SpaceX slates launch date for world’s most powerful rocket
By ECM Plus staff
ECM Plus +++ When it comes to real content management, Spacex’s Falcon Heavy payload shifting rocket system is the big one, set to hoist more than twice as much content spacewards as any other launch vehicle ever.
Elon Musk, CEO and chief rocket designer for Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) unveiled the dramatic final specifications and launch date for the Falcon Heavy, the world’s largest rocket.
“Falcon Heavy will carry more payload to orbit or escape velocity than any vehicle in history, apart from the Saturn V moon rocket, which was decommissioned after the Apollo program” said Musk..
The Falcon Heavy will arrive at Spacex’s Vandenberg, California, launch facilitiy at the end of 2012, with lift-off to follow soon thereafter, the company said.
First launch from Cape Canaveral is planned for late 2013-2014, Musk confirmed.
With the ability to carry satellites or inter-planetary spacecraft weighing over 53 metric tons or 117,000 pounds into orbit, the Falcon Heavy will have more than twice the performance of the Delta IV Heavy, the next most powerful vehicle, which is operated by United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture.
At 53 metric tons, the Falcon Heavy is more than the maximum take-off weight of a fully-loaded Boeing 737-200 with 136 passengers. Falcon Heavy can deliver the equivalent of an entire commercial airplane full of passengers, crew, luggage and fuel all the way to orbit.
Spacex bsaid that Falcon Heavy’s first stage will be made up of three nine-engine cores, which are used as the first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle. It will be powered by SpaceX’s upgraded Merlin engines currently being tested at the SpaceX rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas. Falcon Heavy will generate 3.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. This is the equivalent to the thrust of fifteen Boeing 747s taking off at the same time.
The company said that the Heavy had been designed for extreme reliability, with safety features of the Falcon 9 being preserved, such as the ability to complete its mission even if multiple engines fail.
As with a commercial airliner, each engine is surrounded by a protective shell that contains a worst case situation like fire or a chamber rupture, preventing it from affecting other engines or the vehicle itself.
Anticipating potential astronaut transport needs, Falcon Heavy is also designed to meet NASA human rating standards, unlike other satellite launch vehicles. For example, this means designing to higher structural safety margins of 40% above flight loads, rather than the 25% level of other rockets, and triple redundant avionics.
Falcon Heavy will be the first rocket in history to do propellant cross-feed from the side boosters to the centre core, leaving the centre core with most of its propellant after the side boosters separate. The net effect is that Falcon Heavy achieves performance comparable to a three-stage rocket, even though only the upper stage is airlit, further improving both payload performance and reliability.
Falcon Heavy at approximately $1,000 per pound to orbit, sets a new world record in affordable spaceflight.
On a per launch basis, Falcon 9 is being offered on the commercial market for US$50 to US60 million and Falcon Heavy is offered for US$80 to $125 million. The price includes all non-recurring development costs and on-orbit delivery of an agreed upon mission.
Mass to Orbit (200 km, 28.5 deg): 53 metric tons (117,000 lb)
Length: 69.2 m (227 ft)
Max Stage Width: 5.2 m (17 ft)
Total Width: 11.6 meters (38 ft)
Weight at Liftoff: 1,400 metric tons or 3.1 million lbs
Thrust on Liftoff: 1,700 metric tons or 3.8 million lbsAbout SpaceX