SpaceX to launch Falcon 9 at 15:00 UT today

By Phil Plait | June 4, 2010 6:00 am

[UPDATE 19:30 UT): SUCCESS! SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon 9, and the Dragon capsule is now in orbit. We’re awaiting the orbital numbers right now (velocity, height, ellipticity, etc). There was a tense time there for a while when they initially had an abort with just six seconds left. But they reset, and launched the bird. A huge CONGRATS to SpaceX for opening a new door on the space age.]

[Update (14:30 UT): The start of the launch window has been moved to 15:20.]

The private rocket company SpaceX plans to have its first test launch of the Falcon 9 rocket today! The launch window opens at 15:00 UT (11:00 a.m. Eastern time), and lasts for four hours. They will start a webcast of the launch at 14:40 UT. The ultimate goal is to get the bird into orbit, but they have a number of flight milestones to achieve.


On the rocket will be their qualification version of the Dragon payload capsule. This allows them to test both the rocket and the capsule simultaneously.

Weather looks pretty good for liftoff as I write this, though there’s a 40% chance of delays. They also have a launch window for the same times reserved for the next day, Saturday, June 5. Stay tuned, and check the SpaceX site for updates!

Image credit: Chris Thompson/SpaceX

MORE ABOUT: Falcon 9, SpaceX

Comments (96)

  1. This is wildly exciting. The idea of private business getting into space is way cool.

    I wish I wasn’t at work so I could watch the webcast. :(

  2. DrFlimmer

    Good luck and clear skies.

    P.S.: Phil, you screwed your layout 😉

  3. Nancy Evans

    Will the SpaceX website carry the live launch webcast?
    I hear KSC folks will be watching from the OSB-2 roof.
    Good luck SpaceX team!

  4. dcsohl

    Usually launch windows are constrained by geometry. “We have to launch the Shuttle right at this time or we won’t have the fuel to match orbits with ISS.” That sort of thing.

    What are the constraints on this launch window? What would be wrong about launching at 19:30 UT?

  5. Grr. I’m on a low-bandwidth link and their stupid flash video player has a bug in it where the ‘low bandwidth’ option doesn’t work…

  6. Guysmiley

    What are the constraints on this launch window? What would be wrong about launching at 19:30 UT?

    Using that logic, what’s wrong with launching at 15:00 UTC?

  7. BR

    What would be wrong about launching at 19:30 UT?

    As I understand it, they want the rocket to be in sunlight for most of the ascent so that if anything goes wrong their cameras can see it.

  8. JJA

    Is anyone else having trouble accessing the site? I keep getting blank pages.

    I was able to get around this by searching google for ‘spacex webcast’ and viewing the cached version of the page…

  9. Right now their web stream seems to have crashed.

  10. And they are now live. 😀

    And I had to just refresh the page a few times before I got the video.

  11. It’s 15:18 UT, and they’re still in a hold at T-15:00.

  12. ASFalcon13

    I imagine range availability may be a factor as well. In other words, the Air Force guys are only willing to sit around for so long waiting for SpaceX to do their thing before they go home for the day.

  13. The webcast seems pretty solid now, including the low-bandwidth option. But the webserver serving the page seems a bit flaky, so if you do get the webcast working, don’t press reload…

  14. Matt Tarditti

    Probably not the “Air Force guys” that are limiting the launch window. It is more that the FAA flight clearance for the vehicle requires a clear airspace for an insanely big area. This requires redirecting air traffic, which increases fuel costs and causes nightmares for logistics. But sure – blame it on the Air Force.

  15. Private spaceflight. Faster, cheaper than NASA but is it better? We’re going to find out in the next year or so, aren’t we?

  16. jartovino

    JJA #8, thanks for the tip. I’m also viewing the ‘cached’ stream and they are still on ‘hold’, T -15′, hold 1h 20′ and counting.


  17. Messier Tidy Upper

    Good luck to them & I hope it goes smoothly, safely and successfully. :-)

    Still I can’t but help but wish I was witnessing an Ares /Constellation launch today instead. However, I don’t think its a zero-sum situation and feel sure there’s room for both public and private space agencies.

