Musk Reasonably Confident of Falcon 9 Launch Friday

Musk Reasonably Confident of Falcon 9 Launch Friday

In a media teleconference today, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said that he feels there is about a 75 percent chance that the first launch of Falcon 9 will succeed tomorrow. He stressed that if it fails, that should not be interpreted as a failure of the commercial space launch industry. Indeed, he insists that the future of the space program depends on commercial companies like his because the government simply does not have the money to continue with the space program as it has in the past.

The four hour launch window opens at 11:00 am EDT tomorrow. Saturday has been reserved for a second attempt in case anything goes awry, like the weather.

In response to a question about how much has been invested in Falcon 9, Musk said that it is impossible to separate Falcon 9 from Falcon 1 since so many aspects of it are the same, such as the Merlin engine, avionics, software, and ground support equipment. He said that SpaceX has invested a total of $350-400 million total to date for all versions of the Falcon and associated technology and launch site infrastructure.

He also stressed that complete reusability is his goal, although recovery will be attempted only of the first stage of Falcon 9 on this flight. For the future, though, he commented that “I would not consider SpaceX a complete success unless we get complete reusability.”

A reporter asked if he felt that SpaceX was a political football, and Musk answered “Yes, we’re a political punching bag, a whipping boy,” adding that it was unfortunate. Opponents have taken aim at SpaceX while ignoring the Atlas and Delta, he said.

He also clarified that recent media stories about a delay between the launch of the first and second COTS demonstration flights missed the important point that what SpaceX is really trying to do is accelerate the demonstration of delivering cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). The plan was for three demonstration flights, with the third actually berthing with the ISS to deliver cargo. He now wants to do that on the second demonstration flight instead, and the third flight would be used as a backup if the second flight was not fully successful. NASA has not yet approved the new plan, however, he added.

As for the flight tomorrow, SpaceX is aiming for a 250 mile circular orbit due east out of Cape Canaveral. Musk repeated what the company put out in a press release yesterday that they will consider it a good day if only the first stage flies as planned; it would be a “great” day if the first and second stages performed correctly and the payload reached orbit.

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