As the first post of 2009, I couldn’t think of a more worthy topic: SpaceX. Elon Musk’s private spaceflight company is accelerating its progress ever since the successful launch of the Falcon 1 (Flight 4) in September. Just last week, it was announced that NASA had signed a $1.6 billion contract for 12 SpaceX launches to resupply the International Space Station over the next decade. As if that wasn’t enough, we start the New Year with some more great news, the heavy-lift rocket, Falcon 9, has just been assembled at Cape Canaveral in preparation for it to be hoisted vertically so it can begin preparations for its first launch.
Falcon 9 is now fully integrated at the Cape! Today we mated the 5.2 m payload fairing to the Falcon 9 first stage (see below). This was the final step in the integration process—one day ahead of schedule.
With Falcon 9 integrated, our focus shifts to the big launch mount and erector. All the pieces have been delivered, and the coming days will see a tremendous amount of welding to join them all together.
The long hours put in by the SpaceX team over the last several weeks, particularly the folks on the ground at the Cape, are certainly paying off. Once the launch mount and erector are complete, we’ll transfer Falcon 9 on to the erector and raise it to vertical early in 2009. Happy New Year!
—SpaceX press release (Dec. 30th)
And just in case you wanted to see just how quickly this company ships and assembles their rockets, check out the image below. This is the same Falcon 9 first stage as the one above pre-paint-job, before being shipped from the Hawthorn facility in LA, during my visit in October. How time flies…
What an exciting year 2009 is shaping up to be. We are living in historic times for commercial spaceflight, with SpaceX spearheading a new age for space travel…