Rocket mania surrounds first test flight for SpaceX’s huge new Falcon Heavy
By Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX’s hot new monster rocket makes its launch debut this week, blasting off from the same pad that hoisted men to the moon a half-century ago.
The Falcon Heavy won’t surpass NASA’s Saturn V moon rocket, still all-time king of the launch circuit. It won’t even approach the liftoff might of NASA’s space shuttles.
But when it departs on its first test flight — as early as Tuesday — the Heavy, with its three boosters and 27 engines, will be the most powerful working rocket out there today, by a factor of two. Picture SpaceX’s frequent-flyer Falcon 9 and its single booster and then times that by three; the Heavy’s three first-stage boosters are strapped side by side by side.
The Heavy represents serious business for the Hawthorne-based private space company founded 16 years ago by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. With more than 5 million pounds of liftoff thrust — equivalent to 18 747s jetliners — the Heavy will be capable of lifting supersize satellites into orbit and sending spacecraft to the moon, Mars and beyond.
Using another airplane analogy, SpaceX boasts a Heavy could lift a 737 into orbit, passengers, luggage and all.
The company already has some Heavy customers lined up, including the U.S. Air Force.
“I can’t wait to see it fly and to see it fly again and again,” said the Southwest Research Institute’s Alan Stern. He’s the lead scientist for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft that made an unprecedented fly-by of Pluto and is now headed to an even smaller, icy world on the fringes of the solar system.
Cape Canaveral hasn’t seen this kind of rocket mania since the last space shuttle flight in 2011. Huge crowds are expected for the afternoon launch from Kennedy Space Center. Visitor center tickets for the best […]