Have you ever heard people who were alive in the 1960s ask each other things like, “What were you doing when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon?”
Well, now you’ll be around for a historic moment in space exploration, too. Next week, SpaceX will launch Falcon Heavy, the most powerful U.S. rocket launched since the 1970s! This will be its test launch. Its first “traveller” will be a red Tesla belonging to Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and the CEO of Tesla.
Did you know? NASA’s Saturn V rocket, the rocket used for the Apollo moon landings in the 1960s and 1970s, is the most powerful rocket in history so far.
Falcon Heavy is designed to carry large, heavy payloads into space. A payload is the load a vehicle carries. For example, in an airplane, the payload would be passengers and/or cargo.
If the test launch is successful, Falcon Heavy’s first few payloads will be telecommunications and weather satellites. And though carrying humans won’t be its main purpose - there are other rockets in the works for that - this type of rocket could one day carry crews of astronauts to the Moon, and even to Mars!
Did you know? Falcon Heavy will launch from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This historic spot is also where rockets carrying the Apollo astronauts took off from.
You’ll notice we said “if the test launch is successful.” That’s because, in order for Falcon Heavy to launch, 27 engines must ignite at the same time. AsElon Musk points out, this is a difficult thing to test on the ground. However, a static fire test last week was successful. In a static fire test, a spacecraft’s engines are lit while the spacecraft is attached to the launch pad.
Falcon Heavy Fast Facts
- It is 68.4 metres tall. That’s about the height of the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, which is 69 metres tall.
- It can lift 53 metric tons (53 000 kg) into orbit. A full grown male African elephant can weigh up to 7 000 kg. That’s like carrying seven of these elephants into space!
The expected launch date is February 6th, 2018 with a three-hour window starting at 1:30 p.m. EST. Watch the takeoff here..
UPDATE: The launch was a success! Watch news coverage of it here.
Above: Image © SpaceX, flickr.com
Above: Image © Tango7174, Wikimedia Commons
Caption: Falcon Heavy is about the height of the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal.
Let’s Talk About It!
- Do you usually watch launch events like this? Why or why not?
- Should people get excited about this test launch? Why or why not?
- How does the Falcon Heavy compare to other everyday objects (e.g., A car, a school bus)?
- How would you feel about being on a rocket with 27 engines?
- If you had the chance, would you take a flight to the Moon on a Falcon Heavy? Why or why not?
- If you were a billionaire, what would you invest in to bring one of your dreams to reality?