Space X Falcon 1 Successfully In Orbit

Article written: 28 Sep , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

The commercial spaceflight company Space X successfully launched its Falcon 1 unmanned booster, becoming the first private company to send a rocket into orbit. The two-stage rocket lifted off at 7:16 p.m. EDT (23:16 GMT) from the the launch site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the about 2,500 miles (4,023 km) southwest of Hawaii. This successful launch comes almost two months after an engine timing error during stage separation caused the failure of Space X’s third Falcon 1 test. If you missed watching the live webcast, below is the video. Watching the live webcast was wonderful; the people who actually built this rocket could be heard cheering in the background as each milestone in the climb to orbit was reached. Congratulations to everyone at Space X!


After the Falcon 1 reached orbit, an elated Elon Musk, Space X CEO told his cheering employees, “As the saying goes, the fourth time’s the charm.” He said this is just the first step for Space X, and added “This is one of the best days of my life.”

SpaceX’s first three attempts to launch the Falcon 1 all failed, with different problems occurring on each try. But today, after a uneventful countdown, the two-stage rocket operated flawlessly, bringing a dummy payload to Earth orbit. “This was the smoothest launch countdown of all,” Musk said. “It just shows the team is getting more and more practice at this.”

The Falcon 1 is a two stage, liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene (RP-1) powered launch vehicle. It is designed from the ground up by Space X, with no government assistance. Space X has about 500 employees.

As winner of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competition, SpaceX is designing and building the Falcon 9 human-rated launch vehicle and Dragon spaceship to transport cargo and then astronauts to the International Space Station.

Space X’s mission is to provide launch vehicles at low cost and high reliability. This success could be the beginning of a new era in spaceflight.

Source: Space X


27 Responses

  1. Chris Lintott says

    Actually the first private launch to reach orbit from the ground, after Pegasus in the 1990s (I think). Still, an amazing achievement – and how cool to have live video to take us along for the ride.

  2. Concerned citizen says

    How sweet it is!

  3. Chris Farmer - Adelaide, South Australia says

    What a ride!

  4. Don Alexander says

    Congratulations to all involved!!

    Now to improve that “one out of four”…

  5. Jorge says

    Well, I’m not much an enthusiast of private space flight, quite frankly. I understand why so many people gets all jumpy with it, and I fully understand why the private sector is interested in space (there’s lots of money to be made with it) but I’m very cautious about it, especially because there’s almost absolutely no regulation in place for the use of Earth orbit and beyond.

    The problem, as I see it, is that the record of private sector endeavours on Earth is not a very pretty sight, particularly when there’s no or or there’s only inadecuate regulations and oversight. The latest major example of this is the unfolding Wall Street meltdown, but there are plenty and more. Without oversight, private sector’s tendency has always been to abse and do a whole lot of damage, which then has to be remedied as best as possible by the rest of us. They tend to get the money and exploit things to the fullest, and we commoners end up with huge bills to pay.

    And given the lack of regulation and oversight in space I fear it’s one more sector going the same way with the arrival of private companies. It’s the nature of the beast. Even when it starts out all ethically and responsibly, it’s enough that one unethical and irresponsible player comes along and gets away with it for the others to follow suit.

    So unless some really solid international regulatory mechanisms are urgently put in place, I bet we in for a very bumpy ride with this.

  6. Hunnter says

    This is fantastic news!
    They finally did it!
    Well done everyone at SpaceX.

    It was fantastic watching it zooming up and the land getting smaller and smaller.

  7. KFP says

    Hi Jorge,

    I’m afraid I disagree with you about private spaceflight. Regulation is of course needed, but the private sector is not the only thing needing it. I would say states and the public sector need it just as much. With states, things like democracy and freedom of speech and press do the regulating (you can take, say, North Korea as an example of when they don’t).
    I think it is safe to say that “us commoners” greatly benefit from a market economy here on Earth, so why not in space as well?
    I also think private spaceflight is very important in terms of getting things done in space exploration and has the potential to really change things.

    I believe that matters relating to regulation and law outside the Earth will merit plenty of open and serious discussion in the future.

    And finally, congratulations to the Space X team!

  8. Jorge says

    Yeah, KFP, I’m sure many people will disagree with me. There’s definitely an ideological divide here, and I’m sure everyone who’s enthusiastic about the virtues of private entrepreneurship will see this just as enthusiastically. I’m most definitely not.

    We do agree, however, on one thing: we, the people, are the regulators of our democratic states’ space endeavours. The difference is that I believe that’s how it should always be, or, if not always, at least until those matters relating to regulation and law are mostly settled. Which they are very, very, very far from being.

