SpaceX’s successfully launched its Falcon Heavy on Tuesday, February 6th 2018 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral Florida.
This is how SpaceX described its expectations prior to the launch:
“When Falcon Heavy lifts off, it will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two, with the ability to lift more than twice the payload of the next vehicle, at one-third the cost. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit.
Three cores make up the first stage of Falcon Heavy. The side cores, or boosters, are connected to the center core at its base and at the vehicle’s interstage. With a total of 27 Merlin engines, Falcon Heavy’s three cores are capable of generating more than 5 million pounds of thrust.
For this test flight, Falcon Heavy’s two side cores are both flight-proven. One launched the Thaicom 8 satellite in May 2016 and the other supported the CRS-9 mission in July 2016. SpaceX will attempt to land all three of Falcon Heavy’s first stage cores during this test. Following booster separation, Falcon Heavy’s two side cores will attempt to land at SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 (LZ-1 and LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Falcon Heavy’s center core will attempt to land on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
The payload for Falcon Heavy’s demonstration mission is SpaceX CEO and Lead Designer Elon Musk’s midnight-cherry Tesla Roadster. Demonstration missions like this one typically carry steel or concrete blocks as mass simulators, but SpaceX decided it would be more worthwhile to launch something fun and without irreplaceable sentimental value: a red Roadster for the red planet. Following launch, Falcon Heavy’s second stage will attempt to place the Roadster into a precessing Earth-Mars elliptical orbit around the sun.
It’s important to remember that this mission is a test flight. Even if we do not complete all of the experimental milestones that are being attempted during this test, we will still be gathering critical data throughout the mission. Ultimately, a successful demonstration mission will be measured by the quality of information we can gather to improve the launch vehicle for our existing and future customers.”
And then, on February 6th 2018, the actual launch took place.
It went nearly exactly as planned and included two (out of three) successful booster landings.
(The Falcon Heavy rocket carried into space the midnight cherry red convertible Tesla Roadster – which belongs to Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX – playing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and complete with a mannequin driver referred to as “Starman” strapped into the driver’s seat.) The Falcon Heavy is on its way toward Mars as we speak.
On Space.com Musk is quoted saying: “Standing 23 stories tall, the Falcon Heavy rocket is SpaceX’s largest rocket yet. Its first stage is powered by three core boosters based on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets, with 27 engines (nine per booster) firing in unison to produce about 5 million lbs. of thrust (22,819 kilonewtons) at liftoff. While SpaceX hoped all three boosters would return to Earth and land, the center core missed its mark – a minor hiccup in an otherwise successful launch.”
The successful launch of Falcon Heavy is the beginning of a new chapter for SpaceX. The reusability of the boosters would make commercial launches into the deep space feasible and cost-effective. It also opens the doors for SpaceX further cooperation with NASA.
What’s next? SpaceX’s plans to build BFR (Big Falcon Rocket), significantly larger than Falcon Heavy and designed to launch hundreds of people into space at one time. According to Elon Musk, the BFR “could (also) be used to transport passengers around the world quickly for point-to-point travel”.
When Neil Armstrong took first steps on the Moon (on July 20th 1969), he said: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” The successful launch of Falcon Heavy is one of many steps SpaceX still has to take before Elon Musk’s plan of establishing a colony on Mars – and a regular mass transportation to and from it – becomes a reality. If and when his plan comes to fruition, it won’t be a “giant leap for mankind”. It could some day become its refuge from Earth which may no longer be capable of sustaining life.
Falcon Heavy explained: http://www.spacex.com/falcon-heavy
Article contributed by Sturm Enrich