Space

The Story of Space X

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A great, comprehensive piece in Wired on the state of Space X, the private space company founded by Elon Musk, "a gazillionaire, a master of the universe, the guy who started PayPal and flipped it to eBay for $1.5 billion, the guy who built the first viable electric sports car." The piece centers around a recent aborted launch attempt and eventual sucessful launch of his Falcon rocket:

The Falcon ground crew population has doubled to include observers from the Air Force and Darpa (the Pentagon's research arm). The military is looking for technology that will give it "operational responsiveness" — jargon for launching cheap rockets fast, should someone suddenly start attacking US satellites. "Elon has this very clear and very big vision, backed up with his own money," says John Antonnen, Darpa's rep for the mission. "All these other startup companies have tried to depend on government contracts, and it's not enough. They simmer along and never get anywhere. But Elon has built the first new rocket and launch system in 30 years, and that's radical. The technology is simple, but the software and launch system is not — it's cutting-edge. I mean, a tiny crew in T-shirts and flip-flops is operating the rocket from 20 miles away."

Read the whole thing. And read "Space Travel for Fun and Profit" from the January issue.

NEXT: The Third Man

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  1. Space XXX might be more interesting.

  2. I mean, a tiny crew in T-shirts and flip-flops is operating the rocket from 20 miles away.

    NERD POWER

  3. So the private sector got something done better and more efficiently than the public sector did? Weird.

  4. I am, to put it mildly, not a fan of NASA, but until a private outfit can give a one-ton vehicle escape velocity (27,000 miles an hour), forgive me for not being impressed.

  5. I hope that Space X is successful in getting to orbit next time around.

  6. You would think that all those nerds wandering around Wired would know that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) should be capitalized, since it’s an acronym and all.

    /needless pedantry

  7. I am, to put it mildly, not a fan of NASA, but until a private outfit can give a one-ton vehicle escape velocity (27,000 miles an hour), forgive me for not being impressed.

    Working on it! Geez!

  8. Space XXX might be more interesting.

    Or Carrie, starring Sissy Space X.

  9. ProLib,
    Amen. Of course, here’s to hoping they get it off on their first attempt next time as well. All those standdowns cost us a lot of productivity at work…

    ~Jon

  10. Notice the discrepancy in tone between the article itself — which acknowledges the challenges yet to be overcome — and the triumphalist cover. Golly, all those rockets! (Look closely, and most of those that can be identified are in fact products of Old Aerospace; only a — duplicated — handful are actually products of the ballyhooed “Private Space Age.”

  11. The private sector will do it, and they’ll do it better. It’s just going to take some time. They can’t throw billions of dollars at every project, after all. We’re talking about a sustained space economy, too, not 5-6 shot deals.

  12. We can agree that “it’s just going to take some time.” What I’m questioning is the breathless attitude embodied in the WIRED cover (and some H&R responders) that now things are really going to speed up because lean mean entrepreneurs are taking over from big sluggish gummint.

    By far the greater part of the difficulties — limited demand and far-off ROI, limited headroom in current technologies — have little to do with whether the effort is public or private.

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