After failing many attempts in the past, SpaceX finally came up with the “Falcon Heavy“, a rocket which is said to be the most powerful rocket in the world. It’s also carrying a Tesla Roadster with it. The rocket successfully achieved lift at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. The mission has so far, made good progress.
The rocket first went to Earth’s geosynchronous orbit. This orbit follows the Earth’s rotation. The aim of the mission was to show the rocket’s multi-purpose functionality. This portion of the mission served to show how a rocket can successfully deliver a payload to GEO as well. This will be of great use in national security operations.
After staying in Earth’s orbit for a few hours, the plan was to begin a trans-Mars injection burn. The upper stage of the rocket would go into an orbit in such a way that one part would be in Earth’s orbit while the other in Mars’ orbit. Musk described it as an “Earth-Mars cycler”. If everything goes according to plan, then the rocket will eventually be around 400 million Kilometres away from Earth! After achieving that goal, it can stay in orbit for millions of years.
There’s always a risk associated with missions like these. They could turn out to be a huge success or a huge waste of money. Apart from the rocket blowing up or malfunctioning, there are much more factors that affect the success rate of the mission. For example, the rocket could get damaged inside the Van Allen Belts due to the radiation trapped over there. There’s also concerns about the upper stage of the rocket holding up well or not.
However, Elon Musk kept us updated on the performance of the Falcon Heavy. The upper stage of the rocket seemed to perform according to expectations:
Upper stage restart nominal, apogee raised to 7000 km. Will spend 5 hours getting zapped in Van Allen belts & then attempt final burn for Mars.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 6, 2018
As mentioned, the plan was to begin a trans-Mars injection burn. Everything leading up to the burn had went according to the plan. There were a few problems with the core booster but the rocket in space right now is doing good. According to Elon Musk’s latest tweet, the rocket has successfully exceeded Mars’ orbit and is going towards the Asteroid belt. We await further updates as this exciting mission continues.
Third burn successful. Exceeded Mars orbit and kept going to the Asteroid Belt. pic.twitter.com/bKhRN73WHF
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 7, 2018
When the rocket made it through the moment of maximum stress, it released two outer cores as well. The two cores were able to successfully land, however, the central core booster went missing. The core booster was supposed to land on a drone ship but according to Musk, it ran out of propellant which made it unable to slow down enough to land properly. Due to this mistake, the core missed the drone ship by a 100 meters or so and crashed into the water at a high speed.
“It was enough to take out two thrusters and shower the deck with shrapnel,” Musk said.
The core went missing for quite some time especially since the other two boosters were able to land successfully. The video feed from the center core was also cut out which added to the speculation until it was confirmed by Elon Musk.
Although the core may have been lost, it’s a tiny blip in what has been a successful operation thus far for SpaceX. The mission may have been to get the ship in and beyond Mars’ orbit, however, the main task was to achieve flight. The rocket passed all the tests and was able to lift off successfully. Moreover, it was able to land two boosters as well. Therefore, this mission was overall a huge success for SpaceX.
The success of the Falcon Heavy is a new milestone achieved in terms of space travel. The rocket is not only the most powerful one in the world currently, but the demo flight proved it’s operational as well. The rocket has more launches scheduled in the coming months as well and with this initial launch, SpaceX can learn from the mistakes it made and make future launches even better.
Now that SpaceX has shown that the rocket works, there will be a lot of people interested in the company. This will only benefit the company further as more investments pour in which will enable the company to further improve their rockets. The future looks bright for space travel.