Although SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket may have been hyped up with some big expectations in the run-up to its maiden launch, the huge new rocket’s launch might not be a success in any way, shape, or form. That’s what SpaceX CEO Elon Musk suggested at a recent space research expo, as he wants people to keep their expectations reasonably low when it comes to the Falcon Heavy.
Speaking at Wednesday’s International Space Station Research and Development (ISSR&D) conference in Washington, D.C., Elon Musk talked about the chances of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket making a successful launch later this year, as it takes off from Florida’s Space Coast. With NASA ISS program manager Kirk Shireman interviewing him onstage, Musk remarked that there’s a “real good chance” the Falcon Heavy won’t make it to orbit during its maiden launch.
As quoted by Space.com, Musk also quipped that the maiden launch might be considered a success if it results in the rocket crashing far away from its launching pad.
“I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage,” said Elon Musk. “I would consider even that a win, to be honest.”
Last month, Business Insider (via Yahoo Finance) wrote that the Falcon Heavy rocket is expected to lift off in “just a few months,” with the gigantic, 230-foot-tall rocket combining the power of three Falcon 9 rockets. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is a huge rocket that uses all 27 engines to create over 5 million pounds of thrust, and send close to 120,000 pounds of weight into orbit.
The Falcon Heavy is also based on the smaller Falcon 9, a staple of SpaceX launches for the past seven years. In fact, its first stage is made up of two Falcon 9 first stages bound to a tweaked Falcon 9 booster that serves as its “central core.” It also happens to be a reusable rocket, just like its smaller predecessor.
Why would Elon Musk want to downplay the chances of SpaceX having a successful Falcon 9 launch? The Space.com report added that it all boils down to the work on the rocket being “way, way more difficult” than what was already expected. This included a complete overhaul of the center core airframe, which should allow the Heavy to carry bigger loads than what the Falcon 9 is capable of.
“At first, it sounds really easy: Just stick two first stages on as strap-on boosters. How hard can that be? But then everything changes. All the loads change, aerodynamics totally change, you’ve tripled the vibration and acoustics.”
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) July 20, 2017
Although Elon Musk wasn’t shy about warning that the SpaceX Falcon Heavy’s maiden launch might not be a true success, he also made sure to add at this week’s ISSR&D conference that the launch is “guaranteed to be exciting” — no specific dates for the launch have been given, but if Musk’s recent Twitter posts are to be believed, it may take place sometime in September or October. CNBC noted that Musk is also hoping that the Falcon Heavy would be able to send two paying customers to the moon by late 2018.
[Featured Image by NASA via Getty Images]