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Space Science

SpaceX Launch Fails To Reach Space 263

azuredrake and many other readers have written to tell us: "The New York Times reports that the third SpaceX launch has failed following the second-stage ignition of the Falcon 1 rocket. The SpaceX launch had three satellites on board, all of which were presumably destroyed in the incident. This marks the third failed launch for SpaceX — twice they failed to reach orbit, and once the Falcon 1 rocket was lost five minutes after launch. While the company vows to carry on, this certainly raises some questions about the likelihood of successful privatization of the Space industry." Reader Nano2Sol points out a video of the launch from a camera on Falcon 1, and notes a small oscillation just prior to the footage being cut off. Spaceflight Now ran a mission update blog leading up to the failure, and they also have more coverage on the loss of the rocket.
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SpaceX Launch Fails To Reach Space

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  • Scotty's final trip (Score:5, Informative)

    by dstates ( 629350 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @09:14AM (#24455509) Homepage
    The New York Time reports that 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.
  • by dstates ( 629350 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @09:21AM (#24455543) Homepage
    Actually, the private space industry is as active today as it has ever been despite decades of failed companies. But the Wall Street Journal reports that SpaceX has received several hundred million dollars of taxpayer investment [] that is now being reconsidered. Military planners had anticipated using the company's Falcon family of launchers to boost smaller, less-expensive satellites. NASA has a partnership with SpaceX to develop a rocket to resupply the International Space Station.
  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz ( 883997 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @09:23AM (#24455551)

    "While the company vows to carry on, this certainly raises some questions about the likelihood of successful privatization of the Space industry."



    If Fiat fails, will we call into question the entire automobile industry? There are many companies working on private space flight. Elon Musk's company is only one of them. And given that Musk seems to be VERY well capitalized, I don't see them taking their ball and going home any time soon. Burt Rutan had a pretty spectacular explosion in their engine development process last year that resulted in a few fatalities, but I don't expect them to roll over and play dead either. I'm sure there will be even more failures peppering the process as time goes on...just like in every other industry.

    Too bad about the lost satellites.


  • by BoldlyGo ( 1288070 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @09:37AM (#24455617)

    Musk and his employees have 50 years of other peoples failure to draw on

    Because we all know how willing the government is to share technological information.

    They also don't have near the financing or manpower.

  • by CraftyJack ( 1031736 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @09:40AM (#24455639)

    given that Musk seems to be VERY well capitalized, I don't see them taking their ball and going home any time soon.

    Elon musk had previously said that they would pack it in if they had three launch failures. He now says that "I consider DemoFlight 2 to be enough of a success, given that it provides us the data to go operational, to put my "three strikes" rule to bed. I'm in this to make SpaceX the world's leading launch provider and then some."
    So while they aren't giving up, it isn't inconceivable that they would.

  • by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @10:18AM (#24455821)
    Quite a lot of rockets blew up in the early years of NASA, even rockets carrying humans

    Only one NASA rocket carrying humans ever blew up, and that was in 1986, killing seven. They lost three to a fire on the pad in 1967, and in 2003 seven more were lost when their vehicle broke apart on re-entry.

    The Soviets have had rockets explode on the pad killing many ground crew, but they've only ever lost four cosmonauts - IIRC, all to re-entry problems.

  • Re:RocketCam cutoff? (Score:2, Informative)

    by rocketman768 ( 838734 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @10:28AM (#24455877) Homepage
    I have no clue. Other than the slight roll oscillation someone else pointed out, I can't figure out what might have caused them to pull the video feed. I mean, the video cuts out at T+00:02:11 when just about nothing is supposed to be happening. Here is the timeline from the press kit available on

    T+00:01:09 - Max Q
    T+00:02:20 - Switch to inertial guidance
    T+00:02:38 - MECO

    So, nothing interesting is going on at the time the video feed is cut, and stage separation doesn't even occur until T+00:02:39 which is about 28 seconds after the feed was cut.
  • by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @10:57AM (#24456101)

    There was one failure in the Apollo program before XI: Appolo I with an electrical fire on board during a test, that killed all 3 astronauts. After that VII, VIII, IX and X were incident free, as well as XI and XII. XIII had a major problem but made it back home. Until XVII and the cancellation of the program there was no more incident.

  • by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @11:17AM (#24456239) Homepage

    Perhaps you can clue me in as to what the specific need is for this rocket to begin with. I guess NASA doesn't have a suitable one

    You guess wrong. NASA has plenty of "suitability" with the Delta rocket. This program is an attempt to get the job done cheaper.

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @12:28PM (#24456813) Homepage

    Not for a from-scratch rocket, it isn't. Atlas, which was to become our workhorse, had an atrocious start. 3 MX-774 failures, then two XSM-65A failure. The third flew to its desired range, but that was only a mere 1,100km. 5 out of the 8 XSM-65s were failures. Then they had 10 launches of Atlas B with 3 failures, 6 launches of XSM-65C with 2 failures, The Atlas D had 135 launches with 32 failures. The Atlas E had 48 launches with 15 failures. Atlas Able had 4 launches, 4 failures. The Atlas F had 70 launches and 17 failures. I could keep on going. The overwhelming majority of these failures were early on in the program, in the 1950s and 1960s.

    Yes, SpaceX has the benefit of looking back at what worked and what didn't. But they don't have the benefit of adopting already-tested technology, for the most part. And, to make it worse, they have to pull everything off in what's almost a mass-production environment.

  • by N22YF ( 870358 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @02:08PM (#24457561) Homepage
    "It is perhaps worth noting that those launch companies that succeeded also took their lumps along the way. A friend of mine wrote to remind me that only 5 of the first 9 Pegasus launches succeeded; 3 of 5 for Ariane; 9 of 20 for Atlas; 9 of 21 for Soyuz; and 9 of 18 for Proton." - Elon Musk, 26 March 2006 []
  • by More_Cowbell ( 957742 ) * on Sunday August 03, 2008 @03:29PM (#24458167) Journal

    So while they aren't giving up, it isn't inconceivable that they would.

    Felt the need to point out that at least Elon disagrees. Check out the end of his latest message from their website, emphasis mine.

    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.


    (In a message to Employees, August 2, 2008)

  • by batura ( 651273 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @03:47PM (#24458335)

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"