Watch it live here -The Falcon Heavy Demonstration Mission

From the what we’ve all wanted to do: “launch an electric car into space” department. Live video feed below. SpaceX is now targeting the launch time at 2:50PM EST.

SpaceX is counting down the launch of the Falcon Heavy demonstration mission now from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) (yes the one that launched men to the moon on Apollo’s SaturnV booster) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The primary launch window opens at 1:30 p.m. EST, or 18:30 UTC, and closes at 4:00 p.m. EST, or 21:00 UTC. A backup launch window opens on Wednesday, February 7 at 1:30 p.m. EST, or 18:30 UTC, and closes at 4:00 p.m. EST, or 21:00 UTC.

Falcon Heavy on the pad 39A

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 more than twice the payload of the next vehicle, at one-third the cost. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit.

Three cores make up the first stage of Falcon Heavy. The side cores, or boosters, are connected to the center core at its base and at the vehicle’s interstage. With a total of 27 Merlin engines, Falcon Heavy’s three cores are capable of generating more than 5 million pounds of thrust.

For this test flight, Falcon Heavy’s two side cores are both flight-proven. One launched the Thaicom 8 satellite in May 2016 and the other supported the CRS-9 mission in July 2016. SpaceX will attempt to land all three of Falcon Heavy’s first stage cores during this test. Following booster separation, Falcon Heavy’s two side cores will attempt to land at SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 (LZ-1 and LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Falcon Heavy’s center core will attempt to land on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

The payload for Falcon Heavy’s demonstration mission is SpaceX CEO and Lead Designer Elon Musk’s midnight-cherry Tesla Roadster. (no, really, this is not a joke)

Tesla roadster payload being readied

Demonstration missions like this one typically carry steel or concrete blocks as mass simulators, but SpaceX decided it would be more worthwhile to launch something fun and without irreplaceable sentimental value: a red Roadster for the red planet. Following launch, Falcon Heavy’s second stage will attempt to place the Roadster into a precessing Earth-Mars elliptical orbit around the sun.

It’s important to remember that this mission is a test flight. Even if SpaceX does 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 gathered to improve the launch vehicle.


Watch it LIVE:

Last night, I posed this question/poll on Twitter:


Mission Timeline (all times approximate)

COUNTDOWN

Hour/Min/Sec Events

– 01:28:00 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load

– 01:25:00 RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading underway

– 00:45:00 LOX (liquid oxygen) loading underway

– 00:07:00 Falcon Heavy begins engine chill prior to launch

– 00:01:00 Flight computer commanded to begin final prelaunch checks

– 00:01:00 Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins

– 00:00:45 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch

– 00:00:05 Engine controller commands side booster engine ignition sequence to start

– 00:00:03 Engine controller commands center core engine ignition sequence to start 00:00:00 Falcon Heavy liftoff

LAUNCH, LANDINGS AND ORBITAL INSERTION

Hour/Min/Sec Events

00:01:06 Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket) 00:02:29 Booster engine cutoff (BECO)

00:02:33 Side cores separate from center core

00:02:50 Side cores begin boostback burn

00:03:04 Center core engine shutdown/main engine cutoff (MECO) 00:03:07 Center core and 2nd stage separate

00:03:15 2nd stage engine starts

00:03:24 Center core begins boostback burn

00:03:49 Fairing deployment

00:06:41 Side cores begin entry burn

00:06:47 Center core begins entry burn

00:07:58 Side core landings

00:08:19 Center core landing

00:08:31 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)

00:28:22 2nd stage engine restarts

00:28:52 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)

Mission continues on an experimental long coast and third stage two burn to target a precessing Earth-Mars elliptical orbit around the sun

 

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J Mac

Better put the top up… It’s gonna get really windy!

MarkW

For some reason I thought of that episode of Star Trek TNG where the Enterprise finds a Model T floating in deep space.

Horace Jason Oxboggle

The only thing wrong was that South Australian Premier Jay Wetherill didn’t replace the mannekin (sorry, personkin) in the roadster’s driver’s seat!

Dan Evens

I thought of the movie Heavy Metal. But that was a Corvette, and this is a Tesla, so they could not play that music during the mission.

That was a Star Trek Voyager Episode. They found Amelia Earhart.

jakee308

At least Musk is a billionaire greenie with a sense of humor. Car has “DON’T PANIC” on the dashboard.
Mars is in for a surprise. They should hurry and build a wall.

The Reverend Badger

I cannot remember about this one, has Elon said it real or CGI this time? Never mind still going to have my dinner early to watch it. 27 engines firing at the same time has got to be impressive.

Sara

Mom, do I HAVE to watch this?
Okay, I will put this in plain English: if that stupid car crashes into my house or my yard, I will whack Elon Musk for every cent I can squeeze out of his silly… er, pockets. Yeah, “pockets”. I will. I mean it!
Why not just launch an Abrams tank instead? Or a Stryker? Something useful instead of a practical joke? It just confirms that Musk is a twit at his core.

rocketscientist

No, Sara you don’t. Based upon your comment the event will probably just annoy you.
How useful would any of your alternatives be?
How useful is an Abrams tank parked in an eternal orbit between Mars and Earth?
(BTW an Abrams tank is far too massive)
The rocket must lift something with appropriate mass otherwise it won’t perform as planned. Usually they loft up inert “dead-weight” (concrete/steel blocks) because it is cheep and nobody cares what happens to it.
This is called flight testing. Whether you are aware of it or not, it occurs for every class of vehicle before its put into regular use. Yes, Apollo too. You’d be surprised at the “payloads” that are used during testing.

Davis

All Up Testing of the Saturn V/Apollo. The third launch of a Saturn V/Apollo took Apollo 8 to the moon and back with three astronauts on board.

Sara

You’re not my Mom!
“You’d be surprised at the “payloads” that are used during testing.” Uh, no, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised, rocket scientist, because the entire payload testing business was explained during the waiting period for launch, well ahead of the actual Mercury-Redstone rocket launch carrying Alan Shepherd, Jr., into suborbital flight when I was in high school. We got to watch that because my history teacher brought his portable TV to school so that we could see such an historic moment.
But considering everything, an Abrams tank, fully loaded and operational by remote control would be that whole ‘Star Wars’ idea that Reagan nattered on about. You’d have to add stabilizers to the tank to keep it focused, avoid tumbling and spinning, and counteract the “kick” of a rocket launched at a target from the Abrams, but — well, anything is possible and ‘Tanks In Space’ just seems more practical than a shiny red car.
Smooches!!

Sara

As an alternative to the Abrams tank, I’ll settle for a Sherman tank at 38.1 metric tons.

schitzree

Usually they loft up inert “dead-weight” (concrete/steel blocks) because it is cheep and nobody cares what happens to it.

And this time they are lofting Musk’s own Tesla.
Who wants to bet he left it parked somewhere too long and it ‘bricked’? Launching it into space has to be less embarrassing then getting caught needing to have it towed in for a battery replacement.
~¿~

James the Elder

Falcon Heavy max payload=70 tons, M1 Abrams=68 tons. Close, but could do it.

John Garrett

The guy is a born promoter.
“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

icisil

Musk has a knack for providing that little kick at the right moment to keep the shell game in oscillation. With one launch he got great publicity and got rid of the car (evidence) that according to some cannot, based on its form factor, possibly do what it’s claimed to be able to do.

Mike-SYR

The “critical thinking” argument is being used by the left to argue against anyone who disagrees with them.
It’s essentially an ad hominem attack in nice clothes.

Nigel S

Paging Cathy Newman …

jclarke341

Hey Juice. Your opponent will never present your argument correctly. The article claims that crisis skeptics number one argument is: “Earth’s climate has changed naturally in the past, so current climate change is natural.” Of course, that is not the argument at all. This statement made by crisis skeptics is actually a challenge of the warmists argument that the majority of the warming is man-made. And it is just part of the challenge, which goes on to point out that the warmests have no clue about natural climate variability because the don’t even try to understand it.
Their little flow chart is a straw-man argument trying to pass off as critical thinking. The flow might be reasonable, but the results are preordained by the input. I could use the same method and easily ‘prove’ that the climate crisis paradigm is void of all reason, just as long as I control the inputs and assumptions.
It’s not ‘good’ thinking. It’s good hand waving propaganda!

HDHoese

Juice
Their sequence of logic needs some logic. First when you pick an example for a logical deduction you do not use the example of which you are promoting. From the middle of their “logic” train.
“Step 3: Determine whether the argument is deductive, meaning that it starts out with a general statement and reaches a DEFINITIVE conclusion.” (CAPS MINE)
I have looked in two dictionaries and find nothing about deduction being definitive. It is simply going from general to particular, wow can that be dangerous. Sounds like they are going from conclusion to conclusion. This is an interesting part of the definition of deductive in the big Random House Dictionary. “The truth of the conclusion is verifiable only in terms of future experience and certainty is attainable only if all possible instances have been examined.” No wonder they put faith in 97%. That is why I started teaching logical errors, even to graduate students.

I was in Cape Canaveral and watch the first successful return landing of a Stage One to the Canaveral AFB, from a distance oa a mile or so…..later was told by one of NASAs safety officers that we had been right in the “debris zone” if something had gone wrong. despite that, It was awesome.

Friend — you sure have that right — for many reasons. (One is the white stuff that was falling from the sky this morning — and the ice on the driveway, on which I slipped twice while feeding the birds…and …….
I do think it a bit frivolous to boost a Tesla roadsterr into orbit…..certainly their was something useful that could have been risked ….

Paul Penrose

Kip,
No there literally wasn’t anything more useful that could have been used that wasn’t many times more valuable than the roadster. It’s his car, why do care what he does with it. Better than what many others have done with their exotic sports cars (i.e., wrecking them and endangering other motorists).

Paul ==> I was thinking of a satellite or something that would have provided value to the rest of us. I do understand that the car is entirely worthless and cost only a bit more than a concrete cube of the same weight.
Satellites are risked every time they are launched….

The roadster is there for dead weight to lift, and its going into a solar orbit, not an earth orbit. Anybody with a practical payload needing to go to Mars is going to want a launch vehicle with demonstrated reliability not an experimental maiden voyage besides, launching your personal car to Mars is deliciously irreverent.

MarkW

I doubt the insurance companies would cover the cost of a satellite on a test launch.

Joe Wagner

Kip==> a satellite costs way too much to risk in a test flight like this; even if its success would give value..
One things I’m interested in is if they did stability tests on the Roadster: they do that for satellites prior to launch to keep the bus from tumbling… wonder if they did that and how it fared.

MarkW

I wonder if they had to put the roadster through one of those car compactors in order to better balance the load?

Bruce Cobb

Possible theme song:

Sara

What? No ‘Rocketman’? No ‘Space Oddity’? None of Holst’s ‘The Planets’, e.g., ‘Jupiter’?

beng135

Here ya go — ground control to Major Musk:
https://youtu.be/yY-cZew2xTc

D. J. Hawkins

39A was the pad Apollo 11 launched from. I wish them luck. I don’t much care for Musk’s subsidy farming, but I can get behind the US having a heavy launch vehicle again.

Sara

Ditto. WE (meaning USA) need a moon base and a colony on Mars. No more pokey stuff.

Wrusssr

Good observation. I keep wondering why it’s taken so long to colonize moon world. Why the Ruskies or Chicoms never made a one-up run themselves. Or any other nation for that matter. Been what now, a half a century or so since they loaded their moon buggy up and headed out? Got to appreciate Musk’s sense of humor with the roadster and all atop what looks like a capsule. Well, bon voyage . . .

Tom in Florida

Some day it will be revealed that the Human race was warned not to go into space. Robots, telescopes, rovers etc were all OK but no humans. That is the price we as a species are paying to keep from being eradicated.

Burch

Are they launching The Stig? I just hope Hammond and May aren’t involved. We know what happened when they tried to launch a car…
https://youtu.be/pJdrlWR-yFM

I am amazed the bloody contraption took off! “Awesum” landing even.

Apparently delayed — the time to launch has increased over the last hour…..

MarkW

Didn’t it take something like three tries to get the first Space Shuttle launch off the ground?

phaedo

What is the carbon footprint?

Hugs

It’s Progress, so it doesn’t count.

rocketscientist

The scorch marks don’t go that far from the pad. 🙂

beng135

Launching a Tesla Roadster into orbit gives affirmation to the term “space junk”.

Paul Penrose

Since it won’t be in Earth orbit, it’s nothing to worry about; interplanetary space is REALLY HUGE.

Hugs

When our grandgrandgrandchildren headcrash with a Roadster on the Martian hyperway, they’re going to need their newly invented shields.

rocketscientist

Hugs,
They probably will be collecting these and other artifacts for museum pieces, like Apollo’s S IV-B translunar stages that were sent into heliocentric orbits after they were spent as well as any PAM-D upper stages from Mars bound spacecraft.
You are correct the universe is really huge. That’s why we call it…. space.

joelobryan

Doesn’t anyone know the history of launches from Cape Kennedy in late January/early February?
Apollo 1 tragedy: January 27, 1967
Challenger tragedy: January 28, 1986
Columbia breakup: liftoff January 16, 2003, breakup February 1, 2003.
Karma?

joelobryan

Some pseudoscience numerology for everyone:
19 years, 17 years, now 15 years. What are they?

cbone

Not Karma, cold temps. Not an issue today.

joelobryan

Not cold temps. Cold temps can be expected and planned for. Poor engineering risk management.

