Learning to Fly

Falcon 1 fired up and lifted off yesterday afternoon, and for some seconds it was a beautiful sight over Kwaj; but for SpaceX, the Air Force, cadets who built FalconSat-2 and Falcon supporters watching online around the world, the thrill of this historic maiden launch abruptly cut short.

You couldn't see it via the live webcast, but as Elon Musk reports this morning, "at T+25s, a fuel leak of currently unknown origin caused a fire around the top of the main engine that cut into the first stage helium pneumatic system. On high resolution imagery, the fire is clearly visible within seconds after liftoff. Once the pneumatic pressure decayed below a critical value, the spring return safety function of the pre-valves forced them closed, shutting down the main engine at T+29s."

A friend reminded Elon, "only 5 of the first 9 Pegasus launches succeeded; 3 of 5 for Ariane; 9 of 20 for Atlas; 9 of 21 for Soyuz; and 9 of 18 for Proton." Elon's reaction? "Having experienced firsthand how hard it is to reach orbit, I have a lot of respect for those that persevered to produce the vehicles that are mainstays of space launch today."

Here on Space Law Probe, we share that respect. And we look forward to the next launch, which Elon hopes will "occur in less than six months."

Per ardua ad astra, as always.

(Mirror of the launch video courtesy Mike Taht.)

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