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SpaceX Heavy Falcon Launch Success for Private Spaceflight

Next stop Mars?

FalconHeavySpaceXSpaceXSpaceX, the privately held space launch company yesterday successfully fired off its Falcon Heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center. The company points out that the "Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two, with the ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lb)--a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel."

"I think it's going to encourage other companies and countries to say, 'Hey, if SpaceX, which is a commercial company, and it can do this, and nobody paid for Falcon Heavy, it was paid with internal funds,' then they could do it, too," he told reporters during at post-launch press conference. So far, SpaceX has raised $450 million from private investors and profits from a launch manifest filled with orders from both private and government customers.

The test launch payload included SpaceX founder Elon Musk's red Tesla Roadster with a space-suited mannequin dubbed Starman in the driver's seat. The second stage of the rocket initiated a burn six hours after the launch that aimed to send Starman by Mars in an elliptical orbit around the sun. Apparently, the rocket overshot and the Roadster will be touring through the asteroid belt instead.

The Falcon Heavy's payload capability is two times bigger than that of its American competitor, the United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy Booster. Currently, the newish Russian Soyuz-2 rocket can deliver 8.5 metric tons into low earth orbit. The Russian's Proton rocket can carry 22 metric tons into low earth orbit and Angara-5 launch vehicle will be able to deliver 24.5 metric tons. None of these missiles are reusable.

NASA's Saturn V rocket was the most powerful rocket ever flown successfully. It delivered U.S. astronauts six times to the moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It could lift 140 metric tons (310,000 lb) into low earth orbit and deliver 48.6 tons (107,100 lb) to the moon.

After the Falcon Heavy launch, Musk said that the company is now turning its attention to test launching next year the BFR rocket (an acronym that now stands for Big Falcon Rocket) that would be capable of transporting 100 colonists to Mars.

Watch below again the amazing landings of the two reusable Falcon booster rockets at Kennedy Space Center.

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  • Juice||

    While it would be cool to visit Mars and come back, I don't see why anyone would want to live there. The only thing would be that you'd want your name to go down in history as a pioneer, if that's what you're into.

    And a colony? How about a proof-of-concept colony on the Moon with a launch base first? It's a hell of a lot closer than Mars.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Low gravity would be nice. I could see Mars as a retirement colony, for one thing.

    -jcr

  • Mithrandir||

    Eh, if they figure out the bone, muscle, and immune system deterioration conditions caused be lengthy exposure to low-gravity environments.

  • IceTrey||

    Gravitron.

  • Mithrandir||

    Yeah, eventually. I hope we see the BFR use rotation.

  • DRM||

    We don't know at what level those kick in. Sure, we know Earth gravity is enough, and microgravity isn't, but we don't know anything about levels in-between.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Agreed. We have virtually no evidence on low gravity having detrimental effects on human physiology. How about we test it before we give up?

  • Morbo||

    Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Cold

  • Don't look at me.||

    In fact, it's cold as hell
    And there's no one there to raise them if you did

  • IceTrey||

    Which is why we should send old people.

  • DRM||

    How about a proof-of-concept colony on the Moon with a launch base first?


    Um, because the Moon is vastly different from Mars, so it wouldn't do anything for "proof-of-concept" that the ISS hasn't already done?

    And except for the distance, all those differences are negative anyway. I mean, Mars isn't easy. But it's got plenty of water, an appreciable atmosphere of useful elemental composition, a milder temperature range, far less dangerous radiation (thanks to distance from the Sun and that atmosphere), gravity closer to Earth's, and even an Earth-like day/night period. The amount of infrastructure and resupply necessary to maintain life in a long-term facility on Mars is vastly less than what would be required on the Moon.

  • Curt2004||

    Mars also has more gravity, although we don't really know at what level the detrimental effects kick in.

  • TheWay1||

    Not only gravity but Mars having an atmosphere(even if it is not as thick as earth) and moons gives it some protection from being hit by meteorites, in the case of the moon, that thing gets bombarded like crazy. All those craters you see on the moon weren't made by themselves.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Agreed. The Moon should come first. Here is a great case for that: The Lunar Anthropic Principle.

