We got many queries on Falcon Heavy and Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), the two mighty rockets from SpaceX, so thought to make a short comparison between the two, including Falcon 9 as a baseline.
Falcon Heavy is a partially reusable designed (and tested), heavy-lift launch vehicle. The first and successful flight happened on Feb 2018, carrying a Tesla Roadster as a dummy payload. The design of Falcon heavy is basically an extension of Falcon 9. A strengthened Falcon 9 rocket acts as the core with two additional Falcon 9 first stage acting as boosters. The two side boosters and the first stage of the center core are re-usable with the second stage being expendable (hence the term partially reusable). Immediately after liftoff, the center core booster throttles down and “waits” for the side boosters to get separated, before resuming full thrust.
|Parameter||Falcon 9||Falcon Heavy|
|Height||70 m||70 m|
|Payload to Low Earth Orbit (LEO)||22800 kg||63800 kg|
|Payload to |
Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO)
|8300 kg||26700 kg|
|Cost per launch||$62 Million||$90 Million|
Falcon Heavy draws upon the proven heritage and reliability of Falcon 9. It should be noted that each of Falcon Heavy’s side cores, or boosters, is equivalent to the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket with nine Merlin engines. At lift-off, the boosters and the center core all operate at full thrust. Shortly after lift-off, the center core engines are throttled down. After the side cores separate, the center core engines throttle back up. In essence, everything that the Falcon 9 can do, the Falcon Heavy does better and with more power.
As now we got an overview of Falcon 9 vs Falcon Heavy, let us discuss about Starship (SpaceX’s giant rocket designed to send humans to the moon and Mars). Even though Starship is currently under development let us know a few important things about it, so that it can be compared with Falcon 9/ Heavy. Elon Musk unveiled the Starship in September 2017 under the name “BFR” or Big Falcon Rocket. The Starship is expected to measure nearly 122 m tall, with a diameter of 9 m and the ability to send over 100,000 kg to LEO. The fully-reusable rocket would be able to transport up to 100 people or 150 tons to space at a time. Its use of liquid oxygen and methane fuel would mean that astronauts could go to Mars, refuel with the planet’s resources, and return home. This could help realize Elon’s dream of humanity transforming into a multi-planetary species.
This is how rockets are classified for lift based on lifting capability of payload to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
- Small Lift: 0 Kg to 2000 Kg (4400 lb)
- Medium Lift: 2000Kg – 20,000 Kg (44,000 lb)
- Heavy Lift: 20,000 Kg – 50,000 Kg (110,000 lb)
- Super Heavy Lift: More than 50,000 Kg (110,000 lb)