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SpaceX Press Conference

For those of you who did not watch it, or possibly for some of those who did but are not familiar with the issues, Elon has just blown the launch industry as we know it to smithereens.

Falcon Heavy is bigger than I thought. It is 53 metric tons to LEO, for about $100M per launch. Elon expects to fire off 10 Heavy’s and 10 F9′s per year from Cape Canaveral by mid decade, but can hold the price per pound on an FH to $1000/pound at as low a rate as 4 FH/year. They will be launching twice the payload for one third the cost of the largest commercial rockets presently available (the Delta 4 for example).

SpaceX is currently producing 50-60 Merlin engines per year, which is more than all other engines built in the US per year; when they are flying the new rocket they will be producing 400 of a more capabile Merlin 1d per year, which will be more than all other engines produced on the planet.

The rocket is designed to exceed all current NASA standards for man-rating, with 40% margin above expected flight loads. They will have the capability to launch a Dragon capsule on a lunar loop mission with a single FH. The Dragon capsule will be deep space capable so they are a long way towards taking over the exploration of space from the fossil-space industry.

The first launch will occur perhaps in 2013 (I had trouble hearing him) with no customer satellite, although someone might come forward later to take a cut rate flight.

These are heady and exciting times we live in.

16 comments to SpaceX Press Conference

  • All that is needed now is to change the company name to Wayland Yutani.

  • Jesus H. Christ…..

    At those prices demand should explode. I would certainly expect there to be far more launches than that, provided infrastructure can be developed.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Well, all that will be damaging to the environment, and noisy, so expect someone, somehow, probably from NASA, to try to stop it! My father used to say that at Qantas, a plane couldn’t take off until the paperwork equalled the weight of the plane! I think he was joking, but bureaucracy doed have its’ crazy ways!

  • revver

    This months issue of Popular Mechanics featured the explosion in space companies.

  • manuel II paleologos

    Are there other examples of successful rockets with that many clustered engines?

    It doesn’t look right, and my understanding of the N1 failure was that it was down to the lack of a big enough engine and therefore the need for lots of small ones.

  • revver,
    Perhaps an unfortunate way of putting it!

  • Wait, do any of these enterprises conform to the maybe-soon-to-be-required quota of Muslims among their staff (or Jews, for that matter)?

    Nuke: Qantas never crashed.

    I now return you to your regularly unscheduled programming.

  • Quentin Stephens

    Elon will only blow the launch industry to smithereens once its working reliably.

  • Dale Amon

    He’s got the successful track record now. So we can expect it to be flying regularly in about three years.

    I don’t expect he will have any competition by then. FossilSpace couldn’t wipe its behind in that short a time unless it got paid ten times what the results were worth.

  • chris strange

    Well the Falcon 9 is flying, and the heavy is effectively three Falcon 9s strapped together so it should work. I think his end game is going to be to go for a Mars shot, the question is when? And will it be commercially viable to get enough of them to get a colony going?

  • I left a very silly comment today, and so it was rightfully smited – sigh.

  • Smited? Smitten?

    Which?

  • All of the above:-)

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Alisa- do NOT get your history from Tom Cruise movies! Qantas did have a few crashes very early in its’ career, but i don’t think anyone died (I could be wrong about that). I think that when it entered the jet age, it improved, and has not had a fatal crash, though a few near misses.

  • Eric

    Is the Falcon Heavy the same project they were previously calling the Falcon 9 Heavy? I don’t understand what’s new in this announcement.

  • Mike Lorrey

    Eric,
    The new is that the merlin engines are being uprated in thrust by 45% to 140,000 lbf from 95,000 lbf, and the three first stage core tanks are being extended by several meters to carry more fuel, and the three first stage cores crossfeed fuel from the side cores to the center core, so the payload, which was originally expected to be around 34,000 kg, is going to be 58,000 kg, a rather massive increase, while keeping the cost of the rocket the same, around $100 million per launch, means that the mythical and much desired $1000/lb launch price threshold has finally been met that market researchers have long said would trigger an explosion in demand in a market that has long had very non-elastic demand curves.