    Hope SpaceX can finally light this long-delayed candle at long last & get this bird in the air. :-)

    PS. Can’t seem to get the video. Even *after* refreshing. Wait, no now I do! Add my thanks also to (#8) JJA. :-)

    PPS. Current status on hold – 1.(hr?)28.(min?)46 New T-zero time to be set. Aha hold time is going up 1 hr 30 min & 33 secs now.

  18. MB

    Hold time 1 hr 36 min and counting. It’s 2:25 am local time for me and I’m going to bed. I’m sure that as soon as my head hits the pillow they’re going to launch. Oh well. Best of luck to them.

  19. Messier Tidy Upper

    Now T minus 27 .30

    Hold now 1 hour 45 minutes. So just under half hour from now if all goes to plan and I’m interpreting things correctly. Which I may not be looks like the time T minus now fifteen again. (Puzzled.)

    I’ll stay up – 2 am Adelaide, South Australian time now.

    Now “Hold” = 1 hr 50 min.

    Still I guess, historically, Alan Shepherd had to wait a frustratingly long time on the pad before his Freedom 7 launch as well ..

  20. Robin S

    The stream is a bit better here: .

    Alas, there was never going to be enough money for an Ares/Constellation launch or program. Sure, there was the Ares 1-X launch, but that didn’t involve a realistic launch configuration. It was done for show. Falcon 9, on the other hand, is a real flight configuration and will fly real payloads.

    There’s no reason at all to think that private companies can’t perform as well as NASA directed launches. After all, it’s private companies that do the bulk of the work for NASA: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, ULA, and so on. Moreover, private companies have put together some very reliable rockets: the Titan series, Atlas series, the Delta series, and etc. Of course, as has been pointed out by Phil and many others, those successful rockets went through many failures.

    For SpaceX, the only real failure would be to get no data or bad data out of this launch or to give up. Good data can only improve the model and the process. Also, it’s not as if we’re back in the 50’s or 60’s again, where the wealth of knowledge about rocket flight was relatively small (compared to today). SpaceX, as well as everyone else, has a wealth of knowledge to draw from. Every rocket manufacturer today has a much bigger toolbox of design, simulation, and test tools from which to draw than scientists and engineers had in the days of early space flight. SpaceX’s efforts should inspire and motivate other companies (Orbital Sciences, for one).

    I’ll admit that watching an Ares launch in some fantasy future would be exciting. Hell, I like watching any big rocket fly (Watching STS-105 launch from an obs area 3 miles away was even more exciting than seeing my daughter born!). NASA will never have the money, however, to fly repeated servicing and crew missions to LEO while at the same time flying deeper into space (to an asteroid, the Moon, Mars….). That’s the reality. Given that, I’d much rather see NASA focus on the harder stuff: the evolution and continuing success of robotic missions and the manned exploration of our space beyond Earth orbit.

    Ad astra, SpaceX!

  21. Messier Tidy Upper

    Ohhh -kkkaaaay. Now the “Hold” times gone to a row of zeroes but the T minus figure isn’t counting down either sowe appear to be totally stuck. Didn’t hear any announcement (might’ve missed it.) so what is going on now? :-(

    Clocks still ticking at the bottom of screen & on the bitplayer thingummy if that’s what its called too so I don’t think it’s just my computer.


    T minus nine minutes and counting now – ‘Go’ for range & weather. :-)

    T minus 4 min & 15 secs -configured for launch! :-)

  22. 3.15am. Just about to go to bed. One last check. Countdown restarted. Woohoo.

    Abort. :(


  23. MartinM

    About 11 minutes to go.

  24. Ed

    I’m a little surprised that there is no outrage by Phil or anyone else here about how secretive Space X has been about this whole launch. This will be more common moving forward as the private sector takes up more of the load. I’d just like some consistency. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pro privatizing LEO, but I think the public strategy Space X has taken his concerning.

  25. Levi in NY

    Nooo! They aborted literally at the last second!

  26. Sili

    Just made it over there with three minutes to spare.

    And then they aborted.

