Falcon 9 v1.1

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Falcon 9 v1.1
Falcon 9 launch with DSCOVR.jpg
Launch of the 10th Falcon 9 v1.1 with the Deep Space Climate Observatory on February 11, 2015. This rocket was installed with landing legs and grid fins.
Function Orbital launch vehicle
Manufacturer SpaceX
Country of origin United States
Cost per launch $61.2M[1]
Height 68.4 m (224 ft)[2]
Diameter 3.66 m (12.0 ft)
Mass 505,846 kg (1,115,200 lb)[2]
Stages 2
Payload to LEO 13,150 kg (28,990 lb)[1][2]
Payload to
4,850 kg (10,690 lb)[1][2]
Launch history
Status Active
Launch sites Cape Canaveral SLC-40
Vandenberg SLC-4E
Total launches 13
Successes 13
First flight September 29, 2013[3]
First stage
Engines 9 Merlin 1D[2]
Thrust 5,885 kN (1,323,000 lbf)
Specific impulse Sea level: 282 s[4]
Vacuum: 311 s
Burn time 180 seconds
Fuel LOX/RP-1
Second stage
Engines Merlin Vacuum (1D)
Thrust 801 kN (180,000 lbf)
Specific impulse Vacuum: 340 s
Burn time 375 seconds
Fuel LOX/RP-1

Falcon 9 v1.1 is the second version of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket-powered spaceflight launch system. It was developed in 2010–2013, and made its maiden launch in September 2013. It is both designed and manufactured by SpaceX, headquartered in Hawthorne, California. It is currently the only active rocket of the Falcon rocket family.

Falcon 9 v1.1 was a new vehicle design, with 60 percent more thrust and weight than the Falcon 9 v1.0 launch vehicle. It flew for the first time on a demonstration mission on the sixth overall launch of any Falcon 9 on September 29, 2013.[5]

Both stages of the two-stage-to-orbit vehicle use liquid oxygen (LOX) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellants. The Falcon 9 v1.1 can lift payloads of 13,150 kilograms (28,990 lb) to low Earth orbit, and 4,850 kilograms (10,690 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit, which places the Falcon 9 design in the medium-lift range of launch systems.

The Falcon 9 v1.1 and Dragon capsule combination is being used, beginning in April 2014, to resupply the International Space Station under a contract with NASA. SpaceX is developing the Falcon 9 v1.1 to be able to carry humans and has a contract with NASA for developing and testing several additional technologies to enable it to carry NASA astronauts. No contracts for NASA astronaut missions have yet been signed.

The launch of the first Falcon 9 v1.1 from SLC-4, Vandenberg AFB (Falcon 9 Flight 6) 29 September 2013.
A Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket launching the SpaceX CRS-3 Dragon spacecraft in April 2014.


The base Falcon 9 v1.1 is a two-stage, LOX/RP-1–powered launch vehicle.

Changes from Falcon 9 v1.0[edit]

The Falcon 9 v1.1 ELV is a 60 percent heavier rocket with 60 percent more thrust than the v1.0 version of the Falcon 9.[6] It includes realigned first-stage engines[7] and 60 percent longer fuel tanks, making it more susceptible to bending during flight.[6] The engines have been upgraded to the more powerful Merlin 1D engines. These improvements increase the payload capability to LEO from 10,454 kilograms (23,047 lb)[8] to 13,150 kilograms (28,990 lb).[9] The stage separation system has been redesigned and reduces the number of attachment points from twelve to three,[6] and the vehicle has upgraded avionics and software as well.[6]

The v1.1 booster version arranges the engines in a structural form SpaceX calls Octaweb, aimed at streamlining the manufacturing process.[10] Later v1.1 vehicles include four extensible landing legs,[11] used in the controlled-descent test program.[12][13]

Following the September 2013 launch, the second-stage igniter propellant lines were insulated to better support in-space restart following long coast phases for orbital trajectory maneuvers.[14]

Falcon 9 Flight 6 was the first launch of the Falcon 9 configured with a jettisonable payload fairing.

First stage[edit]

Falcon 9 v1.0 (left) and v1.1 (right) engine configurations

The Falcon 9 v1.1 uses a first stage powered by nine Merlin 1D engines.[15][16] Development testing of the v1.1 Falcon 9 first stage was completed in July 2013.[17][18]

The v1.1 first stage has a total sea-level thrust at liftoff of 5,885 kilonewtons (1,323,000 lbf), with the nine engines burning for a nominal 180 seconds, while stage thrust rises to 6,672 kilonewtons (1,500,000 lbf) as the booster climbs out of the atmosphere.[19] The nine first-stage engines are arranged in a structural form SpaceX calls an Octaweb. This change from the v1.0 Falcon 9's square arrangement is aimed at streamlining the manufacturing process.[10]

Selected flights include four extensible landing legs.[11] Additionally, some flights contain grid fins which deploy during descent to maintain control authority. Fins were first tested on the F9R Dev-1 reusable test vehicle.[20] Grid fins were implemented on the Falcon 9 v1.1 on the CRS-5 mission,[21] but ran out of hydraulic fluid before a planned landing.[22] These are part of SpaceX's effort to develop a reusable rocket launching system. Later F9R flights will have, when the technology is sufficiently developed, full vertical-landing capability.[12][13]

SpaceX intends to ultimately produce both Reusable Falcon 9 and Reusable Falcon Heavy launch vehicles. Initial atmospheric testing of prototype vehicles is being conducted on the Grasshopper experimental technology-demonstrator reusable launch vehicle (RLV), in addition to the booster controlled-descent and landing tests described above on some Falcon 9 launches.[23]

The v1.1 first stage uses a pyrophoric mixture of triethylaluminum-triethylborane (TEA-TEB) as a first-stage ignitor, the same as was used in the v1.0 version.[24]

Like the Falcon 9 v1.0 and the Saturn series from the Apollo program, the presence of multiple first-stage engines can allow for mission completion even if one of the first-stage engines fails mid-flight.[25][26]

Second stage[edit]

The upper stage is powered by a single Merlin 1D engine modified for vacuum operation.

The interstage, which connects the upper and lower stage for Falcon 9, is a carbon fiber aluminum core composite structure. Reusable separation collets and a pneumatic pusher system separate the stages. The Falcon 9 tank walls and domes are made from aluminum lithium alloy. SpaceX uses an all-friction stir welded tank, the highest strength and most reliable welding technique available. The second-stage tank of Falcon 9 is simply a shorter version of the first-stage tank and uses most of the same tooling, material and manufacturing techniques. This saves money during vehicle production.[25]

2015 stage upgrade[edit]

As of March 2015, SpaceX is developing an upgraded version of the second stage that will support booster reusability on commsat flights to geosynchronous orbits. The modifications include increasing engine thrust by 15 percent, increasing tank volume by 10 percent, and subcooling the cryogenic oxygen to obtain greater density.[27][28]

Payload fairing[edit]

The fairing design was completed by SpaceX, with production of the 13 m (43 ft)-long, 5.2 m (17 ft)-diameter payload fairing in Hawthorne, California.

Testing of the new fairing design was completed at NASA's Plum Brook Station facility in spring 2013 where acoustic shock, mechanical vibration, and electromagnetic static discharge conditions were simulated. Tests were done on a full-size test article in vacuum chamber. SpaceX paid NASA US$581,300 to lease test time in the $150M NASA simulation chamber facility.[29]

The first flight of a Falcon 9 v1.1 (CASSIOPE, September 2013) was the first launch of the Falcon 9 v1.1 as well as the Falcon 9 family configured with a payload fairing.[29] The fairing separated without incident during the launch of CASSIOPE as well as the two subsequent GTO insertion missions. In Dragon missions, the capsule protects any small satellites, negating the need for a fairing.


SpaceX uses multiple redundant flight computers in a fault-tolerant design. Each Merlin engine is controlled by three voting computers, each of which has two physical processors that constantly check each other. The software runs on Linux and is written in C++.

For flexibility, commercial off-the-shelf parts and system-wide "radiation-tolerant" design are used instead of rad-hardened parts.[30] Falcon 9 v1.1 continues to utilize the triple redundant flight computers and inertial navigation—with GPS overlay for additional orbit insertion accuracy—that were originally used in the Falcon 9 v1.0.[25]

Further performance improvements[edit]

Although Falcon 9 v1.1 made its maiden flight in 2013, and had flown eleven flights by March 2015, SpaceX intends some performance improvements for follow-on flights beginning in 2015. The modifications include deep-chilling the propellant to increase density and therefore increase the propellant load, increasing the volume of the second stage tanks, increasing thrust of the engine, and several small mass reduction efforts.[31][27]

Changes beyond Falcon 9 v1.1[edit]

SpaceX is making a number of changes to the existing Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket in 2015, and intends to fly the maiden flight of the new vehicle on the SES-9 mission in mid-year 2015. The new Falcon 9 has not yet been named, as of March 2015.[32]

Changes will include a new propellant mix, changes to the launch vehicle thrust structure, a higher-performance engine—the Merlin 1D has completed a substantive round of additional qualification testing since it was initially used in late-2013 on the initial Falcon 9 v1.1 missions—and several size and volume changes to the first stage and second stage propellant tanks. The new Falcon 9 design will also make up the two side cores of the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, while the center core of the Falcon Heavy will be a core with Falcon 9 v1.1 dimensions and structure.[32]

A principle objective of the new design is to facilitate booster reusability on a larger set of payloads, including allowing reusability on the typical large commsats launched to geosynchronous orbit.[32]

Some specific design details for the second stage were released on 1 March 2015. The modifications include increasing second-stage engine thrust by 15 percent, increasing tank volume by 10 percent, and subcooling the cryogenic oxygen to obtain greater density.[27][28] The upgraded Falcon 9 may be called the "Full Performance Falcon 9 or version 1.2 of the Falcon 9."[33]

Development and production[edit]

From left to right, Falcon 1, Falcon 9 v1.0, three versions of Falcon 9 v1.1, and two versions of Falcon Heavy. (All three v1.1 versions have flown; neither Falcon Heavy version has yet flown.)

A test of the ignition system for the Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage was conducted in April 2013.[34] On 1 June 2013, a ten-second firing of the Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage occurred; a full-duration, 3-minute firing was expected a few days later.[35][36]

By September 2013, SpaceX total manufacturing space had increased to nearly 1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2) and the factory had been configured to achieve a production rate of up to 40 rocket cores per year, for both the Falcon 9 v1.1 and the tri-core Falcon Heavy.[37] The November 2013 production rate for Falcon 9 vehicles was one per month. The company has stated that this will increase to 18 per year in mid-2014, and will be 24 launch vehicles per year by the end of 2014.[14]

As launch manifest and launch rate increases in 2014–2016, SpaceX is looking to increase their launch processing by building dual-track parallel launch processes at the launch facility. As of March 2014, they project they will have this in operation sometime in 2015, and are aiming for a 2015 launch pace of about two launches per month.[38]

Other launcher versions[edit]

There have been two versions of the Falcon 9. The original Falcon 9 flew five successful orbital launches in 2010–2013, while the much larger Falcon 9 v1.1 made its first flight—a demonstration mission with a very small 500 kilograms (1,100 lb) primary payload that was manifested at a "cut rate price" due to the demo mission nature of the flight[6]—on September 29, 2013. SpaceX absorbed most of the cost of the demo flight.

The Falcon 9 v1.1 is a 60 percent heavier rocket with 60 percent more thrust than the v1.0 version of the Falcon 9.[6] It includes realigned first-stage engines[7] and 60 percent longer fuel tanks. The engines themselves were upgraded to the more powerful Merlin 1D. These improvements have increased the payload capability from 9,000 kilograms (20,000 lb) on the Falcon 9 v1.0 to 13,150 kilograms (28,990 lb).[9] The stage separation system was redesigned and reduced the number of attachment points from twelve to three.[6] The avionics and software have been upgraded in the v1.1 version as well.[6] The v1.1 first stage will also be used as side boosters on the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.[39]

A third version of the rocket is under development. The Falcon 9-R, a reusable variant of the Falcon 9 family, is being developed using systems and software technology being developed as part of the SpaceX reusable launch system development program by SpaceX to facilitate rapid reusability of both the first and second stages.[40] Various technologies are being tested on the Grasshopper technology demonstrator, as well as some flights of the Falcon 9 v1.1 on which post-mission booster controlled-descent tests are being conducted.

Future reusability[edit]

The Falcon 9 v1.1 includes several aspects of reusable launch vehicle technology included in its design, as of the initial v1.1 launch in September 2013 (throttleable and restartable engines on the first stage, a first-stage tank design that can structurally accommodate the future addition of landing legs, etc.). However, a number of aspects of the reusable technology have not yet finished development, nor test, in late 2013, only two years after SpaceX committed to a privately funded development program with the goal to obtain full and rapid reusability of both stages of the launch vehicle. The v1.1 launch vehicle is thus an interim design, on a path to a more ambitious SpaceX RLV, the Reusable Falcon 9 and the Reusable Falcon Heavy.

Design was complete on the system for "bringing the rocket back to launchpad using only thrusters" in February 2012.[41] The reusable launch system technology is being considered for both the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy, and is considered particularly well suited to the Falcon Heavy where the two outer cores separate from the rocket much earlier in the flight profile, and are therefore moving at slower velocity at stage separation.[41]

A reusable first stage is now being flight tested by SpaceX with the suborbital Grasshopper rocket.[42] By April 2013, a low-altitude, low-speed demonstration test vehicle, Grasshopper v1.0, had made seven VTVL test flights from late-2012 through August 2013, including a 61-second hover flight to an altitude of 250 metres (820 ft).

In March 2013, SpaceX announced that, beginning with the first flight of the stretch version of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle (Falcon 9 v1.1)—which flew in September 2013—every first stage would be instrumented and equipped as a controlled descent test vehicle. SpaceX intends to do propulsive-return over-water tests and "will continue doing such tests until they can do a return to the launch site and a powered landing. ... [They] expect several failures before they 'learn how to do it right.'"[12] SpaceX completed multiple water landings that were successful and they now plan to land the first stage of the flight CRS-5 on an Autonomous drone port in the ocean.[13]

Photos of the first test of the restartable ignition system for the reusable Falcon 9—the Falcon 9-R— nine-engine v1.1 circular- engine configuration were released in April 2013.[34]

In March 2014, SpaceX announced that GTO payload of the future reusable Falcon 9 (F9-R), with only the booster reused, would be approximately 3,500 kg (7,700 lb).[31]

Post-mission high-altitude launch vehicle testing of Falcon 9 v1.1 boosters[edit]

Falcon 9 Flight 17's first stage attempting a controlled landing on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship following the launch of CRS-6 to the International Space Station. The stage landed hard and tipped over after landing.

The post-mission test plan calls for the first-stage booster on the sixth Falcon 9 flight, and several subsequent F9 flights, to do a burn to reduce the rocket's horizontal velocity and then effect a second burn just before it reaches the water. SpaceX announced the test program in March 2013, and their intention to continue to conduct such tests until they can return to the launch site and perform a powered landing.[12]

Falcon 9 Flight 6's first stage performed the first propulsive-return over-water tests on 29 September 2013.[43] Although not a complete success, the stage was able to change direction and make a controlled entry into the atmosphere.[43] During the final landing burn, the ACS thrusters could not overcome an aerodynamically induced spin, and centrifugal force deprived the landing engine of fuel leading to early engine shutdown and a hard splashdown which destroyed the first stage. Pieces of wreckage were recovered for further study.[43]

The next test, using the first stage from SpaceX CRS-3, led to a successful soft ocean landing, however it presumably broke up in heavy seas before it could be recovered.[44]

After further ocean landing tests, the first stage of the CRS-5 launch vehicle attempted a landing on a floating landing platform, the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship. The rocket landed too hard for survival but guided itself to the ship successfully.[45]

Launch sites[edit]

SpaceX is using both Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base for launching Falcon 9 v1.1 rockets. The Vandenberg site was first used by SpaceX for the first v1.1 launch, on 29 Sep 2013.[43][46]

An additional private launch site, intended solely for commercial launches, is currently under construction near Brownsville, Texas[47] following a multi-state evaluation process in 2012–mid-2014 looking at Florida, Georgia, and Puerto Rico.[48][49]

Launch prices[edit]

As of November 2014, the Falcon 9 v1.1 commercial launch price is US$61.2 million,[1] competing for commercial launches in an increasingly competitive market.[50]

NASA resupply missions to the ISS—which include the provision of the space capsule payload, a new Dragon cargo spacecraft for each flight—have an average price of $133 million.[51] The first twelve cargo transport flights contracted to NASA were done at one time, so no price change is reflected for the v1.1 launches as opposed to the v1.0 launches. The contract was for a specific amount of cargo carried to, and returned from, the Space Station over a fixed number of flights.

SpaceX stated that due to mission assurance process costs, launches for the U.S. military would be priced about 50% more than commercial launches, so a Falcon 9 launch would sell for about $90 million, compared to an average cost to the US government of nearly $400 million for current launches.[52]

Secondary payload services[edit]

Falcon 9 payload services include secondary and tertiary payload connection via an ESPA-ring, the same interstage adapter first utilized for launching secondary payloads on US DoD missions that utilize the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV) Atlas V and Delta IV. This enables secondary and even tertiary missions with minimal impact to the original mission. As of 2011, SpaceX announced pricing for ESPA-compatible payloads on the Falcon 9.[53]

Launch history[edit]

For more details on this topic, see List of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches.

