Test of commercial rocket fizzles in a Texas firing

Test-firing the engine of America's first commercial rocket was supposed to bring private enterprise into the space age. But the 55-foot Percheron rocket blew its top on an isolated Texas launching pad.

Failure of a tiny liquid oxygen valve may have sparked the explosion, say engineers for Space Services Inc., which has a five-year waiting list of companies expecting private enterprise to place business communication satellites in space cheaper and faster than the government. The explosion, just weeks before the rocket's government-approved suborbital launching, set the venture back six months and $1.2 million.

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