Richard Keen

Cold temps and high wind shear aloft, in the case of Challenger.
But it wasn’t the weather that did the Challenger in; it was the decision to override the 45-degree constraint on launching, and figuring a 28 degree launch was OK.
In other words, they violated the golden rule of engineering:
RTFM

joelobryan

Energized electrical circuits, flammable materials, and a pure oxygen environment. What could go wrong?

MarkW

Pressurized pure O2 environment. Had the O2 been at 1/5th atmosphere as was designed for the problem wouldn’t have been as bad.

MarkW

Instead they wanted the pressure differential between inside and outside to be 1/5th atmosphere, as it would be during flight, so they pumped the O2 pressure up to 120% of an atmosphere.

Davis

Battery powered car in space? Already been done, Lunar Roving Vehicle, with Apollo 15, 16, and 17 to the moon. Cars are still there.

We already knew Elon Musk lived on Mars (and he wants to be buried there, despoiling its environment)

joelobryan

The genius Nikola Tesla died alone in a NYC hotel in 1943. Found by the maid, he’d been dead for 2 days. Broke and bankrupt after decades of blowing fortunes pursuing his schemes.
Musk wants to follow Tesla’s legacy.

Paul Penrose

If Tesla had not negotiated away his commission on A/C electricity produced by Westinghouse, he would have be fabulously wealthy. Of course, he still might have killed himself in one of his experiments to transmit electricity wirelessly, but at least his death would have more befitting to a man of his notoriety. Still, we have Tesla to thank for radio, A/C motors and generators, and many other modern devices that we take for granted today. Elon could do much worse than following in those footsteps.

joelobryan

Nikola Tesla , Howard Hughes, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk. All innovative thinkers, Geniuses. All just a bit quirky.
Well, ok, a lot quirky. But geniuses.

joelobryan

Someone should tell the Greenies that Musk’s rocket runs on diesel and it’s gonna burn about 40,000 gallons in about 1 minute as it climbs through the troposphere and into the stratosphere. Watch their head explode as they contemplate that.

paul courtney

Joel: Yes but the upside is that car will emit no co2 pollution in space. It’s a tipping point for renewables!

beng135

Joel, I think this one is all liquid hydrogen, tho you’re right that many rockets use a 1st stage kerosene-mix.

joelobryan

Paul,
From above countdown list:
01:25:00 RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading underway
From Wiki:
“Falcon 9 is a family of two-stage-to-orbit medium lift launch vehicles, named for its use of nine first-stage engines, designed and manufactured by SpaceX. Variants include the retired Falcon 9 v1.0 and Falcon 9 v1.1, as well as the current Falcon 9 Full Thrust, both partially-reusable launch systems powered by rocket engines utilizing liquid oxygen (LOX) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellants.”
Diesel.

joelobryan

sorry Paul.. Meant for Beng135.

beng135

Joel, you’re right! I stand corrected.

gnomish

it will also produce the most spectacular conflagration a tesla ever made.

Joe

Q: What accelerates better than a Tesla Roadster?
A: A few things, including a Tesla Roadster with 29 additional rocket motors.

joelobryan

Sorta takes the JATO concept to a new level.

And, it appears to have actually worked so far! Congrats to the proud team!

Will this be the furthest a Tesla roadster has EVER gone under it own power?
Needs at least one solar cell on top, doesn’t it? 8<)

commieBob

I would like to know what condition the car will be in after it’s been launched. Cars are subject to all kinds of force and vibration. They aren’t usually operated in a vacuum though.
OK, I realize that there’s no requirement that the car has to survive. My curiosity is strictly academic.
I’m guessing there’s something about a car that they forgot to take into account.

joelobryan

All of Tesla’s cars are bristling with cameras and sensors. Autopilot and collision reports go back to Tesla computers are recorded. I’m guessing the SpaceX engineers have all that on telemetry today.

Joe Wagner

I wonder if the sun will melt the padding in the seats- or the steering wheel.
that much more solar irradiation entering the seating area should cause some additional heating…

rocketscientist

Space is really really cold, and the sun can only heat one side. This on an elliptical orbital path that goes between the Earth and Mars so it never gets closer to the sun than Earth.
Of more interest is how plastics and other volatile materials will behave in vacuum. My bet is that it will eventually end up like LDEF, shot full of holes from MMOD (micro-meteoroid orbital debris)
https://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/history/ldef01.html

J Mac

I was a student at University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh when the first US Space Shuttle was launched into orbit April 12 1981. Watching the launch of Columbia from Cape Canaveral (“Go Baby! Go Baby! Go Baby! GO!”) and the landing at Edwards Air Force Base on April 14th were spine chilling and breath holding exercises in both hope and pride!

joelobryan

B’gosh!!!

