Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "The audacity of real change," Aug. 23, 2008

As one of two commercial space companies chosen by NASA to prove their ability to shuttle cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX has $278 million in grants riding on its Falcon rocket system, billed as one of the most cost-efficient launch services available. Everything riding on the Aug. 2 launch was lost, including two NASA satellites and another built by the defense department. Billionaire Elon Musk, former PayPal entrepreneur and founder of SpaceX, cited an easily fixable engine pressure issue as the cause of the failed flight. He's glad his company caught the problem on Falcon 1 rather than Falcon 9, a much larger rocket designed to visit the ISS with cargo and eventually crew.

NASA might be glad, too. With space shuttle retirement to occur in 2010 and NASA's Ares launch vehicles several years away from completion, the U.S. space agency is investing millions in the development of private vehicles today in hopes of buying seats on them tomorrow. Falcon 9, scheduled for a maiden launch in coming months, will need to fly further than its predecessor for that to happen.

-by Daniel James Devine

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