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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 masher2 (blog) on 8/5/2008 2:24:31 PM , Rating: 2
> "They are not cost competitive, as no launch of Falcon 9 has occurred, and no successful launch of Falcon 1 with a payload has either..."

Are you willing to bet that none will? I'm willing to wager any sum you wish up to $1000 of my own money that SpaceX will succeed with Falcon 1 in two years time or less. How about it?

> " they too virtually received a free design"

Err, no. Falcon deviates in several ways from any previous launch platform. Arianespace's launches of Soyuz, on the other hand, are using a perfect clone of the old Soviet design.

> "I disagree, that's not a 'true cost' of anything"

Total costs / total missions = cost per mission. Nothing could possible be simpler. That's standard cost accounting, used by every major government and corporate body in the world.

> "Oh wait, but your incorrect again ... It's actually 123 launches, and counting...But they get the launch count wrong too."

Now you're just being childish again. The costs and launch count I quoted was current as of the end of 2006. The figures are not "wrong".



RE: Leave it to the pros
By Darkskypoet on 8/5/2008 3:54:56 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Are you willing to bet that none will? I'm willing to wager any sum you wish up to $1000 of my own money that SpaceX will succeed


Ok.. So they'll be cost competitive in a couple years then? Oh wait, for Falcon 1... No what about Falcon 9? Falcon 9 competes with Soyuz variants in use, Falcon 1 does not. What time frame for falcon 9?

I am not betting on anything. You stated they ARE cost competitive. Which they ARE NOT. In a few years time? Maybe, but in a few years time will Arianespace, having to compete in an already crowded market, shave costs? Yes. Considerably? Who knows... The Russian Space program, and resultant vehicles, are still well behind where they should of been, had it not been for the lost decade. They too will become cheaper, and offer heavier payload capacity.

So will Falcon 9 be Cost Competitive whenever they can actually use it to generate revenue? Maybe. We don't know.

quote:
Err, no. Falcon deviates in several ways from any previous launch platform. Arianespace's launches of Soyuz, on the other hand, are using a perfect clone of the old Soviet design.


Arianespace buys versions of the Soyuz platform from the Russians, as such they act as a middle man / front company (in a good way). Arianespace is in no way using a perfect clone of anything old. They buy / are supplied CURRENT Soyuz 2-1-a and 2-1-b launch platforms.

Really... Please look this crap up!

Falcon may deviate some, however again the majority of the work has been done for them.

"The pintle style injector at the heart of Merlin was first used in the Apollo Moon program for the lunar module landing engine, one of the most critical phases of the mission."

"The SpaceX nine engine architecture is an improved version of the architecture employed by the Saturn V and Saturn I rockets of the Apollo Program"

"BNI designed and manufactured the Merlin Turbopump for the SpaceX Falcon Launch Vehicle. The Merlin Engine produces more than 100,000 pounds of thrust at sea level and the turbopump is the lightest in its thrust class. Barber-Nichols used its experience gained on the Fastrac and Bantam projects to rapidly develop the Merlin Turbopump."

(Both Bantam and Fastrac were for NASA projects.)

You seriously must not get just how much of the ability for any small firm to build a rocket rests on the fact that these parts / technologies are now commoditized.

quote:
Total costs / total missions = cost per mission. Nothing could possible be simpler. That's standard cost accounting, used by every major government and corporate body in the world.


I still disagree that you are factoring anythings total cost in here. The equation is fine, but we fundamentally disagree on the nature of these projects total costs. That's ok too.

quote:
Now you're just being childish again. The costs and launch count I quoted was current as of the end of 2006. The figures are not "wrong".


Again? ok.. So you spout figures off without sources, they are incorrect as of the time you post them, you don't specify anything about current as of this date, or anything of that nature. Perhaps that is somewhat important to disclose...

However, yes. The figures are wrong, if not accurate, nor marked as only accurate up to x date. Besides, the amount you site for shuttle costs includes equipment not at all necessary for the lifting missions which was your original comparison. As we already agree that the comparison was ludicrous when you made it, it hardly matters now that you stacked the figures in your favour... Does it? Besides, we've also already agreed that the shuttle was a hugely expensive project, and a drain on Nasa's budget. However, I think perhaps we can agree that as a technical achievement, its still pretty f***ing neat, and not at all comparable in anyway shape or form with Falcon launch vehicles.


