Friday, March 30, 2007

A Wing and a Prayer

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. ~Richard P. Feynman

When last I wrote, I offered that the crew at SpaceX had clinched the 2007 Award for Outstanding Achievements in Hubris for declaring their most recent failure as a success.

It turns out that now that they have earned it with an oakleaf cluster.

They have now announced that, despite the fact that they have yet to actually reach any planned altitude, Falcon 1 is now "operational."

This is an unusual definition of "operational."

Oh, SpaceX tells us that this sort of thing is done all the time, citing the Delta IV Heavy as an example. Perhaps, but Delta IV's failure was a premature shutdown, not a twirling rocket where the first stage whacked the nozzle of the second on separation. Falcon 1 was not in good control on the way up, which is not a good sign.

Of course, these private-enterprise folks are fine with the possibility of losing a payload because it's only a government satellite. After $278 million of our money, what's another few mil for a wrecked taxpayer-funded payload?

I wonder how sanguine a commercial satellite owner would be about using a "sort-of" operational device?

3 comments:

adiffer said...

$278 Million of WHOSE money? Could you expand on that a bit. I got lost.

We do tend to mine the past for ideas that we think were not fully developed. It's like miners going back to ore bodies that weren't good enough when they were discovered. It saves us the trouble of spending money on basic R&D which as you rightly point out can be better funded by the public through groups like the Advanced Concepts team.

The Gog said...

From here

"SpaceX was recently given a $278m (£142m) award from the US space agency (Nasa) to demonstrate cargo delivery services to the International Space Station."

Unless NASA is holding bake sales, that's taxpayer bucks, which is OUR money.

adiffer said...

ah. much thanks. 8)

If it is any consolation, they don't have all that money in hand yet. There is a lot of proving that has to go on first. A change in the political climate can yank it away too.