The day space geeks and even casual science enthusiasts have been waiting for is almost here: SpaceX will finally launch its Falcon Heavy rocket into orbit on Tuesday.
But Phil Plait, author at “The Bad Astronomer”, told Cheddar that all the stars have to be aligned for Elon Musk’s company to give the go-ahead.
“There’s a lot going on, and a lot can go wrong,” he said. “The two side boosters are going to detach, they’ll land back on land at Cape Canaveral. The other booster will then push the payload up into orbit, and it will land on a floating drone ship in the Atlantic. Then the upper stage will boost the car and its passenger out into interplanetary space.”
“Elon Musk has been downplaying the odds of this thing working. And he said this will be spectacular, one way or another”
SpaceX’s CEO introduced the concept for the Falcon Heavy back in 2011, calling it the most powerful rocket in the world by a factor of two. But multiple delays pushed back the original 2013 launch target by five years. Now the rocket, comprised of three Falcon 9 vessels strapped together, may be ready for prime time.
The Falcon Heavy will carry Musk’s original red Tesla Roadster and “Starman,” a pressure suit sitting in as a driver, for its first mission.
Ultimately SpaceX hopes the Heavy will drastically cut the cost of space travel, making it possible to eventually send people to Mars, though Plait acknowledges that is far in the future.
The rocket costs about $95 million per flight, compared to $350 million for other missions.