February 6th, 2018, SpaceX launched their most powerful rocket yet, Falcon Heavy, for the first time. This launch wasn’t just a demonstration of the viability of the Falcon Heavy but also carried a unique dummy payload. Usually, the dummy payload is a mass of concrete reflecting the weight necessary to bring a satellite into space. This launch, an original ruby red Tesla Roadster was used. Jaw dropping live images were later released showing the car floating through space with half the earth as the background. Inside of the car, Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, placed a dummy wearing a SpaceX astronaut suit, a smaller Hot Wheels version of the car on the dashboard, and on the inside panel the words “Don’t Panic”, a reference to Elon’s favorite science fiction book series. After this launch, it is now accurate to say that there is a greater than zero percent chance to get into a car crash in space.
Although the Roadster floating in space may get a lot of attention, the more amazing feat is the rocket itself. With a payload capability of 70 tons, Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket on the market and the most powerful since the Saturn V. In addition to being powerful, SpaceX’s new rocket is also the cheapest. The biggest competitor, the Delta IV heavy, rocket can carry 64 tons and costs at a minimum 350 million dollars. Fully expendable, the Falcon Heavy costs a total of 150 million dollars. Fully expendable is necessary to say because SpaceX also introduced an idea thought to be impossible for rockets, reusability. Reusable rockets were considered science fiction even five years ago until in 2015, SpaceX successfully landed a stage of one of their rockets. Reusability was then proven in March of 2017 when they used a landed stage of a past rocket. If everything is recovered from Falcon Heavy launches, the cost drops to 90 million dollars, a fourth of the price of the biggest competitor. This is truly amazing.
While watching the very first Falcon Heavy launch, viewers would have noticed three phases that received the most applause. The first occurred after Falcon Heavy successfully launched and passed maximum dynamic pressure. The second occurred once the payload, the ruby red Tesla Roadster, was successfully deployed into space. The third was when the two side boosters successfully landed, in sync with each other, on large white and black platforms. Even on the first launch, the Falcon Heavy proved itself to be partially reusable.
After the launch, Elon Musk appeared relieved. Before, Elon was quoted saying the launch had a 50-50 likelihood of success and downplayed the entire event. Now, Elon began talking about talking about his hope to create SpaceX’s even bigger rocket, BFR. The crazy dream of getting to mars is only becoming more likely with continued success of SpaceX. Elon’s biggest goal, creating a human colony on mars, will be carried out with the BFR if all things go according to plan. The fact that this is not a science fiction story just goes to show what mankind is capable of doing.