SpaceX's big new rocket has blasted off on its first test flight, carrying a red sports car on an endless road trip past Mars.
The Falcon Heavy rocket rose Tuesday from the same Florida launch pad used by NASA nearly 50 years ago to send men to the moon. With liftoff, the Heavy became the most powerful rocket in use today.
The three boosters and 27 engines roared to life at Kennedy Space Center, where thousands gathered to watch the launch which had been delayed by high wind.
Two of the boosters are recycled and programmed to return for another touchdown on land. The third is brand new and has its sights on an ocean platform.
Watch the launch here:
Jetty Park reached capacity by 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
SpaceX chief Elon Musk says the center booster of the Falcon Heavy slammed into the Atlantic at 300 mph, missing the floating landing platform.
Musk says it hit the water with such force that shrapnel flew onto the droneship's deck and took out two engines.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Watch the launch and boosters landing here:
Despite the loss, Musk reveled in Tuesday's successful launch of the powerful Falcon Heavy and the recovery of the two side boosters. He said watching the simultaneous side-by-side touchdowns of those two boosters at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was probably the most exciting thing he's ever seen.
If the cameras on the ocean platform were not wiped out, Musk says he'll try to salvage the video and add the images to his greatest bloopers' reel of exploding rockets.
The mega mission launch window was set to open at 1:30 p.m., but that was pushed to 3:45 p.m. because of upper level winds, SpaceX said. The massive rocket launched from the very same pad (39A) used for the Apollo missions. SpaceX’s pad was damaged on September 2016 when a rocket exploded.
The Falcon Heavy rocket was a test launch, with a cost of about $90 million. The heavy lift vehicle can place about 68.3 metric tons in low Earth orbit.
At about 118 metric tons, the most a rocket has carried into orbit was the Saturn V, which was used in the Apollo program in the 1960s and 1970s, and to launch the Skylab space station.
The most recent version of a single Falcon 9 rocket can lift 13.2 tons.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk had played down expectations for the launch publicly, saying this is a brand new vehicle with 27 engines having to work in sync.
Tens of thousands of people went to Florida's Space Coast Tuesday to witness history.
"We expect upwards of 100,000 people will come to the community just to see the launch, and that's on top of the people that are already here, including our seasonal guests, so it's going to be a huge crowd," said Eric Garvey with Space Coast Office of Tourism.
Here are the main points to know about the historic Falcon Heavy liftoff:
- It is essentially three rockets bolted together to make the heavy vehicle.
- It is a test flight.
- The middle booster will carry Elon Musk's own Red Tesla Roadster.
- The Roadster is planned be near Mars' orbit in a precession Earth Mars elliptical orbit around the sun.
- The mission will try to prove that it is possible to put payloads into an orbit intersecting Mars. This would help in the mission planned to put humans in Mars.
- Musk presented this project in 2011 and he planned to roll out the heavy rocket in Southern California in late 2012. He hoped for a launch at some point in 2013 - it was obviously delayed.
- The rockets were put in position in pad 39A and tested in December 2017.
- Falcon Heavy rockets cost a fraction of the price of the future Space Launch System rockets, which are planned to have more lift and throw a space craft further into space, to Jupiter and beyond. They will probably not be ready until the mid-2020s.
- Each rocket has nine engines, making it 27 engines in total that need to ignite in tandem.
- The two side rockets will jettison from the center rocket two and a half minutes after liftoff.
- The center booster will continue for a bit longer before engines are shut off.
- All three rockets are planned to land back on Earth; two back at the Cape and the heavier rocket at the Atlantic (barge) platform called "Of course, I still love you."
- There is a good chance that this launch may fail (but we certainly hope not!).
- Falcon Heavy weighs more than 3.1 million pounds (loaded with kerosene and liquid oxygen) and it's about 229 feet tall.
- If successful, there will be more heavy launches during the first half of 2018 from Cape Canaveral, too.
- Central Florida residents, especially those near the coast - but as far away as metro Orlando -- may hear a sonic boom.
Cox Media Group