Feeds

Elon Musk delays SpaceX launch until 2009

'Off the shelf' rocket suffering technical hiccups

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Visionary PayPal multi-millionaire Elon Musk has revealed setbacks in his plans to develop cheaper access to space. It now appears that the inaugural flight of Musk's SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher and Dragon capsule will be put back from early Q4 this year to late Q1 2009.

Speaking to Flight International, Musk blamed the delay on sheer volume of work, as well as regulatory burdens resulting from a shift of launch site by SpaceX.

"It is the enormous amount of work to get done," he said. "I can't honestly point to any one thing. It is an array of things. Structural qualification, software and hardware testing, we have to complete it all for Dragon and for the Falcon 9, and prove it to the NASA folks."

Falcon 9 will operate from Cape Canaveral in Florida. It was originally planned to fly from Kwajalein atoll in the Pacific, like SpaceX's Falcon 1. "The primary design driver," of the Falcon rockets, according to SpaceX, "is and will remain reliability."

Such reliability has not yet been achieved, however, with two demonstration flights by Falcon 1 suffering serious technical failures. The first caught fire and crashed, and the second failed to achieve orbit due to problems during stage separation. A third Falcon 1 launch is planned for April.

The Dragon capsule is designed to carry 2.5 tonnes of cargo or six astronauts into low orbit.

Despite the initial test snags - by no means uncommon with new rockets - SpaceX has done well in landing contracts, perhaps because it aims to seriously reduce the price of space launch as well as improve reliability. Falcon 1 is described as "the world's lowest cost flight to orbit" at $7m for 570kg of stuff carried.

The firm also has funding from NASA, which wants to be able to draw on "commercial off the shelf" (COTS) lift capacity - among other things, in order to service the International Space Station once the shuttle fleet retires.

SpaceX says it is in "an extremely strong financial position", and that its business model "will re-ignite humanity's efforts to explore and develop Space", in accordance with Musk's vision.

It is the COTS launches for NASA which have now been delayed. Provided that the trial flight of Falcon 9 early next year is successful, payload-carrying COTS missions are expected to follow in quick succession.

Mr Musk is also involved in other new-tech ventures, most notably the Tesla Motors electric car effort. He owns the first ever Tesla Roadster battery supercar, though like other early Roadster drivers he will need to have some components of his car - such as the transmission - replaced by improved versions once certain snags have been ironed out.

The Flight report is here. The SpaceX website is here. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
ASTEROID'S SHOCK DINO-KILLING SPREE just bad luck - boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.