The World’s Most Powerful Rocket

Dave Mosher is a science reporter who has written for Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, National Geographic News and Mosher joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss Space X’s Falcon Heavy, the most powerful operational rocket in the world.


is a Science Reporter who has written for Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, National Geographic News and

Throughout his career he has watched humans and robots launch into space, flown over the north pole to catch a total solar eclipse, and toured a cutting-edge nuclear reactor.

He joins us now to discuss Space X's Falcon Heavy the most powerful operational rocket in the world.

How powerful is the most powerful put it in perspective for us.

Dave Mosher: So it's not as powerful as the Atlas 5 or some of these crazy rockets that the Soviet Union built during the Cold War.

But today it's the most powerful, it can lift two times as much stuff into orbit low Earth orbit or about 250 miles above the Earth as the next most powerful rocket which is built by United Launch Alliance that is called the Delta 4 heavy in the Falcon Heavy is one quarter of the costs of the Delta 4 heavy.

Hari Sreenivasan: Describe seeing it launch for the first time?

Dave Mosher: This was the most incredible thing I've ever seen.

Not not just for the launch the launch is like OK it's a thunderous roar on your chest you can feel it reverberating.

These rocket engines are spewing out these like stirringly white hot sort of like gases like it looks like a little someone like poked a hole in the sky and the sun's coming through it.

The key part of Falcon Heavy certainly for its future is reusability.

The boosters come back.

They don't crash in the ocean and sink to the bottom.

Tens of millions of dollars per booster they come back to earth and they light up their engines.

And there's sonic booms because they're going thousands of miles an hour.

So when those boosters came back you can see them but there they're like 16 story buildings flying back to Earth and you hear three sonic booms happening.

It's like boom boom boom.

Per Per booster.

So seeing that happen and seeing them land and the sonic booms I just like shouted I couldn't contain myself because I'd never seen anything like it.

Hari Sreenivasan: So that changes the game not just in expensiveness but the reusability.

Dave Mosher: So each booster costs 10...20 million maybe more millions of dollars per booster and most of that cost is locked up in the engines.

There are nine engines per booster.

The really heavy they're really hard to engineer and get right.

You put them through a lot of testing but you can reuse them.

So if you can get those back to Earth you've just save yourself tens of millions of dollars.

You can do a quick turnaround launches not only reduce the cost of access but the frequency in which you can get the space game changing ability.

And now the world's most powerful operational rocket can do this.

So everyone's shaking in their boots.

Hari Sreenivasan: If you can get more items up for a lesser cost.

What kinds of items are likely to go up.

So they're going to go in two directions here.

You're going to see a lot more small satellites because this rocket it's 90 million dollars a launch versus 62 million dollars a launch for the Falcon 9 which is a smaller one.

It's about a third as capable.

So it's not that much more.

You're going to see a ton of small satellites being deployed at once.

Also some medium satellites and even a large satellite are two going off.

Another thing we're going to see is first hand with Elon Musk own efforts and that is with Starlink.

This is a global fleet of satellites that he wants to launch he wants to put up almost three times as many satellites as currently exists in orbit and create global high speed low latency broadband Internet.

To do that you're going to need to launch a heck of a lot of satellites and you're going to need to do it at low cost.

Hari Sreenivasan: All right.

Dave Mosher thanks so much.