Second SpaceX Mission in Two Weeks Gears Up for Monday Launch

SpaceX image of Falcon 9 rocket posted on AmericaSpace photo credit SpaceX

Since its maiden voyage in September 2013, the Falcon 9 v1.1 has delivered payloads into low-Earth orbit, Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) and onto Earth-escape trajectories to the L2 Lagrange Point. Photo Credit SpaceX

Less than two weeks since the rousing launch of the CRS-6 Dragon cargo mission toward the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX is primed to deliver its second payload of 2015 to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) on Monday, 27 April, when its venerable Falcon 9 v1.1 booster lofts Turkmenistan’s first national communications satellite. Liftoff is scheduled to occur from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., during a 90-minute “window,” which opens at 6:14 p.m. EDT. With local sunset expected at 7:55 p.m. Monday and 7:56 p.m. Tuesday, a successful launch promises a beautiful view for observers in the Cape Canaveral area. Built by the Paris, France-headquartered Thales Group, the 9,920-pound (4,500-kg) satellite is encumbered with perhaps the most tongue-twisting name of any payload yet ferried into orbit by SpaceX—“TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat”—and will spend up to 15 years providing television, radio, and internet coverage of Europe, Africa, and significant swathes of Asia. If SpaceX launches on time on Monday, it will set a new record of just 13 days between missions, eclipsing the prior 14-day record set between last September’s flights of AsiaSat-6 and the CRS-4 Dragon.

Continuing an impressive salvo of flights for SpaceX, this will be the fifth mission by the Hawthorne, Calif.-based launch services operator in the first four months of 2015. It follows hard on the heels of the CRS-5 Dragon to low-Earth orbit on 10 January, NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) toward the L2 Lagrange Point—which marked SpaceX’s first foray beyond the Home Planet—on 11 February, the Eutelsat 115 West B and ABS-3A communications satellites to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) on 1 March, and the recent CRS-6 Dragon on 14 April. Each of these flights was conducted by SpaceX’s highly reliable Falcon 9 v1.1, which will be making its 13th launch in less than 19 months on the TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat mission.

Current predictions from the 45th Weather Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base are fair to negative for next week’s launch attempts, with a 60-percent likelihood of acceptable conditions on Monday, deteriorating to just 30 percent on Tuesday. Key factors are a potential violation of the Cumulus Cloud Rule and Thick Cloud Rule on Monday, with the Thick Cloud Rule and the Disturbed Weather Rule cited for Tuesday. “On Saturday, a fast-moving storm system will transit the Midwest and by Sunday move into the mid-Atlantic,” the 45th noted in its Friday morning forecast. “This system will add moisture and instability over Central Florida and convective activity could reach severe levels, mostly north of the Spaceport. Temperatures on Sunday will be well above normal, with the strong westerly winds ahead of the system.”

Pushing into Monday, a very strong system is expected to develop in Texas, which will pull the boundary from south Florida back north through the Space Coast. “The primary weather concerns are cumulus clouds and thick cloud layers associated with this boundary,” it was explained. “Maximum upper-level winds will be westerly at 95 knots near 38,000 feet (11,500 meters). On Tuesday, the storm system continues to strengthen into a major weather producer as it moves along the Gulf Coast states. By launch time Tuesday, significant cloud cover, rain and isolated thunderstorms are expected in Central Florida. Maximum upper-level winds will be west at 100 knots at 40,000 feet (12,200 meters).”

The original manifest called for TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat to fly on 21 March, less than three weeks after the Eutelsat/ABS duo, and ahead of the CRS-6 mission to the ISS in April. However, an issue was discovered with a batch of Falcon 9 v1.1 helium pressurization bottles during tests at SpaceX’s manufacturing facility. “During stress-testing helium bottles of a similar lot, we identified a potential condition that could be shared with those on-board the Thales vehicle,” SpaceX told AmericaSpace last month. “While it’s unlikely that the flight helium bottles would have encountered an issue during the mission, out of an abundance of caution, we have opted to replace a few of the flight bottles.” Speaking in late March to Aviation Week, SpaceX President and CEO Gwynne Shotwell added that the bottles “passed inspection,” but added that “now is not the time to have an issue in-flight.”
Monday's launch will represent the 18th overall flight by a member of the Falcon 9 rocket family, which has an enviable 100-percent success rate for delivering primary payloads to orbit. Photo Credit: SpaceX

Monday’s launch will represent the 18th overall flight by a member of the Falcon 9 rocket family, which has an enviable 100-percent success rate for delivering primary payloads to orbit. Photo Credit: John Studwell/AmericaSpace

In the immediate aftermath of the delay, SpaceX submitted a new No Earlier Than (NET) date of 24 April to the Eastern Range for the TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat flight. “With the time required to make the change, along with Range availability,” SpaceX told AmericaSpace, “our target date for the mission is now 24 April.” By the beginning of April, it was added that “Replacement of the helium bottles is nearing completion.”

In the meantime, it was understood that the Pad Abort Test (PAT) of a SpaceX Dragon—which, like TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat, also requires the use of the SLC-40 launch facilities, and seeks to demonstrate emergency escape mechanisms in readiness for Commercial Crew operations—would be moved from its original position in early April to the beginning of May. “We have more flexibility with the Pad Abort schedule,” SpaceX explained, “so we’re evaluating the best dates in light of the two missions we have coming in April.” The Dragon vehicle assigned to the PAT was delivered to the Cape in February 2015 for final processing. It will be mounted onto a support structure at SLC-40. “The whole test is less than two minutes from pad to splashdown,” SpaceX told us, “and most of that distance is covered in the first 25-30 seconds of the test.” As described by AmericaSpace’s Mike Killian, the PAT is now firmly scheduled for the morning of Tuesday, 5 May, although Range clearance has been secured for a backup opportunity on Wednesday, 6 May.

Following the successful flight of CRS-6 toward the space station, it was initially expected that the TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat mission would retain its NET target of 24 April, although it has recently been revealed that the launch would slip slightly to 6:14 p.m. EDT on 27 April. Should the opening attempt be scrubbed, SpaceX has Range approval to support a backup opportunity at the same time—and also with a 90-minute “window”—on the 28th. With a standard Static Fire Test of the nine Merlin 1D engines on its first stage having been satisfactorily completed at SLC-40 on the afternoon of Wednesday, 22 April, the Falcon 9 v1.1 was returned to a horizontal configuration and transferred back to the processing facility for the integration of TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat. The payload is encapsulated within a bulbous, 43-foot-long (13.1-meter) Payload Fairing (PLF). With the success of the Static Fire Test, SpaceX was also able to press ahead with the standard Launch Readiness Review (LRR).

Following rollout to SLC-40, probably on Sunday, 26 April, the Falcon 9 v1.1 will be fueled with liquid oxygen and a highly refined form of rocket-grade kerosene, known as “RP-1.” The cryogenic nature of the oxygen—whose liquid state exists within a range from -221.54 degrees Celsius (-368.77 degrees Fahrenheit) to -182.96 degrees Celsius (-297.33 degrees Fahrenheit)—requires the fuel lines of the engines to be chilled, in order to avoid thermally shocking and potentially fracturing them. All propellants should be fully loaded within one hour and the vehicle’s tanks will transition to “Topping Mode,” continuously replenishing boiled-off cryogens until close to T-0.

As seen in this view of last year's Orbcomm OG-2 mission, Monday's launch will feature the bulbous Payload Fairing (PLF), which measures 43 feet (13.1 meters) in length. Photo Credit: SpaceX

As seen in this view of last year’s Orbcomm OG-2 mission, Monday’s launch will feature the bulbous Payload Fairing (PLF), which measures 43 feet (13.1 meters) in length. Photo Credit: SpaceX

By 6:01 p.m. EDT Monday, the countdown will reach its final “Go/No-Go” polling point of all stations at T-13 minutes. Assuming it passes through the poll of flight controllers, the Terminal Countdown will get underway at T-10 minutes. During this period, the Merlin 1D engines will be chilled, ahead of their ignition sequence. All external power utilities from the Ground Support Equipment (GSE) will be disconnected and at 6:09 p.m., the roughly 90-second process of retracting the “strongback” from the vehicle will get underway. The Flight Termination System (FTS)—which is tasked with destroying the rocket in the event of a major accident during ascent—will be placed onto internal power and armed. By T-2 minutes and 15 seconds, the first stage’s propellant tanks will attain flight pressure and at T-2 minutes the Range Operations Co-ordinator (ROC) will confirm Eastern Range clearance to support the launch.

In this final phase, the nine Merlins will be purged with gaseous nitrogen, and, at T-60 seconds, the SLC-40 complex’s “Niagara” deluge system of 53 nozzles will be activated, flooding the pad surface and flame trench with 30,000 gallons (113,500 liters) of water, per minute, to suppress acoustic energy radiating from the engine exhausts. At T-3 seconds, the Merlins will roar to life, ramping up to a combined thrust of 1.3 million pounds (590,000 kg). Following computer-commanded health checks, the stack will be released from SLC-40 at 6:14 p.m. EDT, kicking off the 18th flight by a member of the Falcon 9 rocket family, the 13th mission by the upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1, as well as SpaceX’s sixth foray to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) and the company’s fifth launch of 2015. To date, with the exception of the Orbcomm OG-2 secondary payload—delivered into a lower than intended orbit, back in October 2012—the Falcon 9 family has enjoyed a 100-percent launch success rate.

Immediately after clearing the tower, the booster will execute a combined pitch, roll, and yaw program maneuver to establish it onto the proper flight azimuth to inject the TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat payload into orbit. Eighty seconds into the uphill climb, the vehicle will exceed the speed of sound and experience a period of maximum aerodynamic duress—colloquially dubbed “Max Q”—on its airframe. At about this time, the restartable Merlin 1D Vacuum engine of the second stage will undergo a chill-down protocol, ahead of its own ignition later in the ascent. At 6:16 p.m., 130 seconds after liftoff, two of the first-stage engines will throttle back, under computer command, to reduce the rate of acceleration at the point of Main Engine Cutoff (MECO).

Finally, at T+2 minutes and 58 seconds, the seven remaining engines will shut down, and, a few seconds later, the first stage will separate from the rapidly ascending stack. The turn will then come for the restartable second stage, whose Merlin 1D Vacuum engine—with a maximum thrust of 180,000 pounds (81,600 kg)—will support two discrete “burns,” then set TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat free about a half-hour after departing the Cape. The first burn will kick off at about T+3 minutes and 10 seconds, firing for close to six minutes to establish the payload into a “parking orbit.” During this time, the PLF will be pneumatically jettisoned, exposing the satellite to the harsh space environment for the first time, and the Merlin 1D Vacuum will shut down about nine minutes into the flight. The combo will then “coast” for approximately 17 minutes, ahead of the second burn at T+26 minutes, which will run for about 60 seconds, to position TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat for deployment at T+32 minutes.

The TurkmenÄlem52/MonacoSat payload undergoes testing before launch. Photo Credit: Thales Group

The TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat payload undergoes testing before launch. Photo Credit: Thales Group

Due to the geostationary destination of the satellite—at an approximate altitude of 22,300 miles (35,900 km)—the maximum performance of the Falcon 9 v1.1 booster will be required for payload delivery, and thus an attempt to soft-land the first stage hardware on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) in the Atlantic Ocean will not occur on this mission. Two previous attempts to accomplish this remarkable feat have been made, with steadily maturing levels of success. In January, following the CRS-5 launch, a Falcon first stage reached and impacted the deck of the ASDS, but hit its target at a 45-degree angle and exploded, whilst the recent CRS-6 attempt saw “excess lateral velocity” during the final descent cause the rocket to tip over post-landing, due to “stiction in the biprop throttle valve, resulting in control system phase lag,” according to SpaceX founder Elon Musk. The next landing attempt will be made during the CRS-7 Dragon launch in mid-June.

