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posted by martyb on Friday September 09 2016, @10:42PM   Printer-friendly
from the rocket-surgery dept.

An executive from SpaceX's chief competitor, the United Launch Alliance (ULA), predicts that SpaceX won't conduct any more launches for the next 9 to 12 months, as it makes repairs and investigates the explosion of a Falcon 9 booster on Sept. 1:

"It typically takes nine to 12 months for people to return to flight. That's what the history is," Tory Bruno, chief executive of United Launch Alliance, told Reuters. [...] Bruno said the main issue after accidents involving space launches has "always been figuring out what went wrong on the rocket, being confident that you know ... how to fix it and then actually getting that fix in place." Repairing damage to the launch pad is usually not a significant issue, he said. "Historically, it had never been the pad that's taken the longest time," he said.

Bruno spoke with Reuters a few hours before ULA, a partnership of Lockheed-Martin and Boeing, was preparing to launch its 111th rocket, so far all successfully. An Atlas 5 rocket, carrying a NASA asteroid sample-return spacecraft, was poised for liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida about 1.2 miles (2 km) away from the SpaceX launch site.[*]

Bruno said he called SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell shortly after the accident to extend sympathies and offer help. "It's a small community and issues especially around safety - but even mission success - kind of transcend the competitive piece of this," Bruno added.

ULA and SpaceX are rivals for private space missions and launches by U.S. government agencies. Musk's company in May broke ULA's monopoly on flying U.S. military and national security satellites, winning an $83 million Air Force contract to launch a Global Positioning System satellite in 2018. The two firms are expected to square off over a second satellite launch services bid, which closes on Sept. 19.

[*] See SoylentNews coverage: OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission - Launch Successful -Ed.

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Breaking News: Kennedy Space Centre Explosion 34 comments

The BBC are reporting an explosion at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where SpaceX company was readying a rocket for launch.

The cause of the blast is not clear and it is not known if anyone was hurt. Nasa said SpaceX was test-firing a rocket which was due to take a satellite into space this weekend.

Pictures from the scene show a huge plume of smoke rising above the Cape Canaveral complex.

The force of the blast shook buildings several miles away.

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OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission - Launch Successful 8 comments

Update: Launch successful.

NASA will launch the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft on Sept. 8. The spacecraft will attempt exploration and a sample return from the asteroid 101955 Bennu. It will arrive at Bennu in 2018 and map it before selecting a site for sample collection. reports:

Bennu is thought to have formed soon after the sun, at around the same time as the solar system's planets. While the constant activity of volcanoes, earthquakes and erosion changed the chemistry of Earth's material since that time (as likely happened on other planets), Bennu remains virtually unmarred. A sample of the asteroid should therefore provide a time-capsule-like glimpse of the planets' youth, the researchers said.

[...] To complete its planned science objectives, OSIRIS-REx needs to collect a least a 2-ounce (60 grams) sample from Bennu. Once that material lands back on Earth, scientists will probe the sample with complex experiments that just aren't possible in space. [...] "This will be the largest sample-return mission since the Apollo era," said Christine Richey, OSIRIS-REx deputy program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The returned capsule will provide a bounty not only for today's scientists, but also for future generations, Richey said. Three-fourths of the sample will be archived for later study, allowing scientists to answer questions that haven't been thought of today, using instruments yet to be imagined.

Spaceflight Now has a page dedicated to providing updates on this flight: Live coverage: Thursday's Atlas 5 countdown and launch journal


Boeing CEO Says His Company Will Carry Humans to Mars Before SpaceX 43 comments

Who will make it to Mars first?

It was about a year ago that Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg first began saying his company would beat SpaceX to Mars. "I'm convinced that the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding on a Boeing rocket," he said during a Boeing-sponsored tech summit in Chicago in October 2016.

On Thursday, Muilenburg repeated that claim on CNBC. Moreover, he added this tidbit about the Space Launch System rocket—for which Boeing is the prime contractor of the core stage—"We're going to take a first test flight in 2019 and we're going to do a slingshot mission around the Moon."

Unlike last year, Muilenburg drew a response from SpaceX this time. The company's founder, Elon Musk, offered a pithy response on Twitter: "Do it."

The truth is that Boeing's rocket isn't going anywhere particularly fast. Although Muilenburg says it will launch in 2019, NASA has all but admitted that will not happen. The rocket's maiden launch has already slipped from late 2017 into "no earlier than" December 2019. However, NASA officials have said a 2019 launch is a "best case" scenario, and a slip to June 2020 is more likely.


Also, the next SpaceX flight is an ISS resupply mission and is scheduled for this coming Tuesday (December 12, 2017) at 1646 GMT (11:46 a.m. EST) from SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The plan is for the booster to return to landing at Landing Zone-1, also at Cape Canaveral.

Previously: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019
Elon Musk Publishes Mars Colonization Plan
SpaceX Appears to Have Pulled the Plug on its Red Dragon Plans
SpaceX Putting Red Dragon on the Back Burner
SpaceX: Making Human Life Multiplanetary

Related: VP of Engineering at United Launch Alliance Resigns over Comments About the Space Launch Industry
ULA Exec: SpaceX could be Grounded for 9-12 Months
Commercial Space Companies Want More Money From NASA
Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022
SpaceX Unlocks "Steamroller" Achievement as Company Eyes 19 Launches in 2017
Trump Space Adviser: Mars "Too Ambitious" and SLS is a Strategic National Asset
SpaceX's Reusable Rockets Could End EU's Arianespace, and Other News

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  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 09 2016, @10:46PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 09 2016, @10:46PM (#399823)

    How many licks does it take until Musky gets off? Let's find out!

