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Photos: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Makes Its Maiden Flight, Launches Tesla Roadster to Outer Space

John Kraus

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On Tuesday, February 6th, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy made its maiden flight from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, carrying Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster to space.

Falcon Heavy climbs from LC-39A for the first time. Photo: John Kraus / johnkrausphotos.com

Originally slated to take place at the beginning of a 1:30 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. launch window, SpaceX incrementally pushed back the launch due to upper level winds. The countdown clock paused at T – 2:03:00, and once it resumed, it continued without any issues.

The behemoth triple-core launch vehicle’s 27 first stage Merlin engines ignited at 3:45 P.M., and Falcon Heavy began its ascent toward space, opening up a new world of possibilities for more affordable and assured access to space.

A closeup view of the exhaust plume of Falcon Heavy’s 27 first stage engines shows the fury of SpaceX’s new rocket. Photo: John Kraus / johnkrausphotos.com

Around two-and-a-half minutes into flight, Falcon Heavy’s side boosters separated from the center core, turning around for their return to Cape Canaveral. The center core then continued farther downrange with the second stage and payload. The two center cores performed their reentry and landing burns before safely touching down at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Landing Zones 1 and 2. Following separation of the center core and the rocket’s second stage, the center core attempted a landing on SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport droneship, “Of Course I Still Love You,” but fell just short due to a shortage of TEA-TAB, a chemical used to reignite the engines for their final landing burn. The core crashed into the ocean, spraying debris toward the droneship.

Members of the press take in the rumble of Falcon Heavy as it soars from Kennedy Space Center’s LC-39A. Photo: John Kraus / johnkrausphotos.com

Falcon Heavy continues toward space, carrying Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster toward an orbit similar to that of Mars. Photo: John Kraus / johnkrausphotos.com

The inaugural flight of any rocket comes with a higher-than-normal risk, and most launch providers opt to launch a “dummy payload” — formally known as a boilerplate spacecraft — instead of a paying customer’s expensive satellite. These boilerplate spacecraft are typically concrete or metal blocks that have no real value, and are solely meant to simulate the mass of a true payload.

However, Falcon Heavy carried perhaps the most ludicrous dummy payload in the history of spaceflight: Elon Musk’s personal original Tesla Roadster was sent into outer space. Carrying a mannequin wearing a SpaceX spacesuit — dubbed “Starman” — the Tesla Roadster will reach a distance from the sun similar to that of Mars. SpaceX shared incredible live views of the Roadster with Earth as its backdrop.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster is seen speeding away from Earth. Photo: SpaceX

While one booster recovery failed, the launch itself — the most important aspect of the flight — was a resounding success. In a pre-launch teleconference, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk shared that following a successful liftoff, another Falcon Heavy flight would be possible in three to six months.

About the Writer
John Kraus, Staff
I’m John Kraus, and this is my third and final year as a member of Satellite’s Telstar journalism class. I write articles on various school-related topics and create photographic content to complement other staff members’ articles. If I’m not at school, I’m probably photographing a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. Check out my personal photography...
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Photos: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Makes Its Maiden Flight, Launches Tesla Roadster to Outer Space