RE: Leave it to the pros
By masher2 (blog) on 8/5/2008 4:24:14 PM , Rating: 2
> "I still disagree that you are factoring anythings total cost in here. The equation is fine, but we fundamentally disagree on the nature of these projects total costs."

Disagree all you want; the figures are from NASA's own official budget requests.

> "Again? ok.. So you spout figures off without sources..."

Here you go:

http://www.space.com/news/shuttle_cost_050211.html

> "...are incorrect as of the time you post them."

Again, you're being rather childish here. Any program which has ongoing costs will have its values continually changing. The figures I gave were correct through the end of 2006.

Feel free to toss in the 2007 and 6 months of 2008 data....the per-mission cost isn't going to change appreciably. This is all just a smokescreen for you to avoid addressing the real point here, which is the space shuttle has been a extraordinarily costly boondoggle that never lived up to its original design goals.

> " Arianespace is in no way using a perfect clone of anything old. They buy / are supplied CURRENT Soyuz "

You misunderstand my statement Arianespace is using a clone of the Soyuz launch system, which is based on a decades-old Soviet ICBM design. They aren't modifying the design in any way.

SpaceX, on the other hand, is developing new rocket, fairings, and even engine/nozzle designs. They're springboarding off existing knowledge, yes, but they're adding substantially to it.

> "I am not betting on anything"

Doesn't sound like you have a lot of faith in your position.


RE: Leave it to the pros
By Darkskypoet on 8/5/2008 5:25:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Disagree all you want; the figures are from NASA's own official budget requests.


Actually this is not in any way what relevant to the discussion of any projects total costs. The shuttle project could not have occurred for its cost without Apollo, which in turn is not really happening without other space projects, etc.

The idea of 'Total Cost' is a philosophical difference of opinion, I don't dispute NASA's figures on what is line item attributed to the shuttle program. Get over it.

quote:
Here you go: http://www.space.com/news/shuttle_cost_050211.html


Yeah, I know... I actually supplied your source a few posts higher. As well, in my last post I also stated that we could agree the shuttle was exceptionally expensive. However, it also does what no other space craft can do. sometimes that's expensive. Necessary? Probably not. Pretty f***ing cool? Yeah, yeah it is.

quote:
You misunderstand my statement Arianespace is using a clone of the Soyuz launch system, which is based on a decades-old Soviet ICBM design. They aren't modifying the design in any way.


No.. actually I do not... They are buying said platform from the creators of said platform. Further it is based on a decades old ICBM design in much the same way that a current Ford Sedan is based on the Model T.

The Soyuz platform to be used by Arianespace is the latest edition of the Soyuz platform which easily differs from many of the older variants in as much as the SpaceX falcon differs from many of its forerunners. Hell most of the design is based off of modified parts funded by NASA. Yes Merlin is 'new', but is based off Apollo parts and other previously built and utilized components.

Clone implies that Ariennespace is building a copy of the Russian Soyuz, it is not a clone when its the actual product, still built by the original manufacturers. Albeit under a different name, in the post soviet Russian space apparatus.

quote:
> "I am not betting on anything" Doesn't sound like you have a lot of faith in your position.


Wow... Just wow... That's all you can come back with? Masher you went from stating so bluntly that SpaceX is cost competitive to this tripe? Obviously they are not cost competitive, and haven't delivered a single payload period.

Why would I bet you anything based on them becoming cost competitive within 2 years, when your claim was them being cost competitive now?

A Falcon 9 is supposed to launch with a paying customer's payload sometime in Q4 2008 / Q1 2009. Considering they haven't gotten a Falcon 1 into LEO with a payload, how confident do you think that customer is that their payload will make it?

You say maybe up to 2 years for Falcon 1, what bout Falcon 9? 6 months enough time? And if it blows to pieces, while the other private firms continue to launch with a much higher success rate, what then? How many more failures before they lose even more customers? How much higher do you think their insurance costs are now? We both know insurance isn't charity Masher.


