Space

SpaceX Falcon rockets get payload capacity boost

SpaceX Falcon rockets get payl...
SpaceX has updated the payload information for its Falcon spacecraft
SpaceX has updated the payload information for its Falcon spacecraft
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Elon Musk used Twitter to update people on some of the stats about the Falcon Heavy
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Elon Musk used Twitter to update people on some of the stats about the Falcon Heavy
SpaceX founder Elon Musk lets fans know how much launch thrust the Falcon 9 will have
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SpaceX founder Elon Musk lets fans know how much launch thrust the Falcon 9 will have
The SpaceX Falcon Heavy will, according to Elon Musk, be the most powerful rocket in flight
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The SpaceX Falcon Heavy will, according to Elon Musk, be the most powerful rocket in flight
The low earth orbit payload for the Falcon 9 has been bumped up to 50,265 lbs
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The low earth orbit payload for the Falcon 9 has been bumped up to 50,265 lbs
The SpaceX Falcon 9 in action
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The SpaceX Falcon 9 in action
SpaceX has updated the payload information for its Falcon spacecraft
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SpaceX has updated the payload information for its Falcon spacecraft

Elon Musk isn't usually one to understate his products' capabilities, but it seems the SpaceX team was a bit conservative with its payload predictions for the Falcon spacecraft. Updates published online have revealed the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy will be able to carry much more than we first thought into low-earth orbit.

According to updated information published on the SpaceX website, the Falcon 9 rocket will actually be capable of carrying 22,800 kg (50,265 lb) into low earth orbit, up from the 13,150 kg (28,990 lb) previously stated. The Falcon Heavy has also been given an increased payload for missions to low-earth orbit, jumping by 1,300 kg (3,085 lb) to 54,400 kg (119,930 lb).

It is worth keeping in mind these figures are only applicable to expendable rockets, and payloads for reusable versions will be 30 to 40 percent less. In spite of the big increases, Elon Musk says no changes have been made to the engine. Instead, the increased payload capacities came about because the Merlin engines are proving tougher than first expected in testing, allowing the team to increase launch thrust.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk lets fans know how much launch thrust the Falcon 9 will have
SpaceX founder Elon Musk lets fans know how much launch thrust the Falcon 9 will have

Trawling through Twitter – Musk's preferred medium for breaking news – reveals the Falcon 9 will launch with 1.71 million lbf (7,607 kN) of thrust, while the Falcon Heavy will generate 5.13 million lbf (22,819 kN) at launch. That, according to Musk, is twice the amount generated by any rocket currently flying.

The changes come after the company annouced it wants to launch an unmanned Mars lander in 2018, or four years earlier than initially planned.

Source: SpaceX

4 comments
CharlieSeattle
Build the Space Elevator.
Racqia Dvorak
@CharlieSeattle It would take quite a few rockets like this to make something like a space elevator. Not that it is technologically possible right now. On the other hand, you should check out Skylon. It is a program on the cusp of fruition that could bring the masses to space. Further, if you're still interested in non-rocket/spaceplane launches, look up a Launch Loop (or Lofstrom Loop). More feasible than a space elevator.
Skipjack
SpaceX rockets have been breaking records lately. The thrust update now puts the already impressive (and record breaking) thrust to weight ratio of the Merlin 1D rocket engine now at an even more impressive and again record breaking 200. That's right, the engine generates 200 times as much thrust as it weights. Despite the fact that the Falcon 9 is using a relatively low Isp fuel (kerosene), it now also breaks the record for payload mass fraction with 4.15%. That means that the Falcon 9 can put 4.15% of its take off weight as payload into Low Earth Orbit. That may sound little but it is actually more than any previous rocket has done. So again, this is record breaking. It also means that future SpaceX rockets with methane engines will most likely improve on the payload mass fraction. It will also be interesting to see the T/W ratio of the new methane engines. It will most likely be a little lower than the T/W for the Merlin 1D due to the lower density fuel. But seeing how they managed to one up the Merlin 1D T/W, they might surprise us with this as well.
MattII
22.8 tonnes is damned close to what the Shuttle could lift IIRC.