The second test launch of Falcon 1 took place today at 6:10 pm California time. The launch was not perfect, but certainly pretty good. Given that the primary objectives were demonstrating responsive launch and gathering test data in advance of our first operational satellite launch later this year, the outcome was great. Operationally responsive (i.e. fast) launch has become an increasingly important national security objective, so demonstrating rapid loading of propellants and launch in less than an hour, as well as a rapid recycle following the first engine ignition are major accomplishments.
It's cool to see that when they scrubbed Monday's test launch that the problem was small scale. (Darn hardware!) Yesterday's test launch seemed fairly successful - they didn't achieve orbit but it came pretty close and it sounds like only minor changes are needed to hit that goal next time.
I've been doing some research on near-term spaceflight and I have to say it's good to see commercial companies stepping up to the plate. I can't fathom NASA's plan currently. (In all fairness - they are making the best of a bad situation. It may be the best plan possible. It's still sucky.) The shuttles are increasingly fragile and clearly a dead end technology. They are supposed to be retired in 2010, but the plan says the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) won't be ready until 2014. That's the plan mind you, assuming nothing runs late. And when they finally get the ARES/Orion stuff working it's fair to say that it's really just Apollo tech written larger. I'll be excited to see it fly, but it's a little disappointing to realize that I was less than a year old for the last Apollo Mission (Apollo 17) and I'll be 40 before we manage to get back to the moon, and the entire Shuttle program will utlimately be seen as a historical misstep.
Come 2010 we'll be happy to have SpaceX and Scaled Composites putting somebody in space.
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