Spacex's Falcon I flies, all too briefly
I mirrored the video of the falcon I launch, here
If you watch closely, you can clearly see the exaust plume change color on the left, and shortly before the last frames see a perpendicular flame coming from the right side of the engine shortly before the rocket went out of control. There's some fairly knowledgeable discussion going on at NasaSpaceflight.com
I know that I'm not cut out to be a reporter. All I wanted to do after seeing this was go back to bed and pull a pillow over my head.
Still I remember the rising wave of excitement as the final 10 minutes of the countdown went by.
LC-FTSO Tone checks are good
FTS is ready
Open fuel pre is open
TBC is configured for launch
fuel bleed open and closed
self alignment is successful
turn off chargers... chargers off
antenna heaters off
first stage on internal
gso enable ignition
on internal power supply
the range is green
in auto sequence mode
45 seconds to launch and each controller gave their "Go" almost on top of each other as they were asked... I wish I'd been able to record the final 10 minutes, it would have made a great techno song. As it was I was huddled over my guitar, seeking inspiration, seeking comfort, as the final seconds counted down.
After the video fuzzed out and the sudden webcast disconnection, and not knowing what happened, while hitting reload again and again on the websites, a few geeks gathered in a chat room. It seemed much like the aftermath of a bad football game, where we all struggled to cope, to laugh off the moment...
There are so many hopes and dreams tied up in Falcon's destiny, my own, and others, to Spacedev's three launches, to the first Bigelow Aerospace launch, and to all the follow on launches, whence space becomes affordable.
The next launch attempt will carry the remains of 186 people, including those of James Doohan. If ever this engineer hoped for some sympathetic magic, some power of voodoo to carry a spacecraft skyward, that would be it....sometimes you have to crash a spacecraft or two to learn something. Nice try. You got close. Now get up, and fly again.
[14:29] mtaht_: t-45 seconds
[14:29] greginpv: what's the closest they got to launch last time?
[14:29] mtaht_: come on baby!!
[14:30] greginpv: uhh. no video
[14:31] greginpv: are you kidding me right now.
[14:32] mtaht_: we have liftoff!!!!!!
[14:32] mtaht_: and my video hung
[14:32] mtaht_: just there
[14:32] mtaht_: AAAAAAAAAGHHHHHHHHHHH
[14:33] ethanol: mine hung too
[14:34] greginpv: now I can't get to the media server.
[14:34] cpm: group hug!
[14:34] mtaht_: scheduled maintenence, please contact the BOFH
[14:34] greginpv: yay akami
[14:35] greginpv: or it could be 'turn it off so they don't see the explosion'.
[14:35] cpm: mine died just about the time the atoll dissapeared from the viewport
[14:35] mtaht_: all this awful shit goes right through your mind when the feed cuts off
[14:36] mtaht_: slashdotted?
[14:36] cpm: perhaps
[14:36] greginpv: I suspect it really was a feed problem. my feed went to shit about T-00:15.
[14:37] ethanol: I didn't see liftoff. I did see what looked like a box with some fire at the end of it... possibly an internal camera?
[14:37] mtaht_: yep
[14:37] greginpv: sit and stare at a rocket on the pad for an hour and a half and then the feed crashes out at t-00:15. effing sucks.
[14:37] mtaht_: I saw liftoff then they switched to an internal camera
[14:37] mtaht_: give me an audio feed
[14:37] mtaht_: anything
[14:37] cpm: I got about T+00:15 or so
[14:37] mtaht_: launchus interruptus
[14:38] mtaht_: I hope the falcon is better off than the akami
[14:38] greginpv: they probably bought airtime till 30 minutes after the launch from akami. but nobody told akami they needed another 30 for a launch delay.
[14:38] cpm: at somewhere in the T+00:02 neighborhood, the feed went to the internal camera
[14:38] mtaht_: now we are going to have to cope with rumors of whether or not the launch was faked... like the moon landings.
[14:39] cpm: You think akamai cut the feed?
[14:39] ethanol: need.... more.... tinfoil....
[14:39] mtaht_: your bill is due
[14:39] mtaht_: that was supposed to be step 302!
[14:40] mtaht_: I could cry
[14:42] mtaht_: lcon!
Friday 24 March, 2:40 pm PST, 10:40 am Kwaj time
LOSS OF VEHICLE! No details yet, but it looks like the launch has failed.
[14:42] ethanol: son of a bitch
[14:42] cpm: damnit!
[14:43] mtaht_: http://www.outofthecradle.net/archives/2006/03/falcon-1-maiden-launch/
[14:43] greginpv: where di you see that?
[14:43] mtaht_: loss of vehicle
[14:43] mtaht_: condolences, gobstopper, all
[14:43] mtaht_: damn, damn, damn.
