Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) today announced the details of a substantial upgrade to its Falcon rocket family under development and scheduled for completion in 2005.

Drawing from experience with the single engine Falcon I, unveiled in Washington DC last month and due to launch in mid 2004, SpaceX is developing a five engine version that will be the first American rocket with true engine out reliability in three decades. Depending upon the phase of flight, Falcon V will be capable of losing any three of the five engines and still complete its mission. Historically, engine related problems are the overwhelming cause of launch vehicle failures.

Not since the Apollo program’s Saturn V, developed over three decades ago, will there be this level of reliability available in the United States. Extremely rare among rockets, Saturn V had a flawless flight record, despite having an engine fail on two separate missions. Without engine out safety, the Apollo Moon program would have had two flight failures, possibly with tragic consequences.

The Falcon V also significantly increases the capability of the Falcon family, with a capacity of over 9,200 pounds to low orbit and up to a 13.1 foot (4 meter) diameter payload fairing. The vehicle is also capable of launching missions to geostationary orbit and the inner solar system, as well as carrying supplies to the International Space Station with the addition of a lightweight automated transfer vehicle.

With firm contract pricing set at $12 million per flight (2003 dollars) plus range costs, the approximately $1300 cost per pound to orbit will represent a new world record in the normally available cost of access to space for a production rocket (excluding only limited use, refurbished military hardware from the former Soviet Union).

About SpaceX

SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles intended to improve the cost and reliability of access to space ultimately by a factor of ten. The initial focus is satellite delivery, but human transportation is a long term goal. The previously announced Falcon I, also a two stage, liquid-fueled orbital launch vehicle, is the company’s first product and will launch in mid 2004 carrying a US Defense Department satellite. The entire Falcon I and Falcon V vehicles, including main and upper stage engines, primary structure, avionics and guidance control, are developed internally at SpaceX.

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


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