Surprise!—Turns Out SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Can Haul a Lot More Stuff Into Orbit

After a series of tests, SpaceX realized that the Falcon 9 can carry nearly double the weight the company thought it could.

5. 4. 16 by Jelor Gallego
SpaceX
Image by SpaceX

We’ve all known that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 can do a great many things: it allows for more affordable spaceflight, it can land on a barge after delivering a payload to the ISS, among many others. Yet these are all capabilities the company itself designed and often bragged about.

But what about those Falcon 9 capabilities SpaceX didn’t know about?

Revealed in a series of tweets and an update to its website, SpaceX has just doubled the weight that the Falcon 9 rocket can deliver into low earth orbit. But this is not due to some miraculous new engine, or a lighter body, or fantastic new materials.

It’s just because SpaceX never knew before that the rocket could carry that much.

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Previously, the Falcon 9 had a rating of more than 13,000 kg (~29,000 lbs) into Low Earth Orbit. Now, the Falcon 9 can launch nearly 23,000 kg (~50,000 lbs) to LEO, according to SpaceX.

Elon Musk also tweeted that these new capabilities are only for the expendable versions of its rocket, the type that doesn’t land after launch. He said the reusable rockets will be 30 to 40% less capable than the expendable versions, presumably due to fuel constraints.


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