After a Week Reviewing the Data…
Elon Musk wrote a short post on SpaceX’s website about Falcon 1’s fourth launch, which was successful with a final orbit, confirmed by US Space Command, of 621 km by 643 km.
Orbit was achieved with the first burn terminating at 330.5 km altitude and 8.99 degree inclination. The goal for initial insertion was a 330 km altitude and a 9.0 degree inclination, so this was right on target! Accuracy far exceeded our expectations, particularly given that this was the first time Falcon 1 reached orbit.
According to SpaceX’s video, when the stage 2 engine was cut off, Falcon 1 was moving at a relative velocity of 26,327 kph (16,358 mph). It took it about one and a half hours to circle the Earth!
The next flight of Falcon 1 is tentatively scheduled for March next year and will carry a Malaysian primary satellite, as well as US government secondary satellites, to near equatorial orbit. Flight 6 will probably be a Defense Department satellite in the summer and Flight 7 a commercial satellite mission in the fall. In 2010, I expect the launch cadence for Falcon 1 to step up to a mission every two to three months.
Check out the very cool highlight reel of the Falcon 1 flight.