Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Congratulations, SpaceX

Today's test launch of the Falcon Heavy was absolutely spectacular. Breathtaking. That shot of the two boosters coming back home for a perfect synchronized landing was unforgettable.

This is the future of space exploration.

17 comments:

Chris said...

Sam Harris summed it up: "That was one of the coolest things our species has ever done. Congratulations to @elonmusk and the rest of the @SpaceX team."

Binaryspellbook said...

Awesome bro. China loved it

Two Percent said...

"That was one of the coolest things our species has ever done."

Obviously, Sam Harris knows something that many of us don't.

Of course, what's cool is very much a matter of opinion, but personally, I'm in no doubt that landing men on the moon would have been far "cooler", even in 2018, and I'm sure Sam Harris would agree. Funny, he didn't mention it.

Landing unmanned rockets on their tails in 2018, compared with landing a stumpy, heavy, uncontrollable Lunar Lander on its tail ON THE MOON (sorry, Landers... tails...) in the 1969-early 1970's era is really so, well, ho hum in comparison, right expat?

As for his reference to "our species". Now that, I'm definitely not so sure about.

I guess the latest BS about the Cheddar Man is way too far Off Topic?

expat said...

Which of the Lunar Landers were uncontrollable? All the ones I saw (9,10,11,12,14,15,16,17) were brilliantly controlled. Which of them landed on its tail? All the ones I saw (9,10,11,12,14,15,16,17) didn't even have tails.

Two Percent said...

"All the ones I saw... "

first hand, with your own eyes, from your ring-side seat, up there on the Lunar Surface...

"were... "

So you insist.

You still can't get around the "single ['information'] source" problem. NASA says...

Sorry, if they didn't land arse-end down, they must have landed at some other attitude. Head first, was it? Sideways, perhaps.

Come to that, the SpaceX rockets didn't land on their tails either. Sauce for the goose.

Ivan Horn said...

I'd have to agree that for all of the fun presentation of the Falcon Heavy launch, it was far for the coolest thing our species has ever done.

Don't get me wrong, it looked great (especially the twin landings) although I thought the whole "Starman" in a roadster thing was a bit cheesy, but it was hardly an earth shattering achievement. In comparison with many other feats, such as, but limited to, the Apollo lunar landings, suggested, it's actually pretty mundane.

A few things for consideration as cool things the species has done.

- Landing the Philae probe on a comet.
- Landing the Viking probe on Mars (in the mid 70's) and returning good quality images from the surface.
- The first powered flight.
- Building of the pyramids... it could be argued that this was glorified brick laying (with REALLY big bricks) but a fantasitic achievment for the period.
- The launch, repair in orbit and then amazing images from Hubble.
- The all up test flight of Apollo 4, ok this is Apollo again, but this beast's performance on it's first launch, puts SpaceX's exploits (half a century later) into some perspective.
- Modern medicine... little things like antibiotics, heart transplants and vacinations programs (e.g no more smallpox).

No accompanying soundtrack and music video syle camera shots of cars for these, but I'd suggest these are all far cooler things that the species has done.

Two Percent said...

Hi expat,

My apologies if the tone of my previous post was note quite up to my regular standard. Rust has set in during the break! I'll try to keep it polite and diplomatic as usual.

I know you're a great supporter of and believer in what NASA reports.

That said, I thought you'd like this. It purports to be from NASA, featuring a young NASA Engineer named Kelly Smith. If it's not genuinely from NASA, then there's an awful lot of breaches of Trademark and Copyright laws. So, I figured you'll know if it's genuine.

I know you hate them, but please, bear with me. This YouTube clip seems to be a PR clip for the Orion program. I think the posted title has been grossly exaggerated, but that's the modern trend, even 2 1/2 years ago. Now, I don't yet know very much about Orion, but watching it, something really struck me. Just how much this all looks like Apollo.

Only, it seems to be a lot more detailed, and a lot more plausible. But what's really interesting is the air of caution conveyed, and the fact that much of this is really new stuff, not already known (as it would be / should be). The discussion on the van Allen Radiation Belts, which you previously said were a very well understood physical phenomenon (beginning at 2:50 in the clip) clearly contradicts that. This is from NASA, remember. The Source.

I also thought the commentary and CGI on the ReEntry Capsule and its staged parachutes was very plausible. The whole thing is really quite worth 7 minutes to watch, I think.

The link is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4O5dPsu66Kw

Kelly's closing words are also very interesting:


"It's great to be a part of this first flight for Orion, and we're looking forward to beginning a new chapter in human space exploration."

David Evans said...

Sam Harris did say "one of". I think we can agree that the lunar landings were very cool, but I expected them to work - with a good pilot at the controls. I was genuinely amazed that our computers were good enough to land a tall, thin rocket upright on a pad at sea.

expat said...

