When NASA retires the space shuttle next year, the only American-owned option the U.S. government will have for getting cargo to the International Space Station is to ride with a private spaceflight company. Such an arrangement became viable in June, when SpaceX's Falcon 9 — a 180-foot, kerosene-and-liquid oxygen-fueled rocket capable of delivering six metric tons of cargo or seven astronauts to orbit—made its maiden voyage to space.
SpaceX engineers designed nearly every piece of the rocket from scratch, and made the Falcon 9 affordable enough that the company will haul cargo to space for $133 million per trip, compared with $450 million for each space-shuttle flight. SpaceX could begin regular cargo flights to the ISS as early as next year.
Hey, I like SpaceX as much as the next person. More even. I think Elon Musk is one of the best of this new breed of adventurous engineer/entrepreneurs.
But to say that Space X "nearly designed every piece" over states it and all is a bit of a stretch.
His Merlin engine comes from a Fastrac engine designed by a 90's NASA team
The turbo pump is derived from Fastrac but the rest of Merlin is more closely related to the TR-107 and LCPE from SLI in fact their head propulsion engineer Tom Mueller is an ex TRW employee.
Sure Ruri, any company with the goals of magnitude of SpaceX will hire Lead Propulsion Engineer with some experience of designing rocket engines. But that doesn't contradict the fact that both Merlin and Kestrel engines had a clean sheet design, both been developed from scratch. Fastrac engine you referring to intellectual property not in a public domain, and I doubt SpaceX was able to gain much by starting their design on it. Furthermore, SpaceX latest versions of Merlin are most efficient RP fuel engines in it category, that is engine of gas-generator power cycle. That mean most efficient hydrocarbon rocket engines of gas-generator cycle ever produced by humanity.
While gas-generator cycle have it pros and cons, the main advantage is reliability, thus design very suitable for reuse and could handle multiple launches. And thus almost perfectly fits into SpaceX vision of future of space exploration.
As for your reference to TRW and TR... It is like saying that Toyota Corolla closely related to Ford Focus. While main parameters and general design are similar, they are still a different designs and are not based on each other.
Yes, the engineers at SpaceX designed nearly every piece of the Merlin, Kestrel, Falcon 1, Falcon 9, and Dragon from scratch. There is no doubt about it.
An engineer usually does not invent new technology, but takes proven research and implements it for a specific purpose. Compare that to other private space firms who go out and purchase their components from Russia, etc. That's also engineering... just not from scratch. Either design process is totally valid, and should be evaluated to find the optimum way to achieve the design objectives. It's a tall order to develop man-rated hardware that can fly at 10% of the current cost. They have an amazing team, the best that's been assembled since Apollo. In fact, they are the best in history, because they are small and nimble, fast and cheap. And very, very smart.
Enjoy this moment, SpaceX team, you are making history.
I too, count myself as an avid fan of SpaceX, but to compare the cost of a launch to the Space Shuttle is not apples to apples. The space Shuttle has a payload capacity of 24,400kg and the Falcon 9 with Dragon capsule has a payload capacity of 6,000kg. So pointing out that the price is 30% of the cost without mentioning the payload is only 24.5% is unrealistic. This means that on a payload basis the SpaceX cost is 22% MORE expensive than the Shuttle.
This is a case of larger is more economic. I look forward to SpaceX being more cost competitive with their Falcon Heavy and Falcon X.
I used to enjoy following the great write-ups on the SpaceX website detailing their progress, but little info lately. They are due to launch the next Falcon 9 on December 7 and have not even mentioned anything about it.
I have lots of questions, does anybody know what happened to their 1st Falcon 9? How successful was the booster recovery from the second one that was launched June 4? What's the status of the Dragon space craft orbiting now?
Roy, only one Falcon 9 launch attempt has been made. That was in June 2010. It was overall very successful, though the boosters could not be recovered. The test payload (not a real Dragon spacecraft), re-entered rather spectacularly over Australia or New Zealand as I recall. All of this was on the SpaceX web site this summer and I would bet it's all still there if you poke around.