The 46-year-old Canadian American entrepreneur Elon Musk launched a new rocket into space in a bizarre way, possibly changing the space market forever. Musk founded the private aerospace company SpaceX back in 2002, and launched his first rocket this February 7 from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, with half a million spectators and lots of media attention.
Musk’s new rocket, named the Falcon Heavy, has been designed to deliver the maximum payload currently available in the space market, namely 64 tonnes (approximately five double-decker buses!), and consists of three Falcon 9 vehicles, also from SpaceX, strapped together. However, what was really called the media’s attention was the payload Musk chose for his rocket’s debut; his old $100,000 red Tesla Roadster was driven by a mannequin called ‘Starman’. If this does not sound strange enough, Musk added further details to his cargo. On the electric car’s dashboard ‘Starman’ reads ‘Dont Panic!’, and the statement ‘made on earth by humans’ is imprinted on the circuit board in case any aliens are confused by the car. ‘Life on Mars’ by David Bowie is played on the vehicle’s radio in a loop, probably infinitely, as the car is in this moment orbiting towards Mars and will be probably for some millions of years if it does not crash into the planet.
‘This makes the chance to explore outer planets such as Jupiter or Saturn and their respective moons more viable.’
But do not let these details fool you about the efficiency of the Falcon Heavy and the possibilities that it ensures. It has a capacity of charging such large amounts of weight that it can carry much bigger satellites, including large batches of satellites, bigger and more capable robots to explore Mars’ and other planets surfaces. This makes the chance to explore outer planets such as Jupiter or Saturn and their respective moons more viable. It can also transport bigger telescopes to further explore the space and its dimension. Besides that, the Falcon Heavy is more economical than all other rockets available as it saves energy via controlled burns. For instance, the launch of the Falcon Heavy cost about $90 million in comparison to the similar rocket from the NASA, SLS, which cost $1 billion per flight.
This makes the Falcon Heavy the most capable launch vehicle available on Earth. Musk himself, who claimed the operation had a 50/50 chance of succeeding, was happy with the positive result of the test and believes he changed the rocket business. ‘It will be like trying to sell an aircraft where one aircraft company has a reusable aircraft and all other companies had aircraft that were single use, where you would parachute out at your destination and the plane would crash-land randomly somewhere. Crazy as that sounds – that’s how the rocket business works.’
In addition to SpaceX, Musk co-founded the car brand Tesla, which announced the biggest quarterly loss ever the day after SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy – perhaps this launching was a great marketing opportunity. According to Musk, ‘If we can send a Roadster to the asteroid belt, we can probably solve Model 3 production’. Model 3 is one of the failures in the production of the car company. He furthermore stated that production was back on the tracks and agreed to work unpaid 10 years for Tesla, which possibly means nothing after all the possibilities his new launch vehicle has to offer in order to develop further knowledge of outer space.