SpaceX Falcon 1 craft launch live online (as in, now)

Update: Here's a statement from Elon Musk after the event.

SpaceX, the space technology firm created by PayPal co-founder and Tesla Motors chairman Elon Musk, is webcasting the launch of its Falcon 1 as I type this blog post. The long run-up to the launch may be a bit boring to watch, but if you are having a lazy Saturday afternoon as I am, I do suggest this as more entertaining veg-out viewing than, say, Project Runway or The Girls Next Door. And, seriously: If they're successful, this will become the first privately developed liquid fuel vehicle to orbit our planet. So that's pretty neat.

Snip from press release:

Lift-off of the vehicle will occur from SpaceX’s Falcon 1 launch site at the Kwajalein Atoll, about 2500 miles southwest of Hawaii. Falcon 1 launch facilities are situated on Omelek Island, part of the Reagan Test Site (RTS) at United States Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) in the Central Pacific.

Designed from the ground up by SpaceX at headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., Falcon 1 is a two-stage, liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene powered launch vehicle. The first stage is powered by a single SpaceX Merlin 1C Regenerative engine – flying for the first time on this Flight 3 mission. A “hold before liftoff” system enhances reliability by permitting all systems to be verified as functioning nominally before launch is initiated. The Falcon 1 second stage is powered by a single SpaceX Kestrel engine.

Falcon 1 is the first new orbital rocket in more than a decade. Merlin is the first new American hydrocarbon engine for an orbital booster to be flown in more than 40 years and only the second new American engine of any kind in more than a quarter century.

SpaceX Webcast.


  1. All I see on their webcast is an error message saying that Quicktime crashed, and a Safari window opened to “localhos” (they might want to type in that “t”).

  2. All I see is “quicktime player has unexpectedly quit.” from their machine. Hope it’s back up for the launch!

  3. This is tremendous. I’m sitting at my desk, munching chips, listening and watching the pre-launch of a commercial rocket & payload. Click around and find out about the friggin’ Solar Sail onboard. Learn a new word “thrillionaires”. Sounds like fun.
    If it wasn’t for Boing Boing I would have missed it. So nice to be reminded of the cool projects going on. This one link will keep me occupied the whole evening. Thanks Xeni!

  4. …And there goes Xeni’s invitation to guest-judge next season’s Project Runway. I was really looking forward to the salvaged-watch-gears-only Steam Punk challenge, too.

  5. Posted August 2, 2008 – 19:11 PDT

    We have re-entered procedures at T-55 minutes and are reloading fuel. Liftoff is now expected at 08:00pm PDT / 11:00pm EDT / 03:00 UTC.

    Launch window closes at 9 pdt.

  6. I’m sitting here watching the feed and I can’t help but see the American flag flying proudly to the right of the rocket. And it occurs to me that unless someone runs out and takes it down right before launch that flag is going to get nuked.

  7. It’s funny that the kerosene goes on board last. I would have expected the cold things to go last.

  8. I LOVE listening to all the technical chatter that comes across the com. I watch live feeds from NASA missions all the time, it’s so engaging and fascinating to watch/listen to technicians at work on the most sophisticated systems on (low) earth (orbit).

  9. Private rocket companies must be cost effective. NASA is not so reality bound.

    With the resultant cost for NASA of “self justification economics”

    I wonder if anyone has attempted calculating the ratios of dollars spent on rocket Vs Non-Rocket. With one figure for NASA and the other for SpaceX.

    The Grim not-humor in that comparative ratio? It’s one of Tail Vs Dog so to speak. In an ideal situation we should have the minimum spent on “Non-Rocket”. And the majority spent on “Rocket”. NASA arguably can *NEVER* hope to apply a smaller “Non-Rocket” overhead compared to SpaceX.

    Thus arguably NASA is an old dog chasing it’s tail.

  10. Ack! I just caught that big blast before they pulled the strongback and such back in – what was it? Venting excess materials or something?

  11. they mentioned that the computer checks 100+ parameters after engine ignition but before they let it fly, so the computer must have found something wrong. so the engine is shut down and the tower raised back into place…

  12. They had an abort. That’s too bad. I wonder if they can still do the launch?

    Thanks for the heads’ up on this. I managed to see this post 10 minutes before scheduled liftoff. Very exciting.

