Big SpaceX flight today at 1:30 EST

Reader Darrelle called to my attention that there’s a big SpaceX launch today, and it’s live on the internet (link below). His words:

I’m not sure if this kind of thing interests you, but today SpaceX will be attempting the first launch of their new Falcon Heavy rocket. This is a big deal! The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket since the Apollo and STS stacks and, if successful, will be the most powerful rocket currently operating. The launch window opens at 1:30 PM Eastern time today. The Falcon Heavy is basically 3 Falcon 9 rockets connected together. Sounds simple, but this is actually fairly complex, and while such configurations have been tried in the past, mainly (only?) by the  Soviets, they were not very successful and were notorious for failures.

SpaceX is of course known for re-using their rockets. They’ve had great success at landing the first stage boosters of their F9 rockets. They land them vertically, tail first, in a maneuver called a “hover-slam.” Instead of coming to a stop just above the ground and then gently setting down they calculate the landing burn to reach zero velocity (or nearly 0) at the same time the rocket touches down. Typical of SpaceX  they aren’t wasting any opportunities with the first launch attempt. They will be attempting to land all three of the “cores” (the 3 Falcon 9 first stage boosters that comprise the FH)—two on land and one on a barge in the Atlantic.

I really hope all goes well, but I wouldn’t be surprised if things don’t.

To see it live, click on the link below a bit before 1:30 pm Eastern time (6:30 pm GMT):



  1. Mark Reaume
    Posted February 6, 2018 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Pushed back to 2:20.

    • darrelle
      Posted February 6, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Yep. It is now pushed back to 2:50 (a 2nd delay). These two delays are due to high altitude wind shear about “20% above allowable load.”

      Good news that the delays aren’t due to technical issues, but I hope the weather starts cooperating!

  2. Posted February 6, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    YAY! I have always found these things to be SO exciting. My dad was a High School teacher and for the Apollo 11 landing he got together several large televisions, had the school open the gymnasium (it was in July, so school was officially out) and invited everyone who could come to watch. He was as giddy as Cronkite. I was eight and have been entranced by the spacey things since.

    Looking forward to a successful launch.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 6, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I hope they have cameras on the return first stages and they work all the way down. Often they are showing the landings and the camera goes out just as the thing is landing.

  4. Posted February 6, 2018 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    “They land them vertically, tail first…”

    Good choice.

    • Posted February 6, 2018 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      As of 1:00 PM EST the launch appears to be delayed until 3:05 PM EST, or at least that’s when the site currently states the live video feed will begin.

    • darrelle
      Posted February 6, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Definitely better than the alternative.

  5. Posted February 6, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Heavy lifters, ‘Merika!

    (I’m all jitters, this is going to be awesome!)

  6. Mark Reaume
    Posted February 6, 2018 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    The funniest part of all of this, is that they are attempting to send Elon Musk’s own Tesla with a dummy strapped in it to Mars while playing David Bowie’s Life on Mars on repeat. It could be orbiting Mars for decades or even centuries (theoretically).

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 6, 2018 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      Does the dummy have mousy hair? Sorry, I couldn’t help it. 😉

    • darrelle
      Posted February 6, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      It won’t actually orbit the planet Mars but will be in a solar orbit that reaches out as far as Mar’s orbit around the sun.

      • Mark Reaume
        Posted February 6, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, that makes sense.

    • Posted February 6, 2018 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      Someone asked Musk via Twitter, if they could fetch the Tesla sports car, whether they could keep it. He replied, “Yes.”

      • Mark Reaume
        Posted February 6, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        Sounds like a future Xprize possibility.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 6, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        Maybe they could they fetch Russell’s teapot while they’re out making the run, since it’s on their way.

        • nwalsh
          Posted February 6, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink


  7. Posted February 6, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Now pushed back to 3:45 PM EST for same reason again, upper level wind shear. Updates on their Twitter feed:

  8. Posted February 6, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    It’s a pity that Musk didn’t offer to launch a payload with real scientific value, instead of a cheap publicity stunt with a car.

    • Dave Steffen
      Posted February 6, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      “Payload with scientific value” is exactly what you *don’t* put on the first launch of a new system. New launch systems have a habit of exploding. Payloads with scientific value are expensive, and take a lot of time to manufacture. For the first flight, you *always* put up a dummy payload. So, it’s not a “cheap publicity stunt”, it’s good solid engineering with a sense of humor. 🙂

      • Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:50 am | Permalink

        Dave Steffen: I beg to disagree. The first launch of Ariane 5 carried a scientific payload for ESA at no cost because it was the first launch of a new rocket. Now, admittedly, that ended very badly when the rocket exploded shortly after lift-off, but ESA was happy to accept the free ride knowing the risks.

    • darrelle
      Posted February 6, 2018 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Yeah. What a dick.

    • Mark Reaume
      Posted February 6, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      There was a high probability of this not succeeding.

      • David Coxill
        Posted February 6, 2018 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

        Do private citizens have to get permission from the Federal govt before they launch dirty great big rockets like this ?

        • Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:51 am | Permalink

          Well, since the launch was at the Kennedy Space Centre, presumably NASA had approved it.

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 6, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I can see why ol’ Uncle Kurt Vonnegut called his story about one of the early NASA launches “The Big Space Fuck” (reportedly the first work of literature ever to feature the word “fuck” in the title).

    I saw a space shuttle launch once, quite by accident. I was heading back from a court appearance in northern Florida, on I-95 near the Cape Canaveral exit, when all of the cars were pulled over to the side of the road. I stopped to see what the deal was, and a few seconds later the shuttle came roaring overhead. Helluva a sight.

  10. Mark Reaume
    Posted February 6, 2018 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Live view from Starman:

  11. jay
    Posted February 6, 2018 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    57 Years ago, in 1961, Alan Shepard flew in the first US space shot. I was in my class in school and we brought in transister radios to listen to the shot.

    Today I watched from my desk at work, via the internet, and found the same thrill.

    Incredible. And absolutely awesome how the boosters returned home.

    [And I loved the ‘Don’t Panic’ sign in the car]

  12. David Coxill
    Posted February 6, 2018 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    You call this news ? The big news is the flat earther is planning another launch soon ,in fact it might already have happened .

  13. nicky
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Although I’m a great admirer of Elon Musk, I think he somehow underestimates the problems for a Mars colony. Getting there ‘cheaply’ is but a small -admittedly important- part of it.
    There is no useful atmosphere, there is no protective magnetosphere, there is -as yet- no ecosystem worthy of the name. These are very, very difficult problems to solve for a ‘self sufficient colony’, in my modest opinion. Greater than of a ‘colony’ on Antarctica or in the Deep Sea.
    Cousteau tried something of the kind in the 60’s, in the shallows of Red Sea. “Le Monde Sans Soleil”. A part from a great film nothing came from that.
    That being said, Mr Musk is right that sooner or later we’ll have to leave our planet.

%d bloggers like this: