SpaceX is an enterprise of aerospace transport founded by Elon Musk, one of the most famous and wealthiest men on the planet. Since its creation in 2002, SpaceX has revolutionised space travel, thanks to the construction of reusable rockets, which have enabled it to greatly reduce the price of transporting material to the Earth’s orbit. In this article, we will all the rocket models SpaceX has, with their characteristics and utilities.
Falcon 9: the first reusable rocket
The Falcon 9 was the first rocket SpaceX built. It is a two-stage rocket, designed to carry satellites, and supplies to the International Space Station. In addition, by using the Dragon capsule, also designed by SpaceX, it is possible to transport humans to orbit.
The most special characteristic of this rocket (and all the others from SpaceX) is its reusability. This makes it possible to recover most of the rocket, which drastically reduces the price of space travel.
Once the first stage of the rocket separates, it comes back to the surface. Then, using the fuel it has left, the rocket manages to slow down, and, when it is about to touch the ground, it unfolds 4 deployable legs that make the rocket land safely. All this process is completely automatised.
The Falcon 9 has a height of 70 metres, with 4 metres of diameter. It is equipped with 9 Merlin 1D engines, that at sea level produce a thrust of 7,600 kilo-newtons.
Falcon Heavy: combining the force of the Falcons
Currently, the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket that exists. It is formed by three Falcon rockets, placed one beside the other. This rocket has a great cargo capacity, being able to carry 64 tonnes to low Earth orbit (LEO).
Just like the Falcon 9, the Falcon Heavy is also reusable, and, even if at the moment only the first stages of the rocket can be recovered, SpaceX is working to make it completely reusable.
Because it has so much power, the Falcon Heavy is capable of realising missions to the Moon or Mars. It can be a very good option for these missions, as it can carry a great quantity of material to these bodies, and, as we have explained, most of it is reusable.
Starship: the most powerful rocket in history
One of the main goals of SpaceX is to create a human colony on Mars, and Starship is a great step to accomplish it. With a height of 120 metres and a diameter of 9 metres, it has the capacity to carry between 100 and 150 tonnes to the Earth’s orbit.
In spite of being extremely tall, Starship is exclusively formed by two stages. The first one, named “Super Heavy”, is responsible for generating the greatest thrust, and lifting the spacecraft from the ground. In the second stage are situated the cargo and the crew of the mission, and, just like the rocket, it is called Starship. Of the 50 metres that has this second stage, only 18 are destined for the transport of the cargo or the crew.
It is important to mention that this rocket is still in development, and many tests have already been done to verify the proper functioning of the craft. Moreover, in this case, the rocket is totally reusable, and SpaceX intends to implement a system to refill the rocket’s fuel tanks in Earth’s orbit, enabling the transport of more material to other celestial bodies.