SpaceX teased the world last week with some rocket pr0n that hinted that the company was finally ready to reveal its Falcon Heavy mega rocket. Well, that’s what the company did minutes ago in a Washington DC press conference. World, meet the Falcon Heavy. She might take us back to the Moon.
The Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful and capable launch platform. At 52,000 kg the payload capability is nearly double that of the current heavy lifter, the Space Shuttle and its 24,400 kg carrying capacity. This super strength is thanks to a three banks of nine engines that combine to generate 17 MN (3,800,000 lb) of thrust at liftoff. SpaceX claims that the three core design makes the Falcon Heavy as powerful as a three stage rocket. (Like the Saturn V) Cross-feeding propellant from the side boosters leaves the center core the majority of the fuel even after the two boosters separate. This function is optional and can be disabled for lower-mass launches.
While impressive, it’s still half as powerful as the 44-year old Saturn V’s 7,648,000 lb record. Still, SpaceX’s CEO, Elon Musk stated that it’s powerful enough to send man back to the Moon and it very well do just that since the the Falcon Heavy complies with NASA’s human rating standards. The Falcon Heavy is expected to blast off for the first time in 2012. Space just got exciting again. [SpaceX]