When Pierre of Coubertin proposed the motto for the Olympics in 1894, mankind had just begun to conquer the skies without going further than just a few meters above the ground. More than a century later, citius, altius, fortius (“faster, higher, stronger”) could also be the motto that currently encourages the space race.
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy has set a major milestone in today’s space race, which is open to new players and a new market.
It is a competition which no longer involves just two superpowers, which was the case when mankind landed on the Moon. Several countries are today able to launch spacecraft into space. Quite a few private companies and business men have also joined them, who view space as a commercial resource that can be exploited. As a matter of fact, this is precisely what it is.
The last milestone in this race is very recent. We recently had the chance to view the first launch of the Falcon Heavy live. It is a reusable, super-heavy launch system funded, designed and built by the company SpaceX.
Its useful payload in a low-earth orbit amounts to almost 64 tonnes, almost tripling the payload of the Falcon 9, its smaller predecessor. With its sights set on voyages to Mars, it is aimed at having available a launch system that allows heavy loads to be carried into space. It is important to point out that the system’s useful payload is reduced to around 17 tonnes for it to reach the red planet.
Aside from its capabilities, the most important thing of this launch was the planned recovery of the rocket’s first stages. They were decoupled with pin-point accuracy and returned to Earth, landing gently at the places foreseen. This is a key factor to reduce future launch costs, which could be cut by approximately 30%.
This test flight’s useful load was symbolic, a Tesla vehicle carrying a mannequin inside. However, at least another two launches are planned for 2018, which will already be carrying loads for clients.
Another aspect well worth mentioning is the way these advances in the space race are announced. Information is now freely available, unlike the last century, when the superpowers kept all their advances or launches top secret. Before they competed with each other, now they are competing for market share. Publicly available information on the entire launch process, its protocols and live checks to ensure everything was running as its engineers had designed is the best possible advertising this kind of company can have to attract new clients in the conquest of space.
Citius, altius, fortius can, as a matter of fact, be a motto to take into consideration in this new space race.
All the videos on the Falcon Heavy’s development and its first launch can be viewed on SpaceX’s YouTube channel. To access it, click here.