Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Successful Launch

I'm not sure how much news coverage this received, but the successful launch (unlike Korea and Blizzard) of SpaceX's Falcon 9, whose mission is to dock and bring supplies to the international space station, is amazing in so many ways. Here is the video.

Some thoughts:
• The public commentary during the launch seems more human than NASA. Is that because of lack of military influence?
• While this is reported as a private enterprise, there is so much cooperation and dependency on the U.S. government, NASA, and other governments that is seems to herald a new era where private enterprise and government are much more intertwined than in the past. The infrastructure in some industries is so great that government needs to be intimately involved. Perhaps the economies of the U.S. and China will not be so different in the future.
• Why the constant use of the word 'nominal'? Do they really know what that means? (Some antonyms are 'real', and 'significant'.) Or is there a special new meaning for 'nominal' for space flights?
• Why do they launch at sea level? It seems it would be much cheaper to launch from a higher place.

1 comment:

James R said...

I found the answer to my last question, "Why do they launch at sea level?"

Planetary Resources and Virgin Galactic announced a new partnership to launch small payloads. The rocket which launches the satellites is itself launched from a plane, WhiteKnightTwo, which will fly to about 50,000 feet. This sounded reasonable to me until I read that 50,000 feet is about two percent of the trip. So, in answer to my question, it makes practically no difference to launch a rocket at a higher altitude. In the case of WhiteKnightTwo, the advantages are 1) renting launch pads is extremely expensive, 2) they can fly to where the satellite is being made and can launch on short notice.