SpaceX Successfully Launches the Falcon Heavy, the World’s Most Powerful Rocket That Can Go To Mars, Carrying a Red Tesla Roadster
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With more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, Falcon Heavy is world’s most capable rocket flying, essentially a turbocharged Falcon 9 rocket. By comparison, the liftoff thrust of the Falcon Heavy equals approximately to 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.
Falcon Heavy launch is very important because it will be lifting more payload than any other American rocket since the Saturn 5. It is also the first time that a commercial company has developed such a large rocket without any government funding. Falcon Heavy will allow SpaceX to bid on missions for the Air Force for some spy satellites that are too heavy for the Falcon 9. It will also be useful for carrying astronauts on deep space missions to the moon and eventually to Mars.
Elon Musk’s ultimate goal, developing colony on Mars, will require inventing new businesses and profits and possibly federal funding.
To see SpaceX Launch Manifest, please click HERE.(Be sure to scroll down for future missions)
Falcon Heavy is a reusable super heavy-lift launch vehicle designed and manufactured by SpaceX. The Falcon Heavy (previously known as the Falcon 9 Heavy) is a variant of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and consists of a strengthened Falcon 9 rocket core with two additional Falcon 9 first stages as strap-on boosters. This increases the low Earth orbit (LEO) maximum payload to 63,800 kilograms (140,700 lb), compared to 22,800 kilograms (50,300 lb) for a Falcon 9 full thrust. The Falcon Heavy will only be able to deliver this mass when it is fully expended; the maximum mass to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) with first stage and side booster recovery is 8,000 kilograms (17,637 lb), compared to 5,500 kilograms (12,100 lb) for a recoverable Falcon 9. Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and would enable crewed missions to the Moon or Mars.
Shortly after Falcon Heavy liftoff, a live feed of its payload, a Tesla Roadster and a spacesuit wearing mannequin named “Starman” came to be. Guitar god Joe Satriani has provided his new song “Cherry Blossoms” to sweeten the view delivered by SpaceX, below:
Concepts for a Falcon Heavy launch vehicle were initially discussed as early as 2004. SpaceX unveiled the plan for the Falcon Heavy to the public at a Washington DC news conference in April 2011, with initial test flight expected in 2013.
A number of factors delayed the planned maiden flight by 5 years to 2018, including two anomalies with Falcon 9 launch vehicles, which required all engineering resources to be dedicated to failure analysis, halting flight operations for many months. The integration and structural challenges of combining three Falcon 9 cores were much more difficult than expected.
In July 2017, Elon Musk stated:
“It actually ended up being way harder to do Falcon Heavy than we thought. … Really way, way more difficult than we originally thought. We were pretty naive about that.”
The initial test flight for Falcon Heavy was planned for February 6, 2018 at 3:45 pm EST, but was delayed for a few hours due to unfavourable wind conditions.
Conception and funding
Musk mentioned Falcon Heavy in a September 2005 news update, referring to a customer request from 18 months prior. Various solutions using the planned Falcon 5 had been explored, but the only cost-effective, reliable iteration was one that used a 9-engine first stage – the Falcon 9. Further exploration of the capabilities of the notional Falcon 9 vehicle led to a Falcon 9 Heavy concept. The Falcon Heavy is being developed with private capital. No government financing is being provided for its development.
The first stage is powered by three Falcon 9 derived cores, each equipped with nine Merlin 1D engines. The Falcon Heavy has a total sea-level thrust at liftoff of 22,819 kN (5,130,000 lbf), from the 27 Merlin 1D engines, while thrust rises to 24,681 kN (5,549,000 lbf) as the craft climbs out of the atmosphere. The upper stage is powered by a single Merlin 1D engine modified for vacuum operation, with a thrust of 934 kN (210,000 lbf), an expansion ratio of 117:1 and a nominal burn time of 397 seconds. At launch the center core throttles to full power for a few seconds for additional thrust, then throttles down. This allows a longer burn time. After the side boosters separate, the center core throttles back up to maximum thrust. For added reliability of restart, the engine has dual redundant pyrophoric igniters (TEA–TEB). The interstage, which connects the upper and lower stage for Falcon 9, is a carbon fiber aluminum core composite structure. Stage separation occurs via reusable separation collets and a pneumatic pusher system. The Falcon 9 tank walls and domes are made from aluminium-lithium alloy. SpaceX uses an all-friction stir welded tank. The second stage tank of Falcon 9 is simply a shorter version of the first stage tank and uses most of the same tooling, material and manufacturing techniques. This approach reduces manufacturing costs during vehicle production.
