Bad news from the worthwhile sections of this morning’s New York Times: another SpaceX rocket blew up.
A privately funded rocket was lost on its way to space Saturday night, bringing a third failure in a row to an Internet multimillionaire’s effort to create a market for low-cost space-delivery.
The accident occurred a little more than two minutes after launch, and the two-stage Falcon 1 rocket appeared to be oscillating before the live signal from an on-board video camera went dead.
On the one hand, I hate to see these things blow up. I’m no free-market zealot, but I’m all for cheap space travel, and I’d love to see more launch vehicles available. Particularly given the gross mismanagement of a lot of NASA programs from the executive level.
At the same time, I have to admit to a little schadenfreude here, not for the SpaceX folks, but for the hordes of annoying private space flight evangelists on the Internet and at SF cons. While I agree that there are lots of things NASA does badly, a lot of the expense and risk of launching stuff into space comes from the fact that launching stuff into space is fundamentally a Hard Problem. It’s not just government incompetence that can be fixed through the magic of entrepreneurial vigor or whatever.
I hate to see them lose rockets, but I hope that some good comes from it, not only in refining the launch vehicles themselves, but also in forcing some of the more outlandish claims of the private space enthusiasts back to reality.