RE: Leave it to the pros
By masher2 (blog) on 8/5/2008 6:14:47 PM , Rating: 1
> "The idea of 'Total Cost' is a philosophical difference of opinion"

Shuck and jive all you want: when you spend $150 billion to pay for 113 launches, the per-launch cost is roughly $1.3B.

> "No.. actually I do not... They are buying said platform from the creators of said platform. "

You're still trying to claim some sort of parity between what Ariane has done -- which is buy a completed launch system from someone else -- to SpaceX, who has designed their own rocket, using both existing and new technology. The two cases aren't comparable, plain and simple.

> "A Falcon 9 is supposed to launch with a paying customer's payload sometime in Q4 2008 / Q1 2009...how confident do you think that customer is that their payload will make it?"

It doesn't matter. If they don't make the deadline, the customer will be reimbursed costs plus damages. SpaceX is still selling a service that is cost-competitive with other launch services.

> "How much higher do you think their insurance costs are now? We both know insurance isn't charity Masher"

What does this have to do with anything? SpaceX is bearing those costs. Until and unless they begin to raise their rates beyond those of other launch services, the issue of how much they pay for insurance is moot.


RE: Leave it to the pros
By Darkskypoet on 8/5/2008 6:49:53 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Shuck and jive all you want: when you spend $150 billion to pay for 113 launches, the per-launch cost is roughly $1.3B.


Yes, for launches, launch pads, robotics, airframes, manufacturing facilities, all related technology, etc, etc, etc. Something to ponder here, as this technology gets reused, spun off, sold, etc do we then get to start reducing the cost per launch? Or do you simply close it off and disregard future benefits outside the realm of 'just x launches'?? I am curious, as they got far more then 'just x launches' for their money. (And for the 4th or 5th time, yes it was a lot of f***ing money. Most going to fund domestic private aerospace firms.)

quote:
You're still trying to claim some sort of parity between what Ariane has done -- which is buy a completed launch system from someone else -- to SpaceX, who has designed their own rocket, using both existing and new technology. The two cases aren't comparable, plain and simple.


No I am not. In fact I started talking about Soyuz, you started talking about Arianespace. Arianespace is a consortium and as such is much more like the massive American firms in nature, then a small start up like SpaceX.

I am comparing a suitable competitor to SpaceX's lifting platform... One that works. At least in my comparison of Falcon 9 and Soyuz 2 launch platforms, they are both privately for hire, and more comparable then NASA, SpaceX, the shuttle or Falcon anything. Besides, again, Soyuz 2 works, falcon 1 and 9 do not as of yet. I also mentioned the Delta platform, another competitor to Falcon 9, however you seem to like strategically ignoring things like that I've noticed.

quote:
It doesn't matter. If they don't make the deadline, the customer will be reimbursed costs plus damages. SpaceX is still selling a service that is cost-competitive with other launch services.


No they aren't as they have been unable to provide the service even once. Sorry, but its not a cost competitive offering of a service until they actually provide said service. Heck, even if they succeeded once, I'd totally grant you that it was a cost competitive offering. But they haven't, so its merely somewhat false advertising at this point. They have no proof that they can successfully deliver a payload as of yet. You know this as well as I do. Will they one day? Sure as long as people keep up with the huge 'investments'.

quote:
What does this have to do with anything? SpaceX is bearing those costs. Until and unless they begin to raise their rates beyond those of other launch services, the issue of how much they pay for insurance is moot.


It isn't moot, because it directly impacts their bottom line, which with a private firm completely impacts their ability to operate, eventually fulfill launch contracts, and survive. Also, just curious as I don't feel like digging for it, but do you have source that indicates who pays for payload insurance? Or is it just SOP that once safely delivered to SpaceX their insurance takes over? I mean its not as if launches aren't exceptionally risky. Further, is it even insured for full value? or does SpaceX cover a fairly large portion of the cost of payload if things go bad? I am sure it makes a car insurance deductible look tiny.

Even worse then rising insurance costs, is the inability to find a firm that will underwrite the endeavour, this would be a far greater concern, and is a definite possibility if they don't enjoy regular successes soon.


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