0 In Aerospace Engineering

Space is a Highway

and apparently Elon is riding it all night long. I have never been more happy to be wrong. The Falcon Heavy launched yesterday afternoon practically right on schedule. If you are asking why is everyone making such a big deal about this launch just leave right now, only real space enthusiasts can read this blog. JUST KIDDING. Totally legitimate question and I am gonna break it down for you right now… with a couple of cool gifs from the launch because I mean…… WHY NOT.

Tesla in space (launched from the Falcon Heavy) via SpaceX livestream

First of all, the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket on the market right now. To grasp how powerful the rocket is, I am going to compare how much mass (or how much stuff) these rockets can bring to low Earth orbit (LEO) even though these powerful rockets are usually used to bring things farther like high Earth orbit and to other planets. The farther you go the more fuel you need and the less mass the rocket can bring so to keep things consistent we will keep everything the same at LEO. So for starters, Falcon Heavy can bring 140,660 pounds to LEO; what previously was the most powerful rocket was the Delta IV Heavy which can bring only 62,540 pounds to LEO.  Shuttle brought about 54,000 pounds to LEO and Saturn V brought 308,000 pounds… yea it was massive. SLS whose smallest version (154,000 pounds to LEO) is supposed to make its maiden voyage next year (now forgive me that I am super skeptical of that launch date).

Launch via SpaceX livestream

Next, this rocket makes exploring the outer solar system so much more feasible. With a more powerful rocket you can go farther in less time. Take NASA’s mission to Europa (a Jupiter moon), if they can’t take SLS (because it isn’t ready in time) their backup option is Delta IV and they are having to sacrifice a lot of time by launching on a much weaker rocket. However, if they take Falcon Heavy they can get to the ocean moon in a reasonable time table making the mission a more realistic option.

Falcon Heavy also allows for larger payloads to reach portions of the solar system closer to us. This allows for the possibility of sending humans to Mars or those special tourists SpaceX already agreed to send to the Moon. I am curious as to how much that ticket is (especially in comparison with other tickets in the industry).

Two boosters landing via SpaceX livestream

Lastly, reusability is something that has been the front and center of SpaceX goals. With the three solid rocket boosters, two sides on one core. SpaceX has been able to coordinate and safely bring back at least two of them. Two thirds of a powerful rocket making a safe landing is unheard of (and no the tiny boosters on shuttle don’t compare). I really hope that this is having the economic impact by making space as cheap as SpaceX claims it is. Side note: the goosebumps the gif above gives me is unreal!!

And finally the other question I am sure that has been on your mind, where is that Tesla that they launched actually going? Well it was originally planned for Mars but I guess a last minute decision (or maybe a mistake) they decided to go much farther…. all the way to the asteroid belt. Below is the current trajectory.

Tesla trajectory from Elon Musk’s Twitter

 

Congratulations to everyone at SpaceX and I can’t wait to see many more of these launches in the future. If you want to relive the launch I left it below.


Happy Exploring!!

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