Antonio Manaytay – Fourth Estate Contributor
Cape Canaveral, FL, United States (4E) – The world’s largest rocket blasted off on February 6 at 3:45 p.m. EST (2045 GMT) firing its 27 engines and thundered into the blue sky over historic Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida – billed as “a major milestone in heavy lift,” so far.
SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket is considered as the most powerful rocket in existence since NASA’s Saturn V rocket, powered by three-core boosters with nine engines each firing in unison.
It produced some 5 million lbs. of thrust during liftoff, which could send into orbit a payload as much as 141 pounds. For the maiden flight, however, Falcon Heavy sent into Mars’ orbit a red Tesla Roadster with a mannequin suited with a space suit on the wheels.
“This would be a major milestone in heavy lift,” Scott Hubbard, adjunct professor of aeronautics at Standford University and editor of the journal New Space, in an interview with Space.com during the launch said.
“A successful test would really advance, in my view, the potential for planning commercially acquired launch services for deep space,” he told Space.com.
Among the 100,000 visitors to Florida’s Space Coast to witness the launch was Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin watching in awe as the Falcon Heavy blasted off from the same pad his team used in 1969 to fly to the moon.
Falcon Heavy rocket, aside from its sheer size and awesome liftoff power, is among the new generation of SpaceX reusable rockets.
“This is a test flight,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk a day before the launch said.
“If the test flight works, I think we’d be ready to put satellites on the next mission,” he declared.
Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters had seen action before: one of the two had launched the Thaicom 8 communications satellite in May 2016 while the other had carried the NASA Dragon cargo ship two months after.
The three first-stage boosters had returned to Earth – two of which touched down at SpaceX landing sites and the third one landed on SpaceX drone ship positioned in the Atlantic Ocean. – while the second stage zoomed into space carrying the test payload.
With Falcon Heavy’s successful maiden voyage, the California-based company had made a giant leap forward that will open new possibilities for the deep space program in the future. The reusable Falcon Heavy boosters could drastically reduce the cost of heavy-lift space missions.
For Musk, the successful test flight is “game over for all other heavy lift rockets.”
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