Falcon 9

The Falcon 9 is an American launch vehicle, which is used by the company, SpaceX. It is based technically on the smaller Falcon 1, but instead of a single engine in the first stage, a total of nine pieces.

As part of the CRS program (Commercial Resupply Services), the rocket is used in conjunction with the Dragon spacecraft, among others to supply the International Space Station. Furthermore, it is offered for commercial launches. The first launch took place in June 2010. It is the first privately developed rocket that can carry payloads in a stable orbit.

By the lateral attachment of two other almost identical, the first stage as a booster in the first stage of Falcon 9 is another version of the missile, the Falcon Heavy planned. The boosters will refill with fuel the central stage again so that the first ( central ) level can continue to work after separation of the booster with fuel and can accelerate the then lighter missile with greater efficiency during startup. The Falcon Heavy will be with the currently highest payload capacity after its planned 2015 first start the launcher.

  • 7.1 Single -offs in detail


In September 2005, SpaceX announced their intention to develop an even stronger fully reusable launch vehicle under the name Falcon 9. The first stage of the Falcon 9 uses nine Merlin engines, the second stage is a single equipped with an enlarged exhaust nozzle Merlin engine. The payload capacity of a Falcon 9 is about 9500 kg for a low orbit. Same time, a stronger version of the Falcon 9 is planned that two more Falcon 9 first stage of the Delta IV Heavy similarly used as a booster. This most powerful version (Falcon Heavy) should be able to carry 53,000 kg into low orbit and cost between 77 million and 135 million U.S. dollars per mission.


The standard version of the Falcon 9 ( v1.0 ) also serves as a launch vehicle for the development of SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which will initially be used for unmanned supply missions to the International Space Station, but later also for manned flights is to be used. The first test flight took place on June 4, 2010. The second launch of the Falcon 9 occurred on 22 May 2012 with Dragon space capsule to the ISS.

In June 2010, SpaceX was awarded a major order from the American satellite telephony provider Iridium worth 492 million U.S. dollars. For SpaceX to bring 2015-2017 with the Falcon 9 rocket a large part of the 72 planned mobile satellite into space.

In March 2012, SpaceX was awarded the contract for the launch of four geostationary satellites. SpaceX therefore developed a Falcon 9 with relapsing increased Merlin engines for satellite launches into geostationary transfer orbit. This Falcon 9 v1.1 -called version has extended fuel tanks with a greater capacity, which it has a higher payload capacity. It is intended to replace the previous version weaker even if most of the other boot.

In Falcon v1.0 nine engines of the first stage are arranged in a 3 × 3 matrix. The Falcon 9 v1.1 are eight engines on a circle and one mounted at its center.

Fairing for satellite launches

The Falcon 9 will use a fairing with 5.2 m diameter at launch into geostationary transfer orbit. This fairing is 13.9 meters long. The usable interior space is 11.4 m high and has 6.6 m length has an inner diameter of 4.6 m. Moreover, the diameter is smaller in the ogive tip. At the highest point it is still 1.3 m wide.

Systems for secondary payloads

The Space Flight Incorporated developed for the Falcon 9 is a system for the transport of small satellites on the Falcon 9 -offs in the Dragon capsule. The system will be expanded later to two different upper stages, satellites can transport to other orbits. The first example is to come at the start of the Dragon capsule for use in LEO. To reach from there other tracks, they can change their speed with payload to 400 m / s. The second is, however, used for take-offs in the GTO, where they can fly with their payload into the GEO 2200 m / s additional speed.


SpaceX currently testing a system that will not only be able to reuse the first drive stage. For this purpose, it should be modified so that they with their own engines to decelerate the case after the separation. You will then own land and are available for a new launch. So far several successful test with a test rocket, the Grasshopper (Eng. " grasshopper " ) were carried out for this. During the first launch of the Falcon 9 version v1.1 braking tests have been carried out with the separated main stage.

Falcon 9R

After the completion of the Grasshopper program began in the spring of 2014, the first tests of the main stage for Falcon 9 R ( the R stands for Reusable - reusable). An announcement from SpaceX about the further course of the tests is still pending.

