Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Hawthorne, CA, United States (4E) – Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful launch vehicle, is scheduled to lift-off for the first time on Feb. 6 and SpaceX founder and boss Elon Musk warns that 100% success isn’t guaranteed.
Designed, developed and built by SpaceX, Falcon Heavy will have Musk’s personal red Tesla Roadster sports car as its dummy payload on this demonstration flight. Musk decided on the Tesla Roadster because he wanted to fly “the silliest thing we can imagine.”
From the outset, Falcon Heavy was designed to loft large satellites to geosynchronous orbits, or to carry humans into space. It will enable crewed missions to the Moon and Mars.
Falcon Heavy, which stands 230 feet tall, is a reusable super heavy-lift launch vehicle and is a variant of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Its power plant consists of three Falcon 9 first-stage rocket cores that combine the power of 27 Merlin engines. A single-engine second stage sits atop the center core.
This heavy launch vehicle is designed so the outer cores break away during ascent and fly themselves to land at SpaceX landing sites. The center core will be recovered at sea.
This configuration will increase the low Earth orbit (LEO) maximum payload to 63,800 kilograms (140,700 lb), compared to 22,800 kilograms (50,300 lb) for a Falcon 9 Full Thrust. The maximum mass to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) with first stage and side booster recovery is 8,000 kilograms (17,637 lb).
Capable of generating 5.1 million pounds of liftoff thrust, Falcon Heavy will rank as America’s most powerful launch vehicle since the Space Shuttle, which achieved 7 million pounds of thrust at launch due to its solid-rocket boosters.
Falcon Heavy will have more payload capacity than any rocket since the Saturn V launch vehicle of the Apollo Program. It can deliver 140,000 pounds to LEO or 37,000 pounds to Mars.
For this first launch, the outer rocket cores are refurbished Falcon 9 first-stage boosters from previous launches. The center core is brand-new.
SpaceX has emphasized that the Feb. 6 launch date might be postponed depending on how the progress of preparations. Musk acknowledged that the success of the first launch isn’t a certainty.
In July 2017, Musk noted “there’s a lot that could go wrong” when 27 orbital-class rocket engines are lit up simultaneously. But he said he could guarantee at least one outcome from the Falcon Heavy’s first launch.
“It’s guaranteed to be exciting,” he said.
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