Two days before SpaceX’s Dragon, the first commercial vessel to dock with the International Space Station, is due to return to Earth, the company scored another coup. It signed Intelsat as its first commercial customer to launch aboard the Falcon Heavy launcher.
“Timely access to space is an essential element of our commercial supply chain,” said Thierry Guillemin, Intelsat CTO in a press release. “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.”
The Falcon Heavy, which SpaceX describes as “the most powerful rocket in the world,” is designed to launch 53 tons to low Earth orbit or 12 tons to geostationary transfer orbit. The vehicle shares a first stage with the smaller Falcon 9 and launches for a cost of $83-128 million, according to SpaceX’s website. The Falcon Heavy is scheduled for a test launch in 2013 and likely will not carry Intelsat’s satellite until 2017-2018.
“Intelsat has exacting technical standards and requirements for proven flight heritage for our satellite launches,” said Guillemin. “We will work closely with SpaceX as the Falcon Heavy completes rigorous flight tests prior to our future launch requirements.”
Elon Musk, CEO and Chief Designer of SpaceX, did not seem worried about the hurdles ahead. “The Falcon Heavy has more than twice the power of the next largest rocket in the world,” he said in a statement. “With this new vehicle, SpaceX launch systems now cover the entire spectrum of the launch needs for commercial, civil and national security customers.”
Watch SpaceX’s promotional video for the Falcon Heavy below: