Hawthorne-based SpaceX launched a test mission of its so-called ``Falcon Heavy'' rocket Tuesday from Cape Canaveral, the maiden voyage of a launch vehicle envisioned to propel missions to the moon and Mars.
It was blue skies, green lights and a lot of excitement for the Falcon Heavy.
The Hawthorne based SpaceX building the rocket with 27 engines and three reusable boosters. A celestial monster aiming for a solar orbit and eventually a trip to Mars as SpaceX employees applauded and cheered the monster spacecraft.
Watching on his home computer John "Danny" Olivas was excited too. An American astronaut he flew two space shuttle missions. The last in 2009.
Growing up... he was inspired by the Apollo astronauts and the landing on the moon. He calls Elon Musk, "An innovator; someone whose willing to push the boundaries of conventional thinking." And, a bit of a cowboy. And, says Olivas, sometimes you need cowboys to push that envelope! I think every explorer has to have a little cowboy in them."
Olivas thinks Musk is - at this point in time - important to taking the space race to a new generation of engineers and explorers. He explains, "I think companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX and Tesla and his various other endeavors like Hyperloop are really challenging the norms of the engineering community and pushing engineers to think more broadly. I think its refreshing because it takes us away from conventional ways of doing business."
And, talk about a payload that's playful!
Musk put a his cherry red Tesla roadster on his rocket and a spacesuited mannequin named Starman! Maybe someday it'll be a real human.. maybe several… maybe off to colonize Mars…. or build a Tesla dealership there :) He likes Elon Musk's sense of humor. Says Olivas, "I think just like his first launch when he launched the first dragon capsule and he had a wheel of cheese on there. I think its wonderful. Just because you're an engineer and a scientist doesn't necessarily mean doesn't mean you have to be dull and boring."
Danny Olivas and Elon Musk are anything but that!
SpaceX founder Elon Musk had been urging people to tune into the streaming broadcast of the launch, though suggesting there's a good chance the highly complex rocket will fail to reach orbit, or even crumble shortly after takeoff.
The mission plan for Falcon Heavy's test flight is an elliptical orbit around the sun, ultimately intercepting the orbital path of Mars. And it will be carrying a pristine payload -- Musk's own cherry red Tesla Roadster.
Musk wrote on Twitter last year that the usual test cargo of concrete or steel blocks ``seemed extremely boring,'' so he opted to ``send something unusual'' into space for the trip.
"The payload will be an original Tesla Roadster, playing `Space Oddity,' on a billion year elliptical Mars orbit,'' he wrote.
The 230-feet-tall, 27-engine Falcon Heavy is essentially triple the size of SpaceX's traditional Falcon 9 rockets, which are used for satellite launches and cargo missions to the International Space Station. According SpaceX, the liftoff thrust of Falcon Heavy is roughly equivalent to 18 full- powered 747 jetliners.
Falcon Heavy includes a massive center rocket booster, coupled with two side rocket boosters -- which are actually two previously used Falcon 9 rockets. SpaceX has been perfecting the system of recovering Falcon 9 rockets for re-use in future missions -- shaving millions of dollars from the cost of satellite launches.
Falcon Heavy is no different. In fact, SpaceX plans to try to recover all three of the rocket boosters following Tuesday's launch, two back at Cape Canaveral and one at sea aboard the company's whimsically named drone ship ``Of Course I Still Love You.''
Musk has had high hopes for the Falcon Heavy vehicle, even suggesting that it might be used to send two people on a trip around the moon later this year, and ultimately used for regular cargo missions to Mars.
But Falcon Heavy's inaugural launch has been repeatedly delayed, in part by a 2016 explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket in Florida that destroyed a multimillion-dollar satellite.
The design of the vehicle has proven to be so complex that even Musk has said the odds of its first launch failing are high. He said in an interview last year that if the Falcon Heavy explodes, he hopes it does so high enough above the ground to avoid damaging the historic launch pad at Kennedy Space Center.
Falcon Heavy is launching from Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 39A which was used for most of the Apollo missions to the moon.