SpaceX, Falcon Heavy's Test Flight

SpaceX, Falcon Heavy's Test Flight

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Romain: We are very amazed and exited by the hard and great work the teams of SpaceX are putting into developing, and creating such an amazing machine, a unique rocket, that is, as of today the most powerful rocket on earth. Falcon Heavy is for sure the beginning of something bigger.

I believe that we should be an interplanetary specie, Elon Musk with his teams of developers are re-creating the excitement that NASA had once, it is engaging people to work together, and to see each other as specie and not only as an individual.

 If you are as excited as we are, show us some support as well as SpaceX and Tesla, visit my corner on and get some amazing SpaceX and Tesla T-shirt.

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Source from SpaceX

Following its first test launch, Falcon Heavy is now the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. With the ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lb)---a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel--Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third the cost. Falcon Heavy draws upon the proven heritage and reliability of Falcon 9. Its first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit. Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars.


You are looking at a live view of the Falcon Heavy, yes the Falcon heavy on historic pad 39a at Kennedy Space Center, awaiting liftoff at 3:45 p.m.

Welcome to our live launch webcast my name is Lauren Lyons I'm an engineer and our flight reliability department here at SpaceX, I'm so excited to be here with you today along with my co-host, bringing you coverage of the first ever test flight of Falcon Heavy at liftoff.

Falcon Heavy is going to be the world's most powerful operational rocket by a factor of two, and today is the day that we attempt to demonstrate that power and because it is a test flight there is no satellite customer on board the vehicle today, but the fairing is not empty, we do have some very interesting payloads going up on this flight that we'll talk about later on in the webcast, we'll also walk you through the mission profile because this ain't your typical Falcon launch, we've got 28 engines, three boosters, three separation events, three landing attempts, and there's going to be a lot of activity happening all at once, so this test flight is bound to be exciting one way. All right we've got a ton to walk you through today so let's get going.

Hi I'm Michael Hamersley a materials engineer on an avionics department, we're very excited I'm sure you can hear it, to my right we have a live view of Falcon Heavy on the pad at Kennedy Space Center, Falcon Heavy is essentially three Falcon 9 rocket Saul strapped together, which means it can carry much larger payloads not only to Earth orbit, but to the Moon and Mars as well so like Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy is a two-stage launch vehicle the big difference is that the first stage in Falcon Heavy is comprised of three cores, while Falcon 9 has only one, now, each one of these three cores has nine m1d engines making for a total of 27 engines over all, altogether those engines produce 5 million pounds of thrust, which is equal to 18 747s at takeoff in fact the engines are producing so much power that we don't run them at full thrust all at once, so during ascent Falcon Heavy will throttle its thrust up and down in both the side, and the center cores in order to balance the aerodynamic and structural loads on the vehicle so about halfway through the first stages burn the two side boosters will separate and come back to earth for simultaneous landing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, more about that a bit later.

At that point the mission proceeds very much like a standard Falcon 9 flight, the center core will keep on firing for another minute to burn all of its fuel, and it will perform a standard stage separation from the second stage, on top this second stage with the fairing right at the very top there the second stage, is exactly the same as any other Falcon 9 flight except we've loaded a bit more helium onto it this time now, that second stage we'll be sending our payload way out into a Mars crossing orbit, which will also get into a bit later, but all in all with a successful launch Falcon Heavy is going to be the largest and most powerful operational rocket in the world, we're very excited to be launching it today. Let's check in on exactly how it's doing good afternoon.

I'm John Inspector the Falcon principle integration engineer at SpaceX, we're currently at t-minus 17 minutes 40 seconds and counting down the good news that all systems are go for launch, we're working no problems with the SpaceX test flight of the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle now we're currently loading propellant on all three first-stage boosters, and we began loading a couple minutes ago on the second stage LOX tank now, this is the same method that we use on the single core Falcon 9, it just scaled to handle three first-stage boosters, now we're loading liquid oxygen and kerosene, we do that because in order to support combustion you need oxygen and then the vacuum of outer space there isn't any so we bring your own liquid oxygen chilled and densified it, you may have heard densified in the past, that allows us to patch the maqam maximum amount into the LOX tanks on the Falcon Heavy, now our fuel is refined petroleum rp1, it's essentially just a purified kerosene it's a safe propellant easily available has a lot of history, for example the Saturn 5 first stage for from the very pad you see on the monitor, from the moon missions used kerosene and the liquid oxygen.

Now the big news this afternoon has been the weather and we've eaten up most of our launch window, now we won't have the ability to hold the countdown any further now that we are into liquid oxygen loading, the good news is that the winds are looking good we're working no issues on the Falcon Heavy, however if there is an issue in the last minutes we won't be able to launch today, there is a backup date available tomorrow and I said it before launch is hard and Falcon Heavy is no exception, we're essentially counting down three Rockets simultaneously so the SpaceX team is going to be conservative in case anything pops up in the last minutes, but as the energy and the enthusiasm from the team gathering below me, outside of Mission Control Center is growing we are go at t-minus 15 minutes and 40 seconds and counting.

My name is Brian and I'm part of the software team here and I'm standing just outside Mission Control as the crowd gathers behind me, we're all anxiously awaiting this very first test flight of Falcon Heavy now, today SpaceX has over 6,000 employees and locations across the country but it wasn't always like that.

Now when SpaceX was first founded in 2002 it was just a small group of engineers who believed that they could reduce the cost of exploring space, but had never actually built a rocket themselves a Falcon one was the first rocket we developed and it was pretty small, relative to Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, while the Falcon Heavy on the right of your screen is over 230 feet tall, Falcon 1 stood only about 70 feet tall and could only carry about a half a ton to orbit, however despite its small size, Falcon 1 served a very large purpose, it was our roadmap to using modern technologies to engineer a vehicle that was not just more reliable, but was less expensive than alternatives, now we had three test flights of the Falcon one, before we found success, but on that fourth Falcon one flight it became the first privately developed liquid-fueled rocket to reach Earth orbit, now fast forward to today and SpaceX has had 49 successful rocket launches, we have recovered 21 first stages, and we have reef loan six of those we have had 14 dragon launches, and have successfully reused the spacecraft as well, now our next step on this journey is just minutes from now and we'll attempt the first test flight of our heavy lift launch vehicle.

Now there have been many challenges along this long road and it has not been easy, but no matter what happens today it has all been worth it, now one of the many challenges were hoping to overcome with this test flight is the recovery of all three cores of the Falcon Heavy first stage, although we have demonstrated success with the recovery of a single core 3 is on a whole other level, so let's check in with Michael to get an overview of what that story may look like.

At SpaceX, our primary goal is to enable people to live on other planets, most notably Mars but it's hard to do this without dramatically lowering the cost of access to space, and the best way to accomplish that is to reuse as much of the rocket as possible, so we've been successful at landing and reusing Falcon 9 rocket for over two years now, and Falcon Heavy aims to continue this trend of reusability so today we'll be attempting to recover all three of the first stage cores by using both of our landing methods, by land and by sea, so the side boosters have actually been used before on missions Tyco mate and CRS 9, and at the time of booster separation during ascent the side cores will still be going slowly enough to turn around, so it makes sense to return them to Cape, they'll be executing a three burn maneuver to get them back to landing zones one and two and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, you may have heard of landing zone one, landing zone two is an identical landing pad right next to it for half Falcon heavy landings, the central core will be going too fast to efficiently return it to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, so we are going to use the autonomous spaceport drone ship, to catch it about 300 miles off the Florida coast, it will also be executing three burns to get there, so if all goes well after launch we'll have three first stage cores back on earth, two for the second time and a wealth of data for perfecting airplane like operation in the future, so countdown is still proceeding nominally so let's check in again on how Falcon Heavy is doing.

We just passed T- 12 minutes in the countdown of the test flight of Falcon heavy, fuel is completely loaded on the second stage, the first stage is also loaded with fuel except for a small top off, that'll happen between t-minus seven minutes and t-minus six minutes, our major activity now is loading liquid oxygen on the boosters, and the second stage liquid oxygen propellant, loading on the first stages will end between t-minus four minutes and t-minus three minutes, liquid oxygen loading on the second stage is the last one to finish, ending by t-minus two minutes, now in addition to loading propellant, the team is preparing to perform their final checks of the merlin engines will begin chilling of the merlin engine turbo pumps with liquid oxygen is typical at t-minus seven minutes, like we do on Falcon nine flights, we'll be verifying valves and using the transmitter control actuators, to move the engines to verify the actuators are working correctly as we get to t-minus four minutes, the clamp on the top of the strum back will open you can see it, just behind the Falcon Heavy that entire structure will move about a degree and a half away from the rocket at liftoff, it will move the rest of the way to for Falcon Heavy just like Falcon nine flights, at the t-minus one minute mark the flight computers will go into start-up mode, they'll be controlling the countdown on the Falcon Heavy, what's different in this flight engine ignition will begin at t-minus five seconds on the two side boosters, followed two seconds later by the center.

