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Falcon 9 is a family of two-stage-to-orbit medium lift launch vehicles, named for its use of nine Merlin first-stage engines, designed and manufactured by SpaceX. Variants include the initial v1.0 (expendable), v1.1 (partially-reusable), and current "Full Thrust" v1.2 (partially-reusable). Falcon 9 is powered by rocket engines utilizing liquid oxygen (LOX) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellants.
The current "Full Thrust" version can lift payloads of up to 22,800 kilograms (50,300 lb) to low Earth orbit, and up to 8,300 kg (18,300 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), when flying in expendable mode. The first stage can be recovered and reused for GTO payloads up to 5,500 kg (12,100 lb), automatically landing after disconnection of the second stage.
In 2008, SpaceX won a Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) using the Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule. The first mission under this contract launched in October 2012.
The initial Falcon 9 version 1.0 flew five times from June 2010 to March 2013 and version 1.1 flew fifteen times from September 2013 to January 2016. The current "Full Thrust" version has been in service since December 2015. The Falcon Heavy derivative groups three Falcon 9 first stages together side by side. SpaceX intends to certify the Falcon 9 to be human-rated for transporting NASA astronauts to the ISS as part of the Commercial Crew Development program. In October 2016, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced an upcoming "final upgrade" called Falcon 9 Block 5, which will feature increased engine thrust, improved landing legs, and other minor improvements to help recovery and reuse; its maiden flight planned for May 10, 2018.