the typical, and traditional, optimizations all work against reuse. Reducing the number of engines on the first stage lowers cost and increases reliability and performance. And makes VTVL operations nearly impossible without adding additional engines (ballooning complexity, increasing stage cost, and reducing performance in an already extremely performance constrained system). Additionally, the traditional method for incrementally improving overall launch vehicle performance is to change the upper stage. By switching to a higher performance LOX/LH2 stage you can increase payload without redesigning the first stage, and without increasing gross liftoff weight. Even with the Falcon 9 they changed the second stage to improve performance, but they avoided the pitfall of making it much more advanced. On paper advanced upper stages seems like smart thing to do. You concentrate your engineering efforts on one of the smaller pieces of the rocket, and you improve performance without necessitating a full redesign. But this results in a vehicle with most of the cost in the upper stage.

This development trajectory leads to a capable launcher, but one that is wholly unsuited for reuse. Reusing the first stage is now extraordinarily difficult, extraordinarily costly, and has little advantage (since most of the cost is in the upper stage anyway). You see the effects of this design pattern in most expendable launchers. Both the Delta IV and Atlas V boosters use a single engine in the first stage, and both use an RL-10 LOX/LH2 engine for the 2nd stage, an extremely expensive engine on its own, let alone when it's integrated into a high-tech stage (such as Lockheed-Martin's legendary Centaur line). The Ariane 5 has gone through 5 different generations of upper stage advancements, and it too has only one engine on its first stage. India's GSLV uses a solid first stage with hypergolic boosters and second stage and a LOX/LH2 3rd stage.

Meanwhile, there hasn't been much pressure on rocket designers to be hard headedly pragmatic. Often times winning government contracts or even private investment meant convincing people of your beyond state-of-the-art designs that would leap frog the competition, rather than rely on common sense engineering and iterative advancements. That's how we got the Shuttle (which was supposed to be about 2 orders of magnitude cheaper to operate than it turned out to be), the X-33/VentureStar program, the NASP/X-30 program, Rotary Rocket, Pioneer Rocketplane, and all the other programs and startups that were cancelled when they ran out of money, ran into engineering problems, or both.

The sensible thing is to try reusing some of the rocket and make the most of that from a cost perspective. Something that saw a bit of attention with the old DC-X program over two decades ago. One problem with that program was that it envisioned a new launcher that was mostly an SSTO, and aimed at building up from small scale rather than building toward reuse from full orbital scale.

The genius of Musk and SpaceX has several facets:

1) Begin with expendable, but design with reuse in mind (high throttle ability in the first stage, most of the costs in the first stage), and work towards there iteratively. That way you get experience in a lot of the most important bits of the business: building orbital rockets, building rocket engines, building spacecraft, launching rockets. And you get cold, hard cash flowing into the company from launches. Cash that keeps the company in business, and finances further innovations.

2) Build reuse not as a different vehicle but as a "feature flag" on a common design. The difference between a reusable launcher and an expendable launcher for SpaceX is a mode selection, not an architectural difference. This means that you get operational testing of the vast majority of your flight hardware for your vehicle with every single expendable launch. This is a well-known risk mitigation strategy in software and other industries, and here it works marvelously. Prior to today's launch SpaceX had 14 previous launches of substantially the same hardware (counting only the v1.1 version).

3) Opportunistically use the first stage after stage sep. for experimenting with boost back and landing. From the very first v1.1 launch SpaceX has been aggressive at testing aspects of the landing and reuse flight mode, equipping stages with landing gear in many cases. This is a fantastic cost saving method as it takes what would be trash and transforms it into test vehicles being operated in typical flight profiles. This takes advantage of hundreds of millions of dollars of flight hardware to conduct an R&D test program on the cheap.

Combine all of that together and you end up with a way to get from A (expendable rockets) to B (reusable rockets) without having to take on a ton of risk, without having to spend insane amounts of money, without having to design and operationally prove a brand new reusable vehicle design, and to build a revenue earning and self-sustaining business before being able to finish reusable vehicle development. It took a significant amount of foresight and savvy to be able to see that route and to execute on it.

And yes, knowing what we know now it would have been easy to do this sort of stuff in the past, more so if we wanted to just throw money at it. But it wasn't obvious until being proven.

Thank you, outstandingly well reasoned and explained. I understood the incentive issue. No manufacturer of a thing, that makes money per thing they manufacture, is incentivized to try and reduce the number of those things they get to manufacture. But the fact that the optimization process towards efficient rockets leads the design away from optimizations for re-usability (principally towards a single large engine on the first stage) is new to me.

