For the third time, a SpaceX Falcon 1 launch vehicle failed; this one did not reach orbit after liftoff Aug. 2 from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific. It carried two small NASA satellites and the DOD Operationally Responsive Space microsatellite called Trailblazer. (It also carried the ashes of 208 people, including those of astronaut Gordon Cooper, and, for “Star Trek” devotees, actor James “Scotty” Doohan.) In a statement, Elon Musk, SpaceX chairman and CEO, called the failure a “big disappointment,” but he added, “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.” The problem came with stage separation; they didn’t. Meanwhile, said Musk, SpaceX does not “plan to skip a beat” on the way to flight 4 and 5 of Falcon 1 and is proceeding with fabrication of flight 6. He noted that the company had received “significant investment”—a subsequent Aug. 4 release noted that San Francisco-based Founder’s Fund had provided $20 million—that would ensure “more than sufficient funding on hand” for future work.
Unlike nearly every other innovative technology throughout history, Maj. Gen. DeAnna M. Burt believes the space enterprise emerged backward. “Every other domain started with an entrepreneur who built something,” Burt, the special assistant to the Chief of Space Operations, told an audience at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference.