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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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  • by damburger ( 981828 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @09:23AM (#24455555)

    Musk and his employees have 50 years of other peoples failure to draw on, computing power for modeling that would've been unimaginable when the first space programmes started, and far superior materials and construction techniques.

    So I am sorry, but this excuse simply doesn't wash with me.

  • by Splab ( 574204 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @09:54AM (#24455701)

    What a load of BS.

    Quite a lot of rockets blew up in the early years of NASA, even rockets carrying humans - that's how you figured out how to make the best height to width ratio for instance. While the programming going on at NASA is schoolbook examples of how it should be done, quite a lot of other things they do are downright insane - like strapping a person to a solid booster rocket.

  • by My Iron Lung ( 834019 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @09:56AM (#24455715)
    I watched this launch last night as it was happening and it was quite a thrilling experience. Better than any NASA launch I have ever seen. They aborted the launch a few times but still went for it. The camera they had on the rocket as it lifted off gave a breathtaking view of the Earth very slowly ascending from it's island launchpad location. Then it just crapped out before it looked like it was anywhere near orbit. I wasn't sure if the mission had been a success or not until the webcast updated that it had been a failure. This is totally awesome. We've been hearing about Space-X on Slashdot for years but this is the first time I've ever given them any real attention. They have 2 more of these Falcon-1 rockets ready, and another launch window near the end of this month. Musk seems absolutely determined to succeed, and I would suspect in 10-15 years these Space-X guys will be the next Lockheed Martin or Boeing.
  • Re:Carbon footprint (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eternauta3k ( 680157 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @10:01AM (#24455733) Homepage Journal
    I'd put it next to the carbon footprint of MRIs and medical treatments, and scientific investigation (LHC).
    As in, "I don't care"
  • by chuckymonkey ( 1059244 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (notrub.d.selrahc)> on Sunday August 03, 2008 @10:59AM (#24456111) Journal
    You know it is quality control. Where I work I have to be NASA certified in ESD(Electro-Static Discharge) and let me tell you, they are crazy about all the little things. For instance when a bit of equipment is in the high bay you have to go through the clean room, you have to be grounded not only on your hands but your feet as well. Before you every plug anything in to a socket you have to run it over a fan that blows ions at it to negate any electrical charge. They have the craziest quality control that you have ever seen and they still have shit go wrong sometimes.
  • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @11:30AM (#24456339)

    Do you know how many dead monkeys there are in space?

    A lot. []

  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Sunday August 03, 2008 @11:51AM (#24456547) Homepage

    Actually, there were multiple serious incidents... For example: Apollo 14 couldn't dock with the LM while extracting it from the S-IVB stage - so they (literally) rammed the CSM into the LM, exceeding the allowed force to force docking. During the landing, the LM lost the landing radar, rather than aborting the pilot continued the landing. While Apollo 16 was in orbit around the moon, and prior to separating the LM, it was discovered the wiring harness for the CSM propulsion system was seriously damaged. Mission rules required an abort of the landing and a return to Earth (so that the LM propulsion would be available as a backup) - but they waived that rule and proceeded with the mission anyhow. (Not to mention that the accident on 13 wouldn't have happened if they had investigated the faulty LOX tank rather than improvising an emptying procedure and using the equipment outside of it's design specs.)

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @12:55PM (#24456975)

    Starting from scratch?

    Yes. Starting from scratch. There's a big difference between "papers and studies" and bending metal. The Dreamliner comparison is spurious since it is a highly developed airplane by a very experienced builder of commercial airplanes. I do agree that three launch failures probably means there are serious problems somewhere. But as noted in this thread, SpaceX is trying a new design that has yet to successfully launch. Failure is likely under those circumstances.

  • by element-o.p. ( 939033 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @12:59PM (#24456989) Homepage

    SpaceX are infinitely more likely to reach orbit than Scaled Composites.

    HEY!!! You are dissing one of my heroes!

    In all seriousness, I would be very curious to find out why you think so. I would expect the opposite, in fact. Burt Rutan is very definitely an engineer with decades of aerospace experience under his belt. Elon Musk is neither an engineer nor experienced, at least in aerospace. Reading a recent article on the development of the Tesla Roadster, I found myself shaking my head at some of the design constraints Musk demanded. If he runs SpaceX the same way the article alleged Musk ran Tesla, I am not surprised they are having difficulties.

