The world watched as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy made history on the Space Coast.
Viewers across all parts of the world tuned in yesterday, February 6th, as SpaceX prepared for the maiden launch of their Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center. Thousands of space-fans, journalists, and tourists traveled to the Space Coast to witness the moment that has been the product of many months of growing anticipation. As yesterday’s 1:30 pm launch window opening neared, the countdown clock was put on hold for concerning upper-level winds that could have been dangerous to the rocket’s flight. As precious time in the window passed, the thought of a successful launch on the first day of an attempt was becoming a fantasy for all of those who had gathered around to watch.
Hope was suddenly rekindled when a wind evaluation revealed green conditions for flight and new launch time of 3:45 pm. As the countdown clock reached zero, Falcon Heavy’s 27 engines ignited and lifted the rocket’s three cores into the sky above Launch Complex 39A. Cheers of excitement among those at the NASA press site could be heard over the intense rumble of the rocket’s stunning ascent towards space.
After a successful liftoff, the rocket’s two side cores separated from the center core and began orienting themselves for a controlled fall back to Cape Canaveral. A twin booster landing, sounding nearly impossible in theory, became an incredible reality as the two boosters were seen quickly descending from the sky and clouds above. Each booster completed a set of two burns before deploying landing legs and touching down on Landing Zones 1 and 2 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Six sonic booms reached the press site just moments after touchdown of the two boosters. The sonic booms, caused by the supersonic return of booster’s engines, landing legs, and grid fins, were doubled due to the presence of the two individual cores.
The center core was intended to land over the Atlantic Ocean on SpaceX’s floating drone-ship named Of Course I Still Love You. In a post-launch press conference, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk stated that the center core was unable to carry out some of the necessary functions for a successful landing. The booster hit the ocean several hundred feet away from OCISLY going roughly 300 miles per hour and causing shrapnel to “shower the deck” of the ship.
Despite the minor failure of one booster landing, the launch is still marked as a successful moment in spaceflight history. Falcon Heavy has now become the most powerful rocket to currently operate in the world. The rocket is capable of carrying a new class of large satellites and advances the company one step closer to achieving their goal of launching humans into space and beyond.
The payload chosen for this demonstration launch of Falcon Heavy is quite unconventional compared to a block of concrete or metal used for many experimental first-flights. Musk chose to send up a red Tesla Roadster from his personal collection with a figure named “Starman” sitting in the driver’s seat. Musk stated that Starman is a mannequin wearing a SpaceX designed spacesuit that is identical to a production model that will be used by astronauts in future manned launches. Musk also added a small detail, stating that a miniature Roadster and tiny Starman sits fastened on the dashboard of its real-life counterpart. Video footage from the SpaceX live feed shows the car floating in the blackness of space with planet Earth in the distance.
The attention-drawing car and dummy were intended to enter a nearly eternal orbit around the sun with a similar distance to that of Mars. Following one final maneuver several hours after launch, Musk tweeted that this burn was successful and overshot the intended Mars orbit. This leaves Starman and his red car on a route towards the asteroid belt that exists between Mars and Jupiter.
Special thanks must be given to the SpaceX press-relations team, Kennedy Space Center, and all of those who were involved in organizing the massive gathering of media who came to capture this historical day on the Space Coast. We thank you on behalf of Space Coast Times.
Watch the the launch in full again!