Privately built rocket completes test firing

A privately built rocket that's intended to dramatically reduce the cost of space transport has completed a test firing.

The Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, says that its Falcon 1 rocket completed a successful engine test in California on May 27. SpaceX was founded three years ago by Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal.

(Here's a photo gallery with images of what the Falcon 1 looks like.)

SpaceX has conducted other test firings of the Falcon 1 while it was in Texas, but counts last week's success as crucial because the rocket was hooked up to a final set of ground support gear at Vandenberg Air Force Base. A launch is expected from Vandenberg this summer.

The Falcon 1 is noteworthy because--if its maiden flight is successful--it's expected to lift payloads into orbit at around one-quarter the cost of rivals such as Orbital Sciences' Pegasus rocket. Another, larger SpaceX rocket called the Falcon V is scheduled to launch next year.


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