June 1, 2020

Astronomy Video of the Week: Falcon Takes Flight

Liftoff of a Falcon 1 rocket

on its first successful mission.

Image credit: SpaceX

What’s it like to ride on a rocket? Seven years ago on this day in 2008, a Space X Falcon 1 rocket gave us an amazing external view as it soared above the Omelek Island launch facility and Kwajelein Atoll in the central Pacific. The first successful launch after a series of three earlier attempts, the SpaceX Falcon 1 successfully deployed a boilerplate mass simulator nicknamed ‘RatSat’ in low Earth orbit. The launch marked the first successful commercial space venture, and opened the door to a new era of space privatization.

To ride along with the Falcon 1 is to ride into history:

RatSat and the second stage of the Falcon 1 launch are expected to stay in orbit for at least another decade.  SpaceX launches of the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon capsule were just starting to become routine prior to the June 28th launch failure earlier this year. Space is hard, and it’s worth noting that the Falcon 1 rocket had early teething problems as well, and  that Elon Musk was not successful with the platform until his fourth try. As of this writing, the Falcon 9 return to flight is slated for November 17th, from Cape Canaveral delivering the SES-9 satellite into orbit for SES Luxembourg… but the big mission to watch will be the inaugural lift-off of the companies’ Falcon Heavy rocket from the Kennedy Space Center next April. Along with NASA’s SLS heavy lift rocket, these are the next generation of rockets slated to take us out of low Earth orbit and beyond… exciting times ahead for sure!

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