Earlier this year, SpaceX announced intentions to launch the Falcon Heavy, slated to be the most powerful operational rocket on the planet, before the close of 2017. Even at the time, they admitted the goal was a lofty one: the rocket itself has proven incredibly difficult to produce, due in large part to the massive amount of power it needs to harness, and modifications that needed to be completed to the launch facility that weren’t expected to be done until mid-December. As a result, few were particularly surprised by the announcement that the launch would be postponed until early 2018… but meeting expectations has never been grandiose enough for the company helmed by Tesla founder Elon Musk.
In a tweet posted by Musk himself late last week, he announced the inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy. This is expected to come a few weeks after the last static-engine test of the platform in December and will be carrying some particularly valuable cargo: Musk’s personal prototype, midnight red Tesla roadster.
That’s not all. Musk won’t settle for merely launching the rocket into low earth orbit. No, according to the visionary space pioneer, the final destination for his latest rocket, as well as his electric hot rod, will be none other than Mars orbit.
Of course, that’s assuming it doesn’t blow up first—which even Musk isn’t willing to rule out. According to his tweet, the rocket/roadster combo “will be in deep space for a billion years or so,” before tempering that claim with, “if it doesn’t blow up on ascent.”
This isn’t the first time Musk has warned that the Falcon Heavy may not be an immediate success. The platform, which is effectively three rocket cores with nine rockets in each, for a total of 27, has to manage the incredible amounts of thrust produced by the symphony of engines. All told, the 229 foot tall rocket platform will produce 5.1 million pounds of thrust at sea level, making it the most powerful rocket in use anywhere on the planet—at least until NASA’s perpetually delayed SLS platform finally emerges to reclaim the title in the name of the U.S. government. Musk has been cautious about expectations of the rocket’s first launch for months, saying previously that he’d consider it a success if “it makes it far enough beyond the pad so that it does not cause pad damage” when it explodes.
The decision to add his one of a kind Tesla Roadster to the rocket’s payload, however, may indicate a growing level of confidence in the platform as the launch date approaches—but then again, even if the launch is a success, Musk will likely never see his car again.
Unless, of course, SpaceX really does manage to start ferrying people to and from the red planet as soon as he claims.
Musk has never been one to shy away from failure on his way to success. Earlier this year, he released this video of some of SpaceX’s most dramatic failures:
Image courtesy of SpaceX