UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


SpaceX Falcon

Falcon 9

Elon Musk spent about $1 bln for creating his private spacecraft, including $100-200 of his own funds (according to different sources). Everything else is NASA funding. Not all the money are transferred yet, but he received about $2 bln, i.e. 10-20 times the amount he invested himself. The question is whether he can be considered a private or government funded entrepreneur.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) conducted the first 9 engine firing of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle at its Texas Test Facility outside McGregor on 31 July 2008. A second firing on 1 August 2008 completed a major NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) milestone almost 2 months early. At full power, the 9 engines consumed 3,200 lbs of fuel and liquid oxygen per second, and generated almost 850,000 pounds of thrust. The Falcon 9 will launch SpaceX's spaceship Dragon with up to 7 humans from 2009 on.

In December 2008, NASA announced the selection of SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon Spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) when the Space Shuttle retires in 2010. The $1.6 billion contract represents a minimum of 12 flights, with an option to order additional missions for a cumulative total contract value of up to $3.1 billion. SpaceX hoped that their second launch would be an operational mission to the International Space Station using the Dragon spacecraft, also designed by SpaceX.

In July 2009, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announced the successful completion of qualification testing for the Falcon 9 launch vehicle first stage tank and interstage. Testing took place at SpaceX's Texas Test Site, a 300 acre structural and propulsion testing facility, located just outside of Waco, Texas. The first stage tank and interstage hardware were subjected to a proof test of 1.1 times the maximum expected operating pressure (MEOP), and a burst pressure proof test of 1.4 MEOP; qualifying both articles with a 1.4 factor of safety. The 1.4 factor of safety designation meant that the first stage tank and the interstage can withstand 140 percent the maximum internal pressure expected during flight, and qualifies both pieces of hardware to meet human rating safety requirements, as defined by NASA. The first stage also passed this human rating milestone when subjected to structural bending tests. The testing regimen included over 150 pressurization cycles, exceeding the number of required life cycles by more than 100. In addition, the first stage and interstage were subjected to stiffness tests, maximum dynamic pressure loading and main engine cutoff conditions; all at expected values, as well as ultimate loads. Falcon 9's first stage and interstage also passed ground wind qualification tests, critical for when the vehicle is vertical on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Both components were designed, built and tested by SpaceX.

In October 2009, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announced the successful completion of acceptance testing of both the Falcon 9 first and second stages in preparation for the first flight of Falcon 9. Acceptance testing took place at SpaceX's Texas Test Site, a 300-acre structural and propulsion testing facility, located just outside of Waco, Texas. The tests subjected both stages to a variety of structural load and proof pressure tests to verify acceptability for flight. Acceptance testing began in late summer 2009 with the first stage and concluded in October 2009 at SpaceX's Texas facility with completion of acceptance testing for the second stage.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) successfully conducted a full mission-length firing of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle's first stage at its McGregor Test Facility in Texas, on 22 November 2009. For the static test firing, the first stage remained firmly secured to the massive vertical test stand, where it fired for 178 seconds or nearly 3 minutes, simulating the climb of the giant rocket from the surface of the Earth towards orbit.

At full power, the rocket generated 855,000 pounds of force at sea level. In vacuum, the thrust increases to approximately one million pounds or 4 times the maximum thrust of a 747 aircraft. The test consumed over half a million pounds of propellant. All 9 engines fired for 160 seconds, then 2 engines were shut down to limit the acceleration and the remaining seven engines continued firing for 18 more seconds, as would occur in a typical climb to orbit.

The test firing validated the design of SpaceX's use of 9 engines on the first stage, as well as the ability to shut down engines without affecting the functioning of the remaining engines. This demonstrated the ability of Falcon 9 to lose engines in flight and still complete its mission successfully, much as a commercial airliner is designed to be safe in the event of an engine loss. Like an airliner, the Falcon 9 engines were enclosed in a protective sheath that ensures a fire or destructive loss of an engine doesn't affect the rest of the vehicle.

