Space Exploration Technologies' (Spacex) first Falcon 9 booster is shown here under construction at the company's El Segundo facility in California. The 47m (154ft) tall booster, with its 3.6m diameter fairing variant, has a low Earth orbit (LEO) payload capcity of 9,300kg (20,460lb).

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It is expected to have its maiden flight in the first quarter of 2008. Spacex currently has a manifest for the launcher of six payloads from 2008 to the second quarter of 2009. Based on the company's Falcon 1 technology Falcon 9 is a fully reusable two-stage, liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene powered vehicle.

It uses the same engines, structural architecture, but with a wider diameter, avionics and launch system as the Falcon 1. But the Falcon 9's first stage uses nine of Spacex's Merlin engines with 85,000lb (378kN) sea level thrust each, for a total lift off force of 3,404kN. The second stage uses one Merlin engine. The 570kg to LEO Falcon 1's second demonstration launch, from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific, is expected by the end of the year.