Science

Elon Musk Unveils Falcon Heavy Rocket Photos Ahead of Maiden Flight

Elon Musk Unveils Falcon Heavy Rocket Photos Ahead of Maiden Flight”

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket closed out a busy 2017 Cape Canaveral launch schedule on December 15 with a successful liftoff on a space station resupply mission. A specific launch date has not yet been announced.

Should all go well, the Falcon Heavy will take off from Cape Canaveral at some point in January 2018. "Guaranteed to be exciting, one way or another".

The new images show the three Falcon 9 boosters linked together in the Falcon Heavy configuration. The company attempted the launch of a smaller rocket, the Falcon 9, in September of a year ago, but it exploded on the launchpad, causing another delay for the Heavy. The Falcon 9's first stage booster, making its second launch, returned to Florida's Space Coast for an on-target landing.

Possibly most significant of all, Musk suggested that the Roadster payload would be sent on a course to Mars, although it has yet to be concluded whether that will be in the form of a general orbit similar to Mars or an actual trans-Martian injection culminating in an orbit around the Red Planet. The photos provided also offer a glimpse of the only component clearly missing, the second stage and its mysterious Tesla Roadster payload. "Destination is Mars orbit". "Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn't blow up on ascent".

"I love the thought of a auto drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future", Musk said in a tweet. The company isn't even sure launches will be easy at first.

Of note, the final picture posted by Musk offers an absolutely stunning view of the vehicle's business end, showing off its 27 Merlin 1D engines and revealing quite obviously that both of Falcon Heavy's side cores are flight-proven, whereas the center core is new.

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"Starting to look more and more like a launch pad!"

The plan is to land all three boosters for reuse - two at Cape Canaveral and one on a drone ship at sea. "All the loads change, aerodynamics totally change".

The rocket is powered by two boosters, along with a third that is based upon the company's workhorse Falcon 9. "Then you've got separation systems".

Falcon Heavy isn't the only heavy-lift rocket calling Florida's Space Coast home. I hope it makes it far enough beyond the pad so that it does not cause pad damage. "I would consider even that a win, to be honest".

Falcon Heavy's 27 engines on display at 39A. Initial flights to Mars, he said, could be possible by the early 2020s.



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