SpaceX's Falcon 1 experiences 'anomaly' 2:20 into flight (edit: the anomaly was problems with stage separation)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Bleh. Here's a thread on that was watching the launch.

'Anomaly' generally means that a rocket has blown up, according to posters on the thread:

DrRocket: You are not very far out on that limb. "Anomaly", as used in the industry, is commonly a polite way of saying "it blew up".

Phaze: Yup. Just before launch I was watching a Youtube video of a pretty dramatic failure of a Delta rocket in 1998. The controller referred to it as an "anomaly" even as masses of flaming death were falling all around.
Here's the timeline from, with the part after launch below:

0334 GMT (11:34 p.m. EDT)

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket, beginning a satellite delivery mission to space for the U.S. military and NASA. And the vehicle has cleared the tower.

0334 GMT (11:34 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 30 seconds. The 70-foot tall rocket is climbing away from its tropical launch island of the Pacific, riding nearly 78,000 pound of thrust.

0334 GMT (11:34 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 45 seconds. Falcon systems are reported normal as the vehicle nears Mach 1.

0335 GMT (11:35 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 60 seconds. One minute into flight. The Merlin main engine continues to fire, burning a mixture of kerosene fuel and supercold liquid oxygen.

0335 GMT (11:35 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 82 seconds. Falcon has passed the region of maximum aerodynamic forces, or MaxQ.

0336 GMT (11:36 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 2 minutes. Falcon is soaring entirely on the thrust generated by the Merlin powerplant, which was developed in-house by SpaceX.

0336 GMT (11:36 p.m. EDT)


0337 GMT (11:37 p.m. EDT)

The SpaceX video broadcast of the launch was terminated about two minutes, 20 seconds into the flight. A spokesperson then announced that there had been "an anomaly" with the launch vehicle.

Wikipedia has a pretty detailed template on this as information comes in:

Edit: A few hours later, it turns out the problem was with stage separation:
A statement from SpaceX founder Elon Musk, as delivered to the news media by Diane Murphy, SpaceX vice president of marketing and communications:

"It was obviously a big disappointment not to reach orbit on this Flight 003 of the Falcon 1. On the plus side, the flight of our first stage with the new Merlin 1C regenerative engine that will be used in Falcon 9 was picture-perfect. Unfortunately, a problem occurred at stage separation causing the stages to be held together. This is under investigation."

Elon Musk though says he's in it for the long run (and I'm glad he is):

It was obviously a big disappointment not to reach orbit on this flight [Falcon 1, Flight 3]. On the plus side, the flight of our first stage, with the new Merlin 1C engine that will be used in Falcon 9, was picture perfect. Unfortunately, a problem occurred with stage separation, causing the stages to be held together. This is under investigation and I will send out a note as soon as we understand exactly what happened.

The most important message I’d like to send right now is that SpaceX will not skip a beat in execution going forward. We have flight four of Falcon 1 almost ready for flight and flight five right behind that. I have also given the go ahead to begin fabrication of flight six. Falcon 9 development will also continue unabated, taking into account the lessons learned with Falcon 1. We have made great progress this past week with the successful nine engine firing.

As a precautionary measure to guard against the possibility of flight 3 not reaching orbit, SpaceX recently accepted a significant investment. Combined with our existing cash reserves, that ensures we will have more than sufficient funding on hand to continue launching Falcon 1 and develop Falcon 9 and Dragon. There should be absolutely zero question that SpaceX will prevail in reaching orbit and demonstrating reliable space transport. For my part, I will never give up and I mean never.


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