Yesterday, SpaceX released an animated video of its new Falcon Heavy rocket that, if all goes according to plan, will eventually be able to launch a manned spacecraft into space and then touch back down on a landing pad.
The idea is to create reusable rockets that can safely return to Earth and land intact. But SpaceX is still in the testing phase of the new landing manoeuvre. On Jan. 10, SpaceX semi-successfully landed a Falcon 9 rocket on a platform in the ocean after the rocket launched the Dragon spacecraft full of cargo to the International Space Station.
The rocket did touch down on the platform, but the rough landing rendered the rocket unusable for future flights. “Close, but no cigar,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted after the test flight.
The new Falcon Heavy rocket is made of three of these Rocket 9 boosters, and it’s capable of lifting a payload of 53 metric tons — or about the equivalent of a 737 jetliner including passengers, crew, luggage and fuel. The rocket was designed from the get-go to ferry humans into space, and Musk hopes it will one day be used for manned missions to the moon or Mars. (The plan is for the manned spacecrafts, like the Dragon, to return to Earth using their own thrusters.)
The rocket has yet to undergo its first test launch, but SpaceX released an animated video of what the launch and landing could look like.
After the Falcon Heavy rocket launches, the boosters jettison from the main spacecraft:
The rockets then reorient themselves and fly back towards Earth:
The idea is for all three rockets to touch down safely so they can be reused in future spacecraft launches:
The Heavy Rocket will take off from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida sometime this year. SpaceX is negotiating with NASA for another launch complex to use as the landing pad for the three rocket boosters.
The next test run of a single rocket is scheduled for Feb. 8, when SpaceX uses a Falcon 9 rocket to launch a space weather satellite into orbit.
You can watch the full video here: