Space X, the company founded by Elon Musk, has launched a new rocket that is capable of lifting twice as much into orbit as any other rocket in production today. One thing that makes Space X unique is that they have developed reusable booster rockets. Once they are used up they descend to Earth in a controlled vertical landing, and can then be re-fitted for another flight. This new rocket – known as the Falcon Heavy – is actually three of Musk’s reusable boosters strapped together. To bring attention to this event, the rocket actually launched into space one of Musk’s Tesla cars with a dummy driver dressed in a space suit and a David Bowie song blasting from its sound system. This cherry red car soared past Mars and is on its way into the solar system.
Despite the theatrics, it was a major accomplishment to successfully launch a rocket this large with reusable boosters. The Falcon Heavy is able to carry more than 60 tonnes into orbit, compared with only 29 tonnes for the previously biggest rocket in contemporary use. Of course all of these numbers are small compared to the Saturn V rocket that took American astronauts to the moon in the 70’s. It had a capacity of 140 tonnes… but it also cost almost two billion dollars to launch – which is 20 times more than the cost of the Falcon Heavy. This is another step in Elon Musk’s goal to make space travel economical through the use of recoverable rocket boosters.