Falcon 9 Segment Arrives At Cape Canaveral
The first stage flight tank for the Falcon 9 rocket arrived at Cape Canaveral, Fla., Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announced.
The Falcon 9 will see its maiden launch next year from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40).
Arriving as scheduled, delivery of the Falcon 9 first stage fulfills SpaceX’s commitment to having Falcon 9 hardware at the Cape by year-end.
"Christmas has arrived a few days early for our team at the Cape," said Brian Mosdell, director of Florida launch operations for SpaceX. "The packages measure extra large this year, and they will keep everyone busy in the coming weeks."
All Falcon 9 elements and ground support hardware have departed the SpaceX factory in Hawthorne, California. The hardware is currently making its way across the United States on a dozen big rigs which will converge at the launch site over the next two weeks.
Separated into sections for travel, the major parts of the 180 foot long, 12 foot diameter rocket included nine Merlin 1C engines mounted on a massive engine mount structure; a thrust skirt that transfers the force of the engines into the first stage propellant tank; a carbon composite interstage; a new Merlin Vacuum upper stage engine fitted to the second stage propellant tank; and the two halves of a 17 foot diameter payload fairing–large enough to enclose a school bus.
The prelaunch fitting will include a mix of both flight ready and qualification hardware which will undergo final integration at the launch site in a horizontal position, and then be raised to vertical on the custom built erector.
On November 22nd, the company successfully conducted a full mission-length firing of the Falcon 9, validating the design which uses nine engines on the first stage.
In addition, SpaceX has been rapidly upgrading SLC-40 into a state-of-the-art launch facility which will serve as a gateway to a new era in commercial space operations.
"2008 has been a year of rapid progress for SpaceX," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "The delivery of the Falcon 9 to the Cape is a major milestone in designing and deploying the most reliable, cost-efficient fleet of launch vehicles in the world. I applaud our SpaceX team who has worked 24/7 to make this happen."
SpaceX currently has four Falcon 9 flights on the manifest for next year, two of which are demonstration flights with the Dragon spacecraft as part of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competition. Under this agreement, SpaceX will conduct a total of three flights of its Falcon 9/ Dragon system to demonstrate cargo delivery capabilities to the International Space Station (ISS). At the option of NASA, the agreement can be extended to include demonstrating transport of crew to and from the ISS. The Falcon 9 will 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.