Home / Science / SpaceX Launched a World’s Most Powerful Rocket. So, What’s Next?

SpaceX Launched a World’s Most Powerful Rocket. So, What’s Next?

When SpaceX successfully launched a initial Falcon Heavy booster Tuesday (Feb. 6) from a same Florida pad used by NASA’s Apollo missions, a association claimed a pretension for a many absolute rocket. And for some companies, that competence be a year-defining feat.

But SpaceX and a CEO, Elon Musk, have a lot some-more entrance this year, including rising astronauts on a crewed Dragon upholder and scheming a Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) for intensity tests in 2019.

First, there’s a Falcon Heavy, on that SpaceX spent scarcely $500 million over 7 years to enter a heavy-lift marketplace for rising outrageous satellites and upholder off universe Earth. The rocket can lift twice as many bucket as a closest aspirant (United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy) during a reduce cost, and a 3 first-stage boosters are designed to be reusable. For SpaceX, that’s a launch car triple threat. 

“Falcon Heavy opens adult a new category of payload,” Musk told reporters after Tuesday’s launch. “It can launch twice as many bucket as any other rocket in a universe … It can launch things right to Pluto and beyond, no stop needed.” [SpaceX’s 1st Falcon Heavy Rocket Test Flight in Pictures]

SpaceX's initial Falcon Heavy rocket launches from Pad 39A during NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Feb. 6, 2018. It's one of many large projects underneath approach for SpaceX.
Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy can launch adult to 141,000 lbs. (64 metric tons) of bucket into orbit, and sent Musk’s Tesla Roadster on a deep-space float toward a asteroid belt when a rocket bloody off from Pad 39A during NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Tuesday. That lift ability allows SpaceX to launch heavier satellites into low Earth orbit, or strech aloft geostationary orbits used by some satellites to keep hire over a same partial of Earth.

SpaceX advertises Falcon Heavy flights for $90 million a launch. The Delta IV Heavy, meanwhile, can launch 32 tons (29 metric tons) into circuit and costs between $300 million and $500 million per flight, according to Tommy Sanford, executive executive of a Commercial Spaceflight Federation, told Space.com before a launch. That’s a potentially outrageous cost savings.

Musk told reporters this week that, given a successful exam flight, a subsequent Falcon Heavy could launch within 3 to 6 months. And make no mistake: Tuesday’s launch was a successful flight.

Only dual events didn’t go as planned: The core core of a three-booster initial theatre missed a drone-ship alighting and crashed into a Atlantic Ocean, and a final engine bake of a rocket’s second theatre was stronger than expected, promulgation a Falcon Heavy’s singular bucket (Musk’s Tesla Roadster and a mannequin named “Starman”) into an circuit that extends out to a asteroid belt, over a circuit of Mars as primarily planned.

There are dual some-more Falcon Heavy missions approaching to fly in 2018: a launch of a brawny communications satellite called Arabsat 6A; and Space Test Program 2 for a U.S. Air Force, a moody that will also launch a LightSail 2 solar cruise for The Planetary Society.

SpaceX’s moody perceptible also includes destiny Falcon Heavy missions to launch satellites for a companies Inmarsat and Viasat.

So, Musk expects that SpaceX will be drifting a lot of Falcon Heavy rockets — adequate to safeguard a boosters will be approved to launch complicated satellites on inhabitant confidence missions for a U.S. military. SpaceX launched a first Falcon 9 missions for a troops in 2017.

“We have a array of blurb business for Falcon Heavy,” Musk said. “I unequivocally don’t consider it’s going to be, in any way, an snag to acceptance of inhabitant confidence missions.”

But remember, a Falcon Heavy isn’t a finish diversion for SpaceX and Musk in 2018. The association still skeleton to launch astronauts on a Falcon 9 and Dragon by a finish of a year.

SpaceX has been drifting uncrewed bucket smoothness missions to a International Space Station for NASA for years, and in 2014, a space group picked a Hawthorne, California-based organisation as one of dual companies to fly American astronauts to a station. (The other association is Boeing, that will launch astronauts on a Starliner organisation plug regulating Atlas V rockets.)

