We have liftoff!
At 3:45 PM EST, SpaceX had a successful launch of their Falcon Heavy rocket. On this clear, sunny day, Kennedy Space Center is bustling with 100,000 people to watch the world’s largest rocket. There has not been this much activity in the area since the last Space Shuttle mission in 2011.
In a press conference on February 5th, Elon Musk talked about his excitement for this launch and how he is “quite giddy and happy”. Musk explains to the listeners how the night before a launch he is usually feeling “super stressed out”, but with the launch of the Heavy he is content in knowing that they did everything they possibly could have to prepare for today. He tells us “I’m sure we’ve done everything we could do to maximize the chance of the success of this mission. I think once you’ve done everything that you can think of, if it still goes wrong, there’s nothing you could have done. So I feel at peace with that”.
The launch window opened at 1:30 PM EST, but the time kept getting pushed back further and further due to upper level winds, deeming it unsafe to fly. With the window closing at 4:30 PM EST, reporters and spectators held our breath and prepared to hear the news that we would be trying again tomorrow. But finally, the clock started going down again after holding for an hour.
When the rocket finally left Historic Launch Complex 39-A, the ground shook and the crowds all over cheered. The noise was so loud that you felt it in your chest. The two boosters landed successfully at Landing Zones 1 and 2, but feed to the core was cut off before we learned the outcome of it.
Later in the post launch press conference, Musk enlightened us that he was told the core never relit for the landing burn. This made it crashing into the water about 100 yards away from the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” at about 300 mph. However, he stated that “if I had to pick any [to recover], I’d rather the boosters because of the titanium grid fins”.
Starman and the Tesla are currently being live streamed until the camera batteries run out. If you look, you can get a good look at the SpaceX flight suit, which took the team 3 years to design. Musk wanted to make sure that they were functional, of course, but that they also look good. On the dashboard of the Tesla, there is a smaller version of Starman, and on the circuit board it says “made on Earth by humans”. Musk said he fantasized about an alien race, and they will wonder why we sent the car, and why there was a smaller car inside of it.
So what does the future look like for the Falcon Heavy? Musk has full confidence that they will be able to meet whatever the demand is for the Falcon Heavy for future missions, believing that they will even be able to launch another Heavy within three to six months with a satellite. By the end of this year, SpaceX hopes to launch astronauts to orbit with the new Dragon Version 2, which is currently still being developed.
Cassie Johnson is a Space Reporter and Photojournalist for Star Letters. She studied Studio Art and Design at Northern Illinois University, with a degree emphasis in Photography. When she is not chasing rockets or staring at the stars, Cassie can be found perfecting her photography or with her dogs, Frankie and Chewie. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.