Friday, June 4, 2010

SpaceX: The Future Begins

Falcon 9 on Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

The SpaceX Falcon 9 test rocket made history today as it successfully lunched its dummy payload into orbit.

Click here to read the Florida Today report.

I wasn't able to film it as we were taking a visitor around Kennedy Space Center. We were at the Saturn V museum when the countdown resumed at 2:30 PM EDT. An announcement was made in the museum about the launch, so many of the patrons went out back to the VIP bleachers to watch history being made.

In this morning's edition, Florida Today published an interview with Space X founder/CEO Elon Musk:

The objective is to rocket into orbit. But Musk said a successful flight of the first stage would be "a good day." Successful stage separation and second-stage operation would make it a "great day."

"I think 100 percent success would be reaching orbit," Musk said.

So by that definition, it was certainly a 100 percent success.

Politicians trying to defend the Constellation space-industrial complex have been less than congratulatory.

(Links thanks to Space Politics.)

Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison issued a press release in which she said:

This first successful test flight of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is a belated sign that efforts to develop modest commercial space cargo capabilities are showing some promising signs ... This test does not change the fact that commercial space programs are not ready to close the gap in human spaceflight if the space shuttle is retired this year with no proven replacement capability and the Constellation program is simultaneously cancelled as the President proposes.

Hutchison fails to mention that Constellation wasn't going to be ready until the end of this decade and to this date has only one test launch (Ares 1-X) to demonstrate its technology.

Alabama Senator Richard Shelby told

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, whose state of Alabama is also a NASA stronghold, further decried the launch as a display merely replicating what "NASA accomplished in 1964."

"Belated progress for one so-called commercial provider must not be confused with progress for our nation's human space flight program," Shelby said. "As a nation, we cannot place our future space flight on one fledgling company's definition of success."

Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, whose district includes Kennedy Space Center, posted this statement on her web site:

The successful test launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is a significant step in the development of the commercial space industry. There is no doubt that commercial spaceflight will play an important role in the future of our efforts in space, and I believe private companies can bring new job opportunities for the Space Coast's highly-skilled workforce. But we must both support the emerging commercial space industry and ensure a robust, NASA-led human spaceflight program in order to maintain our international leadership in space and keep our economy strong. I will continue fighting at every opportunity to minimize the human spaceflight gap, protect jobs, and ensure a bright future for the Space Coast.

SpaceX still has a long way to go. But successfully launching its payload into orbit on the first try certainly destroys the credibility of those who claimed Falcon 9 is a "toy," that Musk is a "hobbyist," that the rocket would blow up on the pad. The only hot air today came from those proven wrong.

UPDATE 8:30 PM EDTAviation Week reports that "The only obvious blemish on the mission was an apparent parachute failure on the rocket’s recoverable first stage, which caused it to slam into the Atlantic and break apart, according to reports from"

Click here to watch launch video on along with an article reporting on the launch.

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