- May 25, 2011
- near Blacksburg, VA
SpaceX Falcon Heavy's 27 rocket engines.
We get accustomed to the awesome. Yesterday, I watched live video of the first Falcon Heavy commercial launch. The Falcon Heavy consists of 3 Falcon 9 rockets strapped together. Each Falcon 9 is made up of 9 rocket engines--so 27 in all. After the stunning launch, the rockets separated from the second stage, then the faring protecting the massive satellite opened into two pieces that fell away.
Only in science-fiction movies have we seen rockets regularly landing onto a launch pad. For the past 60 years, they were "disposable", and just allowed to drop into the ocean, like the rest of our garbage. The live video yesterday showed two rockets landing themselves simultaneously back where they began at Cape Canaveral, in a single camera view. Then the third (center) rocket landed itself onto a floating platform out in the ocean. Oh, and those two faring halves (which account for almost 10% of the cost of each flight) were both also retrieved.
If Walter Cronkite were alive today, reporting on that launch, he would have shaken his head, a big smile on his face, and chuckled a bit, as he wiped tears of glee from his eyes.
SpaceX has run circles around the "old guard" (Lockheed Martin). Innovation sometimes requires a whole new perspective, and the abandonment of the presumed constraints of the past. [This Falcon Heavy is the same configuration as the one which, just for a test run, used Elon Musk's red Tesla Roadster as a "ballast" load, to launch it into an orbit that goes beyond Mars. https://www.whereisroadster.com/ ]