SpaceX is set to launch Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket in operation, for the first time tomorrow. The Falcon Heavy is scheduled to takeoff at 1.30PM ET Tuesday or at 12.00AM IST on Wednesday and will blast off from the same launch pad which sent men to the moon half a century ago.
The Falcon Heavy is a modified version of company’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle and it consists of a strengthened Falcon 9 rocket and two additional Falcon 9 first stages. It can carry a maximum payload of 63,800 kilograms compared to 22,800 kilograms payload of the Falcon 9 full thrust model. The Falcon Heavy was designed with the intention to carry humans to space and its successful launch tomorrow will pave way for human space travel, and possibly the eventual colonization of Mars.
With more than 5 million pounds of liftoff thrust, the Falcon Heavy launch will be a high risk one for the company. Ahead of the liftoff, Musk said there is a real good chance that the launch vehicle won’t not make it.
In its initial flight, the Falcon Heavy’s main module will carry Musk’s 2008 cherry red Tesla Roadster on a journey into the orbit of Mars, which is 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) away. Musk posted a picture on Instagram showing Tesla Roadster strapped onto the main module with a mannequin wearing a spacesuit placed in the driver’s seat and it will play David Bowie’s Space Oddity on repeat.
The Falcon Heavy is a 230-foot long rocket and is powered by 27 engines and three reusable cores that will separate from the main module after launch and return to Earth. SpaceX conducted static fire test last month and Musk confirmed that his team plans to recover all the three boosters forming the first stage of the rocket.
The Falcon Heavy is capable of delivering 1,40,600 pounds of cargo to low-Earth orbit, nearly 60,000 pounds to high-Earth orbit, 37,000 pounds to Mars and 7,700 pounds to Pluto. It will be the most powerful rocket in operation when it takes off tomorrow but it won’t match NASA’s Saturn V rocket, which launched thirteen times from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with no loss of crew or payload including the Apollo moon mission.
The successful test of Falcon Heavy will allow SpaceX to send far more payload into the orbit compared to an average Falcon 9 launch. It will also allow the company to test its launch system ahead of sending humans into space last year. The Falcon Heavy launch happens after months of delays and setbacks and it was slated to takeoff in January but the launch got delayed due to the US government shutdown.
There is a good chance that the Falcon Heavy won’t make it and it will allow the company to gather data and ensure future launches are smoother. The company has been perfecting rocket launches for sometime now and its first few Falcon 9 launch didn’t go as per plan either. Among many goals tomorrow would be to ensure that the launch pad is not destroyed which will be used for future launches including the Crew Dragon that SpaceX will use to send NASA astronauts to the Space Station.