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As SpaceX prepares for what it hopes will be the first static fire test of its Falcon Heavy rocket today, this article provides a nice detailed comparison between the new heavy lift rocket and the Saturn 5, the biggest rocket ever built and successfully launched.
But where the Falcon Heavy comes out ahead is in economy. The estimated cost of a Saturn V launch in today’s dollars is a whopping US$1.16 billion. Meanwhile, the upper estimate for Falcon heavy is US$90 million. That’s million with an “M.”
So, which rocket comes out ahead? In terms of sheer numbers, the Saturn V wins hands down, but the contest is a bit unfair. Saturn V was a Cold War project with a main objective to put a man on the Moon as part of the struggle to prove the superiority of the Free World over the Soviet Union. It was a cost-is-no-object machine intended to win a bloodless battle for world supremacy.
Falcon Heavy, on the other hand, is a business venture. Its job is to make a profit for SpaceX’s investors and its development always had one eye on the ledger at all times. Its design is different, its function is different. To compare it with the Saturn V is a bit like comparing a nuclear strike carrier with the Queen Mary 2. Beyond a certain point, the exercise becomes meaningless.
Read it all. The comparison is quite fun, especially if you are an American and proud of our country’s history in space. To date, no one has built a rocket that truly compares with the Saturn 5. And now, today, an American company is proving that such rockets can be built in the future, for an affordable price.