  27. Ed (24): Secrecy? Like how it was announced months ago, with frequent updates and pictures on the SpaceX site, and live coverage of the launch on their page?

  28. Well, better to abort 1 second before launch than 1 second after.

    They mentioned the possibility of another attempt today. Any idea on how long it takes to recycle things? (I haven’t heard any audio for the past few minutes.)

  29. Messier Tidy Upper

    … & abort at 2 seconds and going nowhere. They may try again later today perhaps. Durnit. :-(

    Echoes of the very first space launch I ever stayed up beyond my bed time to watch – the first ever launch of The Space Shuttle Columbia back when it was all white (even the external fuel tank) and brand new. I was just a young kid and that was going to be *THE* FUTURE back then in 1980. It looked like something out of science fiction – a reusable space plane that would make us all astronauts, make space travel routine and set on the path to land on Mars which I fully expected we’d see happen in about the year 2000.

    I was so excited then .. and it ended in an abort with a computer glitch.

    Now we’ve got another new craft (about which I’ll admit I’m not quite so excited) I’ve stayed up too late (after 3 a.m. now South Aussie time) and .. again .. a disappointing abort. :-(

  30. Rob Young

    Less than impressed by BitGravity and their ability to stream video… Keep loosing the stream. :(

  31. Keith Hearn

    Timer just got reset to t-00:15:00. Hopefully a good sign.

  32. uudale

    What is this thing, a Chrysler?!? Let’s get it lit and in the air!

  33. I hope their rockets work better than their webcast. :(

  34. Pi-needles

    @ ^ Kuhnigget : ‘Fraid not. :-(

    Well not so far anyhow.

  35. Ruthsarian

    Someone in the area is saying they may go for another launch in about 40 minutes. Right now they’re going over what events the computers saw to abort the launch. One theory is that the LOX vent didn’t close for whatever reason, resulting in a lower than expected pressure, thus the abort.

  36. It’s interesting to note that with the early Falcon 1 launches — you know, the ones that failed — the web stream cut off the instant anything started to go wrong.

    That has to have been deliberate; rocketcams are designed to be robust because you *want* to get data back when your rocket go boom. Somewhere in SpaceX I’m sure there’s footage of their rockets disintegrating from the inside.

    This would be fascinating to see. I wonder why they cut it off? Does it show trade secrets, perhaps?

  37. CNN has/had the video coverage of the launch, they just went off line with it.

  38. Keith Hearn

    We’re counting!

  39. Anyone else see the UFO with 6 landing legs zip about in front of the camera? Of course, it might have simply been a bug.

  40. Keith Hearn

    Todd: I think it was a falcon.

  41. @Keith Hearn

    No, no. You can clearly see the falcon on the pad, smoking. This was a UFO (or a bug) I tell you! Where’s Billy Meier or Michael horn when you need them?

  42. Jean Rafael

    The signal was lost, but it reached orbit!

    That was really cool!

  43. Kurt_eh

    And there she goes!

  44. Zucchi
  45. And it’s in orbit!

  46. Greg

    Beautiful flight. I love how launches these days can have live onboard cameras all the way up. Sounds like an almost flawless trip to orbit.

  47. Levi in NY

    What a beautiful launch!

  48. Grizzly

    That was a wild ride. Funny that I’d get worked up about a commercial unmanned rocket like that.

  49. M Burke
  50. Harabeck

    The whole site seems to be dead…

  51. Keith Hearn

    I’d say that was successful. Looked like they actually lifted off a couple of seconds early, though. I guess they didn’t want to take a chance on another abort at t-01. :)

  52. That has to be one of the most boring, uninteresting, routine launches I’ve ever seen.

    Which is, of course, perfect.

    Way to go, guys!

    Update: rumour has it that the roll towards the end was not normal. I thought it a bit odd, particularly the way it gradually sped up, but nobody seemed to comment. Anyone know more than I?

  53. Mark Hall

    And it’s up! Yeehaw!

  54. GaryB

    It’s in orbit now. Really cool.

  55. Very cool to watch.

  56. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
  57. BigBob

    Now that was Exciting! Congratulations SpaceX!

