The Rise of SpaceX Elon Musk’s Engineering Masterpiece
We want the exciting things that we see in Sci-Fi, in like Sci-Fi movies and books, we want that to come true one day… T minus three, two, one, zero… Ignition! In fact I think hardly anyone in the public knows that this is happening.
Like how do we get this message across: “Hey, really cool stuff’s happening, you know, tune in!” Spacex is like no other rocket company. They’re in an unglamorous building in the middle of nowhere, in kind of a industrial zone, But when you walk into the doors and all of a sudden you see they’re making these pristine gorgeous rockets, it feels like you’ve walked into a factory on another planet.
No one has ever really contemplated this in a serious way. In the beginning we thought “This is so crazy, what are we doing trying to come up with something like this?” And then over time like “Yeah, it can definitely be done!” and now we’re just kind of arguing over the details.
I went to Russia to look at buying a refurbished ICBM, which is a very trippy experience it was very bizarre… And when I tell people that they’re like: “What?” Musk made three trips to Russia trying to buy an intercontinental ballistic missile called the Dnepr.
Turns out the Dnepr was so expensive his idea never flew, So Musk decided that the only way to get an affordable rocket was to build it himself, And he started SpaceX. The odds of me coming into the rocket business, not knowing anything about rockets, not having ever built anything, I mean I would have to be insane if I thought the odds were in my favor.
– How did you get the expertise to be the chief technology officer of a rocket ship company? – Uhm, well I do have a physics background, that’s helpful as a foundation, uhm, and then I read a lot of books and talked to a lot of, a lot of smart people.
.. – You’re self-taught? – Yeah. – Well, self-taught, yes, meaning um I didn’t, I don’t have an aerospace degree. – So how did you go about acquiring the knowledge? – Well uh, I read a lot of books, talked to a lot of people and had a great team.
Raw metal comes in and then we build the engines, uh the airframe the electronics, and we integrate all of that together and that’s all done more or less under one roof. – Metal comes in one end of this factory, – Yeah – Spaceships come out the other.
– Yes! – You know, there are american heroes who don’t like this idea. Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan have both testified against commercial space flight in the way that you’re developing it, and I wonder what you think of that? Now is the time to overrule this administration’s pledge to mediocrity.
– I was very sad to see that, uhm because those guys are, yeah, you know, those guys are heroes of mine, so it’s really tough. – They inspired you to do this, didn’t they? – Yes – and to see them casting stones in your direction – It’s difficult.
.. – But you know like, creating a company is almost like having a child, so it’s sort of like, how do you say your child should not have food? – So one once you have the company you have to feed it and announce it – Yeah.
and take care of it even if it it ruins you… – Yeah. In 2008 the rocket company is not going well, you’ve had three failures: – Right! – The car company is hemorrhaging money… – Yeah! – ..
. and the american economy has tanked in the worst recession since the great depression. – Right! – What was that year like for you? – And I’m getting divorced by the way, to add to that…. Uh, that was definitely the worst year of my life But at the age of 37 he hit rock bottom.
His first rockets failed to reach orbit, (…) End of 2008: how did you get through that period of crisis? – Yeah… – Can we just break for a second? – I remember waking up the Sunday, uh, before Christmas, in 2008 and thinking to myself that I never thought I was someone who could ever be capable of nervous breakdown uhm .
.. But I I felt this was the closest I’ve ever come. Because it seemed pretty, pretty dark. We were running on fumes at that point, we had virtually no money. – So a fourth failure… – A fourth failure would have been absolutely game over.
.. – Done! – Done! – SpaceX bankrupt, … – Yeah it’s bad enough to have three strikes, having four strikes it’s really “kaput”! Flight four was flawless, in Musk’s world it lit the darkness.
(stage separation) The separation confirmed. NASA called and told us that we’d won a one and a half billion dollar contract and I couldn’t even hold the phone it’s like I just look I just blurted out: “I love you guys!” – They saved you! – Yeah, they did.
Only four entities have launched a space capsule into orbit and successfully brought it back: the United States, Russia, China and Elon Musk. But when critics say you can’t do this, your answer to them is:.
