Wednesday, April 6, 2011

SpaceX Announces Falcon 9 Heavy Plans

An artist's conception of the Falcon 9 Heavy. Photo source: SpaceX.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk held a press conference yesterday in Washington, D.C. to announce the Falcon 9 Heavy, the self-proclaimed "world's most powerful rocket."

Click here to watch the press conference on the SpaceX web site.

Click here to read the Florida Today article on the press conference.

"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," Musk said.

According to Florida Today space reporter Todd Halvorson:

A NASA Inspector General Report published in February estimated Falcon 9 launch costs this decade would average $141 million per flight.

But SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is staking his reputation on a Falcon Heavy average cost of $100 million per launch, and Falcon 9 launches for $50 million.

"You are hearing it from me directly — this is being recorded — that we will stick to those prices and not go above them except for, you know, inflation and stuff like that," Musk said.

The initial test flight will be at Vendenberg Air Force Base in California. "Then launch operations would shift to Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where the company's Falcon 9 already blasts off. The first flight there will be in 2013 or 2014," according to Halvorson.

The initial plan is to build a second hangar at Launch Complex 40 — one erected 90 degrees from the existing Falcon 9 hangar, so both rockets could roll out to the pad there.

Another possibility: Using one of NASA's two shuttle pads at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39. The company is talking to NASA about that option.

One has to wonder who their customer would be, if Congress orders NASA to use the Space Launch System, which was designed by the U.S. Senate during Fiscal Year 2011 deliberations.

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