The human race has indeed come a long way since the invention of combustion engines to inter-planetary and interstellar travels. Space tech, too, finds itself on a new level since the USSR sent the Vostok 3KA rocket with Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961. SpaceX’s innovation of re-flights of rockets took space tech to another pedestal. NASA’s Space Shuttle, used from 1981 to 2011, completing a total of 135 missions used to be the most powerful rocket with 24,000 kilograms of payload in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
Yes, used to be.SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, launched on Month Day, 2018 surpassed Space Shuttle by more than a factor of 2 with 63,800 kilograms of payload in the LEO. The Falcon Heavy is the most capable rocket flying with more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. That means, if we compare the liftoff thrust with the 747 aircraft at full power, the Falcon is equal to eighteen of the 747s. If we talk about orbit payload delivery, only Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more orbit payload than Falcon Heavy. This heavy lift vehicle by SpaceX is capable of lifting the equivalent to a 737 jetliner flying passengers, luggage and even the fuel.
The first stage of the Falcon Heavy is made of three cores, with 27 Merlin engines to fire it up. The two boosters, or the side cores are connected at the base and at the top of the center core’s liquid oxygen tank. The central core engines, however, are throttled down shortly after the liftoff. They throttle back up to full thrust as the side cores separate.
The second stage of the Falcon Heavy has one Merlin engine which is identical to its counterpart on Falcon 9, on which the Falcon Heavy draws its design from. It maximizes reliability and helps in minimizing stage separation events. After the main engines cutoff and the first stage cores, or the boosters separate, the second stage delivers the rocket’s payload to orbit after the main engines cut off and the first-stage cores separate. The payloads can be placed into a variety of orbits including Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) and the Geosynchronous Orbit (GSO).The “Heavy” missions will be delivering large payloads to orbit inside a composite fairing, but the rocket is capable of carrying SpaceX’s own spacecraft Dragon as well. An interesting fact about payloads is that SpaceX Founder and CEO Elon Musk sent his personal Tesla Roadster as the payload in the maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy.
He posted a picture of the car in December 2017 saying that the traditional way of sending mass simulators, which are in the form of concrete or steel blocks seemed “boring”. And according to Mr Musk, anything that is boring is terrible and that is the reason the company decided to send something unusual. Also, Elon mentioned that the cherry-red Tesla will be playing Space Oddity on the Mars orbit.
He also mentioned that it is possible that some time later, maybe some aliens find the car drifting in a never-ending orbit around Mars.SpaceX had expected the maiden flight to have been in 2013-14. Although the plans were announced in a conference in April 2011, the concepts were discussed since about 2004. In an interview in July 2017, Elon Musk stated that the project was way more difficult that they thought and were pretty naive about that.
The fact that Falcon Heavy isn’t supported by government finances at all seems pretty intriguing. Private capital is all there is. The vehicle is majorly based on its brother Falcon 9 which has proved to be a great success. Following the success, SpaceX announced Falcon Heavy on April 5, 2011 and later unveiled some plans to expand the manufacturing capacity. In 2015, the Falcon 9 had gotten some upgrades while the Heavy got some of its own changes.
In December 2016, an official photo of the Falcon Heavy interstage at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California was released.Elon Musk was actually planning for the prime flight of the enormous heavy-lift vehicle on the West Coast from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 2013. However, because of the failure of their CRS-7 in June 2013, the first launch of the Falcon Heavy was rescheduled to late 2016. Later in August 2016, the demonstration flight was postponed to the summer of ’17 and then to late ’17 and eventually to January 2018. About the maiden flight expectations, Musk pointed out that the vehicle might not even make it to the orbit. The reason is, combining cores of three Falcon 9 had many structural and design challenges as the plan is to land all the three cores back on earth.
According to the scheduled future launches, the payload would be given by various companies like Arabsat, DoD. The most amusing part is, SpaceX plans on sending two private citizens on a first manned Falcon Heavy mission who will be in a Dragon 2 capsule. It will be a free-return trajectory to the moon! I know this seems like the far future but the space tech giant plans to do this late 2018 considering the other launches aren’t postponed because you know, Falcon Heavy. Elon said it’ll be a long loop skimming the surface of the Moon and then going a little further out into deep space and finally of course, coming back to the Earth. The names of the two private citizens who approached SpaceX and asked for a trip around the moon would be declared later depending on their fitness test results. They’ve already paid a significant deposit.
Well now, world tours seem pretty mainstream, don’t they? Elon’s guess is the 500,000-650,000 kilometer journey would take about a week.Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I guess, Elon Musk is quite inspired by that. Apart from the efficient innovations and achievements in SpaceX, Elon is also attaining significant feats in the automobile industry with Tesla Motors, he’s also one of the pioneers of online payment systems with PayPal and has been doing great work with his other projects in Neuralink, Gigafactories, solar panels. Also, Elon Musk has made stuff like space exploration cooler with his ideas such as sending a Tesla Roadster to space just because mass simulators are boring for instance.
So you see, there’s a reason the billionaire entrepreneur is a role model for the youth looking up for their own start-up. I find space exploration even more fascinating not just because of its magnificent elegance, but also because it actually makes us question the significance of our existence and our trivial problems. Here we are, talking about deep space exploration but do you know how far is the closest galaxy? It is the Andromeda galaxy which is situated at 2.2 million light years from us. Go ahead, take a moment to fathom this massive distance.
So, light, which travels 300,000 kilometers per second, takes 2.2 million years to reach Earth. So, when we look up at the stars of the Andromeda Galaxy, we’re actually looking at 2.2 millions years into past.
It’s funny as well as intriguing to recall that a few centuries ago, traveling without any actual physical effort was something most of the people wouldn’t even have imagined about it and now here we are, lifting off vehicles at 5 million pounds of thrust to go deep into space.