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SpaceX Falcon 1 on Launch Pad  (Source: SpaceX)
Falcon 1 Flight 3 experienced an "anomaly" two minutes into flight

Saturday August 2, 2008 was the launch date for SpaceX's third attempt to launch a privately funded rocket into space. Falcon 1 Flight 3 launched from the Kwajalein Atoll located about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii.

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.

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RE: Leave it to the pros
By Darkskypoet on 8/5/2008 1:45:31 PM , Rating: 2
And yet you're still missing the point. No one is trying to compare the achievements, the glory, or the relative difficulty of the two programs.

Yes in fact you are. You are trying to compare the cost structure of doing something first, with doing something after all the 'heavy lifting' has been done. You compare NASA during early Apollo with SpaceX now. That's doing it!
You compare an overly complex shuttle program with a yet to be successfully launched Falcon 9. That's Doing it.

We're simply pointing out that, once private enterprise matures a bit more, it will be able to operate at a far lower cost structure than a government bureacracy. That's it.

See, and that is just it... Private enterprise gets to go in after the major spending, risk, etc has already occurred (or when completely underwritten by government). Massive risk with little pay off but pride and scientific achievement is a Market Failure situation. Even though Nasa had the predominantly German research to utilize, it still had to do far more work then SpaceX will ever have to do. Real expensive, risky, unprofitable work. Work that has also enriched private corporations all across the United States immensely.

NASA budgets helped to build McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, etc. W/o those massive expenditures, private space firms would be in their infancy in the U.S, and the global firms would be kicking their as*es.

Private firms also have entrenched bureaucracies, especially those that are protected by gravy train contracts like those handed out ad nauseum by the U.S Government. Most of Nasa's spending indeed went to these private firms. The problem is that NASA doesn't get the patent income that should be derived from their spending, they are forced to tender contracts to an oligopoly that has no fear of being throttled for collusion, as long as everyone gets a chunk. They are also forced to build low quantities, and never realize economies of scale.

If NASA was able to accept foreign bids, and build massive quantities of devices instead of essentially giving that business away to the private firms it essentially enriched; NASA would be in a much different situation then today, and though not in the black, would certainly be deriving a hell of a lot more income from all its efforts then it does today.

Private firms are more efficient in this case, because they can get away with a lot more then an entity like NASA can, but in many cases (Especially the very large aerospace firms) are as inefficient, they are just able to profit more from government handouts, then the government departments / agencies can.

Small firms and start ups, are far more nimble then both large Private and Public enterprise. However, they tend to be unable to mount enough capital to do really big, really hard things. SpaceX is having problems boosting 500kg to LEO, never mind a Falcon 9 launch, or a Falcon 9 heavy. Size is a detriment to efficiency... Private, or Public. Yet lack of size is a detriment to doing really large scale projects. Small payload launches are dropping down in complexity / difficulty /logistical requirements to where small start ups are going to be able to start doing them, this is occurring. However, they are not more efficient at this then the larger companies, yet. They also don't have millions of shareholders that will f***ing lynch them if the fail as spectacularly as SpaceX has.

SpaceX's launches are going for that cheap, because if they were within a stones throw of Boeing, Arianne (sp?), or other larger firms (public or private), no one would risk their payload with them.

I don't know if you really know whether or not SpaceX actually could be making a profit on these first few launches, I seriously doubt they are. Perhaps on cost averaging after a few years consisting of many, many successful launches, they might start too. But I bet they are losing money on each launch (even if successful) and won't break even until their marginal costs drop via production increases in engines, and other components. Which means that their pricing for such an early stage is artificially low, and they are relying on debt financing, or long term investors to foot the initial losses. This of course is SOP, but bottom line is they have to get something into space for cash before they are a competitor to anyone.

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
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