Monday, December 19, 2005

SpaceX Launch scrubbed

Historic SpaceX Launch Set for December 19: The World's Lowest Cost Rocket to Orbit

This rocket is a private-sector attempt to provide the lowest-cost ride into orbit. It was supposed to launch today, but the flight was scrubbed. According to SpaceX:

"The SpaceX launch is scrubbed until early next year, as there is a structural issue with the 1st stage fuel tank that will require repair. We will provide further comment as soon as this has been carefully analyzed. Consistent with our policy, we must be 100% green for launch with no outstanding concerns whatsoever. It is not just a matter of repairing the damage, but also understanding at a fundamental level how to ensure it never happens again."

Why is this so hard? Obviously space flight IS hard, because there are always problems, but what is it that makes it so hard?

Two other questions:
  1. Why did SpaceShipOne make it look relatively easy?

  2. What was going on in the 1960s?
The 1960s continue to amaze me. In 1961, we launched the Mercury rocket. It was a simple, single stage rocket that went into orbit. They have one of these rockets at a museum about 30 miles away from my home. You can walk right up to it and touch it. It looks so simple - a metal tube made from curved pieces of metal that have been riveted together.

And yet here we are, 45 years later, and it is still hard. You would assume that, by now, rockets that fly into low-earth orbit would be as common and safe and straightforward as school buses, yet they are not.

This is an incredibly important question that almost no-one is asking, with implications far beyond rocketry. Why is it that in the 1960s so many things seemed as easy or easier than they do today? Why, generally speaking, do today's large organizations find themselves paralyzed or ineffectual while those of 40 years ago did not. Look what GE did 80 years ago if you want to see real innovation. Today, what do we have like that? Sony seems like the closest thing, but not there by a long shot.
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