SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is currently the most powerful operational rocket by a factor of two. It has been launched successfully once on February 6th, 2018 for it’s Demo Mission, when it launched Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster into Heliocentric Orbit. On April 11th, 2019 and Falcon Heavy is about to launch for it’s first commercial payload. Falcon Heavy is also scheduled for another mission, which will reuse all the boosters from tonight’s mission but will have a very light payload, it’s a USAF certification mission called STP-2.
There is massive variety in these 3 rocket launches. Let’s take the planned center core landing downrange distance. For the Falcon Heavy Demo Mission, the planned landing was going to occur 342km downrange, however it failed due to a lack of the pyrophoric ignition fluid (TEA-TEB), as compared to Arabsat 6A, whose landing occurred at a record-breaking 967km downrange. STP-2, being a light payload to a low-energy orbit, will also have a record-breaking, in the opposite way, landing 37km downrange. The variety in these launches is really interesting and comparing their burn time before BECO (Booster Engine Cut-Off), MECO (Main Engine Cutoff), and SECO-1 (Second Engine Cut-Off 1).
Unfortunately, due to the fact that the STP-2 Mission has not occured yet, the SpaceX REST API does not have the engine cutoff numbers, we can only use the downrange landing distance because that is available through the STP-2 FCC Filing. Here are my results:
Since the new Block V architecture of Falcon Heavy was only flown on ArabSat 6A, and since it has 10% more thrust, I also added another bar chart which adjusts for the added thrust.
And finally, the downrange landing distance for the three missions
Why is this important?
An important part of our species’ development is our advent as a space-faring civilization. It is almost essential that Earth is not our only home. Simply because it is so vulnerable and weak. Climate change has nearly destroyed our planet, studies suggest that it could be impossible for Earth to recover. Other than that, the amount of near-mass extinction events in history are frightening. The Cuban Missile Crisis, both the Tunguska (1908) and Chelyabinsk (2013) asteroids came really close to destroying the entire continent of Asia, and several other nuclear crises throughout the past century alone. There are too many examples to name, but it is a fact that life on Earth is highly unstable as compared to life in space.
Whether it be Jeff Bezos’ view of moving heavy industry to orbit or Elon Musk’s view of colonizing Mars (personally I’m with Musk on this one), it is important to leave this planet. A major part of making space travel widespread is making rocket technology cheap, this means reusing a rocket. When you drive your car across town you don’t throw it away and get a new car once you’re at your destination. Companies like SpaceX aim to have this be the case for rockets. Not only are they saving cost by reusing materials, but they are also saving the environment by keeping use of potential life hazards should they be dropped into the ocean like most other rockets.
Falcon Heavy is currently spearheading this vision of reusable space technology. It is the world’s most powerful rocket by a factor of two, and it’s nearest competitor, the ULA Delta IV Heavy, can deliver 50% the payload mass, and is 388.889% the cost of Falcon Heavy. Falcon Heavy can deliver more massive payloads than any satellite provider currently demands, yet it is twice as cheap as rockets which are less than a quarter as powerful (Delta IV Medium).
SpaceX has single-handedly forced other companies in pursuing reusable technology, including the United Launch Alliance with their upcoming Vulcan rocket, Blue Origin and LinkSpace.
This data here represents the capabilities of Falcon Heavy, and where it stands, the cutting-edge of rocket technology, what it can do, and where it can take us.
SpaceX plans to follow up the Falcon Heavy with BFR (Big Falcon Rocket), also known as Starship Superheavy. It is the full realization of the goal of colonizing the solar system. Making sure that humanity can continue should our flimsy planet encounter a fatal event. The culmination of over almost 2 decades of hard work towards this one goal of preventing possibly the largest existential crisis which we face as a species.
- Falcon Heavy STP-2 FCC Application:
- Falcon Heavy Demo Mission FCC Application:
- Falcon Heavy Arabsat 6A FCC Application:
- SpaceX REST API Documentation: