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Falcon 1

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Title: Falcon 1  
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Subject: SpaceX, Falcon (rocket family), Falcon 9 v1.0, SpaceX launch facilities, 2008 in spaceflight
Collection: 2006 in Spaceflight, Falcon (Rocket Family), Partially Reusable Space Launch Vehicles
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Falcon 1

Falcon 1

Falcon 1 rocket.
Function Orbital launch vehicle
Manufacturer SpaceX
Country of origin United States
Height 21.3 m (70 ft)
Diameter 1.7 m (5.5 ft)
Mass 38,555 kg (85,000 lb)
Stages 2
Payload to LEO 180 kg demonstrated; 670 kg (1480 lb) proposed
Payload to
430 kg (990 lb)
Launch history
Status Retired[1]
Launch sites Omelek Island
Total launches 5
Successes 2
Failures 3
Partial failures 0
First flight March 24, 2006
22:30 GMT
Last flight July 14, 2009
03:35 GMT
First stage
Engines 1 Merlin 1C
Thrust 454 kN (102,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 255 s (sea level)
(2.6 kN·s/kg)
Burn time 169 seconds
Fuel RP-1/LOX
Second stage
Engines 1 Kestrel
Thrust 31 kN (7,000 lbf)
Specific impulse 327 s (vacuum)
(3.2 kN·s/kg))
Burn time 378 seconds
Fuel RP-1/LOX

The Falcon 1 was an expendable launch system privately developed and manufactured by SpaceX,[2] a space transportation company in Hawthorne, California. The two-stage-to-orbit rocket uses LOX/RP-1 for both stages, the first powered by a single Merlin engine and the second powered by a single Kestrel engine. It was designed by SpaceX from the ground up and is the first successfully liquid-propelled orbital launch vehicle developed with private funding.

The vehicle made five launches. Falcon 1 achieved orbit on its fourth attempt, on 28 September 2008, with a mass simulator as a payload. On 14 July 2009, Falcon 1 successfully delivered the Malaysian RazakSAT satellite to orbit on SpaceX's first commercial launch (fifth launch overall). Following its fifth launch, the Falcon 1 was retired.

Space-X had announced an enhanced variant, the Falcon 1e,[1] but as of May 2012, SpaceX states that "Current plans are for payloads that would fly on Falcon 1 to be served by flights on the Falcon 9, utilizing excess capacity" and no Falcon 1 or 1e flights are scheduled through 2017.


  • Design 1
    • First stage 1.1
    • Second stage 1.2
    • Reusability 1.3
  • Operation 2
  • Private funding 3
  • Pricing 4
  • Launch sites 5
  • Variants 6
  • Launch history 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


First-stage view of the Merlin engine.

According to SpaceX, the Falcon 1 was designed to minimize price per launch for low-Earth-orbit satellites, increase reliability, and optimize flight environment and time to launch.[3] It also was used to verify components and structural design concepts that would be reused in the Falcon 9.

First stage

The first stage was made from friction-stir-welded 2219 aluminum alloy.[4] It employs a common bulkhead between the LOX and RP-1 tanks, as well as flight pressure stabilization. It can be transported safely without pressurization (like the heavier Delta II isogrid design) but gains additional strength when pressurized for flight (like the Atlas II, which could not be transported unpressurized). The resulting design has the highest propellant mass fraction of any current first stage. The parachute system, built by Irvin Para­chute Corp­oration, uses a high-speed drogue chute and a main chute.

The Falcon 1 first stage was powered by a single pump-fed Merlin 1C engine burning RP-1 and liquid oxygen providing 410 kilonewtons (92,000 lbf) of sea-level thrust and a specific impulse of 245 s (vacuum Isp 290 s).[4] The first stage burns to depletion, taking around 169 seconds to do so.[4]

Second stage

The second stage Falcon 1 tanks were built with a cryogenic-compatible 2014 aluminum alloy,[4] with the plan to move to aluminum-lithium alloy on the Falcon 1e.[4] The helium pressurization system pumps propellant to the engine, supplies heated[4] pressurized gas for the attitude control thrusters, and is used for zero-g propellant accumulation prior to engine restart. The Kestrel engine includes a titanium heat exchanger to pass waste heat to the helium, thereby greatly extending its work capacity.[5] The pressure tanks are made by Arde corporation and are the same as those used in the Delta IV. They consist of an inconel shell wrapped by a composite.

