At The Cape

I drove up from Boynton Beach this morning, and was at the press center by the VAB in Kennedy Space Center this afternoon. I’ll be heading back over there in the morning, I hope for a launch. Elon was wished well by both Tory Bruno and Jeff Bezos.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here’s Eric Berger’s story on the interview with Elon at the pad today. I didn’t quite get there in time to go out there. He made some news.

[Update a few minutes later]

Alan Boyle (who I also saw today) has a guide to what to watch for.

[Update after midnight]

Elon’s new video.

[Update a while later]

Sorry, fixed the last link.

[Tuesday-afternoon update]

For those wondering, launch has been pushed back to 1505 in hopes that upper-level winds die down. About 20% higher than they want. That leaves a little less than an hour in the window.

[Late evening update]

OK, obviously, everyone saw it. I’m in DC now, after fighting traffic after the launch to the airport.

Many thousands of people saw the first Shuttle launch. Many thousands of people also it land in California, two days later. The intersection of those two sets isn’t large, but I’m a member of it. I imagine that the number of people who saw both those and were present at today’s launch, which is at least as historic, in its own way, is a very elite club, perhaps fewer than have gone into space.

I’ve seen four Falcon 9 launches, but none as close as this one. This one you could feel, and the sound was different, with 27 engines, instead of two large SRBs and three SSMEs. I’d be curious to know difference the decibels. But of course, something the Shuttle never did was launch and land within minutes, and seeing and hearing those two coming back, with the very loud double triple sonic booms, was amazing. As I noted on Twitter, few words are more overused than “awesome,” but that word pretty well describes what I witnessed this afternoon.

[Update before bed]

“This may be the day that Elon opens up space to the masses.”

98 thoughts on “At The Cape”

  1. “I hope for a launch. Elon was wished well by both Tory Bruno and Jeff Bezos.”

    He was also wished well by Tory’s half-brother, Giordano Bruno. Things should really be cooking at the Cape tomorrow!

    What…too soon?

  2. Just heard that FH will not take crew (around moon or anyplace else.) It will be strictly cargo (needs confirmation.)

    Instead, only BFR will have crew. Well, F9/crew will probably? continue (unless BFR is farther along than any of us imagine?)

    1. I had wondered about that, since I’d seen a couple of articles about FH manifest and no one mentioned the tourists. But why?

      1. Well, first, crewed Dragon 2 took a major hit when they withdrew propulsive landing capability, because NASA doesn’t want it. That pretty much eliminated Red Dragon right there. Second it will take longer to certify F9H for crew than originally anticipated. …aaand I’ll bet politics would have insured that crewed F9H would not have flown (or have been allowed to be certified to fly) before a crewed SLS flight is attempted. Since crewed Dragon F9 flights to ISS aren’t going to be held up because of SLS and BFS/BFR flights are far enough out not to race against SLS, why take chances on making your sugar daddy angry? Plus should SLS go boom, F9H is right there ready to take up the slack if need be. Musk is hedging bets left and right. His biggest bet, which in all likelihood will see fruition, is that SLS will successfully fly AND spend itself into an early grave. Thus it is inevitable all well placed commercial crew entities will eventually fly anyway.

    2. ken> …unless BFR is farther along than any of us imagine…

      During yesterday’s conference call (transcript / recording) Mr. Musk said, “right now it looks like BFR development is moving quickly and it will not be necessary to qualify Falcon Heavy for crewed spaceflight. … [explains BFR Booster/Ship and that they will first build the ship] … So our focus is on the ship, and we expect to hopefully do short flights on the ship, with the ship next year. You know, aspirational.

      1. Elsewhere during that call he referred to the BFB (BFR Booster) as the BRB for Big Rocket Booster / Be Right Back. “Which is kind of true, because it will Be Right Back. The booster’s going to come back and land in probably about ten minutes after liftoff.

      2. That would be very nice.

        Not sure how I feel about no crewed flights on the FH but it is really extraneous to their core mission.

  3. There’s a carrrrrrr maaaaaan waiting in the sky!

    He’d like to come and meet us but the lawyers would throw a fit and he’d probably lose his license and contracts so he’s just going to orbit the planet instead…

  4. Is there a hold or delay?
    The web page said live in 73 minutes a little while ago and now it says live in 2 hours

    1. Upper winds are a little too strong right now. They’re holding in hopes that those winds will die down.

  5. Well hopefully 45 minutes from now

    But having dueled with uncooperative weather countless times on land, sea and air I suspect today’s launch will be scrubbed.

    1. Reporters on the livestream said apparently the landing knocked the antennas around, causing them to lose signal. I didn’t watch much after that, as I got a phone call.

    1. No, and it won’t. Not enough control for Musk with a public company. He still wants to go to Mars.

    2. Didn’t Fidelity or someone invest in SpaceX? I never looked into it to see if it was part of a portfolio regular people could buy into.

