Thursday, December 28, 2017

Starting 2018 Off Right With The Maiden Launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Rocket

   There aren't many things more exciting than witnessing the first launch of a brand new rocket. SpaceX is cocked and ready to deliver such a thrill in January of 2018 with their new Falcon Heavy prototype rocket. Recent images have been taken of the Falcon Heavy in launch position at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL (see below.) 

The Falcon Heavy is already in vertical position at Cape Canaveral's 39A launch pad. Photo by John Kraus,
   The exact date for the Falcon Heavy's maiden launch has not been released yet, but this rocket model represents a significant increase in size and lift-capability when compared to the Falcon 9. The first stage of the Falcon Heavy is made up of three Falcon 9 first stage cores, which collectively contain 27 Merlin engines. (A regular Falcon 9 rocket has nine Merlin engines.)

The south-end view of the Falcon Heavy rocket. 27 Merlin engines will collectively produce at least five million pounds of thrust at lift-off. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press. 

   A Falcon 9 rocket produces 1.7 million pounds of thrust at lift-off, and it can carry approximately 50,000 pounds of cargo to low Earth orbit (LEO.) The Falcon Heavy will produce at least 5 million pounds of thrust at launch, and it can carry more than 140,000 pounds of cargo to LEO. All three first stage components of the Falcon Heavy are scheduled to return to Earth for a triple demonstration of rocket re-usability that has become a trademark of the privately-owned, trail-blazing company. 
   A major item to be launched aboard the Falcon Heavy has already been famously reported; Elon wishes to send one of his Tesla cars to orbit Mars. He posted an image (see below) of a "midnight cherry" Tesla Roadster mounted in what appears to be the payload section of the Falcon Heavy. It is not clear if the car will remain mounted inside the rocket when it reaches Mars, or if the car will be released by itself to begin its everlasting elliptical orbit around the Red Planet. 
   The car is also scheduled to play David Bowie's "Space Oddity" on a continuous loop, although it is also not clear who will be able to hear it. ;)

A Space Oddity for sure. Photo courtesy of Elon Musk via Instagram.

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