Californian rocket developer Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is to launch its Falcon 1 vehicle from its Kwajalein Atoll site in the Pacific, at 0900h Tuesday 20 March local time, 2300h GMT UK time today. The launch is the second demonstration flight and will carry a payload for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Falcon 1 is a 21.3 m (70 ft) tall two-stage, 38,555kg (85,000 lbs) liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene powered launch vehicle.

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 Above: Falcon 1 lifts off on its maiden flight

The Falcon 1’s maiden flight on 24 March 2006 lasted for 29s until a fire caused an automatic engine shut down that sent the vehicle into the sea.
Since then the company has modified the rocket and introduced far more automatic pre-launch checks.

“The flight readiness review conducted tonight shows all systems are go for a launch attempt. The launch will be postponed if we have even the tiniest concern,” says SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk, in a written update to his company’s website on 18 March. The webcast can be seen at and will start at T-60min.

If today’s flight is successful the company will launch a satellite for the US Navy Research Laboratory in the third quarter and then a satellite for the Malaysian Space Agency by the fourth quarter. SpaceX is also building an additional Falcon 1 because ongoing customer discussions could see a fourth Falcon 1 launch this year.