Press Release

SpaceX Launch Vehicle on Track for First Launch; SpaceX Successfully Fires Falcon Rocket Upper Stage Engine

By SpaceRef Editor
August 11, 2003
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif.–Aug. 11, 2003–Space Exploration Technologies
Corporation (SpaceX) announced today the successful test firing of the
Falcon rocket’s upper stage engine, called Kestrel. The liquid oxygen
and rocket grade kerosene powered engine, which has a vacuum thrust of
7500 lbs, achieved reliable ignition and stable combustion.

In the early weeks of testing, the engine achieved an efficiency
of 94.8%, which is higher than many production rocket engines. As a
basis for comparison, the Saturn V F-1 engine achieved 93.5%. An
ultimate efficiency of approximately 96% and vacuum specific impulse
of 325s are expected.

The Kestrel engine is capable of multiple restarts in vacuum for
precise placement of one or more spacecraft, and is designed both for
high fuel efficiency and light weight. When combined with the advanced
aluminum-lithium tank structure, the result is among the industry’s
best performance for a pressure fed rocket stage while maintaining
substantially lower costs.

“This represents another major milestone in our Falcon launch
vehicle development,” said Elon Musk, Chairman & CEO of SpaceX. “We
have now successfully fired both our main engine and upper stage
engine, placing SpaceX well on the road to completing development of
the two stage Falcon by December 2003.” The launch vehicle will be
unveiled at an event near the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. in
December. Details to follow in coming months.

About SpaceX

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is developing a family of
launch vehicles intended to reduce the cost and increase the
reliability of access to space by a factor of ten. Falcon, the initial
launch vehicle from SpaceX, is developed from the ground up, including
both engines, all structure, avionics and launch pad operations. It is
capable of over 1400 lbs to orbit in the standard and over 4500 lbs to
orbit in the heavy configuration. The privately-developed Falcon is
approximately 80% reusable, which will make it the only semi-reusable
launch vehicle in the world apart from the Space Shuttle, which is 90%

Located in El Segundo, California, the company was founded by CEO
Elon Musk in June 2002. SpaceX is the third company founded by Mr.
Musk. Previously he co-founded and was the largest shareholder of
PayPal(TM), the world’s leading electronic payment system, which sold
to online auction giant eBay(TM) for $1.5 billion in 2002. In 1995,
Mr. Musk co-founded Zip2 Corporation, which sold to Compaq Computer
Corporation for over $300 million. More information about SpaceX can
be found at


CONTACT: Space Exploration Technologies Corporation
Tereza Predescu, 202-415-5415

SpaceRef staff editor.