SpaceX CEO Elon Musk launched his new rocket, the Falcon Heavy, on Tuesday. While he hoped the launch towards Mars’ orbit would be successful, Musk admitted there was a 50 percent chance it would explode.
“I had this image of just a giant explosion on the pad, a wheel bouncing down the road. But fortunately, that’s not what happened,” he told media following the event.
The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful launch vehicle since the shuttle system and is the most capable one currently in use, reports BBC.com. It has the ability to “deliver a maximum payload to low-Earth orbit of 64 tonnes – the equivalent of putting five London double-decker buses in space.”
That power is more than double that of the world’s second most powerful rocket, the Delta IV Heavy. But according to Musk, it costs one-third the price to build because SpaceX recovers and reuses boosters.
Instead of sending buses into space, Musk launched his red Tesla sports car with a mannequin in the driver’s seat and David Bowie music playing in the background. The vehicle will orbit around the sun in a path that extends towards Mars.
The Falcon Heavy consists of three Falcon 9 vehicles bound together. The lower segments of the rocket returned to Earth—two near Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They hit the ground almost simultaneously.
“That was epic,” said Musk. “That’s probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen, literally.”
The third booster was expected to land on a drone ship in the ocean; however, it did not slow its descent, missed its target, and was destroyed after it hit the water at around 500km/h.
Musk’s and SpaceX’s powerful rocket launch opens the door for some exciting innovations. U.S. intelligence and military could start using much larger satellites, and broadband signals could be more easily delivered around the world. The launch vehicle could also take bigger robots to Mars and other planets and moons. In addition, it could take bigger telescopes into space.
Musk calls the Falcon Heavy a game changer due to its performance capabilities and lower cost when compared to other launchers.
He said earlier this week: “It’ll be like trying to sell an aircraft where one aircraft company has a reusable aircraft and all the 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.”