SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Rocket launched its test flight successfully this afternoon from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The world's most powerful operational rocket launched without hassle watched by millions of fans from all over the globe. "I had this image of just a giant explosion on the pad, a wheel bouncing down the road. But fortunately, that's not what happened," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told reporters after the event.
Falcon Heavy has 27 engines, which give it the thrust equal to 18 Boeing (BA) 747 jetliners. The massively powerful rocket will be a key player in Elon Musk's plan to send humans to Mars.
Three times more powerful than Falcon 9
Falcon Heavy consists of three thrusters. Each thruster was attempted to be returned to earth as part of SpaceX's plan to build the best reusable rockets. Two of the thrusters returned safely to touchdown zones on the Florida coast. Incredibly they made contact with earth almost simultaneously. "That was epic," said Musk. "That's probably the most exciting thing I've ever seen, literally."
The third booster which was expected to land on a floating drone ship missed its target and was destroyed when it made impact with the sea at 500km/h. Prior to the launch Musk spoke about his fears for the event "The separation system that tosses off the side boosters has never been tested before in space," he said. "This is really a crazy amount of power coming through this, and it's really a miracle that the rocket holds together at all."
Power at a low price
While Falcon Heavy is packing a huge punch it comes at a surprisingly low cost each flight of the rocket reportedly starts at just $90 million, which is low dollars in the space industry. To put that into comparison Space X’s closest current rival the Delta IV Heavy operated by United Alliance costs about $350 million per launch.
Musk was keen to remind everyone that this is a test mission and that the risks are very high, despite the risks Musk, in keeping with his slightly demonic sense of play has included some rather personal cargo onboard the rocket. His own Tesla Roadster. The prank is made even weirder by the reported fact the car has a dummy in the driver's seat dressed in a SpaceX suit.
Earlier this year Musk tweeted: "I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future.”
Space X one step closer to Mars
After this successful launch, Falcon Heavy will hopefully be ready to fulfill its booked launches. It already has four additional launch dates for the upcoming twelve months.
Its first is reported to be a planned mission to send a Saudi Arabian communications satellite into orbit. Falcon Heavy is expected to test payload for the US Air Force in the first half of this year. SpaceX could become their preferred space company for satellite launches.
In addition to the US Air Force satellites, this mission is expected to also contain the test spacecraft LightSail designed and operated by space exploration group Planetary Society. The investigative space probe is designed to move through space using a thin sail in conjunction with radiation from the sun. The true success of the mission is yet to be seen with launch just the first step. But with all the signs looking right, Elon Musk's space vision is one step closer to completion.