SpaceX releases animation of Falcon Heavy launching from LC-39A
Hawthorne, California-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX ) has released animation of the upcoming launch of one of the company’s Falcon Heavy rockets lifting off from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida. SpaceX and other aerospace firms have released a lot of animation, however; at about 41 seconds in, this latest video begins to go off the usual script. The video shows what could be one of the most spectacular changes in terms of heavy-lift attempted to date.
Designed in a similar layout as United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy, the Falcon Heavy is of a triple-bodied design. Much like the liquid boosters on the Delta IV Heavy about a minute-and-a-half into the flight, the two side boosters are jettisoned. This is where things break from the traditional script.
The booster “right” themselves and conduct a controlled ballistic reentry – side-by-side. The two boosters then return to what is likely Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 13 – and land on two of what appear to be five landing sites at the complex. Each of these landing sites – is marked with a large “X.” Then the lone central core, having completed its mission, readjusts its heading – and heads back to Earth where it too lands.
The video bears some resemblance to one issued by NASA of the Space Agency’s new heavy-lift booster, the Space Launch System or SLS.
To date, SpaceX has come very close to carrying out the all-important last step of landing on a solid platform. During the Jan. 10 flight of the company’s Falcon 9 v1.1 – the booster made it all the way to a landing barge placed out in the Atlantic Ocean some 200 miles off the Coast of Florida. However, the booster’s first stage struck the barge and burst into flames.
Being able to return the first stage and its precious rocket engines back to Earth will forever change the space flight landscape as it will mean that a large portion of what was once single-use can now be reused.
SpaceX has stated that it plans to carry out the first launch of the Falcon Heavy later this year. While the company has redefined how launches are conducted having 27 of its Merlin 1D engines work in unison – is very different from the nine that are used in the Falcon 9 v1.1. Similarly, landing three booster cores is very different than landing just one. Given that SpaceX has developed a pattern of doing exactly what it says it will do – many aerospace analysts are giving the NewSpace firm the benefit of the doubt.
The coming year could be a very important one for SpaceX. Not only does the company plan to carry out the test flight of the Falcon Heavy, it also plans to conduct a critical pad abort test of its Dragon V2 spacecraft in March and has some 17 missions on its manifest – with four taking place from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 4.
Video courtesy of SpaceX
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.