I figured I wouldn’t be a good space pundit/SpaceX fanboy if I didn’t chime it with at least some irrelevant commentary on SpaceX’s launch failure today. I know some of the people there at SpaceX, and this has got to be a really lousy day for them. I can’t speak from experience regarding what a crash feels like, but from the few test engine failures we’ve had, and how sick those make you feel, I can’t even imagine what having a crash has got to be like. But I guess that when you have an incredibly complicated system like Falcon or like other existing orbital vehicles, where everything has to work just right, there are almost no margins, and nothing can be flight tested beforehand, risks and sucky days like these are inevitable.
I’m glad that for our suborbital vehicles we will be able to do things like cutting our teeth on takeoffs and landings hanging under a tether. While we’ll still probably have out ulcer-inducing moments where we have to push the envelope into some new regime that we haven’t tried before, and where something could go wrong, those will be fewer and farther between. Trying to get every part of a rocket vehicle like that, with all the subsystems working perfectly from the start is a real challenge. SpaceX has a phenominal crew, and I’m sure they’ll get this figured out, and probably make a whole bunch of money on this, but I’m glad that the approach they’re taking is not the only way to solve this problem.