The Falcon Heavy has become the largest and most powerful rocket currently operational following its maiden flight yesterday. At launch, the Heavy’s 27 engines produced 3,4 million pounds of thrust, the equivalent of eighteen 747 passenger jets at full power.
Unlike many previous firsts, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk had been uncharacteristically pessimistic about the likelihood of success with the Falcon Heavy’s maiden launch. During a post-launch press conference, Musk was asked what the launch had taught him. “It taught me that crazy things can come true,” he said. “I didn’t really think this would work. When I see the rocket liftoff, I see a thousand things that could not work and it’s amazing when they do.”
The Falcon Heavy lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 20:45 GMT (15:45 EST) on February 6. Two minutes thirty-three second later, the Heavy’s two boosters peeled away from the core, turned around and headed back to the Kennedy Space Center to land. Forty seconds later, the main core separated and the rocket’s upper stage ignited. Soon after, the fairing fell away as planned.
Back on Earth, the two Falcon Heavy boosters began their landing burn. The two booster coasted down to the SpaceX landing pads setting down in almost perfect unison. The visuals were astounding and could very easily have been mistaken for those of a science fiction tv series.
As spectacular as the launch and the simultaneous landing of two boosters was, the images beamed down from the Tesla Roadster (the rocket’s payload) orbiting Earth were simply breathtaking. The Roadster with the “Starman” dummy strapped into the front seat outfitted with a SpaceX flight suit drifted through space with the greatest backdrop in history, Earth. As the feed switched to a view inside the car, we saw that the dash screen of the Tesla reassuringly displayed “DON’T PANIC! ”. For a company that spends almost nothing on advertising, Tesla now has the greatest car commercial ever made.
The core should have been the next to land gently on a drone ship in the Atlantic. However, the livestream ended without any confirmation or update on the Falcon Heavy’s core. In the post-launch conference, Musk explained that the core had hit the water at 300 mph showering the deck of drone with debris and knocking out two of its thrusters. So, a near perfect launch.
The Tesla piloted by Starman has already made it past Mars and is on it’s way to the sun. Its hoped it will orbit the sun for centuries if not millennia. If the Tesla Roadster does ever encounter a curious extraterrestrial, Elon made sure they’d know where it was from. On a circuit board of the Tesla’s electronics, a line of small white text reads, “*Made on Earth by humans*”
Image Credit: SpaceX