Since its founding in 2002, SpaceX has worked tirelessly towards its goals of revolutionizing space technology and landing humans on Mars. And now, with more than 20 ISS resupply missions under their belt, SpaceX is looking towards the future, planning and preparing for a launch like no other.
Before the year comes to a close, SpaceX hopes to launch what will be the most powerful rocket on Earth: Falcon Heavy. The Falcon Heavy presents a challenge unlike any yet faced in the era of private spaceflight. So, what does this launch entail? We have the details of what’s in store.
The Power of Falcon Heavy
The launch of Falcon Heavy has been highly anticipated, and not without reason. The world hasn’t seen a heavy-launch vehicle of this magnitude since the Saturn 5 rockets carried the Apollo astronauts to the Moon in the 70s. Not only will the Falcon Heavy be the most powerful rocket the world has seen, but it’s reusability makes it the most cost-effective rocket as well.
The Falcon Heavy combines three first stage cores from the Falcon 9, SpaceX’s current launcher. Each core carries nine Merlin engines, enough to generate more than five million pounds [2.3 million kg] of thrust at lift-off. With this kind of power, the Falcon Heavy will have the ability to lift into orbit over 54 metric tons (119,000 lb) – a mass “equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel,” according to SpaceX.
One of the most advanced features of the Falcon rockets is that, after first stage separation, the boosters were designed for a controlled descent back to the ground. Up until now, practically all orbital rockets have been expendable, so they’re basically thrown away once they launch into space. That means an entirely new rocket – which can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make – has to be rebuilt for each mission.
With SpaceX’s strategy, rockets can fly multiple missions, cutting down on manufacturing costs and making space exploration cheaper than ever before.
Falcon Heavy Launch Stages
Earlier this month, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk posted this video to his Instagram account, showing a first draft digital animation of the Falcon Heavy launch.
In the video, you can see the two stages of the Falcon Heavy launch as follows:
- First Stage
At liftoff, the three cores containing 27 Merlin engines will propel the Falcon Heavy upwards, with the same thrust of eighteen 747 aircrafts taking off at once. Shortly after liftoff, the center core engines are throttled down and once the side cores separate and begin their controlled descent back to Earth, the center core engines throttle back up to full thrust.
- Second Stage
The second stage Merlin engine, identical to its counterpart on the Falcon 9, delivers the rocket’s payload to orbit after the main engines cut off and the first-stage cores separate. This second stage engine was modified to operate in the vacuum of space. The engine is designed to burn for about six minutes, and can be shut down and restarted multiple times as needed to deliver different payloads, including the Dragon Spacecraft, into different orbits.
Musk captioned the video stating, “First draft animation of the Falcon Heavy three core launch. FH is twice the thrust of the next largest rocket currently flying and ~2/3 thrust of the Saturn V moon rocket. Lot that can go wrong in the November launch …”
As Musk noted, there is a lot that can wrong. Each rocket core has to be able to ignite simultaneously and land successfully. That’s like landing three Falcon 9s at the same time, which has proven to be difficult in the past.
Falcon Heavy Launch Date
Still, the world looks forward to the launch of the Falcon Heavy, which – as Musk stated in a tweet– is set for this November.
Falcon Heavy maiden launch this November https://t.co/D4Dxq9d6hc
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 28, 2017
Launching out of Cape Canaveral, the success of the Falcon Heavy would put SpaceX one step closer to their mission to land man on Mars. Will you make it Florida’s Space Coast for the launch? Book your stay with us for an experience you won’t forget!