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(NBC News)   From the "It had to happen eventually" files: Watch a three-engine version of the SpaceX Grasshopper research vehicle auto-terminate during a test flight   (nbcnews.com ) divider line
    More: Cool  
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3436 clicks; posted to Geek » on 23 Aug 2014 at 7:27 PM (1 year ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-08-23 06:09:12 PM  
Oh, my gosh.
 
2014-08-23 06:15:11 PM  
i.imgur.com
 
2014-08-23 06:31:33 PM  

a particular individual: Oh, my gosh.


came here to say THIS
 
2014-08-23 06:55:38 PM  
This particular NBC headline is okay (as is yours, subby), but I'm getting tired of seeing most headlines about this event trying to make it sound like the explosion is the whole story, as in the rocket just exploded.  The real story, of course, is that something probably fairly minor went wrong (of couse in rocketry, fairly minor can turn into really major really fast) and the rocket did exactly what it was supposed to do, sacrifice itself.   That part of the system worked perfectly.  Whatever didn't, they'll figure out and fix.

Anything for clicks.
 
2014-08-23 07:37:20 PM  
That might well be the least interesting video ever posted to the internet.
 
2014-08-23 07:44:57 PM  

Radak: This particular NBC headline is okay (as is yours, subby), but I'm getting tired of seeing most headlines about this event trying to make it sound like the explosion is the whole story, as in the rocket just exploded.  The real story, of course, is that something probably fairly minor went wrong (of couse in rocketry, fairly minor can turn into really major really fast) and the rocket did exactly what it was supposed to do, sacrifice itself.   That part of the system worked perfectly.  Whatever didn't, they'll figure out and fix.


Yep. When she said "OH MY GOSH, is that supposed to happen?"

I thought, "well... both yes and no."
 
2014-08-23 07:53:04 PM  

Fubini: Radak: This particular NBC headline is okay (as is yours, subby), but I'm getting tired of seeing most headlines about this event trying to make it sound like the explosion is the whole story, as in the rocket just exploded.  The real story, of course, is that something probably fairly minor went wrong (of couse in rocketry, fairly minor can turn into really major really fast) and the rocket did exactly what it was supposed to do, sacrifice itself.   That part of the system worked perfectly.  Whatever didn't, they'll figure out and fix.

Yep. When she said "OH MY GOSH, is that supposed to happen?"

I thought, "well... both yes and no."


It's like a wreck in a NASCAR race.
 
2014-08-23 08:01:46 PM  
It's not like it's rocket science or anything...
 
2014-08-23 08:14:12 PM  
It's not exactly rocket surgery...
 
2014-08-23 08:17:05 PM  
I'm going to be keeping my eyes open for new opportunities to use the term "rapid unscheduled disassembly".
 
2014-08-23 08:20:58 PM  
I cannot self-terminate. You must lower me into the steel.
 
2014-08-23 08:44:56 PM  
Isn't this a good thing? I rather a rocket figure out when something is wrong so it can eject the crew (when it eventually carries one) before it goes the way of Challenger.
 
2014-08-23 08:54:25 PM  
I thought the statement they put out was spot on and excellent. Failure is a natural and very necessary part of the design process.

cretinbob: [i.imgur.com image 610x381]


LOL
 
2014-08-23 09:14:28 PM  
Better vid

Looks like they tried a shutdown + airstart of the main engines.  While the cutoff went as planned, the restart only produced the LOX plume visible below the fireball:

pbs.twimg.com

Oopsie.

With the vehicle now unpowered and out of control, range safety rules called for FTS activation, which the flight computers performed correctly. The remaining fuel and oxidizer are burned at altitude and never reach the ground, though it was raining hot rocket parts for a bit.

Successful failure.

What I really hope is that SpaceX releases the onboard camera footage, and especially the UAV footage they take on all of these flights.  I know they can't give too much away in this business, but man that must have looked so cool.
 