Based upon Thales’ medium-class Spacebus 4000 C2 satellite platform, the 9,920-pound (4,500-kg) TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat will benefit from dual-array solar power provision of up to 15.8 kilowatts and up to 11.6 kilowatts of payload capability, enabling around 80-100 active channels with medium Radio Frequency (RF) power and coverage across the Ku/C and Ka frequency bands. In November 2011, Thales contracted with Turkmenistan Ministry of Communications to build the satellite—together with two Ground Control Stations and associated services, including an internship program to train a team of Turkmen operators—with the expectation that it would provide the Central Asian nation with its first National System of Satellite Communications.

“This is a very important milestone for our customer, Turkmenistan Ministry of Communication, and for our company, and we would like to thank all the parties involved in this project since the beginning,” said Reynald Seznec, President and CEO of Thales Alenia Space, after the contract award. “Co-operation with Turkmenistan is strategically important for Thales Group and this contract is further reinforcing our already existing relations.” It was noted that the satellite would utilize the 52E orbital position of the Principality of Monaco—also known as “MonacoSat-1,” hence its cumbersome name—via the Monaco Satellite Operator Space Systems International-Monaco (SSI), and would be equipped with “Ku-band transponders covering large beams over Central Asia Region.” Of the satellite’s 38 transponders, it is expected that 12 will be dedicated to SSI usage.

Artist's concept of the Spacebus 4000 C2 satellite bus in orbit. Image Credit: Thales Group

Artist’s concept of the Spacebus 4000 C2 satellite bus in orbit. Image Credit: Thales Group

Ironically, it was revealed earlier this week that Turkmenistan’s notoriously repressive regime is in the process of banning all satellite dishes from private apartments and properties and “demolishing” existing satellite installations. “The intention is to fully block access to international TV and radio signals coming into the country via satellite,” it was explained. The article, on the website Advanced-Television.com, added that this would prevent hundreds of international news channels—including Radio Azatlyq, the Turkmen-language service of Radio Liberty/Free Europe—from reaching the population.

Under the terms of the contract, Thales was directed to deliver the satellite in 31 months, but successfully completed it and readied it for shipment more than four months earlier than planned. On 23 February 2015, TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat was shipped from Thales’ facility in Cannes, south-eastern France, and arrived at Cape Canaveral three days later. Original plans called for the satellite to be launched atop a member of China’s Long March rocket family, but this was abandoned following a dispute between Thales and the U.S. State Department in 2012 over export control rules. As a result, in June 2013, Thales contracted with SpaceX to deliver TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat atop a Falcon 9 v1.1.

 

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64 comments to Second SpaceX Mission in Two Weeks Gears Up for Monday Launch

  • Gary Church

    Since this is the one and only website that currently allows me to vent my spleen over NewSpace I am going to use it before I am also banned here. But before I go there I have to say Ben Evans did a really good job on this article. It is far above the standard most often seen on other sites.

    I have been allowed to express some of my views on NewSpace on other sites that open their discussion boards for a limited period but only at the whim of the moderator. Excerpts:

    The way I see it, Elon Musk wanted to build rockets and needed NASA tax dollars to subsidize it. His hobby rocket, using an obsolete propellent and a cluster of low thrust 60’s technology engines, could just make it into Low Earth Orbit with a useful payload. The space station to nowhere had been scheduled to close shop this year. That changed.

    At the same time this scheme was playing out strong evidence for ice on the Moon was discovered. If not for the NewSpace agenda this discovery could quite easily have translated into a massive increase in NASA spending. Why? Because one of the main reasons a Moon base was not pursued with continuation of Apollo was the Moon was considered bone dry. Moon return has been made taboo by the present administration for a reason. Bypassing the dead end of LEO by returning to the Moon with Super Heavy Lift Vehicles dumps the NewSpace business plan in the trashcan. The infamously blunt “been there” speech did not come out of thin air and is why I consider SpaceX the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration.

    Water turns living on an airless world from next to impossible to fairly easy. It is much like the military axiom that amateurs study tactics and experts study logistics.

    2010 rightfully should have been the beginning of a second space age. I was not that interested in space until Chandrayaan 1. The idea of ice at the lunar poles opened the door to a whole new world for me. But money had already changed hands and the Moon was taboo. The money to start a second space age is a decision away. It could be made on the basis of any one or a combination of several issues; telecommunications, defense, and energy to name a few.

    The NewSpace delusion is that “average people” will soon be routinely flying into space on joyrides.

    The “deluded average” will continue to be manipulated and exploited just as they have always been. Most people do not believe they have any power to change the world except by playing follow the leader. The leadership we are presented with is mostly about exploitation and taking advantage of this facet of human nature. On the left and right. Each of us turn out following what we consider the lesser evil because it is the only option we think we have. The great human failing is taking the easy way out and rejecting reality in favor of blindly cheering for “our” hero or team. It is an invitation to thieves and liars.

    Space exploration is the perfect study of the big lie because it completely mixes up all the sides being played off against each other. People left of center and right of center get confused and the only explanation is… we are being taken advantage of by thieves and liars. In my view the Military Industrial Complex is the main villain in this story. Defense is easy money, Human Space Flight is hard money; Norm Augustine could explain that. But because the players so effectively wrap themselves in the flag they are largely immune to criticism.

    The Ayn-Rand-in-Space libertarian Musk worshipers think they have it all figured out. They are being used as tools. The NewSpace solution is the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration. We have had the technology and wealth to accomplish a vast public works space project for a long time. There is no guarantee that will continue and the best way to safeguard civilization is to go back to the Moon…now.

    The ice on the Moon is the enabling resource that should be the central focus of all space advocacy. Instead, the world has been watching a hobby rocket trying to land on a barge.

    SpaceX is now launching satellites for profit on the taxpayers dime. The company that sucked at the teat of the ISS since infancy is now converting those dollars into shareholder checks- and gunning for DOD contracts. What a deal. No wonder the SLS is damned at any mention; bypassing the dead end of LEO dumps the NewSpace business plan in the trashcan.

  • ElGuapoGuano

    Gary, Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. However, one line really discounts your point. “converting those dollars into shareholders checks” well, SpaceX is not a publicly traded company. And yes, without NASA and those soon to be coming DoD monies they wouldn’t be able to get to their ultimate goal. Here’s a hint, the ultimate goal is not to make as much money as possible off of any ones teet. It’s to make humanity a multi-planet species.

    If you want to place blame on either not going back to the moon, or not staying there. That would be on respectively W. Bush for not getting proper funding, or Nixon for castrating NASA. No Bucks, No Buck Rogers.

    You shouldn’t be mad at Elon and SpaceX, you should be mad at Boeing and Lockheed for figuring out how to make a supposedly cheaper rocket (EELVs) the most expensive rockets possible.

    • Joe

      “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.”

      Clever, always liked – Opinion are like arm pits everyone has two, also.

      “If you want to place blame on either not going back to the moon, or not staying there. That would be on respectively W. Bush for not getting proper funding, or Nixon for castrating NASA.”

      I am not a political sort, but just for the facts:

      – The Augustine Commission (appointed by the current administration) said it would have required $3B/year extra to make the Bush Moon program solvent. Hypothetically assuming that to be true, that would be 0.08% of the current federal budget. So for one penny out of every $12.50 in taxes, the current administration cancelled it.

      – It was the Johnson Administration (originally very supportive of Apollo) that made the cuts that (as you so colorfully put it) “castrated” NASA. Nixon continued that process, but did not initiate it.

      “Here’s a hint, the ultimate goal is not to make as much money as possible off of any ones teet. It’s to make humanity a multi-planet species.”

      If you actually believe that Musk (as he has claimed) is going to place a colony for 80,000 (or is it 800,000, it seems to vary) on Mars by 2030, it is a free country and that is your privilege. But, to use your kind of descriptive language – when you get to “Musk Town” do not drink the Kool-Aid.

      • Gary Church

        “-$3B/year extra to make the Bush Moon program solvent.”

        Hmmmm. That is how much disappears into the space station to nowhere every year. What a coincidence. Could it be that closing up shop on the ISS would have ended Musk’s hobby rocket plans? Could it be that campaign contribution had something to do with how everything played out? Yahthink?

        As for politics…If you are looking for a culprit in the death of our space program you need look no further than the President who set in stone most of the free-money-for-defense programs that go on and on like the energizer bunny. The teflon president insured the aerospace industry would build weapons instead of spaceships for decades to come. My favorite free money from Ronnie show is Missile defense. 8 billion a year for eternity- what a deal. It does not even have to work- and it doesn’t.

        • Joe

          The $3B/year is also in the range of the amount of money transferred from the HSF accounts to Earth Science accounts for more study of Anthropogenic Global Climate Change, though much of that research is duplicative of work already being done by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAH). Something someone in Washington seems to have finally noticed:

          http://blog.chron.com/sciguy/2015/04/house-budget-authorization-slashes-500-million-from-nasas-earth-science-programs/

          You seem to like debate for debates sake (to put it mildly)so much that even when someone is basically agreeing with you, you attempt to twist the subject to another potential argument. I do not.

          Therefore, if you now really want to debate Reagan era defense policy, you will have to find another sparing partner.

          • Gary Church

            “-you attempt to twist the subject to another potential argument. I do not”

            Looks like I hit a political nerve. You just took offense over nothing- I was not trying to start a debate or an argument with you.

            • Joe

              You hit no “political” nerve, you hit a personal one.

              I have grown very tired of the combative stile you insist on taking with literally everyone (even people who are agreeing with you – I, for instance, am also very skeptical of SpaceX).

              You claim to be trying to “deprogram” people and say you have never succeeded. You are never likely to succeed in any deprograming (or even changing anyone’s mind) as long as you manner makes even your “friends” cringe at the thought of having to talk to you.

              • Gary Church

                Nice job Joe.

              • Gary Church

                “-your “friends” cringe at the thought of having to talk to you.”

                Friends come and go, enemies accumulate. I suspect you are more a conservative than a space advocate (playing the climate change card?) and you were just waiting for an excuse to put me in my place. Enjoy.

                • Joe

                  I am not going to waste a lot of time, justifying myself.

                  I have spent decades actually working in the HSF business and any other readers of this site know that I am a space advocate that actually tries to avoid discussion of politics.

                  You will, of course, believe anything you want. In this case, that seems to mean anything that allows you to avoid thinking about the effectiveness of your own tactics. A shame really because buried in all the angry personal attacks are a few good points,

                  As far as I am concerned, that is the end of this discussion.

                  • Gary Church

                    “You will, of course, believe anything you want. In this case, that seems to mean anything that allows you to avoid thinking about the effectiveness of your own tactics.”

                    You just took offense over nothing- I was not trying to start a debate or an argument with you. Indeed, nothing I said about military funding vs space funding should have offended you.

                    If you can’t understand the simple truth and ignore what I say then I will, of course, believe this is about me being slightly left of center and you being far enough right that space is secondary. A shame really, because that is one of the reasons the space program is so messed up- people like you who cannot separate politics from space exploration. Good luck with that climate change denial Joe.

                    “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” -Herbert Spencer, philosopher (Apr 27 1820-1903)

  • Gary Church

    “However, one line really discounts your point. “converting those dollars into shareholders checks” well, SpaceX is not a publicly traded company.”

    Yes, you have discounted everything I wrote. Well done.

  • Gary Church

    “Here’s a hint, the ultimate goal is not to make as much money as possible off of any ones teet. It’s to make humanity a multi-planet species.”

    The mixing of dollar sign worship and altruism is completely bizarre. The Musk cult is shot through and through with Orwellian Newspeak. Most of the dogma consists of screaming cheap and demonizing NASA. Any criticism of Musk, SpaceX, or NewSpace is quickly answered (34 minutes in this case) by one of the sycophants who are constantly on patrol. While everyone may have an opinion, cults are guaranteed to be full of…..

  • John hare

    Actually, I found Garys’ comment to be quite informative. I have had trouble understanding his viewpoint in previous threads. Now that the goals he favors are clearly laid out, it is possible to exchange comments on common grounds while avoiding some of the useless flame fests. Going back to the moon to stay is a fair goal. It is the methods of getting there and the nature of the obstacles involved that we disagree on.

    • Gary Church

      In my experience John, there is no possibility of an “exchange.” The NewSpace mob is the most arrogant and insulting bunch I have ever seen. And the arch troll of them all, Coastal Ron, is the example of their worst behavior. I have seen hundreds of his comments over the years and that must be just the tip of the iceberg. That freak has devoted a large chunk of his lifespan doing nothing but hounding SpaceX critics off of websites. Literally thousands of insulting and irritating posts- like a robot.

      I have given up trying to deprogram NewSpace sycophants. The brainwashing and cult of Musk is just too powerful for anything as weak as “information” to undo.

      As for having trouble understanding my viewpoint- ny first guess is you might have been reading the responses to my comments instead of my comments.

      • John hare

        I’ve been reading your comments sifting for info through the retoric. This is the first one with a clear track laid out. I disagree with much of your stated opinions, though I see no reason to make it personal unless you insist. I am newspace and consider much of the legacy operations to be flawed. If something requires more resources than it it worth, it won’t last. And so on.

        • Gary Church

          Space tourism and the flexible path is a dead end John.

          https://iceonthemoon.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/seven-steps-to-space-travel/

          • John hare

            Followed your link. I will now concede that our views of reality are different enough to possibly preclude useful discussion. I happen to believe a commercial approach has more promise and likelihood of fulfillment. Good luck with your advocacy.

            • Gary Church

              Like I said. I have yet to deprogram one.

              • John hare

                That’s the first time I’ve run into a suggestion that space starts at geosync. Yeah, conversions are unlikely.

                • Gary Church

                  Yeah, it is thin layer below the Van Allen belts and a completely different radiation environment than real space. LEO has about as much in common with outer space as a catfish pond does with the North Atlantic. And it only requires another 7000 miles per hour to ascend above the Van Allen radiation belts into the rest of the universe.

                  No reason at all to consider them any different. Especially if your business plan is based on an inferior lift hobby rocket.

                  • John hare

                    If you wish to be more convincing, you might consider the more accurate comparison of the Mediteranian compared to the world ocean. The med was a military and commercial area for millennia before people ventured beyond to the rest of the world. Even today, the med, and coastal vessels world wide have an impact on the military and. Commercial interests of most nations. Suborbital is the harbor craft and river trade if you like. The world ocean, like outer space as you prefer, requires the longer range vessels. That doesn’t obsolete shorter range vehicles, and in fact was and will be, respectively, derived from those craft

                    • Gary Church

                      I don’t wish anything. I just stated that LEO is a thin layer of nothing a few hundred miles above the surface of the Earth below the Van Allen belts. It stopped being space exploration in 1968. “Half way to anywhere in the solar system” is not a couple hundred miles up- it is 20,000 miles up. And that is no place for hobby rockets and inflatable space stations. But LEO is the only place NewSpace wants to go. As Shotwell said, “we are not Moon people.”

                      The NewSpace business plan is to keep humankind stranded in LEO for another 40 years. It’s garbage and the worst thing that could have happened to space exploration. I am thoroughly sick of the people who think their fantasy of a space station vacation with Elon is all that matters. REALLY tired of their endless B.S.

                      It is always a mistake to use an analogy because the idiocy that usually follows is nauseating. It is not an ocean, it is not settling the wild west, it is not like filling your car up at a gas station. It is space and there is no cheap.

  • Duncan Lawrey

    Church, I am sure your arguments carry mass with certain elements of the spaceflight community, but this isn’t directly relevant to this article beyond the fact that SpaceX is mentioned in the title. Personal attacks on unrelated media, be it directed at Coastal Ron or anyone, due to him having differing opinions to yourself is also a little uncalled for.

    I mean, come on, there are lots of perfectly good forums out there for people to throw manifestos at each other over.

    I’m pondering how much of a return on investment TurkmenÄlem52E will make for Turkmenistan, now that they’ve decided to go all authoritarian on their domestic consumption. Tragic, really.

    • Gary Church

      Duncan, go try and shut someone else down. As far as I know this ain’t your forum buddy. I will say what I want to say until America Space says otherwise.

      Real tragic for you that I am not writing what you want to see here. I mean, come on…

      • Gary Church

        I just checked the staff page and there is no Duncan Lawrey.
        Jim Hillhouse is the Chief Editor- I suggest you complain to him about the horrible things I am doing.

  • Dennis Berube

    If indeed this is a repressive regime, then SpaceX should not launch it!!!!!!!!

  • Paul Scutts

    Because the payload has to be delivered to GEO no attempt at first stage landing is possible with this launch. Speaking of re-use, what has me “concerned” about SpaceX’s landing their first stages has been, firstly, the thought that the use a small floating barge could ever be a stable enough platform to attempt such a thing, and, secondly, that the descent engine has to be at full throttle just moments before touchdown and, therefore, the extent of the negative effects that the exhaust plume would have upon stage landing stability and the engine cluster itself. As I have said on many an occasion, the jury is still out on the viability of SpaceX’s approach to stage re-use.

  • Gary Church

    “-the Pad Abort Test (PAT) of a SpaceX Dragon – seeks to demonstrate emergency escape mechanisms in readiness for Commercial Crew operations— “The Dragon vehicle assigned to the PAT was delivered to the Cape in February 2015 for final processing. It will be mounted onto a support structure at SLC-40. “The whole test is less than two minutes from pad to splashdown,” SpaceX told us, “and most of that distance is covered in the first 25-30 seconds of the test.”

    One of the worst design decisions ever made. Landing back stages is failing but unfortunately this faux escape system will kill people when it fails to deliver the promised “unprecedented safety.”

    There is no overlooking the difference between the amount of hypergolic propellents used in a reaction control system (Four tanks stored 270 pounds of mono-methyl hydrazine fuel and nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer on the Apollo command module) and the amount used in the toxic dragon launch abort system (3,060 lbs).

    Sooner or later this monstrosity is going to get flagged and that will entail a costly redesign and design from scratch of an escape tower.

  • ken anthony

    Is 3060 toxic and 270 not? How much does it take to kill?

    • Gary Church

      “Is 3060 toxic and 270 not?”

      How much does it take to get NewSpace fans to ask ridiculous questions?

      Not much.

      • Ken Anthony is asking a perfectly legitimate question – one that has crossed my mind during this series of exchanges: what is a safe load of hypergolic propellants in a crewed spacecraft? The Apollo CM carried 270 pounds of hypergolic propellants (and typically landed with most of that load) and you apparently consider that not to be a safety issue. The Dragon V2 will carry 3,060 pounds of hypergolic propellants and you can’t stop going on about the safety concerns you have. So where exactly do we pass from the realm of “safe” into the realm of “not safe” when it comes to hypergolic propellant loads in crewed spacecraft? 500 pounds? 1,500 pounds? Do you have any technical documentation – NASA reports, independent contractor studies, conference papers – to support your position? Or is this just another case of your reflexive SpaceX bashing that you are so well known for? Instead of demeaning Ken, why won’t you answer his question?

        • John hare

          Andrew,
          A dozen or so years back a forum I read got shut down when people started responding in kind to a commenter that operated in a similar manner. Apparently there are some possible legal implications for running a hostil forum. I wonder if that is the goal here.

          • John,

            I doubt that Mr. Church’s goal is to shut down this forum (“the one and only website that currently allows me to vent my spleen over NewSpace”, as he states in his first comment above). It is simply a soapbox to present his views (which is fine) and attack those who do not unquestioningly embrace the entire body of those views (which is not fine). It is because of this that he has been banned from commenting on many web sites (most recently, to the best of my knowledge, from Spaceflight Insider for a rash of personal attacks to critics of his anti-SpaceX tirades) and is forced to change his on-line handle before he is banned again (such as “ONeillfollower” that he is currently using on “The Space Review” where he is once again racking up record negative reactions).

            It is really unfortunate because his comments have not always so bad. I readily admit that he makes some good points at times and he even left a complimentary comment on one of my articles published in “The Space Review” five years ago. Unfortunately, his commenting habits have taken a decidedly negative turn.

            • Joe

              Whether that is his intent or not, things like that do happen.

              Dr. Paul Spudis has a site on the National Geographic system called “Once and Future Moon”. It had an active comments section.

              Spudis banned a particularly disruptive poster and the poster complained to National Geographic. They reinstated the poster and had a team of their editors take over management of the comments section. After several weeks of trying to keep control of the situation, they – in frustration – shut down the comments section of the site.

              The poster was not Gary Church, but his self stated nemesis “Coastal Ron”.

              The irony is that as much as they claim to detest each other, their methods of posting are remarkably similar.

              • Gary Church

                “-your reflexive SpaceX bashing that you are so well known for?”

                “-a forum I read got shut down when people started responding in kind to a commenter that operated in a similar manner.- I wonder if that is the goal here.”

                “It is simply a soapbox to present his views (which is fine) and attack those who do not unquestioningly embrace the entire body of those views (which is not fine).”

                “After several weeks of trying to keep control of the situation, they – in frustration – shut down the comments section of the site.”

                The over-the-top hypocrisy of you people is why I am thoroughly sick of the “communities” that squat on these space forums babbling their libertarian and conservative versions of reality. REALLY tired of your endless B.S. I make statements and get “questions” like “how much does it take to kill?” and am expected to…what? Provide peer reviewed technical papers and sworn testimony?

                Now you are trying to ban me- even the lone SpaceX “critic”; “-grown very tired of the combative stile you insist on taking with literally everyone-”

                Joe is tired of me being a Democrat. Nothing to do with space. This discussion board is not affiliated with Fox news as far as I know. Thanks Joe.

                Ken Anthony asked that question to mock me and I returned the favor in the plain language everyone else avoids by hiding behind vieled insults. He is a space buff and knows very well how nasty those chemicals are. So the insufferable nag pronounces it a legit question and the rancorous conservative and the king of bad analogies all team up to get rid of their problem by branding me a legal danger to this website. Truly disgusting.

                I recommend you take it up with the site staff instead of trying to humiliate and shame me into disappearing. Unlike the arch troll, I have never been “reinstated” at any of the SpaceX infomercial websites masquerading as open forums. They were all hijacked by the NewSpace mob long ago which is why Coastal Ron continues his cyberbully career. If The Chief Editor or whoever pushes the button wants to let your little “community” excommunicate me that is up to them.

                Yeah, no reason at all for me to be adversarial.

                • Joe

                  Just a suggestion to all concerned, I think it would be better if we all stopped posting on this particular subject.

                  • Gary Church

                    Yes, that “subject” being sniping at my comments. The irony. Just leave me alone and you will not have to conspire to have me banned with implied threats of legal action. I am fine with that.

              • The way comments work on AmericaSpace is pretty straight-forward. We don’t police comments unless we get a complaint. At that point, I and Mike Killian, the editor who does the real work on this site, will examine the complaint and publicly take appropriate action. Most of the time, we will edit the comment, issue the first strike, and that’s all that’s needed. Three-strikes and you’re out. An automatic ban occurs if we find out that a commenter has provided a false email address.

                From a legal point-of-view, we are a forum, a conduit, and your views as commenters in no way represent those of AmericaSpace, LLC, AmericaSpace.com, its editors, writers, photographers, or other personnel.

        • g.g

          There is no such thing as a “safe load” here. Based on the information in http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/idlh/302012.html, one can see that several ppm of hydrazine in the air is already unacceptable. Whether the vapors come from 300 or 3000 pounds seems completely immaterial.

          • So any load (whether it is 3 pounds or 3,000 pounds) of hypergolic propellants is unsafe and its use should be banned from any crewed spacecraft???

            • Joe

              Andrew,

              I will complicate things a little further.

