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SpaceX’s monster rocket success will make big launches affordable

February 7, 2018

Falcon Heavy’s maiden voyage takes Elon Musk closer to his vision of cheap space travel.

What happened: The new Falcon Heavy rocket launched safely and put its experimental payload—Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster—into orbit. SpaceX then landed two of the rocket’s three boosters back on Earth.

Big and cheap: The rocket hauls a lot and is (comparatively) frugal. As the Economist notes, a Falcon Heavy launch using old rockets costs $90 million and can put a 64-ton payload into low-Earth orbit. That’s a quarter the cost of the next most powerful rocket, Delta IV Heavy, which can take just half the payload.

Why that matters: The rocket could do things like put large sets of internet-delivering satellites into orbit or fire supplies toward Mars more cheaply than any other. Meanwhile, NASA looks on: its heavy-lift rocket, Space Launch System, isn’t due to fly until 2020.

Next up: Musk has bigger ideas, with a five-booster Falcon Super Heavy and his Mars-going Big F****** Rocket in the works.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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