Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Falcon 1 Launches

This is cool, and I would bet money we are going to see a lot more of this in the future. A Malaysian satellite was launched by Space X, a private company. It was the fifth attempt to launch a payload into low earth orbit (LEO) by this company. The first three ended in failure with the launch vehicle breaking up at some point during liftoff, the fourth one was a success launching a dummy payload into LEO.

The satellite called RazakSAT weighs 400lb and can take pictures at resolutions of 8.2 feet in black and white and 16.4 feet in colour. RazakSAT imagery will be used by researchers, commercial customers and government agencies.

Space X is working on two other booster systems, the Falcon 9 which has a much larger payload and the Falcon 1e which has double the payload of the Falcon 1.

I find this interesting not because of the performance of these rockets, which is impressive but due to the doorways it can open up. If commercial spaceflight becomes viable, and investors are able to create a market for initially low earth orbit and eventually beyond the concept of space flight will change forever. No longer will we be bound to government bureaucracy, budget cuts and limited vision. I am just quoting this off wikipedia so don't take this at face value but they are quoting a launch cost for the Falcon 1 at around $7 million dollars. The larger Falcon 9 with the extended lift option is looking at a cost of around $78 million with the ability to launch a geostationary(stays over the same place on the earth at all times, it what your satellite TV uses) satellite. Wow that is really cheap. It might sound like a lot it but consider space tourists. They pay up to $20 million to go up on Soyuz capsules. Imagine them being able to subsidize initial space flights to the ISS by private companies.

I am not saying this is the answer to accessible space flight but it is certainly a step in the right direction. I'm sure there are many obstacles I am missing but compared to the billion dollar shuttle launches I think these private companies have something going for them.

Thanks to Spaceflight Now where I got most of my info considering it only happened a few hours ago and they seemed to have an exclusive info deal with the company.


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