Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has received the first order for its Falcon Heavy rocket.

A joint press release from Intelsat and SpaceX announced the contract for the launch of an Intelsat satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. Intelsat chief technology officer Thierry Guillemin said, “Timely access to space is an essential element of our commercial supply chain. Our support of successful new entrants to the commercial launch industry reduces risk in our business model. Intelsat has exacting technical standards and requirements for proven flight heritage for our satellite launches. We will work closely with SpaceX as the Falcon Heavy completes rigorous flight tests prior to our future launch requirements.”

This contract represents another step forward for SpaceX. SpaceX chief executive officer Elon Musk said, “The Falcon Heavy has more than twice the power of the next largest rocket in the world. With this new vehicle, SpaceX launch systems now cover the entire spectrum of the launch needs for commercial, civil and national security customers.” Falcon Heavy also plays a key role in Musk’s long-range plans for sending humans to Mars.

Commercial customers like Intelsat may also help convince the critics of SpaceX’s viability. After last week’s successful docking of the SpaceX Dragon capsule with the International Space Station, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) released a bizarre sour-grapes statement stating, “The reality remains that SpaceX has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to launch a rocket nearly three years later than planned. The ‘private’ space race is off to a dilatory start at best, and the commercial space flight market has yet to materialize.”

We’re not sure what Shelby means by the “commercial space flight market.” If he means human spaceflight, he seems to have missed the steady stream of citizen space explorers who have visited ISS, beginning with Dennis Tito. If satellites count, he’s missed all of the previous commercial customers who’ve signed with SpaceX – ORBCOMM, MDA Corporation, SES, Thaicom, NSPO, Asiasat, Satélites Mexicanos, Space Systems Loral, CONAE, Iridium, Spacecom, and Bigelow Aerospace  – as well as those served by United Launch Alliance, Orbital Sciences Corporation, and their foreign competitors. Shelby also failed to note that the Space Launch System, mandated by Shelby and other Congressmen over NASA’s objections, is spending not hundreds of millions but billions of taxpayer dollars and will be much later to the party than SpaceX, if it shows up at all.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle commercial rocket

Written by Astro1 on May 29th, 2012 , SpaceX

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