Falcon 1 Flight 3 Launch Thread

Linguofreak

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I find it impressive that they have the capability to retry within an hour of an abort after engine ignition.

I think they were a bit reckless to *use* that capability, even though the abort doesn't seem to have anything to do with the ultimate cause of failure of the launch.
 

Urwumpe

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I think they were a bit reckless to *use* that capability, even though the abort doesn't seem to have anything to do with the ultimate cause of failure of the launch.

I would not be sure on excluding this. Many failures had their cause far way from where it exploded.
 

Andy44

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Urwumpe is right. You cannot rule anything out at this point.

And I agree, the capability to do a quick turn-around is impressive, but using it increases risk, which Musk doesn't need at this point in the program.
 

Linguofreak

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I would not be sure on excluding this. Many failures had their cause far way from where it exploded.

Which is why I said, "doesn't seem to have anything to do with," rather than, "doesn't have anything to do with."
 

Thunder Chicken

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And I agree, the capability to do a quick turn-around is impressive, but using it increases risk, which Musk doesn't need at this point in the program.

Why more risk (necessarily)? If they have a reliable system to troubleshoot and rectify issues, then why not try to decrease turnaround? It gives more opportunities to launch in a given window. Speed does not necessarily mean 'haste', if it is done carefully and properly. It has yet to be shown that this capability is the source of the failures, and it doesn't seem to be related. To date I have seen SpaceX do two launches with quick aborts and turnarounds, followed by launches with near flawless first stage performances.

Something seems to be FUBAR with their staging. They had a bad separation on Flight #2, which caused them to rework the separation mechanism for Flight #3. Unfortunately, if you're wrong about how the first failure occurred, then your 'fix' might make things worse, not better. It is something that can't be readily tested on the ground, so diagnosing and troubleshooting might be (and actually has been) rather painful.

As far as we can tell, everything else on the rocket might be A-OK. Unfortunately, EVERYTHING must work 100% of the time, which is a tall order for any piece of equipment. Even with 60 years of experience and government financial backing, existing rocket systems have failures. SpaceX is doing pretty darned good so far, but they are having some teething pains. I hope that their financiers see it in that light.
 

Andy44

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I agree, Thunder, that you may be right about the quick turnaround not being the cause of the problem. But it still increases risk, because it is not part of a slow-down-and-get-it-right attitude which they really need at this point. But again, we don't know for sure until the investigation is done.

As with the NASA shuttle accidents, I suspect that the investigation will look to two areas: the specific cause of this accident, which is some hardware or software problem, and more broadly at the professional environment that led them to miss it. I can't imagine that a hurry-up offense will look good under such scrutiny.
 

Thunder Chicken

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I agree, Thunder, that you may be right about the quick turnaround not being the cause of the problem. But it still increases risk, because it is not part of a slow-down-and-get-it-right attitude which they really need at this point. But again, we don't know for sure until the investigation is done.

True, but I think it is just as probable that they could have poked and prodded for a few more days and then still launched not knowing or expecting a staging failure. Given the scrutiny staging was subjected to after Flight #2, it's more likely that there is a hidden bug in the staging apparatus that probably would (and probably did) pass numerous checks. If you don't know for certain how something can fail, you can't check for those failure modes, even if you stare at it under a microscope for weeks.

There are a lot of things that are sensor-driven on the Falcon (remember the 2nd stage shutdown on Flight #2 after the fuel slosh started to get out of hand). I don't know what logic is used to trigger staging, but if it is some accelerometer based system, something in the flight dynamics might be screwing things up. Something like that would be very hard to diagnose and predict on the ground.
 

Zatnikitelman

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The 2nd launch attempt's 2nd stage failure was due to the first stage rotating too fast after staging and slamming into the engine bell causing the whole stage to rock around and slosh the fuel creating a condition in which the guidance couldn't cope with. If they reworked it, then I assume, they worked it in such a way that caused the 1st stage to not rotate as fast and something caught holding the stages together.
While I do fully support SpaceX's current approach, I do think they need to change staging. If it uses springs to push the stages away, then my guess is that a hole is in one of the stages containing the spring with a stub on the other stage to be pushed away. If these didn't release at the same exact time, then they could easily cause a torque.

@Urwumpe: You're right, I was trying to type and move too quickly when I typed that. Ariane V has 1 total failure plus 1 partial failure before a string of successful failures.
 

Urwumpe

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I think the problem is, from remembering the last video, that the first stage does not cut rotation correctly (gas generator exhaust is not predicted properly) und the second stage does not eject at high enough speeds to avoid recontact.
 

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I was just thinking, what if Falcon-9 works without a hitch and Falcon-1 still doesn't work? Would SpaceX just eliminate the Falcon-1 and focus on Falcon-9 and Dragon.
 

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That is something that could be totally possible. The Falcon 1 seems like a strange vehicle. Usually satellites that small are piggy-backed on a multiple sat launcher.

Just a question...how much smaller is the Falcon 1 than the Rokot or the Zenit? Does NASA or the USAF have any lv's that small?
 

Zatnikitelman

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The smallest LV's that NASA uses for that payload range is the Minotaur, but I remember reading something that Minotaur couldn't be used commercially due to it using ICBM rocket stages. Even the Delta II considered to be a "small" launcher by some (officially, it's medium) outclasses F1 by about 6 times, and that's the Falcon 1e, not the current model!
Falcon 9 on the other hand looks to have a projected capacity of 9,900kg to LEO standard, and 27,000kg to LEO Heavy configuration.
Now that I consider it, SpaceX seems to be doing the extreme range of launchers and not finding a medium. I think they had a Falcon V, but scrubbed it. Based on Wikipedia, it seems it would have fufilled the medium payload range. Though, to Mr. Musk's credit a 9,000kg rating for the F9 doesn't exclude smaller satellites in the medium range, it just means that they could be flying under-capacity.
 