  • by Fallon ( 33975 ) <> on Sunday August 03, 2008 @01:25PM (#24457205) Homepage Journal
    I use to work on Kwajalein, and have a friend who was in mission control all day... I can guarantee you they had a lot of VERY expensive camera systems and radar keeping an eye on that launch. I doubt much if any of that data will ever be made public however.

    As for the "anomaly" thing, the rocket didn't blow up, they hit the big red panic button to blow it up rather than have one large toxic rocket possibly land on something important (although one of the main reasons the Kwajalein Atoll is used, is because there's not much out there, that and the physics advantages of being near the equator).
  • by GleeBot ( 1301227 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @04:17PM (#24458611)

    While Rutan knows how to build aircraft and rockplanes he has absolutely no experience in building rockets.

    The GP's point is that Rutan is an engineer. When they came up with the X Prize, he looked at the most effective way to solve the problem, and then did so. While other people were fooling around with overdesigned launch systems, he realized that a short suborbital hop was well within the capabilities of a glorified glider with a rocket booster stuck to the back.

    Rutan's already said that he plans to go orbital with SpaceShip Three, assuming the line of SpaceShip Two's is a commercial success. He's also said that a SpaceShip Three would likely be very different from One or Two; he's a smart guy, a brilliant aeronautical engineer, and he's not pretending that the One/Two approach will scale up to an orbital vehicle.

    If he gets around to building it, SpaceShip Three may well look like something out of the Mercury days. Don't think he's an idiot just because he builds the right vehicle for the job.

  • by DoraLives ( 622001 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @09:05PM (#24461147)

    Wonder how many failed test launches the programs that led up to the Titan, Atlas and Apollo rockets had though, before the products was "finalized".

    I grew up more or less in the shadow of the launch pads at Canaveral, back in the 50's, and can attest that there were a tremendous number of failures back in those days.

    In particular, the Navajo, Atlas, and Polaris programs produced one stupefying fireball after another. And all of the other programs at the time had more than their share of flaming wreckage falling out of the sky.

    To this day, when I watch fireworks, it doesn't really do all that much for me. It just doesn't compare.

    And, as a small child at the time, I had no feelings of loss or remorse when any of these (thankfully unmanned) launch vehicles met their premature demise in the skies above the Atlantic Ocean, but instead loved every minute of it. Helluva damn show!

    They finally got the hang of it (for the most part, anyway), and things quit blowing up on such a regular basis, but for a while there it was really quite spectacular.

    SpaceX has their work cut out for them. In spades.

    I wish them nothing but the very best of luck.

  • Re:Fools Commentary (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2008 @10:31PM (#24461625)

    Name one new launch vehicle that was succesful on its third launch. No derivatives allowed.

    All generations of the Ariane rocket (not really a succession of derivatives, BTW) were successful with the third launch at the latest.

  • by hardwarefreak ( 899370 ) on Monday August 04, 2008 @12:33AM (#24462415)

    Define 'government involvement'. Boeing and Lockheed Martin (and others) design and produce satellite launchers without 'government involvement'. The only 'government involvement' is the case in which the payload being sent into orbit is owned by the government, not the private sector.

    There is a very large civilian satellite launch industry, so you are wrong, this isn't an industry wide failure.

    You are singling out a fledgling company in a sector, and blaming their failures on some 'category' of your fancy. The truth of the matter lies in their relative inexperience in rocketry. Read your history and you'll see that these endeavors entail a very steep learning curve, whether the government or private sector is footing the bill, and there are always many more failures than successes early on.

  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Monday August 04, 2008 @12:35PM (#24468497) Homepage

    There are quite a few experts who believe NASA was just lucky with the moon shot. Your post brings this out.

    There's a saying "luck is the residue of design"... What I was hoping to bring out is that the Apollo program had many more problems than the public believed (or was lead to believe - the computer and fuel gauge problems during the 11 landing were not publicly discussed for years). Another issue that believe believe that NASA somehow changed between the Apollo era and the loss of Challenger and Columbia, yet when we add in what we now know about Apollo the seeds of those accidents are clearly visible.

    Also don't forget the open checkbook that space X does not have.

    NASA didn't have an open checkbook either - starting in 1967 and continuing into 1969 NASA's budget was sharply trimmed. By July 1969 four landing missions had already been canceled and Saturn V production capped - Apollo went to the Moon running on budgetary fumes.

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982