I received two news emails from SpaceX today. The first one said that they successfully conducted the first nine engine firing (pictured) of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle at its Texas Test Facility outside McGregor on July 31st, two months ahead of schedule. This is the full engine complement for the first stage of the big vehicle that will carry cargo and eventually passengers to the ISS in the next couple of years.
The other big news is that they plan to launch the Falcon 1 this evening from Omelek Island at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. The launch window opens at 7 pm EDT (4 pm PDT) and there will be a live webcast of the launch. I will be at an astronomy club meeting this evening and I hope we can get web access to watch this (our usual university meeting place is being painted so we have to meet in another building). I can always tether my Blackberry if there's a good Verizon signal but I'm not sure how well that will work on streaming video!
This will be the third launch of the Falcon 1. The first two tests failed to achieve orbit, though the second demo flight in March 2007 came close. I'm sure they have worked out the design problems discovered in the earlier tests and I look forward to a successful launch tonight.
UPDATE: After several delays and an aborted launch attempt, the Falcon 1 was launched at 11:34 pm EDT. Unfortunately at about 140 seconds into the flight, an unidentified "anomaly" was reported and the webcast ended. The vehicle was apparently lost. I read later that the second stage failed to separate. This is a big disappointment for SpaceX and private space fans, but they will press on. "For my part, I will never give up and I mean never," SpaceX president Elon Musk said.