North Korea has declared the successful firing of a long-range rocket and flouted international condemnation of the launch by promising “many more”.
In defiance of international warnings, North Korea fired the rocket on Sunday morning in what it said was a mission under the direct orders of lead Kim Jong-un to put an Earth observation satellite, the Kwangmyongsong-4, into orbit.
But the United Nations deplored Pyongyang’s move, widely seen as part of its program to develop intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles (ICBMs).
North Korea beamed a special announcement live on state-run television claiming the launch as a success, and trumpeted the beauty of the “fascinating vapor of Juche satellite trailing in the clear and blue sky”.
It came just weeks after Pyongyang’s widely-disputed claim that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, and is the latest evidence of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s willingness to ignore international pressure as tensions on the Korean Peninsula heighten.
Washington has persistently called on Beijing, a key trade partner on which Pyongyang relies heavily, to do more to rein in its neighbor. But China has resisted calls to leverage its economic relationship with North Korea, fearing it would back an already volatile Kim Jong-un further into a corner.
“China expresses regret that North Korea, in spite of the pervasive opposition of the international community, insisted on using ballistic missile technology to carry out a launch,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
North Korea sees its rocket and nuclear tests as crucial steps toward its ultimate goal of achieving a nuclear-armed long-range missile arsenal – necessary, it says, to defend itself against what it describes as decades of US hostility, and part of Kim Jong-un’s “byungjin” policy of developing North Korea’s nuclear program and economy simultaneously.
Pyongyang had initially told UN agencies it planned to launch its rocket sometime between February 8 and 25, before bringing the window forward to between February 7 and 14 on Saturday. It launched two hours into the revised window.
This is the sixth long-range missile test by the North in its program to develop nuclear-loaded ICBMs. It is thought to have a small arsenal of atomic bombs as well as an array of medium-range missiles but has yet to demonstrate the capability to produce nuclear warheads small enough to attach on a missile.
When the space shuttle program ended earlier this year, lots of people wondered what would replace it. Well, here it is.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently unveiled its new rocket design, which will someday launch Americans into space. It would be the most powerful rocket ever built, and unlike the space shuttle, which stayed in Earth’s orbit, this megarocket will aim for much farther destinations.
Called the Space Launch System, or SLS for short, the rocket will make its first flight, without astronauts aboard, in 2017. Manned flight won’t happen until 2021.
That’s a long way off, but it’s an exciting glimpse of the future. Here are some of the rocket’s most eye-popping facts and figures!
Height:320 feet. The space shuttle was 184 feet on the launchpad.
Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle: Holds four astronauts.
Solid rocket boosters: In two minutes, produce as much energy as it would take to power to 92,000 homes for a full day.
Launch Abort System: Can launch the crew vehicle away from the rocket in case of an emergency.
Destination: Possible targets include the moon, an asteroid, Mars or one of Mars’s moons.
Top speed at liftoff: 25,000 miles per hour.
Liftoff weight: 5.5 million pounds. That’s more than seven fully loaded 747 jets.
Power: As much as 13,400 locomotive engines.
Launch point: Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Engines: Uses so much fuel that its engines would drain a family swimming pool filled with fuel in just 25 seconds.
Payload: In manned flight, with crew vehicle attached, can carry 154,000 pounds into orbit. That’s as much as 12 adult male Asian elephants!
Yesterday, April 5, 2011, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has announced that the world’s most powerful (double the payload of Delta IV Heavy) and most affordable ($1,000 per pound) rocket named Falcon Heavy will be launched from Cape Canaveral launch complex in late 2013 or 2014. Falcon Heavy is designed for extreme reliability and will meet NASA human rating standards. The pricing is anticipated to be in range of $80-125 M.
Elon Musk, CEO and chief rocket designer of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) unveiled the dramatic final specifications and launch date for the Falcon Heavy, the world’s largest rocket.
“Falcon Heavy will carry more payload to orbit or escape velocity than any vehicle in history, apart from the Saturn V moon rocket, which was decommissioned after the Apollo program. This opens a new world of capability for both government and commercial space missions,” Musk told a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
“Falcon Heavy will arrive at our Vandenberg, California, launch complex by the end of next year, with liftoff to follow soon thereafter. First launch from our Cape Canaveral launch complex is planned for late 2013 or 2014.”
53 metric tons is more than the maximum take-off weight of a fully-loaded Boeing 737-200 with 136 passengers. In other words, Falcon Heavy can deliver the equivalent of an entire commercial airplane full of passengers, crew, luggage and fuel all the way to orbit.
Musk added that with the ability to carry satellites or interplanetary spacecraft weighing over 53 metric tons or 117,000 pounds to orbit, Falcon Heavy will have more than twice the performance of the Delta IV Heavy, the next most powerful vehicle, which is operated by United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture.
Falcon Heavy’s first stage will be made up of three nine-engine cores, which are used as the first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle. It will be powered by SpaceX’s upgraded Merlin engines currently being tested at the SpaceX rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas. Falcon Heavy will generate 3.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. This is the equivalent to the thrust of fifteen Boeing 747s taking off at the same time.
Above all, Falcon Heavy has been designed for extreme reliability. Unique safety features of the Falcon 9 are preserved, such as the ability to complete its mission even if multiple engines fail. Like a commercial airliner, each engine is surrounded by a protective shell that contains a worst case situation like fire or a chamber rupture, preventing it from affecting other engines or the vehicle itself.
Anticipating potential astronaut transport needs, Falcon Heavy is also designed to meet NASA human rating standards, unlike other satellite launch vehicles. For example, this means designing to higher structural safety margins of 40% above flight loads, rather than the 25% level of other rockets, and triple redundant avionics.
Falcon Heavy will be the first rocket in history to do propellant cross-feed from the side boosters to the center core, thus leaving the center core with most of its propellant after the side boosters separate. The net effect is that Falcon Heavy achieves performance comparable to a three stage rocket, even though only the upper stage is airlit, further improving both payload performance and reliability. Crossfeed is not required for missions below 100,000 lbs, and can be turned off if desired.
Despite being designed to higher structural margins than other rockets, the side booster stages will have a mass ratio (full of propellant vs empty) above 30, better than any vehicle of any kind in history.
Falcon Heavy, with more than twice the payload, but less than one third the cost of a Delta IV Heavy, will provide much needed relief to government and commercial budgets. In fact, Falcon Heavy at approximately $1,000 per pound to orbit, sets a new world record in affordable spaceflight.
This year, even as the Department of Defense budget was cut, the EELV launch program, which includes the Delta IV, still saw a thirty percent increase.
The 2012 budget for four Air Force launches is $1.74B, which is an average of $435M per launch. Falcon 9 is offered on the commercial market for $50-60M and Falcon Heavy is offered for $80-$125M. Unlike our competitors, this price includes all non-recurring development costs and on-orbit delivery of an agreed upon mission. For government missions, NASA has added mission assurance and additional services to the Falcon 9 for less than $20M.
Mass to Orbit (200 km, 28.5 deg):
53 metric tons (117,000 lb)
69.2 m (227 ft)
Max Stage Width:
5.2 m (17 ft)
11.6 meters (38 ft)
Weight at Liftoff:
1,400 metric tons or 3.1 million lbs
Thrust on Liftoff:
1,700 metric tons or 3.8 million lbs
Please note that Falcon Heavy should not be confused with the super heavy lift rocket program being debated by the U.S. Congress. That vehicle is authorized to carry between 70-130 metric tons to orbit. SpaceX agrees with the need to develop a vehicle of that class as the best way to conduct a large number of human missions to Mars.