Let’s Watch SpaceX Launch the Falcon Heavy Rocket

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 6, 2018 11:14 am
The Falcon Heavy on the launchpad. (Credit: SpaceX)

The Falcon Heavy on the launchpad. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX will today attempt to launch its largest rocket yet, the Falcon Heavy.

An upgraded version of the Falcon 9 rocket the spaceflight company has been flying for over two years now, the latest addition to the SpaceX arsenal will be capable of lifting more payload to orbit than any rocket today. The launch is set for sometime between 1:30 and 4:00 p.m. Eastern today (we’ve heard it’s now 3:45 p.m. Eastern).

The payload is a red Tesla roadster (playing David Bowie’s “Starman,” naturally), and the SpaceX CEO says if all goes well, the cargo will enter into an elliptical orbit that will eventually take it past Mars. The launch will take place on historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which is the same launch pad that sent Apollo 11 astronauts to the moon.

Though the Falcon Heavy has seen its debut rescheduled several times, today’s launch should go ahead as planned. If the weather turns, it could be pushed to tomorrow. Just two weeks ago, SpaceX conducted a static fire test of the rocket’s 27 engines at once, a trial that seems to have given them confidence for a maiden flight.

Though the rocket is new, it’s essentially just three Falcon 9 rockets put together. A central core and two boosters containing 27 Merlin engines give out five million pounds of thrust — enough to launch a fully-loaded 737 airliner into orbit, according to SpaceX. Another Merlin engine on the second stage of the rocket will take the payload into orbit once the first stage falls away. If the rocket proves successful, it will give SpaceX the ability to take even larger payloads to orbit, allowing it to win more lucrative contracts from the government and private companies. A bigger rocket would also be crucial for sending manned missions to Mars.

If all goes well, both the boosters and the core rocket should land back on Earth — the boosters on land and the core at sea — as SpaceX rockets have done before, part of the company’s goal of making spaceflight more affordable.

Of course, there’s a lot that could go wrong, as well. Falcon 9 launches have been marred by explosions, and there are aspects of the Falcon Heavy that have never been tested in flight before. Potentially destructive vibrations could cause trouble as the craft breaks the sound barrier, and the system that unlocks the boosters during flight will also be a focus.

Musk himself seems only cautiously optimistic.

“People [came] from all around the world,” he said, “to see what will either be a great rocket launch or the best fireworks display they’ve ever seen,” according to CNN.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Technology, top posts
  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

    just” NO “just”! Batcrap crazy White male privilege grabbing the future by its yarbles and squeezing splendor,

    … “Heavy Metal” heavy mettle.

    Of course, there’s a lot that could go wrong” “Best efforts will not substitute for knowledge.” W. Edwards Deming. Mediocrity is a vice of the doomed.

  • OWilson

    God speed!

    We used to be good at this stuff!

  • Michael Cleveland

    I just watched this launch and it brought tears to my eyes. Why has no one mentioned Robert Heinlein? This was his idea: eccentric millionaire privatizes space exploration. Really wish he could have been alive to see it.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

    … Take a good hard look at who made this happen, who made this work, who made this succeed.

    Now, go to a news URL and see who wants to end it all. Hiring diversity is like eating your own snot. It attracts a crowd. So what? Engage yourself. Do something about it. MAGA

    • Len Switalski

      Okay, I’m looking at an immigrant originally from Africa who is now an American citizen(Elon Musk).

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

        Elon Musk’s ancestors are Canadian, Dutch, British, German, US. Inquire of a Black racist, er, activist whether a blue-white Caucasian born in sub-Saharan Africa is African. giggle

        Note the recently released movie Black Pather in which “real” African locals are given Welfare from aliens whose spaceship sports spinners. Nobody sees how wrong that is?

  • Mike Richardson

    Glad to see it was a successful launch and landing. Greater payload capacity and reusability will make launching from earth cheaper, and open up the final frontier for humanity in a way that we haven’t yet seen. Awesome news!

    • OWilson


      • Mike Richardson

        Both of the booster rockets landed side by side perfectly synchronized. The video of it is online.

        • OWilson

          And the Actual Space X rocket landed where, exactly?

          • Mike Richardson

            That question makes no sense, as all rockets involved in the launch were “Space X” rockets. If you’re nitpicking about the center rocket, which wasn’t planned for reuse anyway, it crashed in the ocean. Still, two of three saved and able to be relaunched is an impressive feat.

          • OWilson

            Ever hear of the “payload”?

            It hasn’t landed yet and nobody, not even it’s creator, knows where, or if, or when, it will! :)

          • BigHackAttack

            You’re either a troll or unwilling to admit that you didn’t realize the boosters landed safely. Either way, you’re a douche-bag. Go away.

          • OWilson

            I was the first poster here to wish it well, before it had taken off!

            Suppose that dummy sitting in the actual payload, the red Tesla, was a live astronaut, it would certainly not have been considered a “successful launch and landing”.

            Launching is only half the job!

            And they got that bit right!

          • Mike Richardson

            Ever hear that “rockets” and “payload” are two entirely different things? You asked about a rocket. Anyone who paid attention to the news is aware the car and its passenger have left planet earth for good.

          • Michael Cleveland

            His terminology may have been awkward, but I believe he was referring to the center rocket, which did land in the ocean, not intended to be recovered like the other two sections.

          • OWilson

            A little misunderstanding can easily be cleared up with a clarifaction. No biggie! :)

            He instead insisted on arguing that his initial factually incorrect statement was true?

          • Mike Richardson

            “He instead insisted on arguing that his initial factually incorrect statement was true?” At least you put a question mark, because that is a dubious statement. I referred to the landing of the booster rockets , and acknowledged the center rocket did not land. Then you moved the goal post to the payload, which was meant to showcase the Falcon Heavy’s ability to launch objects beyond Earth’s orbit — I think most folks understood that meant the car wasn’t attempting the longest Dukes of Hazard jump in history and coming back down. And your “half the country” remark inflated the margin of the last presidential election to falsely imply more support for your own positions. And going back to that, isn’t your focus on statements I didn’t make, or wasn’t clear enough for your liking, an example of being ” hissy and prissy? ” — your words, of course. 😉

          • OWilson

            Relax, Mikey!

            I’ll take your tortured hissy prissy explanation, but you certainly did NOT refer to “booster rockets” or ”center rockets that did not land.” in your initial post, which is why I questioned it.

            Michael Cleveland’s articulate post above, also found your “terminology to be akward”, and could only opine on what he “believed” you meant!

            Caso cerrado!

          • Mike Richardson

            LOL! He was referring to YOUR awkward terminology, you dolt! 😂 Between that characterization and BigHackAttack’s even more on point reply, I’d say you got the opposite of the response you were aiming for. What was your point again? 😁

          • OWilson

            My point was very simple. I’ll repeat it for you and your new (hope this one stays around for you) pal.


            Tut, tut! :)

            “Launching is only half the job!

            And they got that bit right!

            (Next comes the tricky bit, a Mars safe landing!)”

            I’ll congratulate Elon, (and Dear Leader Kim) when they actually DO complete a successful launch and landing.

          • Michael Cleveland

            I’m sorry, but have to disagree. The landing is part of the success only if landing is part of the objective. In this case, the perfectly synchronized landing of the two boosters was very much a part of the mission’s success, but the primary objective of putting a large object directly into orbit around the sun (and one that extends past Mars) with a single boost from the surface of the earth was spectacularly successful.

          • OWilson

            Not surprisingly, our definitions of “success” are at odds!

            Here’s Elon, himself:

            “The center core was only able to relight one of the three engines necessary to land, and so it hit the water at 300 miles per hour about 300 feet from the drone ship. As a result, two engines on the drone ship were taken out when it crashed, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a press call after the rocket launch. “[It] was enough to take out two thrusters and shower the deck with shrapnel,” he said.

            But I’m outnumbered here so I’ll leave you in you agreement.

            They’ll be needing enthusiastic people like you guys to volunteer for the first manned flight to Mars! :)


          • Michael Cleveland

            Sign me up!

          • OWilson

            Dawinism is alive and well! :)

          • Michael Cleveland

            Too late for that. Past the age of procreation and have already done whatever I’ve done to the general gene pool, so Darwin doesn’t apply. No risk of loss or gain to evolution if I just go along to see what I can see.

          • OWilson

            I trust you would wait for at least one successful intact landing test flight? :)

            It’s been a long time since 1972! :)

          • Michael Cleveland

            All real experiences are interesting, even the rapid approach of landscape. But that’s OK; just give me the stick and I’ll take care of it.

          • OWilson

            I have been travelling all my life. I just moved to the Dominican Republic at the ripe old age of (..) to live among locals and nature! Great people!

            Real experiences!

          • Mike Richardson

            Wow, you’re even nasty to people who go out of their way to be nice to you. Just proves what I’ve said about anyone who ever dares disagree with you. Sad!

          • OWilson

            As usual, you missed the smiley in an adult conversation! :)

            Michael does not need debating assistance from you, Mikey.

            Pay attention, you could learn a lot from him.

            (Actually from anybody!) :)

          • Mike Richardson

            In that vein, may you succeed in winning a Darwin Award yourself! 😀 — see the smiley. :)

          • OWilson

            Ah, so now it’s Dr. Jeckyl!

            Your passive-aggresive behaviour is always interesting.

