SpaceX Celebrates 15 Years Since Falcon 1’s Historic Launch to Orbit

SpaceX is celebrating the 15th anniversary of the first successful launch of Falcon 1 into Earth orbit. The historic launch ensured the further successful development of the company, opening the way for breakthrough developments.

Elon Musk has been fascinated by space and the possibility of colonizing Mars since childhood. This was the reason he founded SpaceX, which entered the arena with nothing more than a dusty old warehouse in the Los Angeles suburbs. However, the company had ambitious goals and sought to build as much of its rockets in-house as possible, including launch pads and rocket engines. A key feature of SpaceX rockets would be that they would guarantee more affordable launches than competitors.

SpaceX decided to use the island of Kwajalein, located between Guam and Hawaii, as a launch site. In March 2006, SpaceX launched the Falcon 1 rocket. The launch was not successful and the rocket fell directly onto the launch pad. This was followed by two more failures, which almost exhausted the team morally and the company financially. After months of tireless and continuous work, the SpaceX team prepared Falcon 1 for the final launch that would decide the future of the company. The launch was scheduled for September 28, 2008, and it was successful.

“As the rocket rumbled and then climbed higher, the employees inside SpaceX’s headquarters let out raucous cheers. Each milestone that followed—clearing the island, engine checks coming back good—was again met with whistles and shouts,” said Ashlee Vance in his book “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.”

“After the first stage fell away, the second stage fired up about 90 seconds into the flight and the employees turned downright rapturous, filling the webcast with their ecstatic hollering. ‘Perfect,’ said one of the talking heads. The Kestrel engine glowed red and started its six-minute burn. ‘When the second stage cleared, I could finally start breathing again and my knees stopped buckling,’ said James McLaury, a machinist at SpaceX.”

When Musk left the control room after the launch, he said: “Well, that was freaking awesome. As the saying goes, ‘The fourth time is the charm,’ right?”

Many years have passed since then and on Thursday, SpaceX celebrated the 15th anniversary of its historic launch. “15 years ago today, Falcon 1 was the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to reach Earth orbit,” the company wrote in an X post, adding a video.

The short video featured VP of Human Resources Brian Bjelde, Senior Propulsion Engineer Flo Li, and VP of Customer Operations and Integration Jessica Jensen. They remembered the time when Falcon 1 was being developed.

“For me, it was a dream come true because it was something we had been working so hard for, for years…,” said Li.

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