SpaceX successfully launches world's most powerful operational rocket
SpaceX has successfully and seamlessly launched the most powerful operational rocket in the world called Falcon Heavy. The massive new rocket took flight from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and is now on its journey towards deep space. "I'm still trying to absorb everything that happened because it's still kind of surreal to me," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said.
The rocket's smooth takeoff comes as a pleasant surprise to all because in the run-up to the launch it was clear that the mission has a high probability of failure. In fact, Musk said before the launch, "People [came] from all around the world to see what will either be a great rocket launch or the best fireworks display they've ever seen."
What's even more stunning than the launch is that SpaceX, in a never-before-seen feat, managed to get two of Falcon Heavy's first-stage rocket boosters to cut back through Earth's atmosphere and land perfectly in an upright position at the Kennedy Space Center, mere three minutes after the launch. "That was probably the most exciting thing I've ever seen -- literally ever," Musk said.
However, the third rocket booster of the Falcon Heavy, which was to land back in the ocean, could not land successfully. It could not properly kick-start the procedure required to land back, missed the drone ship and hit the water at 300 miles per hour.
On board as payload is Musk's personal Tesla Roadster car with a dummy at the driver's seat. The rocket will now go through regions of intense radiation and will be pelted by high-energy particles, so it is still possible the mission fails. If the rocket survives, it will do another engine burn, finally putting the car on a deep space path towards Mars' orbit.
Interestingly, the live stream of the this launch was viewed by about 3 million people, making it YouTube's second biggest live stream ever. YouTube's first biggest live stream was of the Red Bull Stratos jump, which was concurrently seen by 8 million people in 2012.
The Falcon Heavy combines the powers of SpaceX's three Falcon 9 rockets into one and features a total of 27 Merlin engines. According to SpaceX, "These engines together generate more than five million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft." The rocket is 230 feet in height and can carry about 141,000 pounds of payload.
With this, SpaceX becomes the first private company to build a powerful rocket, marks a turning point in space exploration, and yet again proves the worth of reusable rockets. The first-stage rocket boosters in the launch have been used for over 40 missions since 2012. They also allowed SpaceX to carry out the mission in $90 million, one-third of what such missions usually cost.