  6. Glad I was wrong about the weather!

    Double landing was awe inspiring to watch. Just need to hear about the Core landing…

  7. I’m going to guess that something went wrong with the core landing, until they say otherwise. They’ve always shown video–at whatever quality was present–as soon as it came back online, whenever the landing was a success.

    Still, I’m going to call the mission a near-complete success. They just have to go back and figure out what changes they made to the F9 design in order to make the F9H core that they failed to account for, and make those modifications. Launch customers shouldn’t care what happens to the core after S2 separation, except inasmuch as it allows them to negotiate a lower price.

    I’d say that F9H is open for business–for what might be a really short career, if BFR stays remotely on schedule.

    1. The mission was a complete success, including demonstrating the six-hour coast, and then injecting the car into a trajectory to the asteroid belt. Recovering the core was not an element of the mission.

  8. Surely there is a crew in another boat some distance away from the drone ship? Can’t they put the cameras and antennas there with a nice telescope on a stable platform?

  9. There was a moment with the two “hosts” where they said something like “oops” and a screwed up facial expression as they were listening on their earphones trying to get info on the core landing.

    Suggests there was a problem there.

  10. Just impressive. Even if center core is lost, that was amazingly successful. I think many problems in landing the center core could be solved with a better designed drone ship, perhaps a semi submersible.

    1. Was thinking that this should end SLS. We can have men back in orbit this year. Someone needs to call the dogs of NASA/Congress off.

  11. Core was lost, you can hear the callout on the Youtube video. But what a spectacular thing to see, the launch and side booster landings! Here’s hoping lots of different videos will be coming out over the next few days.

      1. Video showed disturbance on the drone ship, presumably from the core’s thrust, just before loss of signal. So if it missed the drone it wasn’t by much. Most likely if it was destroyed it was due to too high a landing speed or a landing leg didn’t deploy / lock. IMO.

  12. Wow.

    I waited a long time to see that. Since the first successful Falcon 1 took off on my 58th birthday, I always planned to go see this one live. Didn’t make it for various reasons, but still wonderful to see.

    I was at the press site for STS-1. Never regretted the trip. Maybe I can go watch first BFS to Mars, if I’m still alive.

  13. The sheet of flame as the FH climbed into the sky was very impressive. Must have been astounding seeing it in person.

  14. Falcon Heavy could launch the entire United States Congress into LEO in one flight. That would take care of SLS and the budget deficit at the same time.

  15. I wonder long the cars paint, interior etc. will last exposed to direct sunlight and numerous thermal cycles?

  16. That was simply amazing. The two boosters landing simultaneously near each other I think is the most amazing technological thing I have ever seen.

    Thought we’d be doing this in the 80’s when I was a kid in the 70’s. I’m glad it’s finally happening.

      1. That is the definitive launch footage and should put to rest any claims that the boosters landed in perfect unison.

  17. Whatever happened to the core and however they get through the radiation belts this was fantastic. Expect starman to do cameos like Robbie did.

    1. According to Elon the outer two engines didn’t light up, only the center one (lack of fuel?). The core hit the water at 300kph and was destroyed.

      1. Elon made some comment about running out of TEB in two of the three engines that didn’t relight for the landing burn. Sounds odd. Maybe a leak induced by thermal stress?

  18. I have a question about the FH. How much would it cost to build, and launch an SPS, that can generate 1 GW of electric power? What would be the total weight of an SPS that can generate 1 GW of electric power? I know that Elon Musk doesn’t think much of space solar power, but some company will look at the FH, and wonder if they can use it to launch an SPS. Not big ones, just small one.
    These can be used to provide power to lightcraft. Then we can have SSTO spacecraft. I think it would be a new space company that would build the SPS. I don’t know of any current electric companies that are interested in space solar power.
    Need to build three SPS, and place them about 8,000 miles above the Earth.

    1. Elon in his presser after the launch stated that the BFS with enough fuel load will be a SSTO. Although initial flights will be like grasshopper. Personally I also suspect at least one or more attempts at P2P suborbital shots to an ASDS as well. Elon also says this in the presser. You can watch it on YouTube. No SSPS needed.

  19. I watched the webcast live at work and it was utterly thrilling.

    I left a comment at Ace of Spades afterwards saying, “I can honestly say that I’m glad I have lung cancer instead of a weak heart. I wouldn’t have survived that.”

    My heart was pounding like a jackhammer during the last minute of the countdown, and I don’t think I took a breath until the side boosters separated.

  20. Musk said yesterday that FH cost $500 million to develop. SLS (still not complete) has cost $11B to date (and we’re still ~5 years from first flight). Also, the FH is capable of 70 tons of payload, where the block one SLS is capable of 77, and the cost per launch is 90 M vs 1 B. So…. why are we building SLS again?

