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."