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The Mission

Rocket: Falcon 1
Mission: Flight 004
Payload: Mass simulator
Date: Sept. 28, 2008
Launch Window: 7:00 p.m. to 12 midnight EDT (2300-0400 GMT)
Site: Omelek Island, Kwajalein Atoll

Mission Status Center

Preview Story

Launch Timeline

Factory Tour Photos

Our Flight 1 Coverage

Our Flight 2 Coverage

Our Flight 3 Coverage


Follow the fourth flight of the SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket. Reload this page for the latest on the mission.

0510 GMT (1:50 a.m. EDT)

Check out our updated wrapup story of the launch here.

0108 GMT (9:08 p.m. EDT Sun.)

SpaceX founder Elon Musk is holding a news conference right now. He reports after an in-space coast period, the second stage successfully re-ignited the Kestrel engine to demonstrate its re-start capability.

0100 GMT (9:00 p.m. EDT Sun.)

The Falcon 1 booster redeemed itself Sunday with an electrifying launch that put an exclamation point on six years of hard work and disappointment for SpaceX, the startup company chartered to revolutionize space travel.

The 70-foot-tall rocket successfully delivered a 364-pound hunk of aluminum to orbit on the launcher's fourth flight, ending a streak of three consecutive Falcon 1 failures dating back to 2006.

"That was freakin' awesome," said Elon Musk, CEO and chief technical officer of Space Technologies Corp.

Read our launch story here.

2335 GMT (7:35 p.m. EDT)

"Definitely one of the best days of my life," SpaceX founder Elon Musk says.

2325 GMT (7:25 p.m. EDT)

The payload for this demonstration test launch, a 364-pound mass designed to simulate a satellite, will remain attached to the second stage. But a practice separation command was issued.

2324 GMT (7:24 p.m. EDT)

SUCCESS! SpaceX confirms Falcon 1 has reached orbit, making the first privately-developed all-liquid fuel rocket to achieve this feat. So it is sweet success at last for the rocket after three earlier setbacks.

2324 GMT (7:24 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 9 minutes, 31 seconds. SECO. The second stage engine has cut off, completing its seven-minute firing designed to put the Falcon 1 rocket into orbit.

2323 GMT (7:23 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 8 minutes, 30 seconds. About one minute remains in this firing by the second stage. The rocket should reach the necessary velocity to achieve the planned orbit a few moments before the Kestrel engine completes its firing.

2323 GMT (7:23 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 8 minutes. Now 328 km up, traveling at 5,200 meters per second.

2322 GMT (7:22 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 7 minutes, 30 seconds. Second stage propulsion and guidance systems are reported to be performing well.

2322 GMT (7:22 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 7 minutes. Falcon is 315 km in altitude, traveling at 4,200 meters per second.

2321 GMT (7:21 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 6 minutes. The second stage continues to fire, pushing the rocket ever closer to orbit. The rocket's velocity is 3,600 meters per second at an altitude of 290 km.

2320 GMT (7:20 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 5 minutes. The vehicle is soaring above the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. All appears to be going well in this ascent. Now 253 km in altitude, traveling at 3,200 meters per second.

2319 GMT (7:19 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 4 minutes, 30 seconds. The Kestrel engine is burning a mixture of kerosene fuel and supercold liquid oxygen.

2319 GMT (7:19 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 4 minutes. Falcon is 200 km in altitude, traveling at 3,000 meters per second.

2318 GMT (7:18 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 3 minutes, 40 seconds. Altitude 170 km, traveling at 2,800 meters per second.

2318 GMT (7:18 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 3 minutes, 12 seconds. The two halves of the five-foot diameter nose cone have separated.

2317 GMT (7:17 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 2 minutes, 50 seconds. The Kestrel second stage engine ignition confirmed!

2317 GMT (7:17 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 2 minutes, 40 seconds. MECO. Main engine cutoff. The Merlin 1C has consumed its supply of fuel and shut down to complete the first stage firing. Moments later, the spent stage separated as planned!

The separation system with a pneumatic pusher jettisoned the parachute-equipped first stage to fall into the Pacific for retrieval. The stage is designed for recovery to permit SpaceX the opportunity to thoroughly examine the hardware and potentially reuse it in the future.

2317 GMT (7:17 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Nearing the end of first stage burn. Engine performance remains normal.

2317 GMT (7:17 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 2 minutes. Falcon is soaring entirely on the thrust generated by the Merlin powerplant, which was developed in-house by SpaceX.

2316 GMT (7:16 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 90 seconds. The vehicle is traveling at 630 meters per second at an altitude 19 kilometers.

2316 GMT (7:16 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 75 seconds. Falcon has passed the region of maximum aerodynamic forces, or MaxQ.

2316 GMT (7:16 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 60 seconds. One minute into flight. The Merlin main engine continues to fire, burning a mixture of kerosene fuel and supercold liquid oxygen.

2315 GMT (7:15 p.m. EDT)

T+plus 30 seconds. The 70-foot tall rocket is climbing away from its tropical launch island of the Pacific, riding nearly 78,000 pounds of thrust.

2315 GMT (7:15 p.m. EDT)

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of the Falcon 1, as the rocket and SpaceX take another shot at orbit and low-cost access to space. And the vehicle has cleared the tower.

2314 GMT (7:14 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 10 seconds. The vehicle tanks have been pressurized. Standing by for ignition of the Merlin 1C main engine.

2314 GMT (7:14 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 30 seconds. The pad's water system has been activated to dampen the acoustics and blast of launch.

2314 GMT (7:14 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 60 seconds. One minute until launch.

2313 GMT (7:13 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 75 seconds. The vehicle has switched to internal power.

2313 GMT (7:13 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 1 minute, 30 seconds. The SpaceX launch director and Kwajalein Range have given their final approvals for launch.

2312 GMT (7:12 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 3 minutes. All systems remain "go" for launch.

2310 GMT (7:10 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 5 minutes. The first stage has been loaded with about 15,000 pounds of RP-1 kerosene propellant and 32,000 pounds of liquid oxygen. The second stage was filled with about 2,660 pounds of RP-1 and 6,250 pounds of LOX.

2309 GMT (7:09 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 6 minutes. The strong-back is fully retracted for launch.

2307 GMT (7:07 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 8 minutes. At this point in the countdown, the strong-back structure used to transport and erect the Falcon 1 rocket should be slowly lowering away from the vehicle.

2305 GMT (7:05 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 10 minutes. The Terminal Countdown sequence is initiated at this time, beginning the final phase of today's count for liftoff at 7:15 p.m. EDT (2315 GMT; 11:15 a.m. local on Omelek Island).

2303 GMT (7:03 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 12 minutes and counting.

2257 GMT (6:57 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 18 minutes. The ground wind conditions are reported acceptable for launch.

2255 GMT (6:55 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 20 minutes. SpaceX is not reporting any technical issues as the countdown continues toward a 7:15 p.m. EDT liftoff.

2250 GMT (6:50 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 25 minutes. The Falcon 1 rocket's first stage has received 95 percent of its liquid oxygen supply and all of the kerosene fuel. The second stage is 77 percent full of LOX and 68 percent full of fuel.

2240 GMT (6:40 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 35 minutes. The launch countdown continues to run on the tropical island of Omelek. The remote seven-acre island is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii. The U.S. military operates the launch range covering the Kwajalein Atoll as part of the Reagan Test Site.

2225 GMT (6:25 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 50 minutes and counting. Spaceflight Now visited the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California on August 20. Technicians were busy readying the Falcon 1 rocket for its late-September launch on the company's fourth flight. In addition, the fifth Falcon 1, a test article for the giant Falcon 9 first stage and a mockup of the Dragon capsule were also seen.

A collection of panoramas and photos from the factory floor can be seen here.

2215 GMT (6:15 p.m. EDT)

T-minus 60 minutes and counting. SpaceX confirms the new target launch time is 7:15 p.m. EDT (2315 GMT).

2202 GMT (6:02 p.m. EDT)

The countdown clock is running again after a brief hold at the T-minus 75 minute point. That means liftoff could happen around 7:15 p.m. EDT.

2155 GMT (5:55 p.m. EDT)

It appears liftoff will be occurring sometime beyond 7 p.m. EDT. The countdown has entered a hold at the T-minus 75 minute mark.

2140 GMT (5:40 p.m. EDT)

An updated timeline explaining the events to occur during today's launch can be seen here.

2110 GMT (5:10 p.m. EDT)

SpaceX says that preparations are proceeding for today's launch as planned.

2000 GMT (4:00 p.m. EDT)

Today's launch window opens three hours from now and countdown clocks are running for this demonstration test flight of the Falcon 1 rocket.

The relatively small coterie of engineers working for SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, California, developed the Falcon 1 vehicle and its two engine systems. Both stages of the rocket consume a highly-refined kerosene propellant and super-cold liquid oxygen.

The first stage main engine, called Merlin, generates about 78,000 pounds of thrust at sea-level to boost the 70-foot tall, 5.5-foot diameter rocket off the ground. The motor fires for nearly three minutes before separating and parachuting into the ocean for recovery.

The upper stage's Kestrel engine, with its 6,900 pounds of thrust in vacuum, is designed to perform several re-ignitions during an ascent.

SpaceX views the rocket as the foundation to creating the much larger and more powerful Falcon 9 vehicle that will be capable of launching a range of satellites, as well as the Dragon crew and cargo spacecraft to the space station.

Falcon 1's lifting capacity puts the vehicle in a match-up with Orbital Sciences' rockets on the domestic U.S. market and other small international launchers on the global scene. Falcon 1 is able to carry 925 pounds of payload into low-Earth orbit.


Capping off nearly two months of frenzied activity at SpaceX's California headquarters, the company's beleaguered Falcon 1 rocket stands ready for a fourth shot at success. Liftoff is scheduled between 7 p.m. and midnight EDT Sunday.

The 70-foot-tall black-and-white booster will blast off from SpaceX's launch facility on Omelek Island, a seven-acre stretch of land at the U.S. Army's Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The two-stage rocket and its dummy payload will turn east from Kwajalein and reach orbit about nine-and-a-half minutes after launch.

Read our detailed launch preview story here.

And watch this page for live coverage during the countdown and launch!

Copyright 2008, all rights reserved.

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