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SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launched late Friday afternoon, bearing much of the hopes of the fledgling commercial space industry with it.  (Source: SpaceX)

The launch was picture perfect, with a dummy payload delivered in orbit, as planned.  (Source: SpaceX)

The Falcon 9 will propel both cargo loads and human crews aboard SpaceX's Dragon capsule to the International Space Station.  (Source: SpaceX)

Beleagured by Republican critics who want to keep the space industry nationalized and a messy divorce, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wearily commented, "There’s more weight on our shoulders... I wish there weren’t."  (Source: Wired)
Republicans are criticizing the effort, cry for socialized space industry

At around 2:35 p.m. on Friday, nine engines fired, propelling the 154-ft. SpaceX Falcon 9 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida into a fiery sprint through the Earth's atmosphere.  Minutes later, the first stage fell off, dropping into the Atlantic Ocean, while a second stage fired, delivering a dummy payload into orbit 155 miles above Earth.  For SpaceX, the mission was picture perfect -- a happy ending to years of struggles.

SpaceX was founded in 2002 by tech-pioneer Elon Musk who serves as the company's CEO and CTO.  Musk, also CEO of Tesla Motors, sunk $100M USD of his own PayPal fortune into the company.

The company first saw success in September 2008 with the launch of its Falcon 1 rocket powered by its Merlin (first stage) and Kestrel (second stage) engines.  On July 14, 2009, a Falcon 1 rocket delivered its first commercial payload -- the Malaysian RazakSAT satellite.  Those successes came after a fair share of failures -- the first three launches of the Falcon 1 proved unsuccessful.

Today, SpaceX is offering Falcon 1 launches for $8.9M USD, with slight discounts for mass contracts.  The Falcon 9, launched Friday, is the next stage in its bid for commercial space dominance.  

The Falcon 9 is designed to carry much higher payloads.  Where as the Falcon 1 can deliver 670 kg to low earth orbit (LEO), the Falcon 9 "heavy" variant can deliver 29 tons of cargo to low Earth orbit.

The first stage of the Falcon 9 is powered by 9 first stage Merlin 1C rockets which burn liquid oxygen (LOX) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellants.  Those rockets are fired by dual redundant pyrophoric triethylaluminum-triethylborane (TEA-TEB) igniters.  The first stage can produce 4.94 MN of thrust and 304 sec (3.0 kN/kg) of specific impulse in vacuum.  

A carbon fiber aluminum core composite structure joins the first and second stages.  The design is made more affordable as the engine used in the second stage engine is identical to those found in the first, albeit with a smaller fuel tank and only a single engine.  The second stage engine has a burn time of 345 s.

At a press conference, CEO Musk commented, "I hope people don’t put too much emphasis on our success because it’s simply not correct to have the fate of commercial launch depend on what happens in the next few days. But it certainly does add to the pressure. There’s more weight on our shoulders because of that. I wish there weren’t."

The issue of the commercialization of the space industry has created an unusual role reversal for the Democrats and Republicans in Washington D.C.  President Obama, amid criticism about "nationalizing" the automobile industry is charging ahead with plans
to privatize the space industry, a move long championed by the U.S. Armed Forces.  Under his leadership, NASA has pledged $3.5B USD in contracts to SpaceX and Orbital Transportation Services, a rival firm.

Republicans are decrying the denationalization effort and the delays that have ensued.  Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, commented after the Friday launch, "Make no mistake even this modest success is more than a year behind schedule, and the project deadlines of other private space companies continue to slip as well."

SpaceX is deaf to the criticism, though, and is turning its focus to continued commercialization of the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 platforms.  It is also hard at work developing its Dragon capsule, a manned vessel that can seat up to 7.  The capsule is expected to launch in a test flight aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, sometime this year or next.  The craft utilizes PICA-X, a proprietary variant of NASA's phenolic impregnated carbon ablator material.

Designs from SpaceX's and Orbital, under Obama's plan will service the International Space Station and replace NASA's aging Shuttle fleet, which is in the process of being retired.



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By Reclaimer77 on 6/7/2010 8:12:45 PM , Rating: 2
Umm Bush lost Congress in 2006 when the Democrats gained a majority. Compare Government spending and debt between 2001-2006 against 2006-2010, then come back and tell me who is responsible for this mess.

