We talk about the pitcher falcon 1, ie the first rocket made by spacex that was able to reach the low Earth orbit. A long and fascinating history, made of apparently insurmountable challenges, successes but also many failures. Mars was already in the dreams of the entrepreneur but his ambitions had to proceed by degrees.
Was the 6th May 2002, when a younger elon musk but already known in the field of entrepreneurship for its previous experiences with the software company zip2 and especially with paypal, founded the spacex aerospace company. Eccentric, but with a breath for the most unique and rare business, so it was considered elon musk in those years. Was already becoming a legend and the theatricality of his way of working did not go unnoticed.
The stadium (as well as the merlin engines) was designed to be recovered at sea, while the braking action was entrusted to a ring parachute of 22,9 meters in diameter. The intention of spacex was to recover parts of the first stage to break the costs with the subsequent reuses. In parallel, engine developments also began: That’s how merlin 1a was born.
Designed for the first stage, it was a gas generator engine that used a pintle type injector capable of offering a thrust of about 40 tons (378 kn). Thus begins planning the first two-stage rocket powered by RP-1 kerosene and liquid oxygen. Falcon 1 measured 21,3 meters in height and 1.7 meters in width: was able to carry a 600 kg load in orbit.
But before arriving at the most recent rockets there is an interesting story to tell about falcon 1, a story interspersed with many failures and conquests, which helps us understand how spacex has finally reached the current success in aerospace. To begin with the company struggled with several problems related to the merlin engines found during the development phases. The first aluminum collectors, for example, were cracked during the tests and required their replacement with elements inconel alloy, heavier and resistant.
The second stage, not recoverable, was made of aluminum even if initially it was thought to the use of aluminum-lithium alloy. The main advantage offered by this alloy was certainly lightness, however this possibility was abandoned due to the difficulties related to the supply of metal. Spacex had not yet tested its reusable rocket, yet it had already managed to realize some commercial contracts.
The launch of a test load for the bigelow aerospace company was subsequently put into the construction site. The latter launch provided even the use of the next model, the falcon 5, undeveloped rocket and never will see the light. By now it was all ready for the next step and to hate a mathematical parallelism, we could define it as “the 9th test.”
The first attempt to launch falcon 1 was scheduled for 25 November 2005.but it would have been too nice if everything was just spinning right at the first attempt. In fact, the launch was canceled after spacex detected a problem with a lox vent valve and the operation was postponed to 19 December. But also in this case the programs jumped and this time it was not the fault of the company, in fact, were the strong winds to push spacex to cancel the launch.
At this point the damaged unit was shipped to the headquarters of los angeles for repairs and in the meantime it was replaced with that of the second rocket made by spacex in the same year. We then arrive at 9 February 2006, when an ignition test was completed on the omelek pad. This time, a problem was overshadowed by the company’s plans, as a new loss of propellant during the tests again caused the launch.
This time the problem was about the second stage. On this occasion, the second stage was replaced with the second rocket produced by spacex, which became the main supplier of spare parts. Small note for the payload: it was an experimental microsatellite built by students of the air force academy, which crashed against the roof of a store on the island.