Five years ago today, SpaceX made history with the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket. It was the most powerful rocket in the world, capable of carrying up to 70.3 tons of payload to low Earth orbit. On board was a special payload: a Tesla Roadster with a spacesuit-clad mannequin named Starman in the driver’s seat.
Since then, the Falcon Heavy has gone on to complete five successful launches, including missions for the U.S. Air Force and Space Force. Now, SpaceX is gearing up for the debut of the even more powerful Starship rocket, which could launch to orbit as soon as next month.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look back at the historic Falcon Heavy launch and explore what made it so special. We’ll also discuss the legacy of the Falcon Heavy and how it paved the way for SpaceX’s next big rocket, Starship.
The Falcon Heavy is a remarkable feat of engineering. It consists of three strapped-together first stages of SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, which are reusable. Together, the 27 first-stage Merlin engines generate a whopping 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. This allows the huge rocket to carry up to 70.3 tons of payload to low Earth orbit.
The Falcon Heavy’s debut mission was no ordinary test flight. For starters, it made the Falcon Heavy the most powerful rocket in the world. The payload was quite memorable, too: SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster, with a spacesuit-clad mannequin named Starman in the driver’s seat, was sent into orbit around the sun.
Starman and his ride are still cruising through deep space, by the way. But they’re headed for a violent end: An orbit-modeling study found that the car will eventually crash into Venus or Earth, probably in the next few tens of millions of years.
The Falcon Heavy has been a resounding success for SpaceX. It has now completed five launches, and could fly up to five missions this year. The rocket has also provided SpaceX with valuable experience in launching and recovering large payloads, which will be essential for its next big rocket, Starship.
Starship is a fully reusable transportation system designed to take people and cargo to the moon and Mars. The latest Starship prototype recently passed its first-ever fueling test, and it could launch to orbit as early as next month.
The Falcon Heavy has been an incredible success for SpaceX, and its legacy will live on in the form of Starship. As we look back on the five-year anniversary of the Falcon Heavy’s first launch, we can take comfort in knowing that SpaceX is continuing to push the boundaries of space exploration.