Provided everything goes to plan, SpaceX will finally launch its long-awaited Falcon Heavy rocket tomorrow from Cape Canaveral in Florida. It will be the largest rocket that SpaceX has ever launched, and the largest rocket currently in service anywhere in the world.
The launch will be unusual for a whole host of reasons. Not only will it be a tremendous milestone for SpaceX and private spaceflight, it will also be the first time anyone tries to land multiple rocket boosters at the same time, and definitely the first time anyone’s ever gratuitously shot a car into orbit.
Just in time for the launch, Elon Musk has released a three-minute launch animation that shows exactly how everything will go down. The Falcon Heavy is the largest rocket SpaceX has ever built. It’s constructed by strapping three of SpaceX’s proven Falcon 9 rockets together, which provides around 5 million pounds of thrust at takeoff. That’s enough to get 140,000 pounds into Earth’s orbit, a little under three times the payload of a Falcon 9.
It’s also enough thrust to launch payloads to the Moon or Mars, so the Falcon Heavy is the key component in SpaceX’s bigger ambitions. Musk hopes to use the Falcon Heavy to send tourists around the Moon, and to send supplies to Mars for a manned mission.
For the test flight, however, SpaceX is going much crazier. Test flights do require a payload to make the math and aerodynamics work, but there’s also a good chance that the test flight might end in an explosion, so you don’t want to strap a billion-dollar communications satellite to the front.
Normally, that means sending a concrete mass into orbit, but Musk decided instead to send his original Tesla Roadster into an orbit around the Sun. Musk promises that the car’s stereo will be playing David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” during the launch, so that’s what the launch animation video is set to.
The other mission parameters for the Falcon Heavy’s first flight are equally ambitious: All three Falcon 9 cores are expected to detatch from each other and land back on the launch pad or on a drone ship at sea. The two side engines will attempt to land on a pad at Cape Canaveral, as you can see in the video, while the center rocket will attempt a landing on one of SpaceX’s drone ships stationed in the Atlantic ocean.
SpaceX has received permission for the launch, and successfully completed a hold-down test fire of the rockets last month, so only a technical difficulty or unforseen weather can stop the launch tomorrow. The window for launch opens at 1.30PM, and SpaceX will have a livestream of the whole event ready for your viewing pleasure.