Money Launch for SpaceX

 

SpaceX did it:

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announces that Flight 4 of the Falcon 1 launch vehicle has successfully launched and achieved Earth orbit. With this key milestone, Falcon 1 becomes the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to orbit the Earth.

"This is a great day for SpaceX and the culmination of an enormous amount of work by a great team," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "The data shows we achieved a super precise orbit insertion—middle of the bull’s-eye — and then went on to coast and restart the second stage, which was icing on the cake."

Falcon 1, designed from the ground up by SpaceX, lifted off at 4:15 p.m. (PDT) / 23:15 (UTC) from the Reagan Test Site (RTS) on Omelek Island at the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) in the Central Pacific, about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii.

Preliminary data indicates that Falcon 1 achieved an elliptical orbit of 500 km by 700 km, 9.2 degrees inclination—exactly as targeted.

Falcon 1 carried into orbit a payload mass simulator of approximately 165 kg (364 lbs), designed and built by SpaceX, specifically for this mission. Consisting of a hexagonal aluminum alloy chamber 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall, the payload remains attached to the second stage as it orbits Earth.

 Here’s the video:

 

Noah Schactman brings light to a very interesting perspective: how this impacts launch costs and who controls entry into space. This could be a real game-changer:

Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, is promising to cut that $10,000-per-pound price in half. No wonder the Air Force has committed more than $100 million to the company, founded by PayPal’s Elon Musk. Darpa has made major investments, as well. "The military now has a stick to poke and prod the traditional big launch providers (Boeing and Lockheed Martin) into actually being competitive and saving the taxpayer money instead of just sucking off the government teat," former Air Force space officer Brian Weeden tells Danger Room.

But that stick only gets sharp if SpaceX can pull off the launch trick more than once. The company’s first three efforts were disasters. And there’s no guarantee the next three won’t be disasters, too. "Musk will need 20 or so launches before he knows how reliable his technology is — and how much it really costs," Hoffman wrote. And even if Musk can get these relatively-simple, relatively-small Falcon 1 rocket launches together, the real test will be whether the heavier, farther-reaching Falcon 9s will work out as planned.

It’s not just American launch costs that could go down. The next SpaceX rocket is supposed to carry a Malaysian reconaissance satellite into orbit. "This could be the beginning of a general diffusion of on-orbit capability of all sorts and a loss of U.S. ability to call the shots in space," says long time satellite-watcher (and former CIA officer) Allen Thomson.

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