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California Briefing / HAWTHORNE

Low-cost rocket breaks up over ocean

August 04, 2008|David Pierson

Teams were searching the central Pacific Ocean for the remnants of a low-cost rocket created by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk that malfunctioned soon after liftoff Saturday, a company spokeswoman said.

Two minutes after liftoff, the first of the rocket's two engines failed to detach from the rest of the projectile. The split was necessary to launch the second engine into orbit, Diane Murphy said.

The launch took place at United States military facilities on Omelek Island, about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii.

The rocket, Falcon 1, was designed to make space travel cheaper. It was carrying satellite equipment belonging to NASA and the Department of Defense, Murphy said.

This was the third launch by Musk's company, SpaceX.

Musk, who made $150 million from his sale of PayPal to EBay in 2002, is also trying to develop a viable electric car with his other company, Tesla Motors.

"It was obviously a big disappointment not to reach orbit on this flight," Musk said in a written statement on the SpaceX website.

"There should be absolutely zero question that SpaceX will prevail in reaching orbit and demonstrating reliable space transport."

-- David Pierson

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