Lunar_Lander

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I remember a newsletter message just after Flight #2, "promising" a complete failure report during the next days. But this report never appeared!

Well, I also say that extensive ground testing is now needed before any Falcon vehicle leaves the pad. What happens when you do not test your vehicle before launch, we've seen on the N1.

Up to now, I have three comparisons to the Falcon: The Vanguard, the ELDO Europa and the N1. That may sound a bit harsh, but I think that's the reality. What do you think ;)?
 

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Sigh, the amount of work I have to put in this weekend completely shadowed the launch. I was really looking forward to a successful launch,

On the other hand: Am I the only one who really enjoys watching rockets explode? Or at least imagining it? :)
 

Notebook

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I remember a newsletter message just after Flight #2, "promising" a complete failure report during the next days. But this report never appeared!

Well, I also say that extensive ground testing is now needed before any Falcon vehicle leaves the pad. What happens when you do not test your vehicle before launch, we've seen on the N1.

Up to now, I have three comparisons to the Falcon: The Vanguard, the ELDO Europa and the N1. That may sound a bit harsh, but I think that's the reality. What do you think ;)?

The Europa comparison isn't valid in my opinion. Europa was a multi- national project, the others were not. Also Europa failed(?), or didn't go further, because of political problems, not engineering ones.

Short document here on Europa:-
http://www.spaceuk.org/bstreak/eldo/eldo.html

Note the problems France and Germany had with rocket stage designs, even with their previous experience and engineering backgrounds.
Its not surprising SpaceX is having problems now, here's hoping they plough on and get success.

On a parochial note, Blue Streak worked first time, every time, but I would say that wouldn't I;)

N.
 

Linguofreak

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I remember a newsletter message just after Flight #2, "promising" a complete failure report during the next days. But this report never appeared!

Well, I also say that extensive ground testing is now needed before any Falcon vehicle leaves the pad. What happens when you do not test your vehicle before launch, we've seen on the N1.

Up to now, I have three comparisons to the Falcon: The Vanguard, the ELDO Europa and the N1. That may sound a bit harsh, but I think that's the reality. What do you think ;)?

Too early to tell. Certainly the fact that it's 0 for 3 isn't too promising, but reading the future is never easy.
 

simonpro

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I can understand you too, Simon. Is SSC now convinced to keep away from SpaceX?

I can't say yet, there's a meeting on Thursday (which I'll be at). Not looking hopeful though, just about everyone has lost confidence in Falcon 1 now.

Frankly, I think you guys are judging SpaceX a bit too harshly. 3 failures, of completely unrelated problems (so we think so far) is not quite that bad. The Ariane 5 failed 3 times before a truly successful mission; Delta III failed complegtely and was scrubbed for the Delta IV. However, these rockets had something SpaceX doesn't have: experience...and they still failed!! Ariane Space had the Arianes I-IV to work on, Delta's been in existence since our first feeble attempts at a stable launch vehicle.

Ariane 5 failed 1.5 times before a successful mission. It's likely that if they hadn't had Ariane IV then they would've had a successful mission (the failure was based on an error in the Ariane IV guidance code).

The problem I, and many others, has with SpaceX is not that they have failed 3/3 launches. It's the way they've failed. Some of the failures revolve around pretty simple engineering issues that your average Grad student would've caught. There also seem to be all manner of procedural problems and a rather bad managerial culture of rating speed over quality.

The final thing that has put many people off SpaceX is their PR. Before their first launches they were goingt o be revolutionary, they'd change the space business as we know it. They also managed to insult a great many people who work in the industry with some of their comments, so it's only to be expected that there's a degree of smugness when they screw up.

Bottom line is that SpaceX does not seem set-up to fail, rather it seems set-up to spread its wings and fly straighter and truer than ANY other orbital launch group in history including RKK, ESA and of course, NASA!

I disagree. The way they're currently set up I'm willing to bet that they'll fail again and again. I really thought they'd become more professional after Flight-2, but the events after the abort of Flight-3 show that they are still in need of an experienced team to lead operations. Until that happens I can't see them getting much further.

To date I have seen SpaceX do two launches with quick aborts and turnarounds, followed by launches with near flawless first stage performances.

First stage performance was not optimal. They obviously hadn't correctly accounted for the roll torques applied by their new engine (which uses spiral cooling), if you rewatch the flight video you'll see the vehicle constantly trying to roll anticlockwise. Possibly this is because it's the first flight of that engine, but hopefully they'll get that fixed for the next flight.

As far as we can tell, everything else on the rocket might be A-OK. Unfortunately, EVERYTHING must work 100% of the time, which is a tall order for any piece of equipment.

Unless you have a backup.:p
 

Zachstar

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SpaceX is getting torn a new one in the media. Far worse than even I had expected (And I expected it was going to be bad)

What is REALLY tearing them a new one was the loss of a space burial payload with some particularly famed names from the past onboard....

If payload operators are not already running for the door. I feel they will be soon...
 

Urwumpe

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Also, you find many other examples of procedural problems in the Flight 2 report. While the report is brief and does mostly tell, what according to SpaceX did not cause the failure, it contains for example a bad engine controller software being loaded into the engine before launch. If you have a strict version management, things like that should not happen.
 
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