Falcon Heavy Demonstration Mission

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Falcon Heavy Demonstration Mission
Falcon Heavy Demo Mission (40126461851).jpg
Falcon Heavy liftoff from pad LC-39A
Rocket Falcon Heavy
Configuration Falcon Heavy R
Flight no. 1
Manufacturer SpaceX
Operator SpaceX
Date 2014
Window 2 hours 30 minutes
Site Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S.
Pad Launch Complex 39
Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster
Target orbit
Reference system Sun
Regime pseudo-Mars transfer orbit

The Falcon Heavy Demonstration Mission (also known as the Falcon Heavy Test Flight or Falcon Heavy Maiden Flight) was the first attempt by SpaceX to launch a Falcon Heavy rocket, on 6 February 2018 at 20:45 UTC.[1] The launch introduced the most powerful rocket currently in operation,[2] producing 5 million pounds of thrust and having more than twice the lift capacity of the NASA space shuttle.[3]

Mission overview

The mission was the test flight of the Falcon Heavy launcher, intended to demonstrate the capability of the launcher while gathering telemetry throughout the flight.


File:Tesla Roadster in Falcon Heavy fairing.jpg
The payload, Elon Musk's original Roadster, mounted on the payload adapter inside the payload fairing.
Last transmitted view en route away from Earth

The dummy payload for this test flight was a sports car owned by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, a midnight cherry, first generation Tesla Roadster. SpaceX stated that the payload had to be "something fun and without irreplaceable sentimental value".[1] Sitting in the driver's seat of the Roadster is "Starman", a dummy astronaut clad in a SpaceX spacesuit.[4]


The Falcon Heavy maiden flight was intended to accomplish several objectives: to successfully return the two side booster cores to Cape Canaveral and land them simultaneously at Landing Zones 1 and 2, and land the central first stage booster core on an autonomous spaceport drone ship, the Of Course I Still Love You, in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket used first stage Falcon 9 rockets for its three booster cores and a Falcon 9 upper stage.[3][4][5] The purpose of including the Roadster on the maiden flight is to demonstrate that the Falcon Heavy can launch payloads as far as the orbit of Mars.

The launch occurred at 3:45 PM EST, or 20:45 UTC, from Launchpad 39A at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida; the Roadster was successfully placed in its orbit, and its two booster cores returned to land at Landing Zones 1 and 2 several minutes later. The sole objective not completed was the landing of the central core; while its fate was initially ambiguous due to signal loss and heavy smoke, Musk confirmed several hours after the launch that the booster had not survived the recovery attempt.[6] Because two of the three engines necessary to land were unable to reignite, the booster hit the water at 500 kilometres per hour, 100 metres away from the drone ship.[7] While upper stage flight is continued, during the transfer burn to solar orbit, the second stage overshot the orbit of Mars. It is predicted that the Roadster will stay in an orbit with a perihelion at Earth orbit and an aphelion near the orbit of the dwarf planet Ceres in the Asteroid Belt.[8][9][10]


The planned mission timeline is (all times approximate):[1]

Time Event
T-01:28:00 Go/no go for propellant load
T-01:25:00 Kerosene loading underway
T-00:45:00 Liquid oxygen loading underway
T-00:07:00 Start of engine chill
T-00:01:00 Start of pre-launch checks
T-00:01:00 Propellant tank flight pressurisation
T-00:00:45 Go/no go for launch
T-00:00:05 Start of side booster engine ignition sequence
T-00:00:03 Start of center core boosters engines ignition sequence
T-00:00:00 Liftoff
T+00:01:06 Max Q (maximum aerodynamic pressure)
T+00:02:29 Boosters engines cutoff (BECO)
T+00:02:33 Side boosters separate from center core
T+00:02:50 Side boosters begin boostback burn
T+00:03:04 Center core engine shutdown/main engine cutoff (MECO)
T+00:03:07 Center core and 2nd stage separate
T+00:03:15 2nd stage engine starts
T+00:03:24 Center core begins boostback burn
T+00:03:49 Fairing jettisoning
T+00:06:41 Side cores begin entry burn
T+00:06:47 Center core begins entry burn
T+00:07:58 Side cores landings
T+00:08:19 Center core landing
T+00:08:31 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)
T+00:28:22 2nd stage engine restarts
T+00:28:52 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)
Mission continues on an experimental long coast and third stage two burns to target a precessing elliptical orbit around the Sun.


The two boosters landing at LZ-1 and LZ-2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

Valuable telemetry data on the performance of the launch system and its components were obtained for all stages of the test flight.


The dummy payload was placed in a heliocentric orbit, with an aphelion of 1.70 AU[11], beyond Mars and approaching Ceres. The first four hours of the flight were livestreamed on YouTube.[8]


Both boosters successfully landed simultaneously on the ground at Landing Zones 1 and 2.

Central core

The central core attempted to return to the autonomous spaceport drone ship Of Course I Still Love You but failed to light two of the three engines during the landing burn. The core crashed into the ocean 100 metres (300 ft) away from the drone ship at 500 kilometres per hour (300 mph), causing damage to two of the drone ship's station-keeping thrusters. According to Elon Musk on the post-flight conference, the center core ran out of triethylaluminum-triethylborane (TEA-TEB) igniter fluid.[12]


See also


External links

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