SpaceX Falcon 9 Now Vertical at Cape Canaveral (Gallery)


Yesterday (Jan. 10th) was a huge day for SpaceX. For the first time ever, one of their rockets (the mighty Falcon 9) was hoisted vertically in preparation for the Falcon 9 maiden launch (presumably) in the next few weeks. No launch window has been announced as yet, but I am sure SpaceX will be working hard to ignite the nine Merlin-1C engines as soon as possible. Static tests have proven the launch system works, and the successful Falcon 1 flight in September proved SpaceX technology was a reality, so all that is needed is for the largest Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) in the SpaceX fleet to take to the skies, showing the world SpaceX is extending its lead in the commercial space race…

Falcon 9 vertical on the launch pad (SpaceX)
Falcon 9 vertical on the launch pad (SpaceX)
It is strange to think back to October when I saw a huge aluminium tube sitting on the SpaceX rocket workshop floor, pre-paint job. Before I realised it, that aluminium first stage shell was painted, branded, and shipped from Hawthorn (CA) to Cape Canaveral (FL) late last year. On December 30th, the Falcon 9 was fully integrated, and yesterday, the whole thing was hoisted upright between four launch pad lightning rods.

Having only just checked out the SpaceX website, I’ve realised the space launch company has released loads of great photos of the progress being made at the new Falcon 9 home, so I thought I’d post a preview of some of these images at the end of this short news update.

Falcon 9 is now vertical at the Cape!

After a very smooth vehicle mating operation yesterday, we began the process of raising Falcon 9 at 12:45pm EST and approximately 30 minutes later, Falcon 9 was vertical at the Cape. The process of taking Falcon 9 vertical was a critical step in preparation for our first Falcon 9 launch later this year. This accomplishment culminates several months of rapid progress, made possible only through the hard work and dedication of the entire SpaceX team. –SpaceX Updates (Jan. 10th, 2009)

With this kind of speedy progress being made at Cape Canaveral, plus the recent $1.6 billion contract signed by NASA for 12 SpaceX space station cargo flights for the next decade, it’s little wonder Elon Musk’s rocket launch startup might be feeling quite happy with themselves. They’ve even put together a nice time lapse video of Falcon 9 going vertical

Update (Jan. 12th): For those of you (below) who have concerns about the pollution dumped in the atmosphere by rockets, check out Ethan Siegel’s article on Starts With A Bang all about the pollution of rocketry

Musk standing next to the nine Merlin-1C engines of the Falcon 9 a few days ago (SpaceX)
Musk standing next to the nine Merlin-1C engines of the Falcon 9 on Jan. 7th (SpaceX)
Shortly after the fairing was attached to the booster stages on Dec. 30th 2008 (SpaceX)
Shortly after the fairing was attached to the booster stages on Dec. 30th 2008 (SpaceX)
Before and after: The first stage of the Falcon 9 back in Oct. 2008 at the SpaceX Hawthorn HQ (left) and the same first stage arriving in Cape Canaveral in Dec. 2008 (right). Credit: Ian O'Neill/SpaceX
Before and after: The first stage of the Falcon 9 back in Oct. 2008 at the SpaceX Hawthorn HQ (left) and the same first stage arriving in Cape Canaveral in Dec. 2008 (right). Credit: Ian O'Neill/SpaceX

38 Replies to “SpaceX Falcon 9 Now Vertical at Cape Canaveral (Gallery)”

  1. 9 engines?

    how redundant is the system as a whole???

    are there any other launch system which use large amounts of engines (barring the failed N-1’s)?

  2. Russian rocket, namely the Soyuz, have a large number of small engines.
    Its cheaper to use dozens of the same mass produced engine and can provide some redundancy… altho depending on the altitude they want to reach, I cant say how much slack there is remaining if one engine or more were to fail.

    I’d be worried that more moving parts = a greater chance for disaster… but then I’m no rocket scientist.

  3. This launch and others like it should be halted indefinitely until it’s carbon footprint and environmental impact can be accounted for. With global warming accelerating, temperatures rising all over the planet, and cities going underwater, launcing a massive smoke-belching object into the sky for the purposes of testing simply makes no sense. Perhaps a tax or a series of fees could be levied to compensate for the damage. An board of review staffed by scientists with good environmentalist credentials could quickly be drawn up and an assessment could be made.

  4. yes, bse5150, why don’t you go and submit your idea someplace other than this and in the meanwhile let the people work with their rockets

  5. No in response to doing a carbon study that is.
    Spaceflight is too important an endeavor to dick around with red tape.

