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List of Falcon 1 launches

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List of Falcon 1 launches

Falcon 1 Flight 5 rises over Omelek Island.

This is a List of launches made by the Falcon 1 rocket, containing details of those launches and their outcomes. The Falcon 1 was a small expendable orbital carrier rocket developed by SpaceX, which first flew in 2006, and has made five launches as of 2009. The first three launches failed, however the two most recent were successful. All launches so far have been made from Omelek Island, part of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.


  • First flight 1
  • Second flight 2
  • Third flight 3
  • Fourth flight 4
  • Fifth flight 5
  • Launch history 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8

First flight

Launch sequence (maiden flight example);
time scale is in seconds.

The maiden flight of the Falcon 1 was launched on Saturday, 24 March 2006 at 22:30 UTC. It ended in failure less than a minute into the flight because of a fuel line leak and subsequent fire. The launch took place from the SpaceX launch site on Omelek Island in the Marshall Islands.

The launch was postponed several times because of various technical issues with the new vehicle. Scheduling conflicts with a Titan IV launch at Vandenberg AFB also caused delays and resulted in the launch moving to the Reagan Test Site in the Kwajalein Atoll. The first launch attempt on 19 December 2005 was scrubbed when a faulty valve caused a vacuum in the first stage fuel tank which sucked inward and caused structural damage. After replacing the first stage, Falcon 1 launched Saturday, 25 March 2006 at 09:30 local time. The DARPA payload was the United States Air Force Academy’s FalconSAT–2, which would have measured space plasma phenomena.

The vehicle had a noticeable rolling motion after liftoff, as shown on the launch video, rocking back and forth a bit, and then at T+26 seconds rapidly pitched over. Impact occurred at T+41 seconds onto a dead reef about 250 feet from the launch site. The FalconSAT–2 payload separated from the booster and landed on the island, with damage reports varying from slight to significant.[1]

SpaceX initially attributed the fire to an improperly tightened fuel-line nut. A later review by DARPA found that the nut was properly tightened, since its locking wire was still in place, but had failed because of corrosion.

SpaceX implemented numerous changes to the rocket design and software to prevent this type of failure from recurring, including stainless steel to replace aluminum hardware (which is actually less expensive, although the trade off is being a little heavier in weight) and pre-liftoff computer checks that increased by a factor of thirty.[2][3]

Second flight

The second test flight was originally scheduled for January 2007, but was delayed because of problems with the second stage. Before the January launch date, SpaceX had stated earlier potential launch dates, moving from September 2006 to November and December. In December the launch was rescheduled for 9 March, but delayed because of range availability issues caused by a Minuteman III test flight which would re-enter over Kwajelein. The launch attempt on 19 March was delayed 45 minutes from 23:00 GMT because of a data relay issue, and then scrubbed one minute and two seconds before launch at 23:45 because of a computer issue, whereby the safety computer incorrectly detected a transmission failure caused by a hardware delay of a few milliseconds in the process. The 20 March attempt was delayed 65 minutes, from an originally planned time of 23:00 because of a problem with communications between one of the NASA experiments in the payload, and the TDRS system.

