Falcon-1 Rocket Fails After Launch
The inaugural flight of SpaceX’s two-stage Falcon-1 rocket ended in failure on Friday, as the rocket and its satellite payload was lost just after liftoff. SpaceX had launched the two-stage Falcon 1 rocket at 5:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT) from the U.S. military’s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific’s Marshall Islands. Webcast video from the rocket appeared to show a rolling motion before the feed was lost, but a precise analysis of the problem is not yet available. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk promised that “more information will be posted once we have had time to analyze the problem.”
The rocket was expected to deploy the small, $800,000 FalconSat-2 micro-satellite built by U.S. Air Force Academy. The little satellite cube was sponsored by the U.S. Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and was designed to measure the effects of space plasma on communication and global positioning satellites.
The mission as a whole carried a $6.7 million price tag. It also had larger significance to the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation as part of their “Operationally Responsive Space” plans, and for DARPA’s larger F.A.L.C.O.N. program. Low-cost launch success by SpaceX could even have implications for the larger rocket launch market. The goal remains within reach, but the failure of the inaugural launch is definitely a setback for all concerned.