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back to article SpaceX signs deal to put its giant rocket to good use

SpaceX has signed a contract to blast off Intelsat's satellites on the back of their monster rocket the Falcon Heavy. SpaceX Dragon on the Canadarm over Earth Falcon Heavy is Falcon 9's big brother, a tenuous link for this pretty pic of the Dragon on the Canadarm. Credit: NASA The deal with Intelsat is the first commercial …

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Unhappy

Monster?

Don't go OTT. It's slightly less than half a Saturn V.

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WTF?

Re: Monster?

Have you SEEN a Saturn V?

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Re: Monster?

It'll be the biggest in the world and the third largest in history after the Saturn V and Energia.

They can call it a monster.

Would you also say "Saturn is not a large planet" because it's way smaller than Jupiter? It's enormous.

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Thumb Up

Re: Monster?

Exactly. What's most amazing of all is the private industry still hasn't caught up 40+ years later. Wernher von Braun dedicated nazi though he was, puts even Goddard to shame as the father and the greatest rocket scientist in history.

"The combined propellant flow rate of the five F-1s in the Saturn V was 3,357 US gallons (12,710 l) per second.[4] Each F-1 engine had more thrust than three Space Shuttle Main Engines combined.[5]"

burning 3000 gallons (what like 12 tons?) of anything (especially something explosive) per second under controlled circumstances is amazing to me.

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Re: Monster?

Not particularly surprising - it's an expensive business with a load of incumbents. It needed an entrepreneur like Musk to break the status quo. He's spent over a billion $ so far, so it's not cheap, so not anyone can join in.

And of course, there is no demand (at the moment) for a rocket the size of the Saturn 5 (which, BTW, is by far the most amazing piece of engineering I have ever seen in the flesh - well worth the drive to see it)

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FAIL

Re: Monster?

These are private companies and therefore commercial.

The bulk of the launch market is between 6-12 Tons to LEO and 3-5 Tons to GTO.

Building a rocket that can launch 130 Tons to LEO is great from a Top trumps perspective, but unless there is a need and a demand. (Other than [insert government space agency] going to the moon)

It's not commercially viable, hence they don't build them that big.

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Anonymous Coward

You can do better headlines than that!

SpaceX's mighty thruster to drive Intelsat's bird into orbit etc....

Come on Reg! You can do better!

Anon cos NSFW

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I dispute their use of tenses

Have they actually built a Falcon 9 heavy yet? If not, it's not yet the largest rocket in the world.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I dispute their use of tenses

The heavy's just 3 9s strapped together with a clever fuel cross-feed system, allowing it to use all 27 engines but fuel them only from the outer fuel tanks, leaving the inner nine engines with a full load of fuel once the boosters fall away.

honestly given how quickly, cheaply and successfully they developed the 9, even though the heavy hasn't launched yet, i'd be surprised if it hasnt launched by the end of 2013.

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Re: I dispute their use of tenses

Mid 2012, I understand. It would seem a shame to test it without a heavy payload. Say sending a Dragon round the Moon and testing its high speed re-entry capacity. If it can be done from a polar launch.

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Anonymous Coward

Vandenberg?

Seems a bit silly to build the first superheavy launch system in ages, and then launch it from vandenberg, a good 35 degrees north. Why not kwajalein?

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Re: Vandenberg?

Vandenberg is often used for polar orbit launches (think spy sats etc.). Heavy lifter can lift a very large spy sat. Having a polar launch facility in CA (near their main factory in LA) makes sense.

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Bronze badge

Re: Vandenberg?

Because first you have to get everything to a launch site.

I've been to Vandenberg by car; I didn't see any Saturn-V size roads on the way there, but there is a coastal railway with a spur to a building complex on the base, and what looks from aerial photos to be a siding further South, not far from a launch area. Search images or maps for Lompoc CA railway and scroll out and South to the base.

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FAIL

Re: Vandenberg?

Yes, polar orbits are for spy & mapping satellites, and that's what Vandenburg is for - they launch south so the stage drop zone is in the Pacific. But Vandenberg is a no-no for launches to geosynchronous orbit, which are equatorial orbits, both due it's being too far north as well as one is not allowed to launch eastward from Vandenburg as then the stage drop zone would have to be somewhere in the United States mid-west. That's one big no-no. All geosynchronous US launches are from Florida.

Trust me. I really am a Rocket Scientist. (Or used to be.)

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Silver badge

Re: Vandenberg?

You can launch to GEO from vandenberg, it just requires a lot more fuel for all changes you'll be making to your orbital plane before you get there. If fuel were no object then you could launch to geo from the north pole, and I'm sure they'll start doing that once they've invented a Fuel Tank of Holding.

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Re: Vandenberg?

