Crowds cheered at the successful Falcon Heavy Test Flight which launched a historic payload into a solar orbit. The SpaceX demonstration showcased several feats are the forefront of gravity-defying technology including a three-stage booster system designed to return to Earth on several landing pads. The two side boosters (which had successfully flown on previous missions) simultaneously landed near the launch site on twin pads. The core booster, unfortunately, did not survive it’s first and only voyage and crashed into the sea, missing its landing pad on a drone ship be a few hundred feet. The failure was due to fuel depletion. But even with this setback, SpaceX was prepared for any outcome with a statement before the test.
“It’s important to remember that this mission is a test flight. Even if we do not complete all of the experimental milestones that are being attempted during this test, we will still be gathering critical data throughout the mission. Ultimately, a successful demonstration mission will be measured by the quality of information we can gather to improve the launch vehicle for our existing and future customers.”
Typical heavy test missions carry a payload of concrete or steel but Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, said “that seemed extremely boring” and that he was trying to think of the “silliest thing we can imagine” to put in his rocket. It was then unveiled that he would be launching his personal “midnight cherry” Roadster complete with a “Starman” mannequin at the wheel. The original plan was to send the electric car into an Earth-Mars elliptical orbit around the sun but the initial data suggests that the orbit will be much wider than originally anticipated.
On Valentines day, the Virtual Telescope Project plans to live-stream the roadster for its final moments before it becomes visually lost in the vastness of space. SpaceX expects the car to stay in orbit for the next few million years so we may yet see it again.