Wednesday, February 7, 2018

1st SpaceX Falcon Heavy Blasts off with Massive Power and Crowds Watching ‘Starman’ Soar to Mars: Photos

Maiden SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket blasts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 6, 2017.  Nose cone housing Starman seated in Tesla Roadster is stenciled with Falcon Heavy logo. Credit: Ken Kremer/

Ken Kremer  --  --   6 Feb 2018

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The first ever triple core Falcon Heavy rocket blasted off late Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 6) and put on a space spectacular with a massive display of raw power for a massive crowd of thrilled eyewitnesses who will long remember the day SpaceX rocked the launch world with the nearly flawless launch of the new ‘Most Powerful Rocket’ currently in operation by a factor of two! 

And the Falcon Heavy propelled a mannequin nicknamed ‘Starman’ on a journey to Mars and Beyond to the tune of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity – wearing a genuine spacesuit while seated as the driver in SpaceX billionaire  CEO Elon Musk’s midnight red Tesla sports car cwhich he donated as the payload for this inaugural demonstration mission  for the firm he founded. 

Surrounded by all the drama of the unknown the three stick Falcon Heavy rocket lifted off on its debut test flight from historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Tuesday afternoon at 3:45 p.m. EST (2045 GMT) on Feb. 6 and successfully hurled ‘Starman’ to space atop the second stage of the center core encapsulated inside the nose cone.

Check out our initial gallery of on site launch photos of the thrilling event. 

Maiden SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket blasts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 6, 2017.  Credit: Ken Kremer/

The drama was palpable for everyone at the press viewing sites where I was based and about as high as could be since Musk had repeated downplayed the chances of success- saying multiple times it was about 50% or so.

So he was elated with the success at a post launch briefing held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center press site. 

“I didn’t really think this would work,” Musk said. “When I see the rocket lift off, I see, like, 1,000 things that could not work. And it’s amazing when they do.”

The triple stick Falcon Heavy is comprised of a trio of Falcon 9 boosters - including a significantly modified central core, to deal with aerodynamic stresses, that is attached to a pair of side-mounted cores with newly developed nose cones mounted in place of payload fairings. 

The two side cores are ‘flight-proven’ boosters that already launched once and were  recycled for this inaugural Falcon Heavy  demonstration test flight.

SpaceX’s launch was watched by over a 100,000 locally and millions more online around the world via their live webcast.  Live streaming video was beamed back after fairing separation and achieving preliminary orbit. 

And in a magnificent feat of wonder you had to see to believe the two side mounted first stage boosters detached from the central booster and returned to Earth accomplishing a near simultaneous rocket assisted precision guided touchdown back at Cape Canaveral.

The two recycled SpaceX Falcon Heavy side boosters landed nearly simultaneously, and side by side, on Feb. 6, eight minutes after maiden liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 8, 2018.  Credit: Ken Kremer/

Under gloriously sunny Sunshine state skies the rockets 27 Merlin 1D first stage engines ignited to produce nearly 5 million pounds of liftoff thrust and by far the loudest sounds to roar from the Florida Space Coast since the retirement of NASA’s space shuttles back in 2011.
Maiden SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket blasts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 6, 2017 with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s Tesla sports car as the payload bound for Mars and beyond.  Credit: Ken Kremer/

Ever so slowly the gigantic 22-story tall two stage Falcon Heavy creeped upward to start its dramatic soar to space for the first time as a massive crowd of more than 100,000 folks gathered from across the globe gawked in wonder.

The two stage Falcon Heavy stands more than 229 feet (70 meters) tall and measures 39.9 feet wide (12.2 meters). 

Liftoff of SpaceX Falcon Heavy on first demonstration test flight on Feb. 6, 2018 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 6, 2018.  Credit: Julian Leek

Stunning video of ‘Starman’ departing his Home Planet while ‘driving’ outwards through the black void of space was streamed back live in super high resolution 8 K video - showing stark images of the Blue Earth moving across the screen in the background at times.  

Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster was the primary payload for the debut Falcon Heavy launch.

The launch was by far the largest in terms of crowd size gathered since NASA’s final shuttle launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis in July 2011.

The Falcon Heavy is now the most powerful rocket to launch since NASA’s Space Shuttles were retired in 2011.

Sporting 5.1 million pounds of liftoff, it is twice as powerful as the ULA Delta IV Heavy- which until today previously currently which held the title as ‘Worlds Most Powerful’ rocket – until today.

To put that in perspective, the combined thrust of the 27 Merlin 1D first stage engines on Falcon Heavy is equivalent to 18 Boeing 747s. 

Read our detailed prelaunch and launch stories. 

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9, ULA and NASA and space mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: – – twitter @ken_kremer - ken at

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