              Hypergolic propellants were selected initially for use in ICBM’s because (provided the tankage was properly insulated)it was long term storable (i.e. you could leave the missile in the silo a long time with no maintenance).

              When the civilian space program ramped up they were selected for basically the same reasons. The fuel was easily storable and the engines were mechanically simple.

              For use in spacecraft (provided proper ventilation is carefully maintained) what has always been considered reasonable safety can be maintained.

              However, use of these chemicals on the Dragon Crew vehicle as it appears to be envisioned, raises other concerns.

              First the Dragon is to be reusable. The only reusable vehicle to use them was the Space Shuttle Orbiter (RCS and OMS systems). New Space Types like to disparage the Orbiter as a “Hanger Queen” (that is maintenance intensive), but they seldom bother to learn why. One of the reasons was the use of the hypergolic propellants. They are not only poisons, they are extremely caustic as well. For a reusable vehicle they cause much extra wear on the fuel lines/pumps etc. and the extra maintenance must be done with great care to protect the maintenance crews. That costs a lot of extra time and money.

              Second the Dragon is to be landed using these fuels. If you ever watched the immediate aftermath of a Shuttle landing you probably saw ground crews in gear using sniffers to check out the general area before allowing the crews to exit or dignitaries/families to approach. That was because of the RCS/OMS systems even though they had been shut down and locked well before landing.

              Now here comes the Dragon intentionally putting out fumes from the hypergolic engines at ground level. Gary has already branded me a Global Warming Denier, so I hope I will not now be branded a tree hugger, but I would not want to be standing down wind of such a landing without a Hazmat Suit.

              Additionally, given the high flight rates Musk always alludes to, it could create a real localized hazard.

              Hope that long winded dissertation did not give anybody a headache.

              • John hare

                Seems like SpaceX should have invested in one of th more benign propellant options. Several companies have responsive kero/LOX engines available.

                • I know that one of the attractive properties of the hypergolic propellants is that they are stable at room temperature. I have not been seriously tracking the “nuts & bolts” details of recent advances in small rocket engine systems (of the sort of that are used for attitude control or which could potentially replace the Super Draco), but have the issues with the long-term storage of cryogenic liquids like LOX been sufficiently addressed to lower boil-off to a reasonable level without a big impact in tank mass? Just curious.

                  • John hare

                    According to some friends of mine in a couple of companies, yes. I wouldn’t count on that without serious investigation though. It seems like an excellent place for investment from the schedule aspect alone, even beyond the safety issues.

                  • john hare

                    I should probably avoid Iphone comments when in the field.

                    Quite a number of years ago XCOR had alcohol/Lox attitude control thrusters developed. XCOR has a patented composite material for LOX tanks.

                    At some conference in vague memory, someone was claiming the superiority of H2O2/?fuel thrusters for the same purpose. Claimed indefinite storage capability, FWIW.

                    ULA had some serious LOX storage on orbit studies done in support of a LOX only propellant depot. Apparently it gets down to the point that boil off is less than that needed for minor maneuvering and station keeping using the GOX in attitude control thrusters.

                    Both Armadillo Aerospace(John Carmack) and Masten Space Systems had highly responsive biprops during NASAs’ Lunar Lander Challenge.

                    My memory is that this was considered a solved problem several years back when I could still afford to go to conferences on a regular basis. I remember that I was surprised to read that SpaceX was using the toxic stuff.

                    • Joe

                      The late/great Max Hunter had a concept for an SSTO vehicle that would have Jet Fuel/H2O2 as propellant.

                      Armadillo Aerospace did some testing of such engines, but the problem was that full strength H2O2 is pretty caustic itself and they ran into similar issues as with hypergolic fuels.

                      You seem to be up to speed on the subject, any idea what Boeing is doing?

                    • john hare

                      Joe,
                      Unfortunately I’m not current on the subject. I always seemed to pick up more info in the halls and at lunch than from the actual sessions. And far more in person than from the internet. I haven’t been a conference regular since the economy smacked my company several years ago. Ignorance isn’t bliss, it’s infuriating.

                    • Joe

                      Understood.

                      For whatever it is worth, I did a cursory search to look for details. For what it is worth found lots of references, but none that addressed propellants.

                      Guess we will just have to wait and see.

              • Thanks! While I was certainly aware of much of what you said about the history and issues surrounding the use of hypergolic propellants, I appreciate you “connecting the dots”, as it were, to better illustrate the safety issues from SpaceX engineer’s design choices. Have there been any public statements from SpaceX which addresses these safety and environmental concerns?

              • Gary Church

                “Gary has already branded me a Global Warming Denier, so I hope I will not now be branded a tree hugger,-”

                I called you a rancorous conservative. As I stated in the comment at the top of the page, -The leadership we are presented with is mostly about exploitation and taking advantage of this facet of human nature. On the left and right. The great human failing is taking the easy way out and rejecting reality in favor of blindly cheering for “our” hero or team. I also wrote- In my view the Military Industrial Complex is the main villain in this story. Defense is easy money, Human Space Flight is hard money; Norm Augustine could explain that. But because the players so effectively wrap themselves in the flag they are largely immune to criticism.

                You then took offense at my commenting about “Reagan era defense policy” and in my view confirmed this with outraged denial. “You hit no “political” nerve, you hit a personal one.” Rancor.

                Rancorous enough that you conspired with the NewSpace fans to have me banned from this site. You “branded” yourself a Globabl Warming Denier with capitals by not denying it and bringing it up again. You are bragging about it and “hoping you will not now be branded a tree hugger.” So transparent.

                You will not let your rancorous conservative grudge against me go and have to keep denigrating me. Typical behavior from the right side of the dial. I won’t let you get away with it Joe.

                Climate Change is going to be a huge issue in the next election and it could be the never-to-come-again opportunity for space advocates to kick start a second space age. There is only one way, besides killing off most of the human race and going back to herding goats, to eliminate greenhouse gases; beaming the power to run civilization down from outer space.

