Science

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Too Small For Deep Space, Says Boeing

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Deep Space
Image source: SpaceX/Twitter

Boeing and NASA are working together in order to build the Space Launch System (SLS). The rocket is believed to be capable of transporting humans and cargo into deep space. According to reports, the rocket is estimated to be the most powerful rocket system ever built. Boeing also set up a promotional website for the rocket in which it calls out Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, calling the Falcon Heavy too small for deep space exploration.

“The Falcon Heavy launch turned heads in February, but SpaceX’s rocket is a smaller type of rocket that can’t meet NASA’s deep-space needs,” the statement on Boeing’s site reads, in which the aerospace giant called the SpaceX Falcon Heavy too small for deep space. “Once the Boeing-built SLS is operational, it will be the most powerful rocket ever built.”

Such statements of the aerospace giant come after NASA’s head of human spaceflight, Bill Gerstenmaier, reportedly said in March that the SLS will be equipped with certain “unique capabilities” that the Falcon Heavy lacks at the moment, ARS Technica reports.

After making those claims, Gerstenmaier couldn’t explain why NASA needed the SLS, as it’s still in the building process and yet to make something that can take advantage of mentioned “unique capabilities,” ARS Technica noted.

According to the report, it’s strange that Boeing speaks of the SLS as if it’s going to be built and ready for launch in the near future. In reality, the booster stage is not going to be capable of flight for at least two years. Furthermore, the rocket won’t come anywhere close to the “most powerful rocket” tag, as the report notes.

Right now, the rocket with the “most powerful rocket” tag is still Saturn V, which NASA used during the Apollo missions when sending men to the Moon. The rockets were capable of carrying 118 metric tons into low Earth orbit (LEO).  The first SLS rocket will be capable of lifting 70 tons to LEO, that is a tad higher compared to the 64 tons of the Falcon Heavy.

Other, higher configurations of the SLS estimate that the rocket will be capable of lifting 105 tons, which is expected to be achievable in the mid 2020s. Moreover, it will cost the space agency billions of dollars. As the report notes, the 130-ton configuration of the SLS, “the most powerful rocket ever,” doesn’t have a timetable and it’s unknown when it’s going to get built. That being said, some time is going to pass until the company can really call the Falcon Heavy too small for deep space.

Right now, Elon Musk, the SpaceX CEO is focusing on building his Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) launch system, which is, as he says, going to take humans to Mars and be capable of carrying 150 tons of cargo aboard. The first timetable for the BFR is 2022, when the tool will carry 150 tons of cargo to Mars. In 2024, the BFR is planned to carry the first crew to the Red Planet, ready to colonize it. Additionally, just like the Falcon 9 rockets, the BFR is going to be entirely reusable.