    Another difference is that you seem to think there’s only market when there are private companies involved. I think this is false. We do have an operating market now, between the various public agencies around the world, which manage to compete and cooperate in what seems to me a largely healthy atmosphere. A market we, the people, have the power to influence, which power we’ll lose once (or if) the privates settle in.

    We kinda agree that private spaceflight could have a large potential to really change things, although I fear those changes will be for the worse, not for the better. Without as much oversight as the public companies have, the potential for disaster skyrockets (pun intended). A couple of examples:

    If the privates manage to grab a healthy chunk of the lucrative satellite launches, the public agencies might be put in even direr straits than they are now. What do you think will suffer the most in that situation? There’s little doubt in my mind that it’ll be funding for basic scientific research, which is by its very nature expensive and not lucrative in the short and even medium run.

    We already have today a problem with space junk, and aren’t anywhere near of finding a way to manage it let alone control it. If the privates really manage to go low cost (and I have my doubts about it), that space junk problem will only get worse and worse.

    Perhaps the best regulated activity in the world is aviation. And yet we still have accidents happening and people getting killed simply because the companies try their best to find loopholes in regulations that allow them to spare or score some bucks. Just imagine what could happen in an area where there’s no regulations whatsoever.

    I, personally, shudder at the thought.

  9. dollhopf says

    KFP Says:

    ‘Regulation is of course needed’,

    ‘it is safe to say that “us commoners” greatly benefit from a market economy here on Earth, so why not in space as well?’

    Sure, regulations have to be made by the lawmaker in such a way that the advance of the public interest and of private space flight are promoted likewise.

  10. KFP says

    Indeed, public sector spaceflight is important for, among other things, scientific research and definitely should continue to play an important role. But keeping most of the Universe off-limits to us people, companies and non-governmental organizations is, I think a very bad idea.

    As for aviation, remember that it is still very, very safe on average. I think that it is also good to remember that each of us makes compromises regarding safety many times every day (we wouldn’t get anything done if we didn’t). As for the public sector’s record with aviation, it has mostly been military stuff where people work hard to kill each other.

    Private ventures contribute to innovation, achievement and learning here on Earth and I believe they can do the same elsewhere as well!

  11. Jorge says

    But keeping most of the Universe off-limits to us people, companies and non-governmental organizations is, I think a very bad idea.

    Why? It has worked since the dawn of the space age. We have a constant presence on Earth orbit, we’ve been to the Moon, we’ve sent our robotic explorers as far as the heliosheath. Private companies run their own satellites and pay the public sector to put them in orbit, helping to attenuate the funding deficit of public agencies (which is chronic precisely due to the cost of basic science) and lifting a bit the load on taxpayers, the same can be said about space tourists. And so on.

    I don’t think we’re in a bad shape, considering how demanding going to space it.

    Besides, most of the Universe will always be off limits to us people. Most of us people, globally, can’t even afford air travel, much less space travel. Even if they manage to go low cost, that “low” will always be very relative. Any trip will come with a price tag to it that nobody, except the very rich, will be able to pay.

    Regarding private funding of science, well, there too is a difference. Although there are some private companies that do provide funding to fundamental research, most of them do not. They want profit, so they go for what they think has the best potential for profit. The problem is that we need both fundamental and applied research, and if we pull the plug of profit from under public agencies, we’ll be stuck with applied research only. That cannot be good for anybody. Except for patent holders, naturally.

    And aviation is still very safe on average because it is extremely well regulated. And yet, people still get killed. Space, on the other hand, is almost completely unregulated. And it’s more demanding, technologically, which is the same as saying it’s fundamentally more dangerous. Those ingredients do not allow me to foresee anything even remotely close to a bright future.

  12. Jorge says

    Errata:

    considering how demanding going to space it.

    That should be:

    considering how demanding going to space is.

    sorry.

  13. KFP says

    Hmm, well then again I optimistically (probably overly so) look forward to cool things like space colonization… 🙂

    Such things won’t be the goal of public sector agencies (don’t get me wrong, they have cool goals too, while different).

    Also, private sector ventures may be able to give a sorely needed “kick in the behind” to complacent and underfinanced public agencies.

    Well, we’ll see what happens. I hope for the best, while I understand your concerns.

  14. Jorge says

    I’m also pretty skeptical about space colonization being the goal of private companies, quite frankly. A private company wants profit, and space colonies will not be profitable, quite the contrary, especially in the beginning when all the know-how about living in another world (or habitat) has to be developped from scratch. I very much suspect that that too will depend on public agencies for a long, long time.

    Still, this said, I have to admit that I’m partial to Buran’s Spaceship 1. The damn ship is a beauty.

  15. Jorge says

    Gah! Rutan, not Buran! Buran is the name of the abandoned soviet space shuttle. Gah!… What a silly mistake!…

  16. KFP says

    Heh, don’t worry.

    Still, while private companies often have a goal of making a profit, that is certainly not all they do. In general, they provide valuable goods and services to people. For example, my favourite restaurant most likely wants to make a profit but it also wants to serve delicious meals, which is why I’m happy to visit there. I won’t get meals like those from the public sector.

    I guess the first steps of private spaceflight have been communication satellites. The next phase seems to be tourism (Virgin Galactic, Bigelow Aerospace and so on). Then, perhaps, tapping extraterrestrial natural resources, and after that…

    But the future is notoriously difficult to predict. Who really foresaw the rapid development of computers in recent decades for example? Or the evolution of the Internet?

  17. RetardedFishFrog says

    I have to side with KFP and the voice of reason.

    Jorge – Just about everything you’re saying is wrong. I don’t have time to go through it all, but I’ll touch just a few points.

    You say, “The problem, as I see it, is that the record of private sector endeavours on Earth is not a very pretty sight.”

    People are people. Some people are selfish, and selfish people seek power for themselves. They can do that in either the private sector or the public sector. Here are a couple public sector endeavors:
    1. Hitler gassed 8 million Jews as part of a scheme to attain and keep power.
    2. Stalin purged, killed, starved, gulagged (sic) 20 million Soviet peasants to maintain power.
    This could be a very long list if I had the time.

    Private companies have to make their customers happy. If they don’t, then their customers will get what they need somewhere else. Bill Gates is rich and powerful because he sold millions of products, not because he killed or otherwise harmed millions of people. I challenge you to top my list above with private sector atrocities.

    For a comparison of private versus public sector, look at the Korean peninsula.

    I’ll make just one more point. Free market competition in space will drive the cost of space travel way down making it less expensive for the public sector to do science.

  18. Jorge says

    KFP, there are things that work well in private hands, there are things that don’t. And there are things that work better with a mix. Your privately owned restaurant is one of those things that works much better in private hands than in public hands. But even so, restaurants need to be oversought by public sanitary authorities, otherwise they will become public health hazards. Or some will. The huge record of clusures, fines, epidemics, etc., in restaurants, diners, bars and so forth all over the world is there to prove the point. Or the current milk scandal in that bizarre mix of folclorically communist politics and savagely capitalist economics that is contemporary China.

    The fact is that the only reason your restaurant can sell you good meals is that its activity is publicly regulated. If it wasn’t, if anybody could open a restaurant anywhere without oversight and control, you’d soon get into a situation where some unscrupulous scumbag would open a restaurant next to yours, start selling meals made with crappy but tasty ingredients at half the price or less, grab all the uninformed clientelle from your favourite place and force it to decide to lower quality standards or go out of business. Even if the scumbag got caught and jailed after his first massive food poisoning sent a hundred or more people to the hospital, perhaps even killing a few, that wouldn’t do any good to you or to the owner of your favourite place, who in the meanwhile either went bankrupt or got used to getting away with lower standards and won’t do anything to improve them unless he’s forced to.

    This is the situation that space business is currently in. Unless appropriate regulation is put in place quickly, even if these pioneering guys are all ethical end responsible, the scumbags will follow suit really fast. And space activities are far, far less adecuate for the private sector than restaurants.

    Retarded, have you ever heard of Godwin’s law? Do look it up. Looks like I won our argument before it even started 🙂

    I just hope you won’t be one of the many, many people that’ll lose their jobs or homes in the near future, all over the world, because free market fundamentalist neocons such as yourself were allowed to go rampant for way too long, especially in the ultra right-wing America we were forced to endure for the last 8 years. When the recession that’s coming because of the wonderful virtues of unregulated free market knocks in your door, do try to convince it that it shouldn’t be happening, and don’t forget to mention Hitler, Stalin and the Dear Leader. Who knows? Maybe the recession never heard of Godwin’s Law. 😉

  19. dollhopf says

    Contracts are the basic instrument of a free market. Both sides agree freely to conditions and thus an exchange of goods and money is clearly defined.

    To make a long story short, all law, from the Constitution to the penal law and the Civil Code, provides people with individual freedom, so that they can freely decide how and what they exchange with others.

    That requires some overhead expenses to administer this system, which works much better than socialism.

    It’s a problem when unscrupulous market participants meet with corrupt adminstrators. And it is most important for the emerging market of private space travel to be untroubled by this combination.

    By the way, I guess that personal morale helps to decrease the costs for administration.