2014-08-23 09:41:04 PM  

Radak: This particular NBC headline is okay (as is yours, subby), but I'm getting tired of seeing most headlines about this event trying to make it sound like the explosion is the whole story, as in the rocket just exploded.  The real story, of course, is that something probably fairly minor went wrong (of couse in rocketry, fairly minor can turn into really major really fast) and the rocket did exactly what it was supposed to do, sacrifice itself.   That part of the system worked perfectly.  Whatever didn't, they'll figure out and fix.

Anything for clicks.


Indeed. It's like calling a successful, safe crash-landing 'a miracle'.

No, it's the product of thousands of man-hours of good engineering, and great piloting skill.

Better the rocket explode on its own terms than perform millions of dollars of improvements to a nearby town.
 
2014-08-23 10:34:19 PM  
Tom Mueller, the head of rocket engine development at Hawthorne-based SpaceX, said there's been one time he disappointed Elon Musk, the former PayPal co-founder who is head of both the spaceflight startup and electric car maker Tesla Motors.

It was during a test flight of an experimental craft called the Grasshopper, a rocket designed to both take off and land from a vertical position. Last fall, the Grasshopper successfully reached a height of 2,441 feet before landing again, a feat of physics many doubted was possible.

"It didn't make a crater in the ground like everyone thought it would," Mueller said. "Elon was a little upset about that. If you don't crash the thing, you're not pushing it hard enough."
 
2014-08-23 10:35:32 PM  
 
2014-08-23 10:43:34 PM  
Well, you folks just keep lining up to go to Mars. Have fun. I'll stay here where things are more Oxygen-ish and less explodey.
 
2014-08-23 10:49:01 PM  
IIRC, there's a scene in "The Right Stuff" with our NASA rockets blowing up on a regular basis - it took a lot of tries before they quit blowing up either on pad or in early launch stages.  The fact that SpaceX is using previously developed technology REDUCES but cannot eliminate all risk, sometimes you just have to make the test flights and they blow up.  As noted, better now than with a human cargo.

Frankly, I expected to see more blowups before they got this far.  3 engines means 9 times as many failure paths.
 
2014-08-23 10:49:02 PM  
I hate Jetblue.
 
2014-08-23 10:50:36 PM  
If you don't break it, you're not testing it hard enough.

One thing to remember: This is something virtually nobody else has ever even attempted.  (DC-X is the only other one I can think of, and it wasn't anywhere near as advanced)  The early history of rocketry is littered with rockets that failed to go up.  We haven't even begun to really figure out how to make them come down again- expect lots more parts littering the landscape before it gets routine.
 
2014-08-23 11:01:46 PM  
Space people of Fark, I have a quick question.

I'm assuming the auto termination is designed so that it wouldn't pop when it's at Apogee and have a larger debris/fallout field? If not can someone explain why they'd rather sacrifice the rocket then attempt to launch it into space and fully recover it or salvage what they can at a later date.

And secondly is it possible to alter a flight plan of a rocket once it's been fired or is that pretty much like Wile E. Coyote when he lights the fuse? Because my first thought was "Aim it at water" if it had a malfunction.

bmwericus: IIRC, there's a scene in "The Right Stuff" with our NASA rockets blowing up on a regular basis - it took a lot of tries before they quit blowing up either on pad or in early launch stages.  The fact that SpaceX is using previously developed technology REDUCES but cannot eliminate all risk, sometimes you just have to make the test flights and they blow up.  As noted, better now than with a human cargo.

Frankly, I expected to see more blowups before they got this far.  3 engines means 9 times as many failure paths.


Yeah it's pretty impressive the success rate they've had so far, even though NASA did most of the heavy lifting for the past 40-50 years I still expected much more explosions then that. My first thought when they announced this SpaceX program way back when was

" If I may... Um, I'll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you're using here, it didn't require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn't earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don't take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now ..... you're selling it, you wanna sell it."
 
2014-08-23 11:07:30 PM  

JesterJoker55: Space people of Fark, I have a quick question.

