An astonishing development just happened at SpaceX

In Science

An astonishing development just happened at SpaceX

The Elon Musk company just tested its Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time, a rocket that could eventually send mankind to Mars.

After years and years of waiting, SpaceX has just successfully tested its Falcon Heavy rocket by firing on of its three first stage cores at a facility in Texas recently. It’s a huge step forward for the company, which has been developing the gigantic rocket since 2011 in the hopes of using it to launch even larger payloads, and potentially even man to Mars.

The Falcon Heavy is much bigger than the Falcon 9 rocket used to send payloads into space today, and has been likened to three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together. It can blast 140,000 pounds into space, which compares favorably with the 50,000 that the Falcon 9 can send into orbit.

SpaceX posted video of the dramatic test firing of the rocket online. A few months ago, the rocket underwent the first static test. Like the Falcon 9, SpaceX intends to make the rocket recoverable after launch.

Here’s what SpaceX says on its website about Falcon Heavy.

When Falcon Heavy lifts off in 2017, it will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. With 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–Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third the cost. Falcon Heavy draws upon the proven heritage and

reliability of Falcon 9. Its first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit. Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars.

Falcon Heavy missions will deliver large payloads to orbit inside a composite fairing, but the rocket can also carry the Dragon spacecraft.


The composite payload fairing protects satellites during delivery to destinations in low Earth orbit (LEO), geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) and beyond.

Falcon Heavy draws upon Falcon 9’s proven design, which minimizes stage separation events and maximizes reliability. The second-stage Merlin engine, identical to its counterpart on Falcon 9, delivers the rocket’s payload to orbit after the main engines cut off and the first-stage cores separate. The engine can be restarted multiple times to place payloads into a variety of orbits including low Earth, geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) and geosynchronous orbit (GSO).

Three cores make up the first stage of Falcon Heavy. The side cores, or boosters, are connected at the base and at the top of the center core’s liquid oxygen tank. The three cores, with a total of 27 Merlin engines, generate 22,819 kilonewtons (5.13 million pounds) of thrust at liftoff. Shortly after liftoff the center core engines are throttled down. After the side cores separate, the center core engines throttle back up to full thrust.

Each of Falcon Heavy’s side cores, or boosters, is equivalent to the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket with nine Merlin engines. At liftoff, the boosters and the center core all operate at full thrust. Shortly after liftoff, the center core engines are throttled down. After the side cores separate, the center core engines throttle back up.

Inside each of Falcon Heavy’s three cores is a cluster of nine Merlin engines. These same engines power Falcon 9, enabling efficiencies that make Falcon Heavy the most cost-effective heavy-lift launch vehicle in the world. With a total of 27 first-stage engines, Falcon Heavy has engine-out capability that no other launch vehicle can match—under most payload scenarios, it can sustain more than one unplanned engine shutdown at any point in flight and still successfully complete its mission.

WITH MORE THAN 5 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 approximately eighteen 747 aircraft at full power. Below is a comparison chart of the world’s heavy lift vehicles, based on historical launch data. Falcon Heavy can lift the equivalent of a fully loaded 737 jetliner–complete with passengers, luggage and fuel–to orbit.  Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit than Falcon Heavy.

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