SPACEX is undergoing final preparations for a landmark launch of the world’s most powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy.
If all goes to plan, today’s flight will be the first time the enormous spacecraft hauls the gear of paying customers into space following last year’s memorable maiden launch – a test that saw billionaire SpaceX boss Elon Musk send his own car beyond orbit.
We’ve got all the details on the historic mission below as Musk and co attempt to solidify their status as the reigning champions of private space travel.
What is SpaceX and who is Elon Musk?
SpaceX is a private space company that aims to make carrying stuff into space cheaper.
Based in Hawthorne, California, it was set up in 2002 by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is better known as the boss of electric car maker Tesla.
The company’s goal is to build reusable rockets that fly payloads to space at a fraction of the cost of traditional carriers before safely returning to Earth.
Before SpaceX muscled in on the space game, telecomms companies, militaries and satellite firms relied on Nasa or Russia’s space agency Roscosmos to send stuff beyond orbit.
Last year, Musk’s firm operated 19 commercial flights of its Falcon 9 rocket, outpacing every country except China (33).
Each spot on one of these trips costs an eye-watering £47million per launch. For comparison, Nasa pays about £62million per seat each time it sends an astronaut to space aboard a Roscosmos rocket.
Eccentric boss Musk made his billions as one of PayPal’s co-founders.
He’s weathered a torrid 12 months of scandals in which he called a hero British diver a “pedo” on Twitter and smoked weed live on YouTube while in California, where the drug is legal.
What is the Falcon Heavy?
The Falcon Heavy is the world’s most powerful rocket, with twice the might of any operational spacecraft, according to SpaceX.
Using 28 rocket engines squeezed into three reusable boosters, it lifts off with the power of eighteen 747 aircraft at full throttle.
Two side boosters separate simultaneously shortly after launch and land back on Earth, while a third, centre core breaks off a little later and lands on an automated ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Falcon Heavy can carry 63,000 kilos of payload to low-Earth orbit – more than the mass of a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel.
SpaceX can load the craft with double the payload that its Falcon 9 rocket can carry.
This means the Falcon Heavy offers SpaceX a tantalising opportunity to carry much more stuff into space (and hence make bucketfuls more cash).
Its first and thus far only ever launch fired into space as part of a highly publicised test on February 6, 2018.
What time is the launch today and how can I watch it?
The Falcon Heavy is due for its first ever commercial launch at around 10:35pm GMT this evening.
The flight was initially scheduled for Tuesday evening, but got pushed back by poor weather conditions to Wednesday, and then again to Thursday.
Flying from a launchpad at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, the Falcon Heavy will carry a massive satellite into low-Earth orbit.
Saudi Arabian company Arabsat is responsible for the comms satellite, which will beam phone signals and more to bits of Africa and the Middle East.
While last February’s test run was the rocket’s first ever flight, the fact that today’s launch involves a commercial payload makes it the Falcon Heavy’s first “real” mission.
Hold your horses before you get too excited though, as there’s a chance poor weather could push the launch back further.
Why did Elon Musk send his car into space?
During last year’s maiden Falcon Heavy launch, SpaceX boss Elon Musk bizarrely sent his car into space.
Images snapped from the bright red Tesla as it floated over Earth wowed the world.
Apart from being a neat stunt, there was actually a method to the madness.
Most test rockets are loaded with concrete or water to simulate the weight of a real payload.
Musk and SpaceX decided to cram the Falcon Heavy with a car instead to make the launch a little more exciting.
It drew criticism from some space experts.
Following the launch, former Nasa boss Lori Garver said: “I’m sure they would call the car idea brilliant & provocative. My word was gimmick.”
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What do you think will happen during the Falcon Heavy launch? Let us know in the comments!
Source link : https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/8825396/spacex-falcon-heavy-launch-rocket-today/
Publish date : 2019-04-14 23:00:57