Space X makes it to space!

Bad Astronomy
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Sept. 28 2008 8:06 PM

Space X makes it to space!

Congratulations to the team at Space X! At 16:26 Pacific time today (Sunday, September 28, 2008), their Falcon 1 rocket achieved orbit around the Earth, the first time a privately funded company has done such a feat with a liquid fuel rocket.

Space X’s Falcon 1, Flight 4 rocket shortly before launchThis was their fourth attempt to get to orbit with the Falcon 1 rocket. The first three failed to make orbit for various reasons; each time the company analyzed the problem and was able to move on. This last time, they appeared to have gotten it right.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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There was no scientific or commercial payload; instead, they launched what's called a "mass simulator"; a hexagonal chunk of metal that simulates an actual payload. It didn't deploy, but instead stayed inside the rocket's second stage as it orbits the Earth.

As I write this there is no word on the Space X website about the orbital configuration (height above Earth and all that), but I'll keep an eye open and report that when I find out.

Let me say, this is fantastic news! Once the Falcon 1 has a series of launches under its belt, Space X will start launching the Falcon 9, and then the fun really begins. It will be able to lift several tons to orbit, giving customers an alternative to government-funded launch agencies.

We still have a long way to go before there is cheap and easy access to space -- and there are lots of other companies working on that, too -- but it's a step in the right direction.

Image of the Falcon 1 Flight 4 rocket preparing for launch courtesy Space X.

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