Why should I care about the Falcon Heavy Rocket Launch?


crashbangphoto via Pixabay

The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful aircraft ever built, and could carry people to the far reaches of the solar system.

Rishab Verma, Photo Manager

On April 11, private aerospace company SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon Heavy Rocket, along with its cargo, into space.

After its initial development period, this was the first launch in which all parts of the Falcon Heavy system worked without malfunction. There had been one previous test of the Falcon Heavy in February of 2018. In that test, SpaceX launched a Tesla Roadster into space, but when it came time to recover the boosters, one of the three fell into the sea off the coast of Florida.

During this year’s launch, SpaceX found more success. The first flight simply had a placeholder payload, but this time the engineers worked with an Arabian communications company to launch one of their satellites: the Arabsat-6A.

The goal of the rocket is to redefine human reaches within space. Currently, the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful flying vehicle on earth. Ideally, it could allow humans to travel all the way to Mars, but currently it is being perfected to make space travel more practical and feasible.

The headlining feature of the rocket is the ability to recover the rocket boosters after they are used in a launch. After sending the entire rocket up to a pre-programmed altitude, the extra boosters detach from the main vessel and the main booster carries the rocket through the thinner atmosphere.

These extra boosters then automatically deploy wings to guide them to landing zones. This technology is intended to drastically reduce the costs of space travel. Instead of having to buy and build new boosters for each launch, the boosters used on the Falcon Heavy can simply be recovered, refurbished, and used for another launch.

In addition, the Falcon Heavy makes space travel far greener. Ian Spangenberg, a physics and astronomy teacher, explained that “one huge aspect of rockets that are one-time use is that it creates space trash. If a rocket goes up and [the stages] fall back down, that stuff is going to go into orbit around the earth.”

When humans put objects into orbit, it takes hundreds of years for them to eventually fall back down. In that time period, that object becomes yet another obstacle to avoid for other rockets, space travelers, and satellites.

Perhaps the greater significance of the event is the amount of intellectual knowledge acquired through each of these launches. Putting objects into space, while being able to guide certain parts of the rocket back down to earth requires an immense amount of effort from numerous scientists and engineers.

“In science in general, you never really know what the application of certain technologies that you develop for other purposes are going to be,” says Spangenberg. Inventions created out of space exploration include devices like cellphones, cordless tools, and GPS.

The Falcon Heavy holds great promise for SpaceX. Successfully being able to reuse rockets could mean amazing things for mankind, and open up new doors for the generations of the future.