Back when the plan was for the Shuttle stack to go from there, they had to clear the sides of the roads so that the shuttle could fit on the roads - http://galaxywire.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/enterprise-on-the-move-to-lc6.jpg is the best pic I could find with a quick Google.

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Re: Vandenberg?

Looks like you skipped over part of his answer. Then main reason GEO isn't done from Vandenburg isn't mechanics per se, it's due to the fact that you would have stages dropping on land with an Easterly launch. Don't want a spent booster dropping in Bubba the redneck's back yard.

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Re: Vandenberg?

Well, it's possible to do a 270-something degree plane change and get your satellite orbiting in the right direction before you boost it up, it just takes a lot of fuel, like I said.

Bubba is disappointed that he can't make an enormous bbq out of that rocket stage.

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Joke

Re: Vandenberg?

"Don't want a spent booster dropping in Bubba the redneck's back yard."

Precisly. The idea is to recover and re-use where possible. Not have to bid for them on Ebay.

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Nice steady progress. Hopefully they will launch the Falcon Heavy by the end of the year.

If they can get this to fly successfully, then developing the SLS makes even less sense than before, it was already a pretty stupid design.

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Is there a Falcon 'Lite'?

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Yes the Falcon 1, I believe Space X have now retired the craft.

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Saturn V

Musk's plans don't stop at the Falcon 9 Heavy.

Saturn V won't stay top of the heap if he gets where he's planning. Falcon XX will be significantly larger and starts rivalling Sea Dragon for payload capabilities.

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Falcon XX

And when will they have the Falcon XXX?

I reckon they should call that one the Mighty Thruster.

I'm sure others can think of an even better nickname for it ...

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Go

Is it the rocket that's important? Or is it the Business Model?

Kudos to SpaceX on getting Dragon to ISS & I'm sure they'll get it back down again safely.

Hats off for coming up with the Falcon Heavy too. People say that there isn't a market for a heavy-lifter, overlooking the fact that, up until mid-2013, there hasn't been a heavy lifter anyway. Build it and they will come and all that.

But where SpaceX REALLY deserves praise is on its ability to lower the cost of Access-To-LEO. Seriously, nine tonnes of cargo to ISS or up to nine tonnes of satellite(s) for only 60 million dollars? Five or more astronauts delivered to ISS for 140 million dollars? Can anyone in the world compete with that? Government subsidies handed out to the likes of ULA, China, Russia, Japan & India don't count.

If SpaceX can do that consistently and reliably then ULA can kiss its business model goodbye. The Ariane rockets will start to look very outdated and expensive. Resource/Funding competitors in China & Russia will take a long, hard look at their cost/return-on-investment figures.

And if SpaceX can make the Falcon rocket even partially reusable?

This is what the beginning of a space revolution looks like.

And Skylon (due to enter service around 2021) hasn't even arrived yet...

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Trollface

i wonder?

Can they launch a big enough satellite to instantly cap someone on the ground with a massive laser or other beam weapon,say they they had downloaded an mp3, said something bad about america, or fast forwarded through an advertisement?

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Joke

Re: I wonder?

I can imagine the GOP, desperate to hang onto their voting base, poor white ignorant hillbillies, funding a laser that zaps any of Bubba's clan who tries to get thar learnin' on or turns to a channel that ISN'T Fox News.

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ISS

I wonder if SpaceX can make enough money by the time that the ISS is due to be retired that they can say, "Wait - don't de-orbit that. We may have a use for it..."

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retiring ISS

It's likely that by the time ISS is due to be deorbited, noone sane would want to set foot inside it.

MIR was so badly infested by fungus at the end of its life the only sensible thing to do was to to destroy it. The thing was a health hazard to anyone onboard.

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Large loads to GEO

If mega-size payloads were available to GEO it's highly likely that platforms would be built to make use of them.

High power broadcasting, etc, etc.

As well as putting people up there.

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Re: Large loads to GEO

A space-station or three up there would be fantastic.

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Vandenberg is odd

Launching south from Vandenberg, or east from Cape Canaveral, seem to be the only options for getting to orbit from the USA. There are maybe a couple of other places for sounding rockets and similar--Wallops Island and White Sands come to mind.

So why the launch from Vandenberg? And why build a special launch pad there?

I can see a couple of possibilities. First, the new pad is designed to be able to launch other types of rocket. Some features have to be pretty big for a Falcon Heavy launch, but they're not the expensive parts of the system. If the whole thing is done right, SpaceX get a site for a test launch and Vandenberg gets an up-to-date launch facility.

Second, there are plans to put big payloads into into high-inclination orbits.

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What does 130t of cargo look like? How much does yer average satellite weigh in at, for example?

I need this in Reg units, so I'm expecting buses and elephants.

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Typical is a bus to LEO and an Elephant to GTO.

130t would be about 10 buses, depending on the bus.

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