SpaceX Falcon Heavy Inaugural Flight: Watching History Being Made!

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This past Tuesday SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time in history. The current launch date was announced back in January of 2018. The first launch got pushed over and over and everyone was happy that the new launch date for February 6th, 2018 was able to be kept. Only the launch time got pushed because of shear winds on the upper stage. The original launch time was set for 1:30 p.m. EST but got pushed to 3:45 p.m. just 15 minutes before the launch window for this day would close.

I watched the launch from the VIP Rocket Launch Viewing Area of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Unfortunately, it was not as close as for the Falcon 9 CRS13 launch end of December 2017 but I was still able to get to see, feel and hear the rocket taking off. The advantage of this location was, that we were closer to SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1, where the 2 booster rockets landed almost simultaneously a few minutes after the launch. The rocket took off from the historic Launch Pad 39A at NASA Kennedy Space Center. The same launchpad was used to launch the Saturn V rockets which took us to the moon as well as numerous Space Shuttle launches. With the successful launch of the Falcon Heavy, the rocket made history as the most powerful operational rocket. Just the Saturn V was more powerful.

Bleachers with the Falcon Heavy in the Background.

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The Falcon Heavy can lift 141,000 lbs. (64 metric tons) into space and to other planets. This is twice as much as the closest competitor United Launch Association (ULC) with its Delta IV rocket. Also, the launch of a Falcon Heavy is much cheaper than the Delta IV. A Falcon Heavy launch is estimated at about 90 Million USD (SpaceX estimate) while a Delta IV launch is estimated with about 300 to 500 Million USD and the rocket can only carry 32 tons (29 metric tons) into space.

This was just a test flight and there was no official payload aboard the rocket. But the rocket didn’t lift off empty. The final stage is carrying a Tesla Roadster which was previously owned by Elon Musk CEO of both Tesla and SpaceX. This is one of the best marketing stunts ever. The Tesla Roadster is driven piloted by  “Starman”, a dummy in a spacesuit. The roadster was supposed to be launched into a heliocentric orbit which would bring it eventually to Mars. Unfortunately, the final burn went a little too well and was stronger than expected. This will now send the Tesla Roadster into an orbit extending out to the Asteroid Belt which is located between Mars and Jupiter.

The Tesla Roadster was not the only payload but probably the most exciting one. Inside the car is an Arch, a 5D printed disc that can store tremendous amounts of data and can survive the harsh environments of space. The disc was created by the Arch Mission Foundation with the goal to preserve and disseminate humanity’s most important information across time and space, for the benefit of future generations. Stored on the Arch in the Roadster is a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy.

Another thing that didn’t go too well was the landing of the center stage. It crashed into the Atlantic ocean instead of landing on SpaceX’s autonomous drone ship.

Overall the launch was a success! There are two more Falcon Heavy missions expected to fly in 2018. One will carry a bulky communications satellite (Arabsat 6A) and Space Test Program 2 for the U.S. Air Force which will also launch the LightSail 2 for The Planetary Society.

Whats Next?

Besides more launches of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, SpaceX is working on its plan to colonize Mars with its BFR (Big Falcon Rocket). Seems like someone watched or played too much “Doom”!


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