J Mac

The ‘Mission Anomalies’ section of wikipedia’ STS-1 article is worth a look, as it summarizes launch damage to Columbia and subsequent effects on it during re-entry and landing.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STS-1

Chuck in Houston

J Mac – me and a couple Navy buddies drove from San Diego to Edwards the night before that Columbia landing. We got a prime spot next to the low fence where all the spectators were. We had TV cameras on either side. It was awesome! Just awesome! I got a couple good photos. I’m looking at one on my office wall as I type this.

michael hart

Well, I like the color of the car. And it’s great to see some economic competition in aerospace, too often held back by governmental monopolies.
sarc/on
But, Elon, what’s with that huge white globe in the foreground that says “flammable gas” on it? Surely, you’re not using fossil fuels to launch an electric car into orbit, are you?

J Mac

‘Fossil’ fuel is stored solar energy – ‘No Batteries Needed!’

Q?: What is worth less than blocks of steel or concrete?
A!: “Elon Musk’s midnight-cherry Tesla Roadster”.
And we’ve reached a new low in space junk.
Any odds on whether they launch a real lithium battery pack and motors with the car?
A chunk of lithium that large should produce interesting color flare, (crimson red), when returning to Earth. Copper cored motors will burn blue.

joelobryan

From NASA Reference Publication 1353: Primary Battery Design and Safety Guidelines Handbook.

Under unique and abusive conditions, lithium cells can be forced to yield their contained
energy suddenly and explosively.
For example:
a. Any condition which causes the lithium anode to reach its melting point, 180.5°C.
Heating conditions include the application of extemal heat, externally applied
short circuits, and physical abuse such as crushing or penetration by a sharp
object, which result in internal shorting, or failure to provide for the removal of
heat generated by internal losses while discharging at high rates.

I’m thinking flight safety rules required removal of the Tesla battery pack.

Joel:
Are you claiming that the Tesla battery pack is more dangerous and more volatile than the rocket engines and boosters?

Paul Penrose

ATheoK,
It will never return to Earth unless someone goes up to bring it back. It is now in orbit around the Sun.

Thanks Paul!
I could have sworn the published mission plan stated that the rocket was aiming for low orbit. So much for the veracity of NOAA news sources…
Now, Musk’s old Tesla is heading for the asteroid belt.
If anything could puzzle the *ell out of aliens, it would be sending a terrestrial vehicle, driven by a mannequin, into the asteroids.

ResourceGuy

Tax credits to space and beyond!!!

Mike of the North

I’ll say one thing for Elon, he does some really epic sh*t with other people’s money! Hope it’s successful!

joelobryan

This is all on Musk’s dime. I salute him for that.

Paul Penrose

Mike,
The Falcon Heavy was completely internally funded. SpaceX does not receive any special government subsidies. All the money NASA paid was for services rendered, and they got a great deal at that. Much less than anybody else could offer. So how exactly was this done with “other people’s money?” I think it’s put up or shut up on this whole smear campaign against SpaceX and Elon.

Note – SpaceX or government – still other people’s money. But it is still quite a different matter when it is money voluntarily put into the project by investors. So your final point is well taken.

Paul Penrose

Observer,
It should also be noted that Musk sunk much of his own personal fortune into SpaceX, so some of it literally is his own money; but your point that he also has private investors, is well taken.

Ernest Bush

The one who really put his own money on the line was Jeff Bezos. He’s been investing a billion dollars, more or less, each year into the world’s most expensive hobby, Blue Origin. Upcoming sales of his rocket engines to other companies will soon make his company profitable, so he can start working on his dream of a permanent Mars colony. Blue Origin expects to start manned suborbital flights later this year for those seeking a real joyride. Blue Origin began operations in 2000.

Mike of the North

Also, I hope all of the buzzards circling the launch site isn’t an omen….

TA

If Musk retrieves all three boosters intact, I would say that’s a pretty good accomplishment.

Paul Penrose

Two out of three ain’t bad for a test flight.

Well, the two are the ones that they’ve gotten the bugs out of. First one for the heavy core – and, actually, they did pretty well. Landings are so much harder than taking off.
Oldsters like me remember the absolutely enormous areas that the Navy covered with their recovery fleets for Mercury/Gemini/Apollo – and they had contingencies for if the capsule didn’t even manage anywhere in those. Also that the Shuttle was landed at Edwards for quite a few missions – much longer runway, along with a relatively flat run if it ran out of runway anyway. (Plus – not mentioned by anyone – no big population if something went seriously wrong on descent.)

ivor ward

I wonder how many miles per gallon the Tesla will get on the way up?

Alasdair

Well: If successful we all know what to do with our Teslas when the lights go out.
Love it. Science can be fun and think of all that CO2 wafting into space. WOW!,

TA

From the article: “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 more than twice the payload of the next vehicle, at one-third the cost. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit.”
Well, that depends on what you call “payload”. The Space Shuttle launch system could put a payload of one space shuttle at 100 tons, and 30 tons of cargo in Low Earth Orbit for a total of 130 tons to LEO, as compared to Musk’s heavy-lift vehicle rated at 70 tons to LEO.
A billionaire in a hurry to push space development could have bought the Space Shuttle Launch System from NASA and been way ahead of the game. You could put reusable boosters on this system, too.

DontGetOutMuch

Except that the SLS:
1. Is years away.
2. Costs 3/4 of a billion a pop.
3. Will launch at most twice a year… And they only have enough engines for a total (Including tests) of 8 Launches… NASA has indicated that they might think about asking for funding for more engines…. Now that is commitment!

MarkW

He’s talking about the Space Shuttle, not the future SLS.

MarkW

Space shuttle is old technology. It was a bad design from the beginning. Tried to be all things to all people and ended up being so so at a lot of things while being good at nothing.

TA
You are correct sir.
Looks like a scrub anyway. I don’t remember ever launching when we were on hold for upper level winds. They just don’t change that fast
They did succeed in shutting down the Space Coast. Can’t move with all the traffic.

rocketscientist

Reusable boosters, yes. But, you still will need a motor platform attached to the external tank to reach orbit. The other issue is the structure was designed to “piggy-back” an orbiter with the CG in a specific location.
I suppose you could redesign the external fuel tank to carry a newly designed payload/propulsion vehicle (heck, lets make this reusable too, but leave off the wings).
So new boosters, new ET, new payload/propulsion vehicle. Hmm…what have we reused from the SSLS we bought?
BTW you don’t book-keep the delivery vehicle as payload. And, the SSLS couldn’t go beyond LEO.
So um…no a rich billionaire couldn’t.

TA

“So new boosters, new ET, new payload/propulsion vehicle. Hmm…what have we reused from the SSLS we bought?”
Don’t need new boosters. They would be nice, but remember the bilionaire is in a hurry, so he’ll just use the solid rocket boosters initially.
Yes, we need a new External Tank (ET), but we can get one from the manufacturer (had this deal been done right after the space shuttles were retired).
Don’t need a new propulsion vehicle, we’ll just use the space shuttle we bought from NASA.
So what does a billionaire in a hurry to get humans into space do? He contracts to attach a 15-foot-long by 27.5-foot-diameter, habitation module to the bottom of the ET and then he launches the space shuttle into orbit with an empty cargobay, and in this configuration the space shuttle can hang on to the ET instead of dumping it back into the atmosphere, and the space shuttle has enough power to put itself and the ET with module attached into Low Earth Orbit. The empty ET can be used as living/working space once in orbit. Huge volumes!
One more launch of the space shuttle delivers the solar panels and some additional hardward to the ET and you have a completed space station that is 168 feet long and 27.5 feet in diameter with a volume larger than the international space station.
In two space shuttle launches you have matched what it took NASA decades and over $100 billion to accomplish.
This ET space station design was actually one of the official designs submitted to NASA as a possible space station back in the 1990’s. It was called Option C. The cost of the ET space station was estimated to be about $5 billion back then. As compared to the international space station program with a cost of over $100 billion (the original estimate for Option A was $16 to $20 billion).
Put two more of these ET space stations around/on the Moon and around Mars, and you have a real live space development program. Each one would cost about $5 billion in 1990’s dollars.
So if you want to develop new technology, then develop new technology. But if a billionaire wanted to jumpstart a space development program he should have bought the Space Shuttle launch system for a song from NASA. He could have kept a lot of contractors in business and could probably get a price break from them to boot.
And for deep space development, you need a lot of propellant to get things to the Moon and to Mars and for that job a rocket that can put 130 tons (minus the cargo carrier) in Low Earth Orbit beats a rocket that can put 70 tons in Low Earth Orbit.
Unfortunately, noone saw the sense in using the ET this way, and now it’s too late, but the Space Shuttle Launch system, with its huge External Tank, was the perfect configuration for space development. No other vehicle could/can put a 153 ft. long, 27.5 ft diameter module in orbit, including Mr. Musk’s Falcon Heavy.
But we just threw that opportunity away. I attribute it to a lack of vision on the part of people who could have made a difference.
I’m all for private enterprise in space. It’s the only way to go. Goverments are too unwieldy and have other priorities than doing the fastest, most efficient job possible. But it’s a damn shame we didn’t use the Space Shuttle the way it should have been used. We could have gotten a *lot* more bang for our buck if we had done it right.