« The discussion on the van Allen Radiation Belts, which you previously said were a very well understood physical phenomenon (beginning at 2:50 in the clip) clearly contradicts that. »

No it doesn't. One of the objectives of Exploration Flight Test 1 was to intentionally submit the electronics of Orion to Van Allen radiation, to provide a benchmark for future development. I expect the results are available somewhere but I haven't got time to go looking.

OneBigMonkey said...

@2%

The clip doesn't say that the VAB aren't well understood. What Kelly is describing is the unknown of Orion's passage through a much more dangerous part than Apollo. He is very specific about it being related to Orion, and not other missions. This clip is routinely taken out of context by people who don't understand the science and technology of space missions in order to demonstrate other gaps in their knowledge. The video's title is deliberately loaded bu used the word 'admit'. He isn't 'admitting' anything, he's describing what is involved in developing a new spacecraft with new equipment and new mission profiles. Nowhere does he ever state that passing through the VAB is impossible. Nowhere does he state that Apollo missions could not have passed through them.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/12/04/nasa-orion-apollo-hoax-va_n_6268704.html

The vehicle shape and re-entry? What other shape would you choose for something that needs to get through an atmosphere? An aerodynamic one would seem to make sense. Use of parachutes to land? Seems to work fine for the Soyuz crew returns from orbit along with every other manned craft. The same basic shape has been chosen by other manned craft in development.

You might want to look at the clips of a crescent Earth the video shows at around 3 minutes. They were taken by Apollo 17 on the way home from the moon in December 1972 by people who had been through the VAB in a conical spacecraft. They aren't CGI.

Kelly's closing words? "Next chapter". Not the first, the next.

Your concern about being off topic with your Cheddar man comment is admirable. Shame you didn't think about that when you decided to try and derail this one with your "just saying" post about something else that was off topic.

Two Percent said...

David Evans said:

" I was genuinely amazed that our computers were good enough to land a tall, thin rocket upright on a pad at sea."

Perhaps you don't understand enough about the technology involved... Today's computers are more than adequate for the job. Three other areas are far more important.

The real issues are in:

1. Acquiring the necessary data i.e - the sensors. Exactly how high are we? Exactly how fast are we travelling? In exactly what direction? Exactly what is our acceleration/deceleration? What is the exact attitude of the core? What is its exact rate of rotation (tilting/pitching/yawing)? Etc...

2. Controlling the machinery to respond appropriately - the mechatronics. Controlling the rocket engines (thrust) and direction (gimbaling the rocket engines)... Controlling whatever aerofoils there may have been (if any, I dunno). Controlling the positioning thrusters, precisely, quickly and accurately. All very specific, custom-built, fast acting, high precision fly-by-wire electro-mechanical control stuff.

3. The most critical part of all: the control software. Knowing how to calculate how long to burn, when to burn, how to pitch the rockets, etc, etc. If you watched the descents, you will have seen an early burn, then the final burn before touchdown. Both would have been critical, but the final burn of course, most critical. Ya gotta know EXACTLY, when to fire the rockets, and at what angles to hold the rocket, when. It looked so close to perfect because it was. The computer fly-by-wire worked very well, very fast.

But if you research fly-by-wire, you'll see it was developed to enable aerodynamically unstable aircraft (like Stealth fighters and bombers) to be "flown" by humans. Because humans just can't do what is required. Only computers are fast enough and accurate enough.

If you look closely at the videos, you'll see that they didn't get these touchdowns 100% perfect, but very, very close. However, on at least the near rocket, you can see it bobbing slightly up and down just before it settled on the pad. Just a tiny tweak required to perfect it.

A very good effort, that no human pilot could have achieved, by manual control. Not even Armstrong.

Yet you say he did it on the Moon in 1969. In a much more primitive, highly unstable craft. By hand. I mean, just look at the high school Materials Crafting Project standard of the LEM. For all the world, just a mockup.

Two Percent said...

@OneBigMonkey

Looks like the rust has got to you too!


You said:

"The clip doesn't say that the VAB aren't well understood."

Correct. It doesn't. Not in those exact words. Why would it? This is from NASA, right? So, why would they shoot themselves in the foot? What Kelly says, starting at 3:12, is this:

"Radiation like this could harm the guidance systems, on-board computers or other electronics on Orion."

You need to learn to read between the lines in situations like this. Remember, this is politics, not science. Politics is all about not saying the truth, but persuading people to believe something you never meant.

This statement clearly says the VAB Radiation harm the computers, electronics etc. [Never mind that computers are mostly electronics.] What that means, in truth, is "We don't know." We don't really know whether VAB Radiation will harm them, or not. We know it could, but we don't know if it will. To reiterate, We don't know. In other words, we don't really understand the Van Allen Radiation Belts. Implication: the VAB aren't well understood.

Further implication: Apollo can't have gone through them, or we would know a lot more.

Note also the way "...on Orion" got tacked on the end. Careful, political phrasing. "Obviously", 70 years after the invention of the transistor, modern electronics are less robust than they were in 1969. Never mind "Radiation Hardened" electronics packages in virtually every military electronics device built these days.


Now, to your second sentence:

"What Kelly is describing is the unknown of Orion's passage through a much more dangerous part than Apollo.

Bullshit! If you aren't lying, you're dreaming. But hey, I stand to be corrected. Prove it. Identify exactly where in the clip Kelly says anything at all like that.

Actually, you might be correct, in an odd kind of way. If you deeply interpret what you say. If you interpret it that Apollo never went through the van Allen Belts at all (because they never went beyond low Earth orbit), then it would be true, that Orion is slated to go through a much more dangerous part [of space] than Apollo. Actually, I don't believe Apollo is mentioned in that clip, but again, I stand to be corrected.

So, here's another opportunity to extract the truth from something not clearly stated.

At 3:37:

"We must solve these challenges before we send people through this region of space."

The region of space he is clearly referring to is the region occupied by the Van Allen Belts. The region all the Apollo craft and their 'nauts supposedly went through.

Implication: we haven't actually done it before.

Then:

"Nowhere does he ever state that passing through the VAB is impossible. Nowhere does he state that Apollo missions could not have passed through them.

Seriously??? You're joking, right? What is your point?

Think about this: The guy works for NASA. He has a job at NASA. Clearly, he prefers to keep that job. SO, why would he make public statements certain to get himself fired? And why would NASA, his employers, ever permit them to be released?


Of course, it's not impossible. But it may not yet be possible.


Ok, now for your coup de grace...

"The vehicle shape and re-entry? What other shape would you choose for something that needs to get through an atmosphere?

Again, SERIOUSLY!!!?

What other shape... Hmmmmmm. Let me have a think on that... Atmosphere... Hmmm. Airrrr... I know!

Two Percent said...

...
An aerodynamic one.


Like, an aeroplane. Like, a Space Shuttle. Something controllable. Something capable of altering its flight path, its trajectory, its angle of attack, angle of descent, when flying in(to) an atmosphere.

The ABSOLUTE last shape I would consider would be something the shape of an Apollo / Orion ReEntry Capsule. With that, you've got only one chance. Get your entry angle wrong, and you have not the slightest hope of correcting it.

Worse still, just imagine what would happen if the thing started to spin. Centrifuged, well-cooked 'nauts.

Unfortunately, I'm not an aerodynamics engineer, but I say the Apollo ReEntry Capsule shape is almost certainly aerodynamically unstable. That it would be impossible for it to descend into and through the atmosphere on its heat shield and NOT spin. For it to be stable, its Centre of Gravity would have to be below the outer edge of the heat shield. The only way to achieve that would be to melt everything inside into a pool of viscous liquid, that doesn't fill the heat shield's inner bowl shape. Or, as the clip proposes, use fly-by-wire systems to control its descent attitude. Even then, EXTREMELY impractical.

Give me an improved Shuttle, any day.


So, let me confess what I think.

I think the whole "Orion Project" is nothing but "vaporware". It will never happen. This is politics. It's purely a NASA propaganda exercise. A 21st century piece of spin doctoring. It's purely to reinforce the notion that Apollo really happened, and that the superbly risky ReEntry Vehicle's shape is workable, since that's what we've "chosen" yet again, in the 21st Century.

And, just maybe, at the same time, it's a subtle attempt to soften up part of the public mind by confirming that Apollo couldn't have happened. Maybe... Who knows? We've been conned before.


Oh, and the Cheddar Man. Sorry dude. Thanks, but you missed it. You musta blinked.

It could be the topic of a new thread, but it's not about space or Mars - though it is very much about crap science.

expat said...

« Remember, this is politics, not science. »

It's neither--it's engineering. Based on your suggestions for a better aerodynamic shape for a re-entry vehicle, I'd say you have no hope of understanding.

Two Percent said...

expat said:

"Based on your suggestions for a better aerodynamic shape for a re-entry vehicle, I'd say you have no hope of understanding.

HUH!!?

You mean, the Space Shuttle was just ANOTHER hoax, another piece of vapourware?

Because that was my only suggestion for a better aerodynamic shape. All the rest was discussion as to why the heat shield doomed capsule was a disastrous idea.

So, what's your better idea?

expat said...

No, the space shuttle was not a hoax, but a spacecraft just barely capable of re-entering at ~8 km/sec. It could never have survived at the ~11 km/sec re-entry from the Moon. Given that 12 Apollo CMs successfully re-entered, 9 of them from the Moon, and none failed, I don't see that there's any need to re-think the design.

I have no better idea. Unlike you, I don't consider myself a better aeronautical engineer than Maxime Faget.

Two Percent said...

Thanks for the velocity data. Hence, the proposed Safe/Space Return Vehicle. Looks like a plane... but where is it?


"Given that 12 Apollo CMs successfully re-entered, 9 of them from the Moon "

It's a given for you. Not for me.

Your faith is strong, old chap!

No failures out of (at least) 9 non-attempts is no achievement.

May the Force be with you.