SpaceX Falcon 9 times three on your SpacePod for May 11th, 2010As one spaceship ends its career, another one is just beginning. The SpaceX Falcon 9 is getting ready for launch. An exact date is not yet set in stone, but the last we have heard was a No Earlier Than May 16th launch date. Rumors say May 23rd, but we'll see how that flight termination system we talked about last week ends up.The Falcon 9 that is getting ready to launch is but one of three that SpaceX has built or is in the process of building. This first flight is to test the basic system, then Falcon 9 flight 2 is designed to be the first flight under the COTS program and the first flight of an operational Dragon spacecraft.Dragon is the cargo capsule that is capable of being man-rated but is not yet there, so cargo only for now. The initial COTS-1 Dragon module will orbit the Earth several times then re-enter and splashdown off the coast of Southern California. This is designed to test the basic functions of Dragon as well as the Draco thrusters. And that's one of the really cool things about SpaceX. Unlike other companies, these engines are all SpaceX designs. The Merlin 1C engines that lift the Falcon 9 are SpaceX engines, not decommissioned ICBMs like on other rockets. The Draco thrusters that allow the Dragon capsule to steer and orient itself in space are also SpaceX designs and not just a part purchased from a defunct Government space program somewhere. It's sorta fun to watch the test of the Draco Thrusters, almost like they are trying to make a song of sorts.And then there's Falcon 9 Flight 3. Heck, flight #1 isn't even off the ground yet and already SpaceX is working on creating their third Falcon 9 rocket! Production for this rocket has already started with completion of several sections. Ten Merlin engines are being worked on now, nine Merlin 1C engines and one Merline Vacuum engine.While we will be sad to see the Space Shuttle leave us, it will also be a fun new beginning for commercial space companies like SpaceX. These companies can't be given a free ride and will need to prove that they have vehicles capable of safe transport of not just cargo but humans as well. But we also can't just throw up our hands and call it 'unproven technology'. All technology is unproven until, well, proven otherwise. It is the 'unproven' technology that changes the world, not the stuff we already know about.