SpaceX successfully launches big new Falcon Heavy rocket

The massive new SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket made a successful launch into its maiden voyage into space, a major step for the biggest rocket in the world.

After a delay of over two hours due to high winds, the rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A at 3:45 p.m.

Roars from SpaceX employees could be heard as the rocket climbed higher and higher, eventually leaving the earth’s atmosphere.

David Bowie’s “Starman” played while images of a Tesla roadster, the rocket’s payload on this flight, appeared to be flying space via on-board cameras.

Two of the rocket’s boosters landed simultaneously on land following separation, while the third appeared to land successfully on a drone boat.

SpaceX has said the rocket will be capable of sending humans to Mars, even though SpaceX is planning to build an entirely different system for Mars travel, called the BFR.

The Falcon Heavy has a thrust equal to 18 Boeing 747 jetliners and is built by the industry disrupting rocket company started by billionaire Elon Musk.

The more thrust a rocket has, the farther it can travel and the bigger the satellite, spacecraft or other payload it can send into orbit.

That opens up a whole range of business opportunities for SpaceX, which has been leading a new era of spaceflight in which companies — not just governments — drive the industry forward.

What is it sending to space?

For this test mission, the Falcon Heavy will launch a dummy payload. Specifically, it’ll send a cherry red Tesla roadster from Musk’s personal collection into deep space. There’s no scientific reason to send the car to space. But it does serve as self-promotion for Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla.

When asked on Twitter why he wanted to throw away a $100,000 car, he replied, “I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future.”

Once the Falcon Heavy has proven it can fly, the rocket can start doing its real job of hauling satellites and other payloads into orbit.

The rocket is already signed up to carry three hefty telecommunications satellites into orbit.

The U.S. Air Force also plans to use a Falcon Heavy to launch a payload dubbed STP-2 that includes some weather forecasting satellites.

SpaceX also said in early 2017 that two space tourists put down a deposit to ride on a Falcon Heavy for a trip around the moon. At the time, SpaceX said that trip could occur in 2018, though the company hasn’t offered any updates.

How much does it cost?

The Falcon Heavy has a $90 million sticker price. That’s 45% more expensive than the Falcon 9 rocket SpaceX has used for every mission going back to 2012.

But the Falcon Heavy is essentially three Falcon 9s strapped together, and it’ll boast about three times the thrust of the Falcon 9.

And, compared to rockets that better rival the Falcon Heavy’s power, it’s a bargain.

The Delta IV Heavy, which is built by legacy aerospace firm United Launch Alliance and is currently the world’s most powerful rocket, can reportedly cost as much as $400 million per launch.

It should also be noted that the Falcon Heavy will out-power the Delta IV Heavy by a factor of two.

Why is it so cheap?

SpaceX says it’s been able to undercut the competition on price because of its reusable rocket parts.

The company is the only rocket builder in the world that safely returns first-stage rocket boosters back to Earth.

The first Falcon Heavy flight will even use two refurbished boosters from previous Falcon 9 missions.

And, in what promises to be a stunning spectacle, SpaceX says it will attempt to guide all three of the Falcon Heavy’s first-stage boosters back to Earth after launch. Two of them will make a synchronized landing back at Kennedy Space Center. The third booster will land on a droneship, which is a remote controlled platform that catches rockets out at sea.

Will it work?

SpaceX has taken its sweet time preparing for launch. The company said back in 2011 that the rocket would be ready in 2013. That target eventually moved to November 2017, then December. Now, SpaceX is finally ready to launch.

But even with all that careful preparation, things could still go haywire.

“Falcon Heavy requires the simultaneous ignition of 27 orbital-class engines. There’s a lot that could go wrong there,” Musk said at a conference last year. “This is one of those things that’s very difficult to test on the ground … real good chance that vehicle does not make it to orbit.”

View from SpaceX Launch Control. Apparently, there is a car in orbit around Earth. pic.twitter.com/QljN2VnL1O

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 6, 2018

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Supermoon to rise Sunday for one and only 2017 appearance

It took almost a full year, but the one and only supermoon of 2017 will appear in the skies on Sunday night.

A supermoon is actually a normal full moon that occurs when the celestial object that is definitely not made of cheese is closet to the Earth.

According to USA Today, the supermoon appears up to 30 percent brighter than a normal full moon at its farthest point from Earth.

