According to the New York Times, Falcon 1 Flight 3 failed to reach
orbit. Reports say that around two minutes into the flight the rocket was seen
to be oscillating before the live signal from an on-board camera went dead and
the rocket was lost.
Mission Manager Max Vozoff and launch commentator said, "We are hearing
from the launch control center that there has been an anomaly on that
vehicle." SpaceX's Elon Musk wrote in a blog post on Saturday at the
SpaceX website, "It was obviously a big disappointment not to reach orbit
on this flight [Falcon 1, Flight 3]. 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."
Musk continued writing, "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."
Falcon 1 Flight 3 is not the first failure for SpaceX. DailyTech
reported in March 2006 that the first
Falcon 1 flight failed 20 seconds after liftoff. It was later determined
that the failure of the rocket was due to a fuel line leak. In March 2007, DailyTech
reported that the second
Falcon 1 flight had failed about five minutes into launch.
The payload on Falcon 1 Flight 3 was varied and included the Trailblazer
satellite developed for the Jumpstart Program from the Department of Defense's
Operationally Responsive Space ORS Office. Two small NASA satellites were also
onboard Falcon 1 Flight 3 including PRESat -- a micro laboratory for the Ames
Research Center -- and the NanoSail-D -- a test project to study propulsion for
space vehicles using an ultra-thin solar sail.
The New York Times reports that the rocket was also carrying
the ashes of 208 people who wished to be shot into space. Among the
cremated remains were those of astronaut Gordon Cooper and actor James Doohan
of Star Trek fame.
SpaceX's Falcon 1 launch facilities are on Omelek Island and part of the
Reagan Test Site (RTS) at the United States Army Kwajalein Atoll in the Central
Pacific. SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket was designed from the ground up in
Hawthorne, California and is a two-stage, liquid oxygen and rocket-grade
kerosene powered vehicle.
SpaceX says that the first stage of the Falcon 1 is powered by a single
SpaceX Merlin 1C Regenerative engine and the engine was flying for the first
time aboard Falcon 1 Flight 3. The second stage of Falcon 1 is powered by a
SpaceX Kestrel engine.