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NASA Space Science

World's Most Powerful Rocket Ready In 2012, SpaceX Says 251

Velcroman1 writes "Elon Musk, the millionaire founder of private space company Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX for short) said the long-planned Falcon Heavy vehicle would be ready for lift off at the end of 2012. The rocket, which he called the most powerful in the world, would be capable of taking men to the International Space Station, dropping vehicles and astronauts on the moon — and maybe even cruising to Mars and back."
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World's Most Powerful Rocket Ready In 2012, SpaceX Says

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  • by osu-neko ( 2604 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @01:35PM (#35722506)

    How can one not know whether his/her rocket is capable of making it to Mars? Are we talking superpositions here or what?

    No, we're talking about reality. In reality, unlike in theory, it takes a lot more to get a rocket to Mars than engineering and sufficient power and fuel. It takes massive funding, political will, and the sustained support of both for several years. There's no engineering equation you can use to calculate if you'll make it to Mars -- the equation will only tell you whether you can do the easy part...

  • by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @01:36PM (#35722526)

    Because it depends on the engineering of what goes on top of it. The Falcon Heavy wouldn't actually go to Mars, it just has the heft to potentially launch a vehicle that could go there and back again in one shot.

    However, since no such vehicles exist or are far enough along in planning to have really believable numbers for mass and capabilities, its hard to say for sure.

    Add in that uncertainties in practical engineering for the launch vehicles certainly exist and its a very reasonable statement.

  • by avgjoe62 ( 558860 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @01:38PM (#35722536)

    I'm glad someone else noticed this. The Saturn V had a payload capacity of 260,000 pounds and peak thrust of at least 7,500,000 pounds. They may be saying that this is the biggest thrust and payload among operational rockets, but I'd still like to see the ratio of (thrust/payload)/cost. That is where I'd really like to see improvement.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @02:05PM (#35722830)

    Call me when we have something that can out lift the Saturn V. Yes I know they say this will cheaper but still I expected us to be much farther along than we are.

    Why? The Space Shuttle sucked the oxygen out of the room for large rocket development and Griffin, the previous NASA administrator, followed up with an incompetent, underfunded attempt. As I see it, 53 metric tons to LEO at SpaceX prices is a far better deal than making some ludicrously expensive Saturn V class rocket.

    Keep in mind also that SpaceX's designs scale quite nicely to Saturn V class level. I'd rather give them the chance to prove themselves with smaller rockets first than get pouty because SpaceX doesn't meet somebody's overblown expectations.

  • by mdielmann ( 514750 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @02:22PM (#35722996) Homepage Journal

    Even Amazon does, nowadays. What do you think a virtual server is?

  • by Burdell ( 228580 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @02:30PM (#35723092)

    Yep. My father worked on every Saturn (guidance and control, especially the LVDC on the IU) except SA-1 (and then Shuttle, X-33, and now Ares). He retired from civil service a few years ago and now works part-time for a contractor, but if Congress/Obama can't get a budget passed and Dad goes home for a while due to a shutdown, he might not go back. There aren't many others left around from that era.

    Even if you had the knowledge and the people, you wouldn't build another Saturn V anyway. You couldn't rebuild the same computers, so you'd update the computers and programs, at which point you might as well upgrade the engines, which leads to changes in the structure (since you have to build new dies and jigs anyway), etc. The test a few weeks ago at Marshall showed that the consensus for structural strength (that even SpaceX and such have used) was off by about a factor of 2 (the rocket structure was about twice as strong, and thus as heavy, as it needed to be).

    Even the second run of Saturn V vehicles (if they had been built) would have been different, with upgraded engines (the J-2X was developed during the Apollo program, and then pulled out for Ares I), similar to the changes the Space Shuttle underwent during its 30 year run.

  • by harperska ( 1376103 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @06:00PM (#35725400)

    Unpublished Standard #1: Components must be built by companies that contribute to politicians on the committee to decide the standards.

    Unpublished Standard #1: Components must be built by ATK.

    Congress doesn't really care about 'shuttle derived technologies' and costs are a straw man. But ATK in particular, who makes the shuttle SRBs, holds some pretty strong sway over certain congress-critters. That's why the Ares 1 first stage was just a scaled up shuttle SRB even though SRBs are a pretty dumb idea for a human-carrying rocket and completely idiotic as the sole first stage, as they can't be effectively throttled or shut off after being lit.

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