The Shuttle & SpaceX

The Shuttle is glorious after midnight awaiting a big adventure...

Endeavour STS-118 on Pad39A

A complicated design...

Atlantis Landing

Lifts with a thunderous roar...

Endeavour STS-118 Blastoff

SRB Separation is visible to the naked eye... and the payload joins the ISS...

SRB Separation ISS Floating in Space

As the Shuttle is retiring from operation, SpaceX is gearing up to service the space station and other orbital launch needs:

Falcon 9 Booster

Dragon Crew Capsule Merlin Engine

Here you can see the music video of their first launch to orbit.

More like this

Got to love that friction stir welded tank on spaceX's vehicle.

I'm a nasa guy (see pic in name link). I work on constellation stuff, and it's definitely one of the most interesting places to work. I get to see almost every launch, sure, but it's all the ground processing that's forever stimulating. You're regularly reminded about just how incredibly complicated space travel really is.

On one hand I think that the space shuttle is a truly remarkable vehicle. Groundbreaking and innovative. A remarkable technological and creative achievement.

On the other hand the conceptual mish-mash of concepts, materials and methods reminds me of the saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Just during launch we have reusable solid boosters and liquid fuel engines fed by a disposable tank. The shuttle depends on heat resistant tiles, the fuel tank burns up and the boosters come down on parachutes. It is a montage of every popular launch and recovery method in one flight program. A historical cavalcade of methods in every launch and landing cycle. Is it any wonder it is complicated and expensive?

This, of course, comes in large part because of the way it was designed and financed. It was designed by committees of disparate groups, each with its own contradictory goals and requirements. It was financed by making it seem like all things to all people.

The extreme technical complexity and experimental nature was minimized while the safety, reliability and routine nature of the enterprise were emphasized. The program was sold to users using unrealistically short turn around times, fanciful launch rates and unrealistic estimates of cost.

Given the complexity and conflicting goals that went into the design it is a wonder it flew a as well as it did.