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Falcon Heavy launch: all the updates about SpaceX’s game-changing rocket

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Seven years after SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced the development of the Falcon Heavy rocket, the vehicle is finally ready to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The heavy-lift version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is the most powerful rocket in the world, and it could be a game-changer for Musk’s company and the space industry in general.

Follow along for further updates as this story develops.

  • Bryan Bishop

    Mar 11, 2018

    Bryan Bishop

    Elon Musk and the creator of Westworld made an inspirational trailer for the Falcon Heavy launch

    A surprise guest joined the cast and creators of HBO’s Westworld at the end of the show’s SXSW panel on Saturday. SpaceX founder Elon Musk, a friend of show creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, appeared as a way to end the panel on a note of “optimism”, in Nolan’s words, while also showing the audience an inspirational trailer that Nolan created promoting the February launch of the SpaceX Heavy Falcon rocket.

    “One of the things that I really used to, when I was a kid, spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about was space, and spaceflight,” Nolan said, noting that he had grown up watching Super 8 footage of Saturn rocket launches, but that the fervor and excitement that space exploration once fostered has faded. “And so I was having a drink last year with a friend, and we were talking about how do you inspire people? How do you get people to talk again, how can you drive the conversation?”

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  • Alessandra Potenza

    Feb 17, 2018

    Alessandra Potenza

    Track Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster in space with this aptly named website

    The tesla roadster floats through space with a mannequin behind the wheel.
    The Tesla roadster in space.
    Video: SpaceX

    Last week, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk launched his now-famous red Tesla Roadster into space, atop the first Falcon Heavy rocket. Cameras mounted on the car live-streamed the Starman’s journey for a few hours, giving us some unforgettable shots of Earth before going black. But if you want to know where the first car cruising our Solar System is right now, there’s a website for that — aptly called Whereisroadster.com.

    The website was created by engineer Ben Pearson, who’s been passionate about space since he was in third grade. “I read every book in my little library that I could about space and space exploration stuff,” he tells The Verge. The day of the Falcon Heavy launch, he saw that people online were asking questions about tracking the Tesla Roadster in space. So he decided to figure it out — and create a website that gives the answer.

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  • Feb 10, 2018

    Kyle Chayka

    Elon Musk made history launching a car into space. Did he make art too?

    Starman: a possible instance of installation art
    Starman: a possible instance of installation art
    SpaceX

    There was no shortage of media from Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch this week. A computer-rendered animation prepared us all for the spectacle, set to David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” as a kind of galactic music video. Everything was live-streamed as it happened. Then afterward, the viral video clip of the two booster rockets landing in tandem after the successful launch was certainly impressive, even if the third booster missed its mark. But the real iconic image from the launch, the one most likely to stand the test of time, is of the cherry-red Tesla Roadster that Musk embedded in the capsule of the payload rocket. A gleaming convertible floating through (actual, real) space, its wheels not spinning at all, an astronaut-suited mannequin posed, unperturbed, with its arm hanging out the side. The Earth eventually looms in the background, incomprehensibly large, seen through the windshield.

    It’s a staggering image — the first car ever in space, moving seven miles per second toward the asteroid belt — and so impressive that the video seems somehow unreal. It’s the greatest car ad of all time. What makes the image so compelling is in part its casualness, a feat carried off jauntily and successfully, with the added joke of the posed mannequin and a dashboard screen displaying “DON’T PANIC.” The human-manufactured car, with its elongated curves and aerodynamic, semi-organic shape, contrasts completely with the inhuman vastness of space, the gleaming red of the car against utter black. Actual spaceships are unwieldy, temperamental machines; this is one craft we can all understand, even if it’s not exactly functional.  

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  • Loren Grush

    Feb 9, 2018

    Loren Grush

    What it was like to watch the Falcon Heavy fly

    I’m standing in the middle of a wide, grassy field, peering at a tiny, smoking rocket three miles in the distance. Hundreds of reporters, producers, and photographers are all standing around me, staring at the same spot. The seconds tick away on a giant electronic countdown clock located on the field’s edge. With just 20 seconds left on the clock, I hear a flight controller’s voice boom over a loudspeaker behind me: “SpaceX Falcon Heavy: go for launch.”

    It’s actually happening.

