The first non-qualification Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage left SpaceX's Hawthorn, California plant for the McGregor, Texas test facility today.
A set of (very loud) first stage test burns can't be too far behind
The F9 v1.1's maiden flight is set for ~June 18, 2013 from SpaceX's new SLC-4E facility at Vandenberg AFB in California. The payload will be a satellite for Canada's space agency - the CASSIOPE mission. CASSIOPE will be placed in an elliptical polar orbit.
CASSIOPE info: http://mertensiana.p...a/cassiope.html
After the first stage separates it will turn about and attempt to perform a powered descent to a soft water landing in the Pacific off Vandenberg. This will be the first full test of their reusable booster technologies. Once this is (hopefully) perfected landing gear will be fitted and the stages will land on the ground.
The V1.1 is 227 ft tall with the standard 5.2 meter fairing vs. 180 ft for the Falcon 9 v1.0, or 156 ft with a Dragon spacecraft. The extra length holds a massively larger propellant load to feed its 9 upgraded Merlin 1D engines.
First stage thrust: about 1.27 million lb-f
F9 v1.1 will be able to lift 13.5 metric tons to a low Earth orbit, allowing for 2 engines out capability, or 16.0 metric tons without it. F9 v1.0 could lift 10.45 metric tons. These numbers will increase significantly when the methane fueled Raptor upper stage arrives. Engine out lets the F9 continue flying with up to 2 blown engines.
A Falcon 9 v1.1 is also the center (core) stage of the massive Falcon Heavy booster, which is specced to orbit 53 metric tons - the weight of a fully loaded Boeing 737-200.
In perspective; a standard F9 v1.1 will outperform all but 2 versions of the Atlas V, and with the Raptor upper stage even those are likely to be surpassed. Prices;
Falcon 9 v1.1: $54M
Atlas V (cheapest version): $80M
F9 v1.0 vs F9 v1.1 & Falcon Heavy (its side boosters will be longer than shown)
Concept shot of a landing Falcon 9 RLV (shown w/ v1.0 core)