For years now, Elon Musk’s space faring company SpaceX has been whispering wistfully about the Falcon Heavy – a new rocket platform that promises to be the most powerful in current operation anywhere on the planet. First announced in 2011, the project has experienced setback after setback, as the immense amount of thrust produced by 27 individual Merlin rocket engines has proven more difficult to harness than Musk may have anticipated.
After the first successful static fire test of the Falcon Heavy last week, however, it appears the massive platform will finally take to the sky for the first time on Tuesday, and in true Elon Musk style, simply launching the rocket didn’t have enough dramatic flair. Last year, he raised the stakes once again with the announcement that the Falcon Heavy’s inaugural payload would be none other than his very own Tesla Roadster – a car he clearly doesn’t plan to recover after blast off… seeing as the best case scenario will put the electric coup on a trajectory somewhere in the neighborhood of Mars.
One could excuse casual observers for thinking Musk was kidding on December 1st, when he announced that his “midnight cherry Tesla Roadster” will be taking the first ride in a Falcon Heavy – particularly when he went on to explain that the car will be playing “Space Oddity” by David Bowie when it does… But then, Musk has made a habit of offering seemingly ridiculous claims on Twitter and then following through on them. Just ask the thousands of people who have already ordered flamethrowers from another of his ventures, The Boring Company.
If there was any doubt remaining that Musk was willing to put his money (or rather, his car) where his mouth is, new images released by SpaceX seem to confirm that the entrepreneur turned tech-celebrity is indeed preparing to donate his Tesla to the cause. In the new images, you can see the electric car being loaded into the payload fairing of the Falcon Heavy slated for launch on the 6th.
And just for good measure, Musk has even claimed that he fully intends to have the car’s stereo blasting the David Bowie jam, as advertised, on a loop for as long as the Tesla’s battery power supplies will allow.
Of course, Musk himself has acknowledged the likelihood that the first ever launch of the Falcon Heavy, which provides roughly the same amount of thrust as 18 commercial airliners, might end in disaster. In previous months, he’s been quoted as saying that he’ll consider the test a success just as long as it clears the launch pad before exploding. For other CEOs, that might sound like a bit of hyperbole, but we’re talking about a man that’s launching his car into space just because he said he would. That means there is a decent chance that next week’s test could indeed end in fiery and dramatic fashion – something Musk and Co. have never shied away from.
As an added bit of trivia, Musk’s Tesla will actually set a new record for the fastest any car has ever traveled as it escapes Earth’s gravitational pull. The current record sits at 763 miles per hour, and was also set by a rocket-propelled car (though the Thrust SSC stayed on the ground the entire run). Musk’s Tesla, however, will beat that record by a factor of more than 30.
At separation, the Roadster will be going between 11.5 and 11.8 km/s relative to Earth,” Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist and spaceflight expert Jonathan McDowell said. “This is 25,700 to 26,400 mph, so say about 26,000 mph give or take. It will slow down as it goes ‘uphill’ and departs the Earth-Moon system at about 7,400 to 9,500 mph—relative to the Earth.”
To be fair, the record won’t really count, of course – seeing as the Tesla won’t be propelling itself, but Musk can still unofficially put the “fastest car in history” feather in his cap.
Images courtesy of SpaceX