For now we're continuing to watch the weather making sure that the ground liftoff winds don't exceed the maximum, of that they're looking good right now, we continue monitoring the upper altitude winds as reported by the balloons, but right now at t-minus 10 minutes in 10 seconds and counting the Falcon Heavy test flight is go, because the first flight of Falcon Heavy is a test mission, we do not have a customer spacecraft before today, instead we put something a little special SpaceX inside the fairing, now more often than not on the first flight of a new rocket engineers would choose to fly a mass simulator, which is basically a heavy object of some sort to simulate the dynamics of flying a payload but with little consequence that the mission doesn't work out exactly as planned, and as many of you already know we have opted to have a little fun with our math simulator stacked inside the fairing is Yvonne's cherry red Tesla Roadster, and inside of it a passenger, his name is Starman, but don't worry he's not human, but he is donning the SpaceX designed spacesuit that our human astronauts will be wearing on a crew dragon, and if all goes well today, we hope to get some live views of it as it makes its way into space, now in addition to the roadster you might also plant a glimpse of a smaller passenger, which is a tiny little Hot Wheel roadster carrying a tiny little star man it's a little Easter Egg for today's mission, so keep your eyes peeled for that, but those are not the only payloads were flying today, secured inside the roadster is another really special passenger called an art an art is a 5 D laser optical sports storage device, which is essentially a high-tech high data storage unit, that can survive in the harsh environment of space it's built by the Ark mission foundation, which is an organization whose purpose is to store libraries of human knowledge and data on these devices, and send them off into space with interplanetary travelers, thus preserving human achievements, well beyond Earth on the ark that's being launched today, the foundation has stored Isaac Asimov's classic sci-fi series the foundation trilogy, which was the original inspiration for the ark mission and given that making humanity a multi-planetary species is the core purpose of SpaceX, launching an arc on this mission just seemed, fitting and last but certainly not least a little something special for our hard-working SpaceX team, mounted on the payload attach fitting which is the structure that holds the Roadster onto the second stage, there's a plaque on which the names of over 6,000 of our SpaceX employees, society building testing and launching a vehicle of this sort is no small feat we are super excited to be a part of the roadsters billion year journey, through the solar system as Lauren just mentioned if all goes well today, Falcon Heavy will put the Roadster on board into an earth Mars orbit around the Sun, on a journey that could last for a billion years, now on a universal scale this means that the roadster will be tracing the shape of an ellipse with the Sun at one of its fixed points, or one of its bow side and we call this heliocentric, because it is Sun sensor the outermost distance on that same ellipse will intersect the path that Mars takes while it is on its own journey around the Sun, that's quite far away, that will reach a maximum distance from Earth of over 400 million kilometers, in earth terms that's about the same as a trip around the equator ten thousand times, during its journey the roadster will also reach a maximum velocity of nearly forty thousand kilometers per hour, or about 20 times faster than a speeding bullet as we shed it should stay up in orbit around the Sun for about a billion years, and it's a very long exciting road ahead and we are thrilled to be able to take the first steps on that journey.

Just five minutes from now the SpaceX team continues to countdown for launch of Falcon Heavy test weight, now once we like the engines Falcon Heavy will check the power on all 27 Merlin engines a critical period in mikono go for launch, it will then command release from the ground holdouts 40 seconds into flight will decrease power on the two side boosters, in preparation for maximum aerodynamic loads on the vehicle, once we get through this period Falcon Heavy will throttle back up to full power, on the side boosters about a minute later we will about half a minute later, we will again throttle down the two side boosters this time we're decreasing the forces on the rocket structure at this point inflate the vehicle is much lighter having burned off much of a propellant, but we are increasing crust two and a half minutes into flight will fully turn off the side boosters, an event called Pico booster engine cutoff, at this point the pneumatic separation system on the center core will unlock the two side boosters and push them away, the side boosters will disconnect first at the top of the center core, then milliseconds later from the bottom, so they'll actually rotate away from the consent of course slightly, once the side boosters are clear the center pole will throttle up to full power and burn for another 25 seconds, finally it just passed three minutes after liftoff the center core will shut down, an event called Nikko main engine cutoff and the second stage will separate from this point on it's like a Falcon 9 mission, the fairing will separate the M back D upper stage engine fires, eventually sending the stage and payload out into the solar system to orbit around the Sun, so that gives you a feel for the sequence of events we're planning on today's flight.

So now if t-minus four minutes 45 seconds and counting, let's witness the test flight of Falcon Heavy and that can't and Wendy feel bleeders started same thing, that I'd like to close up in white locks are complete, gya locks would throw out a link to close up byi locks are complete today's - TVC motions nominal, a go bleep verification center core locks to complete topic Laura has done it Starbucks I eighty eight point two degrees, Steve's to you locks look complete it's not going to be bad lazily falcon heavy is on internal power vehicles in south one ground gas close as it started falcon heavy caseloads are complete, and Wendy if you bleed complete and when the chill is complete he at the end to the rain for long and stove.

Stage two you're pricing for flake T minus's 30 seconds watch the retro countdown warning SpaceX falcon Heavy go for launch.

Falcon Heavy is configured for flight

15 stand by for terminal count and nine eight seven - six

she was 30 the cheering nothing heavy on our chests boy Serna father.

You've heard the call-out vehicle is supersonic, slide boosters are now throw.

Past max-q the period of maximum loaves on the vehicle next up we'll be waiting for the side boosters to begin to throttle down prior to booster engine cutoff, and separation two and a half minutes into flight.

CNC trajectory looks good on the Falcon Heavy, reports show the p.m. when the engine performances nominal and dr. Mitchell has begun.

Side boosters have begun to crumble down in preparation to the F cutting shutdown in ten seconds, major event coming accented separation incident shut down side boosters.

As one couture we serve ace Golf Center successful separation we're coming up on c4 they don't occupation in student side position.

Don't start up centipois beside engines on pilot also look good, sorry story of a scholarship.

7:44 shut down.

Wow Wow did you guys see that?

That was awesome that's the only thing I can oh man.

Recapping all the great things that you just saw their successful liftoff from the pad successful stage separation, but before that successful booster separation, you can see stage 1 the tube side boosters, pardon me, you can see the center core and you can see impact lit, up oh my gosh then the beautiful shots of star man chill in in the Tesla Roadster absolutely incredible on your screen at the moment, you've got a few things happening on the upper right you've got em vac D continuing it's burn on the upper left you have the central core headed back towards the autonomous spaceport drone ship, and in the two bottom screens you've got the side boosters headed back towards Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, landing zones 1 & 2 the next step coming up for these side boosters, and the center booster is the re-entry burn that's going to slow it down from or slow all the boosters down from way faster than the speed of sound, to just faster than the speed of sound in order to reduce some of those aerodynamic forces and heating that occurs when you're moving that quickly through the atmosphere, and as you can see on your screen that reassures centric or in the upper left of your screen performing a chaining, you can see the edge of Cape Canaveral in both of the side piaster cameras, those center core entry berm shut down and even though very similar those two boosters views those are actually representing different boosters, they're about to begin to be on track to answer.

Boozer's laid eyes on the boy - touchdown

Check on your screen some losses cameras goes out when it approaches the drone ship and the heavy vibrations make it lose signal, crossing our fingers that's not the case right now.

So it looks like that landing is happening at the moment we have lost signal we're hoping that signal comes back shortly.

Michel mentioned earlier with the vibrations of the rocket and how it shakes up the cameras that are on the drone ship sometimes we do lose signal or shakes up the antennas oh and we've just gotten confirmation, wait, here, what happens and so we're listening in and we're still waiting to hear, I will let you know as soon as we find out you'll know people are cheering but we'll get the call and know hopefully very very soon how that center core is doing whether it's standing up proud on that drone ship or not those are absolutely gorgeous.

Meanwhile that the second stage is continuing its trajectory towards Mars and saw it's all looking good there John I come give us a recap of the full mission he stands

Camera cycling right now what he was coming down from low-earth orbit the second stage successfully got there and it got there is the culmination of a great falcon heavy test flight we let 27 engines through out of the Boosters up and down, we separated the side boosters that came back spectacular simultaneous landing the center core did its job the second stage to do everything that you could want in a test flight we got here.

Now we're just looking for the icing on the Cape to find out what happened on the drone show but all in all an outstanding test flight for Falcon Heavy momentous occasion.

I thank you so much to the range for contributing their expertise to today's launch the FAA for the licenses to launch and land those boosters as well as the rest of Falcon Heavy and thank you to you the viewers for joining us for a really, really cool moment here and to find out what happened with the center core and what's going on with star man as he makes its journey through space and all of our launches.

You can visit us at SpaceX calm and follow us on social media on LinkedIn and Twitter if you would like to join us on exciting projects like these please visit SpaceX com slash careers from the entire grateful team here thank you again for joining us we'll see you next time.


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