All three cores of the Falcon Heavy arrange the engines in a structural form SpaceX calls Octaweb, aimed at streamlining the manufacturing process, and each core will include four extensible landing legs. To control the descent of the boosters and center core through the atmosphere, SpaceX uses small grid fins which deploy from the vehicle after separation. Immediately after the side boosters separate, the center engine in each will burn for a few seconds in order to control the booster’s trajectory safely away from the rocket. The legs will then deploy as the boosters turn back to Earth, landing each softly on the ground. The center core will continue to fire until stage separation, after which its legs will deploy and land back on Earth on a drone ship. The landing legs are made of carbon fiber with aluminum honeycomb. The four legs stow along the sides of each core during liftoff and later extend outward and down for landing. Both the grid fins and the landing legs on the Falcon Heavy are currently undergoing testing on the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, which are intended to be used for vertical landing once the post-mission technology development effort is completed.
The Falcon Heavy falls into the super heavy-lift range of launch systems under the classification system used by a NASA human spaceflight review panel.
The initial concept (Falcon 9-S9 2005) envisioned payloads of 24,750 kilograms (54,560 lb) to LEO, but by April 2011 this was projected to be up to 53,000 kilograms (117,000 lb) with GTO payloads up to 12,000 kilograms (26,000 lb). Later reports in 2011 projected higher payloads beyond LEO, including 19,000 kilograms (42,000 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit, 16,000 kilograms (35,000 lb) to translunar trajectory, and 14,000 kilograms (31,000 lb) on a trans-Martian orbit to Mars.
By late 2013, SpaceX raised the projected GTO payload for Falcon Heavy to up to 21,200 kilograms (46,700 lb).
In April 2017, the projected LEO payload for Falcon Heavy was raised from 54,400 kilograms (119,900 lb) to 63,800 kilograms (140,700 lb). The maximum payload is achieved when the rocket flies a fully expendable launch profile, not recovering any of the three first-stage boosters.
|Destination||Falcon Heavy||Falcon 9|
to Apr 2016
to Mar 2017
|Since Apr 2017|
|LEO (28.5°)||53,000 kg||54,400 kg||63,800 kg||22,800 kg|
|GTO (27°)||21,200 kg||22,200 kg||26,700 kg||8,300 kg|
|GTO (27°) reusable||6,400 kg||6,400 kg||8,000 kg||5,500 kg|
|Mars||13,200 kg||13,600 kg||16,800 kg||4,020 kg|
|Pluto||–||2,900 kg||3,500 kg||–|
Falcon Heavy was originally designed with a unique propellant crossfeed capability, where the center core engines are supplied with fuel and oxidizer from the two side cores, up until the side cores are near empty and ready for the first separation event. Igniting all engines from all three cores at launch and operating them at full thrust with fuel mainly from the side boosters would deplete the side boosters sooner, allowing their earlier separation, in turn leaving the central core with most of its propellant at booster separation. The propellant crossfeed system, nicknamed “asparagus staging”, comes from a proposed booster design in a book on orbital mechanics by Tom Logsdon. According to the book, an engineer named Ed Keith coined the term “asparagus-stalk booster” for launch vehicles using propellant crossfeed. Musk has stated that crossfeed is not currently planned to be implemented, at least in the first Falcon Heavy version.
Current plans have the center booster throttling down shortly after liftoff and resuming full thrust after side boosters separate.
Although not a part of the initial Falcon Heavy design, SpaceX is doing parallel development on a reusable rocket launching system that is intended to be extensible to the Falcon Heavy, recovering all parts of the rocket.
Early on, SpaceX had expressed hopes that all rocket stages would eventually be reusable. SpaceX has since demonstrated both land and sea recovery of the first stage of the Falcon 9 a number of times and have made attempts to recover the fairing. This approach is particularly well suited to the Falcon Heavy, where the two outer cores separate from the rocket much earlier in the flight profile and are therefore both moving at a lower velocity at the initial separation event. Since late 2013, every Falcon 9 first stage has been instrumented and equipped as a controlled-descent test vehicle. For the first flight of Falcon Heavy, SpaceX is considering the possibility of recovering the second stage.
SpaceX has indicated that the Falcon Heavy payload performance to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) will be reduced due to the addition of the reusable technology, but would fly at a much lower per-launch price. With full reusability on all three booster cores, GTO payload will be 8,000 kg (18,000 lb). If only the two outside cores fly as reusable cores while the center core is expendable, GTO payload would be approximately 16,000 kg (35,000 lb).
We’ve got to hand it to Elon and SpaceX, this is definitely the most colorful as well as the most musical launch EVER! Below, is the recap of today’s historic Falcon Heavy test launch by SpaceX and Q&A with the press:
Below, is the post-successful launch report of Falcon Heavy by CNN Tech’s Rachel Crane, below:
Gathered, written, and posted by Windermere Sun-Susan Sun Nunamaker
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