SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, yesterday afternoon carrying Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster towards Mars.
Highlights of the launch ‘event’ included both booster rockets touching down simultaneously.
And, an iconic shot of the test payload, a Tesla Roadster, floating in front of the Earth.
To celebrate we break out our top 10 facts about SpaceX’s powerful Falcon Heavy.
- The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. It can lift 141,000 lb (a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel). The next closest rocket is the Delta IV Heavy which can lift a mere 63,470 lb.
- The Heavy’s first stage is made up of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores. These 27 ‘Merlin engines’ generate more than 5.13 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. This is equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft
- The Falcon’s will be used to deliver large payloads to orbit inside a composite fairing. This protects everything from to satellites to SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft during delivery to destinations in low Earth orbit (LEO), geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) and beyond.
- The rockets second-stage Merlin engine are identical to its counterpart on Falcon 9. They deliver the rocket’s payload to orbit after the main engines cut off and the first-stage cores separate and can be restarted multiple times to place payloads into a variety of orbits including low Earth, geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) and geosynchronous orbit (GSO). They can provide 934kN of thurst in a vacuum.
- Each of Falcon Heavy’s side boosters, is equivalent to the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket with nine Merlin engines. At liftoff, the boosters and the center core all operate at full thrust. Shortly after liftoff, the center core engines are throttled down. After the side cores separate, the center core engines throttle back up.
- When the Falcon launched yesterday it used the same pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida which NASA launches rockets to the moon from.
- The Falcon Heavy has been a long time coming. Concepts for the vehicle were first developed around 2004. Elon Musk mentioned Falcon Heavy in a September 2005 news update, referring to a customer request from 18 months prior. SpaceX officialy unveiled the rocket at a 2011 conference.
- Although not a part of the initial Falcon Heavy design, SpaceX used the Falcon Havey as part of its parallel development on a reusable rocket launching systems. It is intended that all parts of the rocket can be recovered and reused; lowering the cost of launches.
- The rocket will be used in the short term for commercial and military contracts; however SpaceX intend to use the rocket for its own Solar System transport missions. SpaceX has already proposed a Mars mission called ‘Red Dragon’ which uses a Falcon Heavy as the launch vehicle and trans-Martian injection vehicle and hinted at the potential for Falcon Heavy and Dragon 2 capsule to carry payloads across much of the Solar System, particularly to Jupiter’s moon Europa.
- Yesterday’s test payload was Elon Musk own 2008 midnight cherry red Tesla Roadster, which was riding by a dummy driver (wearing a SpaceX space suit) called “Starman” in tribute to David Bowie.
You can watch the full launch below.