It’s been planned and canceled numerous times since 2013, so don’t hold your breath

While we humans are still pretty much stuck on this big rotating rock we call the Earth – with the exception of a few lucky astronauts who reside on the International Space Station – Elon Musk and his extremely busy SpaceX have been working around the clock to make extended space travel a reality. Of course, getting off this monstrous rock is only a small part of the equation. We need things like artificial gravity, advanced life support systems, protection from the insane radiation that clouds the cosmos, and the list goes on. But, SpaceX has taken us one step closer with its Falcon 9 rocket, which was used to prove that rockets are reusable when it launched the SES10 Satellite into orbit back in April of this year. The problem with the Falcon 9 rocket, however, is that it’s somewhat limited as far as payload. It will be used to launch NASA’s X-37B into space, but we’ll still need something more powerful and reusable to be able to become a truly spacefaring species.

Enter the Falcon Heavy Rocket. This thing is really something of nightmares and reminds me of when I was a kid and liked to strap multiple firecrackers together to make a louder boom. I later moved up to strapping M-78s together, but we’ll leave that story for another time. Why is that relevant? Well, because that’s exactly what Musk is doing to make the Falcon Heavy rocket. He’s essentially strapped three Falcon 9 rocket cores together to make one intensely powerful rocket. So powerful that it’s slated to be one of the most powerful rockets in history, able to launch as much as 140,000 pounds of cargo into lower Earth orbit. More importantly, however, should this Frankenstein of a rocket actually work, all three cores will ultimately be reusable. With that in mind, Elon Musk posted a late-night tweet last Thursday announcing that his biggest rocket will have its Maiden launch this November.

It’s Been a Long Road

Static test of Falcon Heavy from May 2017

So as far as the Falcon Heavy’s history goes, it’s been a very long road. It was meant to make its debut back in 2013, but things fell through. Its first voyage toward the great unknown has been delayed multiple times since, with the Spring of 2016 and September of 2016 being two potential dates that never happened, with the latter being stopped because of a rocket explosion in September.

It has since been planned to take off sometime this year, but this is the first target month that has been set, so let’s hope it actually happens. There has been progress made, as shown in the video above, which was the Falcon Heavy doing a test fire while being strapped to the earth. One has to wonder how something so massive didn’t change Earth’s orbit, but so far we seem to be okay.

That First Flight Might Not Work Out Well

Animated Rendering of Falcon Heavy Flight

So, three rockets strapped together sounds pretty freaking scary. After all, once this thing launches successfully, it will quite literally be the most powerful rocket in operation by a factor of two, so it’s not like we’re playing with model rockets here – this is the real deal. To put that into perspective, it’s about the equivalent of 18 Boeing 747 airplanes operating simultaneously. That’s some serious power and serious thrust.

Furthermore, there are other problems in the mix, too. See, since there are three rockets, the amount of vibration and sonic disruption the payload must ensure is increased by a factor of three. As such, SpaceX has already completely revised and restructured the center core to handle such a heavy load. Plus, all three rockets, which could raise the total of engines to 27, have to fire at the exact same time for the rocket to fly. If that doesn’t happen, and liftoff takes place, it will most likely end in disaster and an expensive one at that.

Needless to say, this is something that has never been tried before, and failure is practically expected. Even Elon Musk has said that he holds doubts the Falcon Heavy make it into orbit on the first flight. He even went so far as to say he hopes it gets far enough that it doesn’t damage the launch pad. But, all that comes in the name of progress, and we’re getting there slowly but surely.

SpaceX vision for a mission to Mars

What do you think? Will the Falcon Heavy take off without a hitch, or will it be a massive disaster? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.


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