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February 15, 2018

What the Falcon Heavy Launch Means for Aerospace and Space Exploration

SpaceX and its founder/Lead Designer/CEO Elon Musk just launched the world’s most powerful rocket, The Falcon Heavy, into orbit.

It’s the largest rocket launched since the Apollo missions.

When it lifted off the ground from Cape Canaveral, Florida on February 6th, the Falcon Heavy produced 5 million pounds of thrust. That’s the equivalent of eighteen 747 aircraft. It can carry a payload of 89 tonnes into space, more than twice as much as it’s closest competitor, the Delta IV heavy rocket.

Skip to 22:00 to see the actual launch…

The Falcon Heavy isn’t just a triumph because of how powerful it is. It’s the crowning achievement for SpaceX, a company that is changing the perception of who can go to space, how much it should cost, and even how rockets should be designed (SpaceX pioneered the technology of reusable rockets).

NASA is also in the process of developing a rocket of its own, one capable of producing 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff that will dwarf the Falcon Heavy in power. The Space Launch System, as it is called, is slated to conduct an unmanned flight in 2020 and to return humans to the moon by 2023.

This first launch included a somewhat odd payload

Though it’s intended to one day take people back to the Moon and to lead the colonization of Mars, the Falcon Heavy will just launch satellites and perform space probes in the meantime.

On this first mission, the payload included Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster vehicle, complete with a dummy named “Spaceman” in the driver’s seat. In its glove compartment was a quartz silica disc designed by the Arch Mission Foundation that is reportedly the longest-lasting storage object ever created by humans, one capable of storing up to 360 terabytes of data for around 14 billion years as it orbits the sun.

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