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The Mission




Rocket: Falcon 1
Mission: Flight 005
Payload: RazakSAT
Date: July 13, 2009
Launch Window: 7:00 p.m. to 12 midnight EDT (2300-0400 GMT)
Site: Omelek Island, Kwajalein Atoll

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BY STEPHEN CLARK

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

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0600 GMT (2:00 a.m. EDT)

A Malaysian satellite rode a Falcon 1 rocket into orbit Monday night, marking the first time the privately-developed booster has successfully launched a working spacecraft.

Read our full story.

0525 GMT (1:25 a.m. EDT)

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, just told Spaceflight Now the launch was a success.

"We nailed the orbit to well within target parameters...pretty much a bullseye. Satellite has separated and is communicating with (the) ground," Musk said.

0444 GMT (12:44 a.m. EDT)

SPACECRAFT SEPARATION CONFIRMED! The second stage restarted and deployed RazakSAT, a SpaceX spokesperson confirms.

0435 GMT (12:35 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 60 minutes. At this point in the flight, the Falcon 1 should have restarted the second stage's Kestrel engine and released the RazakSAT spacecraft into space. We are awaiting confirmation of these crucial events from SpaceX.

0425 GMT (12:25 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 50 minutes. The Falcon 1 second stage and RazakSAT should now be flying over the central Atlantic Ocean within range of the Ascension Island tracking station.

In a few minutes, the Kestrel engine is slated to briefly fire for a second burn to place RazakSAT in its targeted orbit. Spacecraft separation should follow moments later, if everything goes as planned.

0405 GMT (12:05 a.m. EDT)

T+plus 30 minutes. The restart of the Kestrel engine should occur in view of the Ascension Island tracking station in the Atlantic Ocean. That will be the next chance officials can receive data from the rocket to confirm its health.

0358 GMT (11:58 p.m. EDT Monday)

T+plus 23 minutes. The rocket is expected to coast in orbit for nearly an hour before the Kestrel engine ignites again to circularize its orbit at an altitude of 425 miles. Deployment of RazakSAT is scheduled for just under one hour after liftoff.

The rocket passed out of communications range and SpaceX ended the webcast before confirming the Falcon 1 achieved a nominal parking orbit.

0345 GMT (11:45 p.m. EDT Monday)

T+plus 10 minutes. The Falcon 1 rocket has flown out of range of a communications station near the launch site at Kwajalein Atoll.

0344 GMT (11:44 p.m. EDT Monday)

T+plus 9 minutes, 40 seconds. SECO 1. The second stage engine has cut off, completing its seven-minute firing designed to put the Falcon 1 rocket and its payload into a parking orbit.

0344 GMT (11:44 p.m. EDT Monday)

T+plus 9 minutes. Now a few seconds away from cutoff of the Kestrel second stage engine for its first burn tonight.

0343 GMT (11:43 p.m. EDT Monday)

T+plus 8 minutes. Guidance is reported nominal as the second stage accelerates past 5400 meters per second.

0342 GMT (11:42 p.m. EDT Monday)

T+plus 7 minutes. The vehicle is soaring 260 kilometers above the open waters of the Pacific Ocean due east of the launch site.

0341 GMT (11:41 p.m. EDT Monday)

T+plus 6 minutes. Everything is looking good so far in this second stage burn. Velocity is 3800 meters per second and altitude is now 243 km. Both parameters are reported above normal.

0339 GMT (11:39 p.m. EDT Monday)

T+plus 4 minutes, 36 seconds. Velocity is 3200 meters per second and altitude is 196 km.

0338 GMT (11:38 p.m. EDT Monday)

T+plus 3 minutes, 25 seconds. The two halves of the five-foot diameter nose cone have separated, revealing RazakSAT.

0337 GMT (11:37 p.m. EDT Monday)

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

0337 GMT (11:37 p.m. EDT Monday)

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!t it

0337 GMT (11:37 p.m. EDT Monday)

T+plus 2 minutes. The Falcon 1's guidance system will be switching to inertial mode and the second stage tanks will be pressurized in the next 30 seconds.

0336 GMT (11:36 p.m. EDT Monday)

T+plus 80 seconds. The vehicle is traveling at 500 meters per second at an altitude of 15 kilometers.

0336 GMT (11:36 p.m. EDT Monday)

T+plus 60 seconds. The Merlin engine is draining kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants from the first stage tanks as the Falcon 1 surpasses the speed of sound.

0335 GMT (11:35 p.m. EDT Monday)

T+plus 30 seconds. The 70-foot tall is accelerating through the skies above its tropical launch site in the Pacific Ocean, riding about 78,000 pounds of thrust from its Merlin 1C main engine.

0335 GMT (11:35 p.m. EDT Monday)

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of the Falcon 1 with RazakSAT, an Earth observation satellite for Malaysia.

0334 GMT (11:34 p.m. EDT Monday)

T-minus 60 seconds. One minute until launch of the Falcon 1 rocket with RazakSAT. Everything is on track for an on-time liftoff today. The ignition sequence of the Merlin 1C engine begins at T-minus 3 seconds.

0333 GMT (11:33 p.m. ED Monday)

T-minus 1 minute, 15 seconds. The SpaceX launch director and Kwajalein Range have given their final approvals for launch.

Propellant tanks will be pressurized beginning at T-minus 60 seconds. The first stage engine will be gimballed to check its steering system at T-minus 55 seconds.

0332 GMT (11:32 p.m. EDT Monday)

T-minus 2 minutes, 23 seconds. Range is now green.

0332 GMT (11:32 p.m. EDT Monday)

T-minus 3 minutes. The ground safety officer is enabaling ignition. All systems remain "go" for launch, according to SpaceX.

0330 GMT (11:30 p.m. EDT Monday)

T-minus 4 minutes, 30 seconds. The range is reporting a minor glitch and is red for the moment. The problem should be resolved before the launch time of 0335 GMT (11:35 p.m. EDT).

0330 GMT (11:30 p.m. EDT Monday)

T-minus 5 minutes. Today's launch will be the fifth flight of the 70-foot-tall Falcon 1 rocket privately developed by SpaceX. The two-stage kerosene-fueled booster will turn east from the launch pad and arrive in a temporary orbit less than 10 minutes after liftoff.

0329 GMT (11:29 p.m. EDT Monday)

T-minus 6 minutes. The flight termination system is verified ready for liftoff.

0328 GMT (11:28 p.m. EDT Monday)

T-minus 7 minutes. Checks of the flight termination system are underway.

0327 GMT (11:27 p.m. EDT Monday)

T-minus 8 minutes. The strong-back structure has been lowered away from the rocket.

A lean team of engineers are monitoring preparations from a launch control center on Kwajalein Island about 22 miles from the launch pad.

0326 GMT (11:26 p.m. EDT Monday)

T-minus 9 minutes. The strong-back structure used to transport and erect the Falcon 1 rocket is now being retracted.

0325 GMT (11:25 p.m. EDT Monday)

T-minus 10 minutes. The Terminal Countdown sequence is initiated at this time, beginning the final phase of today's count for liftoff at 0335 GMT (11:35 p.m. EDT; 3:35 p.m. local time at Omelek Island).

0323 GMT (11:23 p.m. EDT Monday)

T-minus 12 minutes and counting. All stations are reporting they are ready to enter the terminal countdown.

After T-minus 10 minutes, the countdown enters an automated phase that takes the rocket through a programmed series of checks and tests to prepare it for launch.

0320 GMT (11:20 p.m. EDT Monday)

T-minus 15 minutes and counting.

0319 GMT (11:19 p.m. EDT Monday)

Weather is still forecast to be green at launch time, so the countdown will pick up as scheduled.

