The SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket has successfully soared through the sky and outside the Earth on February 6, 2018. Its launch debut became one of the most exciting events in the history of rocket launches, creating a bold impact to the future of space flight. It is also a new launch vehicle to greatly expand the United States’ lead in the space program. It was almost a flawless execution, performing as planned, except for the middle Merlin booster that did not land on the drone ship.
There were an estimated 100,000 spectators gathered at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida to witness the most powerful operational rocket in the world blast into outer space. Youtube also catered to a total of 2.3 million viewers to watch the monumental launch through livestreaming. Other platforms that showcased a livestream were the SpaceX’s website and the NASA TV.
$1-billion flight cost of an SLS flight is significantly more than the $90 million cost for a Falcon Heavy Flight. Newfound operational efficiencies, bold technological innovations are said to be the reasons why SpaceX is able to build its rockets for a much lesser price.
The Falcon Heavy is a reusable super heavy-lift launch vehicle that was developed by the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX). Falcon Heavy draws upon Falcon 9’s proven design, which minimizes stage separation events and maximizes reliability. The second-stage Merlin engine, identical to its counterpart on Falcon 9, delivers the rocket’s payload to orbit after the main engines cut off and the first-stage cores separate.
The Falcon Heavy’s specs are remarkable. The three-core rocket vaunts 27 engines, more than any other working rocket has used before. It has the capacity to sustain more than 140,000 pounds of cargo, therefore equipped with five million pounds of thrust at liftoff. No other rocket in the world has this much capability.
NASA is currently developing yet another astounding rocket that could be used for lunar missions. It is called the Space Launch System (SLS) and is set to become more powerful than the Falcon Heavy. The earliest time SLS will be manned is in 2022 because there are still several problems that need to be fixed before it can carry people.
There are other vehicles certified for heavy lift launches, but after the success of the SpaceX launch, Musk is confident to say that using more expensive vehicles no longer makes sense. These other vehicles are the Ariane 5 of Europe, Proton of Russia and the Delta IV Heavy.
Something Unique for the First Test Flight
Elon Musk may be the proudest business magnate as his mission to send humans to Mars is one-step closer to becoming a reality. He took this even further by boldly launching his own Tesla roadster that is now rocketing through space beaming David Bowie for the galaxy to discover.
One of the main reasons why Elon Musk decided to launch a rocket of this magnitude is to take one step further to develop a spacecraft that has the abilities to deliver humans to the Red Planet.
It’s unlikely that the Falcon Heavy will replace the NASA rocket outright. But the Falcon Heavy could still perform other tasks for NASA, such as sending up pieces of the Deep Space Gateway or sending cargo to the lunar surface. Or it could act like a gas delivery service, sending massive amounts of fuel into orbit to fire up spacecraft for long journeys to deep space. Plus, SpaceX claims the rocket is at least capable of sending people around the Moon, so why not put them on the surface, too?
Greater Opportunity for SpaceX
The successful launch debut of the Falcon Heavy rocket is paving the way for SpaceX to commit to even bigger projects. The Falcon Heavy was introduced in April 2011. Musk planned its first flight in 2013 but that did not happen. The spacecraft’s first test flight was then announced earlier in 2017, but again, because of various difficulties such as weather conditions, the launch date was pushed back several times.
Two missions are already scheduled for this year. First is the launch of Arabsat 6A communications satellite and second would be the Space Test Program 2 mission dedicated to the U.S. Air Force.
Scott Hubbard, the Editor of New Space, and an adjunct Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University, said “This would be a major milestone in heavy lift. A successful test would really advance, in my view, the potential for planning commercially acquired launch services for deep space.”
In the future, SpaceX is creating a lunch system called Big Falcon Rocket (BRF), which experts say, is larger than the Falcon Heavy rocket model. The well-known company is also developing a crewed version of the Dragon space capsule, one that could be used to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station.
Musk said that he looked at the Falcon Henry and believed that it is still a bit small.
Other Companies Doing the Same Thing
Here are a few other initiatives that are going after the prize of the largest heavy lift platform
United Launch Alliance – United Launch Alliance or ULA is a joint venture of two huge aeronautics companies; Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The company provides spacecraft launch services for the government of the United States. Salvatore T. Bruno is the President and CEO of United Launch Alliance.
Blue Origin, LLC – The Washington-based company focuses on aerospace research and development. They work on spacecraft and launch systems. Jeff Bezos is the Founder of Blue Origin. It has an estimated revenue of $69 million.
When Elon Musk founded the SpaceX, he had a goal to help make humans a multi-planet species. That may sound surreal, but it is a great thought. The successful launch debut of the Falcon Heavy is just the first part of the goal. All of Musk’s bold ideas are for the betterment of the society as a whole.