  58. Loved the stage separation.

    Oh, and the UFO appears to have been a bee or hornet…I, for one, welcome our new insectoid overlords.

  59. More commentary here:;topicseen#new

    Webcast ends.

    Orbit was achieved. I still support Ares V (Engine out) but Falcon 9 also has engine out. Still to early to tell. Here is hoping Elon starts thinking about a Sea Dragon type BFR just in case.

    He now has a Delta killer.

  60. MarkHB

    Dammit… I must have something in my eye.

  61. Robin S

    Great stuff! Congrats, SpaceX!

  62. Atkinson

    Good job, Space X!!!

  63. Atkinson

    In fact, GREAT job!!!

  64. Charles Boyer

    @29 Messy: I remember the computer timing issue on STS-1 all too well.

    What many folks do not know or remember is that on the launch of STS-1 there was significant damage to the orbiter thanks to over 140 of the heat shield tiles being damaged by overpressure of the SRBs at ignition.

    NASA came closer to losing that orbiter than they would ever possibly want to admit, and that may have been the end of that all the way back in 1980.

    But she was a sight to behold when she launched. We were all a bit astounded at how quiet the launch was, as the Shuttle is a whisper relative to the Saturn V’s.

    @34 David Given: the feeds are almost certainly cut for PR purposes. NASA clipped air-to-ground transmissions during the Challenger disaster too. There WAS conversation after the explosion. NASA has said as much and will not release the audio. Nor have you ever heard the audio of Apollo 1.

  65. Charles Boyer

    Well Done, Space X and CCAFS!

    That was a most impressive launch. Elon Musk is likely ready for a steak dinner and big cigar tonight.

    It will be interesting in the future to hear the integration of NASA and SpaceX on manned flights. You could tell that this was a test flight, and that SpaceX was not investing the same level of coverage that is typical even for a NASA oriented launch – manned or otherwise.

  66. @Charles: Well, yeah, but Apollo 1 and Challenger contained people. Falcon 1 flight 1 was a dumb machine. When it exploded nobody died — the situations are not comparable.

  67. Ad Hominid

    The real genius of Elon Musk is that he and his team didn’t go for too much too fast in the way of reducing costs. Previous efforts to build more economical launch systems have foundered largely because they attempted a massive reduction in a single step, with claimed reductions of 90% being typical. This was one problem with the Shuttle, originally billed as a mostly re-usable and far more economical system, it turned out to be just the opposite.

    By setting their goals realistically, SpaceX has actually achieved a very significant reduction in a practical system.

  68. csrster

    “Nor have you ever heard the audio of Apollo 1.”

    … and I pray to whatever gods exist that I never do. Just thinking about Apollo 1 gives me the willies.

  69. Pics from launch at my link :)

    That was really amazing. A prototype vehicle is always a huge risk, and that went very smoothly.

  70. Grand Lunar

    Good to hear the Falcon took flight.

    One step closer for these guys.

    And to think that it’s also closer to it’s actual flight configuration than Ares 1-X was.

  71. LSandman24

    @ Matt (#14)
    Don’t lump us all in together, but you’re mostly correct 😀

  72. Autumn

    I too am wondering about the rotation which was evident as orbit was achieved. I saw the little navigation nozzle wiggle just once, early on in the launch, and pondered why it wasn’t used to arrest the spin of the orbiter.

  73. Nic

    An amazing achievement, well done to SpaceX.
    I was just watching some of the coverage (still only YouTube, I guess the SpaceX gals and guys are far too busy having a party to update their website right now – but they deserve that).
    Anyway, clearly a minor problem in roll later, a little (roll?) thruster is in the shot in that I saw and I think it stopped moving, hard to tell given shifting lighting conditions. The thruster exhaust, I assume hypergolic would I guess not (probably) be visible. So – was that it – did the second stage roll control fail? The previous Falcon 1 (single engine Merlin, as is the second stage Falcon 9, vacuum adapted) used the preburner exhaust to control roll. Does anyone know if the F9 second stage only use bitty thruster for roll control? And not preburner exhaust?

