SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch Delayed By Atmospheric Wind
Feb 07, 2018, 00:51
After seven years of designing and tinkering, the Falcon Heavy is set for its first test launch at the Kennedy Space Center at today at 3:45 P.M. EST.
"Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third the cost", the company claims on its website. Tens of thousands of spectators made the pilgrimage from across the country to experience the enormous heat and thunderous roar of the rocket's 5 million pounds of thrust.
If radiation doesn't zap the electronics of the upper-stage rocket, its engines will fire up, accelerate Musk's Roadster to about 24,600 miles per hour, and inject it into orbit that will loop indefinitely between Earth and Mars.
The three booster rockets used by Falcon Heavy to generate this power will land back on Earth, if all goes according to plan. Its sticker price is $90 million, less than one-tenth the estimated cost of NASA's Space Launch System megarocket in development for moon and Mars expeditions.
The Hawthorne, California-based company already has paying customers committed to flying with Falcon Heavy, including commercial satellite operators Arabsat, Inmarsat and Viasat, according to its launch manifest.
The landing capability of Falcon 9 allows for quick reuse of the boosters, which has led to lower costs and less time between launches. It will also make it a candidate for launching deep space probes for NASA.
Falcon Heavy is essentially three regular Falcon 9 rocket boosters strapped together. It cleared the launch pad without blowing up - a feat Chief Executive Officer Musk said would signal a win - and continued on in an attempt to deliver its test payload into an Earth-Mars elliptical orbit around the sun.
The first tests could come as early 2019, with orbital tests in 2020. "That was our plan until a year ago", Musk explained yesterday.
"It is going to get whacked pretty hard", Musk said. As Chang reports, a misfire like that would take up to a year to fix.
As the Falcon Heavy lifted slowly off historic pad 39A, now leased by SpaceX from NASA, the anxiety of the site being left in ruins from a launch failure began to subside. The longer the flight, he noted, the more the company would learn from the heavily instrumented rocket.
"There's nothing like competition to open up opportunities", Stanford aeronautics professor Scott Hubbard tells Wall.
On board the rocket that's now headed for orbit around the Earth is Musk's personal Tesla roadster. The camera monitoring the touchdown cut out just, but Space X said that this was expected, as the vibrations of the descending rocket often play havoc with the antennae.
After the launch, Musk said in a tweet that the upper-stage portion - the part carrying the auto and its dummy driver, called Starman - was performing as expected. The auto could be traveling between Earth and Mars' neighborhoods for a billion years, according to the high-tech billionaire.
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