SpaceX conducted its first test flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket on Tuesday, blasting off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and sending a bright red Tesla into orbit around the Earth and then toward Mars.
The Falcon Heavy is “the most powerful operational rocket in the world,” and it “can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third the cost,” the company said in describing an animation of the historic flight on YouTube.
SpaceX confirmed on Twitter the Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters successfully separated from the center core and returned to their landing sites enabling them to be reused again. The center core also successfully separated and was supposed to land on a “drone ship” in the Atlantic Ocean for future reuse. However, SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk said the center core missed its intended target, though he noted that otherwise everything about the launch was a success, reported Space.com.
Although the Falcon Heavy has not yet been certified for National Security Space launches, Air Force officials were on site for the historic mission and are monitoring its progress closely.
“The [Air Force] monitors all launches of launch systems in development that have requested certification in support of design validation efforts and to reduce risk of possible future [Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle] launches,” USAF spokesman Maj. Will Russell said. “The Air Force will use data from this launch as part of the non-recurring design validation for certification.”
Tuesday night, the dummy, which Musk named “Starman” after a David Bowie song, could be seen via a live video feed cruising around the Earth in his Roadster with one hand causally resting on the steering wheel and a "Don't Panic" sign on the dashboard. The electric car was expected to eventually make its way into a solar orbit that would send it flying past Mars. It will be blasting Bowie’s “Space Oddity” as it journeys through the solar system, at least until the battery dies.
View from SpaceX Launch Control. Apparently, there is a car in orbit around Earth. pic.twitter.com/QljN2VnL1O— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 6, 2018
View from SpaceX Launch Control. Apparently, there is a car in orbit around Earth. pic.twitter.com/QljN2VnL1O
Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
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