    Also worth noting – the final block 2 of SLS will have a capacity of 143 tons. BFR will theoretically have a capacity of165 tons to LEO. Musk says a full scale test will begin in 3-4 years. Now, Musk usually is optimistic with his estimates, so let’s say 6-7 years. So in 6-7 years we’ll have a privately developed rocket, with a payload capacity far exceeding the theoretical block-2 SLS, developed for a fraction of the cost and costing a lot less per launch.

    Who would you bet on at this point?

    1. The opportunity costs are damning but the defense of SLS will be redundancy, if recent media publications are any indication. We might have to wait for BO and New Glenn to put SLS away.

  21. Did anyone else notice that during the live broadcast the onboard video from the side boosters was from only one booster, just duplicated? The two landing pads are painted differently, one has a black center with white SpaceX logo and the other is white with a black logo. The broadcast video showed both boosters landing on the white pad. Video of the launch and landings posted on SpaceX YouTube channel now shows the two different side booster video feeds, but you can still find “as broadcast” video on YouTube as well.

    1. I thought it was the camera placement that cut off the view of the 2nd landing pad but you are right. You can see the engines firing for one of the boosters at the top of both of the frames in the original broadcast.

      When I watched it live on YouTube, they showed a telemetry diagram of the boosters as the music kicked on for fairing separation. But they have another “replay” that shows the fairing separation and the the car as the music kicks on.

      Strangely, when I look at the SpaceX YouTube channel on the PC, only the original broadcast is listed but when I re-watched it last night on the YouTube app on the TV, there was a replay with the better theatrics I mentioned above.

  22. Red this, this morning:

    The center core did not safely return to Earth because two of its three engines failed to light during the landing burn. So, Musk said, it slammed into the ocean at 300mph, throwing debris onto its nearby drone ship and taking out two of the boat’s engines.

  23. “Many thousands of people saw the first Shuttle launch. Many thousands of people also (saw) it land in California, two days later. The intersection of those two sets isn’t large, but I’m a member of it.”

    So am I. Was working as a planetarium education coordinator, obtained press accreditation through a local tv/radio station, then spent a year exchanging an anecdotal multi-media presentation/talk for free food (Rotary, Kiwanis, schools, etc.).

    Next time you’re in Boynton Beach, I have a copy of SiNAO in Lake Worth which would like to be signed, a pretext for a hand shake.

  24. Geeked about this whole thing beyond words. One question, though: Has anybody posted an ephemeris for Spaceman online? I haven’t found one so far. Curious to model its orbit and see when it will cross Earth’s orbit next. I assume they did the math to ensure it wouldn’t pose a hazard…

  25. Normally at right leaning sites, any story about Musk has a brigade of people commenting about subsidies and what not. Did anyone read the comments yesterday?

    From what I saw, everyone was very enthusiastic in their happiness. Hopefully, this launch is opening some eyes about Musk’s endeavors outside of Tesla and into what could be happening at NASA as well.

    1. Yesterday I saw some comments like “Musk is a welfare queen/grifter, but I grudgingly admit this was impressive.” But I saw a lot of positive comments too.

  26. I noted when the side boosters did the final burn they lit one engine then two more for a short time, then shut them down and landed on one. This would save fuel and still make the touchdown timing less critical. This may have been the plan for the barge landing but the outer two failed to light.
    Wodun, there was a lot of carping at some sites. I follow http://www.catallaxy files which is fairly right wing for Australia and only a couple of people were enthusiastic. Some others were claiming NASA had done all this long ago and that NASA has been re-using boosters for years (Shuttle SRB’s).

  27. A few weeks ago I remarked here that I always thought the first Falcon Heavy launch should have sent an unmanned Dragon on a circumlunar flight. It would show the general public that we’re not as far from being able to go back to the Moon as they think.

    But I have to admit that sending Starman and the Roadster off to the asteroid belt was better. I was guilty of thinking too small.

    1. My question is what happened with the Mars/asteroid burn. Did their control system miss the targeted burn, did they change there target to to put it in asteroid distance, or they never really had a targeted burn just set it up after the 4 hour soak in the Van Allen belt to reignite and burn what left of the fuel and let it fall where it may ?

      1. I believe Musk stated in a presser that they simply burned the remaining fuel, so apparently that had a bit more left that they thought they would have.

  28. OCISLY just arrived at Port Canaveral. Photos tweeted here:

    From the photos she looks no worse for wear. Musk said he was told that the 500 km/h impact of the center core 100 m off the droneship “was enough to take out two thrusters and shower the deck with shrapnel”. I’m wondering if it did more than stall the thrusters’ diesel engines.

  29. “This may be the moment SpaceX opened the cosmos to the masses”

    Nope. That will be the BFR.

    FH is a more capable F9 at close to the same price.

    The space age has not yet begun.

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