Elon Musk, becoming more like a comic book villain every day, launched the largest SpaceX rocket to date on Tuesday, February 6. The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket on earth at this time, and nothing more powerful has been sent into space since the Saturn V, used in the Apollo missions back in 1973.
That is ultimately unimportant, because it seems the main goal was to launch Musk’s Tesla Roadster into orbit. Sure, the test demonstrated that SpaceX could successfully launch, burn, land, and mostly recover their rocket. And sure, proving that their rocket can be reused is vital to SpaceX’s ultimate goal of colonizing Mars. However, the big news here is that Musk used his own personal car to simulate the cargo the Falcon Heavy will eventually carry so he could have the damn thing orbit around our sun for the next billion years.
Yes, this successful test launch will pave the way for SpaceX to begin work on public contracts and Department of Defense projects, but more important are the travels of Starman and the Tesla Roadster. The crash test dummy and Musk’s personal vehicle will engage in a heliocentric Earth-Mars elliptical orbit that can, according to SpaceX, last for a billion years. Finally, mankind will know whether or not a cool car can survive the vacuum of space for an unfathomable period of time.
The Roadster Delivery System was originally intended to carry human passengers, but according to Musk, that has been scrapped. Instead, a much larger vessel called the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) will be used for that. The Falcon Heavy will instead be used for, among other things, transporting large spy satellites into orbit, Musk told The Wall Street Journal. The BFR remains in development for now, and the acronym remains hilarious.
The big takeaway from this test, other than the very obvious fact that Elon Musk used this test launch to make his car an immortal interplanetary satellite, is that some more work needs to be done to make the Falcon Heavy fully recoverable. While the two boosters landed without a hitch, the core booster had more trouble. Engine trouble led to the core being unable to successfully land, according to The Verge: “The center core was only able to relight one of the three engines necessary to land, and so it hit the water at 300 miles per hour. Two engines on the drone ship were taken out when it crashed, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a press call after the rocket launch.”
The exact whereabouts of the core and its guidance ship are unknown, other than that it is in the ocean somewhere. SpaceX continues to update on the fate of the Roadster and its passenger on Elon Musk’s Twitter feed.