  • Roger Wilco||

    It was amazing, but it should be mentioned that the core rocket was also supposed to land on the drone ship, and apparently ended up crashing into the water instead. So, not exactly 100% success, but their initial landings with the Falcon rockets took a few iterations before they got it right.

  • Pro Libertate||

    They also overdid it on the final burn, which is an error, too. But the successes far outweigh the misses, especially for a maiden flight.

  • IceTrey||

    Engines didn't re-ignite.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Would have been nice to have a perfect first mission, but, hey, it didn't blow up.

    Musk may be a subsidy queen, but this made me prouder than anything NASA has done in the past 40 years. Watching those boosters land was fucking awesomesauce!

  • John C. Randolph||

    "Private" spaceflight? Not really. Musk is a major corporate welfare queen.

    -jcr

  • Ron Bailey||

    jcr: I hear you, but the space business seems less corporate welfarish. Take a look at the launch manifest's list of customers.

  • BYODB||

    There is definitely a market for satellite launches so you might as well get your nose under the tent as early as possible.

  • gormadoc||

    Steel companies make most of their money from sales to private companies, but that doesn't make them not corporate welfare queens.

    I fully believe Musk does this because he knows there will be even more government money in the future and it promotes his image, furthering his companies without actually fulfilling private sector desires.

  • TheWay1||

    Musk already owns the private launch sector. In 2018, 60% of commercial space launches are by SpaceX.

    And as for there being more government money in the future? Unlikely. NASA keeps getting budget cuts, and if he cared about that he could have always offered higher prices rather than undercutting by such a large market.

    What Musk is looking at is a much bigger pie. He wants to cut costs of launching 100 times fold. In doing so, far more entities would be able to afford to launch things and in the end he would make far more money.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

  • Pro Libertate||

    Ah, you have the space beat. Gonna be some fun times ahead.

  • Lucius Junius Brutus||

    "that would be capable of transporting 100 colonists to Mars."

    Or the asteroid belt, whatever.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Better pack two sets of bags.

  • BYODB||

    Yeah, the fact this is treated as 'success' shows that reinventing the wheel is apparently harder than Musk thought. I mean, sure, it got into space. Good job, that's the hard part. But you missed your end target by a lot more than NASA fucked up some of their mars landings.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, it was a test flight.

  • BYODB||

    Absolutely. I give them credit for reaching space, as that really is the hard part. But missing a planet that we've been hitting consistently for years is not great either.

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    NASA has reached Mars several times, but they've also had some spectacular failures, even in the current century. The European Space Agency has succeeded with their orbiters, but failed with their landers.

    On the other hand, USSR/Russia, which has been wildly successful in much of their space programme, has failed nearly every time they've tried for Mars, and they've tried a lot. Japan has never succeeded with a Mars probe.

    I guess the one with the best record is India, who've had a 100% success rate. But they've only tried once.

    You'd think Mars would be one of the easiest places in the Solar System to get to, but it's got a surprisingly high failure rate. Strangely, the outer planets have a better success rate, even if you ignore all the Mars probes from before 1970.

    I heard that the United Arab Emirates is planning a Mars probe in two years. It'll be interesting to see how that works out.

  • IceTrey||

    It wasn't going to Mars it was going to Mar's orbit then back to circle the Sun.

  • FreeRadical||

    Simply targeting Mars distance for apoapsis is vastly easier than targeting the planet itself. So the fact they missed even that indicates the guidance system isn't ready for prime time. But no matter, I have every confidence they'll get that part right.

    Even though SpaceX gets subsidies, this is still a great advancement towards private spaceflight in my opinion.

  • TheWay1||

    SpaceX does not have much experience yet for deep space, them overshooting may be an indicator that their engine had higher thrust than they initially expected in deep space. If that is the case, it is possible for the rocket to have higher lift capacity than they anticipated as well.

  • Curt2004||

    Do you know how many times Russia has screwed up Mars missions? It's not as easy as NASA makes it look.

  • Don't look at me.||

    At least they didn't mix up imperial with metric.

  • BYODB||

    This came immediately to mind when thinking of stupid NASA failures.

  • TheWay1||

    To be fair that wasn't exactly fully NASA's fault. It's because NASA used Lockheed as a subcontractor and for Lockheed doesn't use metric in their software. So when the data was inputted into NASA's software, it assumed it was metric. A major oversight? Sure. But end of the day, why the hell wasn't Lockheed using metric like sane people?

