We are living in the Space Age again! Feb 6th at 3:45PM EST (2045z) SpaceX successfully launched the largest operational rocket in the world. The incredible display of ingenuity and imagination was hosted by the Cape Canveral Launch Complex at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Serious Space Lifter
Falcon Heavy has a lifting capacity of 2.7 times the payload of the weight of the Space Shuttle. The SpaceX website states that the rocket has, “the ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lb)–a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel.” And that is just to Low Earth Orbit. The Falcon Heavy can also catapult astronomic payloads to Geostationary Orbits above Earth, Mars or even Pluto.
Courtesy – SpaceX
Flight Path Profile
Falcon Heavy launched to the East over the Atlantic Ocean. At approximately T+1:08 (min:sec) after launch the launch vehicle soared through critical Max Q, the point where the dynamic pressure stresses from the atmosphere are at their highest level. The two side cores separated from the main core at T+2:33. Next they flipped over toward the earth and initiated a boostback burn. The side cores ignited their entry burn at T+6:41 establishing an approach course to Cape Canaveral. Mere seconds before impacting terra firma, both side cores fired flames downward using thrust from their engines to successful touchdown while deploying what we can only call the landing gear. Both side cores landed side-by-side in a perfectly synchronized performance on their Kennedy Space Center target pads.
The center core and the second stage separated at T+3:07 and main core blasted into its boostback sequence. The day was picture perfect except for the main core missing target and causing minor damage to its drone recovery ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Video linked to below by Astronomy Live.
The second stage engine started 8 seconds later at T+3:15. In a series of two burns, the first for 5:16 (min:sec) and the second for (:30) the Falcon Heavy achieved an orbit over 130km above the earth. FH Mission Information HERE.
The third burn was initiated at 6:30pm PST over California. This final burst of energy is designed to deplete the fuel remaining down to the point that continued operation of the engine would cause it to explode.
After the third burn, Elon Musk SpaceX founder tweeted: “Third burn successful. Exceeded Mars orbit and kept going to the Asteroid Belt.”
Late last year in 2017 we told you about Elon Musk”s plan for using his Tesla roadster as the primary payload for the launch..
Usually test flight missions like this one are sent into orbit with a load of concrete blocks or metal. However SpaceX used their test opportunity to give us amazing views of “Starman” in a midnight-cherry Tesla roadster orbiting around the earth.
Courtesy – SpaceX
As an ode to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Musk emblazoned the message “DON’T PANIC” on the vehicle’s system/navigation display and played David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” out into oblivion. Cameras from multiple angles sent back mesmerizing shots and the show continued for about five hours until the batteries reached their programmed expiration time.
“Starman” – Courtesy SpaceX
Starman was a humanoid shaped figure sporting SpaceX’s newest rendition of a spacesuit. This employed Musk’s Tesla roadster as a testbed for the new space duds. No word on how the space suit faired on its qualification test, but we couldn’t take our eyes off the incredible views of Starman and his car as they slowly completed the stabilization roll with a frame of the earth in the background.
To the Asteroid Belt *$%? and Beyond
Falcon Heavy was 53rd successful mission added to the SpaceX launch manifest. The company has another 50 upcoming missions some involving multiple launches in the works.
Musk’s Tesla roadster is now speeding on its way past Mars for an interstellar location somewhere in the Asteroid Belt – this sounds like a setup for the most spectacular car crash scene ever. If it avoids collision with the massive hunks of rock there, the spacecraft could cross paths with Ceres, a dwarf planet in Neptune’s orbit.
Rockets flying into space and boosters returning to earth at targeted landing sites was a perennial favorite of science fiction writers & cost conscious engineers. Today it’s become a reality, which brings us all closer to a future of interplanetary space travel and rockets regularly reaching deeper into the unknown vastness of our galaxy.
Congratulations to Space X for launching the most powerful rocket in history and being the first private company to launch a spacecraft beyond Earth’s orbit.
This is Major Tom to Ground Control I'm stepping through the door And I'm floating in a most peculiar way And the stars look very different today
David Bowie – Space Oddity
Scott Manley – Shares his rocket expertise in the area of astronomics in his “post mortem” on the Falcon Heavy launch.