Elon Musk is one of the gutsiest entrepreneurs in the world. After making a pile from his share of PayPal which he co-founded Elon decided he wanted to do something no new company has done, build a new launch vehicle from scratch and then sell it.
A dogged and gifted salesman, he sold the Air Force on the idea. They were being pushed hard by Congress to come up with a cheaper and simpler rocket to lift small- and medium-sized satellites into orbit, and Elon had a workable solution risky, but workable.
But the third try which analysis of past launch programs indicate was crucial since programs that dont have a successful launch in the first three rarely succeed was pretty much an unmitigated failure, no matter how adeptly Elon tries to spin it. The launch from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific went well but the second stage did not separate correctly.
Even Jim Armor, former head of the National Security Space Office and a devout supporter of Operationally Responsive Space, now says he would not approve launch of any national security payload atop a Falcon launch system unless Elon gets two successful and successive launches under his belt.
Armor, now an independent consultant, confessed to being disheartened by the latest SpaceX failure.
What a heartbreaker, he said when I reached him on the phone. He said Elon must accept that his companys systems engineering skills are just not up to the task of putting together several rocket stages and getting them to work. As far as bringing it together in a stack Elon has been humbled by rocket science, Armor said. If I were him I would stop trying to do it by myself and would seek some outside expertise."
-- Colin Clark