The brand new 180-ft tall Falcon 9 rocket is all set for a demonstration launch in the next few months. The US Air Force’s launch schedule for Cape Canaveral shows March 3, 2010 as the scheduled date.
Designed to launch commercial cargo ships to the International Space Station, Falcon 9 has passed its last engine test, clearing the way for its maiden flight. The rocket’s debut was planned for 2007 but development of the rocket has taken longer than SpaceX anticipated. Related story: Falcon 1 rocket
Falcon 9 rocket is a two-stage booster built by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne in California. It is the anchor rocket behind SpaceX’s plan to launch cargo ships. It has been designed to launch SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to orbit. Eventually, it would be able to carry human beings into space.
Built with a financial assistance of a $1.6 contract from NASA, SpaceX announced Falcon 9’s second stage complete by a full-duration test firing at the company’s testing grounds.
According to SpaceX chief executive, Elon Musk, as posted in his company’s website, “This was the final stage firing required for launch, so the second stage will soon be packaged for shipment and should arrive at Cape Canaveral by end of month. Depending on how well full vehicle integration goes, launch should occur one to three months later.”
SpaceX officials have said the flight of the Falcon 9 is not intended to count as one of the three Dragon flight demos the company is obliged to fly for NASA under a $278 million Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreement signed in 2006.
In a statement released by Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, said that the second stage would be packaged for shipment and should arrive at Cape Canaveral by end of January. The first stage had already reached Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida’s Space.
SpaceX, founded in 2002, will be demonstrating its new nine-engine Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule for the first time. The only US commercial rocket company with a successful proven launch record – 36 launches in 36 months — is United Launch Alliance, jointly owned by Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The company’s single engine Falcon 1 failed on its first three launch attempts before finally succeeding on its fourth try and then orbiting a Malaysian satellite on its fifth launch.