The Falcon Heavy successfully launched a Tesla Roadster into space earlier today marking a new era in space travel. The launch was delayed for more than two hours because of the weather but made its launch window with minutes to spare.
The rocket, which consists of 3 Falcon 9 rockets strapped together, is capable of putting 64 tons of cargo into orbit, more than twice that of its nearest rival the Delta IV Heavy. It’s the equivalent of five London double decker buses. The big game changer however is the cost. A launch aboard a Falcon Heavy will be just one third of the price.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk likened the rocket to a reusable plane saying anything non-reusable would now look pretty silly.
One of the most impressive sights of the launch was the two outer Falcon 9s landing simultaneously back at the Kennedy Space Center. The third was due to land on drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” but its fate is currently unclear. The stream cut out just before it as due to land. It’s probably lost but it did its primary job first, getting the payload to space.
Being the first Falcon Heavy launch, SpaceX founder Elon Musk was not very optimistic about its chances. He gave the mission a 50/50 chance of succeeding.
The next phase is probably the riskiest of all. The upper stage must pass through a large amount of radiation known as the Van Allen Belts before firing its rockets again to head towards Mars. There is a risk the radiation could interfere with the electronics on board.
For now however Musk’s red Roadster complete with space-suited mannequin driver remains on course for Mars putting out some stunning views as it goes. The car is also blasting out Space Oddity from its stereo.
View from SpaceX Launch Control. Apparently, there is a car in orbit around Earth. pic.twitter.com/QljN2VnL1O
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 6, 2018
How important is the Falcon Heavy?
For all the showmanship that comes along with anything Musk does the Falcon Heavy will serve a range of uses:
- The increased payload opens up more military contracts for the company
- Each launch can send up a cluster of satellites to build networks faster
- It will make it easier to launch large telescopes like Hubble or James Webb into space
- Bigger robots can be sent to Mars and beyond to find out more about the solar system