Falcon 1 Flight 3
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Falcon 1 Flight 3 took off from Omelek Island on Kwajalein in August 2008, nearly one and a half years after the second failed attempt of Falcon 1. Unlike flight 2, flight 3 carried a myriad of 4 small satellites: Trailblazer for the U.S. Air Force; the 4kg satellite NanoSail-D which had an solar sail area of 10 square metres; the breadloaf sized PRESat, which was to study yeast in a controlled environment in micro-gravity, and a orbital burial capsule for Celestis.

Flight 3 of Falcon 1 was the first to feature the all new more powerful Merlin 1C engine which would go on to power the first five Falcon 9 launches and generate a thrust of 480kN in a vacuum with a vacuum specific impulse of 304.8 seconds, and an extended body to accommodate extra propellant.

Liftoff occurred at 3:34 UTC on the 3rd of August after 2 recycle attempts, and the new Merlin 1C engine performed perfectly. Taking in a wealth of improvements that were made after the second flight, the flight went well until at stage separation, some residual fuel in the new Merlin 1C engine evaporated, providing enough transient thrust for the first stage to recontact the second stage, which prevented successful mission completion resulting in all payloads being lost. The vehicle ultimately reached a top velocity of 3.2km/s and a peak altitude of 217km. This seemingly laughable mistake was discovered in a matter of hours and deemed fixable by simply increasing the duration between first stage shutdown and stage separation - one line of code.

At this point, SpaceX was near bankruptcy, and barely had the funds to make a fourth flight. After the failure of the flight, Elon Musk walked out and addressed the company, revealing that funding had been secured for another 2 launches if needed, and that SpaceX would pick itself back up. It did.

3rd 3rd Falcon 1 Flight 3LEO F1-003 Omelek Island, Kwajalein
Falcon 1 Launch Time/Date
PayloadDestination Core Launch Site

Flight 3 of Falcon 1 was to place a quadro of small satellites into Earth orbit, but again failed.

Falcon 1 Flight 3 was the 3rd SpaceX launch, the 3rd flight of Falcon 1, and the 1st launch of the year.
Payload Falcon 1 Flight 3
Launch Time/Date (UTC)
Launch Site Omelek Island, Kwajalein
Destination LEO
Astronauts Aboard 0
Core(s) Used F1-003
Total Satellites 4 (Trailblazer, PRESat, NanoSail-D, Celestis 7)
First Stage Outcome Destroyed on reentry
Upper Stage
Upper Stage Outcome Did not achieve orbit
Upper Stage NORAD Identifier None
Upper Stage International Designator None
News Articles
GizmagSpaceX prepares for Falcon 9/Dragon spacecraft demonstrationGizmag19 Dec 2007
Spaceflight NowFalcon 1 suffers another setbackSpaceflight Now3 Aug 2008
space.comSpaceX's Falcon 1 Falters For a Third Time space.com3 Aug 2008
GizmodoSpaceX Falcon 1 Rocket Blew Up, Fourth Time's the Charm?Gizmodo3 Aug 2008
NatureFalcon 1 blows it againNature4 Aug 2008
SpaceRefSpaceX Determines Cause of Falcon 1 Launch FailureSpaceRef6 Aug 2008
Spaceflight NowCollision between rocket stages doomed Falcon 1Spaceflight Now6 Aug 2008

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