For a few days now, the SpaceX web site has featured a banner proclaiming:
SOMETHING BIG IS COMING
Click on the banner and you get this YouTube video:
Today is the "big" day, and Spaceflight Now says it's an announcement about the Falcon 9 Heavy rocket.
Named the Falcon Heavy and advertised at $95 million per mission, the liquid-fueled rocket would become the most powerful launcher in the U.S. fleet, eclipsing the peak performance of the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 boosters ...
The Falcon Heavy will be able to lift more than 70,000 pounds to low Earth orbit and 43,000 pounds to geostationary transfer orbit, a destination for international communications satellites.
The 180-foot-tall booster would consist of three first stages derived from SpaceX's medium-lift Falcon 9 rocket bolted together to form a triple-body launch vehicle.
The Falcon Heavy would produce more than 3.3 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, according to a SpaceX information sheet. Launches would occur from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Where at CCAFS would it launch?
SpaceX currently launches the Falcon 9 from Launch Complex 40. If LC-40 can't handle the Heavy version ... well, just up the road is LC-39, where the Shuttles launched.
Would the Falcon 9 Heavy be assembled in the historic Vehicle Assembly Building and rolled to LC-39 on a crawler?
Perhaps we'll find out at today's press conference.
UPDATE April 5, 2011 6:30 PM EDT — As expected, SpaceX announced its plans for the Falcon 9 Heavy. According to Florida Today space reporter Todd Halvorson:
Musk said he expects to launch 10 Falcon 9 flights and 10 Falcon Heavy flights per year — the majority would fly from a converted pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 40 or one of NASA's twin shuttle launch pads at Kennedy Space Center ...
A demonstration flight is planned at Vandenberg Air Force Base in early 2013. The first Falcon Heavy rocket will be delivered to the central California launch site by November or December 2012, he said.
Launch operations then will shift to Cape Canaveral because most customers require launches into equatorial orbits, he said.
Florida Today has a brief clip from today's press conference.