Where’s the Media?
Posted by Jeff Condon on July 19, 2009
As an aeronautical engineer, I’m deeply interested in space travel and advances in space travel. Our media these days only seems interested in promoting a political agenda and is missing some of the biggest stories. A man… a FREE man, Elon Musk, who was a pay pal entrepreneur has invested his own money into redesigning rocketry. While I’m not certain of who did what, Elon has established himself as chief technology officer (or some such title) and directed a staff of several hundred people to build the simplest and safest possible rocket systems to reach space in an effort to reduce cost and risk. For an investment of a couple hundred million (about 1/5 of a single shuttle launch) space X has built an entire rocket company and put a satellite into orbit.
Orbit is much different than Burt Rutan’s interesting yet technically boring space plane, which I would ride on at a moment’s notice. The idiotic media covered that adventure as though it was the most amazing thing in the world simultaneously missing the Space X home designed rockets which accelerate thousands of pounds of material to a kinetic energy 30 ish times greater than anything Burt Rutan’s rocket ever could achieve. THIRTY times!
With a couple hundred million, Space X in fact has exceeded the efforts of all but a few percent of the worlds nations and could fully deliver any several thousand pound object to any place on earth with minimal expense and notification(think about it!). It’s efforts put to shame every country’s space programs for cost, manpower and expense.
What’s more is Elon Musk is building a Dragon Capsule to Nasa specification for launch aboard a human rated Falcon 9 rocket. It carries more people in what I believe will be safer conditions than NASA has produced. The other things I need to echo include Elon Musk’s comments that the Falcon 9 is one of the first entirely new rockets in use on this planet in about 30 years. Thirty years and not a single new rocket engine, nobody working on basic cost reduction? Where is the media?
The Falcon 9 rocket is inherently safer than anything launched in the past. Using 9 small rocket engines, physically isolated from each other the engines are small enough and isolated enough that the rocket can continue even under conditions of RUD (Rapid Unplanned Disassembly). The little engines (one of which put this Malaysian satellite into orbit) can actually blow up and the rocket will continue! It burns a pure form of Kerosene (jet fuel) combined with liquid oxygen rather than the cryogenic impossible to contain and ridiculously explosive hydrogen. One of my favorite features of the SpaceX system is the use of the Kerosene as hydraulic fluid to direct the nozzles. —Hydraulic leaks have little meaning to Falcon rockets, they use the fuel from the thousands of gallons of available kerosene already being pressurized and pumped into its engines, so it doesn’t require the secondary and tertiary backup pumps of the shuttle. If the pump ain’t workin’ neither is the rocket engine! Redundancy comes from multiple engines. It’s an engineers dream really.
A miniscule number of people are involved in launch operations, the rockets are fueled an hour before launch so insulating foam’s are not required and now that the electronic systems are worked out I’m going to make a wild prediction. Space X will not loose another rocket in the next 10 years and while problems will be discovered, no Falcon 9 will fail to reach orbit due to an internal problem –ever! Sure it’s just a guess, but in this case (unlike climatology) an educated one. I can’t see the culture inside the organization so I don’t know how Elon’s fiefdom actually works but from the outside, they have consistently made good decisions on technology – including decisions on how to prevent the fuel slosh that killed a previous launch of a Falcon 1.
Whether you agree with my wild predictions or not if you’re at all interested in Space exploration, it has changed. Private space exploration HAS begun, this is not a minor deal despite the idiotic media coverage but rather it will be the next big industry (auto, air and now space). My confidence is derived from the reliability and repeatability of this series of machines. Machines which appear from the outside to be simply unmatched in rocketry. As a less extreme add on, I’ll make another prediction. The engines and methods will be copied for many years in the future for both military and non-military use. While NASA will probably be ignorantly too proud for ten-ish years, third world communist countries would be stupid not to pay attention.
A message to Elon who doesn’t have ALL the answers,
FIRE YOUR STUPID MARKETING GROUP and fix your website! Burt Rutan did nothing in comparison and had huge press!! If you are directing your marketing group, Fire Yourself and put someone else in charge! I know people aren’t your customers but their democratically elected governments ARE….[snip comments]!
Space X is HERE.