I'm assuming the auto termination is designed so that it wouldn't pop when it's at Apogee and have a larger debris/fallout field? If not can someone explain why they'd rather sacrifice the rocket then attempt to launch it into space and fully recover it or salvage what they can at a later date.


It has nowhere near enough fuel to reach orbit- it probably is carrying little more than it needs for the entire flight.  Remember, this is supposed to be landing after being used- the fuel tanks are nearly dry.

As far as blowing it up, as soon as it starts doing something bad it's way better to explode it in flight- the fuel and oxidizer burn up harmlessly and all you have to deal with is parts.  The worst possible thing you can have is to *not* blow it up and then have this happen

And secondly is it possible to alter a flight plan of a rocket once it's been fired or is that pretty much like Wile E. Coyote when he lights the fuse? Because my first thought was "Aim it at water" if it had a malfunction.

You can modify the flight path- the rockets are steerable.  However, you have pretty limited parameters once you start going to change your path.  The first thing you learn in Kerbal Space Program is that plane changes are really expensive in delta-v
 
2014-08-23 11:21:28 PM  

JesterJoker55: Space people of Fark, I have a quick question.

I'm assuming the auto termination is designed so that it wouldn't pop when it's at Apogee and have a larger debris/fallout field? If not can someone explain why they'd rather sacrifice the rocket then attempt to launch it into space and fully recover it or salvage what they can at a later date.

And secondly is it possible to alter a flight plan of a rocket once it's been fired or is that pretty much like Wile E. Coyote when he lights the fuse? Because my first thought was "Aim it at water" if it had a malfunction.

bmwericus: IIRC, there's a scene in "The Right Stuff" with our NASA rockets blowing up on a regular basis - it took a lot of tries before they quit blowing up either on pad or in early launch stages.  The fact that SpaceX is using previously developed technology REDUCES but cannot eliminate all risk, sometimes you just have to make the test flights and they blow up.  As noted, better now than with a human cargo.

Frankly, I expected to see more blowups before they got this far.  3 engines means 9 times as many failure paths.

Yeah it's pretty impressive the success rate they've had so far, even though NASA did most of the heavy lifting for the past 40-50 years I still expected much more explosions then that. My first thought when they announced this SpaceX program way back when was

" If I may... Um, I'll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you're using here, it didn't require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn't earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don't take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now ..... you're selling it, you wanna sell it."


Because you can't throw something into orbit. It has to circularize its orbit at its apoapsis.
 
2014-08-23 11:36:22 PM  
Jeb?
 
2014-08-24 12:20:19 AM  

WilderKWight: Well, you folks just keep lining up to go to Mars. Have fun. I'll stay here where things are more Oxygen-ish and less explodey.


Cool, thanks for giving up your spot. *shuffles forward one space*
 
2014-08-24 12:24:27 AM  
auto terminated?
not to be confused with 'blowing up in a million tiny bits'
 
2014-08-24 12:29:14 AM  
The thing that sucks about the timing of this is that it plays into the hands of the congressmen who are trying to slow SpaceX down to protect the traditional space behemoths that operate in their districts. Pick your political slant from these links on the controversy:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/08/12/congress_and_spac e x_red_tape_ties_up_private_space.html

http://m.bizjournals.com/denver/blog/boosters_bits/2014/07/spacex-roc k et-anamolies-should-be-explained-by.html?page=all&r=full

http://www.redstate.com/diary/dukefergus/2014/07/16/congressmen-seek- a nswers-government-made-billionaire/
 
2014-08-24 12:32:37 AM  
Serious question: Test vehicles like this, to they have an explosive charge on board for situations like this, or does it just set the fuel mix to "fark it all, BOOOM MOTHERfarkER" or something.
 
2014-08-24 01:23:34 AM  

BalugaJoe: I hate Jetblue.


Financial reciprocation for amenities such as automatic self-destruction of your flight is entirely at the discretion of JetBlue.
 
