SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch Success

- 16 Feb 2018

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On February 8th, 2018, SpaceX successfully launched the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket into low earth orbit. What makes this rocket so special? Read on to learn about SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy.

A fantastic event in spacecraft history happened on February 8th, 2018. SpaceX launched the fourth largest heavy payload rocket ever built into Earth’s low orbit. A payload is the part of a vehicle’s load from which revenue is derived based on whether it carries passengers and cargo. SpaceX builds rockets to transport payloads into space for companies and governments.

Falcon Heavy

During its test flight, the rocket carried a Tesla Roadster belonging to SpaceX founder Elon Musk as a dummy payload. After 14 years in production, the rocket finally took to the skies above the Earth on February 8th. Originally the rocket was due to launch in 2013, but several key areas needed addressing. The engineers needed to look at failure analysis along with looking at the structural challenges of combining three falcon cores. As a result, the launch did not happen until five years after the original launch date. Nevertheless, the rocket delivered on what it was designed to do and now can go to work transporting payloads.

Realistic Expectations

As with any owner testing a new product Elon Musk set realistic expectations for his Falcon Heavy. At a July 2017 meeting of the International Space Station Research and Development meeting in Washington, D.C., Musk downplayed hopes for the success of the maiden flight:

“There’s a real good chance the vehicle won’t make it to orbit … I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage. I would consider even that a win, to be honest”

The goal of the engineers working on the rocket was to have all three cores land back on Earth after the launch. This expectation seemed quite impossible, but after years of testing and development, 2 of the three cores landed as planned. Consequently, only one of three engines on the center booster ignited during its descent, causing it to hit the water next to the drone-ship at a speed of over 480 km/h (300 mph).

 

What Can The Rocket Carry?

On its maiden flight, Falcon Heavy carried Elon Musk’s personal cherry red Tesla Roadster. What else can the rocket carry into space? The partially reusable Falcon Heavy is capable of lifting 20 to 50 metric tons into low Earth orbit (LEO).  A fully expendable Falcon Heavy may also lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lb). That is a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage, and fuel. How can it do that?

“Its first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft.” (spacex.com)

Where does the payload go on the rocket? The SpaceX rocket has a payload fairing. A composite fairing protects the payload from damaging space debris as it ascends into space.

“The fairing is 13.1 meters (43 feet) high and 5.2 meters (17 feet) wide. It consists of an aluminum honeycomb core with carbon-fiber face sheets fabricated in two half-shells.” (SpaceX.com)

Once the payload gets to a certain range, the fairing separates and releases the payload.

With great vision and engineering genius, the employees at SpaceX along with their founder Elon Musk showed the world what ingenuity and dedication could do to help mankind. This amazing event advances man’s desire to explore space and development technology for our everyday lives.

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