SpaceX building fewer rockets

Most of the news today seems to be particular bad. But not this:

SpaceX has gotten good enough at reuse that it’s building fewer rockets.

Space travel is finally getting back to being as fun to follow as it was when they did moon landings. The big difference this time round is that then, money was no object. Now, money very much is an object. Huge improvement.

2 thoughts on “SpaceX building fewer rockets”

  1. The way that the Commercial Crew Program for sending astronauts to the International Space Station is follows:

    NASA chose two companies to build space capsules of equivalent capabilities to ferry astronauts to the ISS. Boeing and SpaceX were chosen to do this. The idea was that once they were operational, the two company’s vehicles would send crews up for six months at a time, and they would alternate with each other. Each company had to do an unmanned test mission to the ISS, then a manned test mission, then “operational” flights would start.

    SpaceX’s manned test mission is up there now. It was supposed to be two weeks long, but it has been extended to two and a half months, because the ISS needed crew and if the astronauts were going there anyway, you might as well use their services as space station crew. When it comes down, the first officially operational mission will go up about six weeks later, operated by SpaceX. The plan would have been that the next mission in February or March would have been operated by Boeing, but as Boeing is clearly not going to be ready to fly this mission by then, SpaceX has been assigned that mission too.

    NASA’s originally contract with SpaceX required SpaceX to fly each mission with a new rocket and a new space capsule, mainly because that is the way NASA normally does things. SpaceX none the less designed its rockets and capsules to be reusable. In return for agreeing to allow its “test mission” to be a lot longer than originally intended, and also to fly the second operational mission as well as the first one, NASA agreed that SpaceX no longer had to fly each mission with a new rocket and capsule, but that reused ones would be allowed.

    I think this falls into the “Agreeing to do something you want to do anyway in return for someone else doing something that you want them to do” school of negotiation.

  2. As for Boeing, their unmanned test mission went into an incorrect orbit due to having a clock incorrectly set, and returned to earth without going to the space station. When investigated, this turned out to have been a good thing, as they then found a second fault that would have likely caused the space capsule to have been destroyed had the first fault not earlier aborted the mission. After a detailed enquiry, NASA gave them a list of 80 things they had to fix before having a second unmanned test flight. All this is despite the fact that they were given twice as much money as SpaceX to do the same thing.

    So we are all wondering just how many SpaceX missions we will see before Boeing manages its first one.

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