I’m not a fan of SpaceX, nor of Elon Musk, but one can only observe yesterday’s Falcon Heavy launch with awe. It was brilliant. One thing that Elon Musk and I agreed on was that the chance it was not going to end in a massive fireball was slim. It is hard to convey how unlikely a successful launch was considering all the factors involved. The people working at SpaceX did at least one trillion things right to achieve the results of yesterday’s launch.
SpaceX and Musk Had a Great Day
A sample of what went right:
- Other than weather, the launch had no delays. That is unusual with a prototype rocket test.
- An engine ignited and worked as intended. Multiply that by 27.
- A side booster that was essentially a rocket in itself, did exactly what it suppose to do without any new issues common in a prototype test. Multiply that by 2.
- The core booster functioned as intended and delivered the second stage and the payload, a Tesla car, into position for a boost into orbit.
- A side booster completed a complex task of a powered relanding withing a few meters of the target zone. Multiply that by two.
- A side booster was reused from a previous mission. Multiply that by 2.
- The second stage booster fired its engines, times three, sending the payload into a heliocentric orbit that will extend beyond Mars, and near the Asteroid Belt.
- A team of thousands of people performed their functions in synch allowing the payload to achieve orbit.
Hold My Beer and Watch This
The only small item that did not go as planned was the failed landing of the core booster on the Drone ship. The engineers have determined that only one of the needed three engines for landing had reignited. Until they can analyze the issue, I’m going with the explanation that the core booster was so excited about the success of the launch that it thought it would go for the biggest splash. It was successful.
Regardless, it was a minor misstep in a successful mission-impossible-type achievement.
Bye Bye Starman
Late on Tuesday the second stage of the Falcon Heavy successfully ignited for a third and final time sending ‘Starman’ (the alternate human in the spacesuit) and the Telsa Roadster into a heliocentric orbit that will take it to Mars and beyond. His orbit may last for over a million years, but the car won’t. All the exposed, non-metalic parts of the car will be no match for the radiation, heat, and cold of space. The paint job will suffer as well.
Still, the pièce de résistance was the video of Starman in orbit above Earth. I’ll leave you with these images I captured from the live feed. Below that you can watch the video of the launch. Well done, SpaceX.
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