The SpaceX Falcon Heavy is the world's most powerful rocket.
Private Space exploration firm SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies) today took another major step toward the first launch of the Falcon Heavy. This will be the world’s most powerful rocket, with more than twice the payload-to-orbit capacity of the space shuttle, but at only one third the cost of the Boeing/Lockheed Delta IV Heavy. The Falcon Heavy will be the first ever rocket to break the $1,000-per-pound-to-orbit barrier, less than a tenth as much as the Shuttle.
With NASA winding down the Space Shuttle for good, private Space firms take over.
SpaceX CEO and chief rocket designer Elon Musk was joined by California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, 30th Space Wing Commander Colonel Richard W. Boltz and Lompoc Mayor John Linn to break ground on a new launch site for the Falcon Heavy—Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Falcon Heavy, along with SpaceX’s medium-lift Falcon 9, offers the next generation of launch capability to the US Air Force, NASA, and commercial satellite companies at revolutionary costs. With a launch site at Vandenberg and the world’s largest rocket, SpaceX will be ready to compete for the full range of US government business, provided competition is allowed. Currently, United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed, has a sole-source monopoly contract for Defense Department business.
“These are difficult fiscal times for our federal government and the Falcon vehicles can save the Department of Defense almost $2 billion per year in launch costs, while increasing reliability and capability,” said Musk. “This presents a great opportunity for the DoD to avoid cancelling other programs and minimize reductions in personnel as budgets contract.”
Falcon Heavy is to arrive at Vandenberg by the end of 2012, and its inaugural flight will follow soon after. It will be the most powerful rocket in the world since the Saturn V, which launched the Apollo spacecraft to the moon. The SpaceX launch vehicle boasts 3.8 million pounds of thrust from its 27 engines—equivalent to fifteen 747s at full power.