SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket operating todaySpaceX By Leah CraneThe Falcon Heavy rocket is in business. On 11 April, SpaceX’s behemoth had its second launch ever, and its first with an actual customer. It is the most powerful rocket in operation, capable of lofting almost 64 tonnes of weight into orbit. The rocket’s first flight in February 2018 sent a test payload – SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s car – beyond the orbit of Mars and into the asteroid belt, proving its incredible power. The payload for this first commercial flight was a bit more mundane: a communications satellite called Arabsat-6A. After the launch, all three boosters came back to land. The two side boosters returned to Cape Canaveral in Florida, where the launch occurred. The centre booster landed on a drone ship a ways offshore, the first time a Falcon Heavy core stage has successfully landed (in February it missed the ship by a few metres). The two side boosters will be repaired and refurbished and then flown again in about two months. Advertisement Read more: Sorry, but NASA probably isn’t sending astronauts to the moon in 2024 This is a big step for SpaceX and Falcon Heavy. If the boosters can be flown again, it will be an important demonstration that they can be reused, which will help bring down the cost of launching large satellites. This is also the first time such a powerful rocket has been available to private customers, not just governments – the only rocket that has ever packed a bigger punch was the Saturn V, which NASA used to send astronauts to the moon. Falcon Heavy is also one of the only rockets that could get NASA to the moon on its new, tight schedule. US vice president Mike Pence announced in March that the agency would be directed to put humans on the lunar surface by 2024. According to following statements by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s huge SLS rocket would be the ideal way to get there. But it is still under development, and Falcon Heavy is another option. Now that Falcon Heavy is starting to build a record of successful flights, perhaps that option will look more alluring. More on these topics: satellites space flight SpaceX
You must log in to post a comment.