SpaceX is at the forefront of the struggle to make space travel cheaper and more sustainable, and the Falcon Heavy rocket could represent a great advance.
The animation shows the Falcon Heavy rocket taking off, and the recovery of its three boosters as they return to Earth. As its name would suggest the rocket is capable of carrying heavy payloads of over 53 tons into orbit. SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk says that the rocket could launch manned missions to the Moon and Mars in the future, according to Ken Kremer of universetoday.com.
SpaceX Falcon Heavy: Repurposing NASA launch facility
Following several years of development the first launch of the Falcon Heavy is pencilled in for this year, from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket mankind has developed since the Saturn V, the NASA rocket which took the Apollo astronauts to the moon.
The video shows the Falcon Heavy blasting off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, which has been unused since the last space shuttle mission in July 2011. SpaceX has signed a long term contract with NASA for the right to operate Launch Complex 39A as a commercial launch facility for the Falcon Heavy, as well as its manned Dragon V2 vehicle.
Private sector competition
SpaceX is now making modifications to the pad at its own expense, with no federal funding from NASA. The company is in competition with the United Launch Alliance (ULA), whose Delta IV Heavy was used in the launch and recovery of NASA’s Orion crew capsule in December 2014. However the Falcon Heavy will be significantly more powerful than its rival, and its launch will make it the most powerful rocket in the world.
The race to prove that non-government entities can push the envelope in terms of making space travel more affordable by recovering and reusing rocket boosters looks set to continue. It must be said that SpaceX certainly has a knack for grabbing the headlines. It recently attempted to land one of its Falcon 9 boosters on a platform floating in the middle of the ocean. The attempt was largely successful, but the booster was destroyed after it lost control just before landing.