Falcon Heavy just successfully launched into space for the first time -- but the most difficult part of the mission is still ahead

  • As if successfully launching a new rocket into space wasn’t hard enough, the biggest challenge of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy mission happens in the six hours after launch.
  • While the three boosters will ideally return to Earth, the part of Falcon Heavy carrying the payload – a Tesla Roadster – will travel through intense radiation fields.
  • The plan is to win over customers by showing that the rocket can withstand the pressure.

As if launching an enormous rocket into space weren’t enough.

SpaceX successfully launched Falcon Heavy, the company’s biggest and most powerful rocket, for the first time on Tuesday. Business Insider is reporting live from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

If everything goes according to plan, all three boosters will land back on Earth, while the part of the rocket carrying the payload will travel on toward Mars orbit. So far, two of the boosters made it back intact.

The rocket carried SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s 2008 Tesla Roadster, complete with a dummy driver named Starman wearing a SpaceX spacesuit.

After detaching from the boosters, the car – in the uppermost stage of the rocket – will coast for roughly six hours through radiation fields near Earth’s Van Allen belt. The intense radiation makes for a less pleasant ride.

“It’s going to get whacked pretty hard,” Musk told reporters on Monday.

By subjecting the stage to this treatment, SpaceX hopes to demonstrate that its rocket can survive even in extremely dangerous, harsh conditions.

The move is designed to win over people eager to launch their payloads into space using the Falcon Heavy system. Such a launch is expected to cost about $US90 million, a discount compared with other space endeavours.

Should the upper stage make it through the radiation, SpaceX expects to get a live feed from cameras installed in the car.

“There are three cameras on the Roadster,” Musk said. “They should really provide some epic views if they work and everything goes well.”

From there, it will take about six months for the Roadster to get to Mars orbit, Musk said in a tweet Tuesday.

Good luck, Starman!


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