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  • Loren Grush

    Feb 8, 2018

    Loren Grush

    Elon Musk’s Tesla overshot Mars’ orbit, but it won’t reach the asteroid belt as claimed

    Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster, which launched on top of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy on Tuesday, is going farther out into the Solar System than originally planned. The car was supposed to be put on a path around the Sun that would take the vehicle out to the distance of Mars’ orbit. But the rocket carrying the car seems to have overshot that trajectory and has put the Tesla in an orbit that extends beyond the Red Planet’s path. However, the Tesla won’t be making it to the asteroid belt, as SpaceX CEO Elon Musk originally claimed.

    After launch, the Tesla cruised through space for a good six hours — a trip that was also live-streamed by SpaceX. This “coast” phase was meant to show off a special orbital maneuver for the US Air Force before the rocket completed one final engine burn in space and put the car on its final orbit. It looks like that burn might have happened somewhere over Southern California, as some people in the area started reporting sightings of the rocket igniting in the night sky after 9:30PM ET on Tuesday.

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  • Sean O'Kane

    Feb 7, 2018

    Sean O'Kane

    The best photos and videos of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch

    After years of waiting and months of delays, SpaceX finally launched the Falcon Heavy rocket into the skies of Florida yesterday. The launch was mostly a success, though the rocket’s center core booster was lost.

    Overnight, SpaceX published some of its own images of the rocket’s ascent and of the seemingly synchronized landing of the two side boosters at Cape Canaveral. But there was a glut of professional, semi-professional, and amateur photographers on the grounds and at the nearby beaches, all capturing their own unique perspectives of the historic launch. To top it all off, a few lucky sky-gazers in California even caught a glimpse of the Falcon Heavy’s upper stage performing its final burn, hours after takeoff, putting the infamous Tesla Roadster on a course that will bring it as far out as the asteroid belt.

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  • Sean O'Kane

    Feb 7, 2018

    Sean O'Kane

    Here’s what’s next for SpaceX after Falcon Heavy’s first flight

    The first launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket was mostly a success for SpaceX. The middle rocket core broke apart when it crashed into the water next to the company’s autonomous drone ship, and the Tesla payload overshot its target. But the launch was an otherwise excellent showcase of what the Falcon Heavy is supposed to be all about: big-time power to propel big-time payloads.

    So what comes next for the private spaceflight company? The answer has three parts: one for each of SpaceX’s current and future rockets. There is, of course, the Falcon Heavy itself. But it’s partially made up of Falcon 9s, reliable rockets in their own right, and the current money-makers for SpaceX. Also, last year, Elon Musk announced the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR. The company’s immediate future will be all about finding a balance between the first two until the BFR is ready to fly.

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  • Feb 7, 2018

    Vlad Savov

    Sending a Tesla into space wasn’t such a dumb idea

    Tesla Roadster
    Tesla Roadster
    SpaceX / Flickr

    Maybe it’s my instinctive distrust of bored billionaires treating the world as their playground, but I’m always dubious about Elon Musk’s various moonshot projects. He seems to be enjoying it all a little too much. Latest among his outlandish ideas was the concept of sending a Tesla out into space with yesterday’s historic Falcon Heavy rocket launch. I thought it was just another indulgence of a febrile mind, but then I saw the Earth fly-by videos and suddenly it all made sense.

    Elon Musk, the master salesman of our times, has found the perfect implement for making science sexy and evocative to everyone: a Tesla Roadster. Without a human element, even the fiery eruptions of a rocket launch can start to feel repetitive, especially in our present age of instant access to the spectacular and otherworldly. So Musk is saying, how about a glossy red electric supercar to reignite imaginations?

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  • Loren Grush

    Feb 6, 2018

    Loren Grush

    The middle booster of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket failed to land on its drone ship

    Though the Falcon Heavy’s outer cores successfully landed after launch this afternoon, the middle core of SpaceX’s huge rocket missed the drone ship where it was supposed to land, a source tells The Verge. SpaceX later confirmed The Verge’s reporting in a press conference.

    The center core was only able to relight one of the three engines necessary to land, and so it hit the water at 300 miles per hour about 300 feet from the drone ship. As a result, two engines on the drone ship were taken out when it crashed, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a press call after the rocket launch. “[It] was enough to take out two thrusters and shower the deck with shrapnel,” he said.

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  • Micah Singleton

    Feb 6, 2018

    Micah Singleton

    SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch was YouTube’s second biggest live stream ever

    Image: SpaceX

    SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon Heavy rocket earlier this afternoon from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the live stream of the event was the second biggest in YouTube’s history. The event reached over 2.3 million concurrent views on YouTube, coming in second to the Red Bull Stratos jump, which racked in a ridiculous 8 million concurrent views back in 2012.

    The company isn’t done with live streams for the day either. You can currently watch the dummy in SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster, which is attached to the Falcon Heavy’s upper stage, make its way toward its eventual orbit around Mars.

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  • Sean O'Kane

    Feb 6, 2018

    Sean O'Kane

    Ride along with the dummy driving Elon Musk’s Tesla to Mars

    Mere minutes after successfully launching the Falcon Heavy rocket on the first try, SpaceX is now live streaming footage from Tesla Roadster it released into space. Now we know what CEO Elon Musk meant yesterday when he teased that there would be “epic views” if the launch went well.

    The Roadster is still attached to the Falcon Heavy’s upper stage, which is currently an hour or so into what is supposed to be a six-hour “coast” through the Van Allen radiation belts. If the upper stage’s systems survive being bombarded with all that radiation, then it will fire one last time, pushing the Tesla out towards its elliptical orbit around Mars.

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  • Chaim Gartenberg

    Feb 6, 2018

    Chaim Gartenberg

    The Falcon Heavy test flight included a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels

    The “Arch” storage disc being sent with the Roadster on the Falcon Heavy
    The “Arch” storage disc being sent with the Roadster on the Falcon Heavy
    Image: SpaceX

    SpaceX has just successfully launched its new Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time, and just before launch, the company revealed on its live stream that inside the rather unique cargo of a Tesla Roadster, the company had placed an “Arch” storage system containing Isaac Asimov’s Foundation book series.

    An Arch is a “5D, laser optical quartz storage device” that is meant to be able to survive even in the harsh conditions of space, built by the Arch Mission Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to preserve libraries of human knowledge for interstellar travel (and to protect information in the event of calamity to Earth itself). It’s a goal that the group says was inspired by Asimov’s novels, which see mankind working to write an “Encyclopedia Galactica” to protect mankind against a coming dark age.

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  • Loren Grush

    Feb 6, 2018

    Loren Grush

    SpaceX launches its powerful Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time

    SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, this afternoon and soared to space, carrying its payload — CEO Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster — into orbit. The Falcon Heavy’s first flight is finally over, and despite a fudged landing in the ocean, the rocket has shown its prowess and is likely ready to begin missions for customers.

    Adding to the launch’s success, two of the Falcon Heavy’s rocket cores successfully touched down back on Earth after takeoff. The two outer boosters broke away mid-flight and returned to the Cape, touching down around 1,000 feet from one another on SpaceX’s concrete landing pads — Landing Zone 1 and Landing Zone 2. The center core then broke away from the vehicle’s upper stage, but did not land as intended on one of SpaceX’s autonomous drone ships in the Atlantic Ocean. That means SpaceX has now landed a total of 23 rockets upright.

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  • Loren Grush

    Feb 6, 2018

    Loren Grush

    Everything you need to know about today’s Falcon Heavy launch

    The time has finally come for SpaceX to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket. A launch license has been issued for the giant vehicle to take flight this Tuesday. It’s a mission that many have been waiting for since 2011 when SpaceX CEO Elon Musk first announced plans to develop the vehicle. Now, after seven years and numerous delays, the launch of the rocket is imminent — and it could be a game-changer for SpaceX.

    Here are all the details you need to know about this launch and why it’s such a big deal for both SpaceX and the industry.

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  • Feb 5, 2018

    Sean O'Kane and Loren Grush

    Here are four things we learned from Elon Musk before the first Falcon Heavy launch

    Elon Musk Presents SpaceX Plans To Colonise Mars
    Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images

    Less than a day before the first scheduled launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy, CEO Elon Musk took questions about the rocket from reporters during a short news conference. He reiterated warnings about the potential failure of the mission, and added that his biggest worry is about how the three rocket boosters will behave next to each other. He added that if this launch is successful, the next one could be ready in three to six months. He also clarified some outstanding details about the Falcon Heavy’s first flight — and it wouldn’t be Elon Musk if he weren’t making a few wild proclamations about the near future of SpaceX.

    Musk was asked whether SpaceX can increase the Falcon Heavy’s performance over time, much like it has with the Falcon 9. That’s when the CEO suggested the possibility of a Falcon Super Heavy — a Falcon Heavy with extra boosters. “We could really dial it up to as much performance as anyone could ever want. If we wanted to we could actually add two more side boosters and make it Falcon Super Heavy,” Musk said. This five-rocket Falcon Super Heavy would have around 9 million pounds of thrust, Musk said, nearly doubling the rocket’s current capability, and putting it in line with the Saturn V as the most powerful rocket ever built.

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  • Sean O'Kane

    Feb 5, 2018

    Sean O'Kane

    SpaceX animation shows what Elon Musk’s Roadster will look like on its way toward Mars

    Roughly 24 hours before SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is supposed to blast off for the first time ever, CEO Elon Musk just shared an animated video of what it will look like when the new giant rocket releases a Tesla Roadster into space.

    The animation is a sort of updated version of the computer-generated Falcon Heavy video that the company released a few years ago. But this new version shows roughly where the all-electric sports car will sit within the rocket’s payload fairing, and includes a new section at the end that illustrates what it will look like when the car separates from the spacecraft.

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  • Thuy Ong

    Feb 5, 2018

    Thuy Ong

    Looks like this SpaceX dummy will ride Musk’s Tesla Roadster into space tomorrow

    Tomorrow is a big day for Elon Musk: his company SpaceX will be launching the new Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, seven years after the vehicle was first announced. It will be a demonstration mission, meant to test if the rocket can send a payload into orbit. And that payload will be Musk’s red Tesla Roadster... driven by a dummy, perhaps.

    Musk, being the teasing entrepreneur that he is, just posted three photos to Instagram showing that very Roadster with a noteworthy passenger behind the wheel: a dummy wearing the new SpaceX space suit. The images show the dummy sitting in the car that’s mounted on a dome structure with what looks like cameras attached to the front section.

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  • Loren Grush

    Feb 2, 2018

    Loren Grush

    A successful SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch gives NASA new options

    SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy on its launchpad.
    SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy on its launchpad.
    Image: SpaceX

    SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket will launch for the first time next week. It might be the company’s most anticipated mission yet, and it could open up a new line of business — one that might interest NASA.

    The new rocket will be the most powerful in the world, which means it could launch heavier and more complex cargo to space. Once the vehicle becomes operational, SpaceX could soon start launching what the company’s Falcon 9 can’t: heavier national security satellites, large habitats and telescopes, or even humans to deep space.

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  • Jan 27, 2018

    Andrew Liptak

    SpaceX is planning to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket on February 6th

    Image: SpaceX

    Just days after SpaceX performed a successful static fire of its Falcon Heavy rocket, Elon Musk says that the company is planning to launch the rocket for the first time on Tuesday, February 6th from Cape Kennedy in Florida.

    SpaceX originally intended to launch the rocket in 2013 or 2014, but has continually pushed the date back. Now that the rocket has successfully completed its tests, the first launch is within sight.

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  • Loren Grush

    Jan 24, 2018

    Loren Grush

    SpaceX performs crucial test fire of Falcon Heavy, potentially paving way for launch

    Image: Florida Today

    Today, SpaceX simultaneously fired up all 27 engines on its new massive Falcon Heavy rocket — a crucial final test for the vehicle before its first flight in the coming weeks. An hour after the test, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the test was good, and that the Falcon Heavy will launch in “a week or so.” When SpaceX gives an official target day and time, it’ll be the first time a definitive launch date has been given for the rocket’s inaugural voyage, a flight that was initially promised to happen as early as 2013.

    Today’s test, known as a static fire, is meant to assess the performance of a rocket’s engines prior to launch. It involves restraining a rocket on a launchpad while igniting its engines to simulate the initial stage of launch — but without the rocket taking off. The rocket was tested at SpaceX’s launch site LC-39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where the Falcon Heavy is slated to launch. SpaceX typically does a static fire prior to every launch, but today’s is particularly special: it’s the first time the company has fired up so many engines at once.

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