Not to mention the plan for "fixing" Bush's "mess" is to continue borrowing money, exponentially increasing our debt, and more Government spending. Hello?


By retrospooty on 6/7/2010 8:25:23 PM , Rating: 2
Dont think that I agree with Obama's overspending, I dont. I would personally like to see a far more fiscally conservative approach. But lets not act like Obama broke us, nor did the slight majority the dems had when they took office in early 2007. Bush and the rep congress from 2000 to 2006 screwed us up BADLY, which is WHY the dems have such a majority now, dont forget that.

You want to talk comparisons? Take the even Budget that Clinton left him with after inheriting Reagan and Bush 1's record deficits. At least Obama has a reason of trying to spend his way out of a massive recession and housing market collapse (also happened on Bush's watch).


By Reclaimer77 on 6/7/2010 9:45:08 PM , Rating: 2
Oh please, they mythical "balanced" Clinton budget.

Clinton benefited from a massive reduced military budget due to the cold war ending and sustained peace. Something he had NOTHING to do with. Secondly, we saw massive tax revenue due to the Internet boom bubble. Again, right place right time.

And what did he manage to do with all this Government revenue? He spent it all and called it "balanced".

quote:
But lets not act like Obama broke us


Ummm sorry, but let's. Bush left office with a 700+ billion dollar deficit, not great but totally manageable. That's a fact. What are we up to now? 3-4 trillion? And where will we be when Health Care Reform rolls into town?

"Blame Bush" is getting old man. Wake up.


By retrospooty on 6/7/2010 10:13:19 PM , Rating: 2
""Blame Bush" is getting old man. Wake up."

Easy cop out for a Bush supporter.

No, sorry, he doesn't get a pass on this, he was in charge for a full 8 freegin years that led up to this ole we are in, no pass, sorry... The current overspending sucks, but the deficit is largely due to the economy and the reverse of what you alluded to in hte Clinton years, its called massive recession and massively decreased revenue.

Why is it when it benefits your right slanted argument, you understand booming economy and its increased revenue, but when it goes against your argument, you dont understand that massive recesssion = massively decreased revenue??? Oh, thats right, your full of it, thats how.


By Reclaimer77 on 6/7/2010 10:32:36 PM , Rating: 2
And massive spending = massive debt. You can't put our entire situation on Bush's shoulders no matter how much you try. You say you aren't for what's happening, but then keep bringing up Bush. Why? Because you're a liar, that's why.

Every single move Obama has made has done nothing but make the recession worst, and you're still harping on Bush. Even if you believe Bush was personally 100% responsible for the recession, it doesn't change the fact that your guy hasn't done a single thing to fix it. He's just exploited it, making it worst, to ram home his leftist agenda.

quote:
The current overspending sucks, but the deficit is largely due to the economy


Are you an idiot? The Government takes money FROM The economy. How is this level of spending "due to the economy" ? You people who actually think we can spend our way "out" of a recession are completely loony. It doesn't work that way and never has!


By retrospooty on 6/7/2010 10:47:19 PM , Rating: 2
"You people who actually think we can spend our way "out" of a recession are completely loony"

I dont personally think that, although alot of top economists that have spent their entire lives dealing with high finance do. Even Bush and his financial advisors started the first stimulus to do exactly that. Like I said , I dont agree.

If you want to say that Obama is going to make matters worse with his overspending, that is a valid argument, you may well be right. If you say that you don't like where he is taking us, that too is a valid argument... All I am saying is that you cannot blame him for where we are now. The economy was in a tailspin in January 2009 when Obama took office. Bush and the reps got us here.

We went the republican direction for 8 years, most of which they had total control of congress and look what it got us. It got us into the worst economic disaster since the great depression. There is nothing you can say to make that fact disappear.

Blaming Obama for overspending now doesnt change that, neither does changing the subject. You can’t just say “stop blaming Bush”… He and the reps got us here, and time passing doesn’t change facts or history. As a matter of fact, if you want to take it back another step lets talk about the fact that When Obama took office, the reps had the white house for 20 of the previous 28 years and had the congress for 12 of the previous 14. We can’t act like we aren’t dealing with their policies when they have had the majority of power for the past few decades. You just can’t blame all of this on the left, the argument just cant be made.


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