Musk: Falcon Heavy Ready to Launch by Early 2013

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.


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— Falcon Heavy meets all published standards by NASA for human rating — question if there are unpublished standards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


— 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