SpaceX Falcon Heavy (Most powerful rocket in 40 years)
Note the quoted cost figures. These are a fraction of the cost of much less powerful rockets from the legacy contractors. I believe Falcon Heavy could send people to the Moon. Payload is about half that of the original Saturn V Moon rocket, but advances in technology and changes in mission requirements (2 people rather than 3, for example) could bring a landing within reach at this payload level. Btw, each Saturn V cost $300 million in 1969 dollars, about $1.5 billion in current dollars.
Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket, represents SpaceX’s entry into the heavy lift launch vehicle category. With the ability to carry satellites or interplanetary spacecraft weighing over 53 metric tons (117,000 lb) to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Falcon Heavy can lift nearly twice the payload of the next closest vehicle, the US Space Shuttle, and more than twice the payload of the Delta IV Heavy.
With over 3.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, Falcon Heavy will be the most capable rocket flying. By comparison, the liftoff thrust of the Falcon Heavy equals fifteen Boeing 747 aircraft at full power.
VEHICLE INCLINATION ORBIT PAYLOAD TO LEO
Falcon Heavy 28.5 degrees 200 km 53,000 kg
Space Shuttle 28.5 degrees 200 km 24,400 kg
Delta IV Heavy 28.5 degrees 407 km 22,980 kg
Titan IV-B 28.5 degrees 150 km x175 km 21,680 kg
Proton M 51.6 degrees 200 km 21,000 kg
Ariane 5 ES 51.6 degrees 407 km 20,000 kg
Atlas V 551 28.5 degrees 200 km 18,810 kg
Japan H2B 30.4 degrees 300 km 16,500 kg
China LM3B 28.5 degrees 200 km 11,200 kg
Table of the world’s heavy lift vehicles, based on historical launch data. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit than Falcon Heavy.
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. SpaceX has already designed the Falcon 9 first stage to support the additional loads of this configuration, and with common structures and engines for both Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, development and operation of the Falcon Heavy will be highly cost-effective.
Mass to LEO (200 km, 28.5 deg): 53,000 kg (117,000 lb)
Overall Length: 69.2 m (227 ft)
Width (body): 3.6 m (12 ft) x 11.6 m (38 ft)
Width (fairing): 5.2 m (17 ft)
Mass on liftoff: 1,400,000 kg (3,100,000 lb)
Thrust on liftoff: 17 MN (3,800,000 lbf)
The Falcon Heavy is designed for extreme reliability and can tolerate the failure of several engines and still complete its mission. As on commercial airliners, protective shells surround each engine to contain a worst-case situation such as fire or a chamber rupture, and prevent it from affecting the other engines and stages. A disabled engine is automatically shut down, and the remaining engines operate slightly longer to compensate for the loss without detriment to the mission.
Falcon Heavy will be the first rocket in history to feature propellant cross-feed from the side boosters to the center core. Propellant cross-feeding leaves the center core still carrying the majority of its propellant after the side boosters separate. This gives Falcon Heavy performance comparable to that of a three-stage rocket, even though only the single Merlin engine on the upper stage requires ignition after lift-off, further improving both reliability and payload performance. Should cross-feed not be required for lower mass missions, it can be easily turned off.
Anticipating potential astronaut transport needs, Falcon Heavy is also designed to meet NASA human rating standards. Falcon Heavy is designed to higher structural safety margins of 40% above flight loads, rather than the 25% level of other rockets, and triple redundant avionics. Despite being designed to higher structural margins than other rockets, the Falcon Heavy side booster stages have a mass ratio (full vs. empty) above 30, better than any launcher in history. By comparison, the Delta IV side boosters have a mass ratio of about 10.
Below are the standard fairing dimensions for Falcon Heavy. Dimensions are in meters and in inches inside the brackets. Custom fairings are available at incremental cost.
SpaceX offers open and fixed pricing for its launch services. Modest discounts are available for contractually committed, multi-launch purchases.
Up to 6.4 ton to GTO $83M*
Greater than 6.4 ton to GTO $128M*