Encyclopedia Astronautica
Falcon 1



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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 The Falcon 1 was to be superseded by the Falcon 1e, with an extended-tank first stage, from 2010.

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.

LEO Payload: 420 kg (920 lb) to a 200 km orbit at 9.10 degrees. Payload: 150 kg (330 lb) to a 700 km SSO. Failures: 3. Success Rate: 75.00%. First Fail Date: 2006-03-24. Last Fail Date: 2007-08-03. Launch data is: continuing. Launch Price $: 7.900 million in 2008 dollars. Boost Propulsion: Lox/Kerosene. Cruise Thrust: 33.300 kN (7,486 lbf). Cruise Thrust: 3,400 kgf. Cruise engine: Kestrel. Initial Operational Capability: 2007.

Status: Active.
Gross mass: 27,670 kg (61,000 lb).
Payload: 420 kg (920 lb).
Height: 21.30 m (69.80 ft).
Diameter: 1.70 m (5.50 ft).
Span: 1.70 m (5.50 ft).
Thrust: 347.00 kN (78,008 lbf).
Apogee: 200 km (120 mi).
First Launch: 2006.03.24.
Last Launch: 2009.07.14.
Number: 5 .

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
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...
  • PreSat American technology satellite. Launched 2008.08.03, More...
  • Dragon American manned spacecraft. Commercial space capsule developed by SpaceX as a shuttle to take cargo and crews to the International Space Station and the Bigelow Commercial Station from 2011 on. First launched in 2010. More...
  • Dragon American manned spacecraft. Commercial space capsule developed by SpaceX as a shuttle to take cargo and crews to the International Space Station and the Bigelow Commercial Station from 2011 on. First launched in 2010. More...

See also
  • Falcon 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. More...
  • LCLV Various independently-funded launch vehicles have been advocated, designed, and even developed over the years. A lot of these are attempts to build low-cost launch vehicles using simpler technology. Often such projects begin based on a low cost liquid fuel technology but end up just trying to sell various combinations of Castor solid fuel stages. These enterprises often discover there's more to coming up with a reliable launch vehicle than slashing together a bunch of 'off the shelf' rocket motors and lighting the fuse.... On the other hand, if there is ever a breakthrough in less expensive access to space, it will come through one of these entrepreneurial schemes... More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • SpaceX American manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. SpaceX, USA. More...
  • SpaceX American manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. SpaceX, USA. More...

Bibliography
  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • SpaceX Web Site, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • SpaceX Web Site, Web Address when accessed: here.

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...

Associated Stages
  • Falcon 1-1 Lox/Kerosene propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 22,993/1,505 kg. Thrust 369.00 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 300 seconds. More...
  • Falcon 1-1 Lox/Kerosene propellant rocket stage. Loaded/empty mass 22,993/1,505 kg. Thrust 369.00 kN. Vacuum specific impulse 300 seconds. More...

Falcon 1 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..

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