Space Exploration Technologies continues its drive to turn the launch-vehicle market on its head with the first full-duration firing of the nine-engine first stage for its medium-lift Falcon 9. You can watch video of the firing here. The Falcon 9 is a big step up from the privately developed, single-engine Falcon 1, finally flown successfully on Sep. 28.
The Nov. 22 static firing on Space X's vertical test stand in McGregor, Texas, lasted 178 seconds - simulating an actual mission. All nine Merlin LOX/kerosene engines fired for 160 seconds, generating 855,000lb of sea-level thrust, then two were shut down to limit acceleration. The remaining seven continued firing for another 18 seconds to complete the simulated ascent.
SpaceX says the test demonstrated that the Falcon 9 is the first launch vehicle since the Saturn V with the capability to lose engines in flight and still complete its mission. First flight of the Falcon 9 is scheduled for 2009 from Cape Canaveral, a slip from the target date of fourth quarter 2008.