0315 GMT (11:15 p.m. EDT Monday)

Here is an overview of what to expect during this fifth flight of the Falcon 1 rocket.

The Merlin 1C engine, producing about 78,000 pounds of thrust, will propel the 45-ton rocket off the launch pad. The rocket will pitch east from the launch site about 10 seconds after liftoff and pass the speed of sound less than a minute later.

During a typical Falcon 1 launch, the first stage burns until T+plus 2 minutes, 37 seconds. Moments later, the spent stage will be jettisoned and the second stage Kestrel engine will ignite to continue the push toward orbit.

The second stage will cut off less than 10 minutes after liftoff to enter a temporary parking orbit.

During last September's Falcon 1 launch, a test flight that mirrored the profile for this mission, the second stage reached a parking orbit with a high point of 425 miles, a low point of 205 miles and an inclination of 9 degrees. Similar numbers are expected for this flight, although SpaceX could not provide figures in response to requests.

A second Kestrel firing is expected to circularize the orbit at 425 miles, RazakSAT's operational altitude.

0310 GMT (11:10 p.m. EDT Monday)

The launch team will receive a weather briefing in about five minutes to determine if they can resume the countdown for launch at 0335 GMT (11:35 p.m. EDT).

0305 GMT (11:05 p.m. EDT Monday)

The Falcon 1 rocket's two stages are being replenished with supercold liquid oxygen that naturally boils off throughout the countdown.

The first stage is 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.

0303 GMT (11:03 p.m. EDT Monday)

Rain is falling at the launch pad right now. The countdown is expected to resume at 0320 GMT (11:20 p.m. EDT).

0300 GMT (11:00 p.m. EDT Monday)

Tonight's delays were due to an issue with a helium system, according to Max Vozoff, a SpaceX mission manager.

0255 GMT (10:55 p.m. EDT Monday)

Skies are darkening over the Falcon 1's launch pad. Radar imagery shows a line of passing rain showers moving west over Omelek Island. The bad weather is expected to clear of the launch area by about 0330 GMT (11:30 p.m. EDT).

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0245 GMT (10:45 p.m. EDT Monday)

T-minus 15 minutes and holding. The countdown has halted to wait out passing rain showers.

The advertised launch window tonight extends until 0400 GMT (12 a.m. EDT).

0244 GMT (10:44 p.m. EDT Monday)

Weather criteria are expected to be red at 0300 GMT (11 p.m. EDT) and won't be green until about 30 minutes later. The launch conductor is coordinating a new launch time of 0335 GMT (11:35 p.m. EDT), or 3:35 p.m. Tuesday at the launch site.

0242 GMT (10:42 p.m. EDT Monday)

T-minus 18 minutes. Awaiting an update on approaching bad weather.

0240 GMT (10:40 p.m. EDT Monday)

Range is green and ready to support. The launch hazard area is clear for launch.

0237 GMT (10:37 p.m. EDT Monday)

The countdown will likely hold at T-minus 15 minutes due to approaching thunderstorms, according to the launch team.

The rocket is now fully fueled with kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants on both stages.

0230 GMT (10:30 p.m. EDT Monday)

SpaceX is now releasing live video from the Falcon 1's tropical launch site. It is 2:30 p.m local time Tuesday at Kwajalein.

Launch appears to be scheduled for around 0300 GMT (11 p.m. EDT).

0225 GMT (10:25 p.m. EDT Monday)

There is still no official information flowing from SpaceX regarding this launch. The last update at 0200 GMT (10 p.m. EDT) indicated a launch time of 0230 GMT (10:30 p.m. EDT).

0218 GMT (10:18 p.m. EDT Monday)

The webcast was supposed to begin about 20 minutes before launch time, but there is still no information from SpaceX. Launch should now be 12 minutes away.

0205 GMT (10:05 p.m. EDT Monday)

Launch continues to be scheduled for 0230 GMT (10:30 p.m. EDT Monday), according to the latest update from SpaceX.

