Something Big Coming from SpaceX?

by Nancy Atkinson on March 31, 2011

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OK, SpaceX, you’ve got us intrigued. This video released today by SpaceX says something “big” is coming on April 5, 2011. No embargoes, either!

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

fergiej March 31, 2011 at 5:39 PM

Looks like they are going to introduce the Falcon Heavy. Gonna be a beast of a rocket, but I thought it wasn’t going to be ready for at least 3 or 4 more years. Hm, maybe Elon’s getting an itchy trigger finger!

joed293 March 31, 2011 at 5:58 PM

No wonder all the ex-NASAs are defecting, or think of moving to SpaceX, their progress has accelerated far faster than NASA ever did!

lotusface April 1, 2011 at 3:52 PM

That is inaccurate. NASA had to invent and test everything they did in order to get to the moon, all subsequent space travel technology rests on the shoulders of those early days. SpaceX cannot be compared to the early NASA achievements. They used slide rules to engineer near perfection; Musk can use supercomputers to model out most of the issues NASA had to build and test to solve. Your claim is malinformed. Show some pride in the greater accomplishments that our nation has achieved.

wjwbudro April 1, 2011 at 4:47 PM

Here here lotusface, well said.

wjwbudro April 1, 2011 at 4:53 PM

Oh no, I hope this slips by our dear HSBC.

trueman832 March 31, 2011 at 6:01 PM

From the graphic in the last seconds of the video, showing 3 sets of Falcon 9 motors, it must be the Falcon 9 Heavy. Are they prepping one for a test flight? A mock up? It’s something big alright, but Dragon is launched on a vanilla Falcon 9 so it must be unrelated to the next Dragon capsule test. Or maybe they’re just selling Elon’s space cheese… MMmmmmm… space cheese.

trueman832 March 31, 2011 at 6:02 PM

… on second thought, the “FH” probably does stand for “Falcon Heavy” and not “Space Cheese”. Phooey.

gopher65 March 31, 2011 at 6:49 PM

Awesome:D. I was wondering when this was coming.

high_school_astronomer March 31, 2011 at 6:49 PM

It must be the Falcon Heavy. They showed a silouette that exactly matches it at 0:27.

TalGreywolf March 31, 2011 at 7:58 PM

It could be either the Falcon 9 Heavy, or it could be the Falcon X Heavy, similar to a Delta IV. In any case, look out ULA and ESA, there may be a new player in town that’s going to shake up the business.

TerryG March 31, 2011 at 8:22 PM

http://www.spacex.com/launch_manifest.php does list a F9H demo flight for 2012 from Vandenberg AFB, California, but by all means SpaceX should work the impending event marketing.

The F9H will really set the space cat amongst the space pigeons.

TalGreywolf March 31, 2011 at 8:34 PM

That’s an understatement if SpaceX does unveil the F9H or even the Falcon XX Heavy. Considering that Ariane had that abort today on the pad yesterday (30 March) there’s going to be a lot of interest in seeing if SpaceX can produce a working heavy lift vehicle.

Life is about to get interesting post-Shuttle.

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 1, 2011 at 5:31 PM

“Considering that Ariane had that abort today on the pad yesterday…”

With 51 or 52 successful launches in a row, I’d say the system is pretty reliable. I’d say that Space X has a lot to catch up to do.

Torbjorn Larsson OM March 31, 2011 at 10:10 PM

Thanks, interesting, I didn’t know about SpaceX conceptual plans:

“By mid-August, the SpaceX CEO Elon Musk clarified that while the Merlin 2 engine architecture was a key element of any effort SpaceX would make toward their objective of “super-heavy lift” launch vehicles—and that SpaceX indeed did want to “move toward super heavy lift”—the specific potential design configurations of the particular launch vehicles shown by Markusic at the propulsion conference were merely conceptual “brainstorming ideas”, just a “bunch of ideas for discussion.”[49]” [Wp]

But presumably from the silhouette and feasible technology “FH” stands for the 9 engine core 1st gen F9H, perhaps best shown here, as the Falcon X/XX series use a future Merlin 2 engine for 3-6 engines/core. A FXX Heavy would be a brute!

[And I note from the link's first figure that Apollo V is still the most beautiful system flown, though an FXH would be getting close.]

Eric E March 31, 2011 at 8:38 PM

To the moon!

Slugsie April 1, 2011 at 1:02 PM

The phrase ‘Fraction of the cost’ always bothers me. 999/1000′s is a fraction, but not exactly one you go out of your way to pursue to save money.

Anyway, anything that brings greater access to space is a good thing.

gopher65 April 1, 2011 at 1:49 PM

In the case of the F9H it’s suppose to be more like 50-75% of competition. Realistically I’d go more with the top end of that estimate, but even so, that’s still an incredible improvement over the Delta 4 Heavy and the (currently not even as existent as the F9H) Atlas 5 HLV.

shinace April 1, 2011 at 2:16 PM

April fool’s!

Hopefully we don’t wait around for nothing

lotusface April 1, 2011 at 3:57 PM

Most certainly FH is for Falcon heavy, but the Dragon reference throws me a bit. Is SpaceX also engineering a capsule? I would imagine that the retention and advanced state of the Orion capsule program would indicate that it is intended to be fully developed. Would it not be wise for the Orion capsule to be the intended payload of the civilian space vehicle companies?

Torbjorn Larsson OM April 1, 2011 at 10:48 PM

I’m not sure what you mean by “also”. Musk, whose original incentive was manned missions, has designed the Dragon so that it can be upgraded to a manned capsule for really long missions in a few years for a moderate sum. That is no secret, and has been on the table several years now.

Actually, it is keeping the Orion for “ISS rescue” and then skunking it for missions that may have been wiser waiting – it will cost more and take longer time, for lesser capability (fewer men, shorter times, less safety margins – according to the respective specs).

Gripen April 1, 2011 at 9:43 PM

Nice

xrayexplorer April 4, 2011 at 1:16 PM

I do agree that NASA paved the way for what we have today and are still using the fruits of those efforts. There is no questioning that.

However, the crowning acheivement of those efforts was the Saturn V. It also had multiple ways that it could be upgraded with newer engines and stretched stages as the technology was developed along the way. This is similar to the way the Spitfire was continually developed to meet the demands of faster and more agile Axis fighters.

For me personally to give NASA a lot of credit for what is being developed now , beyond what NASA has acheived in the last few decades I would have to had seen NASA move ahead quickly with their own heavy lifter utilizing the technology and lessons learned from the developement of the Saturn V.

They didn’t. All I heard were cries of how all of the know how was lost and the people now retired so they had to start from scratch etc. etc.

Ok fine. If that is the case, then I have to give anyone who developes and builds a rocket quickly ,with capabilities that NASA cannot offer at this time all or at least the vast majotity of the credit for their accomplishment. As such I still say ‘Shame on you NASA’. Rocket technology has not changed much since the early sixties and I find it hard to believe that NASA did not make this a lot harder than it needed to be as far as heavy lift to the moon and beyond are concerned.

I admit that this is only my own personal view point and I am probaly missing some key points. Also I must admit I am still pissed at NASA that all of that Saturn V capability and a lot more were left in the dust bin of history to languish and never resurected when the chance came up almost 10 years ago.

Shame on you.

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 4, 2011 at 1:37 PM

“Rocket technology has not changed much since the early sixties…”

WHere have you been all these years. What about the development of Ariane 5?Technologically, this rocket is miles ahead or older rocket technology. They have had 51 or 52 launches in a row without a hiccup. Saturn V is an absolute dinosaur left in the past, and it should stay as a historical milestone and not something among the best of current rocket technology.
Your words here are mostly poor distorted recollection of history — given up because there was no use, after the Apollo program has finished, for such a large rocket.

xrayexplorer April 4, 2011 at 2:59 PM

Ariane V. Ok then. I agree that is has a great record. So does the Atlas and Delta rockets both from the sixties and continually developed to stretch their potential. This was part of my point. Engine technology as far as the combusiton cycle is concerned still uses the same fuels and oxidizers. There have not bee many adoptions of new fuels in the past 40 years other than some minor mixture differences in binding agents etc. in solid rocket boosters.

As far as best current technology, does the Airaane V have engines that are far more efficient? Well, if you count 8-10% more than the late 60′s, then I guess so but the LOX/O2 H class engines planned for the early 70′s were equivalent. Electronics have advanced so yes this have been a big improvement but it has occured outside of the rocket industry largely. The large rockets planned back then were continual improvements on existing technology and to say that rockets today are that much better is stretching the truth a bit I think.

I also agree that there was no use for such a rocket after the moon program disolved. Again, this was at the center of my point. If NASA cannot build a large rocket today that can lift more than 8 metric tons to C3 =0, then anyone who can should get full credit. The fact that it appears to be moving ahead at such speed is impressive.

As far as a poor distorted recollection of history; fine. I did get my information from sources such as ‘Thrust Into Space’ and “Rockets, Missiles and Spacecraft’. Both of these books are pretty old I must say.

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb April 4, 2011 at 3:19 PM

Fair enough. You make some good point here.
I think you find that the advancement in rocketry is substantial; not in the sense of the basic design but in the telemetry, costs and general fuel efficiency.
One of the better advances was the solid rocket boosters from the shuttle, which have also ben adopted in other systems. Reusability is a key component of the advancement, whose options are still not fully explored.
The last component of rocket design is its impact environmentally — something that wasn’t envisaged in the Saturn 5 era.
Quite appreciates your moderate response, here.
Cheers.

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