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Falcon 1 rocket

Development of the Falcon 1 rocket from Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is taking longer and costing more than expected, but the El Segundo, California based start-up still expects to make its maiden launch this year.

"Itís costing more than I thought, I have to admit. Building rockets ó it ainít cheap." - Elon Musk, SpaceX president and founder.

Yesterday SpaceX accomplished a critical engine firing at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, an event that puts the company much closer to its inaugural blastoff later this summer.
The Falcon 1 rocket roared its first stage engine during the dramatic five-second firing to demonstrate countdown procedures and ring out equipment bugs at the rebuilt Space Launch Complex-3 West pad.
After two false starts in recent weeks, the 70-foot-tall vehicle rumbled to life as today's countdown hit the planned T-minus zero second mark at 9 a.m. local time (12 p.m. EDT; 1600 GMT).
The low-cost, privately-developed Falcon 1 rocket is the creation of Elon Musk, the South African spending his own cash to bring the new launcher from the drawing board to reality. Musk was co-founder of PayPal, the online payment system, and earlier the Zip2 software company.

"Today we completed the largest milestone remaining before launch. In a few months, we will receive Air Force clearance to fly and Falcon 1 will make its maiden voyage. With the lowest cost per flight in the world for a production rocket and superlative design reliability, it has the potential to be the world leader in launches per year" - Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX.

Using a tiny launch team compared to the standing armies typically involved with the rocket countdowns, a seven-person control team, a five-person pad crew and three extra technicians performed today's engine firing. The nerve centre overseeing the operation was SpaceX's mobile command trailer parked on Vandenberg's South Base -- about five miles from the pad -- that tapped into the installation's fibre lines and Range communications loops.
The multi-hour countdown featured the loading of fuels into the rocket's first stage, only the third time that's happened at the new Falcon pad.
Falcon-1 is a small liquid fuelled orbital launch vehicle. Both stages are Kerosene / LOX fuelled.
The first stage, which will be reusable after recovery by parachutes, is to be powered by the SpaceX built Merlin engine. The second stage will be propelled by the Kestrel engine, a derived from the technology of the Lunar Module Descent Engine.
Planned launch sites are SLC-36A at Cape Canaveral for low inclination launches, SLC-3W at Vandenberg for high inclination launches and a launch site on Omelek Island in the Marshall Islands.
The basic Falcon vehicle will carry 670 kg payloads to low earth orbit. SpaceX claims, the Falcon will reduce the costs for an orbital launch by the factor of three - a price of $ 6 million for the basic version is planned.

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