    Kinda amused by the streaming server crashing. As an IT guy I can relate to whomever has to deal with that.

  13. yeah i was pretty confused by the mac desktop that appeared when the stream died.

    its kind of weird that they are apparently streaming the video using quicktime internally and then rebroadcasting it as a screencast into flash video…

  14. They just came back on and said they think they are going to reset and go for launch again…

    Whole lot of silence otherwise, though. Damn boring feed, for such an exciting event. ;-)

  15. Looks like it was another faulty pressure reading (same as launch #2). They will recycle and count down in a bit.

  16. “Posted August 2, 2008 – 20:38 PDT

    We have heard from launch control that there has been an anomaly. More details will be posted to the website as available.”


  17. The kick is up…and it’s good!!

    Reminds of when I was kid and watching rocket launces on TV.

  18. Lift off, a couple of minutes of awesome footage of the atoll getting smaller and smaller in the Pacific – I think someone called 35km altitude – then LoS and back to talking heads reporting “an anomaly on the vehicle”. Not so good.

  19. EEEEK!

    The last time I heard the phrase “There has been an anomaly in the vehicle” was in 1986 and that didn’t turn out too well…

  20. Thanks for that, Xeni. I saw the launch. There was a webcam on the rocket itself, so we saw the view as it went up. Awesome.

    Then the view (i.e. the rocket) started to sway, and the webcam stopped broadcasting. The webcast switched back to the hosts, who said there was an anomaly on the vehicle. Pity.

  21. There is a clue: when the webcam died, it showed a Quicktime logo before they switched it off. Perhaps the rocket hit the Quicktime Zone, a secret boundary installed by Steve Jobs and Buzz Aldrin to protect our planet from hostile alien codecs…

    In all seriousness though, commiserations to the SpaceX team. For what it’s worth, the video of the receding Earth was utter magic.

  22. Actually, I hear on IRC that the anomoly destroyed the rocket (or, in other words, rocket go boom boom).

  23. My guess is the feed was delayed and they pulled the plug before the public could see the serious fireworks. It looked fine to me…a little oscillation but nothing terribly erratic. The guidance control seemed to be keeping it in check, but I guess not.

  24. Obligatory blog.

    There’s a reason for the phrase “it’s not rocket science”. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. No doubt a small organisation with less bureaucratic overhead has some advantages over a 50 year old government-funded institution, but that doesn’t change the engineering problems from hard to easy.

    I can’t say their record of three total losses from three launches inspires me with confidence for their plan to launch humans in 2009, though; I wonder how their candidate crews are feeling right now…

  25. Agreed with Doujoux – watching the clouds shrink was amazing, and my internal monologue went like this: “Wow, privatized, commercial space flight, this is incredible – I wonder if someday that view of the earth receding will be as familiar as OH SH*T…”

  26. It’s worth remembering that NASA does the odd bit more than merely launching rockets. Things like the basic research into how to launch them. Basic aeronautical research to make planes safer, quieter, more efficient etc. Running missions to and on Mars, the moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mercury, the odd asteroid etc. Tends to add to the costs a bit. Just sayin’

  27. Be not discouraged. More is often learned from a “failure” than we ever give credence to.

  28. Quote from spaceflightnow:

    “0452 GMT (12:52 a.m. EDT)
    SpaceX is addressing the news media following today’s launch of the Falcon 1 rocket. The company says a failure of the first and second stages from separating properly during the launch doomed the rocket.”

  29. @ #56 posted by Oren Beck

    A lost payload yields nothing other than loss. You can get dynamics and data from a field test, but no payload, no pay.

    Very unfortunate, it was a great event to partake in.

