Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, is dedicated to advancing space exploration and development. Another step in their program was completed on February 6, 2018, when they successfully launched ‘Falcon Heavy,’ the world’s most powerful rocket. The spaceship blasted off from The Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, with a course set to take it in an elliptical orbit around the sun, before heading to Mars. In addition to being the world’s most powerful rocket, Falcon Heavy is also the largest to be launched, since NASA’s Saturn V in 1973. To demonstrate its ability to carry heavy cargo outside the Earth’s atmosphere, the rocket is transporting a limited edition Tesla Roadster (Elon Musk’s personal car) throughout its journey.
The Falcon Heavy was constructed from the cores of three Falcon 9s, SpaceX’s previous rocket model. The designers had planned for the three cores to return to Earth, after the launch, but the middle one missed its target. The two side cores landed, as planned, on twin pads at the Cape Canaveral Coast. These will be reused in the making of future rockets. Although initially designed to transport passengers, Space X has ruled this out for the future, because of how well development on their BFR (Big F*cking Rocket) has progressed. The company now intends to use the rocket to transport large national security payloads, such as satellites, that will be too heavy for small spaceships to carry. The Falcon Heavy can be launched with weight that would be equivalent to a 747 jet, full of passengers, their luggage and enough fuel for a long journey. This is more than twice the capacity of the world’s second largest rocket.
The launch has been highly publicized, to attract possible investors in the company’s future endeavors. Although NASA is developing a system to send missions to Mars, via their Space Launch System (SLS) program, they are facing severe budget restrictions and have concentrated the majority of their efforts on returning to the moon. Elon Musk has demonstrated that passenger trips outside of our planet will most likely be organized by private companies, with SpaceX being at the forefront. NASA’s SLS is anticipated to be more powerful than Falcon Heavy, and should be ready for launch by 2022. The amount that each journey would cost on SLS would be between $500 million and $1 billion, compared to $90 million aboard the Falcon Heavy. SpaceX has also estimated that this cost will decrease for further launches, emphasizing that the future of space exploration really belongs to private companies.