• Question: How much rocket fuel is needed to take the SpaceX Falcon 9 to Pluto and back?

    Asked by Krishan to Agata, Chris, John, Kirstin, Michael on 21 Jun 2016.
    • Photo: Michael Carley

      Michael Carley answered on 21 Jun 2016:

      Probably not very much, because it would not be burning fuel all the way there. Instead, it would be launched on the right trajectory to arrive at Pluto (a very long journey) by orbit around the sun.

    • Photo: Chris Hackett

      Chris Hackett answered on 22 Jun 2016:

      it actually wouldn’t be that hard to work out. You just need the rocket equation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsiolkovsky_rocket_equation) to give an estimate of the mass of fuel.
      You just need to know the delta V(which is known for transit to Pluto), the specific impulse of the engine, which is know after you select your rocket, and the mass of the rocket without fuel, which is also known. You just rearrange to work out the fuel mass. You can experiment with different engines (chemical, ion) to see how they affect the amount of fuel needed