TsNIIMash: SpaceX allegedly implements Soviet designs. Why does Ilona Mask have so many enemies
Deputy Director General of the Roskosmos head research institute TsNIImash Alexander Medvedev yesterday during a scientific conference in Moscow made a loud statement . According to him, SpaceX reusable rockets are not based on any fundamentally new technologies, but are based on the developments of Soviet engineers and scientists:
“I can’t restrain myself and not touch a bit. All these rocket-dynamic, parachute schemes, in fact, were born in our country, and then the Americans successfully implemented all this. What Musk realized was many decades ago reviewed and proposed by our Russian scientists, engineers and designers. ”
In the last century, Soviet cosmonautics took leading positions in the world, so there is nothing surprising in the revelation of the head of TsNIImash, rather pride and bitterness is felt. The story is known, how in October 2001 Ilon Musk came to Moscow and tried to buy ballistic missiles, but could not agree on a price.
Ilona Mask's trip to Moscow for rockets is described in detail in Ashley Vance’s biography book “Ilon Mask. Tesla, SpaceX and the road to the future. " In this book, you can find evidence that Ilon Musk could really borrow some ideas from Soviet rocket scientists.
From childhood Ilon Musk was fond of science fiction and space, at school breaks he launched toy rockets. After moving to America, he fell into the era of the “dot-com boom” and earned millions of dollars on the X.com startup, which we know as PayPal (in 2002, eBay bought PayPal for $ 1.5 billion).
The "cosmic" stage in the life of the Mask began at the age of 30, when he was expelled from PayPal. Even before this, at one of the parties for top managers of PayPal in the late 90s - early 2000s, colleagues noticed that Ilon “sits and reads the mysterious“The Soviet rocket science textbook , which is all moldy and looks like it was bought on eBay,” said Kevin Hartz, one of the first investors in PayPal. “He studied the book and openly talked about space flights and the possibility of changing the world.”
Soon, Internet millionaire Musk entered contact with enthusiasts of the Mars Society - a non-profit association dedicated to the exploration and development of the Red Planet. There he immediately began courting James Cameron, who saw him as a potential investor for the film, and the leaders of the Martian society tried to get a large donation. Musk himself groped for contacts and was looking for acquaintances that he would later need for rocket science. He still donated $ 100,000 to the Mars Society and joined the board of directors. Colleagues from PayPal looked at each other with fear and suspected that he was not okay with the psyche. His fixed idea was to send mice to Mars and bring them back (they had to multiply on the way). Friends made fun and gave Ilona a giant head of cheese "Le Broyer",
In 2001, Ilon Mask launched a stormy activity, left the Martian society and founded his own Foundation "Life - to Mars". This organization attracted talent from across the country. For example, there, Ilon Musk met Michael Griffin, who previously worked at NASA and JPL, and at that time was just leaving Orbital Sciences Corp., a manufacturer of satellites and spacecraft, where he was the technical director (in 2005, Michael Griffin headed NASA).
The idea of sending a rocket to Mars was still discussed, only like-minded people this time got the idea to send not rats, but a robotic greenhouse “Martian oasis”: a camera that will land on Mars and grow the first plant on the planet in local regolith. It was supposed to organize direct video broadcasts to Earth and sell kits to schoolchildren with the same plant so that they could grow them on Earth and compare them with the growth of Martian.
According to the plan, it was necessary to buy a rocket, and Ilon Musk was ready to allocate $ 20 million for the project. He gave the task to his colleagues to develop the greenhouse machine - and he went to Russia to buy a converted intercontinental ballistic rocket. At that time, suitable Mask cheap technology existed only in Russia.
Here is how the author describes that trip:
For help, he turned to Jim Cantrell, an unusual person who was engaged in both secret and official activities for the United States and other countries ...
At the end of October 2001, Musk, Cantrell and Adeo Ressi, Mask's classmate, took off for Moscow. Rassi portrayed Mask's bodyguard and tried to determine if his best friend had begun to go crazy. Mask's friends have already tried to intervene - they conducted preventive conversations, trying to dissuade from reckless spending of money, and showed specially prepared compilations of clips with exploding rockets. When these measures did not help, Adeo went along with Mask to Russia, hoping to keep him as soon as possible ...
