Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Now here's something I can root for!

Now here's something I can root for!  If you know me, then you know I have a profound lack of interest in sports (and therefore an equally profound ignorance of them).  But the excitement that sports fans unembarrassedly display is something I can identify with – it's just that my excitement springs from something other than sports.  In this case, it's today's scheduled launch of SpaceX's “Falcon Heavy”, with Elon Musk's Tesla roadster as the payload.

If you don't know about the Falcon Heavy, here's some background.  Don't miss the animation on that page!  Today's launch will be the Falcon Heavy's maiden flight, and Musk has been careful to set expectations low, saying there was a 50% chance the thing is going to blow up.  Whatever happens today, I'm sure SpaceX will eventually get Falcon Heavy working reliably.  When they do, it will be the world's largest (by payload to orbit) operational rocket.  The qualification is because the Saturn V rocket from the Apollo program was larger, but of course it is no longer operational. 

More than simply being the biggest, it will (like it's smaller brother, the Falcon 9) be reusable.  I'm old enough to remember when NASA told Congress that orbital booster reusability was impossible, and that the closest anyone could ever get to that was the Space Shuttle approach.  For a tiny fraction of the Space Shuttle's development cost, private enterprise has done what NASA said was impossible – and as of today, with almost the same payload capacity that NASA was ever able to achieve.  The launch costs for SpaceX are absolutely dwarfed by NASA's costs – a single Space Shuttle launch (including amortized development costs) cost more than SpaceX has spent for their entire development program and all launches combined.  Yay, capitalism!

I will be watching in a couple hours...

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