Saturday, May 19, 2012

SpaceX: Later

SpaceX stopped this morning's "demonstration" launch at T -0.5 seconds. Pressure was too high in one of the engines and they're not gamblers; they shut it down and they'll try again on the 22nd or 23rd.

Despite headlines (CNN has blurbed it as a "fizzle") this is pretty impressive; I don't think a Shuttle launch could be safely aborted with a half-second to go, not with solid-fuel boosters already lit. SpaceX, on the other hand, is going over the hardware and telemetry and will have another go once they find and fix the issue, possibly as early as 22 or 23 May. They're in the freight business, not the stunt business.

This is a real launch with a real cargo, destination ISS -- but it's all nonessentials. It will be the first run-through of the docking procedure.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

They did good and the media in general dumped on them. Would have to go look it up exactly but I was the Orbiter Test Conductor for STS 55 which had engine shutdown at about three seconds. Was not a good day at the office!

Roberta X said...

Ouch. Totally not a good day -- but worse if it happened on the plus side of zero.

BTW: Wow! Supercool job!

Anonymous said...

It was a "fun" job! Boredom punctuated by heart pounding excitment and a few moments of sheer terror. The chair I sat in for that launch had to be replaced. lol....

Divemedic said...

I don't think that is fair criticism. NASA scrubs launches all the time, and even then, they blow up quite a few rockets.

Not just the shuttles, either. There was a Delta II that blew up in 2008, the Columbia in 2003, and nearly every shuttle mission got scrubbed at least once.

Roberta X said...

Aren't they are still required to be able to blow them up under certain post-launch failure conditions, the unmanned launches anyway? Better an airborne fireball and a rain of small parts than big parts and flaming rocket fuel falling.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes! They all have a Range Safety System which will put them in the water!

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

According to Wikipedia (FWIW), SRB ignition occurs at T -0 seconds, so an abort at T -0.5s should have been possible.

But regardless of what the clueless MSM says, SpaceX did it right.

Roberta X said...

Jake: That's good to know. I was never comfy with the whole SRB thing. Ya can't turn them off!

...The more I learn about manned spaceflight, the more impressed I am with the people who do it, both on the ground and in the air. It's very iceberg-y; we only see ten percent of what goes on -- and only grasp one percent of the risks.

Robin said...

Well, first, comparing SpaceX to the shuttle is a fail - because we don't have a shuttle program left.

And second, nope, once you light the solid rocket boosters on the former US spacecraft known in the past as the shuttle, that SOB is going up no matter what.

Robin said...

I spent a few months in Rockwell/Downey plant space shuttle operations group something like three decades back.

A guy I worked for, as a lowly engineering intern, had an amusing project. It seems that the shuttle was held down on the pad by these monster clamping arms. And those arms were in place while the main engines ignited and throttled up, and only let go when the SRB's lit. So there was a lot of dynamic thrust on them at the moment they let go of the shuttle. And the shuttle would snap around laterally at release. NASA wanted to know - for obvious reasons because there was structures around - how far the shuttle would sproing. So they spent millions building video cameras with armored hoods and got ... millions of dollars worth of video of smoke.

This guy out at Downey, I can't recall his name, got the idea of asking Kodak for a couple of score of the little sonar devices they made for their sonar based auto focus cameras. He put them inside of short lengths of pipe and screwed them down on the pad pointing at key locations on the shuttle and gathered data on the amount of movement at the moment of release for a budget that wasn't a hundredth of what had been spent on video cameras.

Ken said...

Being able to abort at T-0.5 seconds without destroying the ship, the facility, or anything else is pretty doggone cool.

As for the MSM: Envy is the deadliest of the sins, innit? ;-)

Don said...

That was my first thought, too--"Holy crap! They can stop it with half a second to go?" I once fired an Estes model off into the wild blue yonder at least half a second after somebody yelled at me to stop.