The Falcon 9 was expected to be the first vehicle since the Saturn V and Saturn 1 to have the ability to lose any engine/motor and still be able to complete its mission without loss of crew or spacecraft. Engine out reliability proved crucial to mission success on 2 of the Saturn V flights.

On 4 June 2010, the first Falcon 9 was launched from Cape Canveral, Florida and successfully achieved earth orbit. NASA congratulated SpaceX on the launch and said the accomplishment was an important milestone in the commercial transportation effort and puts the company a step closer to providing cargo services to the International Space Station. It added that preparations were proceeding for the first NASA-sponsored test launch under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services project later in 2010. COTS was a vital development and demonstration partnership to create a commercial space transportation system capable of providing cargo to the station.

An unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9R rocket broke up in midair soon after it took off 22 August 2014 at the company’s development site in Texas. No one was hurt in the crash, which happened during a test flight. A three-engine version of the Falcon 9 rocket was being tested on Friday, based on SpaceX’s Grasshopper prototype. “During the flight, an anomaly was detected in the vehicle and the flight termination system automatically terminated the mission,” the company said in a statement.

A rocket carried an unmanned supply ship loaded with cargo for the International Space Station into orbit January 10, 2015, but a pioneering attempt to reland the booster on an ocean barge failed. The cargo capsule was expected to reach the space statio. The launch from Cape Canaveral was the fifth mission under a $1.6 billion SpaceX contract with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk, in a tweet sent after the early morning launch, said the booster rocket broke apart when it landed too hard on a recovery platform afloat in the Atlantic Ocean. Despite the rocket breakup, the billionaire Musk said he was encouraged that the booster managed to reach the platform in an almost successful controlled descent. He said the near-success "bodes well for the future." Musk said that recovering and reusing rockets, rather than discarding them at sea, is becoming essential to increasing the frequency and lowering costs of future launches.

Following two failed supply missions to the ISS in recent months, space engineers were left searching for answers and solutions, after the e SpaceX Falcon 9 disintegrated 28 June 2015 in a fountain of fireworks just seconds after launch. Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX, which is carrying out the flights as part of a $1.6 billion NASA contract, blamed an “overpressure event in a liquid oxygen tank” located in the upper stage of the 500-ton rocket.

On December 21, 2015, six months after one of its rockets exploded after launch, SpaceX resumed operations with a dramatic nighttime launch and a historic landing of its first-stage booster. The Falcon rocket blasted off from the U.S. spaceport in Cape Canaveral, Florida carrying 11 small satellites into low-Earth orbit for communications firm OrbComm. About two minutes into the flight, the rocket's first-stage separated cleanly from the second stage and began a controlled descent back to Earth. Moments later, flight controllers and employees at SpaceX's California headquarters erupted in cheers as television cameras showed the rocket making a pinpoint vertical landing at a former Air Force missile launch site located about nine kilometers from the launch pad.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was launched from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base with the Jason-3 ocean-monitoring satellite, NASA broadcast on 17 January 2016. The Falcon 9 rocket launched the Jason-3 satellite into orbit and attempted to land on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean. Later SpaceX reported that the first stage of the vehicle conducted a "hard landing" at the drone ship.

SpaceX launched on 04 March 2016 a European commercial communications satellite into space. The company also made another attempt to land the spent first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. The Falcon 9 rocket shot into the evening sky at 6:35 p.m. EST (2335 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying a commercial communications satellite called SES-9, which will deliver television and high-speed broadband services to the Asia-Pacific region.

The Falcon 9's first stage separated about 2.5 minutes after launch and will then perform a series of engine burns for an experimental landing on the "Of Course I Still Love You" drone ship, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast. SpaceX achieved one successful soft landing in December last year on a land-based pad at Cape Canaveral, but its three previous attempts to land the first stage on an ocean drone ship -- in January 2015, April 2015, and this January, respectively -- all failed, as did this latest attempt.

Instead of veering into the ocean, a booster rocket was successfully landed on an ocean pad for the first time after it helped the take-off of a state-of-the-art expandable cargo spacecraft. The announcement was made by both US aerospace manufacturer SpaceX and NASA in separate statements on 08 April 2016. The first landing of the Falcon 9 booster rocket on an ocean pad may save millions of dollars as it can now be used again for future travel. Meanwhile, Dragon is delivering almost 7,000 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station, where more than 250 science and research investigations are taking place, including an expandable structure. "The cargo will allow investigators to use microgravity conditions to test the viability of expandable space habitats, assess the impact of antibodies on muscle wasting, use protein crystal growth to aid the design of new disease-fighting drugs and investigate how microbes could affect the health of the crew and their equipment over a long duration mission," said NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman.

One problem is that the scheme requires flying additional fuel to perform the landing.

SpaceX once again successfully landed a booster rocket on an ocean platform. The feat was accomplished May 06, 2016 after the rocket deployed a Japanese communication satellite into orbit. The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket landed on a platform in the Atlantic Ocean off the southeastern U.S. coast of Florida.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., Hawthorne, California was awarded an $82,700,000 firm-fixed-price contract on April 27, 2016 for launch services to deliver the GPS III satellite to its intended orbit. This launch service contract will include launch vehicle production, mission integration, and launch operations for a GPS III mission. The locations of performance are Hawthorne, California; Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and McGregor, Texas. The work was expected to be completed by July 31, 2018. This award was the result of a competitive acquisition which was listed on Federal Business Opportunities with two proposals received. Missile procurement funding from fiscal 2015 and 2016 will be obligated in the amount of $82,700,000 at the time of award. Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity. (FA8811-16-C-0001)

SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean again on 14 August 2016, after launching a Japanese communications satellite into orbit. To date the company had made a total of six rocket recovery attempts, one on land and five on sea. Only one sea-based landing attempt in June failed. This time, the two-stage Falcon 9 lifted off on schedule at 1:26 a.m. EDT (0526 GMT) from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, carrying JCSAT-16 toward a geosynchronous transfer orbit. Everything went smooth, with the rocket's first stage sticking a vertical landing about nine minutes after launch on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

An unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded 01 Septebmer 2016 on the Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida, right before a routine engine-firing test, destroying it and its payload. According to SpaceX, the explosion occurred 8 minutes before the test was supposed to start. Although no one was hurt during the blast, Facebook's $200 million Amos-6 satellite — bound to provide internet service to the developing world — was utterly destroyed. SpaceX said "This was part of a standard pre-launch static fire to demonstrate the health of the vehicle prior to an eventual launch. At the time of the loss, the launch vehicle was vertical and in the process of being fueled for the test. At this time, the data indicates the [explosion] originated around the upper stage liquid oxygen tank".

The September 1 catastrophic failure of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was likely caused by a “large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank” company head Elon Musk said 23 September 2016. The investigation into the explosion continues. Earlier in June 2015 a SpaceX rocket exploded several minutes after take-off due to a faulty braked in the helium tank system. The latest explosion was not related to the problem that caused the 2015 loss of a rocket.

A SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on 14 January 2017, returning the company to flight for the first time since a fiery launchpad explosion in September 2016. The launch aimed to deliver 10 satellites into orbit for Iridium Communications Inc. The first stage of the rocket, which had separated from the rest of craft, successfully touched down on a platform in the Pacific Ocean, a feat previously accomplished by four other returning Falcon rockets.

The flight began to clear the backlog of more than 70 missions, worth more than $10 billion, awaiting flights on SpaceX Falcon rockets. The launch was the first in a seven-flight contract with Iridium worth $468.1 million. SpaceX aimed to launch 27 rockets in 2017, more than triple the eight flights the firm managed in 2016.

On 30 March 2017 SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket delivered SES-10, a commercial communications satellite for SES, to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). The SES-10 mission marked a milestone on the road to full and rapid reusability as the world’s first reflight of an orbital class rocket. Falcon 9’s first stage for the SES-10 mission previously supported the successful CRS-8 mission in April 2016.

SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell has said that customers that fly on a used Falcon 9 could eventually get discounts of up to 30 percent. Since the cost to launch a Falcon 9 starts at around $60 million, launching on a used rocket could start at around $40 million.

SpaceX carried out its first US military launch in Cape Canaveral. Although the payload was classified, it was for an agency that makes and operates spy satellites for the US. Cheers erupted from SpaceX mission control as one of its Falcon 9 rockets - carrying a classified payload known only as NROL-76 - successfully launched from Cape Canaveral in the US state of Florida on 01 May 2017. It was the first time the aerospace manufacturing company has launched a rocket for the US military - carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Facing challenging NASA certification requirements for propulsive capsule landings, SpaceX shelved plans for upcoming Dragon 2 crew and cargo retrorocket returns to Earth. “That was a tough decision,” company founder and CEO Elon Musk said at the July 2017 International Space Station (ISS) Research and Development Conference in Washington.

On 02 April 2018 SpaceX successfully launched a recycled Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket for a NASA supply run. NASA, which contracted the launch, said the spacecraft was carrying more than 2,600 kilograms (5,800 pounds) of supplies and equipment for the ISS. SpaceX had previously used part of the Falcon 9 in an August 2017 launch and the Dragon in an April 2016 launch. This was the 14th resupply mission that SpaceX has carried out for NASA under its contract and its second combining recycled Dragon and Falcon parts.

Chief Executive Elon Musk said on 07 August 2018 he was considering taking Tesla Inc private in what would be the largest deal of its type, moving the electric car maker out of the glare of Wall Street as it went through a period of rapid growth under tight financial constraints. “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured,” Musk said on Twitter. At $420 per share, a deal would be worth $72 billion overall. Musk did not disclose the source of the funding.

In a letter to Tesla employees published on the company’s blog, Musk explained that such a move - over which no final decision had been made - would let Tesla “operate at its best, free from as much distraction and short-term thinking as possible.” Tesla shares closed up 11 percent at $379.57, slightly below their all-time high. Asked whether Musk would continue to be CEO under such a scenario, he replied there would be “no change.”

Musk had been under intense pressure this year to prove he can deliver on his promise to turn his money-losing company into a profitable higher-volume manufacturer, a goal that has propped up Tesla shares and resulted in a market value higher than that of General Motors Co. The Silicon Valley company faced a make-or-break moment in its eight-year history as a public company as competition from European automakers is poised to intensify with new electric vehicles from Audi and Jaguar, with more rivals to follow suit next year. Meanwhile, Tesla had announced plans to build a factory in Shanghai, China, and another in Europe, but details are scarce and funding unknown.

The company was working its way out of what Musk called “production hell” at its home factory in Fremont, California, where a series of manufacturing challenges delayed the ramp-up of production of its new Model 3 sedan, on which the company’s profitability rests.

Going private was one way to avoid scrutiny by the public market as Musk and the company face those challenges. Musk has feuded publicly with regulators, critics, short sellers and reporters, and some analysts have suggested that less transparency would be welcomed by Musk. “Musk does not want to run a public company,” said Gene Munster of Loup Ventures, as Tesla’s ambitious mission makes it “difficult to accommodate investors’ quarterly expectations.”

Musk owns nearly 20 percent of the company. He said in his letter to employees that he did not seek to expand his ownership. A price of $420 per share price would represent a nearly 23 percent premium to Tesla’s closing price on Monday, which gave the company a market value of about $58 billion.

“Our guess is there is a one-in-three chance he can actually pull this off and bring Tesla private,” Munster said. “The 16 percent premium to the current share price may not be high enough to incentivize existing shareholders to support the sale.” Musk tweeted that he hoped all current investors would remain were the company to go private. He made no mention in his tweets or his letter of where the funding for a deal would come from.

The U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office, awarded two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch service contracts 19 Februray 2019. Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) was awarded a $297 million firm-fixed-price contract for launch services to deliver AFSPC-44, NROL-85 and NROL-87 to the intended orbit. NROL-85 will launch in fiscal year 2021 from the Eastern Range. NROL-87 will launch in FY2021 from the Western Range. AFSPC-44 will launch in FY2021 from the Eastern Range.

A SpaceX rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral in the US state of Florida on 02 March 2019, carrying America's newest capsule for astronauts on its way to the International Space Station (ISS). The 4.9-meter-tall (16-foot-tall) Crew Dragon capsule lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 2:49 a.m. local time (0749 GMT). SpaceX later confirmed Dragon's successful separation from the rocket. It represented a step toward NASA's goal to put humans into space from US soil again, after human launches from Florida ceased in 2011 with the last space shuttle mission. The flight is a test of the capsule ahead of a hoped-for manned launch in July 2019. Two NASA astronauts who took part in the last space shuttle mission, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, are to fly in that second demo.

On 25 June 2019 in a mission to retrieve rockets after launch, SpaceX fell just short with its center core booster overshooting the sea-based landing pad, crashing into the water with a fiery explosion.

On 06 August 2021, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, carrying the AMOS-17 satellite for Spacecom. Liftoff occurred at 7:23 p.m. EDT, or 23:23 UTC and the satellite was deployed approximately 31 minutes after liftoff. This was the third and final flight for this particular Falcon 9 first stage, having previously supported the Telstar-19 VANTAGE mission in July 2018 and the Es’hail-2 mission in November 2018.

SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket carrying a record number of satellites on board, the private space company said 24 January 2021. The rocket carrying 143 satellites on Sunday successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 10:00 am (1500 GMT), 24 hours after its initial take-off had been scrubbed due to bad weather. Andy Tran, a SpaceX production supervisor, said in a video of the launch that the Falcon 9 was carrying 133 commercial and government "spacecraft" as well 10 SpaceX satellites.

Minutes after taking off, the Falcon 9's main booster that had thrust the rocket to the edge of space separated from the rest of the craft and dropped back down to Earth in a controlled fall. It landed itself on an unmanned spaceport drone ship called "Of Course I Still Love You" in the Atlantic Ocean, marking the booster's fifth successful deployment and recapture.

The company's Falcon 9 rocket is 85% recyclable, which reduces the cost of spaceflight. After launching the carrier into orbit, the first stage thruster of this rocket will soon return from the sky and land vertically on the autonomous ship at sea. By APril 2021 SpaceX had launched a total of 113 times (rockets), landed 79 orbital rockets, and repeatedly used 59 times. SpaceX is the only (rocket) company in the world to achieve this level of recycling.

In addition to the first stage of the thruster, SpaceX also recovered the fairing of the Falcon 9 (the closed conical part of the rocket head, which seals the load like a shell). When the rocket reaches orbital injection, the fairing separates, and then fell back to the earth. The two halves of the Falcon 9 fairing are equipped with navigation thrusters and parachutes. In the past few years, SpaceX has tried to land the separated fairings on the fairing recovery ship (the ship names are:'Ms. Chief' and'Ms. Tree'). These ships are equipped with large nets supported by four metal supports. However, of the 50 fairing recalls, only 9 were successful. In the same launch mission, the two ships successfully recovered both fairing halves only once (ANASIS-II launch mission in July 2020).

Because the fairing recovery system did not work as planned, SpaceX founder Elon Musk decided to stop using these ships and instead let the fairing fall into the water with the aid of a parachute, and then hoist it again. Elon Musk said on Twitter in April this year: "They (the two halves of the fairing separated) will be salvaged from the water and reused." According to Elon Musk, recycling the fairing can save the company about 6 per launch. Millions of dollars, while recovering the fairing and the first-stage thruster can save more than 30 million dollars. SpaceX recently sold two ships ('Ms. Chief' and'Ms. Tree') and bought a larger ship to recover the fairing. The name is:'Shelia Bodelon' (SpaceX may change the name of the ship ). The ship is equipped with a 50-ton crane to recover the fairing that fell apart after the rocket was launched in the sea.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 04-02-2022 18:39:01 ZULU