Tuesday, March 20

Another step toward a new age

Elon Musk's Falcon 1 rocket made a very impressive takeoff today, setting a series of records and making Space Exploration Technologies only the second company ever to send a privately-financed rocket into space (after Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites, which flew SpaceShipOne to 100 km three times in 2004). In the process, it set a variety of records, including the highest flight of a private rocket, at 300 km.
The flight ultimately failed, as the second stage went into an oscillation that caused the engine to shut down prematurely. But Musk is confident that the most important objectives were achieved -- a successful first stage liftoff and flight, second-stage separation, fairing separation, second-stage ignition and initial stable flight.
The live webcast was very impressive, showing the whole flight from an onboard camera -- a trick even NASA only learned to do relatively recently. I hope they post a copy of it on their website ( www.spacex.com )

Monday, March 19

SpaceX will be trying again

After their first launch of the Falcon 1 rocket went awry seconds after liftoff a year ago (March 24), Space Exploration is about to try again. This time, they've even got a live webcast covering the event. (It's at http://spacex.com/webcast.php )
Unfortunately, today's attempt was halted at T minus 1 minute 30 seconds, and it's not clear what the cause was. Such things are normal and expected in the rocket biz, especially with a brand new design. Nothing to worry about. They've scrubbed for today, but they've said they could reschedule for another try tomorrow or the day after.
Kimbal Musk, brother of SpaceX founder and president Elon Musk, keeps a nice firsthand blog on launch events, from right there on Kwajelein Atoll in the Pacific, where these intial tests are being carried out (see it here: http://kwajrockets.blogspot.com/ ). The operational launches will be from spaceports in the US.
Here's a view of the pad, from the live webcast: