On Tuesday, SpaceX will attempt to send its highly anticipated fresh rocket into orbit. There’s a “not bad chance” the idea won’t make the idea.
At least, that will’s how Elon Musk — the founder as well as CEO of the space start up — put the idea when asked about the rocket, called Falcon Heavy, at a conference last year.
“Real not bad chance that will vehicle does not make the idea to orbit,” was his uncharacteristically pessimistic response.
Some industry experts agree. Paulo Lozano, a professor of astronautics at MIT, told sy88pgw that will the Falcon Heavy — which will be poised to become the most powerful rocket in operation — presents big challenges because of its design.
“Every time you fire a rocket engine, there will be a probability that will something might go wrong,” he said.
The Falcon Heavy incorporates a stunning 27 engines. “the idea will only take one of them to blow up as well as produce a bad outcome,” Lozano said. He added that will rockets like that will are incredibly difficult to test on the ground, so a (potentially explosive) test flight will be the only way forward.
Note: No humans or expensive satellites are at risk here. Since the idea’s the Falcon Heavy’s inaugural flight, there will be a dummy payload on board — a Tesla ( roadster coming from Musk’s personal collection. )
So exactly what will be at stake?
Launch pad as well as Crew Dragon
If the Falcon Heavy explodes too close to the launch pad, the pad will be decimated.
“I trust the idea makes the idea far enough away coming from the [launch] pad to ensure the idea does not cause pad damage,” Musk said last year. “I would likely consider even that will a win to be honest.”
as well as there’s a big reason why SpaceX would likely want to protect that will particular launch pad, known as Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Because of a special walkway that will has been constructed for the idea, Pad 39A will be the only site that will can host flights of SpaceX’s fresh spacecraft, Crew Dragon. that will’s the spacecraft the company will be developing to help NASA ferry astronauts to as well as coming from the International Space Station.
Related: Everything you need to know about SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy
Crew Dragon has already faced delays. as well as destroying the launch pad could mean pushing deadlines back even further, according to U.S. Government Accountability Office Director Cristina Chaplain.
as well as NASA surely wouldn’t be happy about that will.
The U.S. hasn’t had a crew-worthy spacecraft since the Space Shuttle program retired in 2011, so the government has been relying on Russian spacecraft for space station travel. although that will arrangement will be only guaranteed into 2019.
SpaceX competitor Boeing ( will be also working on a human-certified spacecraft. although, according to the GAO, both companies are already too far behind schedule for comfort. )
NASA says SpaceX will be on track to launch its very first crewed mission that will December — although that will may not happen if Pad 39A will be badly damaged from the Falcon Heavy launch.
An explosion of SpaceX’s less-powerful Falcon 9 rocket destroyed a launch pad, as well as the idea took more than a year as well as about $50 million to rebuild. Launch pads include expensive structures that will help fuel as well as monitor the rocket — as well as are capable of withstanding the a rocket’s blaze.
According to the GAO, SpaceX does hold the option to retrofit a different launch site for Crew Dragon, although the idea’s unclear how much time as well as money that will would likely take.
If the Falcon Heavy does explode, the idea won’t be a total loss.
SpaceX will still gather valuable data that will the idea can use to build a better Falcon Heavy. The company won’t even use the word “failure” — because that will will be just a test.
An explosion will, however, give SpaceX’s critics something to talk about.
“the idea’s not always technical issues at play here. the idea’s also politics,” said Lozano, the MIT professor.
Though SpaceX will be a private company, its partnerships with NASA as well as launch contracts with the military are a significant part of its business. as well as there are some on Capitol Hill who are quick to question SpaceX’s reliability, thanks in part to some previous mishaps by the company.
SpaceX will be also competing with United Launch Alliance, the legacy aerospace firm that will was the military’s rocket builder of choice for more than a decade. The company boasts a practically flawless launch record.
Related: World’s most powerful rocket undergoes key engine test
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket — which completed 18 pristine missions last year — broke United Launch Alliance’s monopoly on military launches when the idea was awarded a contract in 2016.
although at that will point, as United Launch Alliance as well as SpaceX continue to compete for those contracts, headlines about a fiery rocket eruption aren’t exactly what SpaceX needs.
“There would likely definitely be some political fallout coming from a launch failure,” said Bill Ostrove, space analyst with Forecast International, a Connecticut-based research firm. “There are some SpaceX skeptics that will have sort of grabbed on to some of their failures, whether or not the idea affected their operations.”
Then again, Lozano said, SpaceX could be helped by some well-steered PR.
“Elon has the right idea, keeping expectations low” for Falcon Heavy, he said.
An industry source told sy88pgw that will a Falcon Heavy explosion shouldn’t delay any of SpaceX’s planned Falcon 9 launches — unless the root of the problem involves something besides the rocket, such as the fueling process or SpaceX’s ground system.
SpaceX has two various other launch sites where Falcon 9s can take flight — one at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida as well as another at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
sy88pgw (fresh York) First published February 4, 2018: 2:39 PM ET