Image of engine test via SpaceX.
Yesterday I was at CalPoly hanging out in the satellite lab, and one of my new NASA friends came in to remind us to watch the launch of the Falcon 1, its third attempt. It was to be livecast so I Twittered it in case it was exciting — it was, but not in the way they intended. It went up and basically blew apart, from what I can gather. Falcon’s SpaceX is going to keep trying, of course, and according to BBC, “Nasa hopes the Falcon 9 can help fill the mission gap that will exist while it develops a successor to the shuttle.” What’s interesting about all this is that Falcon comes from SpaceX, which is privately funded by this guy named Elon Musk. Heard of him? My NASA friend explained that Musk had this little company called PayPal, which he sold to eBay for more cash than you or I can imagine. Yet another insanely rich guy who wants to go to space, furthering my friend pt‘s theory that all the rich white tech dudes what to do is either live forever or go to space, or both. It’s a theory I subscribe to as well. Unfortunately, Star Trek’s Scotty’s (James Doohan) remains were onboard, so he didn’t make it into space for his final flight. Snip from NYT:
A privately funded rocket was lost on its way to space Saturday night, bringing a third failure in a row to an Internet multimillionaire’s effort to create a market for low-cost space-delivery.
The accident occurred a little more than two minutes after launch, and the two-stage Falcon 1 rocket appeared to be oscillating before the live signal from an on-board video camera went dead.
“We are hearing from the launch control center that there has been an anomaly on that vehicle,” said Max Vozoff, a mission manager and launch commentator for Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, on a webcast of the event soon afterward.
Elon Musk, an Internet entrepreneur, founded the company, known as SpaceX, in 2002 after selling his online payment company, PayPal, to eBay for $1.5 billion. The company, based in Hawthorne, Calif., has been hailed as one of the most promising examples of an entrepreneurial “new space” movement, and has 525 employees.
In a statement read by a spokeswoman early Sunday morning during a teleconference with reporters, Mr. Musk said, “It was obviously a big disappointment not to reach orbit” on the flight. He referred to the first stage of the launching as “picture perfect,” but said, “unfortunately, a problem occurred with stage separation, causing the stages to be held together. This is under investigation.”
The rocket was launched from the Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific at 11:34 p.m. Eastern time, after several hours of delays and one aborted launch attempt.
The first Falcon 1 launch, in March 2006, failed about a minute into its ascent because of a fuel line leak. A second rocket, launched in March 2007, made it to space but was lost about five minutes after launching.
On this flight, the Falcon carried three small satellites: one, called Trailblazer, for the Department of Defense, which was built as a kind of quick-turnaround demonstration. The two others were for NASA: PRESat, a small automated laboratory, and NanoSail-D, a test of the concept of using sunlight to push a thin solar sail and provide propulsion without propellant.
The rocket was also carrying the ashes of 208 people who had paid to have their remains shot into space, including the astronaut Gordon Cooper and the actor James Doohan, who played Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, the wily engineer on the original “Star Trek” television series. (…read more.)
And here is the long video of the failed launch, if you want to see it — nothing too dramatic but still: