Status: Retired 2009. First Launch: 2006-03-24. Last Launch: 2009-07-14. Number: 5 . Payload: 420 kg (920 lb). Thrust: 347.00 kN (78,008 lbf). Gross mass: 27,670 kg (61,000 lb). Height: 21.30 m (69.80 ft). Diameter: 1.70 m (5.50 ft). Span: 1.70 m (5.50 ft). Apogee: 200 km (120 mi).
The first stage primary structure was made of a space grade aluminum alloy in a patent pending, graduated monocoque, common bulkhead, flight pressure stabilized architecture developed by SpaceX. The design was a blend between a fully pressure stabilized design, such as Atlas II, and a heavier isogrid design, such as Delta II. As a result, SpaceX claimed to have captured the mass efficiency of pressure stabilization, but avoided the ground handling difficulties of a structure unable to support its own weight. A single SpaceX Merlin engine powered the Falcon I first stage. After engine start, Falcon would be held down until all vehicle systems were verified to be functioning normally before release for lift-off. Helium tank pressurization was provided by composite over-wrapped Inconel tanks from Arde Corporation, the same model used in Boeing's Delta IV rocket. Stage separation occurred via dual initiated separation bolts and a pneumatic pusher system. All components were space qualified and had flown before on other launch vehicles.
The first stage returned by parachute to a water landing, where it was picked up by ship in a procedure similar to that of the Space Shuttle solid rocket boosters. The parachute recovery system was built for SpaceX by Irvin Parachute Corporation, who also builds the Shuttle booster recovery system.
The second stage tank structure was made of aluminum-lithium alloy. SpaceX found this to be the lowest total system mass in this application of any material examined, including liquid oxygen compatible super-alloys and composites. A single SpaceX Kestrel pressure-fed engine powered the Falcon I upper stage. For added reliability of restart, the engine had dual redundant torch igniters. Helium pressurization was again provided by composite over wrapped Inconel tanks from Arde. The helium was also used in cold gas thrusters for attitude control and propellant settling when a restart was needed.
LEO Payload: 420 kg (920 lb) to a 200 km orbit at 9.10 degrees. Payload: 150 kg (330 lb) to a 700 km SSO. Launch Price $: 7.900 million in 2008 dollars. Boost Propulsion: Lox/Kerosene. Cruise Thrust: 33.300 kN (7,486 lbf). Cruise Thrust: 3,400 kgf. Cruise engine: Kestrel. Initial Operational Capability: 2007.
|Falcon 1 American two stage, liquid oxygen and kerosene powered, low cost launch vehicle. A single engine powered the first stage. It was designed for cost-efficient and reliable transport of satellites to low Earth orbit. First launch of the Falcon I was scheduled for mid-2004 from Vandenberg, carrying a US Defense Department communications satellite. Development delays and problems with USAF clearances for launch from Vandenberg resulted in the first launch attempt being made in 2006 from a private facility at Omelek near Kwajalein atoll in the Pacific. Success was achieved on the fourth launch in 2008. The Falcon 1 was to be superseded by the Falcon 1e, with an extended-tank first stage, from 2010.|
|Falcon 1e Version of Falcon 1 with stretched first stage and much more powerful Merlin engine.|
|Falcon 5 American low cost orbital launch vehicle. Falcon V was a two stage, reusable, liquid oxygen and kerosene powered launch vehicle. The maiden flight was targeted for mid-2005 as of early 2004. It used of the same engines, structural materials and concepts, and avionics and launch system as the Falcon I, differing in having five first-stage engines instead of 1 and a larger diameter. This meant that all the critical components would have a flight proven history even before first launch. By 2006 it had been superseded by the slightly larger Falcon 9.|
|Falcon 9 American low cost orbital launch vehicle. In September 2006 SpaceX was named as one of two winners of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services competition. The SpaceX award was $278 million for three flight demonstrations of the Falcon 9 booster carrying the Dragon space capsule. On 23 December 2008 NASA announced that the Falcon 9 / Dragon had been selected for launch of a guaranteed minimum of 20,000 kg of payload to the International Space Station in 2010-2014. The firm contract was worth $1.6 billion, with another $1.5 billion of options.|
|Falcon 9 Heavy American low cost orbital launch vehicle. The Falcon 9 Heavy would consist of a standard Falcon 9 v1.1 with two additional Falcon 9 first stages as liquid strap-on boosters.|
|Falcon 9 v1.1 Falcon 9 v1.1 represented a 50% increase in lift-off mass, with correspondingly upgraded engines with a 5% improvement in specific impulse.|
|Falcon 9R Version of Falcon 9 with capability to recover first stage on a floating platform downrange or at the launch site, depending on the payload margins.|
|Grasshopper Test version of recoverable Falcon 9 first stage, used for landing tests.|
An oscillation appeared in the upper stage control system 90 seconds into the burn. This instability grew and after 30 seconds induced a roll torque that exceeded the control capability of the second stage roll control thrusters. The propellants were centrifuged away from the outlets, causing flame-out of the Kestrel engine. LOX slosh was believed to be the primary contributor to this instability. Second stage slosh baffles would be included in future boosters to prevent reoccurence of the problem.