Falcon 9 sits ready for tests at the pad
No date has been fixed yet for the launch, but May has been mentioned as a realistic target. Over the next few months SpaceX will perform extensive integration and fueling tests to ensure the rocket is ready to fly, and the results of these tests will be the deciding factor in the timing of the actual launch.
I think this is the right approach as this isn't a business that should be rushed or driven by the need for success visibility. The goal is to create a new launch platform and that in itself is no mean feat. We have been sadly lacking in our approach to space over the last few decades, mainly because of the pitiful spending on space programs by governments, so the establishment of a private space enterprise will give it a much needed boost. Government will always have to cut back on such things due to poorly framed and underexposed arguments for the benefits and need for space exploration, but the private sector can drive the market far beyond the limits of public spending. My only concern is that corporations have a horrible knack of bowing to the almighty profit motive at the expense of the core principles that brought them into existence, so I will watch how SpaceX develops very closely over the coming years. The excitement of a new launch platform will likely overcome any trepidation though.
Look forward to Spacers covering the progress of Falcon 9.
Image credit: Chris Thompson/SpaceX