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Falcon Heavy

The World's
Most Powerful Rocket

 
Falcon Heavy Rocket

Falcon Heavy

Falcon Heavy is the world’s most powerful rocket, a launch vehicle of scale and capability unequaled by any other currently flying. With the ability to lift into orbit over 53 metric tons (117,000 lb)--a mass equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel--Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third the cost. Falcon Heavy draws upon the proven heritage and

reliability of Falcon 9. Its first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate nearly 4 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit. Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars.


Payload

Falcon Heavy missions will deliver large payloads to orbit inside a composite fairing, but the rocket can also carry the Dragon spacecraft.

Composite Fairing

The composite payload fairing protects satellites during delivery to destinations in low Earth orbit (LEO), geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) and beyond.


 

Second Stage

Falcon Heavy draws upon Falcon 9’s proven design, which minimizes stage separation events and maximizes reliability. The second-stage Merlin engine, identical to its counterpart on Falcon 9, delivers the rocket’s payload to orbit after the main engines cut off and the first-stage cores separate. The engine can be restarted multiple times to place payloads into a variety of orbits including low Earth, geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) and  geosynchronous orbit (GSO).

Engine
1
Burn Time
375sec
Thrust in Vacuum
801kN180,000 lbf
Inside the Interstage

First Stage

Three cores make up the first stage of Falcon Heavy. The side cores, or boosters, are connected  at the base and at the top of the center core’s liquid oxygen tank. The three cores, with a total of 27 Merlin engines, generate 17,615 kilonewtons (3.969 million pounds) of thrust at liftoff. Shortly after liftoff the center core engines are throttled down. After the side cores separate, the center core engines throttle back up to full thrust.

Cores
3
Engines
27
Thrust At Sea Level
17,615kN3,969,000 lbf
Thrust In Vacuum
20,017kN4,500,000 lbf

Boosters

Each of Falcon Heavy’s side cores, or boosters, is equivalent to the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket with nine Merlin engines. At liftoff, the boosters and the center core all operate at full thrust. Shortly after liftoff, the center core engines are throttled down. After the side cores separate, the center core engines throttle back up.

Propellant Cross-Feed System

For missions involving exceptionally heavy payloads—greater than 45,000 kilograms or 100,000 pounds—Falcon Heavy offers a unique cross-feed propellant system. Propellant feeds from the side boosters to the center core so that the center core retains a significant amount of fuel after the boosters separate.

Three Nine-Engine Cores

Inside each of Falcon Heavy’s three cores is a cluster of nine Merlin engines.  These same engines power Falcon 9, enabling efficiencies that make Falcon Heavy the most cost-effective heavy-lift launch vehicle in the world. With a total of 27 first-stage engines, Falcon Heavy has engine-out capability that no other launch vehicle can match—under most payload scenarios, it can sustain more than one unplanned engine shutdown at any point in flight and still successfully complete its mission.

Merlin Engines

Fig. 2

Core/Engine layout

 
Tech Spotlight

Fairing

SpaceX’s payload fairing, a composite structure fabricated in-house by SpaceX, protects satellites during delivery to low-Earth orbit (LEO), geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) and beyond.

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Tech Spotlight

Falcon Heavy Structure

The tanks of Falcon Heavy’s three first-stage cores and second stage are made of aluminum-lithium alloy, a material made stronger and lighter than aluminum by the addition of lithium.

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Tech Spotlight

Landing Legs

Falcon Heavy was designed to be fully reusable. Both the center core and side boosters carry landing legs, which will land each core safely on Earth after takeoff.

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Tech Spotlight

Octaweb

The twenty-seven Merlin engines that power Falcon Heavy's three cores are arranged in an Octaweb structure, with eight engines surrounding one center engine on each core.

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Tech Spotlight

Merlin Engine

The Merlin engine that powers all three Falcon Heavy cores was developed internally by SpaceX, drawing upon a long heritage of space-proven engines. A key design at the heart of Merlin was first used for the Apollo lunar landing module.

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Technical Overview


Height
68.4m224.4 ft

Stages
2

Boosters
2

Payload to LEO
53,000kg116,845 lb

Payload to Mars
13,200kg29,101 lb

Total Width
11.6m38 ft

Mass
1,462,836kg3,225,000 lb

Payload to GTO
21,200kg46,738 lb

Status
Expected Launch in 2014

The World's Most Powerful Rocket

With nearly 4 million pounds of thrust at lifttoff, Falcon Heavy will be the most capable rocket flying. By comparison, the liftoff thrust of the Falcon Heavy equals fifteen Boeing 747 aircraft at full power. Below is a comparison chart of the world’s heavy lift vehicles, based on historical launch data. Falcon Heavy can lift the equivalent of a fully loaded 737 jetliner--complete with passengers, luggage and fuel--to orbit.  Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit than Falcon Heavy.

Resupply the international space station

First Customer

· Related News

SpaceX and Intelsat announced today the first commercial contract for the Falcon Heavy rocket.

Resupply the international space station

New Launch Site

· Related News

SpaceX breaks ground on a new launch site for Falcon Heavy at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Resupply the international space station

Announcement

· Related News

SpaceX announced the development of Falcon Heavy, which will be delivered to Vandenberg Air Force Base in 2013.

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