|Function||Orbital launch vehicle and potential Lunar launch vehicle|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Cost per launch (2014)||$77–135M|
|Height||68.4 m (224 ft)|
|Diameter||3.66 m (12.0 ft)|
|Mass||1,462,836 kg (3,225,001 lb)|
|Payload to LEO||53,000 kg (117,000 lb)|
|21,200 kg (46,700 lb)|
|Launch sites||Vandenberg SLC-4E
|Boosters (Stage 0)|
|Engines||9 Merlin 1D|
|Thrust||5,880 kN (1,323,000 lbf) (sea-level)|
|Total thrust||11,770 kN (2,646,000 lbf) (sea-level)|
|Specific impulse||Sea level: 282 sec
Vacuum: 311 sec
|Engines||9 Merlin 1D|
|Thrust||5,880 kN (1,323,000 lbf)(sl)|
|Specific impulse||Sea level: 282 sec
Vacuum: 311 sec
|Engines||1 Merlin 1D Vacuum|
|Thrust||801 kN (180,000 lbf)|
|Specific impulse||Vacuum: 342 sec |
|Burn time||375 seconds|
Falcon Heavy (FH), previously known as the Falcon 9 Heavy, is a spaceflight launch system being designed and manufactured by SpaceX. Both stages of the two-stage-to-orbit vehicle use liquid oxygen (LOX) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellants, on a SpaceX-designed rocket engine, the Merlin 1D. Multiple variants are planned with payloads of 53,000 kilograms (117,000 lb) to low Earth orbit (LEO), 21,200 kilograms (46,700 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), and 13,200 kilograms (29,100 lb) to Mars.
The payload to LEO falls into the "super heavy-lift" range of launch systems under the classification system used by a NASA human spaceflight review panel.
The first launch is expected in 2015.
At an appearance in May 2004 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Elon Musk testified, "Long term plans call for development of a heavy lift product and even a super-heavy, if there is customer demand. We expect that each size increase would result in a meaningful decrease in cost per pound to orbit. ... Ultimately, I believe $500 per pound or less is very achievable. " This $500 per pound goal stated by Musk in 2011 is 35 percent of the cost of the lowest-cost-per-pound LEO-capable launch system in a circa-2000 study, referenced by spaceref.com in 2001, the Zenit, a medium-lift launch vehicle that can carry 14,000 kilograms (30,000 lb) into LEO.
At a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. on 5 April 2011, Elon Musk stated, “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.”
As of March 2013[update], Falcon Heavy launch prices are below $1,000 per pound ($2,200/kg) to low-Earth orbit when the launch vehicle is transporting its maximum delivered cargo weight. The published prices for Falcon Heavy launches have moved some from year to year, with announced prices for the various versions of Falcon Heavy priced at US$80-125 million in 2011, US$83-128 million in 2012, and US$77.1-135 million in 2013. Launch contracts typically reflect launch prices at the time the contract is signed.
SpaceX's originally announced schedule expected the Falcon Heavy demonstration rocket would arrive at its west-coast launch location, Vandenberg AFB, California, before the end of 2012, with a launch planned for 2013. After early launches from Vandenberg, the first launch from the Cape Canaveral east coast launch complex was planned for late 2013 or 2014. By late 2012, the company modified the planned first launch date to 2013. Originally, the first launch from the east-coast Cape Canaveral launch complex was planned for 2013, but is currently scheduled for 2015 with the STP-2 US Air Force payload.
The cost of reaching low Earth orbit can be as low as US$1,000/lb, if an annual rate of four launches can be sustained. SpaceX plans to launch 10 Falcon Heavy and 10 Falcon 9 annually. A third launch site, intended exclusively for SpaceX private use, is planned, with locations in Texas, Florida, and Georgia under consideration. A site near Brownsville, Texas is the front runner as of April 2013[update]. SpaceX expects to start construction on the third Falcon Heavy launch facility, after final site selection, no earlier than 2014, with the first launches from the facility no earlier than 2016. In late 2013, SpaceX had projected Falcon Heavy's maiden flight to be sometime in 2014, but as of March 2014[update] expects the first launch to be in 2015.
While the initial specifications of the new launcher in April 2011 projected LEO payloads of up to 53,000 kilograms (117,000 lb) and GTO payloads up to 12,000 kilograms (26,000 lb), later reports in 2011 projected higher payloads beyond low Earth orbit, 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 had raised the projected GTO payload for Falcon Heavy to 21,200 kilograms (46,700 lb).
'Red Dragon' Mars Mission
As of July 2011[update], NASA Ames Research Center was developing a concept for a low-cost Mars mission that would use Falcon Heavy as the launch vehicle and trans-Martian injection vehicle, and the Dragon capsule to enter the Martian atmosphere. The concept was conceived to be formally proposed in 2012/2013 as a NASA Discovery mission for launch in 2018 and arrival at Mars several months later; however, as of August 2013[update], the NASA Discovery Program Office shows no plans for Red Dragon to be funded. The science objectives of the mission would be to look for evidence of life — detecting "molecules that are proof of life, like DNA or perchlorate reductase ... proof of life through biomolecules. ... Red Dragon would drill 3.3 feet (1.0 m) or so underground, in an effort to sample reservoirs of water ice known to lurk under the red dirt." The mission cost is projected to be less than US$425,000,000, not including the launch cost.[dated info]
First commercial contract: Intelsat
In May 2012, SpaceX announced that Intelsat had signed the first commercial contract for a Falcon Heavy flight. It was not confirmed when the first Intelsat launch would occur, but the agreement will have SpaceX delivering satellites to geosynchronous transfer orbit.