The fact that the Falcon 9 is deliberately designed for less efficiency with 9 engines on the first stage, but still ends up cheaper than the alternatives is even more impressive given that insight.

A lot of people have tried to retrieve boosters. The Shuttle approach is suboptimal (solid boosters can't be throttled/relit/extinguished easily, the sea is evil, turnaround times are huge). ESA and the Russians and NASA have all thought about glide-back boosters and got mired in complexity. The new-space approach of "just the rocket, plus better control systems" is paying off, but it does take modern kit and thinking.
"New-space" aerospace companies are operating on a different funding framework from the old aerospace juggernauts. Instead of cost-plus funding that came almost solely from the government and which allowed rockets like ULA's Delta IV and Atlas V to stay competitive in the $300-400 million range without having to find ways to cut costs. SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Orbital Sciences, as well as other new companies, have to innovate in order to make their businesses feasible.

Additionally, Blue Origin and SpaceX have different goals from traditional aerospace firms that requires them to drive costs down below what a government would require. Blue Origin want to offer rides to space to tourists; for that, their costs need to be low enough for a person to buy a ticket. SpaceX wants to land their rockets on Mars, and then take off again. Being able to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 allows them to perfect the landing and reuse of rockets on Earth, before taking that knowledge to Mars.

Thanks. I've heard the story but I haven't seen evidence of it, it smells too much like a marketing story (we're young and exciting, those old people are boring and stuck in the past), and it seems very unlikely: I don't buy that the 'old' companies wouldn't want to reduce their costs by 75%, greatly increasing demand for their very expensive service, greatly increasing their bottom line - even in a cost-plus arrangement.

Usually changes like this result from a technical or economic development.

Different incentives = different goals. SpaceX had to cut costs down to even be remotely competitive, and they had the benefit of starting from scratch, with no prior commitments in design of machine shops, etc. and with access to several decades worth of spaceflight experience.

And they have a drive, too. Mars is not a marketing story, Elon seems to really believe in doing it, and a lot of people at SpaceX buy into this vision.

So why didn't the old companies do it? They have the same access to technical and financial expertise as anyone, and deep pockets.
"Cost-plus" funding means they didn't have any incentive to reduce costs. The thing that got them money was keeping politicians onside, so it was more important to e.g. provide jobs in relevant states.
I agree totally. I was responding to the parent who was challenging cost-plus as an explanation for Big-Co failing to bring down costs.
Old companies don't want to reduce the cost - they like hundreds of millions of dollars per launch ;)
That's true, even with less pressure it would have been in their reach to work on those projects. Seems strange to be just happening now.
It's not that we're young and exciting and the early attempts were old and boring. The comment you're replying to is pointing out the very different incentives between several private companies competing for and government-funded projects with totally different funding structures.
Are they planning on using this recovered first stage for a reusability test, or are they going to destructively examine it to see how all the components held up?
First they get to recover all the video that they didn't get in the other stages :-) This one lands with its cameras and flash chips intact. If I were them I would tear it apart, learn from it, reassemble it, and then display it.

Interest question about safeing it once it is landed. You can't just dump excess liquid oxygen are you'll end up starting fires. Fortunately it isn't like the shuttle which had Hydrazine in the OMS tanks that had to be managed post landing.

I can't wait until they land one in the daylight, and on the west coast so I can watch in person.

I think they just let the O2 boil off. But they do have some hypergolic ignition fluids to deal with.
I think they just let the O2 boil off. But they do have some hypergolic ignition fluids to deal with.
They have stated that the plan is to take it apart and learn. All previous large rockets boosters that have been recovered, have been recovered after either crashing, or crashing and then being immersed in sea water. Both of these do a lot of damage.
It might be possible to deconstruct it to examine it, then put it back together and reuse what's reusable.
According to someone who was on a press call, Musk says he's going to keep this one on the ground[1]. They'll disassemble and examine it, but it'll probably go in a museum afterwards.


Awesome alternate angle:
Next big milestone will be when they launch with a reused first stage.
I think it's really impressive how SpaceX continues to iterate on the engine and rocket designs. This is the third major revision of the Falcon 9 engine since 2010, each time increasing the thrust and payload to orbit significantly even while operating a commercial launch service. I feel that this kind of willingness to continuously improve and push the envelope is what really sets SpaceX apart from the incumbents. Speed of iteration beats quality of iteration and all that.

