SpaceX Falcon 9 Successfully Launches, Reaches Orbit

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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It was history in the making that could have a huge bearing on the future of US spaceflight. The commercial space company SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket on Friday, with what seemed to be a picture-perfect lift-off and flight. The Falcon 9 rocket performed magnificently (at least from initial reports), hitting all the flight parameters precisely on time. The SpaceX team overcame delays for telemetry problems, a boat that unknowingly sailed into the restricted zone of the launch range, and one last-second launch abort on an earlier try. The team then successfully recycled the engines and sent the rocket off on a beautiful launch. Video from the rocket in flight was streamed online, showing the stage separation and engine cutoff, with a view of Earth in the background.

UPDATE: Spaceflightnow.com reports that SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage and dummy Dragon capsule achieved a nearly perfect orbit during today’s dramatic blastoff, hitting a bullseye of the orbital target. The apogee, or high point, was about 1 percent higher than planned and the perigee, or low point, was 0.2 percent off the target.


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The Falcon 9 blasted off at 2:45 p.m. EDT (1845 GMT) from launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The nine Merlin engines, fueled by liquid oxygen and RP-1 kerosene rocket fuel, provided a million pounds of thrust, sending the rocket to orbit in just over 9 minutes.

SpaceX was shooting for the Falcon 9 to reach a circular orbit 250 kilometers, or 155 miles, high and an inclination of 34.5 degrees.

On the video, it is evident the rocket experienced a slight roll, which was not expected.

Having a rocket succeed on its maiden voyage is quite unusual (it took the Atlas rocket 13 tries for success), so the SpaceX team has to be extremely pleased with not only the rocket’s performance, but the team’s ability to overcome problems and press on with a successful launch.

Screenshot from Falcon 9 video feed, showing the glowing hot nozzle of the rocket. Credit: SpaceX

180-foot (55 meter)-high Falcon 9 carried a mock-up of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule. With this success, the next flight may be a flight to the International Space Station to practice docking techniques — it won’t actually dock, but practice approach. If that goes well, the next flight might actually dock and bring supplies to the ISS.

Congratulations to SpaceX!

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6 Responses

  1. Aqua says:

    YIPPEE! Thar be Space Dragons yonder! What a relief! Hopefully Brent, aka @HelloBozos got a few images? The launch looked kind of clouded out though…

  2. hal10000 says:

    Falcon PUNCH!

  3. Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

    Everything was impressive, but especially the ability to recycle a state from barely seconds before launch.

    Not bad for a company that was initiated a mere 2 years before the Ares-1 program started in earnest, and that started the Falcon-9 a year after Ares-1. Especially considering that a true Ares-1 never got off the ground, despite being a redesign of an older rocket.

    Ad astra, SpaceX!

  4. phindr says:

    hope spacex postes an official video of the launch.

  5. Astrofiend says:

    After watching the video, I get the impression that things performed nominally…

  6. TerryG says:

    If you freeze the launch video at around T-3, you see Waspzilla get the fright of her life!

    Hopefully, SpaceX decide to share the flight path details on the next launch so amateur astronomers can catch the in orbit rendezvous/ballet between the Dragon capsule and 2nd stage.

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