Science & Technology

Time for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket to fly: Watch live video of the final countdown

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The maiden launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket is arguably the largest factor to hit NASA’s Kennedy Area Middle since the retirement of the area shuttle fleet in 2011.

Liftoff was set for 3:45 p.m. ET (12:45 p.m. PT) at this time, amid issues about upper-level winds.

Tons of of journalists have signed up to cowl the launch from NASA’s historic Launch Complex 39A, the place Apollo moon rockets and area shuttles have blasted off in the previous. (NASA leased the launch pad to SpaceX in 2014.) 1000’s of spectators swarmed to viewing areas surrounding the launch site. The backup to get into Kennedy Area Middle’s customer middle stretched for greater than 5 miles this morning.

Greater than 2 million viewers are watching the launch webcast.

“I’d say, tune in. It’s going to be price your time,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk stated throughout a teleconference on the eve of the launch.

Launch auto-sequence initiated (aka the holy mouse-click) for 3:45 liftoff #FalconHeavy

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 6, 2018

So what’s occurring? We’ve boiled down the fundamentals as solutions to 9 questions:

What’s a Falcon Heavy? It’s designed to be the strongest rocket in operation since the Apollo period’s Saturn V rocket, in phrases of its functionality to loft payloads. The 230-foot-tall rocket combines a modified Falcon 9 rocket core in the middle with a recycled Falcon 9 cores to the left and to the proper. Which means SpaceX goals to have 27 of its Merlin rocket engines firing without delay.

Because of this, the Falcon Heavy can launch 141,000 kilos — the equal of a Boeing 737 jet totally loaded with gas, passengers and their baggage — to low Earth orbit. In phrases of liftoff thrust, its 5-million-pound punch is the largest since the shuttle’s 7-million-pound thrust functionality.

What’s the large deal? If the Falcon Heavy works as marketed, it might present a low-cost means to ship costly, hefty satellites straight to a very fascinating altitude referred to as geostationary orbit, 22,000 miles up, the place the satellites can stay completely stationed over a given spot on Earth. Success would prolong SpaceX’s market attain into a brand new area frontier.

What’s the payload? There’s lots that would go mistaken with this primary flight, so Musk has organized to ship an expendable (and foolish) cargo into deep area. It’s Musk’s pre-owned crimson Tesla Roadster, full with a spacesuit-wearing model in the entrance seat. Musk already has referred to as consideration to an “Easter egg” sitting on the dashboard: a tiny toy mannequin of the Roadster, with an excellent tinier toy astronaut sitting inside. Extra Easter eggs, maybe together with a micro-sized copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, might be revealed throughout at this time’s webcast.

The place’s it going? As far out as the orbit of Mars, roughly 250 million miles (400 million kilometers) from Earth at the farthest, and touring at a relative velocity of almost 25,000 mph (11 km/sec), in accordance to Musk.

“It’s going to be in a precessing elliptical orbit, with one level of the ellipse being at Earth orbit, the different level being at Mars orbit,” he advised GeekWire. “So basically it’ll be an Earth-Mars cycler, and we estimage it’ll be in that orbit for a number of hundred million years, possibly in extra of a billion years. At occasions, it can come extraordinarily shut to Mars, and there’s a tiny, tiny probability that it’s going to hit Mars.”

I requested Musk if he might quantify that probability extra exactly. “Extraordinarily tiny,” he replied. “I wouldn’t maintain your breath.”

What occurs to the rockets? After the higher stage separates and heads additional out into area, the three first-stage cores are programmed to execute an autonomously managed pirouette to return to Earth. The 2 aspect cores ought to come down with a one-two punch of sonic booms at SpaceX’s twin touchdown pads on the Florida coast. The central core ought to contact down on “Of Course I Nonetheless Love You,” a fancifully named drone ship stationed a whole lot of miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. It needs to be a powerful sight.

When can we tune in? As a result of that is strictly an illustration mission for SpaceX, don’t anticipate NASA TV to carry the webcast. As a substitute, go to SpaceX.com/webcast. Proper now, liftoff is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. ET (12:45 p.m. PT), later than initially deliberate, to give upper-level winds time to diminish to acceptable ranges. If the launch has to be delayed, there’s a backup window from 1:30 to 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday. For extra background, check out SpaceX’s press kit for the launch.

What’ll we see? As well as to the countdown and liftoff, SpaceX historically wires its first-stage booster up with a rocket-cam to present an in-flight view of the ascent. This time round, there might be as many as 4 separate rocket-cam views on the display screen, from the three first-stage boosters in addition to the higher stage. There might be an additional video deal with: Three cameras have been mounted on the Roadster, with the intent of beaming again deep-space views of the model sitting in the automotive. “They need to actually present some epic views in the event that they work and all the things goes nicely,” Musk stated.

What’s the soundtrack? Musk stated he desires to have David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” enjoying for liftoff, and that’s not the solely Falcon Heavy tribute to the late rocker. The Roadster’s dummy driver has been nicknamed “Starman,” evoking another Bowie song. And Bowie’s “Life on Mars” gives the soundtrack for an animation highlighting the Falcon Heavy’s mission.

What’s subsequent? SpaceX’s launch manifest lists 4 extra missions for the Falcon Heavy, together with the U.S. Air Power’s STP-2 test program in addition to satellites for Arabsat, ViaSat and Inmarsat. The STP-2 mission is of explicit curiosity as a result of one of its deliberate payloads is the Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 spacecraft, which is designed to check solar-sailing expertise.

In the future, the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy could also be surpassed by the BFR, the “Huge Falcon Rocket” that SpaceX is creating for passenger flights to Mars. However that, as they are saying, is another story.

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