Falcon Heavy

Falcon Heavy is a partially reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle designed and manufactured by SpaceX. It is derived from the Falcon 9 vehicle and consists of a strengthened Falcon 9 first stage as a central core with two additional first stages as strap-on boosters.[8] Falcon Heavy has the highest payload capacity of any currently operational launch vehicle, and the fourth-highest capacity of any rocket ever built, trailing the American Saturn V and the Soviet Energia and N1.

SpaceX conducted Falcon Heavy's maiden launch on February 6, 2018, at 3:45 p.m. EST (20:45 UTC).[4] The rocket carried a Tesla Roadster belonging to SpaceX founder Elon Musk, as a dummy payload.[9] The next Falcon Heavy launch is scheduled for March 2019.[10]

Falcon Heavy was designed to carry humans into space beyond low Earth orbit, although as of February 2018 Musk does not plan to apply for a human-rating certification to carry NASA astronauts.[11] Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 will ultimately be replaced by the Starship and Super Heavy launch system.[12]

Falcon Heavy
Falcon Heavy cropped
Falcon Heavy on pad LC-39A, being prepared for its first launch
FunctionOrbital heavy-lift launch vehicle
Country of originUnited States
Cost per launch
  • Reusable: $90M[1]
  • Expendable: $150M[2]
Height70 m (230 ft)[3]
Diameter3.66 m (12.0 ft)[3]
Width12.2 m (40 ft)[3]
Mass1,420,788 kg (3,132,301 lb)[3]
Payload to LEO (28.5°)63,800 kg (140,700 lb)[3]
Payload to GTO (27°)26,700 kg (58,900 lb)[3]
Payload to Mars16,800 kg (37,000 lb)[3]
Payload to Pluto3,500 kg (7,700 lb)[3]
Associated rockets
FamilyFalcon 9
Launch history
Launch sites
Total launches1
Landings2 / 3 attempts
First flightFebruary 6, 2018[4]
No. boosters2
Engines9 Merlin 1D per booster
ThrustSea level: 7.6 MN (1,700,000 lbf) (each)
Vacuum: 8.2 MN (1,800,000 lbf) (each)
Total thrustSea level: 15.2 MN (3,400,000 lbf)
Vacuum: 16.4 MN (3,700,000 lbf)
Specific impulseSea level: 282 seconds[5]
Vacuum: 311 seconds[6]
Burn time154 seconds
FuelSubcooled LOX / Chilled RP-1[7]
First stage
Engines9 Merlin 1D
ThrustSea level: 7.6 MN (1,700,000 lbf)
Vacuum: 8.2 MN (1,800,000 lbf)
Specific impulseSea level: 282 seconds
Vacuum: 311 seconds
Burn time187 seconds
FuelSubcooled LOX / Chilled RP-1
Second stage
Engines1 Merlin 1D Vacuum
Thrust934 kN (210,000 lbf)[3]
Specific impulse348 seconds[3]
Burn time397 seconds[3]
FuelLOX / RP-1


SpaceX breaks ground at Vandenberg Air Force Base
SpaceX breaking ground at Vandenberg AFB SLC-4E in June 2011 for the Falcon Heavy launch pad

Concepts for a Falcon Heavy launch vehicle were initially discussed as early as 2004. The concept for three core booster stages of the company's as-yet-unflown Falcon 9 was referred to in 2005 as the Falcon 9 Heavy.[13]

SpaceX unveiled the plan for the Falcon Heavy to the public at a Washington DC news conference in April 2011, with initial test flight expected in 2013.[14]

A number of factors delayed the planned maiden flight by 5 years to 2018, including two anomalies with Falcon 9 launch vehicles, which required all engineering resources to be dedicated to failure analysis, halting flight operations for many months. The integration and structural challenges of combining three Falcon 9 cores were much more difficult than expected.[15]

In July 2017, Elon Musk said, "It actually ended up being way harder to do Falcon Heavy than we thought. ... Really way, way more difficult than we originally thought. We were pretty naive about that."[16]

The initial test flight for a Falcon Heavy lifted off on February 6, 2018, at 3:45 pm EST, carrying its dummy payload, Musk's personal Tesla Roadster, beyond Mars orbit.[4]

Conception and funding

Musk mentioned Falcon Heavy in a September 2005 news update, referring to a customer request from 18 months prior.[17] Various solutions using the planned Falcon 5 had been explored, but the only cost-effective, reliable iteration was one that used a 9-engine first stage – the Falcon 9. The Falcon Heavy was developed with private capital with Musk stating that the cost was more than $500 million. No government financing was provided for its development.[18]

Design and development

The Falcon Heavy design is based on Falcon 9's fuselage and engines.

By 2008, SpaceX had been aiming for the first launch of Falcon 9 in 2009, while "Falcon 9 Heavy would be in a couple of years". Speaking at the 2008 Mars Society Conference, Musk also indicated that he expected a hydrogen-fueled upper stage would follow 2–3 years later (which would have been around 2013).[19]

By April 2011, the capabilities and performance of the Falcon 9 vehicle were better understood, SpaceX having completed two successful demonstration missions to LEO, one of which included reignition of the second-stage engine. At a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. on April 5, 2011, Musk stated that Falcon Heavy would "carry more payload to orbit or escape velocity than any vehicle in history, apart from the Saturn V Moon rocket ... and Soviet Energia rocket".[20] In the same year, with the expected increase in demand for both variants, SpaceX announced plans to expand manufacturing capacity "as we build towards the capability of producing a Falcon 9 first stage or Falcon Heavy side booster every week and an upper stage every two weeks".[20]

In 2015, SpaceX announced a number of changes to the Falcon Heavy rocket, worked in parallel to the upgrade of the Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle.[21] In December 2016, SpaceX released a photo showing the Falcon Heavy interstage at the company headquarters in Hawthorne, California.[22]


By May 2013, a new, partly underground test stand was being built at the SpaceX Rocket Development and Test Facility in McGregor, Texas, specifically to test the triple cores and twenty-seven rocket engines of the Falcon Heavy.[23] By May 2017, SpaceX conducted the first static fire test of flight-design Falcon Heavy center core at the McGregor facility.[24][25]

In July 2017, Musk discussed publicly the challenges of testing a complex launch vehicle like the three-core Falcon Heavy, indicating that a large extent of the new design "is really impossible to test on the ground" and could not be effectively tested independent of actual flight tests.[16]

By September 2017, all three first stage cores had completed their static fire tests on the ground test stand.[26] The first Falcon Heavy static fire test was conducted on January 24, 2018.[27]

Maiden flight

In April 2011, Musk was planning for a first launch of Falcon Heavy from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the West Coast in 2013.[20][28] SpaceX refurbished Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg AFB to accommodate Falcon 9 and Heavy. The first launch from the Cape Canaveral East Coast launch complex was planned for late 2013 or 2014.[29]

Due partly to the failure of SpaceX CRS-7 in June 2015, SpaceX rescheduled the maiden Falcon Heavy flight in September 2015 to occur no earlier than April 2016,[30] but by February 2016 had postponed it again to late 2016. The flight was to be launched from the refurbished Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A.[31][32]

In August 2016, the demonstration flight was moved to early 2017,[33] then to summer 2017,[34] to late 2017[35] and was launched in February 2018.[36]

A second flight is scheduled for January 2019,[37] launching Arabsat-6A. The STP-2 (DoD Space Test Program) payload is scheduled to be launched in March 2019.[38] The payload is composed of 25 small spacecraft.[39] Operational GTO missions for Intelsat and Inmarsat, which were planned for late 2017, were moved to the Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket version as it had become powerful enough to lift those heavy payloads in its expendable configuration.[40][41] The first commercial GTO mission is also scheduled in December 2018 or January 2019 for Arabsat.[42]

At a July 2017 meeting of the International Space Station Research and Development meeting in Washington, D.C., Musk downplayed expectations for the success of the maiden flight:

There's a real good chance the vehicle won't make it to orbit ... I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage. I would consider even that a win, to be honest.[16]

Musk went on to say the integration and structural challenges of combining three Falcon 9 cores were much more difficult than expected.[15][16] The plan was for all three cores to land back on Earth after launch.[43]

In December 2017, Musk tweeted that the dummy payload on the maiden Falcon Heavy launch would be his personal Tesla Roadster playing David Bowie's "Life on Mars", and that it would be launched into an orbit around the Sun that will reach the orbit of Mars.[43][44] He released pictures in the following days.[45] The car had three cameras attached to provide "epic views".[9]

Falcon Heavy Demo Mission (40126461851)
Falcon Heavy a few seconds after liftoff

On December 28, 2017, the Falcon Heavy was moved to the launch pad in preparation of a static fire test of all 27 engines, which was expected on January 19, 2018.[46] However, due to the U.S. government shutdown that began on January 20, the testing and launch were further delayed.[47]

The static fire test was conducted on January 24, 2018.[27][48] Musk confirmed via Twitter that the test "was good" and later announced the rocket would be launched on February 6.[49]

On February 6, 2018, after a delay of over two hours due to high winds,[50] Falcon Heavy lifted off at 3:45pm EST.[4] Its side boosters landed safely on Landing Zones 1 and 2 a few minutes later.[51] However, only one of the three engines on the center booster that were intended to restart ignited during its descent, causing it to hit the water next to the droneship at a speed of over 480 km/h (300 mph).[52][53]

Initially, Elon Musk tweeted that the Roadster had overshot its planned heliocentric orbit, and would reach the asteroid belt. In fact, observations by telescopes showed that the Roadster would only slightly exceed the orbit of Mars at aphelion.[54]


Falcon rocket family5
From left to right, Falcon 1, Falcon 9 v1.0, three versions of the Falcon 9 v1.1, three versions of Falcon 9 v1.2 (Full Thrust), two versions of Falcon 9 Block5, and the Falcon Heavy

The Heavy configuration consists of a structurally strengthened Falcon 9 as the "core" component, with two additional Falcon 9 first stages acting as liquid fuel strap-on boosters,[8] which is conceptually similar to EELV Delta IV Heavy launcher and proposals for the Atlas V Heavy and Russian Angara A5V. Falcon Heavy has more lift capability than any other operational rocket, with a payload of 64,000 kilograms (141,000 lb) to low earth orbit and 16,800 kg (37,000 lb) to trans-Mars injection.[55] The rocket was designed to meet or exceed all current requirements of human rating. The structural safety margins are 40% above flight loads, higher than the 25% margins of other rockets.[56] Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and it would restore the possibility of flying crewed missions to the Moon or Mars.[3]

The first stage is powered by three Falcon 9 derived cores, each equipped with nine Merlin 1D engines. The Falcon Heavy has a total sea-level thrust at liftoff of 22,819 kN (5,130,000 lbf), from the 27 Merlin 1D engines, while thrust rises to 24,681 kN (5,549,000 lbf) as the craft climbs out of the atmosphere.[3] The upper stage is powered by a single Merlin 1D engine modified for vacuum operation, with a thrust of 934 kN (210,000 lbf), an expansion ratio of 117:1 and a nominal burn time of 397 seconds. At launch, the center core throttles to full power for a few seconds for additional thrust, then throttles down. This allows a longer burn time. After the side boosters separate, the center core throttles back up to maximum thrust. For added reliability of restart, the engine has dual redundant pyrophoric igniters (TEA-TEB).[8] The interstage, which connects the upper and lower stage for Falcon 9, is a carbon fiber aluminum core composite structure. Stage separation occurs via reusable separation collets and a pneumatic pusher system. The Falcon 9 tank walls and domes are made from aluminium-lithium alloy. SpaceX uses an all-friction stir welded tank. The second stage tank of Falcon 9 is simply a shorter version of the first stage tank and uses most of the same tooling, material, and manufacturing techniques. This approach reduces manufacturing costs during vehicle production.[8]

All three cores of the Falcon Heavy arrange the engines in a structural form SpaceX calls Octaweb, aimed at streamlining the manufacturing process,[57] and each core includes four extensible landing legs.[58] To control the descent of the boosters and center core through the atmosphere, SpaceX uses small grid fins which deploy from the vehicle after separation.[59] Immediately after the side boosters separate, the center engine in each burns for a few seconds in order to control the booster's trajectory safely away from the rocket.[58][60] The legs then deploy as the boosters turn back to Earth, landing each softly on the ground. The center core continues to fire until stage separation, after which its legs deploy and land back on Earth on a drone ship. The landing legs are made of carbon fiber with aluminum honeycomb structure. The four legs stow along the sides of each core during liftoff and later extend outward and down for landing.[61]


The partially reusable Falcon Heavy falls into the heavy-lift range of launch systems, capable of lifting 20 to 50 metric tons into low Earth orbit (LEO), under the classification system used by a NASA human spaceflight review panel.[62] A fully expendable Falcon Heavy may also reach the super heavy-lift category (above 50 metric tons to LEO).

The initial concept (Falcon 9-S9 2005) envisioned payloads of 24,750 kg (54,560 lb) to LEO, but by April 2011 this was projected to be up to 53,000 kg (117,000 lb)[63] with GTO payloads up to 12,000 kg (26,000 lb).[64] Later reports in 2011 projected higher payloads beyond LEO, including 19,000 kilograms (42,000 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit,[65] 16,000 kg (35,000 lb) to translunar trajectory, and 14,000 kg (31,000 lb) on a trans-Martian orbit to Mars.[66][67]

By late 2013, SpaceX raised the projected GTO payload for Falcon Heavy to up to 21,200 kg (46,700 lb).[68]

In April 2017, the projected LEO payload for Falcon Heavy was raised from 54,400 kg (119,900 lb) to 63,800 kg (140,700 lb). The maximum payload is achieved when the rocket flies a fully expendable launch profile, not recovering any of the three first-stage boosters.[1] With just the core booster expended, and two side-boosters recovered, Musk estimates the payload penalty to be around 10%, which would still yield over 57 tonnes of lift capability to LEO.[69] Returning all three boosters to the launch site rather than landing them on drone ships would yield about 30 tonnes of payload to LEO.[70]

Maximum theoretical payload capacity
Destination Falcon Heavy Falcon 9
Aug 2013
to Apr 2016
May 2016
to Mar 2017
Since Apr 2017
LEO (28.5°) expendable 53,000 kg 54,400 kg 63,800 kg 22,800 kg
GTO (27°) expendable 21,200 kg 22,200 kg 26,700 kg 8,300 kg
GTO (27°) reusable 6,400 kg 6,400 kg 8,000 kg 5,500 kg
Mars 13,200 kg 13,600 kg 16,800 kg 4,020 kg
Pluto 2,900 kg 3,500 kg


From 2013 to 2016, SpaceX conducted parallel development of a reusable rocket architecture for Falcon 9, that applies to parts of Falcon Heavy as well.

Early on, SpaceX had expressed hopes that all rocket stages would eventually be reusable.[71] SpaceX has since demonstrated routine land and sea recovery of the Falcon 9 first stage, and has made attempts to recover the payload fairing.[72] In the case of Falcon Heavy, the two outer cores separate from the rocket earlier in the flight, and are thus moving at a lower velocity than in a Falcon 9 launch profile.[61] For the first flight of Falcon Heavy, SpaceX had considered attempting to recover the second stage,[73] but did not execute this plan.

SpaceX has indicated that the Falcon Heavy payload performance to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) will be reduced due to the addition of the reusable technology, but the rocket would fly at a much lower price. When recovering all three booster cores, GTO payload is 8,000 kg (18,000 lb).[1] If only the two outside cores are recovered while the center core is expended, GTO payload would be approximately 16,000 kg (35,000 lb). As a comparison, the next-heaviest contemporary rocket, the fully expendable Delta IV Heavy, can deliver 14,210 kg (31,330 lb) to GTO.[74]

Propellant crossfeed

Falcon Heavy was originally designed with a unique "propellant crossfeed" capability, whereby the center core engines would be supplied with fuel and oxidizer from the two side cores until their separation.[75] Operating all engines at full thrust from launch, with fuel supplied mainly from the side boosters, would deplete the side boosters sooner, allowing their earlier separation. This would in turn leave most of the center core propellant available after booster separation, with a lighter load to accelerate.[76] The propellant crossfeed system was originally proposed in a 1998 book on orbital mechanics by Tom Logsdon, and nicknamed "asparagus staging".[77]

Musk stated in 2016 that crossfeed would not be implemented.[78] Instead, the center booster throttles down shortly after liftoff to conserve fuel, and resumes full thrust after the side boosters have separated.[3]

Launch prices

At an appearance in May 2004 before the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Musk testified, "Long term plans call for development of a heavy lift product and even a super-heavy, if there is customer demand. We expect that each size increase would result in a meaningful decrease in cost per pound to orbit. ... Ultimately, I believe $500 per pound or less is very achievable."[79] This $1,100 per kilogram ($500/lb) goal stated by Musk in 2011 is 35% of the cost of the lowest-cost-per-pound LEO-capable launch system in a circa-2000 study: the Zenit, a medium-lift launch vehicle that can carry 14,000 kilograms (30,000 lb) into LEO.[80]

