Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announces that Flight 4 of the Falcon 1 launch vehicle has successfully launched and achieved Earth orbit. With this key milestone, the Falcon 1 becomes the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to orbit the Earth.
"This is a great day for SpaceX and the culmination of an enormous amount of work by a great team," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "The data shows we achieved a super precise orbit insertion -- middle of the bulls-eye -- and then went on to coast and restart the second stage, which was icing on the cake."
Falcon 1, designed from the ground up by SpaceX, lifted off at 4:15 p.m. (PDT) / 23:15 (UTC) from the Reagan Test Site (RTS) on Omelek Island at the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) in the Central Pacific, about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii.
Preliminary data indicates that Falcon 1 achieved an elliptical orbit of 620 km by 660 km, 9 degrees inclination.
Falcon 1 carried into orbit a payload mass simulator of approximately 165 kg (364 lbs), designed and built by SpaceX, specifically for this mission. Consisting of a hexagonal aluminum alloy chamber 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall, the payload attached to the standard Falcon 1 payload mounting structure and remains attached to the second stage as it orbits Earth.
This was the fourth launch of the Falcon 1 launch vehicle and second flight for the new SpaceX-developed Merlin 1C regeneratively-cooled engine. A "hold before liftoff" system was used to enhance reliability by permitting all launch systems to be verified as functioning nominally before launch was initiated. A single SpaceX-developed Kestrel engine powered the Falcon 1 second stage.
For more information about the Falcon family of vehicles, and to watch the archived video of the Falcon 1, Flight 4 launch, visit the [URL=http://www.spacex.com/]SpaceX website[/URL].