The launch of the private SpaceX rocket Falcon1 was successful. The private company, largely funded by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk, suffered failures in previous attempts, but this fourth launch went without a hitch. It’s the first privately funded launch vehicle to reach orbit.
This development could give a huge boost to earth observation satellites, as the company hopes to reduce the cost of space launches by half. The current costs of a satellite launch by primary defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Boeing puts launch costs at roughly $10,000 per pound, and there are a backlog of satellites waiting to get into orbit. Recall the trouble GeoEye had in scheduling the launch of their GeoEye-1 satellite that successfully reached orbit earlier this month aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket after many launch delays.
The next SpaceX launch is scheduled to carry the Malaysian Razaksat-1 earth observation satellite into orbit. The launch could occur as early as January 2009.
A video of the complete launch can be viewed on YouTube, including video feeds from the rocket itself.