As of March 2013, Falcon Heavy launch prices were below $2,200/kg ($1,000/lb) to low-Earth orbit when the launch vehicle is transporting its maximum delivered cargo weight.[81] The published prices for Falcon Heavy launches have changed somewhat from year to year, with announced prices for the various versions of Falcon Heavy priced at $80–125 million in 2011,[63] $83–128M in 2012,[64] $77–135M in 2013,[82] $85M for up to 6,400 kg (14,100 lb) to GTO in 2014, $90M for up to 8,000 kg (18,000 lb) to GTO in 2016,[83] and $150M for 63,800 kg (140,700 lb) to LEO or 26,700 kg (58,900 lb) to GTO (fully expendable),or $95M for 90% of its maximum capacity in 2018.[2] Launch contracts typically reflect launch prices at the time the contract is signed. In 2011, SpaceX stated that the cost of reaching low Earth orbit could be as low as $2,200/kg ($1,000/lb) if an annual rate of four launches can be sustained, and as of 2011 planned to eventually launch as many as 10 Falcon Heavies and 10 Falcon 9s annually.[66] A third launch site, intended exclusively for SpaceX private use, is planned at Boca Chica Village, Texas. SpaceX started construction on the third Falcon Heavy launch facility in 2014, with the first launches from the facility no earlier than late 2018.[84][85] In late 2013, SpaceX had projected Falcon Heavy's inaugural flight to be in 2014, but it did not occur until February 2018 due to limited manufacturing capacity and the need to deliver on the Falcon 9 launch manifest.[86][87]

By late 2013, SpaceX prices for space launch were already the lowest in the industry.[88] SpaceX's price for reused spacecraft could be reduced up to 30% short term, and potentially even further in the future.[18][89]

Launches and payloads

Due to improvements to the performance of Falcon 9, some of the heavier satellites flown to GTO, such as Intelsat 35e[90] and Inmarsat-5 F4,[91] ended up being launched before the debut of Falcon Heavy. SpaceX anticipated the first commercial Falcon Heavy launch would be three to six months after a successful maiden flight,[92] but the second and third missions were delayed towards the end of 2018 and now are planned for 2019.[93][94]

Flight № Launch date Payload Customer Outcome Remarks
1 February 6, 2018,
20:45 UTC[4]
Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster SpaceX Success[95] The Tesla Roadster was sent to a trans-Mars injection heliocentric orbit.[96][97] Both side boosters landed successfully; the center booster struck the ocean after two of its engines failed to relight on reentry, damaging two of the drone ship's engines.[53] The mission was originally intended to be launched as early as 2013.
2 NET March 2019[94] Arabsat-6A Arabsat Scheduled Saudi Arabian heavy communications satellite.[98]
3 April 2019[38] USAF STP-2 DoD Scheduled The mission will support the U.S. Air Force EELV certification process for the Falcon Heavy.[98] Secondary payloads include LightSail,[99] GPIM,[100][101][102] OTB satellite (hosting the Deep Space Atomic Clock[103][104]), six COSMIC-2 satellites,[105][106] the Oculus-ASR satellite,[107] Prox-1 nanosatellites,[99] and the ISAT satellite.[108] Planned to reuse the three boosters from the second Heavy flight.[94]
2020[109] AFSPC-52 U.S. Air Force Planned
Q4 2020[110] Ovzon-3 Ovzon Planned Communications satellite for a Swedish mobile broadband supplier. Direct delivery to geostationary orbit.[111]
February 2021 AFSPC-44 U.S. Air Force Scheduled
2020–2022[112] ViaSat-3 Viasat Planned Ka-band satellite serving either APAC, EMEA, or the Americas.
TBA TBA Inmarsat Planned Launch option maintained after a 2016 Falcon Heavy launch of European Aviation Network satellite was switched for an Ariane 5 launch in 2017.[42]
TBA TBA Intelsat Planned Launch option signed back in 2012.[42]

First commercial contracts

In May 2012, SpaceX announced that Intelsat had signed the first commercial contract for a Falcon Heavy flight. It was not confirmed at the time when the first Intelsat launch would occur, but the agreement will have SpaceX delivering satellites to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).[113][114] In August 2016, it emerged that this Intelsat contract had been reassigned to a Falcon 9 Full Thrust mission to deliver Intelsat 35e into orbit in the third quarter of 2017.[40] Performance improvements of the Falcon 9 vehicle family since the 2012 announcement, advertising 8,300 kg to GTO for its expendable flight profile,[115] enable the launch of this 6,000 kg satellite without upgrading to a Falcon Heavy variant.

In 2014, Inmarsat booked 3 launches with Falcon Heavy,[116] but due to delays they switched a payload to Ariane 5 for 2017.[117] Similarly to the Intelsat 35e case, another satellite from this contract, Inmarsat 5-F4, was switched to a Falcon 9 Full Thrust thanks to the increased liftoff capacity.[41] The remaining contract covers the launch of Inmarsat 6-F1 in 2020 on a Falcon 9.[118]

First DoD contract: USAF

In December 2012, SpaceX announced its first Falcon Heavy launch contract with the United States Department of Defense (DoD). The United States Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center awarded SpaceX two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV)-class missions, including the Space Test Program 2 (STP-2) mission for Falcon Heavy, originally scheduled to be launched in March 2017,[119][120] to be placed at a near circular orbit at an altitude of ~700 km, with an inclination of 70°.[121]

