SpaceX To Launch Tesla Roadster In Mars Orbit (Really)

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If the universe lacks for not having a midnight-red Tesla Roadster orbiting Mars, SpaceX is about to set things right. This week the company assembled its massive Falcon Heavy booster on Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center for what's planned to be the first launch of the most powerful booster since the Saturn 5 moon missions launched from the same pad. The company did a successful engine test Wednesday. The planned payload? Elon Musk's personal Tesla Roadster. (Used.)

The much-delayed Falcon heavy is essentially a modified Falcon 9 core booster with two strap-on Falcon 9s attached. It's capable of a little over 5 million pounds of thrust, powered by 27 Merlin 1D engines that SpaceX developed for its launch business. The booster was originally scheduled to fly in 2014, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk admitted the company had a naive understanding of the flight dynamics of strap-on systems. It took another three years to sort things out and the company is hoping for a test flight later this year.

Musk has taken pains to reduce expectations. He said last July that there's “a real good chance that that vehicle does not make it to orbit. I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage. I would consider even that a win, to be honest.”

As for the roadster payload, many initial launch tests boost dead weight in the form of concrete ballast, but ever the iconoclast, Musk decided a car would be fun. "Payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity. Destination is Mars orbit. Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent," he tweeted recently. "I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future."

Comments (13)

Voyager contains the Golden Record - it presents the best of human literature, music, and art. Ian wants extraterrestrial contact to be in the form of one his his cars. A red one. What a sad example of what we have become in the last 50 years.

Posted by: Ken Keen | January 24, 2018 8:02 AM    Report this comment

Elon Musk is arguably the best showman since P.T. Barnum. Launching his roadster into space is more about capturing publicity here at home than about impressing future aliens. In a world where the general public is pretty ho-hum about space launches, he has a way of getting the average person's attention. Nothing wrong with that.

Posted by: John McNamee | January 24, 2018 10:13 AM    Report this comment

Musk is a charlatan at best. Knows how to suck government money though. We don't need any more space junk out there to mess with real payloads. Maybe he should put his derriere where his mouth is and ride the roadster into orbit.

That said, I do wish the launch vehicle the best. Many very smart people have been working to make this program work. Ignore the loud mouth at the top and give us the best launch vehicle possible.

Posted by: Leo LeBoeuf | January 24, 2018 10:26 AM    Report this comment

Pretty impressive. All that effort and time put into life amassing a mega fortune .... only to show he is wealthy enough to become the first intentional litterer in space. HIs mom should be proud.

Posted by: Samuel Cobb | January 24, 2018 1:22 PM    Report this comment

Elon Musk is playing Kerbal Space Program for real.

Posted by: Benton Jackson | January 24, 2018 10:00 PM    Report this comment

Wow, lot of haters here. SpaceX is really moving the needle on reducing the cost of getting to space. I actually have some hope of getting up there before I die now. Yes, Elon Musk is a showman but how many rockets have you put into space? I would argue that so far he is delivering more on his promises than most aviation entrepreneurs do.

Posted by: Nathan Vonada | January 25, 2018 8:11 AM    Report this comment

Nathan - if you weren't around during the Apollo days, you wouldn't understand.

Posted by: Ken Keen | January 25, 2018 9:25 AM    Report this comment

An invitation to loft 2000 pounds of instruments/sensors for a research university would be a bit more civic minded.

Posted by: kim hunter | January 25, 2018 10:26 PM    Report this comment

To Mr. Vonada, you go!

To Mr. Keen and the rest of the haters here; Nuts! I was around for Gemini and Apollo, and we've been STUCK there for 60 years. Move over or get run over!

Go Elon! And yeah, he is a showman of P.T. Barnum's caliber, but he's advancing while the whiners here are looking at the mud un their shoes.

Posted by: Donald Romani | January 26, 2018 7:58 AM    Report this comment

Don - what exactly are they "advancing"? We've been launching solid-fuel rockets like these into orbit since the early 1960's! The only difference is back then we didn't send up pure junk in the form of "midnight cherry" cars to float around in space for "millions of years". One gets the unsavory feeling he does this stuff purely for personal, ego-driven reasons. I don't know.. leaves me cold.

Posted by: Ken Keen | January 26, 2018 3:11 PM    Report this comment

With tons of science to be done on Mars, Musk decides to launch a used car?? WTF

Posted by: Robert Huckabee | January 26, 2018 10:26 PM    Report this comment

Wow! Falcon will be able to match the lifting power and cost the Saturn V demostrated in 1970s.

Posted by: Robert Huckabee | January 26, 2018 10:29 PM    Report this comment

Ken,

Your lack of knowledge is showing. One: Falcon is entirely liquid fueled. Second, with boosters that have been recovered and reflown, and a soon-to-fly revision of the hardware that will be able to be reflown with no refurbishment between flights, the cost per mission is about to become drastically lower.

I get the distaste at Musk's showmanship, but discounting the magnitude of what SpaceX has accomplished is ignorant,

Posted by: Joshua Levinson | January 26, 2018 11:25 PM    Report this comment

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