Paul Penrose

Since the orbiter was *required* to come back, it can’t be counted as payload. As a customer, the most I could expect to be delivered to orbit was 30 tons, so that’s the maximum payload to orbit. FH is more than twice that at less than half the cost per launch.

Pop Piasa

If this escapade is successful, I expect he will change the company name to “Space-sex”.

3×9 = 27 engines that all have to light and perform flawlessly … hmmm .. isn’t that what killed the Russian man-on-the-moon program?
https://jalopnik.com/this-insane-rocket-is-why-the-soviet-union-never-made-i-1448356326

Wrusssr

Russians had the rockets to go. This setback didn’t keep them from trying. U.S. had several.

MarkW

The loss of one or two rockets won’t endanger the ship. It will just mean it won’t make as high an orbit.
Beyond that, I suspect that they only plan on operating the engines at 80 to 90% capacity. In which case the loss of an engine or two can be compensated for by increasing the power on the remaining engines.

Depends of course,, whether the “loss” of one or more of the rockets simply “stops” the rocket from firing, or stops a turbo pump or plugs a relief vent valve for whatever. Or never permitted the busted engine from lighting off at all.
Or whether that failed turbo pump means a busted pipe or broken pressurized fuel tank which is now spewing tens of thousands of gallons of unburned fuel and oxidizer inside the fuselage around all of the remaining rocket engines.
Of course, any explosion below the Tesla will merely lift the Tesla a few thousand more feet higher. Temporarily higher.

rocketscientist

Its all in what are known as “failure modes”, or essentially what happens if this fails.
The Russian rockets had a catastrophic failure mode that caused “fratricidal” effects. That a nice way of saying when one failed, it blew-up and killed the others around it…which blew up and killed….
We attempt to design our engines with graceful failure modes, and as such they just shut down. Of course that usually means failure of the launch, but the reliability is better. However as you assert single point failure (SPF) reliability is an issue especially if it is in a chain. That is why we require SPF components to be .99999 reliable. It is a multiplicative chain, so only 99% reliable won’t cut it. In a simple 3 SPF event (.99 x .99 x .99) which would make the overall system only 97% reliable.

Sara

Despite my snarking above, I do want to see this succeed. We need to stop using Russia’s space program as a launch platform and get out of the Spacelab business. We should long since had something besides those rovers on Mars already. Mars is having one of its usual 12-month summer dust storms now, which would be a good opportunity to test the volume of water vapor stirred up from the ground level. (See Sky & Telescope for more details on this news.)
If Elon Musk wants to go galloping off into space and make it a commercial success, fine by me. Should have happened long ago, the very moment the government cut funding for such things and started paying the Russians for the launches. If this succeeds, we should have Moonbase Lunar One within ten years.

Paul Penrose

Elon’s life long plan is to go to Mars, and everything he does is geared to achieve that goal. So you should be cheering him on Sara.

Bruce Cobb

I think some mis-heard “launch time” as “lunch time”.

joelobryan

They’re running the Lunch checklist.

2:40 PM EST. This copied from the NASA launch video site:

13:57
Looks like the new scheduled lift off time of 20.45 GMT will mean there will only be one chance today because the launch window closes at 21.00 GMT (4pm local time).
The back-up window is tomorrow from 18.30 GMT TO 21.00 GMT.
@elonmusk
48m
Launch auto-sequence initiated (aka the holy mouse-click) for 3:45 liftoff #FalconHeavy
Reply on TwitterRetweetLike
@SpaceX
51m
Continue to monitor the upper level wind shear. New T-0 is 3:45 p.m. EST, 20:45 UTC.

Bruce Cobb

Looks like it’s a definite go.

3:24 EST.
SpaceX web site was only showing a video stream for a while, but has just starting its actual feed.

J Mac

Here’s a little pre-flight music, as we’re awaiting final approval for departure….
Frank Sinatra – Come Fly With Me!
https://youtu.be/HmQq6yLe2ww

Rob

Who would want to live on Mars.

Pop Piasa

Maybe somebody who scraps out Teslas with a few micrometeor dings.
Won’t the tires blow off this thing as soon as it hits 10 millibars or so? Good luck finding replacement tires on Mars, and Tirerack.com doesn’t ship free to there.

Rob

I’ll bet cabin fever would be the biggest problem.

Walter Sobchak

“Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it’s cold as hell
And there’s no one there to raise them if you did”
Rocket Man by Elton John

J Mac

LP1= ‘Clean’ Kerosene
Space-X Heavy is fossil fueled!

Pop Piasa

What else is that energy dense, yet that easy and relatively safe to deploy?

Pop Piasa

I wonder if he might have considered sending my ’95 Ram pickup into space and giving me the roadster…

J Mac

Go Baby! Go Baby! Go Baby! GO!
Frank Sinatra – Fly Me To The Moon!
https://youtu.be/QKhcTfskXJ4

Walter Sobchak

You win the music choice award.

Randy in Ridgecrest

Wow, nothing like that long shot of the launch pad area with the rocket coming out of the plume on a pillar of flame!

Ack

Watching the boosters land like that…VERY cool

PaulH

That twin booster landing was unreal! It looked like something out of Star Trek, not real life! Wow!

D. J. Hawkins

For years I sneered at the naivete of 1950’s sci fi movie makers with their rockets landing back on the ground, inspired by 1930’s Golden Age fiction. Now, all I can say is…you guys called it.

Paul Penrose

You aren’t the only one D.J., I was a doubter too, but SpaceX has made me a believer. I’m excited about space travel again!

Randy in Ridgecrest

I grew up watching Apollo launches, and later Shuttle launches. I must say this Falcon Heavy launch was impressive, and I’m really glad it was successful

Bruce Cobb

Wow. That was amazing to watch. I actually teared up at times.

The dual landing of the boosters was absolutely spectacular.
Watching while sitting down leaves one thinking this can’t actually be true. Everyone should have had an emotional reaction.
If they could have just landed the main booster successfully near-by, it would have left a viewer speechless. It already got there in my opinion.
Not a fan of the Tesla cars, but SpaceX is the real deal.

J Mac

Looks like a ‘bases loaded home run’ for Space-X and the USA!
Hot Damn! We’re Baa-aaack!

J Mac

The marketing shots of ‘Starman’ in the top-off Tesla, with beautiful blue earth in the back ground is true marketing genius! Didn’t see that one coming….

Mike of the North

That was cool! Good job SpaceX!

Keith

The simultaneous landing of those two boosters was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen (as someone born post-Apollo)

icisil

Does anyone have a video shot by a third party of those two boosters landing? There has to be since they supposedly landed from they took off. The video I watched looked totally fake.

Richard Keen

The synchronized landing of the first two boosters – Space Ballet at its finest!

beng135

Yeah, that was something else — reminded me of some sci-fi movie-scene from long ago, can’t remember which.

icisil

Looked like video game graphics to me

Paul Penrose

Talk to somebody that was there, man. You can’t fake something so public.

icisil

If people watched the two boosters land, there will be video of it. I would like to see it. THe video I saw was CGI

Paul Penrose

I easily found some independent videos of the twin booster landings on youtube. Here’s one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMCC0iigRWI
And here’s another from a different perspective:

I’ll leave it up to you to find more. I’m sure in the coming days there will be a lot more posted online; enough even to satisfy most skeptics. Only the tin-foil hat brigade will still claim they are all CGI.

icisil

An object can’t fall from the sky at that speed and not suffer damage. Also the dust clouds kicked up by those objects don’t match the dust clouds in the CGI video that the Musk team put out.

icisil

In the second video the two objects do not touchdown at the same time. They are also descending slower than the other videos. That video actually looks more realistic.

Sara

Man, that took me back to Mr. Stern’s classroom, all of us sitting in our seats, waiting for the ‘GO’ on Freedom 7. We were on our way. Then we go to the Moon and back more than once, and then – well, space is an extremely high risk job.
Now we’re back!
Thank you, Elon Musk!

Sara

P.S. The car shots were cool stuff, too. I hope the battery lasts long enough to get some really good stuff from that car.

Got up at 3am in the morning here in Australia only to find it delayed. The wait was so worth it though. Truly one of the most amazing and inspiring things I’ve seen in spaceflight in a long long time. The 2 boosters synchonized landing was so very cool.