Air Platforms

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy enters crowded Pentagon heavy lift market

05 February 2018

Key Points

  • SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is entering the marketplace with as many as three other companies
  • Competition could drive down costs of Pentagon missions, many rockets might not survive

SpaceX’s new Falcon Heavy rocket could enter the Pentagon heavy lift market at a time when three other companies could also compete for a small amount of heavy US national security launches.

“My market numbers show about a two-to-three times overcapacity in the heavy market, [meaning] that if people are to produce all the vehicles they could produce and fly them, we have at least three times too many vehicles,” Jim Cantrell, co-founder and CEO of small rocket developer Vector Space Systems, told Jane’s on 30 January.SpaceX is on track for its debut launch of Falcon Heavy on 6 February. (SpaceX)SpaceX is on track for its debut launch of Falcon Heavy on 6 February. (SpaceX)

SpaceX will test launch its Falcon Heavy on 6 February from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The launch window opens at 1:30 pm EST. Falcon Heavy will comprise three Falcon 9 core stages, with a more robust central stage, and two side boosters. SpaceX is planning to land all three of Falcon Heavy’s boosters during its inaugural launch, company spokesperson Eva Behrend said on 2 February.

United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) Delta IV has been the exclusive heavy lift provider for the Pentagon since 2006 when Lockheed Martin and Boeing combined to create the company. In addition to Falcon Heavy, three other rockets that could serve the US Department of Defense’ (DoD’s) heavy lift needs are in development: ULA is creating its Vulcan next-generation system that will feature its powerhouse Aces upper stage, Blue Origin is developing its New Glenn with an eye on commercial missions, while Orbital ATK is creating its Next Generation Launcher.

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