back to article Elon Musk lowers his mighty erection for test firing: Falcon Heavy preps for maiden voyage

SpaceX fans this morning celebrated their favorite rocketry upstart's latest boringly successful launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida, USA. Amid that depressingly uneventful blastoff, a visitor to the launch site spotted evidence of a Falcon Heavy being set up for test firing, signaling the hardware may finally be ready to …

  1. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Devil

    putting a fueling station into orbit

    something that a "super-heavy" might be really good for...

    if travelling to Mars or the moon becomes more common, it's a fair bet that ships (yes ships) would want to refuel in low earth orbit, and how do you get the fuel "up there"? With super-heavy boosters!

    Also components for building a REAL space station, like the one we see in the 2001 movie, would requier "super heavy" boosters.

    Note I'm suggesting a Falcon Super-Heavy here because 70 tons is kinda small when it comes to things like fuel and water+supplies for space hotels and interplanetary travel.

    Q: how many additional boosters can you strap onto a Falcon Heavy before it can't handle the load?

    A: let's find out! [but first, get the Heavy off of the ground, and launch something more useful than a car]

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: putting a fueling station into orbit

      > putting a fueling station into orbit

      > something that a "super-heavy" might be really good for...

      That's one of the roles slated for the BFR in its BFR Tanker configuration, which is in a class above super-heavy.

    2. ShadowDragon8685

      Re: putting a fueling station into orbit

      Jeb?

      Jebediah Kerman, stop posting on the Register and get your green cylindrical dome the heck out to the launch pad!

    3. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: putting a fueling station into orbit

      "Q: how many additional boosters can you strap onto a Falcon Heavy before it can't handle the load?"

      It's not a question of whether the vehicle can take it; the ground infrastructure (pads, towers, etc.) is not set up for anything more than two strap-ons. *

      Unless something seriously bad happens to the BFR plans, Falcon Super Heavy probably won't ever exist.

      * apparently - I asked Elon on twitter, unsurprisingly he didn't reply, but a random someone else did - so treat the information accordingly

      1. The First Dave

        Re: putting a fueling station into orbit

        AS the article said, it _IS_ a question of whether the vehicle can take it. Clearly there is a concern it isn't strong enough to take the force of three motors, so five is going to be way too much without a major structural upgrade.

    4. defiler Silver badge

      Re: putting a fueling station into orbit

      MOAR STRUTS!!

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: putting a fueling station into orbit

      if anyone sets up a Space Hotel, they'd better install defences against Vermicious Knids.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Twice as powerful as any launch vehicle

    "The rocket, which is expected be around twice as powerful as any of today's commercial launch vehicles"

    You can leave out the word "commercial" there.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_orbital_launch_systems

  3. Chris Miller
    Happy

    Kiss goodbye to that roadster

    Even if the launch goes perfectly.

    1. Big John Silver badge

      Re: Kiss goodbye to that roadster

      Not so. One day* that car will be worth enough as a collector's item for someone to go collect it.

      *That would be "today," considering that in solar orbit there's only ever the one day...

      1. Ivan Headache

        Re: Kiss goodbye to that roadster

        Is he sending the batteries as well?

        1. Big John Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Kiss goodbye to that roadster

          I bet they aren't even sending the engine! ;-/

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Kiss goodbye to that roadster

          No need for the batteries, he's modifying it with solar panels and instead of Mars he'll launch it towards the sun. More solar energy = world's first practical solar car*.

          *disclaimer: "world" may not refer to "Earth"

          1. hopkinse
            Mushroom

            Re: Kiss goodbye to that roadster

            Perhaps he wants to emulate Hotblack Desiato and is going to fly it into the sun

            1. John Sager

              Re: Kiss goodbye to that roadster

              Nice idea, but I don't think even a Falcon Heavy has the delta-V to do that.

              On a personal note, Musk gets a lot of flak, especially in the electric car field, but I forgive him all that faux-Green crap because of SpaceX and what that company has done to push forward the space business.

            2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. cray74 Silver badge

          Re: Kiss goodbye to that roadster

          Is he sending the batteries as well?

          I had some questions along those lines, which could be summarized as "What modifications have been done to the Tesla Roadster, if any? Got a link?"

          So, yes, was the battery pack removed? If it's only going to orbit, an overheated, giant lithium battery back could produce a lot of debris as it melts down, and removing it would simplify any stress calculations for the team who had to design the launch adapter. (I'd love to be a fly on that wall. "So, team, you've been assigned to design a launch adapter for the boss's car...")

          Were any solar panels, beacons, and/or transponders attached to the car? Will there be a SpaceX website letting you track the Roadster as it zips by Mars?

          Did the car get any slightly scientific payloads, like a webcam or some Mars-targeted Cubesat's sensors? ("Hey, University X, I heard you were launching a Cubesat to Mars 2020. We've got a spare glovebox and are launching two years sooner. Want to go with us?")

          1. Big John Silver badge

            Re: Kiss goodbye to that roadster

            > "Will there be a SpaceX website letting you track the Roadster as it zips by Mars?"

            If I were running that show I'd make it so the car itself could personally respond to questions posed by the public on that website. Yknow, when it wasn't busy describing the journey so far, its daily mood, funny viral stuff it's looked at lately, and how it feels to get tickled by cosmic rays so often.

    2. Tikimon Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Kiss goodbye to that roadster

      Nah, it's coming back down, it'll be famous. Elon will sneak aboard the rocket and ride it up. Then he will suit up, climb in the car and fly it back through re-entry to the wailing tones of "Radar Rider". Hopefully he pops the drag chute before landing, unlike the '57 Corvette in Heavy Metal.

      Oh yeah, Elon's been wanting to replicate that scene for a loooong time.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_KXgFpguE0

  4. Bubba Von Braun

    Roadster will not RTLS

    Even if it achieves an solar obit, the intervening years, I am sure will give the roadsters paint job a good blasting of solar radiation, along with a few CME's over the intervening years the electronics will be fried as hmm Lithium batteries in a +250f/-250f lets hope it gets a good barbecue roll running before too long.

    Now are the cars lithium batteries vacuum certified?? hmmm

    BvB

  5. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    Falcon Heavy

    Being a liquid propellant rocket, the Falcon Heavy static fire tests will be conducted in its launch orientation, i.e. vertical.

    Some more coverage of the preparations:

    Rocket goes up (28 December 2017)

    Rocket goes down (29 December 2017)

    Photos and video coverage from SpaceX

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Neoc

    "This will boost the first payload – Elon Musk's personal cherry-red Tesla Roadster, no kidding – up into orbit, and on a nominal course to Mars"

    I thought one of NASA's major prep before sending anything to Mars was making sure it was clean-room compliant. Has SpaceX's Tesla gone through the same rigorous decontamination?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      It's not going to Mars, it's going into a solar orbit somewhere between Earth and

      Mars

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Probably not going anywhere near Mars

      As far as I can tell, the destination is an elliptical orbit around the sun with perihelion near Earth's orbital radius and aphelion near Mars's orbital radius. As the launch is at the wrong time, when the roadster reaches aphelion Mars will be somewhere else.

      The brochure for Falcon Heavy offers 16800kg to Mars. Presumably this is for an Earth/Mars transfer orbit. A 2009 Tesla Roadster is 1300kg. Even with a few hundred kg for the payload adapter a Falcon Heavy is massively over powered. A Falcon 9 can get 4000kg to MTO. There are things a Falcon heavy can and cannot do with such a light payload:

      Pluto transfer orbit: The brochure offers 3500kg to Pluto.

      Fast flyby of Mars. There will be an aphelion that is outside Mars orbit that puts the Roadster near Mars either on the way to aphelion or on the way back.

      (Probably) cannot do orbital insertion to orbit Mars. The stage 2 engine could shut down with propellant to spare after setting up for a fast flyby of Mars. I have not seen an endurance figure for stage 2. The liquid oxygen will slowly boil away and the liquid helium will boil away more quickly. Helium is needed to pressurise the propellant to the minimum required for the pumps to operate, so the choice is to use it near Earth or lose it before you get to Mars.

      SpaceX does have long endurance propulsion: Draco. Early versions of Falcon had 4 Draco thrusters on stage 2 but these have been replaced with nitrogen cold gas thrusters. A Super Draco could do something to slow down a Mars flyby, but they have 1300kg of propellant and I think we would have seen one in the pictures if they had duct-taped one onto the car.

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

        Re: Probably not going anywhere near Mars

        As far as I can tell, the destination is an elliptical orbit around the sun with perihelion near Earth's orbital radius and aphelion near Mars's orbital radius.

        So Musk is putting a bloody big piece of space junk out there, merely to massage his already colossal ego? Well done that man.

        Even given the risks of a new launch system, there have to be better uses of the opportunity, materials and energy being consumed in this fuckwitted plan.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Probably not going anywhere near Mars

          "So Musk is putting a bloody big piece of space junk out there"

          It's somewhat smaller than the pieces of junk we already know of in that zone.

        2. Big John Silver badge

          Re: Probably not going anywhere near Mars

          > "So Musk is putting a bloody big piece of space junk out there..."

          Big compared to what? Space?

          BTW, that "space junk" will have more mileage on it than any other car in the known universe. That makes it a "classic."

  8. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    I don't care!

    I don't care about the naysayers.

    The idea that some rich bloke continues to have a laugh with his own kit is to be applauded.

    BUT the idea that there is a Bowie song in there is bollocks.

    It's a Lou Reed song -- Satellite of Love

    "satellite's gone way up to Mars,

    soon it will be filled with parking cars"

    (what do we get - Richard effing Barnson and his non-space plane!)

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: I don't care!

      Has anyone told Elon another Tesla is already out there?

      1. M7S

        Re: I don't care!

        @ Flocke, are you sure you didn't mean this one http://robotech.wikia.com/wiki/Tesla, who also fits the "slightly insane genius scientist" requirement.

        Anyway, I though SHIELD had already done the "launch a red roadster into the sky" thing, or is that not "Cannon" (sorry)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pssssssssss...t

    Once again a lot of smoke and twitter show

    but Musk cannot deliver

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-spy-satellite-believed-lost-after-spacex-mission-fails-1515462479

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Re: Pssssssssss...t

      Don't believe everything the WSJ prints

      https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/9/16866806/spacex-zuma-mission-failure-northrop-grumman-classified-falcon-9-rocket

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. SquidEmperor

    Extension Cord

    Only a Billionaire could afford the extension cord that will be needed to for the Tesla. Also I hope he remembers to remove his eTags.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Extension Cord

      The AAA must be crapping themselves ...

  11. Vinyl-Junkie
    Mushroom

    Anyone who has ever played KSP...

    "The Falcon Heavy is essentially three SpaceX Falcon-9 rockets strapped together with a small booster on top. While the rockets themselves are reliable, the airframe of this combined booster has had to be designed and engineered to handle the mechanical stresses involved and the payload weight."

    The "design a reliable rocket then strap x number of them together" is a tried and tested strategy in KSP. Unfortunately it is often quite a lot more complicated than it sounds and the end result often looks remarkably similar to the icon.

    Equally unfortunately in RL there is no "Revert" option...

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Anyone who has ever played KSP...

      "Equally unfortunately in RL there is no "Revert" option..."

      There is, but it's pricey.

  12. RichardD

    Commercial payloads

    There are no commercial payloads which require a Falcon Heavy because there was no launcher to justify even thinking about such a thing. Now however, it's an option, and capitalism is very good at exploiting resources.

  13. Nexus1974

    A lot of negativity in that article about SpaceX form ElReg

    They have done some major stuff i.e landing the rockets used after take off. That is mighty impressive.

    OK they have a few disasters along the way but hell NASA had a shit load of them.

    I think what they have done in the last 10 years is pretty good for a young private company and will ultimately be the future of space travel with private companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin.

  14. richard.e.morton

    NASA decided on Ariane?

    As JWST is a joint project between multiple partners including NASA and the ESA, surely the project decided to use Ariane and not just NASA?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: NASA decided on Ariane?

      It's really a very "Nasa" project with others contributing instruments (the important bits)

      Ironically the original design was to use a 6.5-ish m single mirror and launch on Ariane (with a modified larger nose fairing) but Nasa were insistent that it launch on a Nasa (or at least American) rocket.

      So after all the clever design of folding mirror petals there is still no Nasa heavy lifter big enough so it is launching on Ariane anyway

  15. Floydian Slip
    Mushroom

    Falcon Super Heavy next?

    If you watch the animated video of the launch of the Falcon Heavy all the way through to the end, you'll see all 3 boosters landing back.

    It's interesting to see that the landing pad is in the shape of a square with landing pads in each corner and one in the middle. So, that's 5 available landing spots so a Falcon Super Heavy could be a core + 4

  16. Alan Brown Silver badge

    No payloads for this rocket

    .... YET .....

    The thing which has been holding back the size of geostationary birds has been lifting capacity.

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