13 July 2009 a historic day as SpaceX sends up a Falcon 1 with a paid payload (RazakSat) for the first time

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's hard to state just how important a day this has been for human civilization. Today was the second launch of SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket, which had a successful launch for the first time last year. This time, however, it was able to send up a rocket not simply with a dummy cargo but an actual satellite called RazakSat, bought and paid for by the government of Malaysia.

That's right: for a mere $8 million or so, a country can now pay SpaceX, a 100% private company, to put a satellite into space for them. A company that needs no congressional approval, no budgetary committee, no red tape aside from the normal red tape required when running a company of this sort.

As with many groundbreaking technologies and events, this launch has received almost no media attention whatsoever. That's fine, because the only thing that matters is that countries around the world are now going to begin thinking about whether they want to launch satellites of their own, and this alone will bring about a large change to the way space exploration is done. And of course, the added experience that it brings to the people at SpaceX is invaluable in being able to keep launches successful in the future as well.

The launch video is wonderful too. Here it is; it starts launching a bit after 2 minutes in.

Status reports from before and a bit after the launch can be read here, and you can see threads on the subject here and here. I love reading those threads from the very beginning with all their trepidation and fear, then the tension of the moment of launch, and then the exuberance that follows after the report of a 100% success.

Make no mistake about it: today SpaceX has brought us one step closer to the dream of becoming a spacefaring civilization, more than any government-sponsored launch could have done. Not that there's anything wrong with government-run space programs (some pretty spectacular missions can be carried out when making a profit is not a concern), but we need to be able to get to space without them as well.

Edit: actually, you know what? I am irritated by the lack of media coverage, and here's why. Take a look at nytimes.com right now.

That's right - half a dozen articles about the Moon, so today's subject already is space, and not a single mention of the launch. On their space page there are also a few mentions of the Shuttle being delayed again. Nothing about SpaceX.

Maybe it was too late in the day and we'll see more articles in a few hours. If so then all is forgiven.


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