SpaceX have announced plan to launch the largest rocket in current usage with a massive payload of 53 metric tons. The Falcon Heavy will be second only to the Saturn V moon rocket for its ability to carry itself to escape velocity or orbit.
Elon Musk, CEO and chief rocket designer of Space Exploration Technologies said:
“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. This opens a new world of capability for both government and commercial space missions.
“Falcon Heavy will arrive at our Vandenberg, California, launch complex by the end of next year, with liftoff to follow soon thereafter. First launch from our Cape Canaveral launch complex is planned for late 2013 or 2014.”
The rocket will be able to carry satellites and interplanetary space craft. The vehicle is also is designed to meet NASA human rating standards, so that it can deliver astronauts into space.
The second most powerful rocket currently in use is the Delta IV Heavy – operated by United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture. The Falcon Heavy will have twice the payload capacity of the Delta IV Heavy.
Falcon Heavy’s first stage will be made up of three nine-engine cores, including 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.
Falcon Heavy will be the first rocket to use propellant cross-feed from the side boosters to the center core, thus leaving the center core with most of its propellant after the side boosters separate. Crossfeed is not required for missions below 100,000 lbs, and can be turned off if desired. The side booster stages will have a mass ratio (full of propellant vs empty) above 30.
- Mass to Orbit (200 km, 28.5 deg): 53 metric tons (117,000 lbs)
- Length: 69.2 meters (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 lbs
Funding for an even larger Super Heavy Lift Rock with a lift capacity of 70-130 metric tons is currently being debated in the US Senate.