Musk: Falcon Heavy Ready to Launch by Early 2013

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Elon Musk Press Conference

Falcon Heavy

– over 100,000 lbs. up to 117,000 pounds
– more than a fully loaded 737 with 137 passengers and cargo
– more capability than any vehicle than Saturn V
– half the capacity of the Saturn V
– range of possibilities not available
– more than twice the capability of Delta IV heavy and space shuttle
– ready to launch by early 2013
– initial launch from Vandenberg, will later launch from Cape Canaveral
– will cost a third as much as Delta IV Heavy while carrying the twice the payload
– $1,000 per pound to orbit — lowest cost ever
– designed to meet NASA human rating standards
– engine out capability — lose multiple engines but still complete the mission
– start to realistically contemplate Mars sample return with Falcon Heavy
– eliminates the need for several launches, orbital rendezvous, etc.

Q&A

What else needs to be done to make this acceptable to NASA?

– Falcon 9 is suitable for ISS human missions
– Falcon Heavy can send people back to the moon with two flights — return vehicle and lander
– Falcon Heavy meets all published standards by NASA for human rating — question if there are unpublished standards
– No changes required to launch people on Falcon Heavy — if any, minor ones — might require changes to the spacecraft to carry crew

– Substantial upgrade for Merlin engine in the works — up to 140,000 lbs. of thrust at sea level
– Initial Falcon Heavy demo flight — possibly with a few small satellites aboard
– Late stage discussions with govt. and commercial customers for subsequent flights
– With most Falcon 9 missions, expect to launch secondary satellites

– Will start at Vandenberg and transition to Cape Canaveral
– Dual processing in different hangers for Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy
– Will upgrade launch pad at Cape Canaveral to handle Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy
– Considering using a space shuttle pad for Falcon Heavy
– Several hundred jobs created
– Expect to do as many Falcon Heavy as Falcon 9 launches
– Roughly 20 launches per year, roughly equally split

Question about SpaceX’s costs:

– Wishful thinking from competitors that Falcon 9′s costs are higher
– Publish our prices on our website, believe in “every day low prices”
– Falcon 9 is $50 million, Falcon Heavy is around $100 million
– Competitors treat pricing like a rug bazaar, charge you whatever they think you can afford

Asteroid Mission

– Believes they could do a human mission with two Falcon Heavy launches
– Conceivably do one with a single Falcon 9 if the spacecraft was small enough

Are you going to go public?

– Need predictable revenue stream
– “Decent chance” of going public at the end of 2012
– No interest in selling, he’s the controlling shareholder of the company
– Had some interest from others in acquisition

Launch Schedule

– Expect to have Falcon Heavy on the launch pad at Vandenberg at the end of 2012
– Launch sometime in 2013
– Easier to get deals done with commercial and govt. customers if they aren’t the first to launch
– Bit of a risk to spend money to do a launch on its own, but necessary to prove the concept

Ramping Up Production:

– Bringing in people from outside of aerospace (automotive, aircraft production) to figure out how to ramp up production
– Twenty launches per year is “not a crazy number at all. We expect that to occur without any miracles at all.”
– Currently making 40 engines per year — confident they can go up to 400 to 600 engines per year
– Ramping up tooling and capabilities
– Last year went from 800 to 1,200 employees last year
– Company will expand 15-20 percent
– In 2012, rate of increase would go to 30 to 40 percent
– Steadily acquiring the buildings around us — “We’re growing like the Borg.”
– Likes density — beehive of activity –
– More than doubled size of testing facility in Texas — now at over 600 acres
– Will be expanding operations at Vandenberg, Cape Canaveral

Realism of $1,000 per Pound to LEO Figure:

– Would need to launch at least four Falcon Heavy annually to keep to that figure
– Confident that the number will be closer to 10 than 4
– Want to get price below $1,000 per pound to LEO
– Have plans for a super heavy lift vehicle that would be 50 percent larger than Saturn 5 — 150 metric tons to LEO with cost “well under” $1,000 per pound to LEO
– Working on a proposal under a small NASA contract on how to build a super heavy launch vehicle

First Mission:

– Demonstration flight — designed as proof of concept — it works and can deliver payload to orbit

Dragon:

– capable of re-entering from lunar and Mars flights
– can do a lunar flyby mission with Dragon
– do not have a propulsive landing system to land on the moon

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