2330 GMT (7:30 p.m. EDT)

SpaceX now says the estimated launch time is 0230 GMT (10:30 p.m. EDT Monday).

The latest weather report from Kwajalein shows partly cloudy skies, a temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and east-northeast winds at 16 miles per hour.

2220 GMT (6:20 p.m. EDT)

It is not known at this time when the launch will occur.

SpaceX updated the start time of the company's official webcast to 0140 GMT (9:40 p.m. EDT), indicating a potential delay of three hours. But that has since been removed.

A SpaceX spokesperson previously said the launch window extends for five hours until 0400 GMT (12 a.m. EDT).

2145 GMT (5:45 p.m. EDT)

SpaceX is still not providing any information on this evening's countdown. The launch window opens at 2300 GMT (7 p.m. EDT), or 11 a.m. local time at Kwajalein.

Fueling should be starting at this point in the countdown, if everything remains on schedule.

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

Now three hours from the opening of tonight's launch window.

SpaceX is providing few details on the status of the countdown at this point, but final preparations should now be underway.

Engineers are monitoring the countdown from Kwajalein and SpaceX headquarters 8,000 miles away in Hawthorne, Calif. Roughly two dozen SpaceX employees travel to the launch site for each campaign, including a control team and a pad crew.

Workers should now be preparing the island launch pad for the final countdown and liftoff. This procedure includes communications checks with the launch control center and the vehicle, an inventory of equipment, setting recorders and cameras and removing holddown pins from the base of the rocket.

The pad crew should clear Omelek Island around two hours before launch, evacuating via boat to nearby Meck Island about 1.5 miles from the pad.

SUNDAY, JULY 12, 2009

SpaceX is expected to launch a small Malaysian satellite Monday night during the fifth flight of the company's Falcon 1 booster.

The company, formed in 2002 to lower the cost of space travel, had not officially confirmed the scheduled launch late Sunday night, but sources indicated preparations were on track.

The 70-foot-tall rocket has five hours to launch Monday, beginning at 2300 GMT (7 p.m. EDT).

Liftoff will occur from Omelek Island, a seven-acre strip of land at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The launch pad is part of the U.S. Army's Reagan Test Site.

The launch window opens at 11 a.m. Tuesday local time in the Marshall Islands.

Fueled by refined kerosene and liquid oxygen, the black-and-white launcher will propel the RazakSAT spacecraft into orbit during a mission featuring two burns of the upper stage.

The flight was postponed from April 20 to give engineers more time to remedy launch vibrations that could damage the satellite on its way to space. SpaceX installed a vibration isolation system to reduce loads on the satellite, the company said in a statement.

RazakSAT is launching for ATSB, a Malaysian satellite operator pioneering space technology in that country.

The 400-pound satellite is bound for a circular orbit about 425 miles high with an inclination of 9 degrees, according to ATSB.

Monday's launch will be the fifth time the start-up company has tried to launch the small two-stage booster. The first three Falcon 1 rockets fell short of orbit during launches in 2006, 2007 and August 2008.

The privately-developed rocket finally achieved orbit in September 2008 with a dummy payload.

The successful launch also tested the upper stage's ability to restart its engine, a critical capability that will be needed to deliver RazakSAT to its operational orbit.

RazakSAT carries a medium-sized aperture camera, or MAC, for Earth observations. The imager has a black-and-white resolution of about 8.2 feet and a color resolution of approximately 16.4 feet, according to ATSB.

The six-sided satellite, standing nearly four feet tall, will be used by customers, researchers and government users.

Applications for RazakSAT imagery include agriculture, environmental monitoring, exploration, forestry, mapping, transportation, utilities management and urban planning, according to ATSB.

The satellite's low-inclination orbit will bring RazakSAT over Malaysia up to a dozen times each day, increasing domestic image coverage over existing Earth observation orbiters.

RazakSAT is ATSB's second satellite, launching almost nine years after the smaller TiungSAT craft.

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