“We’re creation good swell on Crew Dragon,” Musk said.

Mission declaration for any SpaceX launch is a company’s No. 1 priority, with Falcon Heavy a tighten second until recently, Musk said. But a month ago, a Crew Dragon module took over that second spot.

“We’re determined to fly crews to circuit during a finish of this year,” Musk said. “I consider a hardware will be ready.”

In fact, a spacesuit ragged by SpaceX’s Starman on a Falcon Heavy moody is a same one astronauts will wear on Dragon, he said.

And finally, there’s a BFR: a boat Musk wants to use to inhabit Mars.

On paper, SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket looks like a megarocket to finish all megarockets. It’s a totally reusable launch complement and facilities a large spaceship on tip of an equally large upholder powered by 31 SpaceX Raptor engines. (The Falcon Heavy uses 27 of a company’s Merlin engines.) [The BFR: SpaceX’s Mars-Colonization Architecture in Images]

The total rocket and spaceship will mount 348 feet (106 meters) and will be means to launch 150 tons (136 metric tons) to low Earth circuit (LEO), creation a BFR some-more absolute than NASA’s Saturn V moon rocket, that could launch 135 tons (122 metric tons) to LEO. (The Falcon Heavy might be a many absolute rocket in operation today, though it would take some-more than one to compare a Saturn V, Musk said.)

SpaceX’s envisioned BFR will be bigger and distant some-more absolute than a company’s other rockets.
Credit: SpaceX

Each spaceship might lift adult to 100 passengers, and a upholder on a possess —without a upholder —could potentially be used for superfast point-to-point transport around a Earth, Musk pronounced final year when describing a complement during a International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia.

This week, Musk pronounced work on a BFR —which he initial denounced to a universe in 2016 — has been going so well, a association no longer skeleton to use a mint Falcon Heavy rocket to launch astronauts on deep-space missions.

Last year, Musk announced SpaceX would use a Falcon Heavy and a Crew Dragon plug to launch dual passengers on a outing around a moon. That mission, he pronounced then, could potentially launch by a finish of 2018. But now, SpaceX will expected not plead Falcon Heavy to lift astronauts as it has for Falcon 9, and will for a BFR.

Simply put, a BFR is a improved choice, Musk said.

“The boat is able of single-stage to circuit if we entirely bucket a tanks,” Musk pronounced of a BFR’s spaceship but a booster.

The BFR will be able of lofting 150 tons of bucket to low Earth orbit, SpaceX owner and CEO Elon Musk said.
Credit: SpaceX

That spaceship could be prepared for brief proof hops in 2019, Musk said. Those hops would be many like SpaceX’s antecedent Grasshopper rocket tests that led to a reusable Falcon 9 first-stage boosters a association relies on today.

While SpaceX could try to do brief hops of a BFR spaceship offshore, drifting between a dual drone-ship alighting pads, it’s some-more expected those tests will start during the company’s newest launch site in south Texas, nearby Brownsville.

“It will many expected be during a Brownsville plcae since we’ve got a lot of land if it blows up,” Musk said.

If a BFR exam hops are a success, SpaceX would fly a array of ever-more-complex flights to infer out a system, he added.

“I consider it’s fathomable that we do a initial exam moody in 3 or 4 years,” Musk said. That one would send a full BFR complement to low Earth orbit.

So that’s a large year for SpaceX, with potentially some-more large years to come. And it’s all function as a association continues a normal Falcon 9 rocket launches for midsize satellite missions and NASA bucket deliveries to a International Space Station.

The Falcon Heavy entrance was SpaceX’s third launch of 2018, following dual Falcon 9 missions in Jan that launched a puzzling Zuma payload for a U.S. supervision and the GovSat-1 communications satellite.

The subsequent goal to fly will be a Falcon 9, launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying a Paz satellite for a Spanish association Hisdesat. That goal is targeted for Feb. 17, according to Spaceflight Now, and could be followed on Feb. 22 with a launch of another Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying a Hispasat 1F communications satellite for Spain’s Hispasat.

Email Tariq Malik during tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original essay on Space.com.

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