  6. Nevermind the fact that I doubt one rocket has any significant impact.

    But of course it’s a lot easier to gripe about than to get 100 million USAnians to adjust the tyrepressures or,GUT forbid, start driving cars with the same mileage as the EU average.

    I’m sure the numbers have been run anyway.

  7. Kudos to both buster & Maxwell for posting what I was thinking. There are a multitude of sites for bse5150 to post comments of this type, but Universe Today is certainly not one of them. This is not to say that environmental issues are not worthy of study, serious debate of a matter of great consequence to all inhabitants of Earth. But the solutions he has proposed are simply not feasible or very practical to address this environmental conundrum. Great job, BTW, to all at Space-X & NASA personnel working on this project. Let’s hope the rest of this project goes as well as the early rounds of tests on the spacecraft.

  8. The engines look like the space craft engines of the very first movie of Star Wars when Princess Leia got captured.

  9. “With global warming accelerating, temperatures rising all over the planet, and cities going underwater.”

    Not that my comment will be posted, for some reason, but if It does get through the filter…

    What cities are going under water? You think that would have been in the news… I guess I just missed it.

    One credible study recently found that space rockets account for something like .0001% of carbon emissions. So your argument falls into the “wrong” pile.

  10. Hooray for SpaceX. The Falcon 9 looks a lot like the Ares 1. I’m sure the guts of it are entirely different.

  11. bse5150:

    So, did you also have a problem with the recent ground testing of the Falcon-9 engines?

    Do we even get to have fireworks anymore?

  12. Poo poo on the environmental impact study. Here’s a study for you. Quit driving SUV’s, ride a bike, smoke cigars inside a plastic bubble, and recycle your own urine. Then talk to me about Space X being halted.

  13. bse5150 — you want to derail programs that have the potential to put countless solar collectors in orbit, enough to provide power for the whole world at minimal cost without *any* carbon footprint, so you can do your study? You are an idiot — a dangerous one that could, if left unchecked, really hurt the planet and all its life. Talk about stealth anti-life . . .

  14. Has there ever been an orbit with such a small gantry/launch tower??? Go, baby, go! Hat’s off to SpaceX!!

  15. I wish to send all my best wishes to the SpaceX team. 2008 has been a fantastic year for the private space sector, and I guess 2009 will give us much more emotions. Godspeed Falcon!

  16. Humans have very little to due with climate change, it is better for us to put our efforts into adapting to the planet then trying to change it. The Green Nazi’s are the thing they fear, they are the only one trying to change the environment. Adapt me fellow man adapt….

    Go Space X GO!

  17. Congratulations are in order for all on the SpaceX team! This is a great time for the private space sector! I wish them all the very best the day they go for lift off. 🙂

  18. Good Luck and Godspeed in your quest for expanding the pathways to allow broader use of the space arena.

    From an old starry eyed spaceman.

    Dave Christensen

  19. Lol, I write an article about one of the biggest advances in commercial spaceflight history and we wind up talking about how bad rockets are for the environment!

    I’m pretty sure the effects of rocket emissions on the atmosphere are minimal compared with the routine daily emissions we all generate. Also, from articles I’ve previously written, companies such as SpaceX are acutely aware of pollution and have taken measures to supplement launches with enrolment in carbon-offset projects. Also, their engines are generally very efficient, minimising pollution.

    The argument against advancing our spacefaring ability because “there are more problems on Earth that need fixing first” simply does not hold water. Science endeavour in general enhances our lives in ways I doubt we’ll ever fully comprehend. For now, rocket launches are the best way to get us into space, and until another alternative comes along (that I’m sure a commercial entity such as SpaceX will be the first to design), the small amount of ecosystem damage caused by a few launches might be a necessary evil (although I’d debate it is not a huge contributing atmospheric impact).

    Space-based solar power could be THE revolution for the future of mankind. We have a long way to go, but if we are looking for an endless energy resources, we might be on the verge of becoming a viable space-borne civilization. All going well, this will help the world on a vast scale.

    Unfortunately, wars, famine and human/ecological suffering will still continue, but it can, perhaps, be alleviated by having an extroverted view on human evolution. Introverted attitudes stifle growth (economic, evolutionary, technological), therefore making the world a very bleak place.

    Peaceful technological advances do not equal human suffering, it’s illogical to think otherwise. Weapon tech advances on the other hand will continue whether we have rockets or not, unfortunately, that is human nature.