[14:44] mtaht_: I know they are busy down there but I want my feeed back
[14:44] ethanol: well. *fuck*.
[14:45] mtaht_: well, they were up at least a couple hundred meeters
[14:45] mtaht_: last thing I saw was the ground spinning
[14:45] mtaht_: was hoping it was a normal rotation
[14:45] ethanol: I couldn't see much of anything
[14:46] mtaht_: ... still I gotta say... it was the most exciting 10 seconds I've had in a long time.
[14:46] gobstopper: I hope better quality video is made available
[14:46] cpm: http://www.spaceflightnow.com/falcon/f1/status.html
[14:46] gobstopper: hope they don't clamp down
[14:47] mtaht_: why would everyone have lost the feed 10 seconds after launch? too many web hits?
[14:47] mtaht_: conspiracy theories will be coming out of the woodwork
[14:48] ethanol: maybe they were just feeding from the onboard camera, it went down, and nobody bothered to switch it to some other source?
[14:48] mtaht_: maybe they are in CYA mode.
[14:48] cpm: could be, they were pretty busy with a flight failure I expect
[14:48] gobstopper: I can imaging someone pulling the on the web server
[14:48] mtaht_: that's NOT the american way
[14:48] mtaht_: besides, any PR is good PR....
[14:49] cpm: the public loves disasters, more than they love successes
[14:49] mtaht_: trying to figure out how high a minute of powered flight would be
[14:50] cpm: getting pics now http://www.outofthecradle.net/archives/2006/03/falcon-1-maiden-launch/
[14:51] cpm: Well, I think it went into a spin in more like 12 seconds, not a minute.
[14:51] mtaht_: k
[14:51] mtaht_: makes sense
[14:51] gobstopper: yeah, it crapped out very early
[14:51] mtaht_: would also make sense if that was that early - the launch site is probably a mess
[14:51] gobstopper: when the video flashed an image of the flame looking sideways, that was a Bad Sign
[14:52] gobstopper: very sad day
[14:52] gobstopper: sad day for us too :-(
[14:52] mtaht_: yea.
[14:53] mtaht_: so far as I know, though, there's another falcon I for the AF supposed to launch from california in a month or so.
[14:53] cpm: yeah
[14:54] mtaht_: vandenberg
[14:54] greginpv: depending on how long it takes them to find and fix the problem with this one. they haven't had an easy time with this.
[14:54] greginpv: suppose they'll allow spectators for that one?
[14:54] cpm: what's that old saw about rocket science?
[14:54] ethanol: "it ain't"?
[14:55] mtaht_: nobody said it was easy. John (ackley) would get this weird expression on his face every time he talked about blowing up an atlas (his code on the gimbal motor)
[14:55] mtaht_: sure, greg, we'll get you front row seats at the next launch. They are going for a discount now.
[14:56] mtaht_: nothing to do but keep hitting reload
[14:56] ethanol: far as I know, everybody who's launched a rocket successfully has blowed a few first.
[14:56] cpm: yup
[14:56] mtaht_: atlas - I think it was 12
[14:57] mtaht_: thank god musk isn't quite a VC, and is willing to stay in the game. but for how much longer?
[14:57] greginpv: till the money runs out?
[14:58] mtaht_: spacex should put a paypall donate button on their page
[14:58] cpm: yeah, buddy o mine's dad, spent all of his time rolling up and down the gulf coast in a stepvan with lots of telemetry gear, documenting what were essentially mistakes.
[14:58] mtaht_: I'd send 'em some pizza.. and beer.
[14:58] cpm: spacex seems to have some pretty steep grant monies already.
[14:58] ethanol: also some deep-pocketed clients
[14:58] mtaht_: If the air force gives you 100m, do you have to give it back?
[14:58] ethanol: they'll make it. fuckin shame, though.
[14:59] cpm: indeed
[14:59] mtaht_: I appreciate your boundless optimism, ethanol.
[14:59] mtaht_: the press is amazingly fast
[14:59] ethanol: oh, it's not boundless. I just haven't run out yet, 'sall.
[15:00] mtaht_: I imagine they had two sets of boilerplate alread, ready.
[15:00] mtaht_: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/11997932/
[15:00] mtaht_: come on, give me a feed back, get a camera crew broadcasting live, do something... there must be somebody on the scene!!
[15:01] ethanol: what's to see?
[15:01] mtaht_: debris, people, mission control - people that care, people that are crying, but doing their jobs. Those are the kind of images the world needs to keep remembring why we are trying so hard to get into space.
[15:01] cpm: lotta folks running back down their checklists, who probably don't want to be bothered.
[15:02] gobstopper: this throws water on all small space companies trying to change the world
[15:02] ethanol: I wouldn't want someone watching me mourn
[15:02] mtaht_: I wouldn't mind, if it meant something.
[15:08] ethanol: Scaled Composites might be able to get a vehicle to orbit from an air launch, but a vehicle capable of reentry is going to be a bitch
[15:08] cpm: re-entry really is a bugger isn't it?
[15:09] mtaht_: reentry is a bitch. My take on it is - why bother? Go up. NEVER COME BACK.
[15:09] ethanol: space is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.
[15:10] greginpv: re-entry isn't as difficult as it's made out to be, it's just that it's unavoidably heavy.
[15:10] mtaht_: My perfect piece of real estate remains Toutatis (recently there was an addition to holst's "the planets" symphony featuring new works - 4 for asteroids - one of them being Toutatis) and I'd live there in a heartbeat. Beats Lompico.
[15:10] ethanol: greg: that's what I meant. getting a little satellite up is one thing, but getting a habitable, reenterable vehicle up is a much bigger deal.
[15:11] mtaht_: cpm - at 1g it's something like 3 days to pluto - re-read your "have spacesuit, will travel" - it's all in there.
[15:11] ethanol: 15 days to pluto at 1g
[15:11] ethanol: (I've read it more often than you, obviously :) )
[15:11] cpm: Umm, I think 1 year of 1G gets you a lot further than pluto
[15:11] mtaht_: and again - f*ck re-entry - just get a habitat UP -
[15:11] ethanol: 1g for three days would get you to mars, at the right time of year
[15:12] cpm: heh
[15:12] mtaht_: everyone talks about the tourism market - I wanna know what the emigration market is like.
[15:12] mtaht_: elf still hangs out with interorbital somewhat, they are way crazier than spacex. Still, quotable, though -"Vings. Hate vings. F*ck Vings".
[15:13] cpm: heh
[15:12] cpm: greginpv, so, how do get rid of velocity without a lot of friction build up?
[15:13] greginpv: I think a biosphere is heavier than a re-entry shield IMHO.
[15:13] cpm: REALLY BIG chutes
[15:14] cpm: where's that nanotech cloth when you need it? oh yeah, not invented yet. Damn!
[15:14] greginpv: ablatives are handy if you don't plan on re-use, they aren't so re-usable because they fuse to whatever they are attached to. Or you can just use a big chunk of metal like berilium to just sink all the heat if you arent weight contious.
[15:15] greginpv: some newer promising technology is transpiration in heat shields, just make the shield sweat.
[15:15] cpm: interesting
[15:15] mtaht_: yep. First GET materials to orbit - lots of em - if you have enough mass you can get down to earth on an ice shield
[15:16] greginpv: there's also ceramics but so far they've been not as worthwile as originally thought.
[15:16] cpm: mass is your enemy in this, isn't it?
[15:16] mtaht_: not if you want to ablate
[15:16] mtaht_: mass to orbit from earth is our enemy
[15:16] mtaht_: mass to orbit from elsewhere (NEOs) is our friend
[15:16] cpm: right, but that's solveable.
[15:17] cpm: hrmmm
[15:17] cpm: yeah, I like that too.
[15:17] mtaht_: step 13 - send inflateable bigelow airospace bags to nearest neo. Fill up. Return.
[15:18] cpm: I think I like Clarks elevator
[15:18] mtaht_: bolonium.
[15:18] mtaht_: :)
[15:18] mtaht_: I can believe in rotating mhd tethers
[15:18] mtaht_: not space elevators
[15:19] cpm: why not?
[15:19] cpm: once the first one is built, , , ,
[15:20] mtaht_: when we start building bridges and skyscrapers and battleships and houses out of nanotubes (which liftport is talking about to some extent) - then I can believe in rotating tethers, and maybe, in a hundred years, a space elevator.
[15:20] mtaht_: I wouldn't mind sleeping for 10 years out of 11 til that happens.
[15:20] cpm: fuck skyscrapers, we can't manage the shit that comes out of the ones we have. best to get to work on the tethers
[15:20] mtaht_: until we get off this stinking rock.
[15:21] cpm: Hey, I like this rock!
[15:21] ethanol: me too. good rock.
[15:21] cpm: all to more reason to move out in to the neighborhood, leave some of the rock for those who come after
[15:21] mtaht_ says to Earth: good rock. nice rock. looks like we are stuck with each other for a while.
[15:22] cpm: stop it, when I think about it, I get pissed off.
[15:22] mtaht_: I'm sorry, rock. you don't stink.
[15:22] cpm: I'm 50, I was promised space a long time ago!
[15:22] ethanol: and personal jet packs!
[15:22] mtaht_: and flying to work in biplanes!
