Some are calling it the main rocket launching of this millennium and perhaps they’re not erroneous. The tumultuous journey of SpaceX began as a remote dream for cost effective methods of travelling to space in 2002. Fast forward to over 15 years, the fledgeling startup is currently in the forefront of space exploration and giving neck-to-neck competition to the behemoths in the space sector like Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Back in 2001 visionary and CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk had conceptualised the idea of a ‘Mars Oasis’, wherein the plan was to land a tiny experimental greenhouse, which contained seeds with aloe vera, in order to grow plants around the Martian land. As good as it seemed on paper, it wasn’t likely to be simple to undertake this project.
17 decades after, the day has finally came when a revolutionary rocket is going to be put to the test and possibly bring Musk’s ambition of inter-planetary travel nearer to reality.
The Falcon Heavy was originally intended for a launch way back in 2011, but thanks to several logistical and technical problems, the launch plans were postponed countless times. Until now, the Falcon Heavy has finished a successful static fire test at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral in January. The successful static test firing on the Falcon Heavy watched all of its motors fired up for 12 minutes.
Tesla Roadster 2008. Instagram/Elon Musk
Clearly, the Falcon Heavy is not any rocket. The rocket uses a total of 27 Merlin engines to generate a thrust of over 5 million lbs. Simply to put some perspective on this, this is sufficient force to put around 64,000 pound or a Boeing 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel, into the planet’s orbit.
In addition, the rocket is in fact capable of carrying up to 7,700 lbs (3,500 kg) into the distant planet of Pluto at the border of the solar system. The last rocket to exceed this amount of payload was that the Saturn V rocket that put people on the moon back in 1973.
Presently, the second most powerful rocket occurs to be United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy and it could only set up to half of their payload to the planet’s orbit in comparison with the Falcon Heavy.
Falcon Heavy. Elon Musk/Twitter
This really isn’t the only reason why Falcon Heavy can be considered a game changer. In comparison, the Delta IV Heavy costs around $350 million per launch, according to a report by The Verge.
Along with this, the Falcon Heavy is designed for reusability hence making production prices effectively zero. The massive amount of money necessary for launches is one of the biggest barriers for space explorations to distant planets, but using all the Falcon Heavy, SpaceX could disrupt the section of distance travel.
So what’s the Falcon Heavy likely to perform?
Quite simply put the entire purpose of the launch is to set a 2008 Cherry Red Tesla Roadster to Martian orbit for a billion years, while the tune Starman by David Bowie has been played on a loop. Talk about theatrical props.
In fact, The Verge reports that the vehicle, which is also carrying a dummy called as the ‘Starman’, would really be placed in the Hohmann transfer orbit round the Sun which will place the car as far out of the Sun as is the space of Mars’ orbit. This way the car will avoid the likelihood of crashing into Mars and contaminating the surface with microbes from Earth.
The general plan surrounding the launch is that SpaceX will attempt to land at least 2 booster rockets back into Cape Canaveral on its concrete landing zone. The third booster is going to be instructed to property in the center of the Atlantic Ocean on SpaceX’s autonomous drone boat. If effective, though the chances are 50-50, these rockets can then be assembled again for future launching missions.
Now Elon Musk has jokingly claimed that there is a high probability that the rockets could blow up mid-way or at the very start of the launch. However, if this does happen it would seriously jeopardise the reputation of SpaceX since the pioneer in future missions. Additionally, when the rocket blows up on the launching site, it might produce the place unusable for scheduling future launches of their Falcon Heavy.
SpaceX will soon be live streaming the entire launch from their website and YouTube.
However, there are a few factors at play such as the wind speed and weather conditions which could delay the launch. Also, this being the first launching of the Falcon Heavy, it wouldn’t be surprising to find some technical difficulties pushing the launch forward by a maybe a few days or so.
Even then, we should think about ourselves as extremely lucky that this exciting effort has finally gotten the green light.
We will be attracting all the details about the Falcon Heavy Launch our website, so stay tuned.