On the Falcon 9 FT Wikipedia page, the fully fuelled weight of Falcon 9 is only 546 300kg instead of 549,054kg as stated on SpaceX website.

546,300 kg - Wikipedia

549,054 kg - SpaceX

Since this weight does not include a payload but it includes fairings, why would the number be 2.754 tonnes less than reported? Does this 3* tonne difference relate to propellant density? Why would they display such a static number to such a dynamic weight difference? Does anyone know what this difference could relate to exactly?

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    $\begingroup$ How much does a Roadster weigh? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Sep 12 '18 at 0:24
  • $\begingroup$ There are 3 versions listed on the page. 549054 is stated here en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_9 for the FT versoon. The other numbers could be 1.1 or 1.0 $\endgroup$ – Magic Octopus Urn Sep 12 '18 at 10:43
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    $\begingroup$ Did you notice that the pounds and kg given by SpaceX don't match? 1,207,920 lb are 547,903 kg $\endgroup$ – asdfex Sep 12 '18 at 11:17
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    $\begingroup$ You are reading too much into a wikipedia article, UndefinedUsername. There are countless wikipedia articles that are internally inconsistent. This is just one of them. It doesn't help that the primary source page is itself internally inconsistent. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Sep 12 '18 at 12:21

NASA Astronaut Don Pettit's Tyranny of the Rocket Equation as well as the underlying Tsiolkovsky rocket equation dictate that most of a rocket's mass when launched from Earth is propellant. Very roughly it's 90% but it varies by mission and by vehicle.

Tyranny of the Rocket Equation

Does this 3* tonne difference relate to propellant density?

So the tl;dr might be yes, while the dry weights might be more stable (as they are for say cars), the total weight spec for rockets is mostly that of the propellants. However without the actual detailed tallies used in each case, it's almost impossible to be sure if there aren't several different part-per-thousand effects that add up to 5 parts per thousand.

The figure below is from my fairly old question Does the NK-33 engine require subcooled kerosene so cold that it turns to wax?. Sources of data are there, the script (containing the data) is at https://pastebin.com/DNqiLLb6

Roughly speaking a 30C or 30K change in temperature results in about a 10% change in density.

Your difference is about 0.5% which would correspond to less than about 2C difference in temperature for "topped-up" tanks.

Since the LOX is sub-cooled, it means that it is not at a fixed boiling point temperature, but instead the temperature (like that of the RP-1) is quite bit flexible!

In other words, a few tons here or there could depend on something as simple as the weather, or trying to squeeze a little extra propellant in for a given mission with a tight constraint on range, or where they want to land the reusable booster.

I think a difference of only 0.5% is too small to try to nail down to a fixed value.

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Due to SpaceX and their tendency to report performance at its highest given performance and not at an average, I can only assume while Wikipedia results are indeed unconfirmed, that 549kg is a report of weight in perfect conditions. $\endgroup$ – UndefinedUsername Sep 12 '18 at 7:27

I see several issues here.

First, the values currently given on the SpaceX website are inconsistent by themselves. 1,207,920 lb are 547,903 kg and not 549,054 kg.

Second, the Wikipedia you linked uses the current 549,054 kg value since more than 2 years. I can't find your stated 546 t anywhere in the history of the page.

Third, We know that SpaceX was working on improvements continuously. For example there is the transition from Block 4 to Block 5 taking place earlier this year. The additional weight of several tons can well be due to these changes. Note that the Falcon 9 weight was reported as 541 t before 2016 and as 505 t in 2013, i.e. it is subject to many changes.

Fourth, if you refer to the sum of total weights from the "Rocket specifications" table, it is unclear to me if any of the values contains the interstage and whether the numbers contain grid fins and landing legs on the reusable version or are for the 'pure' first stage only.

Fifth and last point: According to sources listed, the values are taken from a French space magazine and spacelaunchreport.com who put many 'estimated' and '?' in their tables, so can't be taken as definite numbers.

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    $\begingroup$ The OP arrived at the value of 546,300 kg by adding various numbers in the wikipedia article. That summation qualifies as "original research", something wikipedians are not supposed to do (not that it stops them). $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Sep 12 '18 at 12:19
  • $\begingroup$ This marks the first time I've ever heard "wikipedians". $\endgroup$ – UndefinedUsername Sep 12 '18 at 13:39

Wikipedia, and everyone else outside SpaceX, has to make an estimate of various specifications of the Falcon 9, because SpaceX doesn't publish much data at all, and the data they do publish have been inaccurate in the past. Estimates include:

  • size of the propellant tanks
  • propellant density
  • the headspace in the tanks (empty space remaining after fueling)
  • structural weight

With that many estimates, it's easy to be off by way more than 3 tons.

By the way, as of today the figure on the English Wikipedia is 549,054 kg, matching the SpaceX number.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree and I would add that Wikipedia also uses many sources at once, which may not be consistent with each other. In particular, in the "Rocket specifications" section where first stage, second stage and fairing mass are reported, it says that there are three sources ([12][30][41]). Only [12] is from SpaceX, and [30] is a webpage that clearly says that those are estimates, not confirmed numbers (spacelaunchreport.com/falcon9ft.html). $\endgroup$ – BlueCoder Sep 12 '18 at 7:12
  • $\begingroup$ From the "Rocket specifications" section, first stage (433,100 kg), second stage (111,500 kg) and the fairing (1,700 kg) equals 546 300 kg. Are you getting different? $\endgroup$ – UndefinedUsername Sep 12 '18 at 7:16
  • $\begingroup$ While these numbers on Wikipedia are undoubtedly an estimate, would you not think it was a bit odd that the total weight of the table does not equal total reported weight? Of course given weight density and all that. $\endgroup$ – UndefinedUsername Sep 12 '18 at 7:20
  • $\begingroup$ I was looking at the sidebar, not the specifications section. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Sep 12 '18 at 7:20
  • $\begingroup$ I write documents for a living, I know how hard it is to make sure everything is correct and consistent with each other. Especially when you report related data in two different sections with no automated way to ensure consistency. I don't find it odd there's an error in the article, I'd be surprised if this were the only one. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Sep 12 '18 at 7:27

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