[15:22] cpm: ringworld is supposed to COMPLETE by now.
[15:22] cpm: sheesh, it's 2006 already. man.
[15:23] mtaht_: if only we could get all the minds focused on solving the longer penis problem focused on space, we'd be there in force before you were 60.
[15:23] greginpv: why can't you fly to work in a biplane?
[15:23] cpm: its the lawyers fault
[15:24] mtaht_: re lawyers. It was my hope that cheney would start a trend. No such luck.
[15:24] cpm: heh
[15:24] ethanol: yep. I'm sitting here with a computer in my lap connected by radio to a vast repository of information, listening to some of the five days of music saved in a small corner of its hard disk, complaining about how disappointing the future is.
[15:24] cpm: sucks, doesn't it?
[15:24] mtaht_: well put, ethanol. ok, I'm only going to pull a pillow over my head for a couple hours, not the rest of the weekend.
[15:24] cpm: I'm reminded that we got to the Moon without these stinking computers and haven't gone anywhere since.
[15:25] mtaht_: with sliderules!
[15:25] ethanol: slide RULES!
[15:25] mtaht_: that's the problem! we need to throw out the computers and revert to sliderules!
[15:25] * cpm has a slide rule in his desk, and uses it.
[15:25] greginpv: hrm. from folks who saw the webcast looks like a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly of the main engine. http://www.spaceflightnow.com/falcon/f1/status.html
[15:26] ethanol: http://www.boingboing.net/2006/03/20/sliderulecalculator_.html
[15:26] greginpv: 'noticeable change in the color and shape of the flame coming from the Merlin first stage main engine'
[15:27] greginpv: flames change color when they start burning metal.
[15:27] cpm: http://www.vcalc.net/curta_simulator_en.htm
[15:28] greginpv: could be insufficient cooling in the nozzle bell, resulting in a burn-through and resulting RUD event.
[15:28] cpm: ick
[15:28] ethanol: RUD?
[15:28] greginpv: Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly. Rocket scientist term for 'blow up'
[15:29] ethanol: wouldn't that kind of problem have shown up in ground firings?
[15:29] cpm: velocities are different in ground tests
[15:29] mtaht_: last ground test for this engine was 3 seconds
[15:29] greginpv: conditions are different.
[15:30] mtaht_: seems firmly established this was after a lot longer than that
[15:30] ethanol: yes, that was a static firing on the pad. but surely they've done longer burns before
[15:30] mtaht_: one reason to favor air launch is you don't have to compensate for changes in air pressure
[15:30] cpm: the only way to know what a candle will do when you light it up and send it off, is to light it up and send it off.
[15:30] ethanol: how do they cool the bell?
[15:30] mtaht_: the bell has to expand
[15:30] greginpv: they have done engine firings on the ground, but there could have been some condition they didn't account for when the vehicle is actually flying.
[15:30] mtaht_: absolutely
[15:31] cpm: lotta variables there. Hard to simulate
[15:31] mtaht_: I wonder what the air pressure was at the height
[15:31] greginpv: e: typically they run either the fuel or oxidizer through the bell, this cools the bell and heats the fuel/oxidizer, both of which are benificial.
[15:32] greginpv: if it blew up at the end of the webcast it wasn't high enough to make much of a difference.
[15:32] * cpm keeps waiting for a cheap enough launch vehicle so that when one 'rud's, you roll the next one out, fuel it, tweak a couple of things, and light it up, keep doing it until you get it down. Turn around in hours, not months.
[15:33] ethanol: they have those. they're made of paper and have little sticks and fuses on them.
[15:33] greginpv: except satellites are almost as expensive as the rockets they are on top of.
[15:33] cpm: to heck with the birds until you can get a 5 nines launch
[15:33] cpm: gimme that 100m
[15:33] cpm: :)
[15:35] * cpm wishes he still had his Saturn V manifest tag
[15:36] greginpv: thats the problem with turbopump cycle engines, they get a little out of balance with their O2/fuel mixture ratio and !poof!
[15:36] cpm: Hrmm, what's a better way?
[15:36] greginpv: an alternative way is gas expansion cycle. how that works is you run your fuel through your bell, the fuel vaporizes from the heat and turns into high-temp gas, and it spins a turbine that operates the pumps for fuel & O2. if you have a burn-through of the nozzle the engine basically shuts off.
[15:37] mtaht_: Here is the official statement from Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX:
"We had a successful liftoff and Falcon made it well clear of the launch pad, but unfortunately the vehicle was lost later in the first stage burn. More information will be posted once we have had time to analyze the problem."
[15:37] mtaht_: going upstairs... dragging my guitar
End of #spacex buffer: Fri Mar 24 15:39:44 2006