Monday, May 5, 2008

SpaceX, making it easier to get the heck out of Dodge?

The first Falcon 1 at Space Launch Complex—Three West (SLC-3W), Vandenberg Air Force Base.Falcon 1 at launch complex
Image via Wikimedia Commons
When I was growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut. I suspect I wasn't the only person who felt that way. Heck, I even wrote NASA for an application.

In a previous posting, I questioned the value of Constellation and wondered why NASA isn't just farming the job out to SpaceX. That reminded me that I haven't written about one of my favorite new companies yet.

SpaceX, one of several companies started by Elon Musk, of PayPal fame and fortune, is trying to make space travel cheaper. This is a non trivial task, and the first two launches did not achieve orbit, but the company insists they were successful in the sense that they learned and refined a lot.

They have a novel approach to PR, they seem to be willing to put a fair bit of stuff right out in public... in particular they had live feeds of their first two launches, which was pretty cool.

Profiles of Dragon Cargo and Dragon Crew (NASA)Dragon and Falcon 9
Image via Wikipedia
SpaceX has three different projects going... the Falcon 1, and the Falcon 9, two different sized mostly reusable launchers, and the Dragon vehicle, which is a crew and cargo vessel that can be launched atop a Falcon 9.

With the activity at Scaled Composites (including winning the X prize) going on, it really looked like the 2000s were going to be the decade where space travel really went commercial. But both Scaled and SpaceX have suffered some delays. Scaled Composites had a damaging accident and the first launch of the Falcon 9 has been pushed back. They've tried to put a good spin on it, but still.unNASAImage by jurvetson via Flickr
So I'm still hopeful, but maybe not quite as. Maybe it will take a bit longer. Maybe it can't be done at all and we're doomed to government space? I certainly hope not! Is the fact that SpaceX have won some NASA contracts a good sign? A bad one? What do you think?

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