• I went to that talk. It was interesting, though I could tell that Mr Musk was not an accomplished public speaker. His achievements speak for themselves, I guess. A question I tried to ask was to discover the reason that he selected a non-aerodynamic approach to a reusable space launcher. Has he found an algorithm that robustly rules out aerodynamic space-plane like vehicles, or is that just his gut feeling. Some people prefer the non-aerodynamic approach, but others don’t.

  • That’s a good question, Ray. My memory of this — and someone please correct me if I’m wrong — is that Musk was hoping to fish the first stage out of the ocean and reuse it. However, on the initial Falcon 9 test flights, the first stage would break up during descent. Didn’t even hit the water in one piece. So, now he’s looking at the propulsion landings of the stages.

    This has made me skeptical of the success because it’s much easier to engineer in re-usability at the beginning than after you’ve built it. Nobody’s ever done something like this before.

    But, I don’t discount it. A lot of critics wrote off Musk after the first three Falcon 1 failures, but he still around and scaring the hell out of every other rocket maker on both sides of the Atlantic.

  • warshawski

    I can remember some comments that the wieght of wings and wheels to give sufficient control and robust landing was more than the fuel fraction required to land propulsivly. Also you do not need wings to do an areodynamic glide, see the SpaceX re-uasbility video.

    Doug, on re-usability Musk designed Falcons 1 and 9 to be re-usable from the start. So re-usability was there from the start, unfortunately as you stated the initial method of parachute landing did not go well so he moved to other methods.