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.

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs
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