A successful test of the Falcon I launch vehicle here May 27 puts the Air Force one step closer toward its goal of acquiring a less expensive means for lifting payloads into space.
VANDENBERG AFB, Calif. – The main engine of the Falcon I rocket ignites during a full wet dress rehearsal at Space Launch Complex 3 here Monday. (Photo by Mark Mackley)
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VANDENBERG AFB, Calif. – A successful test of the Falcon I launch vehicle here May 27 puts the Air Force one step closer toward its goal of acquiring a less expensive means for lifting payloads into space.
Falcon I’s maiden flight will carry the Defense Department’s TacSat-1 satellite and follows the launch of the last Titan IV here in late summer.This is the first of three scheduled Falcon I launches for the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB.
The rocket is one of two developed by Space Exploration Technologies. The test run included a countdown sequence and ignition of the main engine. It exercised Falcon vehicle systems and range safety interfaces to ensure optimal operations during the upcoming launch campaign, according to Dianne Molina, marketing manager for SpaceX.
“The full launch wet dress rehearsal marks the completion of the largest milestone remaining before launch,” said Elon Musk, chief executive officer of SpaceX. “In a few months, we will receive Air Force clearance to fly, and Falcon I will make its maiden voyage.”
SMC awarded a $100 million contract to SpaceX for responsive small spacelift launch services. SpaceX will launch two more vehicles within the year.
The contractor is developing a family of launch vehicles intended to reduce cost and increase reliability of access to space ultimately by a factor of 10, according to the company Web site.
Falcon I is a mostly reusable, two-stage, liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene-powered launch vehicle. It will carry a 1,500 pound payload to low-earth orbit, and, at $5.9 million per launch, is the world’s lowest cost-per-flight-to-orbit production rocket, according to the company. The listed cost does not include payload-specific costs and range-related fees.