Today is the day. The long awaited test launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy lift vehicle is scheduled for 1:30 PM EST. That lovable nut, Elon Musk, is going to use his personal Tesla as the test payload with the intent of sending it to Mars.
The “driver” is known as Starman after David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” which will be played full blast on the way to Mars. Of course, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” (Tagline from the movie Alien).
Musk noted that this particular launch had quite a bit of “pucker factor.” The launch will be from Pad 39-A — the pad used for the Apollo launches. Should the Falcon Heavy explode on the pad, a lot of history will go along with it.
How does the Falcon Heavy compare to the venerable Saturn V?
Saturn V – 363 feet tall
Falcon Heavy – 229 feet tall
Saturn V – 310,000 lbs of payload (33 elephants)
Falcon Heavy – 119,000 lbs of payload (12.5 elephants)
Saturn V – 7.6 million pounds of thrust (42 Boeing 747s)
Falcon Heavy – 5.1 million pounds of thrust (28 Boeing 747s)
The Falcon Heavy has 27 engines that will sequence to launch. It should be spectacular to watch the individual engines come on-line as the entire vehicle reaches thrust for liftoff. By comparison, the Saturn V had 5 engines.
Cost to launch a Falcon Heavy: $90M
Cost to launch a Saturn V: $1,160M (adjusted to 2016 dollars)
The Tesla will actually be orbiting the sun in what’s called a Hohmann transfer orbit. It’s an elliptical orbit that will intersect with Mars. Earth and Mars align properly for a Hohmann transfer once every 26 months. Of course, all of you who read The Martian know all of this already.
The other important bit of trivia everyone needs to know is that the Falcon rockets are named after the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars.
Here’s the link to the life feed. This should be almost as much fun as when I got caught skipping a high school assembly to watch an Apollo moon walk with a girl from my math class in the library.
Following its first test launch, Falcon Heavy is now 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–Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third the cost.