                Building that several million tons of space solar power hardware and launching it from Earth is a dead end- it has to come from the Moon. This is the decades long public works project that Gerard K. O’Neill envisioned as the key to space colonization. The irony is that conservatives don’t need support to this because of climate change- it stands alone as the path to U.S. (and global) prosperity. If Tony Stark was serious about making us a multi-planet species he would be talking about this- not me. Tourism is not going to get us anywhere and is distracting the public from supporting what will take humankind into space- which is why I despise NewSpace sycophants and after years of their games no longer tread lightly around them.

                • Joe

                  Hi Gary,

                  Always good the hear from you.

                  Glad to know those Charm School Classes are working out for you.

                  • Gary Church

                    Mock me like it is all just good fun. I am not laughing Joe.

                    • Joe

                      That’s the problem Gary.

                      You need to learn how to laugh.

                      I know I am not going to be able to convince you of that, but I am not going to be dragged down into the humorless pit that you apparently inhabit.

                      This will be my last response to you on this kind of thing.

                      If you want to bring up a technical issue and discuss it dispassionately great, but I will not respond to anymore posts about your suppositions about my politics, conspiracies that I am supposedly participating in, etc.

                    • Gary Church

                      The irony. Just leave me alone and you will not have to conspire to have me banned with implied threats of legal action. I am fine with that.

                      “This will be my last response to you-”

                      Again, I am fine with that.

  • Gary Church

    Concerning the features SpaceX has chosen to incorporate into the hobby rocket and toxic dragon, the question to ask is not, “why not do it” so much as “why do it.” What is there to gain and what is the penalty? The NewSpace mob does not like this approach and inevitably responds with the scream cheap boilerplate ad infinitum. It is the foolproof argument because as any fool knows the only thing that matters is money. When someone starts criticizing something SpaceX is doing they will eventually be told their view is meaningless because they are not Tony Stark and are thus meaningless. In other words, “what is happening is happening so unless you are a billionaire hobbyist with his own rocket factory you need to shut up.”

    The problem I have with that is tax dollars are what is subsidizing the activities of this comic book character. It is far from the free market miracle it is being portrayed as and SpaceX is actually the poster child for corporate welfare. The reality is so far from what the public has been conned into believing it is Orwellian.

    Why fill a small capsule with over a ton and a half of the most hellish chemicals in existence? To make it safer?

    It is to keep tourist space stations in their correct orbits. Not for escape (an escape tower is a far better choice) not for landing on Mars, and definitely not for landing on the Moon since that is the place that spells death for all of the hopes and dreams of NewSpace sycophants and space clown wannabes.

    Now if the Chief Designer wants to hold a press conference and state for the record that SpaceX is building a stripped down “Moon Dragon” as the lander in a SLS/Orion payload I would turn into a SpaceX fan overnight. But in my view the NewSpace endgame is LEO tourism for the uber-rich. Until the space station to nowhere and commercial crew stop crippling funding for the SLS and a Moon return I have not a single good thing to say about the entire scam.

    • Tracy the Troll

      Gary,
      I thought that NewSpace was all about going cheaper and taking risks and yes knowing that people are going to die…I like the Uber rich taking the hobby rocket up to the Bigelow private space hotel/stations for fun because they will be paying millions upon millions and taking those early risks of dying. Those people are called “early adopters” and they pave the way for the rest of us. It will get cheaper and it will lead the way for variations…. Others presently unknown will enter the marketplace, perhaps even you! As for the moon, after the Uber rich are bored with LEO they will take the F9HL/SLS to the moon and stay in a Bigelow Moon Base…After the Uber rich are tired of the moon…They will take up the Hobby Rocket to LEO transfer to Bigelow transfer ship powered by Ad Astras nuclear powered plasma engine to Mars, land by the Red(death) Dragon..I think you get the idea this isn’t rocket science its economics…

      • Gary Church

        “I like the Uber rich taking the hobby rocket up to the Bigelow private space hotel/stations for fun-”

        Enjoy.

      • Gary Church

        “I thought that NewSpace was all about going cheaper and taking risks and yes knowing that people are going to die…”

        Well, yes, that is essentially correct. They also make it a point to damn NASA with libertarian government-hating zeal- while depending on the space agency for even existing. A certain NewSpace fanatic used to post comments on many sites about how stupid NASA is for having all those silly safety regulations. He would brag about his aerospace industry credentials and then say things like all that is needed for life support is some scuba tanks. He also has a website that is still up I believe that shows pictures of dead mountain climbers- dead bodies- to illustrate that people dying while engaging in this category of activity (including spaceflight) is really O.K. and not something to get upset about. Anyone who disagreed with him he always viciously insulted- usually with profanity. He seems to be on hiatus from NewSpace cyberthuggery after getting sued for slandering (not on the internet) another “industry professional” who disagreed with his views. He was working for a space tourism organization, I don’t know if they still retain him after his legal issues.

        That’s NewSpace.

        I could cite another site that “reviews” space issues every Monday and has a comment section where a “community” of true believers excoriate with gusto anyone who says the slightest thing that could be interpreted as criticism of SpaceX. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. In my spare-time-wandering I have found only a very few places left on the internet that have not been hijacked by NewSpace. I have confirmed this by making it a point to do exactly what they do- and get banned. Criticism of Musk, SpaceX, or NewSpace, is not tolerated anymore because of these jack-booted cyberthugs. If you doubt the truth of this go and compare my comments with those on the site I just mentioned.

        I could go on about the cast of characters that anyone interested in space exploration will be informed by on the various space forums. But why drag you down into the humorless pit I inhabit? We should laugh about it. What’s the harm in shoveling propaganda down the throats of the unwashed masses? It’s all just good fun. It is not like we live in a democracy and ignoring these liars has any effect on public policy. Right? Space exploration is not really important- why not turn it into a carnival sideshow and tourist scam?

        I sincerely thank America Space for allowing me the freedom of speech to express my opinion here.

  • Gary T Snail

    Gary, get a life.

    Note: This poster, really his Beaverton, OR IP address, has been banned from AmericaSpace.com for providing a false email address.

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