Taking aim at the United Launch Alliance‘s Delta IV, the Falcon Heavy will be not only the most powerful rocket in the world, but the most powerful since the legendary Saturn V of the Apollo missions. (That might not be for long, though, as Congress and NASA are haggling out plans for a heavy-lift rocket that could carry more.)
Set for its first launch in late 2013 or early 2014, the Falcon Heavy is designed to provide twice the carrying power of a Delta IV at “less than a third” of the cost. SpaceX’s emphasis on its efficiency over the Delta, to me, represents something of a first salvo of direct competition within private space: one private company very specifically trying to trump the offering of another.
And SpaceX has its eyes on more than just orbit:
“‘[The Falcon Heavy's power] certainly opens up a wide range of possibilities, such as returning to the moon and conceivably going to Mars…The Falcon 9 Heavy could go much farther than low-Earth orbit.’” -Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO; “Huge Private Rocket Could Send Humans to Moon or Mars“, Clara Moskowitz, Space.com
With one Google Lunar X PRIZE team, Astrobotic, already having a ride with SpaceX lined up, SpaceX’s role as a major lunar player is starting to take shape.
And they could just be getting started…:
“SpaceX is also considering building an even more powerful rocket called a “super heavy-lift” vehicle that would have about three times the capability of a Falcon Heavy, or about 50 percent more power than the Saturn 5.” – “Huge Private Rocket Could Send Humans to Moon or Mars“, Clara Moskowitz, Space.com