  20. When I devised, with the admirable help of Alan Jefferson, The Space Chronometre

    http://www.jstor.org/pss/1575232

    I set out to describe a venture that would provide GMT time to everyone on the planet. At the time, (no pun intended), there was great acrimony from astronomers who objected to any reflective object in low earth orbit as such objects would damage their view of the heavens above us all.

    That was a long time ago.

    I applaud this new venture. It sets out to reduce the cost to orbit for EVERYONE, regardless of whether or not they are “private” of “government”.

    If we turn back to the origins of the United States, (I must point out immediately that I am a British inventor), the great strides were made not by the government, but by the settlers that risked everything to bypass the government Forts and go out into the wilderness and set up their homesteads in the dark continent.

    It was these pioneers that made the United States what it is today. So trying to diminish the success of the Space X falcon 1 by suggesting that it all would be better in the hands of the “government” is a travesty of the history of your fine nation.

    Go out and pioneer, fail even, but in that failure lies the great success of all humanity who follow and try again and again, eventually to succeed against all costs and expectations.

    Go for it Space X, my heart goes with you all.

  21. Robert says

    I’m sad this remarkable feat was given last billing out of eight stories on today’s mailing.

    The launch of one of these Falcon’s cost between 8 and 12 million dollars- what would “public” NASA have had to have charged for this? Not to mention that it was launched some 2500 miles SW of Hawaii because excessive and over-burdensome regulation prevents this activity here at home.

    I’ve watched the govt. give NASA just enough $s to survive but not enough to accomplish any truly great things in orbit, on the moon nor Mars.

    In the late 60’s and into the 70’s we (school kids) were mesmerized at the neat animated, artist’s impressions of what we would be doing in those far off places in the 80’s and through to beyond the turn of the century.

    We could see how we could live on giant, rotating habitat wheels, beaming power back down to Earth collected from mile long banks of solar collectors.

    On vacation we could visit a colony on the moon, and then drive an enclosed, lunar ATV to view jagged peaks of barren mountains and craters with the gleaming domes of the colony below. And we could marvel as the mass drivers sent yet another load of ore/goods up to orbit.

    If we studied and worked hard it wasn’t too much of a stretch to think that we’d be rewarded with a chance to be on the team planting the flag and settling on some level piece of ground on the equitorial regions of Mars. Or have enough of a stake to fund our own asteroid mining operation (my favorite).

    Well, I’m 45 now, and there ain’t much of a chance of me doing any of that. But I want to make darn sure my kids have a chance to. Thank you Space X, Rutan, Branson, and Bigelow for what you are doing!

  22. RetardedFishFrog says

    Hi Jorge,

    I looked up Godwin’s Law – very interesting and also funny that I stumbled into what seems to be a discussion posting faux pas. However, I don’t think my comments quite satisfy Godwin’s Law since I wasn’t trying to flame you. I was trying to make a valid point. You were inexplicably bad mouthing a tremendous private sector accomplishment while lauding the public sector as if it were always superior to the private sector and additionally, that any success in the private sector would detract from the public sector. Would you rip on Jobs and Wozniak because they invented the Apple computer in their garage? Did that detract from the University of Illinois National Center for Supercomputing Applications?

    I would posit that your postings come closer to satisfying Godwin’s law – in spirit – because they were not just wrong, but then you started on “right wing” this and “neocon” that. If right wingers and neocons are your Nazis, then it was truly you who satisfied Godwin’s law.

    But, like Nancy said a few days ago – we need to lighten up.

    Amen to Chris Coles. It’s individuals who have the freedom to create and dream who are the entrepreneurs and innovators that will get us to space. This has been true in our past endeavors, and it’s true for Rutan, Branson, Bigelow, Diamandis and Space X.

  23. dennis cottle says

    Good on ya Spacex
    Well done

  24. Jorge says

    LOL! Nice spin, retarded. Have you tried to get into politics? You might have some success in the republican camp, although the competition there is fierce. In that Spinsterland you’d have to try harder. Still you might get somewhere… 😉

    Of course, one of the corollaries of the Godwin’s law is that any possibility of a civilized discussion about the issues ends when the nazis step in, so I’m not going to discuss this with you, sorry.

  25. Robert says

    Jorge,

    Please take your political ravings elsewhere. While you are at it, study up on your history.

    Nazis were “Social Democrats”.

  26. Space Fan says

    Actually, Nazis were far-right corporatists who believed that the State and monopoly capital should be fused for the good of the country. That and they also believed in eugenics, social darwinism, racism, patriarchy, traditionalism, ultranationalism, etc. There is nothing really left about them other than one of the words in the name of their party. And “National Socialists” are not the same thing as “socialists” the same way Blair’s “New Labour” is not the same thing as the old Labour party.

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