It's quite interesting that their biggest competitor ULA is having to rely on tiny Blue Origin to develop a replacement for the Russian RD-180 that ULA uses on their big money maker Atlas V.

Anyone know how accurate the first-stage landing was? Obviously delta v is most important, but hitting the bullseye would just top off the accomplishment.

Looks pretty close.

GPS-limit type accurate on the X on the centre of the pad. 5-10m off.
This accurate:
What was all the stuff shooting by when they were deploying the satellites? Was that space debris? If it is, I'm surprised how common it is, and how more satellites don't get shot down so often.
On the agenda:

First flight since the failure on June 28

Attempt to land 1st stage on land near the launch site

First flight of an upgraded rocket

An image of the landing pad.

What's interesting too is that the descent path of the rocket has an engine failure trajectory that will ensure the rocket will fall into the ocean if a failure occurs during the powered descent.

That's a function as much of physics and geography as planning, and one of the reasons Cape Canaveral exists---there's a lot of Atlantic Ocean in which to ditch a failing spacecraft on either the launch or landing vectors.

There's a reason the United States' launch facilities are primarily along the east coast of the country.

Don't forget second stage engine restart test.

Launch infographic by /u/zlsa on reddit.

/r/SpaceX Orbcomm OG2 Launch 2 Official Launch Discussion & Updates Thread:

So now how do they secure the booster they landed? Do they have some kind of truck mounted gantry they move into position? There didn't seem to be anything like that near the landing pad. They may want to let the engines cool and any excess propellant boil off before they move in, but they have to have something to hold it, tilt it down to horizontal, and carry it off.
Since the fuel and oxidizer is almost completely empty at that point, there is a much lower center of gravity.
There is a crane nearby.

The first stage is pretty stable though. The engines are by far the heaviest part, and they're at the very bottom. The legs are also a fairly wide base.

EDIT: On rewatching the broadcast, "Procedure 11.100, section 3" is what they do (I have no idea what that is, but it's what the LD told the landing pad crew to "proceed with")

Oh, of course; it's empty now. Most of the mass was fuel, and that's gone. Now most of the mass is at the bottom.
Short video of just the landing:

(Becomes clear 25~ seconds in)

In case you missed, this is the background on tonight's launch:

Congratulations to everyone at SpaceX. This is a proud moment for all of you. And thank you for giving us the chance to watch this LIVE.
In the video of the fairing adapter deploying the satellites, there's some kind of white highlight or light-source in the upper-left part of the frame. What was that?

Also, what happens to the mass-adapter (i.e. the balancing 12th non-satellite)?

I think that was some sort of reflection on the camera housing. And I think the mass-adapter would stay with the 2nd stage for deorbit, they would rather not add to the space junk problem.
The entire second stage, including the payload adapter, did a deorbit burn after deployment, to avoid creating space debris.
Photo just prior to landing:
Congratulations to team at SpaceX! There are going to be a lot of happy people in that building tonight.
Direct youtube link:
I guess now the question is whether they can do it the majority of the time.
Yup, that's what I'm wondering too. How much variance is there from launch to launch, and to what degree is this reproducible?
yeah.. the beauty of the rocket cost asymmetry means they only need to do it 'sometimes' and not all the time to drastically reduce launch costs. (75% of cost is in the first stage, fuel costs are 0.3%)
I just wanted to ask, what kind of technology or science understanding do they have now which was required to make this happen now rather than X years ago?

(Also, is it fair to say that while this is an achievement, it is only more-so when they can reliably repeat it; I mean it's not exactly safe yet for people, who knows what a gust of wind could do?)

Not a rocket scientist, but I expect it was the increase in cheap computing power, and 3-D printing of space-flight rated metal parts.
What's with all the fluff videos? Can we have a channel with just a comms feed?

T-4 minutes and still zero actual mission audio...

I really appreciate it. If I had kids, this would be a great feed to watch with them, because it covers a lot of the how and why of what happens.
Give people a choice maybe? Nothing wrong having the mainstream feed but I would appreciate an alternative.
I watched it with my four year old daughter on my lap, and then we made a rocket out of a paper towel roll. So it's good outreach and great to see a variety of faces of people who put such an amazing accomplishment together.
youtube link for the recap
Lots of eggs in this basket.
Yay! Successful egg deployment, as well as perfect basket landing :-)

I can't stop smiling!

Hehe, me neither. This will be with me for days if not longer. I feel really terribly lucky. When I was 4 my dad got me out of bed to watch the moonshot and the landing, now many years later I get to watch the next real step in the humans-in-space saga.
Trying to land a Rocket — the SpaceX Reusable Rocket Story
This also shows several other attempts (and successs): Armadillo in 2010, United Launch Alliance, and Blue Orgin, plus rocket planes much earlier.
Interesting - something flaming separated from the first stage as it landed. You can see it separate, hit the ground, and burn as the landing completes.

I don't see what you're seeing. There are lights surrounding the landing pad. Are you talking about those?
Could be a figment of my imagination - a normal flaring of the rocket flame + a light.
Prediction: this is the most important milestone in the development of the Earth's IP network since I was born in the early 80s.

I can't wait for this to fuck over Comcast and every other last-mile monopoly acting like jerks to their customers.

I would love to see that happen. Low earth orbit solves the latency problem with satellites, and reusable first stages (as well as potentially piggy-backing on other launches) may solve the cost problem. What about space on the wireless spectrum though? My understanding is that it's pretty full. It seems like SpaceX will either need to use something completely different (like laser transmission) or make a deal for use of some of the spectrum.
This is the first launch since the SpaceX rocket went kaboom [1] and they will be attempting a landing.


This time, with a much bigger landing area. The maneuvering to land on their landing barge was kind of extreme the last time they tried it.
Thank you, I didn't know they had upgraded. I still remember the tiny RCS thruster trying to get the rocket upright from the last landing...
It was really Scott Manley landing it.


An amazing achievement, and one I'm sorry to have missed watching live as I was AFK.

However, having watched this just now, I could have really done without all the bro-nerd whooping and faux prime time personality-presentation. The latter's awkward and naff and just got in the way for me - the former was simply irritating in the extreme.

Maybe I'm getting old, but I'd rather have a bit of restraint and less of the infantile gesticulation and cursing in the background where this sort of thing's concerned.


Anyway, onwards and upwards (and back again), SpaceX!

It's not just you. This is my take on it: However nerve-racking the launch and first stage recovery were, this wasn't a sports event, and cannot support that kind of hyper-enthusiastic presentation style without looking staged and histrionic. Sports presentations like that work because there are lots of fans cheering wildly in the background, and sports might be unique in their license to evoke extreme enthusiasm without being seen as bizarre.

I'm sure some people are less bothered by it than we are, though.

'presentation style'. Are you suggesting the employee audience reaction was staged and orchestrated, and not just spontaneous?
No, I mean the three mugs up front yakking away distractingly.

If I were to make a suggestion, it would be to house the loud employees in a large sound-proof booth, but I suspect that would only lead to yet more downvotes here...

How far are we now from forming Voltron?

I'm serious!

If SpaceX is so much cheaper than everyone else, how come they launch so infrequently. Seems like they should be launching every month but they are nowhere near that.
They actually used to be near that, but the accident grounded them for half a year.

Ultimately they're limited by available manpower and production capacity.

Planetary landing is so hot this year! We've got Space Engineers, Elite: Dangerous, Star Citizen, and now SpaceX!
Don't forget about the Kerbal Space Program!

(And if you're interested, search YouTube for many, many attempts to simulate what SpaceX did in KSP, including barge landing attempts.)

Amazing! Also an incredible joy to watch is the recent rocket landing from Blue Origin, and the reaction of the engineers who built it as they watch it happen:
I live on the south end of Merritt Island, FL (~25 miles from the launch complex) and the sudden noise reminded me I wanted to watch this! For a second, based on the sound, I thought it may have catastrophically failed until I caught the live stream and people cheering.

Are there any replay videos?

It's absolutely insane how loud the rockets are. Spend about 15 minutes of your time and just search YouTube for test firings - you won't regret it.
Replay of just the landing, the HN link has the full video.
What happens to 2nd stage after payload separation? Does it become space junk?
It will be de-orbited and dropped into the Pacific ocean. Reusing it is a bigger challenge for later.
Really impressive

More interesting stuff on the Falcon 9 rocket:

Just saw it -- beautiful, I love night launches. I live about 20 miles south of the Cape, so I just have to step outside onto my front lawn and face north :)
wow holyshit that booster thing just landed perfectly!
A FIRST Robotics Competition event writ large.
Collective nerdgasm at 31:00 minutes into the video. The energy in the room is crazy. A lot of proud people at that moment.
I feel a bit like in this StarTrek movie, where they meet the guy who made the first warp rocket.
They landed the first stage!
Saw it in the sky from Northern FL! Glad the first stage came back down.
I bet I could even take this baby up again!
Awesome, now do it again. And again. And again...
Thanks very, very much to whoever posted this!
SpaceX employee are allowed to comment on HN?
Who would have thought landing on Earth could be as exciting, if not more, than landing elsewhere in the Universe?
I came here to learn something about the mission, but sadly there is almost no content in this discussion.
SpaceX, If NASA can do it, so can we! It ain't rocket science.
I just love how SpaceX is disrupting probably one of the most difficult markets in the world.
Not sure if the "USA" chant after the first stage landed was warranted.
It's a private company based in the USA, contributing to the advancement of USA's technology (largely, NASA). I think it was warranted.
Many of us in other countries wouldn't think of chanting our countries name. I know I generally think of my work as "part of humanity" not for my country necessarily. The US is particularly nationalistic compared to others, which can be off putting for non-americans.
> Many of us in other countries wouldn't think of chanting our countries name

Unless you're German, than that statement is almost certainly false. And even Germany is changing.

Your statement most likely reveals more about your political leanings then the levels of nationalistic fervour in different countries.

> Unless you're German, than that statement is almost certainly false.

What? Imagine a Scandinavian or a Briton chanting their countries names in any other place than a sporting event (with an opposing country). It just doesn't happen.

As a Brit I'd have to agree, don't think anyone has ever chanted "Britain, Britain".

Other than football I can't think of any other time I've ever heard anyone chant "England, England" or whatever.

Might be slightly more likely in Scotland as they are a bit more nationalistic.

The only other country I can think of is the Australians. They would chant the "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi! oi! oi!" even at a pub having a beer in the afternoon.
This is arguably the greatest achievement in space flight since 1969 and you're going to tell the people who made it happen how they should celebrate?
Especially because of that. This nationalism is so weird. I mean, to me it’s mostly incredibly weird, nothing else much. I just cannot picture myself ever ever ever doing something like that, it’s just so incredibly alien.

But a good demonstration of the toxic virality of nationalism, I guess. It manages to wriggle itself into anything.

Well, when you change the world with a huge leap in technology, you can celebrate it how you want.
It's just a cultural thing, it doesn't mean anything weird.
I'm somewhat floored. In what way do you find a bunch of Americans expressing pride in their country like that toxic? Good for them. I don't find it objectionable any more than us Brits signing Rule Britannia at the end of the Proms, but I know some do.

I have to admit though that once on holiday in Germany, while siting in the ruins of a castle overlooking the Rhine at night, myself and some Brit and American friends of mine burst into a rousing chorus of Deutschland Uber Alles, much to the dismay of our German friends. So perhaps I have an odd sense of humor in this respect. And no I'm not some kind of proto Nazi. I also once memorized the words to much of the State Anthem of the USSR, and knew how to use them, but alas it's since largely slipped my memory. Life's too short to spend it walking around with a stick up your arse about these things IMHO.

Nationalism in general is toxic. I firmly believe that nations are a deadly plague and that they should not exist.
Well, it turns out that nations were better than what preceded them at keeping their citizens safe. I even suspect (but I am not a historian) that they were better at cutting down on wars (though the wars were more serious when they happened).

So if you want nations not to exist, the burden is on you to come up with something better. "No nations" can look like what used to be Somalia, or what used to be Afghanistan.

There's no foreign employees in SpaceX due to ITAR restrictions.
That's no true. If you can obtain a green card SpaceX can hire you. SpaceX was also able to hire foreign national without green card, but it's very difficult.

I can't seem to locate the exact time, but this is most likely the interview where Elon Musk mentioned it:

Yeah I pictured being a foreign national during that, I can imagine it being a little irksome.

Edit: foreign national working at SpaceX. If there were not foreign national's involved in today's success, then feel free to ignore me.

As a foreign national, you're a visitor in the USA.
I think the thing to consider is why a private company chose to include this in what looks like a carefully planned marketing presentation.

It's a commercial. What are they selling?

Space Launch capability.

Bear in mind the video was a live stream. Unless the 'USA' chant was pre-planned and orchestrated by the company, it's just part of the background noise of the employees celebrating.

ITAR[1] means that practically everyone working at SpaceX is either a US citizen or permanent resident.


Youtube link for people for whom livestream videos won't work. (I believe the embedded player is livestream).

Great engineering!!!!
so 0-60 is 10 seconds? I blame space/astronaut movies.

So how high does the first stage fly?

They did it!
They did it!!
It's landing!!!
It landed!!
They landed it!!
This is awesome! Congratulations for landing the booster stage safely.
It was a pretty "hectic" second from the burn in the sky to standing still.


This makes no sense to me. If you want to recover the rockets why not use parachutes? Guiding a parachute down, maybe with the help of some propellers, has got to be easier and more reliable than this.
Extreme speeds and loads. Parachutes don't scale.
SpaceX tried using parachutes multiple times but they couldn't provide the necessary accuracy and velocity reduction.
even with a gigantic chute you're still approaching the ground at ~20mph. not a lot can hit the ground at that speed (and be that big) without either making it prohibitively heavy to fly, or without things breaking seriously enough it would be a write off.
Precision landings

Elon should thank the American people. This achievement was financed by us and wouldn't be possible without the forward looking NASA program.

So before we all thank Elon for taking our money, let's pat our selves on the back.

Really we should thank the amazing spacex engineers, who worked tirelessly. Not just Elon. Sure he worked hard too, but not much more than anyone else at spacex

I'm just tired of the Elon worship. Nobody acknowledges the amazing people who actually made this happen. As an engineer it pisses me off. Sorry if this is an unpopular opinion.

Elon Musk has already been quoted as saying that the United States is "the greatest country that has ever existed on Earth".

> ... the United States is "the greatest country that has ever existed on Earth"

IMO, the statement is not as absolute as it first seems. At one point, Rome held that title, about 100 years ago it was Britain, in another 100, it probably will be China.

Actually it's not as absolute in any case.

"Greatest" in what sense? Isn't that a value judgement (but without any qualifying arguments)?

If we just talk about numbers, then it's not best in many categories, not even financial ones. Heck, not even in infant mortality (57 other countries fare better).

As for quality of life and actual democracy (as opposed to two parties alternating in power forever and a crazy vote transfer system - gerrymandering), there are several candidates far better in one or the other, and some even in both terms. Switzerland, for one.

Maybe we should just call it "the country with the biggest idea for itself".

I am not complaining about Elon Musk. I'm complaining about the people worship I am reading all over the internet whenever he makes the news. I am complaining about you and me.
I don't think it is worship so much as it is respect. While its true engineers did the work there is ample evidence that the exact same team can have very different outcomes with different leadership. This is shown again and again in sports where one year the team does poorly, but a new coach or manager can get that same group of men into the playoffs. Same guys, different leader.

That is true of engineers as well, I've met engineers who, under a great manager, have achieved results that they themselves didn't think they could achieve. And I've known engineers who were superstars and unable to perform well at all under poor management.

The point is you need both, the talent to do the work and the leadership to inspire the talent to do their best work. Without both you don't make the playoffs and you don't advance the state of the art in rockets.

Imagine this scenario. Musk is fired from his leadership role and is moved to the mail department, where he sorts mail. He is the best mail sorter in the group. Does he deserve the same respect? His influence is given by the position as leader, not any individual quality he may have. It doesn't take a great imagination to think of other possible organizational forms that don't disproportionately give one person influence and unjust praise.
Lets say we had taken 1000 random people off the street in 2002 and put them in charge of a new space launch company with equal funding to SpaceX. How many of them do you think are likely to have achieved the same success SpaceX has?

To put it another way, if Elon Musk hadn't founded SpaceX in 2002, how many of the engineers currently working there would right now be celebrating working at a company having successfully recovered a first stage from an orbital rocket?

Let's try looking at it from a third angle. Lets suppose a random employee other then Elon Musk had been unable to join the company during it's history and had to be replaced with another job candidate. What are the chances such a substitution would have prevented SpaceX from achieving a stage recovery?

Finally, I'll address your proposed scenario directly. How likely is it that having the wrong mail man in that position would lead to the failure of the company? In contrast, what are the chances that having the wrong CEO might lead to the failure of the company? I can imagine Elon Musk might make a pretty decent mailman. But if we took the best mailman in the country and put him or her in charge of SpaceX, do you think that would be likely to have a positive or negative effect on the prospects of the company?

Maybe this random employee: ?
You are precisely correct. Replacing Musk with someone else would lead to bigger changes than replacing the mailman.

