Falcon 1 rocket.
|Function||Orbital launch vehicle|
|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)|
|Payload to LEO||180 kg demonstrated; 670 kg (1480 lb) proposed|
|430 kg (990 lb)|
|Launch sites||Omelek Island|
|First flight||March 24, 2006
|Last flight||July 14, 2009
|Engines||1 Merlin 1C|
|Thrust||454 kN (102,000 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||255 s (sea level)
|Burn time||169 seconds|
|Thrust||31 kN (7,000 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||327 s (vacuum)
|Burn time||378 seconds|
The Falcon 1 is an expendable launch system privately developed and manufactured by SpaceX, 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 has 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, 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.
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. It also was used to verify components and structural design concepts that would be reused in the Falcon 9.
The first stage was made from friction-stir-welded 2219 aluminum alloy. 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). The first stage burns to depletion, taking around 169 seconds to do so.
The second stage Falcon 1 tanks were built with a cryogenic-compatible 2014 aluminum alloy, with the plan to move to aluminum-lithium alloy on the Falcon 1e. The helium pressurization system pumps propellant to the engine, supplies heated 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. 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.
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. The second stage was not designed to be reusable.
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 2:49 minutes. 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.
The Falcon 1 rocket was developed with private funding. The only other orbital launch vehicle to be privately funded and developed is the Pegasus, first launched in 1990; however, it requires a large aircraft as its first stage.
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.
SpaceX is one of the few launch system operators that publishes its launch prices, which are quoted as being the same for all customers. In 2005 Falcon 1 was advertised as costing $5.9 million ($6.4 million when adjusted for inflation in 2009). In 2006 until 2007 the quoted price of the rocket when operational was $6.7 million. 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, 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.
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, 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.
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. 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.
|Falcon 1 Versions||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|
(LEO 185; kg)
|570 (less to SSO)||450 (less to SSO)||1,010 (430 to SSO)|
(LEO 185; USD)
|11,754||15,556||10,800 (25,348 to SSO)|
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 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 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+25 seconds
Loss of vehicle
|2||21 March 2007, 01:10
|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
|3||3 August 2008, 03:34
|Trailblazer||ORS||Failure||Residual stage 1 thrust led to collision between stage 1 and stage 2|
|4||28 September 2008, 23:15
(11:15 local/16:15 PDT)
|RatSat||SpaceX||Successful||Initially scheduled for 23–25 Sept, carried dummy payload – mass simulator, 165 kg (originally intended to be RazakSAT)|
|5||14 July 2009 03:35||RazakSAT||ATSB||Successful|
|Previously scheduled launches|
|2011||TBD||SpaceDev||Not scheduled||was to be maiden flight of 1e configuration|
|2011–2014||O2G||Orbcomm||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|
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- "Flight 4 Launch Update". SpaceX. 23 September 2008.
- "SPACEX And ATSB Announce New Launch Date For Razaksat Satellite" (Press release). SpaceX. 2009-06-01. Retrieved 2009-06-02.
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