Updated: SpaceX Falcon 1 Suffers Anomaly During Launch

At 11:36 pm EDT August 2, 2008 the Falcon 1 lost contact with the base in Hawthorn, California. After aborting the first launch at .5 seconds, the counter was reset to 11 minutes and launch countdown was reinitiated. At T-minus one minute, cheers could be heard from the staff as the Falcon 1 finally blasted off.

Unfortunately after T+140s when the vehicle switched to inertial guidance mode at an altitude of 35 km, all contact was lost. Staff at SpaceX stated that an anomaly occurred and immediately cut feed to the webcast.

SpaceX, in the running to help assist NASA if or when funding runs out, designed the Falcon 1 with the minimal number of engines. As a result, there is only one engine per stage and an automatic safe shut-down and unloading of propellant occurs if any "off nominal conditions are detected."

The Falcon 1 was carrying the Trailblazer, two CubeSats (one of which was NASA's NanoSail-D) for the Air Force and MDA and unfortunately, also carried the remains of astronaut Gordon Cooper and the actor James Doohan from Star Trek.

In the case that this rocket is non-recoverable there are two additional Rocket 1s available for launch.

Update at 12:42 am EDT - Kimbal Musk, the brother of the CEO of SpaceX has written that that rocket has been lost. After contacting Mr. Musk he was unable to officially confirm this information but states that his brother, Elon Musk, will be releasing a press release shortly.

Update at 1:01 am EDT - SpaceX is reporting that the booster on the rocket did not separate correctly. Diane Murphy, the SpaceX vice president of marketing and communications released the following statement tonight:

"It was obviously a big disappoint not to reach orbit on this Flight 003 of the Falcon 1. On the plus side, the flight of our first stage with the new Merlin 1C regenerative engine that will be used in Falcon 9 was picture-perfect. Unfortunately, a problem occurred at stage separation causing the stages to be held together. This is under investigation."The following is the rest of the statement released to SpaceX employees by founder and CEO, Elon Musk:

"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.

--Elon--"


This is the third failed launch for SpaceX in their quest to become the new leader in the private space industry.

Link: SpaceX Homepage
View: Last frame before contact was cut (thanks blackice912)
Video: View the Flight

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