Roamy here. I’ve been wanting to write about the Falcon Heavy rocket ever since the announcement Tuesday by SpaceX. It’s a Falcon 9 rocket with two additional Falcon first stages as strap-on boosters. 117,000 lbs to low Earth orbit is about twice the payload capacity of the Space Shuttle, and SpaceX is absolutely right to think ahead about man-rating the Falcon Heavy. The structural design, triple-redundant avionics, and the use of liquid engines will make it easier to man-rate than to go back and man-rate an existing rocket like a Delta or an Atlas. And I will admit I have a soft spot for anything with a Merlin engine.
This announcement followed on the heels of a Soyuz launch with the next crew for the International Space Station. It irks me to no end that NASA has no replacement for the Space Shuttle and will be totally reliant on the Russians for manned launches, at least until Falcon 9 and Dragon finish their primary flight tests. The looming government shutdown last week didn’t help my mood either.
SpaceX might put me out of my job, but if it means reliable American access to space, I’m okay with that. The first Falcon Heavy will be delivered to Vandenberg AFB in 2012, with the launch planned for 2013. First launch from the Cape will be in either late 2013 or 2014. Godspeed.