    No criticism from here. I am seriously impressed. And poor Elon had so much on his back from – well everyone. Well done mate, good job. Buy your collegues a pint or five.

    Nic, UK.

  74. And not a peep of this on the evening news. And Brian Williams was even looking for a good news story to tell…

  75. ASFalcon13

    Matt Tarditti, I will “blame it on the Air Force”. Although there is coordination with the FAA, it’s ultimately the 45th Space Wing – not the FAA – that has authority over the Eastern Range. Without clearance or oversight from the Air Force, you don’t launch in the Eastern Range, it’s that simple. Furthermore, the Air Force is responsible for range safety, so if flight termination becomes necessary, it’s the Mission Flight Control Officer (from the 45th SW) sending the command to terminate, not the FAA, NASA, or the launch provider.

  76. Bob Kirk

    Phil, while a reasonable performance why “A huge CONGRATS to SpaceX for opening a new door on the space age” ? I am old enough to remember Sputnik 1, 53 years ago, since when more than a few rockets have orbitted satellites, and although some may have been commercially viable most have depended on government money for the simple reason that most space flight is not commercially viable. While I would love to see space travel and colonization become commonplace, I don’t see SpaceX reducing the “cost to orbit” significantly. Indeed, check out the following BBC report –
    and note the following “The California-based firm developed the vehicle with a large subsidy from Nasa. “. SpaceX may be reducing costs to orbit a bit, but why significantly more than, say, ULA ? SpaceX are simply taking government money to make a profit, and are not significantly altering the economics of space travel.

  77. Messier Tidy Upper

    Congrats to the SpaceX Falcon 9 team. :-)

    I’m happy to see they finally got their rocket off the ground and into orbit. I ended up going to bed and missed it after the abort & I still have some reservations about whether they’ll prove a long term success (I also agree with #82 Bob Kirk) but, for now :

    Well done – even if it took you long enough! 😉 :-)

    @67. Charles Boyer : Thanks – interesting; I didn’t know that. :-)

  78. Bob Kirk: The “subsidy” is payment for services to supply station. They’ve received relatively little of that as seed money so far, and have carried the majority of the cost themselves thus far. The money awarded is distributed as goals are achieved. They undercut the competition by a significant margin (final price of ~140mil/mission? An atlas flight is closer to 300mil for just the launch, without supplying a module and a docking mission), and were already developing a crew rated space module (required to dock with station, even if only for resupply).

    Essentially the difference is that ULA/etc are contracted to design, build, and launch the vehicle. USAF owns those rockets (they paid for them in full). Space-X is privately owned and funded, built its own rocket for its own purposes, but sold its services to NASA.

    To get an idea of the difference, the funding they have received is roughly 1/4th the cost to build just the mobile launcher for Ares-1. That’s also roughly the cost of the first launch itself, and space-x has paid all other expenses out of pocket. It is different…door on a new space age?

    I don’t know about that. Maybe though. Elon has made it fairly clear that his intentions go well beyond some supply missions for ISS. He’s also made it clear that he will pursue that with or without our support, although I’m sure picking up some delivery work for profit helps him speed the process. This vehicle is lifting a dummy version of a module that is build for humans.

  79. gss_000

    @15. Thomas

    “Private spaceflight. Faster, cheaper than NASA but is it better? We’re going to find out in the next year or so, aren’t we?”

    I wish it would be that fast. The whole industry has been “two years away” for….a long time. Remember, by this time SpaceX was supposed to have 6 Falcon 9 COTS demonstration flights, and so far it hasn’t had one. IIRC, this one was supposed to have happened in 2006. Not to mention they have just announced the 2nd demonstration flight is being (the one after the next launch), is now delayed 8 months.

    Virgin Galactic was supposed to be up and running now too, but it’s now making noises of launching passengers in 2012. I have yet to see this “fast private company” in reality.

    But kudos to SpaceX. I hope these delays and the stuff in Musk’s personal and financial life don’t interfere too much.

  80. MB

    Hey Phil, have you heard that there have been sightings of a “UFO” here in Australia now? It was a spiral just like the Norwegian spiral a few months back, and the timing was perfect for Falcon 9 to be the explanation. I don’t know what the F9 flight path was, but the curator of the Sydney Observatory says it is the most likely explanation. Of course most people in the media are pitching it as a UFO.

    EDIT: By the way, massive congrats to the entire SpaceX team!

  81. Ed


    I’m not some conspiracy nut and agree with you 99% of the time. What I meant was stuff like this:

    “but SpaceX is purposely keeping the booster’s flight plan under wraps to dodge instant analysis from armchair quarterbacks. ”

    I actually agree with the guy from a business point of view. If it was Coke vs. Pepsi, I sure wouldn’t expect Coke to publicize it’s market share goals so that Pepsi could jump all over them if they failed. But we’re not used to the normal corporate gamesmanship in our space program, and it will certainly be more prominent moving forward.

    Let me make clear, I am for this. Second, I agree that in business, you don’t tell your competitors everything you’re doing. But as consumers of a more privatized LEO Space program, it will be the reality moving forward.

  82. Robin S

    For anyone interested, here are two videos shot from the top of KSC’s Vehicle Assembly Building. For reference, the VAB is about 4.5 miles from Complex 40, the Falcon 9 launch site. The first is a zoomed in shot. The second is zoomed out. The sound of the Falcon 9’s Merlin engines is impressive. If you only watched the SpaceX feed, you’d think that the rocket launched before T=0, but in the videos below you can hear that the Falcon 9 takes off right in sync with clock on the range. Hopefully SpaceX will either fix the delay in their live coverage or move coverage to the Cape (or which launch site(s) they use in the future.) instead of relying on an internet feed.

  83. Buzz Parsec

    MB, actually they delayed the 2nd COTS demo flight 4 months, from Nov to March, not 8 months. The 1st demo flight is still scheduled for this summer (it was supposed to be July 21, but last week they changed it to “this summer”.) The 2nd flight was supposed to be in November, and was supposed to rendezvous but not dock with the ISS. The 3rd flight was supposed to be early next year (March?) and was supposed to dock with the ISS.

    Now they are saying that Demo 2 (the rendezvous flight) *will* dock with the station if everything up to that point goes well, but they’ve delayed it to March. I think what they really did was cancel (skip) flight 2, and are going straight to flight 3. But they will have the 3rd Demo Dragon available to use if something goes wrong with Demo 1 or Demo 2, presumably.

    Yesterday, Elon Musk said the 2nd Falcon 9 is complete (I think it’s at the test stand in Texas) and the 1st Dragon (for Demo 1) is 99% complete, but SpaceX had been saying pretty much the same for the 1st Falcon 9 for several months. However, the 2nd one should be a lot easier, assuming they’ve documented all their procedures for assembly, test and launch and won’t have to make everything up as they go along. There were some problems with yesterday’s launch, but they are probably easy things to fix. I’m sure they were expecting some delay between the 1st and 2nd flights and already had time for analyzing the data from the 1st flight and making any necessary changes factored into their schedule.

    Oh, and the published prices for Falcon 9 vs other existing launchers is much lower (1/3 to 1/4 the price per kilogram to orbit), and if they can stick to that, it’s a big but not revolutionary advance.

  84. gss_000

    @89 Buzz Parsec

    Umm….according to Spaceflight Now:

    “The capsule won’t be ready for its November launch target. The mission should fly in the second quarter of 2011, according to SpaceX. ”

    That would be more than 3 months. It’s not really that long in the big scale of these rockets , but still. Also, losing the third demonstration flight is not certian, but I could see it happening.

    What I’ll be interested to see is if the people who said the Ares I-X launch was a disaster becuase of its launch issues (what looked like a reconnect between the first and second stage and a parachute issue) will just ignore the same type of issues (the first stage was not retrieve as planned due to parachute issue and more roll during the first stage launch) on the Falcon 9./ Or because they like this rocket it will be “no big deal” and fixable.

  85. gss_000

    I looked over what was reported. The eight months is between the first and second flight, which puts it in line with what you said, not delayed *by* eight months.


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