Tuesday, April 5, 2011

SpaceX Rocketing into Space in 2012

Courtesy Foxnews.com

World's Most Powerful Rocket Ready in 2012, SpaceX Says

The era of the Space Shuttle is ending. And SpaceX plans to take over.

Elon Musk, the millionaire founder of private space company Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX for short) said the long planned Falcon Heavy vehicle would be ready for lift off at the end of 2012. The rocket, which he called the most powerful in the world, would be capable of taking men to the International Space Station, dropping vehicles and astronauts on the moon -- and maybe even cruising to Mars and back.

"This is a rocket of truly huge scale," Musk said at a press conference unveiling the rocket. "With Falcon Heavy, we'll be able to put well over 100,000 pounds into orbit," he said, and possibly as much as 120,000 pounds.

"That's more than a fully loaded Boeing 737 -- with passengers and fuel" and even luggage, Musk said.

The Falcon Heavy consists of a standard Falcon 9 rocket with two additional Falcon 9 first-stage rockets acting as liquid strap-on boosters. The upgraded Merlin engines that power the rocket will generate 3.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff -- the equivalent of 15 Boeing 747s, he said.

It is intended primarily to carry satellites and other such payloads into space, though it will meet NASA's requirements for carrying humans as well

"It can launch people if need be, and do so safely," he said.

Musk said this version of the spacecraft would have twice the capability of the space shuttle.

The Falcon Heavy will also dramatically surpass the Delta IV Heavy's 25-ton capacity and the yet-to-be-built Atlas 5 Heavy's 32 tons. It will be assembled at California's Vanderburg Air Force Base, but Musk said it would be able to take off from Cape Canaveral as well.

Musk also claimed the Falcon Heavy would cost a third per flight than the Delta IV rocket, and sets a new world record for the cost per pound to orbit of around about a thousand dollars. A launch is estimated at $80 million, the company said, while an Atlas 5 costs as much as $100 million more.

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Note:  I guess the military is unwilling to share their anti-gravity secrets.  Go figure. -SW


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