And yes, Elon Musk used the Falcon Heavy rocket to take his own Roadster into space
Elon Musk is the man of the moment. The billionaire entrepreneur’s SpaceX venture has just hit a milestone moment in its history. Yesterday, it successfully launched the world’s most powerful rocket – the Falcon Heavy.
Twenty-seven engines fired up to create 5.13 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. This rocket is currently the most powerful in existence, and was second in power only to the Apollo rockets which landed men on the moon. The massive rocket can carry a maximum payload of 64 tonnes – or the equivalent of five double-decker buses – into low-Earth orbit. However, Musk chose to put his own cherry-red Roadster, with a dummy astronaut strapped into the driver’s seat, into the rocket and send it on its way towards Mars.
Just prior to the launch, SpaceX showed an animation video demonstrating how the Falcon Heavy rocket would carry Musk’s Tesla into space and point it the direction of Mars. You can see that animation video below:
Yesterday, the actual launch was nearly as perfect as the animation video itself except for a few glitches. You can watch the entire launch sequence below:
One of the most successful parts of the momentous event was that eight minutes after the launch, the pair of Falcon 9 side boosters detached from the centre core and returned to earth, landing simultaneously and vertically next to each other at Florida’s Cape Carnival Air Force Station. This was an important stage because SpaceX wanted to prove that it could make rockets as reusable as aeroplanes.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) February 7, 2018
Amid the applause, there were lessons to be learnt from the launch as well. The centre booster did not land back to earth, as earlier intended, and was lost in the Atlantic Ocean. The centre booster was programmed to land on a drone ship, but missed its mark by 100 metres causing the drone ship to be showered by shrapnel and water from the booster which made impact with the water at 300mph. Also, the Tesla Roadster with David Bowie’s Space Oddity playing on loop over the radio overshot the Mars orbit and headed for the Asteroid Belt before being recalibrated.
Third burn successful. Exceeded Mars orbit and kept going to the Asteroid Belt. pic.twitter.com/bKhRN73WHF
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 7, 2018
SpaceX’s services are for hire. For $90 million, you could contract the Falcon Heavy rocket to launch your own payload into space. That’s a bargain when you consider that NASA’s SLS rocket which will perform similar operations, will cost around $1 billion per flight. With the successful launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket, SpaceX’s reputation as a bastion-storming record-breaking private space agency is, well, stratospheric.