Encyclopedia Astronautica
Falcon



zfalcon1.jpg
Falcon 1
Falcons are a family of two stage, reusable, liquid oxygen and kerosene powered launch vehicles, designed for cost-efficient and reliable transport of satellites and manned spacecraft to low Earth orbit. The Falcon 1 satellite launcher began launches in 2006, with the Falcon 9 - as large as a Saturn I - flying in 2010. The Falcon series was the only successful project among many attempts to privately develop a low cost launch system since the 1960's.

Falcon I was a two stage, reusable, liquid oxygen and kerosene powered 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 The Falcon 1 was to be superseded by the Falcon 1e, with an extended-tank first stage, from 2010.

The first stage primary structure was made of a space grade aluminium 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 aluminium-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.

More... - Chronology...


Associated Spacecraft
  • Celestis American burial satellite. 4 launches, 1998.02.10 (Celestis-02) to 2008.08.03 (Celestis-4). Celestis offers the loved ones of the space-smitten deceases the opportunity to have (a portion) of their cremains put into orbit. More...
  • FalconSat American technology satellite. 3 launches, 2000.01.27 (Falconsat) to 2007.03.09 (Falconsat-3). The JAWSAT/FalconSat payloads were developed as a joint effort between the Air Force Academy and Weber State University. More...
  • PreSat American technology satellite. Launched 2008.08.03, More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Falcon 1e Version of Falcon 1 with stretched first stage and much more powerful Merlin engine. More...
  • 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. More...
  • Falcon 1 American low cost orbital launch vehicle. Falcon I was a two stage, reusable, liquid oxygen and kerosene powered 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. More...
  • 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. More...
  • Falcon 9 Heavy American low cost orbital launch vehicle. The Falcon 9 Heavy would consist of a standard Falcon 9 with two additional Falcon 9 first stages as liquid strap-on boosters. More...

Associated Launch Sites
  • Kwajalein The US military base located on this Pacific island group has major tracking facilities and is near the impact area for dummy warheads fired by ICBM's from Vandenberg AFB. It is a key test location for anti-ballistic missile systems. More...

Falcon Chronology


2006 March 24 - . Launch Site: Kwajalein. Launch Complex: Kwajalein OM. LV Family: Falcon. Launch Vehicle: Falcon 1. LV Configuration: Falcon 1 1. FAILURE: Fuel leak at T+25 seconds caused a fire in the first stage engine area. Failed Stage: 1.
  • Falconsat-2 - . Mass: 20 kg (44 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF Colorado Springs. Manufacturer: USAFA. Class: Technology. Type: Navigation technology satellite. Spacecraft: Falconsat. COSPAR: F20060324. Summary: The satellite fell through the roof of SpaceX's machine shop on the atoll..

2007 March 21 - . 01:10 GMT - . Launch Site: Kwajalein. Launch Complex: Kwajalein OM. LV Family: Falcon. Launch Vehicle: Falcon 1. LV Configuration: Falcon 1 2. FAILURE: Liquid oxygen slosh in the second stage created an oscillation, putting the stage in an uncontrollable roll, starving the engine from propellant.. Failed Stage: 2.
  • DemoFlight 2 - . Nation: USA. Agency: DARPA. Class: Technology. Type: Navigation technology satellite. COSPAR: F20070321. 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.

2008 August 3 - . 03:34 GMT - . Launch Site: Kwajalein. Launch Complex: Kwajalein OM. LV Family: Falcon. Launch Vehicle: Falcon 1. FAILURE: The new Merlin 1C first stage engine completed its burn, but the thrust took longer to decay than expected. It was still thrusting when stage 2 tried to separate, and the two stages collided, setting the second stage tumbling..
2008 September 28 - . Launch Site: Kwajalein. Launch Complex: Kwajalein OM. LV Family: Falcon. Launch Vehicle: Falcon 1.
  • Ratsat - . Nation: USA. Agency: SpaceX. Class: Technology. Type: Navigation technology satellite. USAF Sat Cat: 33393 . COSPAR: 2008-048A. Apogee: 643 km (399 mi). Perigee: 622 km (386 mi). Inclination: 9.3000 deg. Period: 97.40 min. Summary: First successful launch of low-cost Falcon launch vehicle. The second stage demonstrated restart. The payload was a dummy mass which remained attached to the stage..

2009 July 14 - . 03:36 GMT - . Launch Site: Kwajalein. Launch Complex: Kwajalein OM. LV Family: Falcon. Launch Vehicle: Falcon 1. LV Configuration: Falcon 1 s/n F1-5.
  • Razaksat - . Mass: 180 kg (390 lb). Nation: Malaysia. Agency: SpaceX. Spacecraft: Satrec. USAF Sat Cat: 35578 . COSPAR: 2009-037A. Apogee: 690 km (420 mi). Perigee: 665 km (413 mi). Inclination: 9.0000 deg. Period: 98.30 min. Summary: Malaysian imaging satellite..

2010 June 4 - . 18:45 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC40. Launch Pad: SLC40. LV Family: Falcon. Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9. LV Configuration: Falcon 9 s/n F9-1.
  • Dragon/Falcon 9 - . Mass: 4,000 kg (8,800 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: SpaceX. Class: Technology. Type: Technology satellite. Spacecraft: Dragon. Decay Date: 2010-06-27 . USAF Sat Cat: 36595 . COSPAR: 2010-026A. Apogee: 140 km (80 mi). Perigee: 138 km (85 mi). Inclination: 34.5000 deg. Period: 87.30 min. Summary: First launch of the commercial Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Structural model of Dragon reusable spacecraft. Remained attached to final stage..

2010 December 8 - . 15:43 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC40. Launch Pad: SLC40. LV Family: Falcon. Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9.
  • Dragon C1 - . Nation: USA. Class: Manned. Type: Manned spacecraft. Spacecraft: Dragon. Duration: 0.14 days. Decay Date: 2010-01-12 . USAF Sat Cat: 37244 . COSPAR: 2010-066A. Apogee: 306 km (190 mi). Perigee: 281 km (174 mi). Inclination: 34.5000 deg. Period: 90.40 min. Summary: First test of the Dragon recoverable spacecraft. Splashed down and successfully recovered in the Pacific Ocean 800 km west of Mexico after a 3 hour 20 minute mission..
  • QBX2 - . Payload: QbX-2. Mass: 1.00 kg (2.20 lb). Nation: USA. Class: Technology. Type: Technology satellite. Spacecraft: Cubesat. Decay Date: 2011-12-31 . USAF Sat Cat: 37245 . COSPAR: 2010-066B. Apogee: 187 km (116 mi). Perigee: 173 km (107 mi). Inclination: 34.5000 deg. Period: 88.10 min. Summary: Cubesat satellite built by Pumpkin Inc of San Francisco for the National Reconaissance Office's Colony-1 technology development project..
  • SMDC One - . Payload: SMDC-One. Mass: 4.00 kg (8.80 lb). Nation: USA. Class: Communications. Type: Communications satellite. Spacecraft: Cubesat. Decay Date: 2011-12-31 . USAF Sat Cat: 37246 . COSPAR: 2010-066C. Apogee: 184 km (114 mi). Perigee: 173 km (107 mi). Inclination: 34.5000 deg. Period: 88.10 min. Summary: Operational Nanosatellite Experiment for the US Army Space and Missile Defense Center.
  • Perseus 003 - . Mass: 1.00 kg (2.20 lb). Nation: USA. Class: Technology. Type: Technology satellite. Spacecraft: Cubesat. Decay Date: 2010-01-06 . USAF Sat Cat: 37247 . COSPAR: 2010-066D. Apogee: 190 km (110 mi). Perigee: 179 km (111 mi). Inclination: 34.5000 deg. Period: 88.20 min. Summary: Los Alamos National Laboratory cubesat, perhaps for ionospheric monitoring..
  • Perseus 001 - . Mass: 1.00 kg (2.20 lb). Nation: USA. Class: Technology. Type: Technology satellite. Spacecraft: Cubesat. Decay Date: 2010-12-30 . USAF Sat Cat: 37248 . COSPAR: 2010-066E. Apogee: 183 km (113 mi). Perigee: 176 km (109 mi). Inclination: 34.5000 deg. Period: 88.10 min. Summary: Los Alamos National Laboratory cubesat, perhaps for ionospheric monitoring..
  • QBX1 - . Payload: QbX-1. Mass: 1.00 kg (2.20 lb). Nation: USA. Class: Technology. Type: Technology satellite. Spacecraft: Cubesat. Decay Date: 2011-12-30 . USAF Sat Cat: 37249 . COSPAR: 2010-066F. Apogee: 197 km (122 mi). Perigee: 185 km (114 mi). Inclination: 34.5000 deg. Period: 88.30 min. Summary: Cubesat satellite built by Pumpkin Inc of San Francisco for the National Reconaissance Office's Colony-1 technology development project..
  • Perseus 002 - . Mass: 1.00 kg (2.20 lb). Nation: USA. Class: Technology. Type: Technology satellite. Spacecraft: Cubesat. Decay Date: 2010-12-22 . USAF Sat Cat: 37250 . COSPAR: 2010-066G. Apogee: 193 km (119 mi). Perigee: 183 km (113 mi). Inclination: 34.5000 deg. Period: 88.20 min. Summary: Los Alamos National Laboratory cubesat, perhaps for ionospheric monitoring..
  • Perseus 000 - . Mass: 1.00 kg (2.20 lb). Nation: USA. Class: Technology. Type: Technology satellite. Spacecraft: Cubesat. Decay Date: 2010-12-30 . USAF Sat Cat: 37251 . COSPAR: 2010-066H. Apogee: 190 km (110 mi). Perigee: 180 km (110 mi). Inclination: 34.5000 deg. Period: 88.20 min. Summary: Los Alamos National Laboratory cubesat, perhaps for ionospheric monitoring..
  • Mayflower - . Payload: Caerus/Mayflower. Mass: 3.00 kg (6.60 lb). Nation: USA. Class: Technology. Type: Technology satellite. Spacecraft: Cubesat. Decay Date: 2010-12-22 . USAF Sat Cat: 37252 . COSPAR: 2010-066J. Apogee: 194 km (120 mi). Perigee: 179 km (111 mi). Inclination: 34.5000 deg. Period: 88.20 min. Experiment for Northrop Grumman NovaWorks and the University of Southern California. 3-unit cubesat with deployable solar panels composed of a Northrop Grumman's 2-unit Mayflower Next Generation Technology Nanosat and University of Southern California's 1-unit cubesat.

Home - Browse - Contact
© / Conditions for Use