  30. I agree that the footage from the rocket as it ascended was amazing…
    Here is what I (think I) saw-
    About 10 miles up , it looked as if the exhaust was, well, sputtering-there was an uneven flame that cycled around with a lot of darker smoke- I thought, well that doesn’t look great but maybe its because now its up there where there is no oxygen..So maybe that is what it is supposed to look like-(but the oxygen is supposed to be flowing steadily out of the booster, right?)
    then there was no flame-just a grey cloud-
    Maybe at this point there was no longer any combustion occurring and the rocket was just being carried up by inertia, (and also slowing down having not gained enough altitude to escape gravity)
    anyway, I’m not a rocket scientist but that is what it looked like to me…

  31. @ #58 posted by ianm.

    In one estimation you are right. In another we both are. Losing a payload is never a good thing. The advance in our overall comprehensive grasp still can exceed one lost payload’s mere currency value. As the obtained information is unarguably more valuable than a flawless flight followed by a manned failure.

  32. SpaceX seems to be doing alright for itself compared to early launch success of other rockets, and their first stage has worked quite well for 2 of 3 launches (caveat: data is from SpaceX’s site):

    Pegasus 5 of first 9 successful
    Ariane: 3 of first 5
    Atlas: 9 of first 20
    Soyuz: 9 of 21
    Proton: 9 of 18

    As I recall, Launch 2 also had some problems with stage separation. The lower stage dinged the upper one after separation. Their analysis claims nothing broke, and the avionics corrected for the upper stage getting slapped around. But it set the oxygen sloshing around the tank, causing the oscillation that was visible in the flight video and preventing them from reaching their target altitude. They also lost the recoverable first stage last time because the GPS beacon in it failed.

    So they fixed the tank to have slosh baffles, they added triple redundant GPS to the lower stage. But the pyro-bolts still don’t seem to be working as they should during stage separation. Time to find a new supplier?

    If the vehicle shut down intact after the separation failure, perhaps that tripple redundant GPS can help them find or recover part or all of it for analysis.

  33. Responding to 62 – the problem is that these programs had deep pockets, and a reason to go on (national competition in which giving up was a major loss of face). This is a private concern – hope they have pockets deep enough to withstand the loss of another rocket.

  34. NASA also heavily funds private research…like Spacex.

    The Spacex site proudly touts that they’ve been given 278 million for the project by NASA.

  35. Thanks Toaste @#62 – that’s some good info. Looks like each of their failures is being learned from.

    It’s just a shame that so much of the wetware knowledge that went into Apollo and such is long gone. If they’d kept up development after Apollo rather than cutting back funding and resting on laurels, then we’d already have budget flights to space.

    Perhaps if Russia had got people to the moon, too.

  36. imipak @#49 – looks like the Dragon will not be travelling manned until well after 2010. gives their planned launches:

    1 – 2009 – 5 hours
    Launch and separate from Falcon 9, orbit Earth, transmit telemetry, receive commands, demonstrate orbital maneuvering and thermal control, re-enter atmosphere, and recover Dragon capsule

    2 – 2009 – 5 days
    Full, long-duration system check-out, beginning with ISS rendezvous simulation with the Falcon 9 upper stage. Dragon will perform approach, rendezvous, and breakaway operations with the stage.

    3 – 2010 – 3 days
    Full cargo mission profile including mate to ISS, with empty capsule

    I don’t see “manned” listed in any of those. The dragon has two configurations, cargo and manned. They’d be idiots to try manned before trying the cargo config, and in the third one they explicitly state that the capsule will be empty even of cargo.

  37. “Elon Musk” is one of those names that always makes me think it’s an invented stage-name/pen-name, even though it’s an actual given name, like Shepard Fairey, DJ Fontana or Alexander Courage (to say nothing of Moon Unit and Dweezil Zappa).

  38. The rocket had the ashes of James Doohan (Star Trek’s “Scottie”) aboard, along with those of astronaut Gordon Cooper and a couple of hundred others.

    Oh, and three small satellites for the US Department of Defense and NASA.

  39. looked like a ring or band came off the 2nd stage nozzle shortly before the shroud separated. It might not have meant anything.

    It was pretty amazing watching the engine thrust cone slowly turn to cherry red on the way up.

  40. Crash and burn on SpaceX’s webcast, with its young, hesitant speaker instead of a wise, old hand who isn’t afraid to say what he thinks! I hope their rocket works better than their website! A government agency dictating the operations of a private company: the worst-case scenario!

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