A high-tech entrepreneur unveiled plans to launch the world's most powerful rocketsince man wentto the moon.
Space Exploration Technology has already sent the first private rocket andcapsule into Earth's orbit as a commercial venture.Itis now planning a rocket that could lift twice as much cargo into orbit as the soon-to-be-retired space shuttle. The first launch is slotted for 2013 from California with follow-up launches from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
Space X's new rocket called Falcon Heavy is big enough to send cargo or even people out of Earth's orbit to the moon, an asteroid or Mars. Only the long retired Saturn V rocket that sent men to the moon was bigger. "This is a rocket of truly huge scale," said Space X president Elon Musk.
The Falcon Heavy could put 117,000 pounds into the sameorbit astheInternational Space Station. The space shuttle hauls about 54,000 pounds into orbit. The old Saturn V could carry more than 400,000 pounds of cargo. The old Soviet Union had a giant moon rocket bigger than the Falcon Heavy, but it failed in all four launch attempts. Another Soviet rocket, also bigger than Falcon Heavy and designed to launch its version of the space shuttle, had one successful flight more than 20 years ago.
Musk said if Nasa does buy rideson commercial rockets, he would be able to fly astronauts to the space station in his smaller Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule within three years. He said Falcon Heavy willbefar cheaper than government or private rockets. Launches are about $100 million each.