SpaceX has just unveiled its latest rocket, and it’s no small thing. In fact, if its founder and CEO has his way, it is only a small step toward what would be a huge leap for mankind.
The ubiquitous Elon Musk recently posted on Twitter images of the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket sitting in its hanger. They are planning to launch the rocket on its initial voyage this January from Cape Canaveral. Musk noted with obvious glee that the rocket will launch from the very same NASA launchpad as the moon rocket of Saturn V Apollo 11 fame.
The rocket is set to launch after many years of delay, and it is indeed powerful. It’s actually three Falcon 9 rockets put together, along with a second stage. Musk announced in another tweet that on its maiden voyage the rocket will be carrying what many would think is surprising cargo: his own Tesla Roadster. There will also be musical accompaniment on the launch: “Space Oddity” by David Bowie. He further stated that the rocket will be orbiting Mars, and if it doesn’t explode during its initial ascent, it will be in space for a very long time.
Musk insists that he intends to eventually establish colonies on both Mars and the Moon, and perhaps the entire solar system, and the Falcon Heavy is an important part of his plan. The rocket contains 27 Merlin engines, and it is capable of many million pounds of thrust. The company says that it can carry a fully loaded Boeing 737 into orbit. The rocket has been said to be most powerful in current operation, and it is comparable to the one that once sent astronauts to the moon. According to Musk, the rocket will use 92% of its capabilities in its initial launch, and, if it is successful, the company will next try to land its rocket cores, much like they have already recovered first stages.
While Musk gave no specific January launch date for Falcon Heavy, the company, based on its launch manifest, plans to use Falcon Heavy to launch a trio of commercial satellites in the future, as well as a U.S. Air Force payload. These launches, though, could be delayed if the initial Falcon Heavy launch proves unsuccessful.
Musk has said that he further plans to develop a rocket called “B.F.R.,” which will one day succeed Falcon Heavy, and which will hopefully carry passengers to Mars in future decades.
Musk and SpaceX are not the only big names actively involved with commercial space exploration. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin, which has launched a number of rockets. Also, Virgin Group co-founder Richard Branson founded Virgin Galactic, which also hopes to take private passengers into outer space, on what it calls a “spaceline.”