The first flight of the Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Falcon 1 launch vehicle has been delayed to the first week of December at the earliest.

“Nozzle erosion problems and the need to complete performance testing before conducting an inaugural launch [caused further delay],” chief executive Elon Musk told Fight International at this year’s International Astronautical Congress held in Fukuoka, Japan. The launch had already been delayed to late September from August and then again to 31 October, due to the need to move the launch from Vandenberg AFB to the Kwajalein site in the Marshall Islands and technical issues.

The move was forced on SpaceX by overflight restrictions surrounding a pad-bound Titan IV at Vandenberg. As a knock-on effect, SpaceX was obliged to swap its first two payloads for the Falcon 1, placing US Air Force Academy’s Falconsat2 ahead of the joint Office of the Secretary of Defense and Naval Research Laboratory payload Tacsat. Musk confirmed that SpaceX now has seven firm orders for its Falcon 1 and two for the Falcon 9 heavylifter. A test-firing of the Falcon 9 is planned for mid-2006 with a first launch in 2007.

The Falcon 1 customers include the US Air Force, Swedish Space and a Malaysian operator, while those for the Falcon 9 are Bigelow Aerospace and the US government.


Source: Flight International