In April 2015, SpaceX sent the U.S. Air Force an updated letter of intent outlining a certification process for its Falcon Heavy rocket to launch national security satellites. The process includes three successful flights of the Falcon Heavy including two consecutive successful flights, and states that Falcon Heavy can be ready to fly national security payloads by 2017.[122] But in July 2017, SpaceX announced that the first test flight would take place in December 2017, pushing the launch of the second launch (Space Test Program 2) to June 2018.[39] In May 2018, on the occasion of the first launch of the Falcon 9 Block 5 variant, a further delay, to October 2018, was announced; the STP-2 mission will use three Block 5 cores.[123]

STP-2 payload

The payload for the STP-2 mission is composed of 25 small spacecraft from the U.S. military, NASA, and research institutions:[39] The Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) will be a payload; it is a new non-toxic propellant demonstrator project partly developed by the US Air Force.[100][124] Another secondary payload is the miniaturized Deep Space Atomic Clock that is expected to facilitate autonomous navigation.[125] The Air Force Research Laboratory's Demonstration and Science Experiments (DSX) has a mass of 500 kg and will measure the effects of very low frequency radio waves on space radiation.[39] The British 'Orbital Test Bed' payload is hosting several commercial and military experiments.

Other small satellites include Prox 1, built by Georgia Tech students to test out a 3D-printed thruster and a miniaturized gyroscope, LightSail by the Planetary Society,[99] Oculus-ASR nanosatellite from Michigan Tech,[107] and CubeSats from the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Naval Postgraduate School, the Naval Research Laboratory, the University of Texas at Austin, Cal Poly, and a CubeSat assembled by students at Merritt Island High School in Florida.[39]

The launcher will include a 5,000  kg ballast mass, and the Block 5-second stage will allow multiple reignitions to place its many payloads in multiple orbits.[126]

Solar System transport missions

In 2011, NASA Ames Research Center proposed a Mars mission called Red Dragon that would use a Falcon Heavy as the launch vehicle and trans-Martian injection vehicle, and a variant of the Dragon capsule to enter the Martian atmosphere. The proposed science objectives were to detect biosignatures and to drill 1.0 meter (3.3 ft) or so underground, in an effort to sample reservoirs of water ice known to exist under the surface. The mission cost as of 2011 was projected to be less than US$425,000,000, not including the launch cost.[127] SpaceX 2015 estimation was 2,000–4,000 kg (4,400–8,800 lb) to the surface of Mars, with a soft retropropulsive landing following a limited atmospheric deceleration using a parachute and heat shield.[128] Beyond the Red Dragon concept, SpaceX was seeing potential for Falcon Heavy and Dragon 2 to carry science payloads across much of the Solar System, particularly to Jupiter's moon Europa.[128] SpaceX announced in 2017 that propulsive landing for Dragon 2 would not be developed further, and that the capsule would not receive landing legs. Consequently, the Red Dragon missions to Mars were cancelled in favor of the BFR, a larger vehicle using a different landing technology.[129]

See also


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External links


Arabsat-6A is a Saudi Arabian communications satellite operated by Arabsat. The satellite will be launched with SpaceX's Falcon Heavy in March 2019.Arabsat-6A and Hellas Sat 4/SaudiGeoSat-1 are the two satellites of the Arabsat-6G program.

These two satellites are the most advanced commercial communications satellites ever built by Lockheed Martin, and are based on an updated A2100 bus and use new solar panel technology.Arabsat-6A will be positioned in geostationary orbit providing television, Internet, telephone and secure communications, to customers in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

BFR (rocket)

The Big Falcon Rocket (officially shortened to BFR) is a privately-funded, fully-reusable launch vehicle and spacecraft system in development by SpaceX. In November 2018 the second stage and ship was renamed by Elon Musk to Starship, while the first stage was given the moniker "Super Heavy". The overall space vehicle architecture includes both launch vehicle and spacecraft, as well as ground infrastructure for rapid launch and relaunch, and zero-gravity propellant transfer technology to be deployed in low Earth orbit (LEO). The payload capacity to Earth orbit of at least 100,000 kg (220,000 lb) makes BFR a super heavy-lift launch vehicle. However, if the pattern seen in previous iterations holds, the full Starship-Super Heavy stack could be capable of launching 150 tons or more to low earth orbit, more than any other launch vehicle currently planned. The first orbital flight is tentatively planned for 2020.SpaceX has been developing a super heavy-lift launch vehicle for many years, with the design (and nomenclature) of the vehicle undergoing several revisions over time. Before 2016, the vehicle was referred to as the Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT), then in 2016 Elon Musk presented the vehicle as the ITS launch vehicle, forming a core part of Musk's comprehensive vision for an Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). In September 2017, the design changed to a much smaller 9 m (30 ft)-diameter vehicle and was renamed BFR.The launch vehicle design is dependent on the concurrent development work on the Raptor rocket engines, which are cryogenic methalox-fueled engines to be used for both stages of the BFR launch vehicle. Development on the Raptor began in 2012, leading to engine testing which began in 2016.

The BFR system is intended to completely replace all of SpaceX's existing space hardware (the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, and the Dragon spacecraft), initially aiming at the Earth-orbit launch market, but explicitly adding substantial capability to support long-duration spaceflight in the cislunar and Mars transport flight environments.

DearMoon project

The #dearMoon project is a lunar tourism mission and art project conceived and financed by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. Its key component is a private spaceflight involving Maezawa, several artists and one or two crew members on board SpaceX's BFR spacecraft flying on a circumlunar trajectory around the Moon. The project was unveiled in September 2018 and the flight is expected to occur no earlier than 2023.

