A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Falcon takes flight

On February 6 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, at the same launch pad that began the journey of Apollo 11, another monumental advancement in space technology was successfully tested. The culmination of years of research and development came to fruition as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket successfully launched its payload into space. The Falcon Heavy rocket is no ordinary spacecraft. Producing 5 million pounds of thrust at launch, the rocket is two times as powerful as any rocket ever built which means that it can carry more weight to a farther destination in Space. However, the size of the rocket is not the only thing that sets it apart. The rocket consists of two stages. The first stage is made up of three boosters with nine engines each. After the rocket reaches a sufficient altitude, the three boosters drop off and the second stage continues with the payload towards its destination in space. A multistage rocket is not new groundbreaking technology, but SpaceX designed their multistage rocket with some features that are nothing short of revolutionary. SpaceX has a goal of interstellar travel and to satisfy this they have spent years perfecting the art of designing reusable parts. For the Falcon Heavy Launch, two of the first stage boosters drop off and land upright from the same space port they launched from. (I highly recommend watching a video of this – it is really cool.) The third booster drops off and lands in the middle of the ocean. Except, instead of crashing down into the water the rocket lands upright on a ship. Except this is not any normal ship. This is a custom designed autonomous drone ship that positions itself according to the trajectory of the booster landing on it. SpaceX has the intention of carrying people to space and their designs reflect that. Multiple things can go wrong, such as an engine failure, and the launch will continue as planned. Each booster and engine is reusable which significantly reduces costs and paves the way for more economical space travel. These are just some of the innovations that SpaceX has made that are revolutionizing spacecraft.

Elon Musk and his space company set out with the goal of taking people to other planets and the success of February 6 was an extremely important checkpoint along the path to other planets. With the Falcon Heavy rocket, delivering payloads to Mars is well within reach. Elon Musk is a visionary and he is the leader of a company on the forefront of space travel. Elon Musk also acts like someone on the forefront of space tech. Musk put his very own Tesla roadster as the payload for the February test of the Falcon Heavy. The car was equipped with a dummy wearing a SpaceX designed space suit and the convertible’s radio will be playing David Bowie’s Space Oddity. Why? No reason but just for fun. When asked about what SpaceX is doing with the car, Musk responded, “We don’t have a plan. No plan. It’s going to be out there for millions, maybe billions of years. Who knows, maybe [it will be] discovered by some future alien race thinking, ‘What the heck, what were these guys doing? Did they worship this car?'” This personality is at the helm of the advancement in space technology, and his company’s innovations are successful. Musk has made crucial advancements in this field that will likely change the way people view space. Due to SpaceX’s advancements, consumer space travel is an achievable goal.