            In two consecutive posts to me you go from “Sad!” to grinning like a monkey!

            Are you a substance abuser?

          • Mike Richardson

            Projecting again, I see. If anyone here needs a good shrink, it’s pretty obviously yourself. Have a nice day. :)

          • OWilson

            Where did you get your licence for online psychiatric analysis?

            I worry about deranged passive -aggresive gummint employees like you who hate their elected bosses.

            I hope you don’t work for the Postal Office! :)

          • Mike Richardson

            “Where did you get your licence for online psychiatric analysis?”

            This from the guy who asks if I’m a substance abuser (nope), and declares I’m a “deranged passive-aggressive?!”. LOL! Man, your constant double standards are priceless!

            But I figure I’m at least as qualified as you to note symptoms, such as your obvious increasing confusion and irritability, often a sign of dementia — which unfortunately is not uncommon in the elderly, and only gets progressively worse with advancing age. :(

          • OWilson


            I’m the one having fun here, Mikey!

            I’ll add old people to your growing hate list that includes your current elected bosses, and half the taxpayer citizens who voted for them.

            Doesn’t it feel good to get it all out of your system, instead of letting it fester inside?

            Hopefully by engaging with you and providing a target for all your hate, I may be providing a public service!

          • Mike Richardson

            “Hate list?”. Boy you’ve got issues . The only person here who brought up hate is you. I think that actually reveals more about your own mental and emotional state.

            “Doesn’t it feel good to get it all out of your system, instead of letting it fester inside?” — You mean like you do with exclamations like: “You couldn’t keep up with my daily routine snowflake, no government here to help you through your pathetic life!”. But you’re not a narcissist either, right? 😉

            And I believe you can learn a great deal from some old folks, particularly those who accrue wisdom, maturity, and humility with age. Unfortunately, you seem to possess no significant quantity of any of those attributes. Just look at how your silly question regarding a rocket booster escalated, all in a badly failed effort to look clever. Maybe you could learn from this, yourself — LOL! Oh, who am I kidding?! 😀

          • OWilson

            Calm down, and have a nice day!

            Bye Mikey1

  • OWilson

    We have been launching rockets for fun, space exploration, communications, commercial enterprise, and of course, military purposes since 1245 when the Chinese repelled the Mongols by fired rockets fuelled by solid propellant.

    Not too surprising given the state of technology that we are able to successfully launch big rockets. Landing them in one piece, on target is another matter entirely, as Dear Leader Kim is learning.

    Launches are old hat for the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Back in the 60s and 70s of the last century my snow bird family and I would see them blaze into the sky from Daytona, Lauderdale, and other family resorts. A visit to Cape Canaveral was almost obligatory.

    It really was an emotional experience in those exploratory days, breaking new ground, so to see the whoops and hollers of the hundreds (thousands) of ‘scientists’ yesterday, was a major contrast to the the steady, adult attitudes of Flight Director Chris Kraft and his team, who were actually doing something new, back in the day.

    Getting a rocket off the ground today is not that big a deal (except maybe for NASA), especially given the highest tech infrastructure in the world, with scientists, computers and systems checking and monitoring every detail all the way to countdown.

    Now imagine two guys climbing into a tiny car sized capsul standing atilt on the Moon and launching that into Moon orbit where you must rendezvous with the main ship, get aboard, then ride it back to Earth for a safe landing. Anything go wrong there and it’s over! No launch infrastructure, no standby ambulance, just moon rocks. They got it done!

    Those people, part of the greatest generation with the ‘right stuff’are my true heroes, and for those younger impressionable folks whooping and hollering over a launch to nowhere, with nobody aboard, just take a look on the tube for the last blastoff from the moon, circa 1972!

    If you are not blown away, you have no soul!

    • Michael Cleveland

      But this launch really is a big deal. NASA launches have had the resources of a Government behind them, but here is a private entrepreneur successfully sending aloft the largest launch vehicle in history to date, and thumbing his nose at the naysayers by launching one of his personal automobiles into a perpetual orbit around the sun, in an ellipse that will take it past Mars. Here is a door opening to real planetary exploration. I loved those old Heinlein stories about this very thing, and if anyone can put colonies on the moon and send human explorers to Mars, my money is on Elon Musk, who surely has a shrine to Heinlein somewhere near. Ah, and I cannot forget the accomplishment of re-landing boosters on their tails like something out of 1950’s Sci-Fi. Yeah, ya gotta love it.

      • OWilson

        “One small step for man, one giant step for the Taxpayers” :)

        • Michael Cleveland

          In the old days, maybe, but putting space exploration on the back of free enterprise instead of the taxpayers is the way to get it done.

  • http://www.carlkruse.com Carl Kruse

    I could watch this again and again. Congrats to big balls Musk and the SpaceX team.


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