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Falcon 9 progress, Events leading up to the first Falcon 9 Launch
Greg Hullender
post Jun 3 2008, 04:20 PM
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SpaceX just sent a press release with an update on the Falcon 9. They successfully did a 5-engine test. They also mentioned the next Falcon 1 attempt will be late June "or July," presumably meaning "late June or early July," but you never know. :-)

Here's the full text. This isn't on their web page yet, the last I looked:

McGregor TX – Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) conducted the first five-engine firing of its Falcon 9 medium to heavy lift rocket at its Texas Test Facility outside McGregor on Thursday, May 29. At full power the engines generated almost half a million pounds of force, and consumed 1,750 lbs of fuel and liquid oxygen per second. This five engine test again sets the record as the most powerful test yet on the towering 235-foot tall test stand.
The test of the five Merlin 1C engines, arranged in a cross pattern like the Saturn V moon rocket, is the last step before firing the full complement of nine engines, scheduled for this summer. With all engines operating, the Falcon 9 generates over one million pounds of thrust in vacuum - four times the maximum thrust of a 747 aircraft.
“This is the first time that we’ve added more than one engine at a time, and all phases of integration and testing went smoothly,” said Tom Mueller, Vice President of Propulsion for SpaceX. “As with previous tests, we saw no unexpected interactions between the engines, and are on schedule for adding four more engines.”
The first Falcon 9 will arrive at the SpaceX launch site at Cape Canaveral by the end of 2008. The next flight of SpaceX’s smaller Falcon 1 rocket is scheduled for late June or July of 2008.
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jekbradbury
post Jun 14 2008, 04:02 PM
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Wikipedia quotes June 23, 23:00 GMT for the next F1 launch, but cites a source that doesn't mention the date.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_in_spaceflight
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Greg Hullender
post Aug 21 2008, 04:13 PM
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In all the excitement around the Falcon 1 launch earlier this month, no one reported that Space X managed an all-engines firing of the Falcon 9.

Admittedly, it's hard to get excited about Falcon 9 when Falcon 1 has yet to fly successfully, but all signs are they really do intend to try to launch this thing this year. Their web page still says "Q4 2008" so I guess we'll see.

--Greg

SpaceX Conducts Full Thrust Firing of Falcon 9 Rocket
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Major milestone achieved towards demonstrating U.S. transport to the International Space Station following retirement of the Space Shuttle

McGregor TX – August 1, 2008 - Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) conducted the first nine engine firing of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle at its Texas Test Facility outside McGregor on July 30th. A second firing on August 1st completed a major NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) milestone almost two months early.

At full power, the nine engines consumed 3,200 lbs of fuel and liquid oxygen per second, and generated 832,000 pounds of force (lbf) – four times the maximum thrust of a 747 aircraft. This marks the first firing of a Falcon 9 first stage with its full complement of nine Merlin 1C engines . Once a near term Merlin 1C fuel pump upgrade is complete, the sea level thrust will increase to 950,000 lbf, making Falcon 9 the most powerful single core vehicle in the United States.

“This was the most difficult milestone in development of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and it also constitutes a significant achievement in US space vehicle development. Not since the final flight of the Saturn 1B rocket in 1975, has a rocket had the ability to lose any engine or motor and still successfully complete its mission,” said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. “Much like a commercial airliner, our multi-engine design has the potential to provide significantly higher reliability than single engine competitors.”

“We made a major advancement from the previous five engine test by adding four new Merlin engines at once,” said Tom Mueller, Vice President of Propulsion for SpaceX. “All phases of integration went smoothly and we were elated to see all nine engines working perfectly in concert.”

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Greg Hullender
post Sep 10 2008, 02:46 AM
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Another Falcon 9 update. They claim they're still on target to launch this year.

SpaceX Receives USAF Operational License for Cape Canaveral Launch Site

Company Remains on Schedule to Initiate Falcon 9 Commercial Operations in Q4 2008

Cape Canaveral FL – Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) has been granted an Operational License by the US Air Force for the use of Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the Florida coast. Receipt of the license, in conjunction with the approved Site Plan, paves the way for SpaceX to initiate Falcon 9 launch operations later this year.

"We are developing Falcon 9 to be a valuable asset to the American space launch fleet," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "The support we received from General Helms and the US Air Force has been immensely helpful in developing the pathfinder processes necessary for SpaceX to realize commercial space flights from the Cape."

"Our developments at Complex 40 continue with great speed," added Brian Mosdell, Director of Florida Launch Operations for SpaceX. "We have moved our massive oxygen storage tank into place, and expect to complete construction of our hangar later this year."

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dvandorn
post Sep 10 2008, 04:10 AM
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So Falcon 9 will be using the old Titan III pad, eh? Are they also going to use the old Titan assembly building, I wonder?

-the other Doug


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MahFL
post Sep 10 2008, 04:44 PM
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So we can expect a huge explosion there then when Falcon 9 blows up ?
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ugordan
post Sep 10 2008, 06:02 PM
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I'm hoping that the launch is successful even more now just so I don't have to read snide comments like that. The easiest thing is being a bystander mocking other people's failures.


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mchan
post Sep 14 2008, 09:54 AM
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QUOTE (dvandorn @ Sep 9 2008, 09:10 PM) *
So Falcon 9 will be using the old Titan III pad, eh? Are they also going to use the old Titan assembly building, I wonder?