First DoD contract: USAF
In December 2012, SpaceX announced its first Falcon Heavy launch contract with the United States Department of Defense (DoD). "The United States Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center awarded SpaceX two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV)-class missions" including the Space Test Program 2 (STP-2) mission for Falcon Heavy, initially scheduled to be launched in 2015.
The Falcon Heavy configuration consists of a standard Falcon 9 with two additional Falcon 9 first stages acting as liquid strap-on boosters, which is conceptually similar to EELV Delta IV Heavy launcher and proposals for the Atlas V HLV and Russian Angara. Falcon Heavy will be more capable than any other operational rocket, with a payload to low earth orbit of 53,000 kilograms (117,000 lb). The rocket was designed to meet or exceed all current requirements of human rating. The structural safety margins are 40% above flight loads, higher than the 25% margins of other rockets.
The Falcon Heavy's designed payload capacity, capabilities, and total thrust (17,615 kilonewtons (3,960,000 lbf)) are equivalent to the Saturn C-3 launch vehicle concept (1960) for the Earth Orbit Rendezvous approach to an American lunar landing.
The first stage is powered by three Falcon 9 derived cores, each equipped with 9 Merlin 1D engines. The Merlin 1D is an updated version of the previous Merlin engine that provides a sea level thrust of 620 kN (140,000 lbf), and a vacuum thrust of 690 kN (155,000 lbf), and is throttleable from 100% to 70%.
The Falcon Heavy has a total sea-level thrust at liftoff of 17,615 kilonewtons (3,960,000 lbf), from the 27 Merlin 1D engines, while booster thrust rises to 20,017 kilonewtons (4,500,000 lbf) as the booster climbs out of the atmosphere. Falcon Heavy has been designed with a unique propellant crossfeed capability, where some of 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. Thus, although engines from all three cores ignite at launch, the main core uses little of its own propellant until booster separation. There are three separation events: the simultaneous separation of the two booster cores followed later by the separation of the main booster core from the second stage. This is akin to a three stage rocket and thus enables greater performance. Compared to what is thought of as a two and a half stage rocket, like the Delta IV Heavy, the Falcon Heavy central core can operate at full thrust and yet still be left with a nearly full fuel load after booster separation.
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, which will be used for vertical-landing once the post-mission technology development effort is completed.
The upper stage is powered by a single Merlin 1D engine modified for vacuum operation, with an expansion ratio of 117:1 and a nominal burn time of 345 seconds. 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 aluminum 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.
Reusable technology development
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, first to the booster stage and ultimately to the second stage as well.
Early on, SpaceX had expressed hopes that both rocket stages would eventually be reusable. More recently, in 2011, SpaceX announced a funded development program to build and fly a reusable launch system that will ultimately bring a first stage back to the launch site in minutes — and a second stage back to the launch pad, following orbital realignment with the launch site and atmospheric reentry, in up to 24 hours — with both stages designed to be available for reuse within "single-digit hours" after return. As of February 2012[update], design is complete on the system for "bringing the rocket back to launchpad using only thrusters."
The reusable launch system technology is under consideration for both the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy. It 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 slower velocity at the initial separation event.
As of March 2013[update], the publicly announced aspects of the SpaceX reusable rocket technology development effort include an active test campaign of the low-altitude, low-speed Grasshopper vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) technology demonstrator rocket, and a high-altitude, high-speed Falcon 9 post-mission booster-return test campaign where—beginning in late-2013, with the sixth overall flight of Falcon 9—every Falcon 9 first stage which was instrumented and equipped as a controlled descent test vehicle to accomplish propulsive-return over-water tests.
SpaceX has indicated that the Falcon Heavy payload performance to Geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) will be reduced by addition of the reusable technology, but would fly at much lower launch price. With full reusability on all three booster cores, GTO payload will be 7,000 kg (15,000 lb). If only the two outside cores fly as reusable cores while the center core is expendable, GTO payload would be approximately 14,000 kg (31,000 lb).
|Stage 0||2 boosters with 9 × Merlin 1D engines each|
|Stage 1||9 × Merlin 1D|
|Stage 2||1 × Merlin 1D|
|11.6 m (38 ft), composed of three 3.7 m (12 ft) Falcon 9 v1.1 cores aligned side by side|
|53,000 (if crossfeed not used : 45,360)|
12,000 (when announced in 2011)
(to Mars; kg)
|77.1-135 in 2013, 83-128 in 2012, 80-125 in 2011|
|12,970 up to 6,400 kg[dated info]|
A new, partially underground test stand is being built at the SpaceX Rocket Development and Test Facility in McGregor, Texas specifically to test the triple cores and twenty seven rocket engines of the Falcon Heavy.
Launches and scheduled launches
|Flight Number||Date & Time (GMT)||Payload||Customer||Outcome||Remarks|
|1||2014||Falcon Heavy Demo Flight 1||SpaceX||Scheduled||Hardware is expected to arrive at the Vandenberg AFB in 2014|
|2014||Not yet announced||Scheduled||First FH flight from Cape Canaveral (was originally projected to be 2013).|
|Late 2015||STP-2||DoD||Scheduled||The mission will support the EELV certification process for the Falcon Heavy.|
|TBA||Communications satellite||Intelsat||Scheduled||First Commercial mission for Falcon Heavy. First launch to a Geostationary transfer orbit for Falcon Heavy.|
- Comparison of orbital launchers families
- Comparison of orbital launch systems
- Saturn C-3
- Jarvis (rocket)
- Criticism of the Space Shuttle program
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