5 amazing scenes from SpaceX’s successful Falcon Heavy launch

7 Feb 2018

The first Falcon Heavy launch proved to be a near total success. Image: SpaceX

Elon Musk got his wish with the successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch vehicle into orbit, creating some incredible images.

A new era of commercial spaceflight has begun, according to SpaceX and its founder Elon Musk, after the successful launch of the latest Falcon Heavy vehicle.

The space shuttle can hold not only a substantial amount of cargo on board, but humans, too.

Of course, the cargo on the rocket’s inaugural flight was pretty unique, with Musk deciding that rather than sending it up empty, he would strap in a Tesla Roadster car – emblazoned with the words ‘Don’t Panic!’ on its dashboard – with a spacesuit-wearing manikin dubbed Starman on board.

The Falcon Heavy took off yesterday evening (6 February) at 8.45pm IST from NASA’s Launch Pad 39A – the same one used by Apollo 11 – with more than 2m kg of thrust from its three core Falcon 9 boosters, containing nine rockets each.

During its ascent, anxious SpaceX staff waited to see Falcon Heavy reach the point of no return. They burst into celebrations once it had achieved a successful launch, with 100,000 spectators also watching what was one of the most anticipated rocket launches in the past few years.

Aside from its more than unusual payload, another key talking point of the mission was whether SpaceX could achieve the impressive feat of returning all three of its Falcon 9 boosters unscathed at two different landing sites.

This included the two side cores of the boosters returning to Landing Zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, as well as the final booster on the Of Course I Still Love You floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean.

This proved to be one of the few hiccups of the launch as, despite the successful – and impressive-looking – return of the two side boosters, the final one sadly crashed into the Atlantic ocean at nearly 500kph.

As for Starman and its cosmic journey, the camera strapped on board the Roadster returned some truly incredible scenes of the vehicle, in what must surely be one of the most expensive and impressive car ads in history.

Roadster in space

Printed on the circuit board of a car in deep space

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on

While it had been predicted that the car would enter into an orbit around the sun known as the Hohmann transfer orbit, putting it at the same distance between the star and Mars before eventually skimming the Red Planet, it has in fact exceeded expectations and will now travel out into the asteroid belt.

Understandably, Musk was delighted with the outcome when speaking to reporters after the launch.

“I’m really excited about today,” he said. “I’m really proud of the SpaceX team. They’ve done an incredible job of creating the most advanced rocket in the world, and the biggest rocket in the world.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic