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SpaceX outlines Falcon Heavy plans: Rocket can carry 117,000 pounds to orbit

SpaceX outlines Falcon Heavy plans: Rocket can carry 117,000 pounds to orbit

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The Falcon Heavy's first launch will be from Cape Canaveral in late 2013 or 2014. The rocket can carry 53 metric tons.

SpaceX has outlined its plans for the Falcon Heavy, a rocket designed to carry satellites and spacecraft weighing more than 53 metric tons, or 117,000 pounds to orbit.

Falcon Heavy will be able to carry more payload to orbit than any rocket except for the Saturn V rocket, which was used in the Apollo programs. The Falcon Heavy isn't the super heavy lift rocket program being debated by Congress. That rocket program is designed to carry 70 to 130 metric tons to orbit.

For SpaceX, the goal for the Falcon Heavy is obvious---grab more government work. SpaceX is looking to upend the Delta IV Heavy, which is a rocket made by a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture. The Falcon Heavy's first launch will be from Cape Canaveral in late 2013 or 2014.

Among the key details:

  • The Falcon Heavy has three nine-engine cores in its first stage. These cores are used in SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle and powered by the company's Merlin engines. Safety features such as a protective shell around engine in case of a fire or rupture are similar to the Falcon 9 features.
  • Propellant will be cross fed from side boosters to the center core. This cross-feed system can be turned off for lightweight missions.
  • The Falcon Heavy will cost about $1,000 per pound to orbit and meets NASA's human rating standards.

The specs:

  • Mass to Orbit (200 km, 28.5 deg): 53 metric tons (117,000 lbs)
  • Length: 69.2 meters (227 ft)
  • Max Stage Width: 5.2 m (17 ft)
  • Total Width: 11.6 meters (38 ft)
  • Weight at Liftoff: 1,400 metric tons or 3.1 million lbs
  • Thrust on Liftoff: 1,700 metric tons or 3.8 million lbs

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure