Propelled by 27 rocket engines, the Falcon Heavy packs more than 5 million pounds of thrust at launch, roughly three times the force of the Falcon 9 booster that until now has been the workhorse of the SpaceX fleet.
The world’s most powerful rocket, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, blasted off Tuesday on its highly anticipated maiden test flight, carrying CEO Elon Musk’s cherry red Tesla Roadster toward an orbit near Mars. The new heavy-lift rocket is essentially constructed from three Falcon 9s harnessed together side-by-side, and Musk has said that one of the most critical points of the flight will come as the two side boosters separate from the central rocket in the first few minutes after blastoff.
Screams and cheers erupted at mission control in Cape Canaveral, Florida as the massive rocket fired its 27 engines and rumbled into the blue sky over the same NASA launchpad that served as a base for the US missions to the Moon four decades ago. Loaded with Musk’s red Tesla and a mannequin in a spacesuit, the monster rocket’s historic test voyage captured the world’s imagination.
SpaceX’s webcast showed the Tesla Roadster soaring into space, as David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” played in the background — with the words “DON’T PANIC” visible on the dashboard, in an apparent nod to the sci-fi series the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
Musk posted a live video showing the “Starman” mannequin appearing to cruise, its gloved hand on the wheel, through the darkness of space, with the Earth’s image reflected on the car’s glossy red surface.