The launch attempt on March 21, 2007 was aborted at 00:05 GMT at the last second before launch and after the engine had ignited. It was however decided that another launch should be made the same day. The rocket successfully left the launch pad at 01:10 GMT on 21 March 2007 with a DemoSat payload for DARPA and NASA. The rocket performed well during the first stage burn. However, during staging, the interstage fairing on the top of the first stage bumped the second stage engine bell.[4] The bump occurred as the second stage nozzle exited the interstage, with the first stage rotating much faster than expected (a rotation rate of about 2.5 deg/s vs. expected rate of 0.5 deg/s maximum), thereby making contact with the niobium nozzle of the second stage. Elon Musk reported that the bump did not appear to have caused damage, and that the reason why they chose a niobium skirt instead of carbon-carbon was to prevent problematic damage in the event of such incidents. Shortly after second stage ignition, a stabilization ring detached from the engine bell as designed.[5] At around T+4:20, a circular coning oscillation began that increased in amplitude until video was lost. At T+5:01, the vehicle started to roll and telemetry ended. According to Elon Musk, the second stage engine shut down at T+7.5 minutes because of a roll control issue. Sloshing of propellant in the LOX tank increased oscillation. This oscillation would normally have been dampened by the Thrust Vector Control system in the second stage, but the bump to the second nozzle during separation caused an overcompensation in the correction.[5] The rocket continued to within one minute of its desired location, and also managed to deploy the satellite mass simulator ring. While the webcast video ended prematurely, SpaceX was able to retrieve telemetry for the entire flight.[6] The status of the first stage is unknown; it was not recovered because of problems with a nonfunctioning GPS tracking device. The rocket reached a final altitude of 289 km (180 mi) and a final velocity of 5.1 km/s, compared to 7.5 km/s needed for orbit.

SpaceX characterized the test flight as a success, having flight proven over 95% of Falcon 1's systems. Their primary objectives for this launch were to test responsive launch procedures and gather data.[7] According to Musk, the SpaceX team intends to have both a diagnosis and solution vetted by third party experts. Musk believes the slosh issue can be corrected by adding baffles to the second stage LOX tank and adjusting the control logic. Furthermore, the Merlin shutdown transient can be addressed by initiating shutdown at a much lower thrust level, albeit at some risk to engine reusability. The SpaceX team intends to work the problem to avoid a recurrence as they change over into the operational phase for Falcon 1.[8]

Third flight

SpaceX attempted the third Falcon 1 launch on August 3, 2008 (GMT) from Kwajalein.[9] This flight carried the Trailblazer (Jumpstart-1) satellite for the US Air Force,[10] the NanoSail-D and PREsat nanosatellites for NASA and a space burial payload for Celestis.[11] The rocket did not reach orbit. However, the first stage, with the new Merlin 1C engine, performed perfectly.[12]

When preparing for launch, an earlier launch attempt was delayed by the unexpected slow loading of helium onto the Falcon 1; thus exposing the fuel and oxidizer to the cryogenic helium, rendering the vehicle in a premature launch state. Still within the specified window, the launch attempt was recycled, but aborted half a second before lift-off because of a sensor misreading. The problem was resolved, and the launch was again recycled. With twenty-five minutes left in the launch window, the Falcon 1 lifted off from Omelek Island at 03:35 UTC. During the launch, small vehicle roll oscillations were visible.

Stage separation occurred as planned, but because residual fuel in the new Merlin 1C engine evaporated and provided transient thrust, the first stage recontacted the second stage, preventing successful completion of the mission.[13]

The SpaceX flight 3 mission summary indicated that flight 4 would take place as planned and that the failure of flight 3 did not make any technology upgrades necessary. A longer time between first stage engine shutdown and stage separation was declared to be enough.[14]

The full video of the third launch attempt was made public by SpaceX a few weeks after the launch.[15]

Fourth flight

The second stage Kestrel engine glows red hot during Falcon 1's fourth launch and first successful orbital flight.

The fourth flight of the Falcon 1 rocket successfully flew on September 28, 2008, delivering a 165-kilogram (363-pound) non-functional boilerplate spacecraft into low Earth orbit.[16]

Fifth flight

SpaceX announced that it had completed construction of the 5th Falcon 1 rocket and was transporting the vehicle to the Kwajalein Atoll launch complex where it was to be launched on April 21, 2009, which would be April 20, 2009 in the United States.[17] Less than a week before the scheduled launch date, Malaysian news reported that unsafe vibration levels had been detected in the rocket and repairs were expected to take about six weeks.[18]

On April 20, 2009 SpaceX announced in a press release, that the launch has been postponed because of a potential compatibility issue between the RazakSAT spacecraft and Falcon 1 launch vehicle. A concern has been identified regarding the potential impact of predicted vehicle environments on the satellite.[19]

On June 1, SpaceX announced that the next launch window would open Monday, July 13 and extend through Tuesday, July 14, with a daily window to open at 21:00 UTC (09:00 local time/4:00 p.m. PDT[20]).

