If you’re fairly active on Twitter and have an interest in technology, then you’re probably aware of Elon Musk and his musing on the micro-blogging platform. Fresh on the heels of the success of the first reusable rocket launch, the SpaceX founder and CEO has now dropped details about the company’s upcoming Falcon Heavy — a rocket three times more powerful than the Falcon 9.
On Friday, Musk took to Twitter to suggest that SpaceX is gunning for their ambitious (which doesn’t look so damn ambitious now) goal of achieving full reusability with the first demonstration flight of the Falcon Heavy. This large payload rocket is expected to take its first test flight late this year — during the summers. This scheduled time falls in line with the company’s readjusted plans after last year’s unfortunate Falcon 9 blast at Cape Canaveral. But, the company would be attempting something additional this time around.
Falcon Heavy test flight currently scheduled for late summer
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 31, 2017
You must already be aware that SpaceX has been fairly successful in launching and landing the first stage (i.e rocket booster) back on the surface on the Earth — either on a drone ship floating in the ocean or on hard ground. The private space company even recovered the fairing, the nose cone attached on top to protect the payload from any damage, during its recent historic Falcon 9 launch. This is the same launch which involved reusing a previously launched and recovered Falcon 9 rocket.
But with the Falcon Heavy, formerly known as Falcon 9 Heavy, Elon Musk doesn’t only want to bring back the first stage. It now also wants to attempt to steer and land the upper stage (or second stage) back on the surface of the Earth. Currently, the upper stage of the launch vehicle is expendable and not being recovered for reuse.
Making one of these stages costs millions, which is evident from the $62 million it spends on building the Falcon 9. So, the recovery attempt is extremely important for the long run. It also falls in line with SpaceX’s primary objective of achieving full reusability with its rocket systems, to reuse the components and further reduce the cost of space travel. But this being the first Falcon Heavy recovery attempt, Musk is a little wary about the odds of success — which he says are pretty bleak.
Falcon Heavy, for those unaware, are the next-generation iterations of the currently operational Falcon 9 rockets. It consists of three Falcon 9 cores, which means it packs inside 27 powerful Merlin engines (each Falcon 9 rocket has nine) that provide the rocket with a projected thrust of 5 million pounds. It has a maximum cargo capacity of 119,000 pounds, which will surely open doors for even more orbital mission for the company.