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The Local 10 Weather Authority says skies over South Florida should be plenty clear to view this year’s supermoon appearance.

 

 

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Massive asteroid passing Earth overnight to be visible with binoculars

As if this month’s eclipse wasn’t enough, the universe is being kind enough to entertain us with another celestial event that could have actually been a lot more disastrous.

Asteroid Florence, measuring 2.7 miles, will fly so close to our planet on Friday at 8:06 a.m., we’ll be able to see it through binoculars.

The Palm Beach Post reports Florence will still be 4.4 million miles away when it zips by, but still close enough to possibly see.

Those looking to get a glimpse of the asteroid should look about 19 degrees above the southern horizon 

Florence should be “fairly bright” and trackable for about 5 to 10 minutes as it makes its closest approach to the planet since 1890.

By the way, when we say “zips,” we mean it. Florence will be traveling at a smooth 30,266 miles per hour.

Check out Sky and Telescope for detailed charts on where to look in the sky to see the asteroid.

@SkyandTelescope NEA 3122 Florence tonight. 14, 20 sec. images taken each minute, 1:03-1:20 UT, 300mm Canon T3i, ISO 1600, stacked. pic.twitter.com/W4OySuSApF

— Brad Timerson (@btimerson) August 31, 2017

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Massive asteroid passing Earth to be visible with binoculars

As if Monday’s eclipse wasn’t enough, the universe is being kind enough to entertain us with another celestial event that could have actually been a lot more disastrous.

Asteroid Florence, measuring 2.7 miles, will fly so close to our planet on Sept. 1 at 8:06 a.m., we’ll be able to see it through binoculars.

The Palm Beach Post reports Florence will still be 4.4 million miles away when it zips by, but still close enough to possibly see.

Those looking to get a glimpse of the asteroid should look about 19 degrees above the southern horizon 

Florence should be “fairly bright” and trackable for about 5 to 10 minutes as it makes its closest approach to the planet since 1890.

By the way, when we say “zips,” we mean it. Florence will be traveling at a smooth 30,266 miles per hour.

 

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Thrift shop bargain hunters find rare NASA flight suits

Talia Rappa and Skyer Ashworth turned summer bargain shopping at a Titusville thrift store closeout into the stuff of NASA collectors’ legend when the central Florida college students paid 20 cents each for five rare NASA flight suits that experts say could be valued at $5,000 each or more.

“They were kind of in a weird corner,” Rappa told WKMG. “He (Skylar) pulled them all out at first, then brought the whole handful over to me.”

The five blue NASA flight suits, along with a white “control suit,” were in the bottom of a plastic bin tucked under some forgotten winter sweaters.

According to experts at the American Space Museum, the astronauts’ names and flight dates on the white labels seem to match the time astronauts George “Pinky” Nelson, PhD, Robert A. Parker, PhD, and Charles D. Walker, a payload specialist, flew shuttle missions between 1983 and 1985.

At first, experts thought Nelson’s flight suit, a 38 small, was worn by Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, but further investigation showed Nelson didn’t fly a shuttle mission until 1986.

Rappa, a junior studying astrophysics at the University of Central Florida, told WKMG she has always been fascinated with space travel and would love to be part of the MARS mission.

When the 20-year-old looked at the suits close up, she admits her “jaw dropped.”

Ashworth, 24, who was recently accepted into a college aerospace program at Eastern Florida State College, told WKMG the space program is in his family’s DNA.

“My parents worked NASA communications with the shuttle program,” he said, “and my grandfather even worked communications with the shuttle.”

“It just blows my mind,” Ashworth said. “It (the bin holding the suits) was under two other big totes. I moved them off to the side and I’m digging through a whole bunch of sweaters and stuff, and I found the white one with the patch just kind of laying there.”

Chuck Jeffrey, a member of the board the American Space Museum in Titusville, and an avid NASA collector, purchased the fifth flight suit worn by STS-9 Astronaut Dr. Owen Garriot. Garriot, an amateur ham radio operator, is known as the first man in space to communicate via ham radio with people across the globe while aboard the Columbia STS-9.

The students plan to offer the suits at a special auction conducted by the American Space Museum.

TheA tentative date for the auction has been set for Nov. 4.

Some of the proceeds will be donated to the museum, while the other funds will be used for Rappa and Ashworth’s college tuition.

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