The second stage was powered by a pressure-fed Kestrel engine with 31 kilonewtons (7,000 lbf) of vacuum thrust and a vacuum specific impulse of 330 s.[4]


It had originally been planned that the first stage will return by parachute to a water landing and be recovered for reuse, but this capability was never demonstrated.[6][7] The second stage was not designed to be reusable.[6][7]


At launch, the first stage engine (Merlin) is ignited and throttled to full power while the launcher is restrained and all systems are verified by the flight computer. If the systems are operating correctly, the rocket is released and clears the tower in about seven seconds. The first-stage burn lasts about 2 minutes and 49 seconds. Stage separation is accomplished with explosive bolts and a pneumatically actuated pusher system.

The second stage Kestrel engine burns for about six minutes, inserting the payload into a low Earth orbit. It is capable of multiple restarts.

Private funding

The Falcon 1 rocket was developed with private funding.[8][9] The only other orbital launch vehicles to be privately funded and developed were the Conestoga in 1982 and Pegasus, first launched in 1990; which uses a large aircraft as its first stage.[10]

While the development of Falcon 1 was privately funded, the first two Falcon 1 launches were purchased by the United States Department of Defense under a program that evaluates new US launch vehicles suitable for use by DARPA.[11][12][9]


SpaceX is one of the few launch system operators that publishes its launch prices, which are quoted as being the same for all customers.[13] In 2005 Falcon 1 was advertised as costing $5.9 million ($6.4 million when adjusted for inflation in 2009).[14][15] In 2006 until 2007 the quoted price of the rocket when operational was $6.7 million.[16] In late 2009 SpaceX announced new prices for the Falcon 1 and 1e at $7 million and $8.5 million respectively, with small discounts available for multi-launch contracts,[3] and in 2012 announced that payloads originally selected as flying on the Falcon 1 and 1e would fly as secondary payloads on the Falcon 9.[1]

Historically, the Falcon 1 was originally planned to launch about 600 kilograms (1,300 lb) to low-Earth orbit for US$6,000,000 but later declined to approximately 420 kilograms (930 lb) as the price increased to approximately US$9,000,000. The final version of the Falcon 1, the Falcon 1e,[17] was projected to provide approximately 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb) for US$11 million. The vehicle is now retired.

Several years ago, SpaceX was going to open up the smallsat launch market with the Falcon 1, which originally was to launch about 600 kilograms to LEO for $6 million; the payload capacity later declined to about 420 kilograms as the price increased to around $9 million. Later, the Falcon 1e was to provide approximately 1,000 kilograms for $11 million, but the company withdrew the vehicle from the market, citing limited demand.[18]

Launch sites

All flights have been launched from Kwajalein Atoll using the SpaceX launch facility on Omelek Island and range facilities of the Reagan Test Site.

Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 3W was the original launch site for Falcon 1, but it was abandoned at the test-fire stage due to persistent schedule conflicts with adjacent launch pads.[19] Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 (the Falcon 9 pad) was considered for Falcon 1 launches but never developed before Falcon 1 was retired.[20]


Falcon 1 Versions[3][21][22] Merlin A; 2006–2007 Merlin C; 2007–2009 Falcon 1e (proposed)
Stage 1 1 × Merlin 1A 1 × Merlin 1C 1 × Merlin 1C
Stage 2 1 × Kestrel 1 × Kestrel 1 × Kestrel
(max; m)
21.3 22.25 26.83
1.7 1.7 1.7
Initial thrust
318 343 454
Takeoff weight
27.2 33.23 38.56
Fairing diameter
(Inner; m)
1.5 1.5 1.71
(LEO 185; kg)
570 (less to SSO) 450 (less to SSO) 1,010 (430 to SSO)
(GTO; kg)
(Mil. USD)
6.7 7 10.9
minimal Price/kg
(LEO 185; USD)
11,754 15,556 10,800 (25,348 to SSO)
minimal Price/kg
Success ratio
0/2 2/3

Launch history

As of 2009, the Falcon 1 has made five launches. The first three failed, however the subsequent two flights were successful, the first successful launch making it the first privately funded and developed liquid-propellent rocket to reach orbit. The fifth launch was its first commercial flight, and placed RazakSAT into low Earth orbit.

As part of a US$15 million contract, Falcon 1 was to carry the TacSat-1[23] in 2005. By late May 2005, SpaceX claimed Falcon 1 was ready to launch TacSat-1 from Vandenberg. But the Air Force did not want the launch of an untested rocket to occur until the final Titan 4 flew from nearby SLC 4E. Subsequent and repeated delays due to Falcon 1 launch failures delayed TacSat-1's launch. After TacSat-2 was launched on an Orbital Sciences Minotaur I on December 16, 2006, the Department of Defense re-evaluated the need for launching TacSat-1. In August 2007, the Department of Defense canceled the planned launch of TacSat-1[24] because all of the TacSat objectives had been met.

Flight No Date & Time (GMT) Payload Customer Outcome Remarks
1 24 March 2006, 22:30
(25 March, 09:30 local)
FalconSAT-2 DARPA Failure Engine failure at T+33 seconds
Loss of vehicle[25]
2 21 March 2007, 01:10
(13:10 local)
DemoSat DARPA Failure Successful first stage burn and transition to second stage, maximum altitude 289 km
Harmonic oscillation at T+5 minutes
Premature engine shutdown at T+7 min 30 s
Failed to reach orbit
Failed to recover first stage
Claimed to be a "Partial success" as it gathered enough data for operational flights[26]
3 3 August 2008, 03:34[27]
(15:34 local)
Trailblazer ORS Failure Residual stage 1 thrust led to collision between stage 1 and stage 2[28]
NanoSail-D NASA
Explorers Celestis[29]
4 28 September 2008, 23:15[7][30]
(11:15 local/16:15 PDT)
RatSat SpaceX Successful[7] Initially scheduled for 23–25 Sept, carried dummy payload – mass simulator, 165 kg (originally intended to be RazakSAT)
5 14 July 2009[31] 03:35 RazakSAT ATSB Successful[32]
Previously manifested launches[29]
2011 TBD SpaceDev Not scheduled was to be maiden flight of 1e configuration
2011–2014 O2G Orbcomm[33] Scheduled 18 satellites, launch vehicle switched to Falcon 9,
2013 Formosat-5 NSPO Scheduled Launch vehicle switched from Falcon 1e to Falcon 9
2014 through 2015 Small satellites Astrium Not scheduled Launch vehicle was to be Falcon 1e
This table:

