SpaceX/NASA Falcon 9/Dragon press conference

Press conference notes /– Lindenmoyer – had prepared speech about overcoming problems but don’t have to give that for any problems. – Gives a hearty congratulations to SpaceX

/– Elon – so much that can go wrong with both a complicated rocket and complicated spacecraft but everything went right. – In shock that it went so well. – Testament to SpaceX workers. – Big thanks to the NASA team that worked with SpaceX. – Would not be here without the help of NASA. – Building on decades of knowledge. – Here because we stand on the shoulders of giants – Great example of public-private partnership. – Restarts of second stage worked very well – Heading for apogee of 11,000 km. – If there had been passengers in the Dragon they would have had a very nice ride. – Just need launch escape system and some upgrades to life support system. – Aiming for a propulsive LES with precise landing on ground. (Parachute backup) – So will continue to push tech envelope. Reusablilty of boosters also a priority. – Thermal shield worked very well. Is capable of handling lunar & Mars return trajectory.

Gwynne Shotwell reviews the flight – Maintained good link with NASA TDRSS for communications. – Met mission goals very closely – Thanks 1200 members of SpaceX – Shows pictures of the cracks on the nozzle – No corners were cut. – Found root cause and will fix it. – An image sent to Gwynne’s cell phone [Image credit : Michael Altenhofen/SpaceX]:

Q&A: Elon – if this doesn’t overcome detractors of SpaceX, doesn’t know what will. – Discusses cost reduction using vertically integrated company. – Can’t reduce cost of legacy approaches by using legacy hardware – Redundant RCS worked well – Feel very confident about doing proximity operations to ISS. – Optimistic that they can convince NASA to allow a ISS docking in next flight. – Looking at middle of next year for next flight. – Relatively small difference between this mission and a mission to the ISS

– Didn’t recover the first stage. But did get a lot more data this time. – Added a “black box” this time to help learn where improvements are needed to make recovery possible. – Getting incrementally closer to recovery. – Not a priority for this mission. A “nice to have” but gradually getting there. – Feel confident that within 2 to 3 years they will recover a stage that is in shape to re-fly. – A holy grail to re-fly a liquid fueled stage. – A reusable booster is the key invention to making spaceflight practical.

– Failure of umbilical check valve probably led to the brief fire on the liftoff – Believes that SpaceX would offer the fastest route to crew capability for NASA’s access to LEO – Competition is good. Shouldn’t be dependent on one company. – Expect 2 to 3 commercial launch providers.

Lindenmoyer asked about combining COTS 2 and 3. – Will consider the proposal. – The COTS plan was for incremental development but will definitely look seriously at this proposal.

– Elon asked about fate of this Dragon, e.g. Smithsonian? – hadn’t thought about it much. – The capsule will be studied closely. – See places where margins are excessive and can trim back. – Would definitely be great to see it in Air & Space.

– Asked about fast response to nozzle problem. – Elon – know the engine so well, have great confidence about decisions and actions – An excess of caution led to doing the trim. – Their best technician/machinist, who absolutely hates to fly, nevertheless got on a plane and came to do the fix. – Just knew that it would be OK.

– Could do COTS 2, 3 and CRS 1 all in 2011 but tough. – HTV and ATV went to station on their first flights – Not the end of the world to do COTS 2 but Elon clearly thinks its unneeded

– The public/private partnership model works very well. – Similar to US airmail initiative in early aviation that greatly benefited both aviation technology and the industry. – Shotwell – Commercial launch services is beyond the “if possible stage”.

– Looking at routinely launching microsats with the second stage after the Dragon has been released. – Probably not lucrative but could boost space industry, education, etc.

– SpaceX really aimed at furthering the course of space development. – Make happen the sci-fi visions of space that people have talked about for so long. – Need to make more money than the costs but otherwise have a lot of leeway.

– Doesn’t understand why Orion costs so much. – Dragon actually has greater or at least equal capabilities as Orion – Would like for NASA to consider Dragon for any mission that they are considering Orion for.

Lindenmoyer: acknowledges NASA team working on the COTS/CCDev program. – acknowledges partnership with FAA – Been a fascinating week. – Attended all the technical meetings with SpaceX. – His team shot a constant stream of technical questions and always got a good response. – NASA can learn from SpaceX. – Congratulations to SpaceX.


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