Elon Musk’s SpaceX had another high-profile launch early Tuesday morning. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy spacecraft launched from Florida in a critical test of its ability to deploy two dozen satellites in three different types of orbits within a limited time frame.
If one is going to be a circus entertainer and carnival barker, one best have the greatest show on earth. Elon Musk put on a great show last year when SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket and also managed for two boosters to land back on earth simultaneously.
On Tuesday, Elon Musk received a bit of good news – and a generous helping of bad news – about the state of his interplanetary ambitions.
Tuesday’s SpaceX launch had several milestones to achieve. True to circus form, they both succeeded – and failed – in spectacular fashion.
SpaceX deployed 24 satellites over a 3.5 hour period while in orbit, which likely made the Air Force and NASA very happy.
NASA had its Deep Space Atomic Clock on board, a technology that will permit navigation in space without having to connect with information being delivered from the ground.
NOAA was responsible for six of the satellites to be set up around the globe to monitor basic atmospheric data.
As always, the launch itself was spectacular.
So was the landing of the side boosters, returning to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Equally spectacular, but in a totally different way, was the return of the core booster to Earth:
It missed the boat it was supposed to land on and exploded like a Tesla car in a Shanghai garage as it slammed into the ocean.
That’s Elon Musk – overpromising, under-delivering, and landing with an explosion.
Another goal was to capture the nose cone of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket in a gigantic net stretched across a drone ship in the ocean.
The nose cone is split into two fairings. They account for roughly 10 percent of the cost of a rocket, so being able to capture and reuse them is of some import – though not as important as cargo delivery.
One of two fairings was snared by the net, with the other falling into the ocean.
It’s never a bad thing to have multiple options for spaceflight. Certainly, the successful deployment of the SpaceX payload is good news for our military and national security.
Yet what remains of perpetual concern is Elon Musk.
SpaceX has three other competitors in the race for billions of dollars in Department of Defense contracts good through 2027. Competitors whose Twitter accounts aren’t the constant subject of SEC scrutiny.
If SpaceX wins, what message does it send?
Is it that one must be an erratic, grandiose ringmaster to win DoD contracts? Elon Musk is too volatile for the military to rely on SpaceX for our national defense.
Last modified: June 23, 2020 7:37 PM UTC