May 02 2015

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Love…and hate…this article

Battle of the Collossi: SLS vs Falcon Heavy. I love that this article has a couple of handy tables that compares Falcon Heavy to SLS performance.


Launch System LEO capacity GTO capacity Moon capacity Mars capacity
SLS 70 MT N/A 25 MT 19–20 MT
Falcon Heavy 53 MT 21.1 MT N/A 13.2 MT


Launcher Mass to LEO Cost to LEO Cost per MT to LEO
SLS 70 MT $600M $8.57M/MT
Falcon Heavy 53 MT $158M $2.97M/MT


I hate that the author picks the 2018-19 time frame to make the comparison. On the surface, this makes some sense, since the SLS test flight is currently planned for 2018. However, the author uses Falcon Heavy 2015 performance characteristics to compare against 2018 SLS characteristics. Does anyone really believe that SpaceX won’t continuously improve the Falcon Heavy like they have their other rockets?

reviously, the SpaceX web site7 gave a list price of $77.1 million for a FH lifting under 6.4 MT to GTO, and $135 million for more than 6.4 MT to GTO. This suggests that SpaceX intends to charge more for the full capacity of the FH, so we will use the $135 million dollar figure for lifting 53 MT to LEO on a FH.

This is clearly because, to lift heavy payloads to GTO, there won’t be enough fuel to return the first and second stages back to Earth so the payload is also paying for the full rocket.

Anyways, the author’s conclusion is that for LEO, you’ll want to use the Falcon Heavy, but for everything else, the SLS is more appropriate. I doubt very seriously that this is an accurate picture of the future. On cost alone, using 2015 data, Falcon Heavy beats the pants off SLS. I am quite confident that by 2018, the Falcon Heavy will compare favorably with the SLS in cost and performance for any mission imaginable.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/05/02/love-and-hate-this-article/

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