Roadster heads into space on Heavy rocket

Roadster heads into space on Heavy rocket

Its first uncrewed test flight is scheduled for Tuesday between 1:30 pm and 4 pm ET at at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Falcon Heavy is the company's latest advancement and the next step in the company's goal of sending a person to Mars.

But, beyond the simple fact that this is an important launch for the company and the private space sector, there are four more elements that are arguably important in their own right. Destination is Mars orbit, "tweeted SpaceX founder, CEO and lead designer Elon Musk, referencing the David Bowie song".

On Monday, he even posted a photo of the vehicle with a dummy driver Musk referred to as "Starman".

The first SpaceX Heavy powers into orbit. Image Jacques van Oene
The first SpaceX Heavy powers into orbit. Image Jacques van Oene

SpaceX has received permission for the launch, and successfully completed a hold-down test fire of the rockets last month, so only a technical difficulty or unforseen weather can stop the launch tomorrow.

If all goes according to plan, the roadster will enter heliocentric orbit (locked in a dance with our sun) and will travel slightly farther than the distance of Mars' orbit. The vehicle has a "tiny, tiny chance" of crashing into Mars, Musk says.

Mr Musk has emphasised the difficulties in getting the Falcon Heavy ready for its maiden outing.

I hope it makes it far enough from the pad that it does not cause pad damage. It is created to put up around 64 tonnes in low-Earth orbit. First it has to go through the violent Van Allen belt where it will be pummeled by charged particles for about six hours. At times, it might pass very close to Mars, and Mr. Musk said there was an "extremely tiny" chance that it could crash into Mars. The payload will be jettisoned into deep space. Even as he announced that the rocket's first payload would be his one of a kind Tesla Roadster a year ago, he still tempered his enthusiasm by reminding people that there's a good chance that the rocket will simply explode as it attempts to launch.

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Propelled by 27 engines supplying three times the thrust of SpaceX's current workhorse Falcon 9 booster, the Falcon Heavy is essentially constructed from three Falcon 9s bolted together side-by-side. The rocket, which has 27 engines and a thrust equal to 18 Boeing Co. The rocket is created to carry almost 141,000 pounds (64 metric tons) into orbit, more than the mass of a fully loaded 737 jetliner.

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket stands on launchpad 39A at Kennedy Space Center ahead of it's first test flight.

Rockets capable of carrying a payload over 20 metric tonnes are classified under the Heavy-Lift Launch Vehicle (HLLV) category. Because its boosters land back on earth and are re-usable, the cost to launch can be $90 million, considerably less than other rockets on the market today.

The launch leaves Blue Origin trailing in the new space race.

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Still, there's a good chance the launch could fail and the rocket explode, as this system has yet to be launched but is the most powerful operational rocket on the planet, second only to the retired Saturn V. A failure would be a setback for the company, especially as it prepares to carry NASA astronauts later this year on another rocket, the Falcon 9.

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