Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Hat Tip to SpaceX

SpaceX's flagship Falcon Heavy apparently had a fully successful test flight today, boosting Elon Musk's own Tesla Roadster into orbit and recovering both of the strap-on Falcon 9 boosters.  As I'm writing this, a successful recovery of the central Falcon 9 first stage is not confirmed.  It's pretty common for the turbulence of the landing to cause loss of the signal, but that has typically come right back.  If an antenna was damaged, that would make it difficult to know.  The drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" is unmanned during a landing, but a crew boards it later to secure the booster.  I don't know the protocol for how long they wait before doing that. 

The two side boosters of the first stage have flown before. One launched the Thaicom 8 communications satellite in May 2016, and the other lofted a Dragon cargo ship to the ISS for NASA in July 2016, according to SpaceX.  

View from the VAB of launch complex 39A.
The view from my backyard.
The Falcon heavy is the most powerful rocket to launch from the US since the Apollo Saturn V days.  SpaceX says
When Falcon Heavy lifts off, it will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. With the ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lb)--a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel.

Falcon Heavy's first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit.
At this time, SpaceX has said the upper stage has performed two of its three scheduled burns with the last scheduled around 5 hours after the last burn, or around 9:30 EST tonight.

EDIT 2/6/18, 1921 ESTFrom Spaceflight Now: "Speaking to reporters at the Kennedy Space Center, Elon Musk says the Falcon Heavy's center core did not survive its descent to SpaceX's drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean."

Hopefully, more later.


  1. Amazing stuff!

    How loud was it compared to other launches you've seen? She looks like she really scoots off the pad!

    1. It wasn't particularly loud, although I was hoping. The loudness seems more weather related than anything and it didn't start to rumble until fairly late. To me, that means it was off the pad and climbing when it made the sounds we were hearing then. We ordinarily started getting the rumble from Shuttles after the SRBs dropped, so around 2-1/2 minutes. I'm pretty sure it was over 4 minutes today. For sure, it was rumbling when I came in to watch the booster landings at 7 minutes after launch.

      It really did seem to hop up pretty fast, and the commentators on the radio said to expect that.