Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster
A Tesla Roadster sports car owned by Elon Musk was launched into space on February 6, 2018. It was a dummy payload for the maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket. Both the car and rocket were manufactured by companies founded and directed by Musk, Tesla Motors and SpaceX respectively.
The Tesla Roadster mounted on its payload adapter before fairing encapsulation
|Instrument type||Inert mass|
|Mass||Approximately 1,300 kg (2,900 lb)|
|Launch date||February 6, 2018|
The car will go into an elliptical orbit around the Sun that reaches beyond the orbit of Mars, out as far as the asteroid belt. The car will not fly by Mars nor enter an orbit around it. The car contained cameras and a live video feed for about 12 hours after launch. It is the first mass-produced consumer vehicle to go to space.
The purpose of including the Roadster on the maiden flight was to demonstrate that the Falcon Heavy can launch payloads as far as the orbit of Mars, but because of the risk involved with the launch of the new rocket, Musk stated that he intended to launch the "silliest thing we can imagine" on the new rocket. The exact payload was not known until the Roadster announcement. Initially, there were conflicting reports whether the Roadster payload was fictitious, but Musk and many SpaceX employees later confirmed that the payload was legitimate. On December 22, Musk published pictures of the car taken before payload encapsulation. The automobile was installed at an inclined position above the payload adapter in order to account for the mass distribution.
The Tesla Roadster is an all-electric sports car. Tesla delivered approximately 2,450 Roadsters worldwide between February 2008 and December 2012. The midnight cherry Roadster launched into space is one of Elon Musk's privately owned vehicles, believed to be a 2010 model with VIN #686.
A license for the launch was issued by the US Office of Commercial Space Transportation on February 2, 2018.
A number of additional objects were included in the payload of the Roadster itself.
"Starman" is a full-scale human dummy clad in SpaceX's pressure spacesuit and set in the position of "driving" the vehicle. He has his right hand on the steering wheel and left elbow resting on the open window sill. Starman is named for the David Bowie song "Starman". The sound system on board the car is looping the song "Space Oddity" also by Bowie, although sound is not transmitted in the vacuum of outer space.
There is a copy of the 1979 novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in the glovebox, along with a towel (a reference to the book) and a sign on the dashboard that reads "Don't Panic!" (another reference to the book). The payload also includes a Hot Wheels miniature Roadster with a miniature Starman, a plaque bearing the names of the employees who worked on the project, a message on the vehicle's circuit board stating that it was "Made on Earth by humans", and a copy of Isaac Asimov's Foundation book series on a laser optical quartz storage device (Arch 5D disk) created by the Arch Mission Foundation.
In the hours after the successful Falcon Heavy launch, a live video feed of the Roadster and Starman was broadcast on YouTube. It was expected to last for about 12 hours until the on-board batteries are depleted.
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The Falcon Heavy rocket was launched from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center at 15:45 EST (20:45 UTC) on February 6, 2018, putting the dummy payload into Earth orbit for an eventual elliptical orbit around the Sun. The first segment of this orbit is the same trajectory as a typical Hohmann transfer from Earth to Mars. However, because the launch was well outside the 2018 Mars launch window (April–May 2018), the Roadster will not encounter Mars at aphelion. Even if the launch occurred at the right time, neither the payload nor the Falcon Heavy upper stage are designed to operate in interplanetary space, lacking in propulsion, maneuvering and communications capacity required to enter orbit around Mars. The purpose of launching the Roadster into this orbit is to show that the Falcon Heavy can launch payloads as far as the orbit of Mars. According to Musk, it could stay drifting in space for a billion years, though the batteries were only designed to last 12 hours from launch.
The car was initially placed in Earth parking orbit, still attached to the Falcon Heavy second stage. After a longer-than-usual six-hour coast phase through the Van Allen radiation belt (thereby demonstrating a new capability requested by the U.S. Air Force for direct GEO insertion of heavy intelligence satellites), the second stage reignited for the Earth-escape trajectory. The car features three cameras, which provided "epic views".
Falcon Heavy's two side boosters returned to land at Landing Zones 1 & 2 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, whilst the center core missed a landing on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean 300 miles off the coast. Musk confirmed several hours after the launch that the booster had not survived the recovery attempt.
This demonstration makes the Roadster the first consumer car sent into space. Three Moon buggies were sent to space on the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions in the 1970s and these vehicles were left on the Moon.