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Falcon 1". Space Exploration Technologies Corporation. Archived from the original on 14 September 2010. Retrieved 14 September 2010. 
  2. ^ Engel, Max (2013-03-01). "Launch Market on Cusp of Change". Satellite Today. Retrieved 2013-02-15. SpaceX is not the first private company to try to break through the commercial space launch market. The company, however, appears to be the real thing. Privately funded, it had a vehicle before it got money from NASA, and while NASA’s space station resupply funds are a tremendous boost, SpaceX would have existed without it. 
  3. ^ a b c "Falcon 1 Overview". SpaceX. Retrieved 2007-05-05. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Bjelde, Brian; Max Vozoff; Gwynne Shotwell (August 2007). "The Falcon 1 Launch Vehicle: Demonstration Flights, Status, Manifest, and Upgrade Path". 21st Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites (SSC07 ‐ III ‐ 6). Retrieved 2013-12-06. 
  5. ^ "Falcon 1 Flight Three Press Kit" (PDF). SpaceX. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  6. ^ a b Brown, Mary Beth (2005-09-08). "SpaceX Announces the Falcon 9 Fully Reusable Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle" (Press release). El Segundo, CA:  
  7. ^ a b c d Clarke, Stephen (2008-09-28). "Sweet success at last for Falcon 1 rocket". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  8. ^ Maney, Kevin (2005-06-17). "Private sector enticing public into final frontier". 
  9. ^ a b Hoffman, Carl (2007-05-22). "Elon Musk Is Betting His Fortune on a Mission Beyond Earth's Orbit". Wired Magazine. Retrieved 2014-03-14. 
  10. ^ "Orbital Marks 25th Anniversary Of Company's Founding" (Press release). Orbital Sciences. 2007-04-02. 
  11. ^ "Falcon 1 Reaches Space But Loses Control and is Destroyed on Re-Entry". 2007-03-21. 
  12. ^ Graham Warwick and Guy Norris, "Blue Sky Thinking: DARPA at 50," Aviation Week & Space Technology, Aug 18-25 2008, page 18.
  13. ^ SpaceX, Falcon 1 Overview: Pricing and Performance (website viewed 31 Aug. 2010)
  14. ^ "DoD Small-Rocket Contract Produces Fierce Competition". Space News. 2005-05-23. 
  15. ^ "$5900000 in 2005 dollars". Wolfram Alpha. 2009-08-12. 
  16. ^ Malik, Tariq (2006-03-24). "SpaceX's Inaugural Falcon 1 Rocket Lost Just After Launch". 
  17. ^ Jessy Xavier, “Europes First Vega Rocket Blasts Off Successfully,” Oregon Herald, February 13, 2012
  18. ^ "Virgin Galactic relaunches its smallsat launch business". NewSpace Journal. 2012-07-12. Retrieved 2012-07-11. Several years ago, SpaceX was going to open up the smallsat launch market with the Falcon 1, which originally was to launch about 600 kilograms to LEO for $6 million; the payload capacity later declined to about 420 kilograms as the price increased to around $9 million. Later, the Falcon 1e was to provide approximately 1,000 kilograms for $11 million, but the company withdrew the vehicle from the market, citing limited demand. 
  19. ^ Berger, Brian (January 9, 2006). "SpaceX To Try Again Feb. 9". Space News. 
  20. ^ Kelly, John (2007-04-25). "SpaceX cleared for Cape launches". Florida Today. 
  21. ^ "SpaceX Falcon 1 Data Sheet" (PDF). SpaceX. 2008-09-28. 
  22. ^ "Falcon 1 Users Guide" (PDF). SpaceX. 2008-09-28. 
  23. ^ TacSat-1
  24. ^ "Report: Pentagon cancels TacSat-1 launch". August 18, 2007. Retrieved July 15, 2011. 
  25. ^ Junod, Tom (2012-11-15). "Triumph of His Will". long form article. Esquire. Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  26. ^ "Demo Flight 2 Flight Review Update" (PDF). SpaceX. June 15, 2007. 
  27. ^ Clark, Stephen (2008-08-03). "Falcon 1 suffers another setback". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 2008-08-05. 
  28. ^ "Flight 3 mission summary". Space Exploration Technologies Corporation. 
  29. ^ a b "Launch Manifest". SpaceX. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  30. ^ "Flight 4 Launch Update". SpaceX. 23 September 2008. 
  31. ^ "SPACEX And ATSB Announce New Launch Date For Razaksat Satellite" (Press release). SpaceX. 2009-06-01. Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  32. ^ Clark, Stephen (July 14, 2009). "Commercial launch of SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket a success". Spaceflight Now. 
  33. ^ "ORBCOMM and SpaceX Reach Deal To Launch Satellite Constellation" (Press release). SpaceX. 2009-09-03. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 

Further reading

  • Ray, Justin (19 December 2005). "Damage puts first SpaceX rocket launch on hold". Spaceflight Now. 
  • "SpaceX rocket fails first flight".  

External links

  • SpaceX Falcon 1 Overview
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