Last year, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) became the first commercial company to send a spacecraft into low Earth orbit and have it successfully reenter the Earth’s atmosphere–a significant step in the commercialization of space transportation.
SpaceX hopes to carry crew and cargo to the International Space Station when the space shuttles retire this year, using it’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule. Now the company is vying for more: it’s building a heavy-lift rocket, a vehicle comparable to the Saturn V moon rocket, that can carry extremely large payloads to space, like a fully loaded Boeing 737 with 136 passengers.
“Falcon Heavy will carry more payload to orbit or escape velocity than any vehicle in history….this opens a new world of capability for both government and commercial space missions,” said Elon Musk, the company’s founder, CEO and chief rocket designer, at today’s press conference in Washington, DC. Musk said the Falcon Heavy rocket first launch is planned for late 2013 or 2014.
A few fun facts about the Falcon Heavy: