The Falcon 9 is a large, two-stage launch vehicle manufactured by the Californian company SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation), which, in addition to launching satellites is used to carry astronauts into orbit. Its maiden launch took place successively from Cape Canaveral on 4 June 2010.
For the sake of economy, the Falcon 9 uses many of the same components as the much smaller Falcon 1, including its Merlin engines which run a mixture of RP-1 and liquid oxygen. Nine Merlins power the first stage of Falcon 9, and one the second stage. Sitting atop the rocket is SpaceX's Dragon freighter, capable of hauling 6 tonnes of supplies and equipment to the International Space Station (ISS). The Dragon capsule could also be modified to carry up to four astronauts; however, in the short term Falcon 9s will be used to carry provisions to the ISS and also to launch commercial satellites.