Plan Going Forward
It was obviously a big disappointment not to reach orbit on this flight [Falcon 1, Flight 3]. On the plus side, the flight of our first stage, with the new Merlin 1C engine that will be used in Falcon 9, was picture perfect. Unfortunately, a problem occurred with stage separation, causing the stages to be held together. This is under investigation and I will send out a note as soon as we understand exactly what happened.
The most important message I’d like to send right now is that SpaceX will not skip a beat in execution going forward. We have flight four of Falcon 1 almost ready for flight and flight five right behind that. I have also given the go ahead to begin fabrication of flight six. Falcon 9 development will also continue unabated, taking into account the lessons learned with Falcon 1. We have made great progress this past week with the successful nine engine firing.
As a precautionary measure to guard against the possibility of flight 3 not reaching orbit, SpaceX recently accepted a significant investment. Combined with our existing cash reserves, that ensures we will have more than sufficient funding on hand to continue launching Falcon 1 and develop Falcon 9 and Dragon. There should be absolutely zero question that SpaceX will prevail in reaching orbit and demonstrating reliable space transport. For my part, I will never give up and I mean never.
Thanks for your hard work and now on to flight four.
SpaceX Sets August 2 for Falcon 1 launch
Lift-off of the vehicle will occur from SpaceX’s Falcon 1 launch site at the Kwajalein Atoll, about 2500 miles southwest of Hawaii. Falcon 1 launch facilities are situated on Omelek Island, part of the Reagan Test Site (RTS) at United States Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) in the Central Pacific.
Designed from the ground up by SpaceX at headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., Falcon 1 is a two-stage, liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene powered launch vehicle. The first stage is powered by a single SpaceX Merlin 1C Regenerative engine – flying for the first time on this Flight 3 mission. A “hold before liftoff” system enhances reliability by permitting all systems to be verified as functioning nominally before launch is initiated. The Falcon 1 second stage is powered by a single SpaceX Kestrel engine.
Falcon 1 is the first new orbital rocket in more than a decade. Merlin is the first new American hydrocarbon engine for an orbital booster to be flown in more than 40 years and only the second new American engine of any kind in more than a quarter century. After achieving orbit, Falcon 1 will be the first privately developed, liquid fuel rocket to orbit the Earth.
The primary customers for the Falcon 1 launch are the Department of Defense, Government of Malaysia and NASA. Falcon 1 is carrying a payload stack of three separating satellites that will orbit at an inclination of 9 degrees:The Trailblazer satellite was developed by SpaceDev of Poway, Calif., for the Jumpstart Program of DoD’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office, as a test platform to validate the hardware, software and processes of an accelerated microsatellite launch. Trailblazer is deployed from the Falcon 1 second stage shortly after the shut-down of the second stage engine, about 10 minutes into flight. Deploying four to eight minutes later will be two NASA small satellites: PRESat, a micro laboratory from NASA’s Ames Research Center, and then NanoSail-D, which will unfurl an ultra-thin solar sail, developed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, in collaboration with NASA Ames Research Center. The three separating satellites attach to the Falcon 1 second stage via the Secondary Payload Adaptor and Separation System, (SPASS), developed by ATSB, a company owned by the Government of Malaysia that develops and commercializes space technology. The SPASS was engineered by Space Access Technologies of Ashburn, Va.
SpaceX will provide live coverage of the Falcon 1 Flight 3 mission via webcast at: www.SpaceX.com . The webcast will begin 30 minutes prior to launch and will include mission briefings, live feeds and launch coverage from the launch site at the Kawjalein Atoll, as well as a special video tour of SpaceX facilities by Elon Musk, CEO and CTO.
SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles intended to increase the reliability and reduce the cost of both manned and unmanned space transportation, ultimately by a factor of ten. With its Falcon line of launch vehicles, powered by internally-developed Merlin engines, SpaceX offers light, medium and heavy lift capabilities to deliver spacecraft into any altitude and inclination, from low-Earth to geosynchronous orbit to planetary missions. SpaceX currently has 12 missions on its manifest, excluding the two previous Falcon 1 demonstration flights, plus indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts with NASA and the US Air Force.
As a winner of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services competition (COTS), SpaceX is in a position to help fill the gap in American spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS) when the Space Shuttle retires in 2010. Under the existing Agreement, SpaceX will conduct three flights of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for NASA, culminating in Dragon berthing with the ISS. NASA also has an option to demonstrate crew services to the ISS using the Falcon 9 / Dragon system. SpaceX is the only COTS contender that has the capability to return pressurized cargo and crew to Earth. The first Falcon 9 will arrive at the SpaceX launch site (complex 40) at Cape Canaveral by the end of 2008 in preparation for its maiden flight.