2014-08-24 01:58:02 AM  

JesterJoker55: I'm assuming the auto termination is designed so that it wouldn't pop when it's at Apogee and have a larger debris/fallout field?


They blow it up because once you've lost control of a rocket, there's a very good possibility it's going to continue to use the fuel to make a very big explosion someplace on the ground.  Detonate it midair and if you do it early enough, you're in an area you've already cleared. If you have to do it later at least you've burned up the combustibles.

As much as it would hurt to get hit with a piece of metal landing after an aborted launch, it's still much less damaging than a piece of metal that explodes when it lands.  It's the same reason pilots will dump fuel if they have advance notice of a crash landing - they're trying to minimize risk. Naturally, you can't blow up a plane with passengers, but the same principle applies.
 
2014-08-24 02:13:34 AM  

Glockenspiel Hero: JesterJoker55: Space people of Fark, I have a quick question.

I'm assuming the auto termination is designed so that it wouldn't pop when it's at Apogee and have a larger debris/fallout field? If not can someone explain why they'd rather sacrifice the rocket then attempt to launch it into space and fully recover it or salvage what they can at a later date.

It has nowhere near enough fuel to reach orbit- it probably is carrying little more than it needs for the entire flight.  Remember, this is supposed to be landing after being used- the fuel tanks are nearly dry.

As far as blowing it up, as soon as it starts doing something bad it's way better to explode it in flight- the fuel and oxidizer burn up harmlessly and all you have to deal with is parts.  The worst possible thing you can have is to *not* blow it up and then have this happen

And secondly is it possible to alter a flight plan of a rocket once it's been fired or is that pretty much like Wile E. Coyote when he lights the fuse? Because my first thought was "Aim it at water" if it had a malfunction.

You can modify the flight path- the rockets are steerable.  However, you have pretty limited parameters once you start going to change your path.  The first thing you learn in Kerbal Space Program is that plane changes are really expensive in delta-v


Holy shiat that's terrifying.
 
2014-08-24 03:00:02 AM  

Cpl.D: [i.imgur.com image 850x478]


Jesus I need a new computer and video card

//Hell I'd settle for a new power supply so I can at least get off the laptop
 
2014-08-24 03:52:43 AM  

JesterJoker55: Space people of Fark, I have a quick question.

I'm assuming the auto termination is designed so that it wouldn't pop when it's at Apogee and have a larger debris/fallout field? If not can someone explain why they'd rather sacrifice the rocket then attempt to launch it into space and fully recover it or salvage what they can at a later date.

And secondly is it possible to alter a flight plan of a rocket once it's been fired or is that pretty much like Wile E. Coyote when he lights the fuse? Because my first thought was "Aim it at water" if it had a malfunction.

bmwericus: IIRC, there's a scene in "The Right Stuff" with our NASA rockets blowing up on a regular basis - it took a lot of tries before they quit blowing up either on pad or in early launch stages.  The fact that SpaceX is using previously developed technology REDUCES but cannot eliminate all risk, sometimes you just have to make the test flights and they blow up.  As noted, better now than with a human cargo.

Frankly, I expected to see more blowups before they got this far.  3 engines means 9 times as many failure paths.

Yeah it's pretty impressive the success rate they've had so far, even though NASA did most of the heavy lifting for the past 40-50 years I still expected much more explosions then that. My first thought when they announced this SpaceX program way back when was

" If I may... Um, I'll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you're using here, it didn't require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn't earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don't take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now ..... you're selling it, you wanna sell it."


There are charges on most if not all rockets, if something goes wrong which most likely means they go off course they detonate. Better to have all the fuel go off up high and have little bits rain down, rather than a huge out of control missile fly into a town or populated area.
 
2014-08-24 04:48:42 AM  

a particular individual: Oh, my gosh.


He's my gosh too!
 
2014-08-24 06:10:49 AM  

studebaker hoch: Better vid


Cool video, but herein lies my point about media misrepresentation of what happened.  It takes that article until paragraph six before it bothers to mention that it was a self-destruction and not a catastrophic failure.  I think the average reader attention span these days is about three sentences, so that vital fact is missed by a lot of the readers.

/this comment brought to you in three sentences
//not counting slashies
 
2014-08-24 07:34:34 AM  

Lt_Ryan: JesterJoker55: Space people of Fark, I have a quick question.

I'm assuming the auto termination is designed so that it wouldn't pop when it's at Apogee and have a larger debris/fallout field? If not can someone explain why they'd rather sacrifice the rocket then attempt to launch it into space and fully recover it or salvage what they can at a later date.

And secondly is it possible to alter a flight plan of a rocket once it's been fired or is that pretty much like Wile E. Coyote when he lights the fuse? Because my first thought was "Aim it at water" if it had a malfunction.

There are charges on most if not all rockets, if something goes wrong which most ...


Yup.  They were even in the Space Shuttle, because blowing up 7 people was better than having a shiat ton of rocket fuel and rocket come crashing down in one piece, fairly uncontrolled.  If you read the book "Riding Rockets" you find out the astronauts used to harass the shiat out of the Range Safety Officer (the guy who had the job of pushing the big red "blow them all up" button if something went wrong.)
 
2014-08-24 09:44:54 AM  
Could you have any more websites linked to your page, NBC!?

/I hate javascript so much.
 
2014-08-24 10:04:43 AM  
Glockenspiel Hero: ... The worst possible thing you can have is to *not* blow it up and then have this happen...


Holy expletive!
 
2014-08-24 10:06:14 AM  

tinyarena: auto terminated?
not to be confused with 'blowing up in a million tiny bits'


The difference is that that explosion was commanded, the rocket didn't simply blow up.

Lt_Ryan: There are charges on most if not all rockets, if something goes wrong which most likely means they go off course they detonate. Better to have all the fuel go off up high and have little bits rain down, rather than a huge out of control missile fly into a town or populated area.


Yup--look over the video of the Challenger disaster.  The boosters self-destruct.  The range safety guy pushed the button.
 
2014-08-24 11:45:06 AM  
Seems like there'd be a way to separate the fuel tanks from the rest of the rocket (jettisoned out the side), so that you save a good portion of the rocket for later use.  A shame to lose all of the rocket, and much harder to determine the fault from all those tiny bits.
 
2014-08-24 12:03:39 PM  

JesterJoker55: I'm assuming the auto termination is designed so that it wouldn't pop when it's at Apogee and have a larger debris/fallout field? If not can someone explain why they'd rather sacrifice the rocket then attempt to launch it into space and fully recover it or salvage what they can at a later date.


In the manned version of this, I believe there's supposed to be a back-up parachute. I wonder if they had one on this thing?

Not that it mattered. If they had a motor that they literally lost control of (couldn't shut down), they'd have to 'splode it.

They've got a ways to go before they start putting people in it.

But man, once they get it working (and I'm sure they will), this will be incredibly cool.
 
2014-08-24 01:00:22 PM  

indy_kid: Seems like there'd be a way to separate the fuel tanks from the rest of the rocket (jettisoned out the side), so that you save a good portion of the rocket for later use.  A shame to lose all of the rocket, and much harder to determine the fault from all those tiny bits.


These are chemical rockets - do some basic searches - the entire booster section is 90% fuel and oxidizer, the rest of it being pumps, piping, engines and steering, plus a few misc parts.  The tanks are part of the structure of the booster - some rockets cannot even support their weight unless the tank have pressure in them.  You don't pop them out the side like throwing a glowing fuel rod out the window of your car into the storm drain...

In manned space flight with capsules like Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, there's a solid rocket emergency escape system that can take the capsule off the top of the rocket and carry the crew to safety - in theory since it was never fired on a manned flight.
 
2014-08-24 01:43:26 PM  
The Russians had a launch accident with a manned vehicle and did an escape tower rescue.
 
2014-08-24 03:41:33 PM  

bmwericus: In manned space flight with capsules like Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, there's a solid rocket emergency escape system that can take the capsule off the top of the rocket and carry the crew to safety - in theory since it was never fired on a manned flight.


IIRC, Gemini had ejector seats, not a launch escape system, unlike Mercury and Apollo. But otherwise, yes.


studebaker hoch: The Russians had a launch accident with a manned vehicle and did an escape tower rescue.


That would be the attempted launch on September 26, 1983 of Soyuz T-10-1. They had a launch pad fire.
 
2014-08-24 04:06:00 PM  

studebaker hoch: The Russians had a launch accident with a manned vehicle and did an escape tower rescue.


Yes they did, in 1983, and it worked.
 
2014-08-24 04:27:13 PM  

Destructor: JesterJoker55: I'm assuming the auto termination is designed so that it wouldn't pop when it's at Apogee and have a larger debris/fallout field? If not can someone explain why they'd rather sacrifice the rocket then attempt to launch it into space and fully recover it or salvage what they can at a later date.

In the manned version of this, I believe there's supposed to be a back-up parachute. I wonder if they had one on this thing?


The Grasshopper is just the first stage.  No interstage, upper stage or spacecraft.  The only thing that would ever have a backup parachute is the Dragon spacecraft, so no parachutes here.

Not that it mattered. If they had a motor that they literally lost control of (couldn't shut down), they'd have to 'splode it.

Watching the test a few more times, you can see the rocket yaw through about 45 degrees.  I don't know if that was accidental or part of a test to see if the stage can recover from an upset.  If it was uncommanded, then it would appear they shut the engines down per emergency procedures and NOT part of a cutoff-airstart test.  After the cutoff, they blow the fuel and oxidizer tanks to combust the propellants at altitude and safely away from the ground.  The RTS is just linear shaped charges along the tanks to "unzip" them efficiently.

They've got a ways to go before they start putting people in it.

They have just two more tests to satisfy the NASA safety requirements for manned spaceflight.  A pad abort, where Dragon flies off a stationary launch vehicle and lands either under power or under parachutes.  And a flight abort, where Dragon leaves the stack during powered flight at Max Q.  The flight abort test will be a very cool test to watch. It's never been tried before.  I give SpaceX another 2 years tops to complete both of these.  They can do it in less if they want to.

But man, once they get it working (and I'm sure they will), this will be incredibly cool.

The idea behind the recoverable stages is that they can be refueled and reused without refurbishment.  SpaceX wants to recover the stages and fly them multiple times per day, to make space travel work like jet air travel.  The cost of the propellants needed to fully fuel a Falcon 9 are on the order of $300,000.  This to launch a crew of seven into low Earth orbit.  Once they get these ships running all the time, day and night, like jetliners fly today, and the Falcon Heavies flying hardware out of LC-39A, you will see cool that is hard to imagine today.

SpaceX has said all along they are going to Mars.

What they haven't said, and what they have to do for practice first, is go to the Moon.

Once Elon Musk is handing out Moon rocks (and rides) to potential investors, he will have all the money he could ever want to develop his interplanetary ships.  No government funds needed.

Things are going to get cool, indeed.
 
2014-08-24 04:39:22 PM  

studebaker hoch: Things are going to get cool, indeed.


Thanks for setting me straight. Either bad reading comprehension on my part; or the article failed to mention that it was a test of a discrete stage.

At any rate... This thing is just so beautiful for so many reasons: Space, private company, kick-ass technology, good people, massive planetary-sized dreams. There's nothing here not to love. I love basking in the shadow of its reflective awesomeness.

i.imgur.com
 
2014-08-24 04:53:26 PM  

studebaker hoch: Once they get these ships running all the time, day and night, like jetliners fly today, and the Falcon Heavies flying hardware out of LC-39A, you will see cool that is hard to imagine today.


And that day is coming a lot sooner than most people realise.
 
2014-08-24 05:37:45 PM  
Eeps, I typed RTS but meant FTS

Flight
Termination
System
 
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