A new rocket developed by an Internet entrepreneur's fledgling El Segundo company failed during its long-awaited maiden launch from a remote western Pacific island Friday.
The Falcon I rocket, which was designed to sharply cut the cost of sending satellites into orbit, cleared the launch pad on Omelek Island and flew normally for about a minute but did not reach orbit, said a spokeswoman for the rocket developer, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. The company did not say whether the rocket exploded or plunged into the sea.
"We had a successful liftoff, and Falcon made it well clear of the launch pad, but unfortunately the vehicle was lost later in the first-stage burn," company founder Elon Musk said in an e-mail from the Marshall Islands.
The 70-foot-long, two-stage rocket was carrying a 43-pound experimental satellite built by students at the Air Force Academy.
It was not immediately clear what caused the rocket to go off course or when the next attempt would be, but Musk had previously said he was willing to make at least three launch attempts before giving up on his bid to field a low-cost rocket.