Space Exploration Technologies Corporation
When Falcon Heavy lifts off in 2018, it will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world. With the ability to lift into LEO about 54 tons. Its first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5.13 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.
Falcon Heavy missions will deliver large payloads to orbit inside a composite fairing, but the rocket can also carry the Dragon spacecraft.
The composite payload fairing protects satellites during delivery to destinations in low Earth orbit (LEO), geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) and beyond.
Falcon Heavy draws upon Falcon 9ís proven design, which minimizes stage separation events and maximizes reliability. The second-stage Merlin engine, identical to its counterpart on Falcon 9, delivers the rocketís payload to orbit after the main engines cut off and the first-stage cores separate. The engine can be restarted multiple times to place payloads into a variety of orbits including low Earth, geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) and geosynchronous orbit (GEO).
Three cores make up the first stage of Falcon Heavy. The side cores, or boosters, are connected at the base and at the top of the center coreís liquid oxygen tank. The three cores, with a total of 27 Merlin engines, generate 22,822 kilonewtons of thrust at liftoff. Shortly after liftoff the center core engines are throttled down. After the side cores separate, the center core engines throttle back up to full thrust
Each of Falcon Heavyís side cores, or boosters, is equivalent to the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket with nine Merlin engines. At liftoff, the boosters and the center core all operate at full thrust. Shortly after liftoff, the center core engines are throttled down. After the side cores separate, the center core engines throttle back up.
For missions involving exceptionally heavy payloads Falcon Heavy offers a unique cross-feed propellant system. Propellant feeds from the side boosters to the center core so that the center core retains a significant amount of fuel after the boosters separate.
Falcon Heavy Debut
Long anticipated, the first SpaceX Falcon Heavy performed its Demo Mission from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex on February 6, 2018. Flying in a one-off interim configuration using two older used boosters and a new core first stage, the roughly 1,400 tonne, 70 meter tall triple-barrel rocket lifted off with 2,128 tonnes of thrust created by a total of 27 Merlin 1D engines, 9 on each core/booster stage.
Elon Musk's used Tesla roadster, which typically weighs 1,250 kg on the street in driveable configuration, served as a non-seperating simulated payload mass atop the second stage. The second stage performed three burns during the six hour mission to accelerate itself and the Tesla into a heliocentric orbit ranging from the orbit of Earth to beyond Mars. An important goal of the mission was to demonstrate a long coast between the second and third burns.
On this inaugural flight, Falcon Heavy checked off mission milestones as it rose cleanly from its reconfigured launch pad, passed through Max-Q, and survived booster shutdown (2 min 29 sec) and separation (2 min 33 sec). The core stage, having flown at a lower throttle setting during much of its burn, continued on for another 25 seconds after booster cutoff before it, too, shut down and seperated.
The second stage ignited at 3 min 15 sec and burned until 8 min 31 sec to reach a temporary parking orbit. The stage was scheduled to perform its second burn beginning at 28 min 22 sec and lasting 30 seconds. It was subsequently tracked in a 180 x 6,951 km x 29.0 deg elliptical orbit, where it circled the Earth for about 5.5 hours before igniting a third time, at second perigee over South America.
The two side boosters both performed three-engine boost-back and reentry burns, and single-engine landing burns, to land side-by-side at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1 and 2. The core booster performed three-engine boost-back and reentry burns, and attempted a three-engine landing burn, aimed toward landing on the converted barge, but two of the engines failed to ignite for landing and the stage crashed into the Atlantic.
The Falcon Heavy Demo vehicle consisted of side booster B1023.2, side booster B1025.2, and new core stage B1033.1
B1023.2 was previously used during the May 27, 2016 Thaicom 8 launch. B1025.2 boosted the CRS-9 mission on July 18, 2016.
Source: Ed Kyle, SpaceLaunchReport