Third Time was Not the Charm

Third Time was Not the Charm

I just watched SpaceX make their third attempt to put a payload into orbit on their Falcon 1 lift vehicle. This is the one that was carrying (among other items) some of James Doohan’s ashes. The initial attempt at liftoff was aborted when one of the launch parameters went outside its limits after the main engine started, but before the rocket lifted off. About thirty minutes later the rocket launched.

It cleared the pad, transitioned through Mach 1, passed through Max-Q – the point of highest aerodynamic loading – and at just about the instant it switched to internal inertial guidance, the video signal from the rocket was lost.

SpaceX announced that there had been “an anomaly.”

Usually this means “flaming chunks of debris falling back to Earth.”

Damn. Sorry, Scotty.

Better luck next time, guys. NASA didn’t have much of a record at first either.

UPDATE: NASAWatch has a message from Elon Musk:

From: Elon Musk
Sent: Saturday, August 02, 2008 9:45 PM
To: Space Exploration Technologies
Subject: Plan Going Forward

It was obviously a big disappointment not to reach orbit on this flight. On the plus side, the flight of our first stage, with the new Merlin 1C engine that will be used in Falcon 9, was picture perfect. Unfortunately, a problem occurred with stage separation, causing the stages to be held together. This is under investigation and I will send out a note as soon as we understand exactly what happened.

The most important message I’d like to send right now is that SpaceX will not skip a beat in execution going forward. We have flight four of Falcon 1 almost ready for flight and flight five right behind that. I have also given the go ahead to begin fabrication of flight six. Falcon 9 development will also continue unabated, taking into account the lessons learned with Falcon 1. We have made great progress this past week with the successful nine engine firing.

As a precautionary measure to guard against the possibility of flight 3 not reaching orbit, SpaceX recently accepted a significant investment. Combined with our existing cash reserves, that ensures we will have more than sufficient funding on hand to continue launching Falcon 1 and develop Falcon 9 and Dragon. There should be absolutely zero question that SpaceX will prevail in reaching orbit and demonstrating reliable space transport. For my part, I will never give up and I mean never.

Thanks for your hard work and now on to flight four.


There’s video of the launch there, too.

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