from the can't-keep-track-of-our-stuff dept.
SpaceX pulled off quite the feat today when it launched the Falcon Heavy rocket. What's more, it landed the two flanking boosters in perfect synchronized formation. But the fate of the core booster was unclear; now it appears that the center booster, which was supposed to land on a drone ship, was lost.
Elon Musk said on a conference call with reporters that the launch "seems to have gone as well as one could have hoped with the exception of center core. The center core obviously didn't land on the drone ship" and he said that "we're looking at the issue."
Elon has stated during the post launch Press Conference (aired live by ABC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cygUnhAGdWc ) that the center core ran out of TEA-TEB ignition fluids. These are used to restart the Merlin 1D engines in flight. The central engine relit, but the outer two failed to reignite. The resultant loss of thrust cause the center core to hit the water at 300mph/500kph and explode. Elon reports two drone ship thrusters on OCISLY were damaged or destroyed.
Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster, which launched on top of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy earlier today, is going farther out into the Solar System than originally planned. The car was supposed to be put on a path around the Sun that would take the vehicle out to the distance of Mars' orbit. But the rocket carrying the car seems to have overshot that trajectory and has put the Tesla in an orbit that extends out into the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. [...] SpaceX CEO Musk tweeted out a map of the Roadster's final orbit after the burn, showing just how far out the car will travel. And it looks like it's going so far into the asteroid belt that it will get relatively close to the orbit of the dwarf planet Ceres.
Previously: Falcon Heavy Maiden Launch Successful (Mostly)
When the Falcon Heavy rocket launched for the first time in February, some critics of the company wondered what exactly the rocket's purpose was. After all, the company's Falcon 9 rocket had become powerful enough that it could satisfy the needs of most commercial customers. One such critic even told me, "The Falcon Heavy is just a vanity project for Elon Musk."
[...] Last week, the Swedish satellite company Ovzon signed a deal for a Falcon Heavy launch as early as late 2020 for a geostationary satellite mission. And just on Thursday, ViaSat announced that it, too, had chosen the Falcon Heavy to launch one of its future ViaSat-3 satellite missions in the 2020 to 2022 timeframe.
[...] In explaining their rocket choice, both Ovzon and ViaSat cited the ability of the Falcon Heavy to deliver heavy payloads "direct"—or almost directly—to geostationary orbit, an altitude nearly 36,000km above the Earth's surface. Typically, rockets launching payloads bound for geostationary orbit drop their satellites into a "transfer" orbit, from which the satellite itself must spend time and propellant to reach the higher orbit. (More on these orbits can be found here).
[...] The demonstration flight of the Falcon Heavy apparently convinced not only the military of the rocket's direct-to-geo capability but satellite fleet operators as well. The Falcon Heavy rocket now seems nicely positioned to offer satellite companies relatively low-cost access to orbits they desire, with a minimum of time spent getting there in space.
Related: How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
Falcon Heavy Maiden Launch Successful (Mostly)
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NASA's Chief of Human Spaceflight Rules Out Use of Falcon Heavy for Lunar Station
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Update: Launch seems to have been successful. The two side boosters landed nearly simultaneously. Footage from the drone ship was cut off. The car made it into space; but the third stage will need to coast through the Van Allen radiation belts for around six hours before it makes the final burn for trans-Mars injection.
SpaceX's newest rocket, the Falcon Heavy, is set to be launched at around 1:30 PM EST (6:30 PM UTC) today. The launch window extends to 4:00 PM EST (9:00 PM UTC).
SpaceX will attempt to recover all three boosters during the launch. The two previously-flown side boosters will attempt to land nearly simultaneously at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Landing Zones 1 and 2. The center core will attempt to land on a drone barge hundreds of miles off the coast of Florida.
The dummy payload for the Falcon Heavy is Elon Musk's personal 2008 Tesla Roadster. It is carrying a mannequin wearing SpaceX's
space suit flight suit that will be used when the company begins to send astronauts to the International Space Station. The car will be launched into a heliocentric orbit that will bring it close to Mars (and back near Earth) periodically, and is equipped with three cameras. Its stereo system will be playing David Bowie's Space Oddity.
If the launch is successful, the Falcon Heavy could be flown within the next 3 to 6 months for a customer such as the U.S. Air Force, Arabsat, Inmarsat, or ViaSat.
Falcon Heavy will be capable of launching 63,800 kg to low-Earth orbit (LEO), 26,700 kg to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO), 16,800 kg to Mars, or 3,500 kg to Pluto (New Horizons was 478 kg). It will supplant the Delta IV Heavy, which is capable of launching 28,790 kg to LEO or 14,220 kg to GTO. Space Launch System Block 1 will be capable of launching 70,000 kg to LEO (Block 1B: 105,000 kg to LEO, Block 2: 130,000 kg to LEO).
Musk has suggested that an additional two side boosters could be added to Falcon Heavy (perpendicularly?) to make a "Falcon Super Heavy" with even more thrust. This may not happen if SpaceX decides to focus on the BFR instead, which as planned would be able to launch 150,000 kg to LEO while being fully reusable and potentially cheaper than the Falcon 9 (or capable of launching 250,000 kg to LEO in expendable mode).
- BBC: Elon Musk's huge Falcon Heavy rocket set for launch
- CNN: SpaceX Falcon Heavy: Everything you need to know
- Bloomberg: Musk Sets a Low Bar for SpaceX Launch
- Space.com: Is the Tesla Roadster Flying on the Falcon Heavy's Maiden Flight Just Space Junk?