Published May 30, 2012
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), which designs and launches rockets as well as spacecraft, said on Tuesday it signed the first commercial contract to launch the world's most powerful rocket.
The Falcon Heavy rocket will launch a communications satellite into geosynchronous orbit (a circular orbit around the Earth nearly 24 hours long) for satellite services company Intelsat, according to a press release. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
"SpaceX is very proud to have the confidence of Intelsat, a leader in the satellite communication services industry," said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and chief designer, in a statement. "The Falcon Heavy has more than twice the power of the next largest rocket in the world. With this new vehicle, SpaceX launch systems now cover the entire spectrum of the launch needs for commercial, civil and national security customers."
Capable of lifting 117,000 pounds to low Earth orbit and over 26,000 pounds to geosynchronous orbit, the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket in the world, the company said.
Intelsat, which operates the world's largest satellite fleet, praised the advanced vehicle, which they said provides them with expanded opportunities.
"Timely access to space is an essential element of our commercial supply chain," Intelsat Chief Technology Officer Thierry Guillemin said. "As a global leader in the satellite sector, our support of successful new entrants to the commercial launch industry reduces risk in our business model."
SpaceX is building a Falcon Heavy launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, but no launch date has been specified as of yet.
Using a Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX made history in May by sending the first commercially bankrolled cargo load to the International Space Station.
The new Falcon Heavy consists of a standard Falcon 9 rocket with two additional Falcon 9 first-stage rockets acting as liquid strap-on boosters.