Lee Rosin, vice president of Space X for mission and launch operations, has said that the company is aiming for a “late April early May time-frame” for the first launch of the long awaited Falcon Heavy. After Space X’s high-profile failure of a Falcon 9 on it’s mission to the ISS, eyes and ears are eagerly trained towards this news from Space X.
Rosen also explained that the crew is finishing renovations to the Falcon Heavy’s launch pad for the initial test flight. That’s the Pad 39A that’s designed to handle launches of both the Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9.
The rocket was first announced back in 2011 with a launch planned for 2013 that didn’t pan out. And this summer’s Falcon 9 disaster push things back even further. After the first test launch, the Falcon Heavy is scheduled to carry a load of 37 satellites for the Air Force in September 2016. As a refresher, the spacecraft uses 4.5 million pounds of thrust to launch and is capable of carrying a payload of 53,000 kg (116,845 lbs.) into low Earth orbit
Space X is all about breaking new ground and beating previous boundaries, but this rocket is simply incredible in its specifications. With the ability to lift into orbit over 53 metric tons (117,000 lb)–a mass equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel, the Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third the cost. However, scheduled for its first flight this year (2015) what will now happen after the recent failure of the ISS resupply Falcon 9.
The Falcon 9 in its hanger at Cape Canaveral
Photo credit Space X
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 17,615 kilonewtons (3.969 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.
At the second stage, the Falcon Heavy draws upon Falcon 9’s design, which minimizes stage separation events. 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).
The mighty boosters
Image credit Space X
At over 68 metres tall, and with a payload capacity of 58,000kg it truly is a monster. Intelsat, a leading provider of satellite services has already signed a deal with Space X over the Falcon heavy back in 2012, but 2015 is proving to be a difficult year so far for Space X, but could also be a breakthrough year – with other big players securing large launch contracts, Space X needs the Heavy to be successful, but only time will tell.