Space X conducts nine engine test

By Phil Plait | August 2, 2008 9:50 am

The private company Space X just passed a major milestone: a successful nine-engine firing of its Merlin engines. This cluster of engines will be what they use to launch the Falcon 9 rocket into orbit, so this test is a big deal. They fired the engines on July 30, and again on August 1.

Space X tests 9 Merlin engines

The video is pretty frakkin’ awesome. Make sure your speakers are turned up.

This is great news; the Falcon 9 is a beefy rocket capable of lofting 11 tons to low-Earth orbit. A Falcon 1, a smaller but still capable rocket, is due to launch sometime soon, but I’m still not sure when. More on that when I find out.


Comments (20)

  1. ThePorkMeister

    I can’t believe I’m the only person who thinks that publicizing stuff like this would vastly increase public support for a space program, whether public or private. I mean, look! It’s got a genuine rocket scientist saying it’s “beefy!” Anything that creates an impression on such a basic level deserves admiration (in the humble opinion of someone who loves watching stuff blow up).
    On a tangentially-related note, Mr. BA missed an opportunity: watch that video a hundred times, there’s one thing you won’t see; a single star.

    -regular theories a billion JPN.

  2. Philip


    These multiengined machines give me goosebumps. The more engines you have, the more may fail. Also its much easier to check out one or two than 9.
    Still they thought it the more economical the way to go. I’m really impressed.

    With Falcon 1s 2nd flight my heart rate went high watching it. I really look forward to the Falcon9 flight. I can’t imagine any movie having this effect on my nervous system.

  3. David Marasco

    They’ve already done one engine and five engine tests, the nine was simply the next logical step, had nothing to do with the economics of the situation.

    The more interesting test will be their launch into space (hopefully in the next few days) of their F1.

  4. Wired thinks that there’s a possibility that Falcon 1 could even launch today.

  5. Philip

    I meant that they choose to design a vehicle with a cluster of 9 engines intended for flight.
    Usually in engineering you design a vehicle with as few engines as possible. Makes them cheaper and more reliable. Even the Russians use “only” 5 engines. (Albeit 4chambers per engine). And SpaceX is about economy and reliability.

  6. madge

    COOL! The more private companies get in on the act the quicker we all get our tickets to space. Bring it on! I for one can’t wait. All I need now is to find a milloionaire willing to buy me a ticket. Hello out there? Hello? Is there anybody out there? :)

  7. David Marasco


    They went with 9 so they could use the same engine design as for their F1. Their choice was “design one engine and have a more complicated large vehicle” rather that “design two engines in order to have a simpler large vehicle”.

  8. Jeffrey Cornish

    Another design feature of the F9 is cladding each of the engines in a Kevlar shroud.

    If one engine should be lost catastrophically, the odds that other engines would be taken out by debris is lower. The Soviet N-1 rocket (with it’s _30_ engines on the first stage) had this sort of problem.

    Also, SpaceX is looking towards reusability of the F9 first and second stages (reentry shielding for the second stage is a concern because of the mass). You might be saying however “Jeff, but once the stage drops into the ocean, that’s it, right? It will sink or be damaged by the impact”.

    Funny thing about that. At least one ICBM Titan booster that was used in a test launch was found bobbing in the ocean by a fishing boat (I cannot find the reference here. I think that it was mentioned in an article on reusable stages on The Space Review

    Mind you this was a first stage booster without parachutes. As it was empty, but pressurized it fell at well below terminal velocity (if I’m using that term right) and survived impact

    Equip a stage with some modest parachutes and GPS and you can at least salvate the engines or avionics, and perhaps, be able to reuse the stage with a modest amount of refurbishment

  9. Ed

    Sweet! I just wish their videos were in Quicktime format (or whatever You Tube uses for that matter) so I could look at them. Windows Media Player? I don’t *think* so…


  10. BR

    The Falcon 1 launch is tonight at 7EST according to Chris Bergin at

  11. Ty

    I hit “play” and then kind of laughed when that jet engine sound came over so loud (it kind of shocked me). Great technology, can’t wait to see what the other private players in space exploration have.

    At a minimum, I’m hoping we don’t have to pay them millions (like we do with NASA) and then have to deal with the whole “um, yeah, we didn’t understand how to convert metric to English units so we, um, kind of lost that really expensive probe to Mars….”- draw down buffonery.

    Private exploration of space is coming on strong and I would bet they do it 10 times more efficiently than a big government bureaucracy could do. Guess we have to wait and see the results though. Initial tests like this one look pretty darn promising.

  12. Chris

    It’s not playing for me. The video freezes just before ignition. Anyone else having this problem?

  13. Eric

    SpaceX has scheduled the launch of their Falcon 1 for today. The launch window opens at 7pm EDT, and the window will be open for 5 hours.

  14. David Marasco

    The third attempt for their F1 rocket is scheduled for Aug 2 at 7EDT.

  15. Yeah, I’m getting about 5 seconds of actual video, then a bunch of stills.

    Seemed impressive though!

  16. ThePorkMeister

    I had freezeframe problems starting at ignition the first time playing through the video too, but they went away the second time i played it.

  17. Hi Madge… I’m your millionaire. Well not really, but it’ was fun saying that! LOL

  18. CanadianLeigh

    @Michael L.

    I have those fanacies too. How are you doing up there cut off from civilization? I drove the Duffy Lake road years ago on my motorcycle. Scared the crap out of myself a couple of times. Can’t imagine pulling heavy loads over it. Event the train tracks got taken out. I;ve camped there a few times in the past. That would have been quite the wake up call. Hope you and your family are all OK.

  19. JohnnyMac

    SpaceX has accomplished some very difficult challenges on the engines and designs of their Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 structures. They will get it done! and be successful in the very near future. Keep up the GOOD HARD WORK! It is paying off.


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