The Mask team was replenished with Mike Griffin and in four months met three times with the Russians. Among the companies with which they spoke was an NGO. S. A. Lavochkina , manufacturer of probes for Mars and Venus on the request of the Federal Space Agency, and the Kosmotras ICC,launching spacecraft on a commercial basis. All these meetings, obviously, took place according to the same scenario - in accordance with Russian customs. Russians often skipped breakfast and invited them to their office at about eleven for an early lunch. At first, an hour or two went to a small talk for sandwiches, sausage and, of course, vodka. At some point, Griffin began to lose patience. “He can't stand fools,” explained Cantrell. “He starts looking around and wondering when the hell we get down to business.” The answer is: not soon. After dinner, we smoked and drank coffee for a long time. As soon as the table was cleared, the main Russian turned to the Mask and asked: “So what do you want to buy there?” Perhaps the Mask was not irritated by the habit of swinging for a long time, but by the fact that the Russians did not take him seriously. "They looked at us in disbelief, - Cantrell said. “One of their chief designers treated Ilon and me disregardingly, deciding that we hang noodles on his ears.”
The most intense meeting took place in a richly decorated, but dilapidated pre-revolutionary building near the center of Moscow. Vodka flowed, toasts sounded - "For space!" For America! ”- and Musk sat on 20 million and hoped that they would be enough for three ICBMs that could be remade for space flight. Overwhelmed with vodka, Musk asked straightforwardly how much a ballistic missile would cost. The answer was eight million each. Mask made a reply: eight for two. “They sat and looked at him for a while,” recalled Cantrell. - And then they said something like: "Young man, no." In addition, they hinted that he did not have that kind of money. ” By this time, Mask decided that the Russians either did not intend to conduct business with him, or simply wanted to pull out as much as possible from the millionaire who had enriched themselves on the dotcoms. He went out, slamming the door.
The mood of the team Mask was very bad. It was the end of February 2002. They stopped a taxi and drove straight to the airport, through the snow and mud of the Moscow winter. In the taxi no one spoke. Musk came to Russia, full of hopes to impress humanity, and left angry and disappointed in human nature. Only the Russians had missiles that could fit into the Mask budget. "We drove a long time," recalled Cantrell. “We sat silently and watched the Russians go shopping in the snow.” The gloomy mood was maintained all the way to the plane, until a trolley appeared with drinks. "When the chassis comes off the runway in Moscow, it is always especially nice," said Cantrell. - You think: "My God, I survived it"
Then came the key point. Apparently, this flight in an airplane from Russia is the moment of the birth of the SpaceX company:
So, Griffin and I took a drink and clinked glasses. Mask sat in the front row and typed something on the computer. “We thought:“ Damn nerd. What is he doing there? “And then Mask turned around and showed the table he had compiled. “You know what,” he said, “it looks like we can build the rocket ourselves” "...
... "We thought:" Yeah, just take it yourself and build a damn rocket, "- said Cantrell. - But Ilon assured: “No, I'm serious. Here is the table "". Musk handed the laptop to Griffin and Cantrell, and they were amazed. He described in detail the cost of materials needed to build, assemble and launch a rocket. According to Mask's calculations, he could beat the prices of companies involved in launching aircraft. For this, it was necessary to build a medium-sized rocket that would satisfy the needs of those market participants who need to send small satellites and payload for scientific research into space. In addition, the table presented extremely detailed hypothetical performance indicators of this rocket. “I asked:“ Ilon, where did you get this? ”,“ Said Cantrell.
It turns out that before this Ilon Mask read not only Soviet rocket science textbooks. As a child, he could read books 10 hours in a row and read two books a day, including his favorite “The Foundation” Azimov and “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy”, so now he carefully studied the works on the aerospace industry and the physics of space flight. He borrowed the following textbooks from Cantrell and others: Rocket Engines, Fundamentals of Astrodynamics, Aero-Thermodynamics of Gas Turbines and Rocket Engines, and other fundamental works . “Mask returned to his childhood state of a sponge absorbing information and completed this meditative process with the realization that rockets can and should be much cheaper than the Russians offered.”
Suppose that Ilon Mask really remembered the specific technical solutions he had read in Soviet rocket science textbooks and other reference books: he had a phenomenal memory and in his childhood he read several encyclopedias. After applying this knowledge, what actually happened as a result of such “borrowing technologies”, or, rather, borrowing ideas, if any? It turned out a space enterprise of a completely new level , which independently assembles rockets from scratch. Here is what SpaceX assembly production looks like in the city of Los Angeles:
And only when you pass through the front doors of SpaceX, the greatness of what this person has done becomes apparent. Musk really built a space rocket manufacturing plant in downtown Los Angeles. And this plant does not one rocket at a time. Not. A lot of rockets - and from scratch. This is a giant shared sharing area. From the back side there are massive platforms through which metal sections come to two-tier welding machines. On one side are the white-labeled technicians who assemble motherboards, radios and other electronics. Other people work in special pressurized glass chambers, where they produce capsules that the rockets deliver to the space station. Tattooed guys in bandanas listen to Van Halen 4 and pull cables around rocket engines. In the same place - ready corps of rockets, waiting to be loaded onto trucks. More rockets in another part of the building are waiting for them to be painted in white. It is not easy to take a look at the whole plant. Hundreds of people are in constant motion among the various machines of fancy shape.