    Anyhow, that’s my 2c worth 🙂

    Cheers, Ian

  20. Go, Baby, GO!

    We will need the Falcon in 2010 – 2015 to remain a spacefaring nation. This is just great!

  21. What a lovelly looking creature, hope it works a treat! all the best Falcon 9! Will be watching!

  22. Yael, there is not one solar collector in orbit yet – do we have to burn fossil fuels from oh, 1000 more rocket experiments to get one there? And how long will it take to get them all up? And how many factories have to run 24/7 spewing their poison into the ecosystem to make the rockets that in turn leave trails of deadly chemicals high into the atmosphere to place solar collectors that may or may not work?
    Hopefully, the current administration will see the foolishness of building rockets and start building programs for the poor and bridges to peaceful solutions to stop war. With war ended, less rockets are needed since – and none of you can deny this – most are used to deliver military payloads. This rocket and its parent company will be no different. You see science all the time from SpaceX. I see SpaceX getting money from the highest bidder – the warmongering, enviromental-damaging military/industrial complex. No science there!
    Answer this – what currently do we use rocket launches for now – military or science? The answer is military. And the environment is damaged with every launch. The only good rocket is no rocket.

  23. bse5150

    You are not a science guy obviously. I doubt you are an engineer. Probably not a math guy either. You who with your notable distaste of science obviously do not have the background or skills necessary to understand what kind of ecological problems a rocket launch could, or could not do. So stop talking about things you have no idea about.

    Second, building roads to peace and helping the poor? false, that is not what the administration should do. Since a gov helping the poor ultimately just alleviates the pain for a short time. While say…. making rockets and and a space program would develop new technologies that would create new industries and expand the economy, and generating more interest in science/engineering causing more people to go into the fields, making more inovations and advancements making a cycle of economics expansion and increase in standard of living making it so there are less or no poor.

    Also your current administration plan or building bridges to peace is – im assuming talking about obama- is a dumb thought since he has isnt going to do anything about military spending, if anything hell increase since military spending creates an expanding economy for roughl 6 years, before it begins to collapse.

    Next issue is that how you hate the gov hurting the environment with the rocket emmissions, Rocket emissions dont even compare with automobile emissions. And the only reason the us has so many automobile emissions is because the government built the highway systems and suburban infrastructure to drive people out of the cities and into the rural/suburban areas. If the government didnt do that trains and mass transit would be the norm since roads are not fiscally intelligent for a private company (expensive and costly to maintain) since private transportation systems were trains, and local govs took care of mass transit in the areas, if the fed didnt step in there wouldnt have been so many automobiles, and thus less emissions from them.

    so stop being so uneducated

  24. Well if your worried about the ‘carbon footprint’ of this rocket we could use nuclear rockets.

    This rocket is progressing fast, I wonder what the naysayers of a few weeks ago will say now.

  25. I guess that I don’t actually know the time frame that NASA usually accomplishes this sort of thing over, but it really seems like it would take longer than a few months… So congrats SpaceX!

    And if you want an example of unforeseen benefits of space technologies, bse5150, all you have to do is look at Nancy’s post about Aerogel…

  26. The Falcon 9 was in process of being built while they were still struggling with the Falcon 1… altho it is a refreshingly speedy program by most standards.

  27. Now if we could get a low passed that all NASA payloads need engine-out capable rockets, that would limit the stable to Ares V and Falcon 9…

    Just a thought.

    Heres hoping for artwork depicting his BFR. If the fighter-jock runs NASA, Musk might be the only HLLV provider out there.

  28. *NOT* an EELV, Ian. Really, such a demonstrable statement should not have stood for one day, let alone most of a week. EELV is a well-defined Air Force program, with explicitly-contracted participants, producing Air-Force designated, Air-Force specified vehicles. There’s even an EELV office, with program regulators. They most definitely DID NOT designate a new Air Force-specified launch vehicle over the weekend.

  29. Dear Ian,
    I don`t know why you called Falcon 9 expendable it is clearly reusable. It is work in progress with goal become completely reusable in the near future. The next Falcon 1 first stage which will launch in Feb. is being fitted with thermal protection to allow it to survive re-entry for recovery and if that isn`t recovered Elon has stated that Falcon 1 Flight 6 which will launch before Falcon 9`s debute this summer, will be recovered. Since Falcon 1 is meant as the test vehicle for the more expensive Falcon 9, there will be plenty of time to ensure its first stage is recovered. Elon has stated that second stage recovery will take more time but eventually it too will be recovered. One must remember that these things take time and he has to make money as he goes forward.

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