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The second test launch of Falcon 1 took place today at 6:10 pm California time. The launch was not perfect, but certainly pretty good. Given that the primary objectives were demonstrating responsive launch and gathering test data in advance of our first operational satellite launch later this year, the outcome was great. Operationally responsive (ie fast) launch has become an increasingly important national security objective, so demonstrating rapid loading of propellents and launch in less than an hour, as well as a rapid recycle following the first engine ignition are major accomplishments.
We retired almost all of the significant development risk items, in particular:
- 1st stage ascent past max dynamic pressure
- avionics operation in vacuum and under radiation
- stage separation
- 2nd stage ignition
- fairing separation
- 2nd stage nozzle/chamber at steady state temp in vacuum
Falcon flew far beyond the "edge" of space, typically thought of as around 60 miles. Our altitude was approximately 200 miles, which is just 50 miles below the International Space Station. The second stage didn't achieve full orbital velocity, due to a roll excitation late in the burn, but that should be a comparatively easy fix once we examine the flight data. Since it is impossible to ground test the second stage under the same conditions it would see in spaceflight, this anomaly was also something that would have been very hard to determine without a test launch.
All in all, this test has flight proven 95+ percent of the Falcon 1 systems, which bodes really well for our upcoming flights of Falcon 1 and Falcon 9, which uses similar hardware. We do not expect any significant delay in the upcoming flights at this point. The Dept of Defense satellite launch is currently scheduled for late Summer and the Malaysian satellite for the Fall.
I'd like to thank DARPA and the Air Force for buying the two test flights and helping us work through a number of challenges over the past year. I'd also like to express my appreciation for the efforts of the Kwajalein Army Range (Reagan Test Site) and we look forward to many more launches in the future.
Finally, thank you to everyone at SpaceX for working so hard to make this a great test. This is a big leap forward for commercial spaceflight!
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