The infamous SpaceX continues to make waves and their goal of saving us all by getting us to mars, seems to become more realistic with every Elon Musk presentation.
SpaceX is currently in the process of engineering the Falcon Heavy. This rocket, which is a variant of the Falcon 9 vehicle series, is a reusable super heavy space launch vehicle. Falcon Heavy was designed specifically to carry humans into space, more specifically, the moon or Mars. It contains a stronger Falcon 9 rocket core, it also has 27 engines which pushes its lift off thrust at an equal rate to 18 Boeing 747 airplanes at full power making it the world’s most powerful rocket.
The Falcon Heavy has been said to lift more than double the payload of the next closest operational vehicle and carry up to 37,000 pounds of cargo at a fraction of the cost.
The rocket has completed its first-stage testing successfully and associates at SpaceX estimate a launch of the Falcon Heavy by November. While optimistic, Musk is looking at this launch date realistically, stating that the rocket had “a real good chance of failure.” The company tweeted a video showing one of the tests of the rocket in progress.
Some, however, doubt the potential for the Falcon Heavy to carry a manned mission to Mars. Due to the massive amount of engines, three times as many as its predecessor the Falcon 8 series, engineers are finding many obstacles to overcome. To complete a successful launch, every engine has to be carefully synchronized. In order to achieve a successful manned mission to Mars, all of 27 engines must produce 54-ton payloads.
According to NASA a mission to Mars could last for up to 1,100 days. The longest consecutive time any human has spent is 437 days by Valeri Polyakov, a Russian cosmonaut who volunteered to stay in orbit for as long as he did to prove humans can withstand extended periods in zero gravity atmosphere. However, 1,100 days is nearly three times as long as Polyakov spent and there is no guarantee that the human body can endure prolonged periods of time exposed to low gravity, confined quarters, cosmic radiation, etc. SpaceX, earlier this year, pushed back the target date for their first Mars missions from 2018 to 2020. The reason for this delay has not been announced.
SpaceX has had much success when it comes to space exploration. Both the Falcon 9 series and the Dragon series deliver payloads into Earth’s orbit, and the company is also rumored to have an even larger spacecraft in the works in addition to the Falcon Heavy.
Whether or not the Falcon Heavy will or will not get us to Mars, it has high potential and incorporates what Musk sees as the necessary technology to achieve this dream of getting humans to the red planet. At the rate we are developing technology it is inevitable that we will get there. With every new aircraft, we are one step closer.