This is just the case number 1 Country Mask. SpaceX acquired several buildings that were previously part of a Boeing factory that produced fuselages for Boeing 747 aircraft.
SpaceX reconstructed the entire technological cycle: Mask decided not to use components produced by aerospace industry contractors, but to do everything possible, on his own: “Although we rely on the ideas of numerous launch vehicle programs, from Apollo to X- 34 / Fastrac, SpaceX is developing a Falcon rocket from scratch using its own resources, including both engines, a turbo pump, a cryogenic reservoir structure and a guidance device, the official site says. “Developing in-house from scratch increases the complexity of the project and requires more investment, but no other means will give us the opportunity to reduce the cost of access to space.”
The company brought the best American engineers. First of all, this is the legendary Tom Muller. Others came after him: “Chris Thompson, a former sailor who previously led the Delta and Titan missiles production at Boeing, became vice president of operations. Tim Buzz also came from Boeing, where he gained a reputation as one of the best missile testers in the world. Steve Johnson, who had experience in JPL and two commercial aerospace companies, was appointed senior mechanical engineer. Aerospace engineer Hans Königsmann was invited to do onboard electronics, as well as guidance and control systems. ”
The author of the biographical book explains the particular merit of Ilona Mask: he literally brought the aerospace industry to a new level:
Just incomprehensible, but the rest of the industry made the space boring. Russian, dominant in the field of sending goods and people in space, use equipment developed decades ago. In the close capsule of the Soyuz spacecraft, in which the astronauts are sent to the space station, the mechanical switches and computer screens seem to have not changed since the first flight in 1966. Nations that have recently entered the space race reproduce antique Russian and American equipment with discouraging accuracy. When young professionals enter the aerospace industry, the level of equipment makes them either cry or laugh. Nothing kills the pleasure of working on a spacecraft like control in the spirit of washing machines from the 1960s. The existing working environment is as hopelessly outdated as the equipment. Over the years, freshly baked university graduates have been forced to choose between unhurried military contractors and interesting but ineffective startups.
The mask was able to use the negative halo surrounding the aerospace industry, for the benefit of SpaceX. He created a company that has nothing to do with a typical aerospace contractor. SpaceX is a new, fashionable place, which introduced the "bows" of Silicon Valley into the conservative industry.
Now there is no question that SpaceX can borrow something from Russian research institutes. Rather, on the contrary, already the Russian space program has to accept the role of a catch-up. So far, SpaceX and Roskosmos have almost equal parity in the space cargo launch market, but the situation is clearly not in favor of Roscosmos, and the consequences of this can be very serious:
In the space business, you have to play politics, suck up to the right people, and engage in protectionism, and this undermines the very foundations of capitalism. Steve Jobs was confronted with similar factors when he went against the recording industry to bring iPod and iTunes to the market. But the capricious luddites of the music industry are more flowers in comparison with opponents of Mask, whose work is the creation of weapons and entire states. SpaceX is testing reusable rockets that can deliver cargo in space and return to Earth, exactly to the launch pad. If the company manages to improve this technology, a crushing blow will be dealt to its competitors, which will almost certainly throw some of the rocket industry out of business and make the United States the world leader in sending cargo and people into space. This is the threat that, according to Musk, she created many irreconcilable enemies. “The list of people who won't cry for me is growing,” notes Musk. “My family fears that the Russians will physically eliminate me.”
Fifteen years ago, many considered Ilona Mask a dreamer, but now we can see how his plans really come to life. He has invested in SpaceX more than a hundred million of his own funds, and with such investments, other investors will no longer be able to take control of the company from him, as happened with PayPal. This means that SpaceX will not turn into a commercial cargo carrier, but will continue to develop on the basis of its main mission, Mars.
Best comment ( Shua_inc ): Yes, scoundrel and plagiarist, this is your Musk! On Tesla wheel puts round, and does not blush! And if you dig deeper ...