Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Live Blogging! SpaceX Falcon 1

I've been following the progress of SpaceX on and off for the last year or so, and tonight I may have some lucky timing. Their Falcon1's several-times-delayed "Demo flight 2" from Kwajelein Atoll is in its final countdown at about T-5 minutes and counting. Let's see if they go... and if I can get this post up before they do.

Why does the webcast image keep going to inverted mirror image and now black with audio only?!? OK it's back... 2 minutes...

YESSS! Successful launch (9:10 pm EDT), but there was no video of the liftoff itself - the engine exhaust wiped out the ground camera, but they switched immediately to an on-board camera looking down from the second stage interface point. Not much of a view until staging, which was very cool. Then at about T+5 minutes, I lost the webcast feed - Media Player says it "can't find this file." Frustrating - hope everything's OK with the bird and it's just an internet glitch or server overload or something. Everything was nominal up until my LOWS (loss of web signal!).

I guess it wasn't just the webcast - Spaceflight Now reports they lost all telemetry from the second stage shortly after separation. Have to wait and see what happened, but they made it to space if not to orbit (last reported altitude was 161 km at T+4:20, and my last screen capture was T+4:49, though second stage was supposed to burn for about 5 minutes beyond that time - the engine bell was rocking visibly in the last few seconds of video) . That's why they call it a test flight - but it's real progress in any case.

Spaceflight Now (a blog reporting on a blog!) reports that Elon Musk just announced that there was a "roll-control anomaly" and an early second stage shutdown, and that the rocket may have re-entered the atmosphere before reaching orbit. But he still believes it was a very good day for SpaceX - certainly real progress on the road to lower cost access to space.

P.S. Elon Musk posted a summary of the flight here. Suborbital altitude achieved was said to be 200 miles (320 km).

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