At 2:45pm EDT after a first attempt at 1:30pm that aborted with 2 seconds left SpaceX did a fast recycle and launched the Falcon 9.
First reports are that the first stage worked according to plan but their may have been a failure of the second stage to complete its burn. SpaceX will release more info on the launch later today.
Tomorrow is the day, between 11am and 3pm SpaceX will launch the Falcon 9 carrying a stripped down Dragon capsule into orbit. Through no fault of theirs SpaceX and the Falcon 9 have become the face of the government’s new space policy. As the first private company to reach the test stage of a booster that will help replace the Shuttle as America’s cargo hauler to the ISS SpaceX is feeling the pressure.
Elon Musk the CEO that started SpaceX with money he made when he sold his brainchild Paypal to Ebay has tried to lower expectations on this launch stating that even a failure would yield valuable data for future launches and gives a 70% chance of the new rocket reaching orbit. NASA for its part has no role in tomorrow’s flight the space agency will become an active partner when the first test flight of a full Dragon capsule happens later this year.
The Air Force and the FAA have signed off on the Falcon 9’s flight termination (self destruct) system earlier today June 3 so only the weather can stop the launch. SpaceX has reserved June 4th and 5TH for the test flight. The first stage engines were static tested last month.
The Falcon 9 uses 9 of the company’s Merlin engines for the first stage and a space modified Merlin for the second stage. The Falcon 9 is designed to achieve orbit even if two of its first stage engines fail in the early boost phase. The Merlin engine has been used on the Falcon 1 and has successfully placed payloads into low earth orbit.