SpaceX Falcon 1: Fourth Time's a Charm

After three separate failures, Space Exploration Technologies (or SpaceX) got the Falcon 1 into space.

Falcon 1, SpaceX’s liquid-fueled rocket, lifted off its launch pad at the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Defense Test Site on September 28 at 7:15 p.m. EDT. "As the saying goes, the fourth time’s the charm," said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. "This is one of the best days of my life."

This momentous occasion for the private space travel industry was not without errors or sacrifice. Since Musk, who was the co-founder of PayPal, founded SpaceX back in 2002, Falcon had launched three previous times, all ending short of their goal in a brilliant flash of light. The first attempt was victim to fire caused by a fuel leak shortly after launch. The second attempt was nearly a success, but an early shut down of the rockets second stage ended the near-completed run. Back on Aug. 2, an engine timing issue caused the rocket’s first stage to separate, and then collide with the second stage, abruptly ending the flight.

However, the fourth attempt was a complete success, ending with an Earth orbit that ranged from 310 to 434 miles, or 500-700 kilometers. "This is really just the first step for SpaceX," said Elon after the launch. "We’ve shown that we can get to orbit, [and] we’ve shown that we don’t have any design errors...The team is elated and ecstatic."

According to, "The booster stands 68 feet tall (21 meters) tall and is designed to haul payloads of up to about 1,256 pounds (570 kg) to low-Earth orbit." On Sunday nights launch, the Falcon 1 was carrying a 364-pound dummy satellite, which the SpaceX team nicknamed RatSat. The satellite should stay in orbit for anywhere between five and ten years. As for the fifth iteration of the Falcon 1, it should launch sometime in early 2009, and will carry a Malaysian satellite as well as several other payloads.

Currently, SpaceX is also working on the Falcon 9 rocket, a big brother of sorts to the Falcon 1. The Falcon 9 is due to be tested down at NASA’s Cape Canaveral launch pad in the summer of 2009.

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  • Mr_Man
    Take that, Commies!
    Seriously, though, this is amazing. SpaceX is not only the first business to do this, they've done it so much more cheaply than NASA did, or still does.
  • jrabbitb
    I'd still give NASA a lot of credit but it is nice to see commercial options coming to reality. now some of the non government supported ideas can get off the ground. no pun intended.
  • JonnyDough
    So wait, they put launch some space junk and it's supposed to drop out of the sky sometime within the next decade but they really don't know when? Is it space travel amateur hour? 3 failures and a dummy satellite? I want to go to space as a tourist! Where do I sign up? How can they even do this? As far as I'm concerned "getting to space" probably isn't all that hard, especially when NASA gives away tons of data to help out. Shouldn't it be considered successful once they successfully bring their ship BACK from space intact? I would think that would be a bit more important to anyone considering traveling to space. Why don't we just put certain people (ie certain "authors" on DT [J.M.?]and maybe those from Space X who decided it would be a good idea to create more space junk) on a rocket and send them to space and then pat ourselves on the back if they don't blow up on the way. Then we'll call it a success if they remain floating around earth for 5-10 years.