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SpaceX is making good progress with its Falcon 1 launch attempts, but still short of a functional spaceship

The privately-built Falcon 1 rocket by SpaceX successfully launched from its Pacific island launch site before suffering a roll control malfunction during the second-stage burn that occurred nearly 186 miles above Earth.  The 70-foot rocket has twice unsuccessfully completed stated goals, but the progress from the second launch has researchers pleased.

The launch took place after two failed launch attempts: One on Monday and one Tuesday evening.  Monday's launch was scrapped after a delay in communications with the rocket was detected on the launch pad.  Tuesday's launch abortion happened due to low pressure in the combustion chamber.    

The Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, a startup company founded by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk, aims at lowering the cost of access to space.  The $7 million price tag to launch the Falcon 1 is about ten percent lower than launches of rockets from other companies.  SpaceX hopes that the relatively low price tag will make it the premier company in an already crowded launcher market.

Researchers should be able to easily fix the problem that forced the rocket to unexpectedly roll almost 200 miles above Earth, according to Musk.  While the Falcon 1 did not complete all of its intended goals after launch, SpaceX execs are pleased with the progress the rocket has made so far.  "The launch was not perfect, but certainly pretty good," he said.

The Falcon 1 is a two-stage booster rocket, powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene, that SpaceX has designed to carry payloads weighing up to 1,256 pounds into orbit.

"We did encounter, late in the second burn, a roll control anomaly," said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

In SpaceX's first attempt to send a rocket into space in March of last year, a fuel leak and fire forced the engine to be shut down within 30 seconds of the rocket's lift-off -- the end result was the Falcon 1 splashing harmlessly into the Pacific Ocean.

SpaceX does have plans for future rockets that would be able to carry larger payloads into low-Earth orbit, including the Falcon-9, which is expected to carry around 55,000 lbs. into orbit.


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By xphile on 3/21/2007 9:10:52 PM , Rating: 5
When questioned on what Space X's refund policy was going to be should any kind of similar event occur during a customer funded flight in the future, Mr Musk commented:

"As the co-founder of Paypal, Id venture to suggest the refund policy will be very clearly set out in no more than 4.3 million lines of legal triple-speak and provide all customers with full and comprehensive protection against any unforseen event where they are prepared to undertake 7346 separate claim processes over a 16 year period."




By outsider on 3/21/2007 9:36:51 PM , Rating: 2
I'd be willing to take the risk. Didn't you read, it was 10% cheaper.


By CheesePoofs on 3/21/2007 10:53:02 PM , Rating: 4
First off, I'm pretty sure that 10% is a typo. SpaceX's stated goal is to reduce the cost to reach space by a factor of 10. They're not there yet, but they're pretty fairly near (I think it's 1/5 or so the price).

Also, SpaceX is NOT launching people into space, at least not yet. This was merely a satellite launch, and on a completely new vehicle. The fact that it even made it into space is remarcable (the Atlas vehicles, which did end up launching people into space, failed on their first 12 launches.

But still, the fact is that this was a test launch of a satellite . No people or assurances for success were involved, and that's the way it was expected to be; the point was to shake out the vehicle and test its systems.


By xphile on 3/22/2007 5:22:13 AM , Rating: 2
I know no people were involved and I know it was a test. My first post doesn’t mention people and I only infer people in my second along with goods (i.e. satellites, experiments etc) in relation to the fact all these companies know (as the Russians have found) that having successful space vehicles used for whatever purposes can be nicely supplementarily funded through space tourism when you eventually get it right. So I suppose I’m foreseeing if they do get it right human travel would naturally follow. Granted they aren’t implying personal space travel at this point.

My gripe is the up front statement that going to space can be done so much cheaper and then having the aims of each test not being met. Yes they are making progress in successive tests and that is great. I guess I just mentally compare it to Branson and SpaceShipOne's approach (and yes at this point they are totally different aims) where they state things they plan to try and achieve and then achieve them, then state they will try and reduce the costs, and are quietly working to do it, with several notable achievements which are not being highly publicised at this point. I suppose I see this as being a more credible approach.

Or take Arianespace, which quietly blasts more than half the worlds satellites into space and few people have ever heard of them. I guess in a nutshell all I’m saying is if you want to make a big noise about how cheap you can do something, then prove you can actually do it first. Then the noise will be well credible.


By outsider on 3/22/2007 1:33:16 AM , Rating: 2
Dude, I was being sarcastic.


By xphile on 3/22/2007 4:42:33 AM , Rating: 2
I didnt read it that way but ok and my apologies. Since my own first post was laddled with sarcasm I actually figured you'd taken ME seriously in asking why hadnt I seen it was 10% cheaper.


Not to nitpick ...
By CheesePoofs on 3/21/2007 8:22:50 PM , Rating: 2
... But the rocket was simply a test flight, and pretty much passed all the stated goals (which were to test out the rocket systems). Also, it launched after two failed launch attempts, not "two failed launches." And it's not a shuttle, it's a rocket. The shuttle refers just to the Space Shuttle.

But either way, it was pretty much an amazing flight (I was watching the webcam). Go SpaceX!




RE: Not to nitpick ...
By kibets on 3/21/2007 8:47:33 PM , Rating: 1
I'm glad no one was on board like spaceshipone. That would have been very unfortunate.


RE: Not to nitpick ...
By CheesePoofs on 3/21/2007 9:12:30 PM , Rating: 2
There was no way they could have fit someone abord, the falcon 1 is much too small. The much larger Falcon 9, however, should eventually lift people into space. THe Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 use much of the same hardware, so SpaceX is using the Falcon 1 as a testbed to make sure the Falcon 9 works when it has to.

Plus, if it were a crewed launch, there would be a way to abort. There was no explosion (as far as they know), so everyone would have probably been perfectly fine, just disappointed at not having reached orbit.


RE: Not to nitpick ...
By tmarat on 3/22/2007 5:58:17 PM , Rating: 2
As far as I know, all of the current commercial launches are insured against an accident. The risk of something going wrong is still high with all the other launch vehicles.


What does it all mean?
By Mitch101 on 3/22/2007 9:50:39 AM , Rating: 5
Does this mean my PayPal fees are going to increase?

New Slogan
PayPal were not quite Rocket Scientists but were close.




Check your oceans
By dgrichmond on 3/21/2007 10:51:09 PM , Rating: 2
The first launch attempt last year landed in the Pacific Ocean, not the Atlantic.

I'm sure they would have been quite pleased if it had reached the Atlantic ocean.




RE: Check your oceans
By Visual on 3/22/2007 5:37:05 AM , Rating: 2
So they want to build IOBMs? (inter-oceanic ballistic missiles)


I like this guy
By Frank M on 3/22/2007 11:04:35 AM , Rating: 2
This guy seemed pretty cool on an interview that I saw. The interviewer tried to compare this shuttle with Virgin's shuttle, which made the guy laugh.




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