Regular readers know I am a big fan of SpaceX, the private company that successfully launched a rocket into orbit earlier this year. That was their Falcon 1, a small rocket that can carry a decent payload into orbit. Their next-gen rocket, the Falcon 9, is where the big payoff is; it can launch 12 tons to low-Earth orbit, or well over 4 tons to a geostationary transfer orbit (a highly elliptical path where on-board thrusters on the payload can circularize the orbit).
I just got word that the first Falcon 9 will be fully assembled at Cape Canaveral by the end of the year! Here is a shot of the first stage being lifted off the truck and prepped for "vertical integration".
Very cool. They don't say when they'll be ready for launch, but I suspect we don't have to wait very long. A few months? We'll see. Until then, stay up to date at the SpaceX site!