The project objective is to have six to eight accomplished artists travel with him for free around the Moon on a six-day tour. Maezawa expects the experience of space tourism will inspire the accompanying artists in the creation of new art. The art would be exhibited some time after returning to Earth to help promote peace across the world.

Maezawa had previously contracted in 2017 with SpaceX for a lunar flyby in a much smaller Dragon 2 spacecraft launched by a Falcon Heavy launch vehicle which would have carried only two passengers. But according to a SpaceX announcement in early 2018, the Falcon Heavy plan was shelved in light of the development of the BFR.

The BFR is currently being developed. The crewed flight will not take place until after the BFR systems are tested on Earth and in outer space.

Deep Space Atomic Clock

The Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC) is a miniaturized, ultra-precise mercury-ion atomic clock for precise radio navigation in deep space. It is orders of magnitude more stable than existing navigation clocks, and has been refined to limit drift of no more than 1 nanosecond in 10 days. It is expected that a DSAC would incur no more than 1 microsecond of error in 10 years of operations. It is expected to improve the precision of deep space navigation, and enable more efficient use of tracking networks. The project is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and it will be deployed as part of the U.S. Air Force's Space Test Program 2 (STP-2) mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in March 2019.

Delta IV Heavy

The Delta IV Heavy (Delta 9250H) is an expendable heavy-lift launch vehicle, the largest type of the Delta IV family and the world's second highest-capacity rocket in operation. It is manufactured by United Launch Alliance and was first launched in 2004.The Delta IV Heavy consists of a central Common Booster Core (CBC), with two additional CBCs as liquid rocket boosters instead of the GEM-60 solid rocket motors used by the Delta IV Medium+ versions. At lift off, all three cores operate at full thrust, and 44 seconds later the center core throttles down to 55% to conserve fuel until booster separation. The boosters burn out at 242 seconds after launch and are separated as the core booster throttles back up to full thrust. The core burns out 86 seconds later, and the second stage completes the ascent to orbit.

Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster

Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster is an electric sports car that served as the dummy payload for the February 2018 Falcon Heavy test flight and became an artificial satellite of the Sun. "Starman", a mannequin dressed in a spacesuit, occupies the driver's seat. The car and rocket are products of Tesla and SpaceX, respectively, both companies founded by Elon Musk. The 2008-model Roadster was previously used by Musk for commuting to work, and is the only production car in space.

The car, mounted on the rocket's second stage, acquired enough velocity to escape Earth's gravity and enter an elliptical heliocentric orbit crossing the orbit of Mars. The orbit reaches a maximum distance from the Sun at aphelion of 1.66 astronomical units (au). During the early portion of the voyage outside the Earth's atmosphere, live video was transmitted back to the mission control center and live-streamed for slightly over four hours.Advertising analysts noted Musk's sense of brand management and use of new media for his decision to launch a Tesla into space. While some commenters voiced concern that the car contributed to space debris, others saw it as a work of art. Musk explained he wanted to inspire the public about the "possibility of something new happening in space," as part of his larger vision for spreading humanity to other planets.

Exploration Mission-2

The Exploration Mission-2, or EM-2, is a scheduled 2022 mission of the Space Launch System and planned to be the first crewed mission of NASA's Orion spacecraft.Originally, the crewed mission was intended to collect samples from a captured asteroid in lunar orbit by the now cancelled robotic Asteroid Redirect Mission. The plan is for a crewed Orion spacecraft to perform a lunar flyby test and return to Earth. As of 2019 the last crewed spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit was Apollo 17 in 1972.

Falcon (rocket family)

The Falcon rocket family is an American family of multi-use rocket launch vehicles developed and operated by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX).

The vehicles in this family include the flight-tested Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. The Falcon 1 made its first successful flight on 28 September 2008, after several failures on the initial attempts. The larger Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV)-class Falcon 9 flew successfully into orbit on its maiden launch on 4 June 2010. The Falcon 9 was designed for reuse; over a dozen first stages have landed vertically, and several have been launched again. SpaceX's three-core variant, Falcon Heavy, was successfully launched on February 6, 2018.

Falcon 9 booster B1023

Falcon 9 booster B1023 is a first-stage reusable rocket booster for the Falcon 9 orbital launch vehicle manufactured by SpaceX. B1023 became the second successful return from a GTO launch, and later became the first booster to be reflown after being recovered from a GTO launch.

Falcon 9 v1.1

Falcon 9 v1.1 was the second version of SpaceX's Falcon 9 orbital launch vehicle. The rocket was developed in 2011–2013, made its maiden launch in September 2013, and its final flight in January 2016. The Falcon 9 rocket was fully designed, manufactured, and operated by SpaceX. Following the second Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) launch, the initial version Falcon 9 v1.0 was retired from use and replaced by the v1.1 version.

Falcon 9 v1.1 was a significant evolution from Falcon 9 v1.0, with 60 percent more thrust and weight. Its maiden flight carried out a demonstration mission with the CASSIOPE satellite on 29 September 2013, the sixth overall launch of any Falcon 9.Both stages of the two-stage-to-orbit vehicle used liquid oxygen (LOX) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellants. The Falcon 9 v1.1 could lift payloads of 13,150 kilograms (28,990 lb) to low Earth orbit, and 4,850 kilograms (10,690 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit, which places the Falcon 9 design in the medium-lift range of launch systems.Beginning in April 2014, the Dragon capsules were propelled by Falcon 9 v1.1 to deliver cargo to the International Space Station under the Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. This version was also intended to ferry astronauts to the ISS under a NASA Commercial Crew Development contract signed in September 2014 but those missions are now scheduled to use the upgraded Falcon 9 Full Thrust version, first flown in December 2015.