.. – We’ve done it! But the big prize is winning the NASA contract to build America’s next manned spacecraft and Elon Musk is facing stiff competition. SpaceX is also testing a rocket that can be reused, softly landing on a column of flame.
Another step on a longer journey. Just a very tough, uh, engineering problem. In the last 12 months or so I’ve come to the conclusion that it can be solved, um , and and I think SpaceX is going to try to do it.
Falcon 9 is essentially standing on the shoulders of titans, as they like to say in literature. We’ve built upon a lot of those lessons, the things that NASA has learned… We’ve taken that, but used kind of a clean sheet of paper that says: “How can you build a rocket knowing that we want to do things that have not been done before?” After years of designing and testing the Falcon 9, in 2015, SpaceX set out to make history by attempting the first ever landing of a first stage orbital rocket.
I’ve heard it described as you’re standing on the top of the Empire State building and you drop a pencil off and you have to land the pencil on its eraser on a postage stamp. Okay, this is bad! This is bad! – It’s standing up! – It’s standing up! Look at this! Look, it’s just sitting there! Look at that! – What? Holy smokes, man! Wow, this thing actually landed intact! Amazing! That was crazy! Heavy lift capability is the critical technology needed to enable human missions to Mars and a reusable heavy lift vehicle is the critical technology needed to settle Mars.
In the need for an urgent abort operator shall call “Hold! Hold! Hold!” on the primary countdown net. Come back secure for T zero 88.3 degrees . Reminder: side booster engine startup is at T-minus seven seconds.
.. SpaceX: Falcon Heavy, go for launch! Three, two, one! Side boosters: MEKO Successful separation! Jesus Christ! Yes, lighten, lighten! Before SpaceX can launch crew, two major milestones must be completed without crew.
The first is the “Demonstration 1” mission or Demo 1, in which SpaceX must autonomously fly their crew dragon capsule to the International Space Station and back. The second test is called the launch escape test, also known as the “in-flight abort test”.
If the rocket fails, the dragon capsule’s emergency abort system is triggered ejecting the capsule safely away from the rocket. Then there is the third and final test called the “Demonstration 2” mission or “Demo 2”, which will launch NASA astronauts Bob and Doug to the Space Station.
“Demonstration 1” mission, or the “Demo 1” mission is an uncrewed flight, we’re sending the Dragon autonomously to space station to dock and come home. Today’s launch marks the beginning of the crew Dragon Demo 1 mission.
This is one of SpaceX’s most challenging milestones yet: A five-day uncrewed journey to the International Space Station and back. Three, two, one, zero! Ignition, lift-off! You know, you’re basically putting enough energy into the spacecraft such like the equivalent of a meteor! It’s just like it’s difficult for people to even comprehend.
the first one is going to be the main engine cut off or MICO, that’s when the nine Merlin 1D engines that you can see on your screen right now, uh, will cut off, shortly before a stage separation.
For the first stage, it starts its engines back up, it flips itself around and the whole first stage is re-entering the earth’s atmosphere and slowly making its way back down for a landing on a drone ship that is out in the Atlantic ocean.
Landing lakes have deployed… and Falcon 9 has landed! After the first stage separation is complete, the Crew Dragon capsule is propelled into orbit by the second stage. The second stage is lighting up its engine and it’s taking the Dragon spacecraft into orbit.
Once the second stage successfully gets Dragon into the orbit that it is intended to go, it separates Dragon and moves away. This is a pivotal moment, the separation of the second stage from the Dragon capsule is the final step of the launch sequence.
Dragon: separation confirmed! It’s amazing! This is a game changer! The launch vehicle places it in orbit, that’s low earth orbit, it’s actually fairly below and behind the International Space Station and it’ll perform a number of burns or maneuvers where it’ll catch up to the space station, it’s got to match that speed, and eventually when it catches up to it, it’s got to slow down.
Now if it goes too fast, it’s going to go past the speeder, if it doesn’t go fast enough it’ll eventually not be able to catch that speeder. So it’s the same sort of process, this is a fairly critical operation because this is the first time this vehicle has ever flown and we want to make sure it does not collide with the space station.
Ultimately the vehicle is fundamentally flying itself, but we also have ground control, who’s monitoring it and sending up a certain amount of commands. There’s also a certain amount of access, that people on the space station they can see what’s happening on Dragon and are in contact with the ground control at the same time.
The Crew Dragon Spacecraft uses an automated system that is able to sense the position of the space station relative to the capsule, and is able to guide the capsule into dockless station. Orientation as expected, vehicles in the corridor, performing review.
We stop within about 20 meters of the docking port that’s on the International Space Station. ‘Hold command’ sent! Happy home! Dragon hold confirm! And then the engineers at both NASA and SpaceX review the data from the spacecraft.
They talk, they make sure that everything is going according to plan and they’re both happy. This is the first time that a commercial vehicle will dock to the Space Station, it’s also the first use of the international docking adapter, which is the port on Space Station where commercial vehicles are going to come up and dock.
And so we’ll see both sides get used for the first time. – Please command the docking lights are on! – Copy commanding, docking light on! Then Dragon is allowed at that point to autonomously move forward with the approach and docking to the space station.
Dragon is resuming approach. Mission copy! The Crew Dragon spacecraft uses its 16 Draco thrusters to maneuver into contact with the space station docking adapter. You’ve got a dock with the space station and if something goes wrong you’re just in the void of space, and you’re in a vacuum with nothing.
.. We’ve got the spacesuits, we’ve got a lot of backup systems, but it’s still… It’s a dicey situation… – Range is decreasing, vehicle is centered. – Copy! The capsule inches in towards the station.
– Vehicle’s in the corridor, orientation as expected. – Copy! Crew Dragon has a variety of safeties in place so that should anything go off nominal the capsule will automatically retreat and keep the station safe.
All video and overlays, uh, look nominal, all status fields are showing expected status. The station crew is ready for docking! This is the first time that a commercial vehicle has autonomously docked to the space station Vehicle mode is approached to docking port.
Primary range is decreasing…. Vehicle is centered! Soft capture confirmed! Watching Demo 1 vehicle docked with the space station was amazing, it was kind of terrifying and it should be, this is the first time you do something, you should be pretty worried about how it’s going to go, and it was amazing! Proceeding to open hatch! On behalf of Ripley, little earth, myself and our crew: “Welcome to the Crew Dragon!” Welcome to the new era in space life! Dragon’s stayed docked with the space station for five days.
It takes about six hours for Dragon once it leaves the space station to come home and splash down into the Atlantic Ocean. The 16 Draco thrusters are responsible for orienting the vehicle in the correct direction, they fire to slow the vehicle down to the point that it will come out of orbit and begin to re-enter the atmosphere.
Re-entry is one of the most dangerous points in the mission, there is no way to stop re-entry once it starts. Traveling at about 17 000 miles per hour, when Dragon hits the atmosphere, its heat shield will be put to the test as the vehicle is enveloped in a giant hypersonic fireball.
The atmosphere does the majority of the work to slow the vehicle down to a few hundred miles per hour. Now that the heat shield has passed its test and Dragon has safely slowed to below the speed of sound, it’s ready to deploy its parachutes, which is the final step of re-entry.
Key NASA and SpaceX officials have gathered in firing room four, also known as launch control, at the Kennedy Space Center. They will oversee today’s critical in-flight abort test. If this test fails, the Crew Dragon program will suffer a major design setback.
Now as a reminder, the ground is not commanding this abort it’s up to the onboard computers to determine when to trigger the launch escape and do all the functions afterward. Once Dragon does trigger the launch escape, the first event will be commanding Falcon 9 to shut down its nine Merlin engines.
Now as Marie and I mentioned earlier, Dragon will then separate from the Falcon using its eight super Draco engines firing for about eight seconds, that carries Dragon capsule with the trunk up and away from Falcon.
Now once they finish firing the Super Dracos we coast, we jettison the trunk at apogee, we reorient the capsule to come back for entry into the earth’s atmosphere, we deploy about two minutes after apogee the drogue chutes and about a minute after that the four main parachutes will be released.
Dragon will then splash down softly into the Atlantic Ocean, about 35 kilometers offshore. Parachutes are way hotter than they look, if you go back and look at the Apollo program they had people quitting over how hard the parachutes were.
Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two one! – Green lights, green lights, green lights! We almost had people quit at SpaceX over how hard the parachutes were. Touchdown! Take a quick look now at Crew Dragon, it stands almost 27 feet tall from the bottom of the trunk to the top of the nose cone, and Crew Dragon is composed of two main elements: the capsule, that top portion is designed to hold crew and pressurized cargo and it has an unpressurized section known as the trunk, that’s down below.
For today’s test much of the exciting work is going to be done by the Dragons eight Super Draco engines we talked about built directly into the capsule. Falcon 9 is in startup, Dragon is in countdown! FTS is armed, go for launch! Three, two, one, zero.
Ignition: Lift off! When you watch a launch abort test you’re wondering has everything been done to get this vehicle ready for an end-to-end test in one of the most stressful and dynamic scenarios you can imagine for spaceflight? Approximately 10 seconds after the abort was triggered by ground control, the Crew Dragon capsule jettisoned away.
The force of the ejection made the rocket unstable and it exploded, but the Dragon capsule was already safely a mile away. Our parachutes are triggered and deployed when the capsule reaches the correct altitude, and so at high altitude it will deploy the drogue parachutes, and when it reaches a lower altitude the main parachutes will deploy.
Splash down! You know, the system is more than just the spacecraft, it’s the it’s the people behind it that are operating it across teams. But for all the triumphs and all the successes and all the attention that a company like SpaceX gets, they have not flown humans before, that’s a huge responsibility.
I mean NASA’s astronauts are their pride and joy, they’re national heroes, and their lives are being entrusted with these companies, so we’re going to see if they can pass that test.
We’re turning every stone over three times, or four times, just to get that probability of success as close to 100% as possible. And they’re just turning the corner, getting inside that elevator, you can’t see it from here but there is a banner hanging there, you can kind of see it in the back, there’s a banner hanging on the wall of the elevator with the signatures of all the people who worked on this mission, so it was really important for them to hang that up in there so Bob and Doug could see it.
Good morning! Welcome aboard Dragon SpaceX Comtrack ground station. Bob, Doug, on behalf of the entire SpaceX team it’s been a huge honour to help you get ready for today’s historic mission.
Know that we’re with you, have an amazing flight, and enjoy those views of our beautiful planet. – Dragon, SpaceX, seats are in the launch position. – We copy! Four, three, two, one, zero: ignition! Liftoff! There’s the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon! Go NASA, go SpaceX! Godspeed Bob and Doug! On behalf of the entire launch team, thanks for flying the Falcon 9 today! We hope you enjoyed the ride and wish you a great mission! – MD Houston Flight: Houston is go for undocking departure.
– Dragon is committed to undock! – SpaceX Dragon on Dragon to ground, we are ready for the systems brief. – Copy! As stated, Dragon’s in a healthy state we are proceeding toward the primary landing site and your timeline is current.
Visual: two drogues out! Two hundred meters! We have brakes for splashdown! – Copy! Brakes for splashdown! On the behalf of the SpaceX and NASA teams Welcome back to planet Earth! and thanks for flying SpaceX(Crew Dragon) I think, I think ,like my entire adrenaline it was just just dumped, you know! It’s like: “Thank God!”, you know? It’s a humbling experience to be a part of what was accomplished.
And this is the result of an incredible, incredible amount of work, uh, from people at SpaceX, people at NASA. This has been 18 years to to finally fly people to orbit and back, you know I think this is something that the whole world can take, uh, some, some, pleasure in and and can really look at this as an achievement of humanity, uhm, and this you know these are these difficult times when, you know, there’s not that much good news, and and I think this is one of those, is one of those those things that is universally good no matter where you are on planet Earth, this is a good thing! And I hope it brightens your day! Thank you!