  • BYODB||

    Shit, you mean this rocket didn't explode? Wait...are they not supposed to do that?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Is there some point to your retarded comments, or are you just trying to hit your shitpost quota for the day?

  • BYODB||

    Ah, irony.

  • DaveSs||

    When I first saw the acronym BFR, Big Falcon Rocket was not what I had in mind....

    Tell me I'm not the only one

  • SQRLSY One||

    Yeah man, the USAF has for decades been calling the B-52 the "Big Ugly Fat Fella", but BUFF has another meaning as well...

  • FreeRadical||

    SNAFU

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    I'm thinkin that was intentional.

  • Don't look at me.||

    You are not the only one.

  • FreeRadical||

    Given Musk, I am very confident that the 'F' doesn't stand for "Falcon".

  • Alcibiades||

    ULA (RIP)
    SLS (RIP)

  • FreeRadical||

    This could be big trouble for SLS. My crystal ball is very fuzzy on that.

    Full disclosure, my current job is related/depends on SLS and Orion.

  • Curt2004||

    This doesn't really change anything--although if the SLS blows up they'll now have another option.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Next up, private, heavy-lift ICBMs, marketed to all. North Korea can shut down its pip-squeak missile program and just pony up for a far more powerful solution, instantly.

    If Musk doesn't want to do it, there will be a big international demand for his Falcon engineers.

    Private enterprise always works best!

  • Pro Libertate||

    What, the Manhattan Project? Danged Manhattan Corp.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    *A division of Weyland-Utani Corporation.

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    Wish I knew how to post links correctly (I've messed up every time I've tried).

    Somebody really needs to link to the YouTube video of Eldorado To The Moon by Michael Nesmith here.

  • Mithrandir||

    A great step to reducing the cost of spaceflight. Honestly, I hope they go fullspeed with the Big Fucking Rocket design.

    A full reusable (say, 100 times) rocket and space launch system would immensely reduce the cost of going into space. We could begin our first efforts at real space infrastructure.

  • Mithrandir||

    *ahem*

    Should be fully

  • Griffin3||

    Yes! That's what I thought BFR meant. I can't unthink it.

  • IceTrey||

    Anyone else think of the movie "Heavy Metal" when they say the Starman stream?

  • IceTrey||

    saw

    Stupid Reason comments.

  • Pro Libertate||

    That and Repo Man.

  • Warren||

    So what happened to the core?

  • Mithrandir||

    Only one of the three engines needed ignited for the descent so it crashed into the ocean.

  • TheWay1||

    If it had more fuel or maybe Block 5, it could have landed with 1 engine. They did 1 engine burn landings before too.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    This is awesome.

  • Sevo||

    I don't like Musk's proclivity for reaching into taxpayer's pockets. Period.
    The tech of being able to lift that amount is impressive.

  • Bearded Spock||

    "NASA's Saturn V rocket was the most powerful rocket ever flown successfully. It delivered U.S. astronauts six times to the moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s."

    Pedantic nitpick: It actually delivered astronauts to the moon -- at least to moon orbit -- nine times. In addition to the six landings on the moon, there was Apollo 8 (first lunar orbit), Apollo 10 (dress rehearsal for 11), and Apollo 13 (aborted mission).

  • BigT||

    This seems an appropriate use of govt funds. Blaze the trail to prove the science/engineering w govt funds, and then turn over the commercialization to private industry.

    Too bad they don't do that with renewable energy ideas. Instead they subsidize forever.

  • Curt2004||

    Why are renewables subsidies more bad than all the other corporate welfare? Just wondering.

  • DavidC||

    The roadster and Starman were cool. Far better, IMO, would have been to deploy a smooth black monolith with
    the dimension ratio of 1:4:9, the squares of the first three integers.

  • Curt2004||

    They're saving that for their first moon landing...

  • Pro Libertate||

    That would rule.

  • DavidC||

    Agreed.

  • TheWay1||

    The Roadster and starman was not all of it though. They also included a miniature roadster + starman. Plus there is a plaque with 6000 names of SpaceX employees engraved and an Arch disc(Storage made for surviving deep space) with Isaac Asimov's Foundation book series recorded.

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