    • (Score: 2) by JNCF on Friday September 09 2016, @10:59PM

      by JNCF (4317) on Friday September 09 2016, @10:59PM (#399829) Journal

      How many licks does it take to get to the Musky Roll center of a Musky Pop?

      Three. []

      I bet Musky recovers faster than ULA is speculating -- they speak from the experience of a big, old, crusty institution that has played it so safe as to launch 111 rockets without a single failure. Cowards! Then again, they might know more about upcoming sabotage operations than the rest of us do. Either way, you could see the delay pushing SpaceX's Mars plans back. Sadface.

  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 09 2016, @10:59PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 09 2016, @10:59PM (#399828)

    We can do it in 3. Let's get motivated people! Pay cuts all round to show we're profitable and then we will damn well climb back in that rocket. Stirring music etc. Flags etc. Short the stock, etc. USA USA USA etc.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10 2016, @04:19AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10 2016, @04:19AM (#399930)

      There got to be Putin here somewhere.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by bob_super on Friday September 09 2016, @11:20PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Friday September 09 2016, @11:20PM (#399834)

    They didn't blow up in flight, under stress, with the need to collect pieces for many square kilometres and analyze massive data dumps and shaky footage at narrow angles...

    Something broke, something that goes boom really fast leaked, something ignited, and the videos show exactly where, and probably how much (level indicators in a static rocket are pretty easy to read, too). I'm not an armchair KSP investigator, so I won't guess what (because I don't know if the location of the boom needs to match the location of the leak), but the guys who designed the rocket most likely had a very very short list of culprits within an hour.

    Whether the fix can be applied to the used boosters they want to launch again is the $20M/each question.

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by isostatic on Friday September 09 2016, @11:50PM

      by isostatic (365) on Friday September 09 2016, @11:50PM (#399839) Journal

      The fix is simply more struts

      • (Score: 3, Touché) by Yog-Yogguth on Saturday September 10 2016, @01:09AM

        by Yog-Yogguth (1862) Subscriber Badge on Saturday September 10 2016, @01:09AM (#399867) Journal

        Or not launching anything that will be used by Facebook.

        Could have been a karma explosion :P

        Bite harder Ouroboros, bite! linux USB CD secure desktop IRC *crypt tor (not endorsements (XKeyScore))
        • (Score: 2) by davester666 on Monday September 12 2016, @07:33AM

          by davester666 (155) on Monday September 12 2016, @07:33AM (#400559)

          Better not launch anything for Google then. And if it's for Oracle, each piece will explode separately as it is being produced.

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10 2016, @01:47AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10 2016, @01:47AM (#399882)

    It was just a fast fire.

  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10 2016, @11:19AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10 2016, @11:19AM (#399964)

    "Our CGI program is also behind schedule, but we predict that SpaceX will quietly sit on a corner, tossing the ball to NASA's court until they have their new CGI ready", Bruno mentioned.

    "To us in the so-called 'private space industry', it is truly remarkable what percentage of the population buys the CGI crap we spoon feed them", Bruno said. On a question about what is it that makes Americans buy into this bad-made, completely ridiculous and obvious hoax, Bruno replied that "it is probably a combination of their arrogance and pride: we are convinced that most humans enjoy feeling superior against their fellow humans, and regurgitating 'facts' that they 'learned' through the educational system, the media, and also NASA satisfies that need pretty well, and helps propagate the deception. Programming with space movies also helps quite a lot", Bruno added.

    On a question about a typical workday of his, Bruno mentioned that "My diaphragm is practically under continuous stress by laughter: just picture how many people actually believe that the Earth is a spinning globe, and watch them pretentiously defend this notion, quoting 'facts' they 'know'!", Bruno also mentioned. "The only drawback is that I have to occasionally interrupt my laughter: there is practically zero time available to count all this money that we are stealing from the gullible taxpayer, this is what takes up most of my working hours", Bruno concluded.

  • (Score: 2) by gringer on Sunday September 11 2016, @05:15AM

    by gringer (962) on Sunday September 11 2016, @05:15AM (#400207)

    what went wrong on the rocket, being confident that you know ... how to fix it and then actually getting that fix in place.

    How does ULA propose to demonstrate that this won't happen to their rockets?

    Ask me about Sequencing DNA in front of Linus Torvalds []
  • (Score: 2) by gidds on Monday September 12 2016, @12:34PM

    by gidds (589) on Monday September 12 2016, @12:34PM (#400666)

    "Well, he would [say that], wouldn't he?" []

    "Yeah, so our main competitor is gonna be out of action for ages now.  Like, a year or something.  Maybe even more.  Honest.  So, er, all you folks with stuff to launch: you'd better come and talk to us instead!  — Not that I'm exaggerating in order to generate some free publicity and drum up some business.  Oh no."

    (Disclaimer: I don't know whether 9–12 months is a fair estimate or not.  But I'd want to hear it from a source without such an obvious vested interest.)

    [sig redacted]