SpaceX is set to launch its Falcon Heavy, its largest and most powerful rocket to date, on a journey to Mars on Tuesday, 6 February at 1:30 p.m. EST (1830 GMT) from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The site is the same one used to launch Apollo 11.
After several delays – the original launch was scheduled for November last year – this is one of SpaceX's most anticipated events this year. The Falcon Heavy is not just SpaceX's largest and most powerful rocket till date, it is also reported to be the world's most powerful rocket. Elon Musk has said that the Falcon Heavy will be bigger than any operational rocket now, "by a factor of two".
The entire launch process is shown in the video. It starts with the initial lift-off, then first stage separation has the first two boosters breaking off and landing at Cape Canaveral. The third one then detaches itself and returns to the landing pad in the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, the nose cone separates as Musk's "Starman" approaches the red planet. The entire video is set to David Bowie's "Is there life on Mars?"
The Falcon Heavy's capsule has Musk's own midnight cherry red Tesla Roadster – the company's first car planted at an angle as the only payload. The car has one passenger – Starman – a dummy wearing SpaceX's own spacesuit, with one elbow propped up on the door of the car and the other holding the steering wheel. Musk last year said that the car will have David Bowie's "Space Oddity" playing as the Falcon Heavy takes off.
The Falcon Heavy, according to SpaceX, can lift up to 64 metric tonnes into orbit at one third the cost of the next largest rocket – the Delta V Heavy. The first stage of the Falcon Heavy is made of three Falcon 9 rockets that will come back and land in Earth. Each rocket has nine engine cores taking the Falcon Heavy up to 27 rocket engines. It can either carry cargo inside its composite fairing, or can carry the Dragon spacecraft, designed to carry humans. The entire structure is 70m tall, as tall as a 20 storey building.
The Roadster will be travelling toward Mars at a max velocity of 11 km per second and travel 400 million km from Earth.
The event can be streamed live here:
The Elon Musk owned space company pulled off a rather remarkable launch of a government satellite from the Cape on 31 January where a rocket booster that was supposed to simply fall into the sea and break apart, survived.