The successful launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX is significant for several reasons. Here are some of the reasons why it could be a game-changer:
- The rocket will pack up to 2.5 million kg of thrust in its first stage, and will be able to lift a 64-tonne payload to low-Earth orbit. That’s twice as powerful as its two main competitors, the Delta IV and Atlas V, with a payload that’s twice as heavy. The vessel’s lift-off thrust is equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft.
- Mr Musk boasts of prices starting at US$90 million to launch the rocket. That’s lower than the US$109 million price tag for the launch of the Atlas V rocket. It’s also a significant saving versus the US$400 million per launch price tag of the Delta IV.
- The recovery and reuse of the boosters for the rocket is a significant achievement, bringing down future launch costs by landing them on pads back on solid Earth or on floating barges and then recycling them for future launches.
- The company has streamlined its production methods. Rather than producing multiple engines with different horsepower ratings, it makes just one: the Merlin. The more powerful a rocket has to be, the more Merlins are bundled into its first stage. The Falcon Heavy uses 27 first stage engines in total.
- Heavy-lift boosters are technology you can use not just to get to Earth orbit, but to get out of it too, pressing on to deep-space destinations like the moon and Mars.
- The company says the rocket would also enable crewed missions to the Moon and Mars as well.
- The rocket will permit the launch of large batches of satellites, such as those for Mr Musk’s proposed constellation of thousands of spacecraft to deliver broadband across the globe.
This article originally appeared in Straits Times.