IIRC, the LC40/41 Vertical Integration Building will be or has already been dismantled. This is the 4 bay building where the core is built. The building in the middle of the rail line where the SRMs are attached may be retained for possible use.
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GravityWaves
post Sep 18 2008, 03:28 AM
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I heard range safety or ground safety and personnel problems were delaying this one
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Greg Hullender
post Sep 24 2008, 07:18 PM
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I just noticed that SpaceX has added a document discussing the use of the Falcon 9 to launch payloads to the moon.

http://www.spacex.com/FalconLunarCapabilityGuide.pdf

It says they can put 1.925 metric tons into a Trans-lunar Injection orbit for $46.8M. It also mentions (in a graph) putting 1.2 tons into "Mars XFER". I was trying to see how that compares to either Phoenix or MSL, but I can't quite find the equivalent numbers. Anyone have them handy?

--Greg
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Greg Hullender
post Sep 26 2008, 08:46 PM
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Elon apparently did an online interview with the Washington Post.

http://www.spacex.com/media.php?page=20080926

Here are some excerpts I thought were interesting:

Washington, D.C.: If and when you manage to get all the Falcons and Dragon up and running, what's next? Further incremental improvements on these or something more revolutionary? Also, where do you stand on the value of the various X-prizes (and equivalents)?

Elon Musk: Still a long way to getting *all* the Falcons and Dragons flying. We need to get F1 to orbit for one thing smile.gif Then F9, F9 with Cargo Dragon, F9 with crew Drago and F9 Heavy. My interest is very much in the direction of Mars, so a Mars lander of some kind might be the next step.

Stillwater, Minn.: Mr. Musk, first of all, I've been following SpaceX via your website since before Flight 1, and I hope to join you all someday (I'm an undergrad ChEg at Notre Dame). Talk about the inherent advantages of your rockets over those designed by Lockheed Martin and Boeing (reusability, smaller size = significantly smaller cost, redundancies on the Falcon 9, etc.)

Elon Musk: The full answer for why SpaceX is lower cost is too long for this forum and I don't like to give soundbite answers if they are incorrect. The cost of a single use rocket is:

* Engines

* Structures

* Avionics

* Launch operation

* Overhead

We are better on every one at SpaceX vs competitors -- by a factor of two vs most international and four vs domestic. That is before reuse is considered, which could ultimately be a 10X or more additional reduction.

Los Angeles, Calif.: Elon: What's the latest news on Flight 4?

Elon Musk: Launch window is still holding for Sunday through Tuesday.

Urbana, Ill.: Right now you have two rockets based on the same first-stage engine (Merlin). To launch Falcon 9 Heavy, you'll need 27 of those engines to fire simultaneously. Do you have any plans to develop a larger engine in the future so that such clustering is not necessary?

Elon Musk: Yeah, I think there is an argument for a really really big Falcon engine or BFE, as we call it smile.gif

That would be equal or greater to the thrust of 27 Merlin 1C engines. Would be exciting to see that fire! On the other hand, lots of small engines can give very high reliability. Google uses lots of small PC computers for their search service and it has never ever gone down.

Calistoga, Calif.: Elon,

Your business plan emphasis low man power as cost savings method, how does NASA documentation requirements impact your man power requirements? In other words, how many of SpaceX staff are on board solely to deal with NASA requirements?

Elon Musk: The documentation does add to the cost per flight, perhaps on the order of 25% or so. However, the NASA people we deal with seem genuinely interested in reducing that cost (without affecting reliability, of course). Since we are not a cost plus contractor, we are incented towards efficiency, much like an airline.

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--Greg
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mcaplinger
post Sep 26 2008, 10:55 PM
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QUOTE (Greg Hullender @ Sep 24 2008, 12:18 PM) *
It also mentions (in a graph) putting 1.2 tons into "Mars XFER". I was trying to see how that compares to either Phoenix or MSL, but I can't quite find the equivalent numbers.

PHX injected mass was 670 kg, but one always has to be careful about the specifics of the transfer orbit for any given mission, since the C3 to Mars can vary by a factor of 2. You need more information than a single number to assess mission feasibility.

MSL injected mass is, according to http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mission/spacecraft.html, about 3400 kg.


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Disclaimer: This post is based on public information only. Any opinions are my own.
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nprev
post Sep 27 2008, 12:01 AM
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A little birdie just told me to check spacex.com on Sunday afternoon around 1600 PDT (2300 GMT) for live streaming video of the F1 flight 3 launch from Kwajalein.

(I make no claims for the veracity of little birdies, BTW, but thought you'd all like to know.)


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ugordan
post Nov 23 2008, 04:49 PM
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A major milestone in Falcon 9 development was completed last night with a full duration, 3 minute static firing of the first stage engines in McGregor, Texas. There's no official SpaceX release yet, but this site reported on the test and includes SpaceX official video and also an interview with a SpaceX employee who conducted the test.

There's also an interesting amateur video on youtube showing the test and rattling of his house walls/windows. Apparently, the meteorological conditions conspired to make the test felt quite a long way away and scared a big bunch of people as far as 25 miles away.

EDIT: Video now up on SpaceX site: Falcon 9 Nine Engine Test - MDC


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MahFL
post Nov 23 2008, 10:06 PM
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Wow, that sounds powerful.
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