As of 14 April 2015, SpaceX had made 12 launches of the Falcon 9 v1.1, and 17 total launches of any Falcon 9 rocket since 2010. All 17 have successfully delivered their primary payloads to either Low Earth orbit or Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit.

The first launch of the substantially upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 vehicle successfully flew on 29 September 2013, [43][54]

The maiden Falcon 9 v1.1 launch included a number of "firsts":[3][55]

See also[edit]


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  10. ^ a b c "Octaweb". SpaceX. 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2013-07-30. The Octaweb structure of the nine Merlin engines improves upon the former 3x3 engine arrangement. The Octaweb is a metal structure that supports eight engines surrounding a center engine at the base of the launch vehicle. This structure simplifies the design and assembly of the engine section, streamlining our manufacturing process. 
  11. ^ a b "Landing Legs". SpaceX. 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2013-07-30. The Falcon 9 first stage carries landing legs which will deploy after stage separation and allow for the rocket’s soft return to Earth. The four legs are made of state-of-the-art carbon fiber with aluminum honeycomb. Placed symmetrically around the base of the rocket, they stow along the side of the vehicle during liftoff and later extend outward and down for landing. 
  12. ^ a b c d Lindsey, Clark (2013-03-28). "SpaceX moving quickly towards fly-back first stage". NewSpace Watch. Retrieved 2013-03-29. (subscription required (help)). 
  13. ^ a b c Messier, Doug (2013-03-28). "Dragon Post-Mission Press Conference Notes". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2013-03-30. Q. What is strategy on booster recover? Musk: Initial recovery test will be a water landing. First stage continue in ballistic arc and execute a velocity reduction burn before it enters atmosphere to lessen impact. Right before splashdown, will light up the engine again. Emphasizes that we don’t expect success in the first several attempts. Hopefully next year with more experience and data, we should be able to return the first stage to the launch site and do a propulsion landing on land using legs. Q. Is there a flight identified for return to launch site of the booster? Musk: No. Will probably be the middle of next year. 
  14. ^ a b Svitak, Amy (2013-11-24). "Musk: Falcon 9 Will Capture Market Share". Aviation Week. Retrieved 2013-12-02. SpaceX is currently producing one vehicle per month, but that number is expected to increase to '18 per year in the next couple of quarters.' By the end of 2014, she says SpaceX will produce 24 launch vehicles per year. 
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  22. ^ Thompson, Amy (1 Feb 2015). "SpaceX Successfully Conducts Static Fire Test in Preparation for DSCOVR Launch". SpaceFlight Insider. SpaceFlight Insider. Retrieved 18 Feb 2015. 
  23. ^ "SpaceX's reusable rocket testbed takes first hop". 2012-09-24. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  24. ^ Mission Status Center, June 2, 2010, 1905 GMT, SpaceflightNow, accessed 2010-06-02, Quotation: "The flanges will link the rocket with ground storage tanks containing liquid oxygen, kerosene fuel, helium, gaserous nitrogen and the first stage ignitor source called triethylaluminum-triethylborane, better known as TEA-TAB."
  25. ^ a b c "Falcon 9 Overview". SpaceX. 8 May 2010. 
  26. ^ Behind the Scenes With the World's Most Ambitious Rocket Makers, Popular Mechanics, 2009-09-01, accessed 2012-12-11. "It is the first since the Saturn series from the Apollo program to incorporate engine-out capability—that is, one or more engines can fail and the rocket will still make it to orbit."
  27. ^ a b c Musk, Elon (2015-02-01). "Upgrades in the works". Elon Musk's Twitter feed (SpaceX). Retrieved 3 March 2015. Upgrades in the works to allow landing for geo missions: thrust +15%, deep cryo oxygen, upper stage tank vol +10% 
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  50. ^ Amos, Jonathan (2013-12-03). "SpaceX launches SES commercial TV satellite for Asia". BBC News. Retrieved 2015-01-04. The commercial market for launching telecoms spacecraft is tightly contested, but has become dominated by just a few companies - notably, Europe's Arianespace, which flies the Ariane 5, and International Launch Services (ILS), which markets Russia's Proton vehicle. SpaceX is promising to substantially undercut the existing players on price, and SES, the world's second-largest telecoms satellite operator, believes the incumbents had better take note of the California company's capability. 'The entry of SpaceX into the commercial market is a game-changer' 
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External links[edit]