More on SpaceX's successful Falcon 1 flight and its effect on the future of space development

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The first successful flight of SpaceX's Falcon 1 didn't get all that much attention in the mainstream press that day but that's not such a big deal as this is not a simple one-day event that gets all the attention for a short period of time, but rather a long-term game changer like the advent of the internet, the cellphone, the personal computer, that sort of thing. Two days ago though MSNBC put out a fairly detailed piece on the rocket and what it means to the future of space development.

Some interesting parts:

On Sunday, SpaceX's two-stage Falcon 1 rocket blasted a dummy payload into a 500-by-700-kilometer (310-by-435-miles) orbit from a Pacific Island launch pad. The partially reusable rocket is designed to deliver small payloads to orbit for about $8 million - just a fraction of the going rate for access to space.

Success hasn't come easy: Musk, who has invested more than $100 million of his own money in the venture, suffered through three wayward launches before Sunday's flawless ascent to orbit. But now that the SpaceX team has proved it can be done, potential customers are streaming in from the sidelines.

"My phone has been buzzing," Musk said Sunday.
In The Mercury News' report on the launch, Stanford Professor Bob Twiggs compared SpaceX's innovations in the launch business to Apple's innovations in the computer business back in the 1970s:

"That's what the Apple computer did. It brought down the cost to have the ability to get on there and play around with things, without having to run to somebody's mainframe computer," Twiggs told the Silicon Valley paper.

An even more apt comparison could be made to the early days of Microsoft. (And yes, Microsoft is one of the partners in the joint venture.) Just as Bill Gates and Paul Allen hit it big when they were chosen to supply the operating system for IBM's personal computers, Musk and his rival space entrepreneurs are hoping to hit it big by becoming launch service suppliers for NASA in the post-shuttle era.

It then goes over a whole host of other private ventures such as Bigelow Airspace, as well as the recent progression in the Chinese and Indian space programs. Exciting times.


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