Falcon Heavy

The planned Falcon Heavy three Falcon -9 first stage are combined into a rocket and fired in parallel. Add to that an advanced level. The payload capacity into a deep orbit with 28.5 ° orbital inclination should be from Cape Canaveral 53,000 kg. The rocket will be 68.4 m high, 3.7 m × 11.6 m have diameter, have a payload fairing with 5.2 m diameter and stand out 1,463 tons of takeoff weight with 17,615 kN take-off thrust at ~. To avoid a false start even with one engine damage during the flight in one of the 27 simultaneously working Merlin engines, the engines are surrounded by protective covers, so that fires and explosions should not affect other engines or the rocket. The two outer steps provide the central stage with the fuel during the flight, so that the central stage after the separation of the two outer stages is still nearly full, and the longer work as the two outer stages. On a flight path to Mars, the Falcon Heavy will be able to transport about 13.2 tons. However, it is also possible that the two outer steps not supply the central stage with the fuel so that it has to use the start of its own fuel. The payload capacity will thus shrink to 45.6 tons in a 200 km high orbit with 28.5 ° orbital inclination of Cape Canaveral.

SpaceX announced 29 May 2012 announced that it has received an order to start a INTELSAT satellites with the Falcon Heavy. The satellite is to be deducted from the Falcon Heavy in geostationary transfer orbit.

Launch pads

The Falcon 9 launches in Cape Canaveral from the launch pad LC 40 or in Vandenberg from the launch pad SLC -4E. In Cape Canaveral SpaceX negotiated with NASA whether the Falcon Heavy can use the launch pad LC 39A. A separate starting system is long or medium term plans.


Previous offs

Individual Starts in detail

  • Dragon CRS-1 (8 October 2012): After 1 min 19 sec. Failure of one engine of the first stage. Through extended burning times of first and second stage Dragon CRS - 1 could be exposed to the planned path. For onward flight to the planned orbit of Orbcomm FM44 Safety rules for the ISS have been violated. So he was deliberately exposed to an unplanned lower orbit. Orbcomm FM44 now re-entered the Earth's atmosphere and burns up.
  • Initial launch of the Falcon 9 v1.1 (29 September 2013): First start by Vandenberg and first launch of the Falcon 9 version v1.1. The start for the first time in this planned re-ignition of the second stage, which was absolutely necessary for the next scheduled launch into geostationary transfer orbit, could not be carried out successfully. On the mission of CASSIOPE but that had no effect as the test firing after the release of the payload carried.
  • First start in a geostationary transfer orbit (3 December 2013): The second stage had to after a free flight phase her engine again ignite to get into the highly elliptical geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO ), but this has not yet been successfully tested so far. The payload manöviert yourself with their own engines from the GTO in its geostationary orbit objective (GEO). The first launch attempt on 25 November was canceled a few minutes before the start because of technical problems. The second launch attempt on 28 November failed; the engines ignited on the launch pad, but were turned off automatically due to non-uniform shear building again. The rocket was held by the retaining clips on the ramp and not released. The launch took place on 3 December 2013, and then the planned orbit was 295 km × 80,000 km × 20.75 ° inclination, actually achieved orbit on which the payload was suspended 395.4 km × 79325.3 km × 20.51 °.
  • Also at the second start in a GTO on January 6, 2014 with the Thaicom 6 the perigee of the orbit actually achieved more striking heavily on the previously stated target orbit. Before starting an orbit of 295 km x 90000 km x 22.5 ° was specified, but was achieved according to a NORAD orbit with a 80 km higher perigee: 375.9 km × 89492.2 km × 22.46 °. In a statement released after the launch of SpaceX press release has been reported, however, that the published prior to the start target orbit was hit exactly. The path deviation of the launch, however, had no negative impact on the payload; the increased perigee is energetically even more favorable for the satellite to reach its geostationary orbit target.

Planned start

State of the list: March 27, 2014

Individual details about scheduled start

  • Turkmensat 1: The builder of satellites, Thales Alenia Space, SpaceX originally commissioned with the start, but then switched to a Chinese Long March carrier rocket; due to the U.S. export regulations could not be carried to China, the payload, so SpaceX was asked to start again.