But Why? It has nothing to do with Musk but everything to do with organizational form. He has an invention at his disposal called "Role of CEO". It is a magical invention that gives you the power to control what thousands of people do everyday. A mailman doesn't have this invention and obviously won't be able to decide what thousands of people do everyday.

There is nothing magical about Musk here. Since so few people get a chance at being CEO, it is hard to say if most people would be good or bad at it. And it is also hard to say how hard the work really is.

We see things differently.

And it's hard to argue that a guy fired from his job deserves respect. Shkreli deserves no respect (for example) and was recently fired. The coach who doesn't having a winning season gets no respect.

In my experience I found a huge difference in organizations with good leadership and those with poor leadership (and I've been in both!) And I've been both the engineer and the leader in my career.

You can imagine other organizational forms, but as you experience them you may find, as I did, that the people make the difference, not the form. And that every position has its advantages and challenges. The more senior you are, the more leverage you have in screwing things up. If a line manager makes a bad call, the schedule slips, if the CEO makes a bad call, the company can cease to exist and lose all those jobs. Sort of like in a Viking longboat the oarsmen do the work but if the guy on the tiller falls asleep they are all dead.

It took me a while to understand the roles everyone has to play in getting something done, and the stakes involved for everyone involved. Of course I've really only known organizations which have operated in the environment of US laws and customs, (of which SpaceX is one) but in those organizations I've found that people don't arbitrarily "get to the top", and understanding the difference between what it takes to operate at that level, versus at the level of getting the stuff done that you're told to do. There is a big gulf.

One of the more interesting things a CEO I respect and admire told me about being a senior leader was this, "Chuck the good thing about being in this role is you get to make some of the important decisions, the bad thing about being in this role is that you have to make the important decisions."

So we disagree on what is disproportionate and what is unjust. Perhaps one day we'll be more in agreement.

> Chuck the good thing about being in this role is you get to make some of the important decisions, the bad thing about being in this role is that you have to make the important decisions

I disagree that people make make the difference over the form. The role of CEO or product manager, or whatever, is a human invention. We as people created these roles.

Roles are designed to limit or enhance your skills. A senior role is an artificial multiplier and therefore a person's praise, or pay, or whatever, is artificially enhanced.

Imagine Musk, same as he is, in a different role, like a mailman. The FORM limits how we can contribute. LIMITS what he gets paid. and LIMITS who listens to him.

The workers of SpaceX don't listen to musk because they like the guy, they listen to him because he will fire them otherwise.

There are organizations that have different roles, and the idea of someone having so much power is a really stupid one. We decided this to be true in politics, why not other places?

Many nations have money, but no Space X. The American people have been wasting their money on military contractors for decades, and the United Launch Alliance, with no visible progress. If anything Elon Musk is saving us taxpayers money. No one is claiming that the amazing engineers, project managers, and many others don't deserve applause.
He's the one that put that team together. It's because of him that SpaceX exists. Yes, I'm sure he'd be the first to give credit to his team.

You know he said recently that he was going to give less interviews. I'm sure he likes and uses his public persona to help his endeavors...but that's just being smart.

Steve Jobs did the same thing with Apple.

And as for thanking the American people. Hogwash. Did you personally make a choice in this matter? Sure you voted in the officials that did...that's where the money went...and they made the choice to spend it this way.

You know why? Because it's a smart move. A move towards a future where space travel can expand and grow because it will be more economical and feasible to accomplish.

So...yes, of course the engineers should be applauded! And THEY know this! And I'm positive they are celebrating this monumental event.

You should too! :)

> I'm just tired of the Elon worship. Nobody acknowledges the amazing people who actually made this happen. As an engineer it pisses me off.

I would have hoped this thread would be a reprieve for you. I'm seeing tons of respect for SpaceX as a whole here. Ditto for the video, where they thank their partners at NASA, The FAA, etc. - and customer, Orbcomm - for making all this possible. I don't recall Elon being mentioned once in the video. Elon's mentioned a few times in thread for the purposes of citation about the plans of SpaceX, and some silly twitter drama - that's about it. No Elon worship I can spot.

> Sorry if this is an unpopular opinion.

I think pretty much everyone is on board with appreciating the hard work of everyone at SpaceX, NASA, The FAA, Orbcomm, and all the engineers and taxpayers who made it possible. Elon's one of those people though. This... jealousy of him? That's probably not the right phrasing. But if it's poorly received, I suspect it's because it comes across as appreciating the hard work of everyone but him. Or put differently: It's not appreciating the hard work of everyone.

I join in congratulating SpaceX for this awesome achievement. It's like, holy fuck, they landed the rocket AND deployed 11 satellites, all in a single Pomodoro!

I also want to commend them for a few minor things:

- a real-time stream from landing (as opposed to holding it and releasing footage few days later, as before)

- a real-time stream from satellite deployment, with a camera placed so that we could see everything (as opposed to the typical low-quality stream of the engine nozzle)

- a launch timeline visible on the stream

This mission looked an order of magnitude better than anything they did before. It's like, before they were just playing around, and now they're doing serious business. Keep it up, SpaceX!

Agreed. Loved the data feed on the video. The tension built up as the indicatior neared the "landing" hash mark.
I had to stay longer at work and was late to the event. My first question, even as the YouTube link loaded, was... "Did they land it yet?", followed by "When are they landing?". Lo and behold, a nice progress bar saying - grab your popcorn, we're about to land now!
It was also super cool to see the employee reaction. There aren't that many situations in business that warrant such a reaction.

It's amazing to me how much power SpaceX has to both re-activate so (comparatively) soon after a failure and to delay the launch by a day solely for its own purposes (perhaps it's launch client gets a discount?).

They probably just have a well-planned contract.
I think they finally had real time stream just because they were not landing on sea anymore; they just didn't have the bandwidth from the barge. Elon mentioned the reason they couldn't stream before was technical, not political/PR, and that they always wanted to stream it.

Agreed, though. It was masterly done. Loved the timeline.

When I read about Elon Musk including SpaceX I cannot help myself but think that he is like one of those comic book heroes from Marvel. :)

They want to reuse rockets similar to planes in the future. It's mind blowing and super exciting!

Tony Stark / Iron Man in the recent Marvel movies was actually modelled on Elon Musk. Elon even has a cameo in IM2 :).
I think the OP was simply saying this webcast was so phenomenal that the others pale in comparison. That's not so much a slight on the previous webcasts as is it a compliment of how great this one was.
Yes, that's exactly what I meant.
I'm not implying that they were holding back on purpose, but I did not expect the quality of the whole streaming event to go up so highly. It feels different than before.
It does definitely... though they really drop the ball after the main event is over at least from a perspective of the news. the news would beat this to death and then after 3 days stop covering it. This was maybe 5 min after the mission was a success that they cut the feed. milk it for all it's worth and show some of the other successes and failures from past missions. It definitely feels like the mission pr was handled by engineers. (not trying to be a jerk as I am an engineer)

Really such a groundbreaking thing like this should be glorified in the media and put on loop for a while. simply amazing.

> show some of the other successes and failures from past missions

And confuse people that happen to be tuning in at the wrong time? No thanks. This is a live stream not a news broadcast.

you can always have a big flashing banner that says "previously recorded" or "prior missions" or something like that.
I can get the news from other places, I like that the live feed is just the live feed. Once it's done, it's done. Let's not fill it with shit shall we?
I agree, I don't need the perspective of an author over top of the launch audio feed. I liked the rougher but more authentic streams they did in the past.
AIUI from /r/spacex last time, the reason we didn't have live video from the barges is that they simply did not have live video from the barges. They didn't have the bandwidth for it that far out to sea. If they could have provided it, they presumably would have. After all, they released the video of the Falcon Punch afterwards, and had this one blown up it would have done so live.

But they really upped the PR game this time, that's for sure. I assume somebody must have had a look at the viewer count numbers from the last few and put 2 and 2 together on the opportunity they were missing out on. A nice job of it overall.

LMAO "falcon punch"
Not mine, but irresistible.

Presumably the sting of the term is now entirely gone. Nothing succeeds like success.

Personally, the biggest laugh I had on /r/spacex was when the CRS-7 failure study came up and they had to remove the word "strut" from the list of terms that caused comments to be automatically put to moderation - it was banned because of all the KSP jokes, but suddenly the rocket really found itself in need of moar struts.
Not more, just better.
More would have helped too. But better is, uh, better.
Actually, not better. Just "Not worse." The struts that were manufactured to spec were fine. The problem was with struts that weren't up to spec.
So, all these comments that they were moderating. They were right.
HN Theater is an independent project and is not operated by Y Combinator or any of the video hosting platforms linked to on this site.
~ yaj@
;laksdfhjdhksalkfj more things ~ Privacy Policy ~
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.