Privately owned space exploration company SpaceX moments ago successfully launched its Falcon 1 rocket. The rocket was developed entirely by SpaceX. According to company founder Elon Musk, who previously co-founded Zip2 and PayPal, the Falcon 1’s success will drive the cost of space access down “ultimately by a factor of 10.”
SpaceX unsuccessfully attempted to launch the Falcon 1 one year ago. It appeared promising after first, but the rocket eventually plummeted into the ocean. After a scrubbed launch yesterday due to fuel pressure, the launch was rescheduled for this afternoon. Due to the previously failed attempts, initial success was met with bated-breath, but in the end the Falcon 1 reached stage two separation (shown in the pic) and entered
The Falcon 1 uses two proprietary engines for each stage of its launch mechanism. The main engine is called the Merlin, it provides 115,000-pounds of thrust before stage two is initiated. When stage two begins the Falcon 1 is powered by the Kestrel engine’s 7,000-pounds of thrust. Both engines are fueled by rocket grade kerosene.
I can’t emphasize enough how important this is for the future of space exploration. It will markedly reduce the prices of space access and encourage entities other than NASA to examine the merits of space exploration.
SpaceX has already announced hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts that will become a reality now that it has successfully launched. I’m sure everyone at SpaceX is feeling a bit happier about their equity in the company at the moment — and I’m sure Elon Musk is feeling a bit better about using his own fortune, estimated at $328 million, to finance SpaceX.
The company has also declared plans for the Dragon, a manned spacecraft set to launch before the end of the decade.
* So it turns out that there was a problem with the second stage. When stage two initiated the Kestrel engine failed to engage and the rocket went into a spin and it fell back to Earth. It’s still a huge accomplishment though.