The launch on Monday, July 13 was successful, placing RazakSAT into its initial parking orbit. Thirty-eight minutes later, the rocket's second-stage engine fired again to circularize the orbit. The payload was then successfully deployed.[21]

Launch history

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[22]
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[7]
3 3 August 2008, 03:34[23]
(15:34 local)
Trailblazer ORS Failure Residual stage 1 thrust led to collision between stage 1 and stage 2[14]
NanoSail-D NASA
Explorers Celestis[24]
4 28 September 2008, 23:15[25][16]
(11:15 local/16:15 PDT)
RatSat SpaceX Successful[25] Initially scheduled for 23–25 Sept, carried dummy payload – mass simulator, 165 kg (originally intended to be RazakSAT)
5 14 July 2009[26] 03:35 RazakSAT ATSB Successful[27]
Previously manifested launches[24]
2011 TBD SpaceDev Not scheduled was to be maiden flight of 1e configuration
2011–2014 O2G Orbcomm[28] 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. ^ "Someone's looking out for that satellite…". Kwajalein Atoll and Rockets. 2006-03-25. 
  2. ^ "Falcon 1 Failure Traced to a Busted Nut". 2006-07-19. 
  3. ^ "Demo flight two update". 2007-01-19. 
  4. ^ "SpaceX Confirms Stage Bump On Demoflight 2". 
  5. ^ a b "Mission Status Center". Space Flight Now. 2007-03-20. 
  6. ^ "Falcon I flight - preliminary assessment positive for SpaceX".  
  7. ^ a b "Demo Flight 2 Flight Review Update" (PDF). SpaceX. June 15, 2007. 
  8. ^ "SpaceX Declares Falcon 1 Rocket Operational Despite Less than Perfect Test". 2007-03-28. 
  9. ^ "SpaceX Falcon 1's Third Launch Ends In Failure". 2008-08-03. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  10. ^ "SpaceX conducts static test firing of next Falcon 1 rocket". SpaceX. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  11. ^ "The Explorers Flight". Space Services Incorporated (Celestis). Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  12. ^ Falcon Launch Video and Message from Elon Musk | NASA Watch
  13. ^ "SpaceX Telecon on Falcon 1 Launch Failure". NASA Watch. 6 August 2008. 
  14. ^ a b "Flight 3 mission summary". Space Exploration Technologies Corporation. 
  15. ^ The full video of the third launch attempt including separation failure
  16. ^ a b "Flight 4 Launch Update". SpaceX. 23 September 2008. 
  17. ^ Musk, Elon (March 17, 2009). "Flight 4 Launch Update". Updates.  
  18. ^ "Launch of RazakSAT postponed". The Star. April 18, 2009. 
  19. ^ "Launch of RazakSAT postponed". SpaceX. April 20, 2009. 
  20. ^ "SpaceX sets Falcon 1 Launch for July 13". Parabolic Arc. June 2, 2009. 
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ Junod, Tom (2012-11-15). "Triumph of His Will". long form article. Esquire. Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  23. ^ Clark, Stephen (2008-08-03). "Falcon 1 suffers another setback". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 2008-08-05. 
  24. ^ a b "Launch Manifest". SpaceX. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  25. ^ a b Clark, Stephen (2008-09-28). "Sweet success at last for Falcon 1 rocket". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  26. ^ "SPACEX And ATSB Announce New Launch Date For Razaksat Satellite" (Press release). SpaceX. 2009-06-01. Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  27. ^ Clark, Stephen (July 14, 2009). "Commercial launch of SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket a success". Spaceflight Now. 
  28. ^ "ORBCOMM and SpaceX Reach Deal To Launch Satellite Constellation" (Press release). SpaceX. 2009-09-03. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
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