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Falcon 1 (rocket)





Falcon 1
A small, two-stage rocket privately built by SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation). Both its stages run on liquid oxygen and RP-1.

The first launch of Falcon 1, following various delays, took place on Mar. 24, 2006 at 2230 GMT; however, the rocket was destroyed approximately one minute into its flight following an onboard fire. This was the first ground-based orbital launch from the US Army's Kwajalein base in the Marshall Islands. The inaugural payload for the Falcon 1 rocket was the US Air Force Academy's cadet-built FalconSat 2 space plasma probe. It was to have been delivered into a 250 by 310 mile orbit inclined 39° to the equator. A second, purely test launch of the Falcon 1, on Mar. 20, 2007, also failed to reach orbit following a problem during the second stage burn. The third launch failed for a similar reason. However, the fourth flight of Falcon 1, on Sep. 28, 2008, proved successful in placing a dummy 165kg payload into orbit.

Further launches are scheduled over the next few years. Falcon 1 is the smallest of the Falcon family of launch vehicles that SpaceX proposes to build.


Falcon 1 size comparison

First stage

Falcon 1's first stage main engine, called Merlin, produces about 77,000 pounds of thrust and burns for 2 min 49 sec after launch. A second after it shuts down, the separation system jettisons the parachute-equipped first stage to fall into the ocean for retrieval.


Second stage

The Kestrel second stage engine, operated by tank pressure and not a turbopump, produces about 7,000 pounds of thrust and, like the first stage, runs on refined kerosene propellant and liquid oxygen. It ignites 4 seconds after first stage separation and carries the payload into low Earth orbit. The two halves of the five-foot diameter nose cone separate about 3 min 14 sec after launch, the shroud falls away, and the payload is exposed for release into its planned orbital trajectory.


length 21.3 m (70 ft)
diameter 1.7 m (5.5 ft)
mass 27,200 kg (60,000 lb)
thrust on liftoff 342 kN (77,000 lb)


Related category

   • ROCKETS, MISSILES, AND LAUNCH VEHICLES