They'd REALLY Like To Be Off Omelek By Christmas...
Officials at El Segundo,
CA-based SpaceX have told Aero-News the company plans to launch its
Falcon 1 rocket on Monday, December 19 at 11 am PST (7 p.m. GMT).
The two-stage Falcon 1 rocket -- powered by liquid oxygen and
purified, rocket grade kerosene -- is expected to accelerate to
17,000 mph (25 times the speed of sound) in less than ten
We're really keeping our fingers crossed this time, as
last month's initial launch attempt was grounded by a number of
issues -- not the least of which seems to have been a double shot
of bad luck. As previously reported by
Aero-News, an uncommanded computer reboot followed by
a mis-set LOX valve conspired to scrub the planned November 26
launch from Omelek Island in the Kwajalein Atoll.
The last issue caused precious liquid oxygen to leak out of the
rocket, which required a new batch of fuel -- colorfully referred to by SpaceX founder
Elon Musk last week as "a double s*load" -- to be sent
by barge to the mid-Pacific island. As a backup (and likely at
least, in part, to give staffers stuck on the remote island
something to do) SpaceX crewmembers also got the island's LOX
production facility up and running again, as well.
Musk, who has much of his net worth (earned from previous
ventures, including founding Zip2 and a little company known as
PayPal) tied into the SpaceX project, maintained a positive -- and
realistic -- outlook on the ordeal, reminding ANN "[a]s I warned,
the likelihood of an all new rocket launching from an all new
launch pad on its first attempt is low."
The customer for SpaceX's first mission is DARPA and the Air
Force. The payload aboard the rocket will be FalconSat-2, part of
the Air Force Academy’s satellite program that will measure
space plasma phenomena, which can adversely affect space-based
communications, including GPS and other civil and military
communications. The target orbit is 400 km X 500 km (just above the
International Space Station) at an inclination of 39 degrees.
Designed from the ground up by SpaceX, Falcon 1 is a two stage
rocket powered by liquid oxygen and purified, rocket grade
kerosene. On launch day, Falcon 1 will launch into the history
books for several notable reasons:
- It will be the first privately developed, liquid fueled rocket
to reach orbit and the world's first all new orbital rocket in over
- The main engine of Falcon 1 (Merlin) will be the first all new
American hydrocarbon engine for an orbital booster to be flown in
forty years and only the second new American booster engine of any
kind in twenty-five years.
- The Falcon 1 is the only rocket flying 21st century avionics,
which require a small fraction of the power and mass of other
- It will be the world's only semi-reusable orbital rocket apart
from the Shuttle.
- Most importantly, Falcon 1, priced at $6.7 million, will
provide the lowest cost per flight to orbit of any launch vehicle
in the world, despite receiving a design reliability rating
equivalent to that of the best launch vehicles currently flying in
the United States.
SpaceX tells Aero-News the company will offer still photos and a
video feed of the Monday launch on the SpaceX website, available
through the FMI link below, within hours of Falcon 1's trip
into space. Start rubbing those rabbit feet now...