Paging Dr. Spaceman
Elon Musk isn’t setting out to change the world. He has bigger ambitions. He wants to change the destiny of the human race by making it interplanetary. First step, prove that Mars can be colonized.
To that end, Musk’s company SpaceX took a bold step forward with the test flight of its Falcon Heavy space vehicle.
In simple terms, Falcon Heavy is three Falcon first stages strapped together with the second stage mounted to the top of the centre booster. From launch all three boosters fire until the side boosters throttle back and are separated from the centre booster, which continues to accelerate the second stage upward until separation. Principle 1 – Segmentation
Of course, in rocket science nothing is simple. The forces and vibration involved with 27 Raptor engines (7 on each core) firing at once are considerable and complicated. Musk famously predicted that the first launch of Falcon Heavy would be “interesting”, either in the form of a giant fireball on the pad, or a successful launch into space.
Musk wasn’t wrong. Although I didn’t watch the launch live, I did manage to watch the SpaceX launch video at home before anybody spoiled it for me. You have football, I have SpaceX.
The rocket launched. The side boosters separated and landed safely. The second stage separated and fired. The fairing over the payload separated.
The centre booster crashed, running out of fuel before it could safely land.
To be seen
Will the 2nd stage reach its intended heliocentric orbit between Earth and Mars?
The excitement among the SpaceX team was palpable and their cheering with each successful milestone gave me chills.
The maximum capacity of the Falcon Heavy is double that of any rocket in use today. Continued success with this rocket system opens the way for accelerated commercialization, exploration and colonization of space.