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Flightline Friday: SpaceX Static Fires the Mighty Falcon Heavy January 26, 2018

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Flightline Friday, fun, non squitur, silliness, technology.
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I haven’t done a Flightline Friday in ages.  Well, some important recent aerospace news – SpaceX, finally, after years of delays, appears about set to launch the Falcon Heavy rocket sometime in the next few weeks. The full stack was static fired for the first time on Wednesday – and they did it at Launch Complex 39A, from which all but one Saturn V launches took place.

The Falcon Heavy is not as powerful as the Saturn V, but it is in the same league.  It produces over 5 million pounds of thrust, to the Saturn V’s 7.7+ million (on Apollo 15).  The Space Shuttle stack made just over 7 million pounds, but most of that was from solid rockets, which are boring, and the Space Shuttle doesn’t fly anymore, so there.

Falcon Heavy, with 27 Merlin engines, will be able to loft about 70 tons into low earth orbit, and nearly 30 tons to geosynchronous orbit.  It also has very substantial capacities for escape velocity – about 25 tons to the Moon and 19 tons to Mars.  Those are the capacities with full expendability – no returning and landing any of the stages.  With reuse, the capacities are substantially reduced, especially to GTO and escape velocity.  Generally, the Falcon Heavy has capacities almost exactly half those of the Saturn V – one handicap is that SpaceX continues to use a relatively low energy upper stage powered by hydrocarbons, whereas Saturn V upper stages were cryogenic and powered by liquid hydrogen.   They also had way more thrust, especially the spectacular S-II stage.

Anyhoo, even though the test was very short, shock waves in the flame trenches of Launch Complex 39 like this have not been seen in over 45 years:

I cannot wait for one of these to launch from Boca Chica.  I will so be in South Padre, if SpaceX ever gets moving on their south Texas launch site.  Apparently the sand there is unusually unstable and they’ve had to do a lot more soil prep than they planned.  The bedrock is much deeper than thought, too – which, guys, the Rio Grande has been running through 1000+ miles of desert for thousands of years, that’s a lot of sand to dump into the Gulf, but whatever.  They say they are going to finally get started in earnest this year.  We’ll see.