Falcon 9 v1.1 was notable for pioneering the development of reusable rockets, whereby SpaceX gradually refined technologies for first-stage boostback, atmospheric re-entry, controlled descent and eventual propulsive landing. This last goal was achieved on the first flight of the successor variant Falcon 9 Full Thrust, after several close calls with Falcon 9 v1.1.

Falcon Heavy test flight

The Falcon Heavy test flight (also known as Falcon Heavy demonstration mission) was the first attempt by SpaceX to launch a Falcon Heavy rocket on February 6, 2018 at 20:45 UTC. The successful test introduced the Falcon Heavy as the most powerful rocket in operation, producing five million pounds-force (22 MN) of thrust and having more than twice the lift capacity of the NASA Space Shuttle launch system.

Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39

Launch Complex 39 (LC-39) is a rocket launch site at the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida, United States. The site and its collection of facilities were originally built for the Apollo program, and later modified for the Space Shuttle program. As of 2017, only Launch Complex 39A is active, launching SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. Pad 39B is being modified to launch NASA's Space Launch System. A new, smaller pad, 39C was added in 2015 to support smaller launches but has not yet been used.

Launch Complex 39 is composed of three launch pads—39A, 39B and 39C, a Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), a Crawlerway used by crawler-transporters to carry Mobile Launcher Platforms between the VAB and the pads, Orbiter Processing Facility buildings, a Launch Control Center which contains the firing rooms, a news facility famous for the iconic countdown clock seen in television coverage and photos, and various logistical and operational support buildings.SpaceX leases Launch Pad 39A from NASA and has modified the pad to support Falcon Heavy launches in 2017 and beyond.NASA began modifying Launch Pad 39B in 2007 to accommodate the now defunct Project Constellation, and is currently preparing it for the Space Launch System with first launch scheduled for December 2019. Pad C was originally planned for Apollo but never built, and would have been a copy of pads 39A and 39B. A smaller pad, designated 39C was constructed from January to June 2015 to accommodate small-class vehicles.NASA launches from LC-39A and 39B have been supervised from the NASA Launch Control Center (LCC), located 3 miles (4.8 km) from the launch pads. LC-39 is one of several launch sites that share radar and tracking services of the Eastern Test Range.

Landing Zones 1 and 2

Landing Zone 1, Landing Zone 2 and Landing Zone 4, also known as LZ-1, LZ-2 and LZ-4 respectively, are landing facilities for recovering components of SpaceX's VTVL reusable launch vehicles. LZ-1 and LZ-2 were built on land leased in February 2015 from the United States Air Force, on the site of the former Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 13. SpaceX built Landing Zone 2 at the facility to have a second landing pad, allowing two Falcon Heavy boosters to land simultaneously. SpaceX started construction on Landing Zone 4 in 2016. This landing zone is located next door to SLC-4E, in Vandenburg Airforce Base.


LightSail is a project to demonstrate controlled solar sailing using CubeSat artificial satellites developed by The Planetary Society, a global non-profit organization devoted to space exploration. The spacecraft core measures 10 × 10 × 30 cm, and its kite-shaped solar sail deploys into a total area of 32 square meters (340 sq ft).On May 20, 2015, a demonstration spacecraft, LightSail 1 (formerly called LightSail-A), was launched, and deployed its solar sail on June 7, 2015. LightSail 2 is currently scheduled to be launched as a secondary payload on the Space Test Program (STP-2) on a Falcon Heavy rocket in 2019.

List of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches

Since their first mission in June 2010, rockets from the Falcon 9 family have been launched 69 times, with 67 full mission successes, one partial failure and one total loss of spacecraft. In addition, one rocket and its payload were destroyed on the launch pad in the fueling process before a static fire test.

Designed and operated by private manufacturer SpaceX, the Falcon 9 rocket family includes the retired versions Falcon 9 v1.0, v1.1, and v1.2 "Full Thrust", along with the currently active Block 5 evolution. Falcon Heavy is a heavy-lift derivative of Falcon 9, combining a strengthened central core with two Falcon 9 first stages as side boosters.The Falcon design features reusable first-stage boosters, landing either on a ground pad near the launch site, or on a drone ship at sea. In December 2015, Falcon 9 became the first rocket to land propulsively after delivering a payload to orbit. This achievement is expected to significantly reduce launch costs. Falcon 9 core boosters have successfully landed 34 times in 41 attempts. 18 of them have flown a second mission, including two as Falcon Heavy side boosters, and two boosters have gone on to fly a third mission.

Falcon 9's typical missions include cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS) with the Dragon capsule, launch of communications satellites and Earth observation satellites to geostationary transfer orbits (GTO), and low-Earth orbits (LEO), some of them at polar inclinations. The heaviest payloads launched to date were batches of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites weighing 9,600 kg (21,200 lb) to a 625 km (388 mi) low Earth orbit (LEO), and Intelsat 35e with 6,761 kg (14,905 lb) to GTO. Launches to higher orbits have included the DSCOVR probe to the Sun–Earth Lagrangian point L1, the TESS space telescope launched on a Lunar flyby trajectory, and the Falcon Heavy test flight whose payload, a Tesla roadster, escaped Earth's gravity well and reached a heliocentric orbit extending beyond the orbit of Mars.

List of Falcon 9 first-stage boosters

A Falcon 9 first-stage booster is a reusable rocket booster used on the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy orbital launch vehicles manufactured by SpaceX. The manufacture of first-stage booster constitutes about 60% of the launch price of a single Falcon 9 (and three of them over 80% of the launch price of a Falcon Heavy), which led SpaceX to develop a program dedicated to recovery and reuse of these boosters for a significant decrease in launch costs. After multiple attempts, some as early as 2010, at controlling the reentry of the first stage after its separation from the second stage, the first successful controlled landing of a first stage occurred on 22 December 2015, on the first flight of the Full Thrust version. Since then, Falcon 9 first-stage boosters have been landed and recovered 33 times out of 40 attempts, including a synchronized recovery of the two side-boosters of the Falcon Heavy test flight.

As of 11 January 2019, 18 recovered boosters were refurbished and subsequently flown a second time, including B1046 which conducted three missions. Four Block 5 boosters were recovered and are potentially available for future flights. SpaceX intentionally limited Block 3 and Block 4 boosters to flying only two missions each, but the company expects the Block 5 versions to achieve 10 flights each without major refurbishment and up to 100 with regular refurbishment.


Space Exploration Technologies Corp., doing business as SpaceX, is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. It was founded in 2002 by entrepreneur Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs and enabling the colonization of Mars. SpaceX has since developed the Falcon launch vehicle family and the Dragon spacecraft family, which both currently deliver payloads into Earth orbit.

SpaceX's achievements include the first privately funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit (Falcon 1 in 2008), the first private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft (Dragon in 2010), the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (Dragon in 2012), the first propulsive landing for an orbital rocket (Falcon 9 in 2015), the first reuse of an orbital rocket (Falcon 9 in 2017), and the first private company to launch an object into orbit around the sun (Falcon Heavy's payload of a Tesla Roadster in 2018). SpaceX has flown 16 resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) under a partnership with NASA. NASA also awarded SpaceX a further development contract in 2011 to develop and demonstrate a human-rated Dragon, which would be used to transport astronauts to the ISS and return them safely to Earth. SpaceX plans the maiden launch of its Dragon 2 spacecraft on a NASA-required demonstration flight in early 2019 and to launch its first crewed Dragon 2 later in 2019.SpaceX announced in 2011 that it was beginning a reusable launch system technology development program. In December 2015, the first Falcon 9 was flown back to a landing pad near the launch site, where it successfully accomplished a propulsive vertical landing. This was the first such achievement by a rocket for orbital spaceflight. In April 2016, with the launch of CRS-8, SpaceX successfully vertically landed the first stage on an ocean drone ship landing platform. In May 2016, in another first, SpaceX again landed the first stage, but during a significantly more energetic geostationary transfer orbit mission. In March 2017, SpaceX became the first to successfully re-launch and land the first stage of an orbital rocket.In September 2016, CEO Elon Musk unveiled the mission architecture of the Interplanetary Transport System program, an ambitious privately funded initiative to develop spaceflight technology for use in crewed interplanetary spaceflight. In 2017, Musk unveiled an updated configuration of the system, now named Starship and Super Heavy, which is planned to be fully reusable and will be the largest rocket ever on its debut, currently scheduled for the early 2020s.

SpaceX Red Dragon

Red Dragon was a 2011–2017 concept for using an uncrewed SpaceX Dragon 2 capsule for low-cost Mars lander missions to be launched using Falcon Heavy rockets.

The primary objective of the initial Red Dragon mission was to test techniques and technology to enter the Martian atmosphere with equipment that a human crew could conceivably use. The series of Mars missions were to be technology pathfinders for the much larger SpaceX Mars colonization architecture that was announced in September 2016. An additional suggested use for a mission called for a sample return Mars rover to be delivered to the Martian surface.

The program was conceived in 2011 as a potential NASA Discovery mission launching as early as 2022, and evolved over several years once it did not receive funding for the 2013–2015 Discovery Mission program cycle. In April 2016, SpaceX announced that they had signed an unfunded Space Act Agreement with NASA, providing technical support, for a launch no earlier than 2018. In February 2017, SpaceX noted this launch date was delayed to no earlier than 2020. In July 2017, Elon Musk announced that development would be halted and resources redirected to larger spaceships he now calls BFR.

SpaceX reusable launch system development program

The SpaceX reusable launch system development program is a privately funded program to develop a set of new technologies for an orbital launch system that may be reused many times in a manner similar to the reusability of aircraft. The company SpaceX is developing the technologies over a number of years to facilitate full and rapid reusability of space launch vehicles. The project's long-term objectives include returning a launch vehicle first stage to the launch site in minutes and to return a second stage to the launch pad following orbital realignment with the launch site and atmospheric reentry in up to 24 hours. SpaceX's long term goal is that both stages of their orbital launch vehicle will be designed to allow reuse a few hours after return.The program was publicly announced in 2011. SpaceX first achieved a successful landing and recovery of a first stage in December 2015. The first re-flight of a landed first stage occurred in March 2017 with the second occurring in June 2017, that one only five months after the maiden flight of the booster. The third attempt occurred in October 2017 with the SES-11/EchoStar-105 mission. Second flights of refurbished first stages then became routine.

The reusable launch system technology was developed and initially used for the first stages of the Falcon family of rockets. After stage separation, the return process involves flipping the booster around, an optional boostback burn to reverse its course, a reentry burn, controlling direction to arrive at the landing site and a landing burn to effect the final low-altitude deceleration and touchdown.

SpaceX intended (from at least 2014) to develop technology to extend reusable flight hardware to second stages, a more challenging engineering problem because the vehicle is travelling at orbital velocity,

which is considered paramount to the plans Elon Musk is championing to enable the settlement of Mars. It is thus planned to be developed for all of the flight hardware for the new SpaceX vehicles planned to transit to Mars, with initial test flights expected no earlier than 2020. SpaceX will also experiment with second stage recovery on a few select Falcon 9 flights or Falcon Heavy flights.

After 2017, much of the reusable technology development work and testing turned substantially toward advances in reusable second-stage-with-integrated-spaceship technology to support BFR use not merely in Earth's atmosphere, but also as intended to be used on Solar system celestial bodies such as the Moon and Mars with very diverse atmospheric characteristics.

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