SpaceX will aim for a November launch for its Falcon Heavy rocket, a huge asset instrumental for taking manned missions to planet Mars.
This was announced by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Twitter last Thursday, although clarifying that the launch will merely herald the start of flight testing. Musk cited a “good chance” that the said vehicle won’t be able to make it into orbit on that first try.
Falcon Heavy Liftoff
The Falcon Heavy test flight, supposed to have been conducted in 2013, is believed to be increasingly complex.
The company’s supporters, though, are quick to note its first flight has not actually been delayed but instead did not push through due to a lack of a paying customer. Its first flight, too, would require a test flight akin to the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets.
It can also be remembered that the rocket has had its share of tentative launch targets in the past, such as back in 2013 or 2014 as Musk himself announced in 2011.
At any rate, the Heavy emerges as a much bigger engineering feat than it was initially thought to be. It boasts 27 engines or three times those of the Falcon 9, and all those engines need to be carefully synchronized for a good launch.
The recently proclaimed target date, as well as its recent milestones that include a booster’s on-ground test firing, suggest a firmer timeline this time around.
Power And Importance To Mars Mission
The engines prove necessary for delivering the 54-ton payloads, which likely involve human crew and infrastructure for crewed Mars bases. It can be recalled that SpaceX earlier pushed back its target timeframe for its initial Mars missions to 2020 from the initial 2018.
Like the Falcon 9, the Falcon Heavy will also feature reusable sections that will land on Earth intact post-launch. This reusable technology is highlighted as a way to dramatically slash launch costs.
Once it flies, the Heavy is expected to be the most powerful rocket currently operating, by a factor of two as Space Coast Daily stated. Today, this remains unproven, much like how one could see the equally anticipated Space Launch System (SLS) of NASA.
Once in service, the Heavy could surpass United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy, which is more simply designed but has the highest capacity in operation at present. The Delta Heavy could send 62,540 pounds to orbit while Falcon Heavy could carry 140,660 pounds.
Some have even recommended cancelling the SLS in favor of the Falcon Heavy, citing costs as low as $90 million each flight and the capabilities it has. In comparison, the Delta Heavy costs $375 million.
If Musk’s plans fall into place, the much-awaited rocket will be launched from the space firm’s facilities at Launch Complex 39A in Kennedy Space Center.
Back in March, Musk was quick to reveal plans of flying people around the moon through the Falcon Heavy, on board the Dragon V2 crew capsule.