Elon Musk's SpaceX Fails Third Launch

Elon Musk, the man behind PayPal and Tesla Motors, is also trying to figure out space flight, via SpaceX. But it’s tough going: Last night, for the third consecutive time, the privately funded company failed to launch a rocket into orbit. Space.com, via MSNBC:

A Falcon 1 rocket failed to reach orbit late Saturday, marking the third unsuccessful attempt for private spaceflight-firm SpaceX.

Two rocket stages failed to separate about two minutes and 20 seconds into launch from the U.S. Army’s Reagan Test Site on Omelek Island in the Kwajalein Atoll, about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii in the central Pacific Ocean.

“It was obviously a big disappointment not to reach orbit on this Flight 3 of the Falcon 1,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX chairman and CEO, in a short statement read to reporters by Diane Murphy, SpaceX vice president of marketing and communications. The problem is still under investigation by SpaceX.

The rocket lifted off at 11:34 p.m. EDT after an earlier aborted attempt, and seemed to make headway until the video transmission abruptly terminated.

The Falcon 1 was carrying a small satellite called Trailblazer for the Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space Office. The microsatellite represented a rush order for Poway, Calif.-based SpaceDev.

Statement from Musk:

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.

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.

As a precautionary measure to guard against the possibility of flight 3 not reaching orbit, SpaceX recently accepted a significant investment.  Combined with our existing cash reserves, that ensures we will have more than sufficient funding on hand to continue launching Falcon 1 and develop Falcon 9 and Dragon.  There should be absolutely zero question that SpaceX will prevail in reaching orbit and demonstrating reliable space transport.  For my part, I will never give up and I mean never.

Thanks for your hard work and now on to flight four.

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