The World Was in Awe of The Space X Falcon Heavy Launch, And with Good Reason.
Like many social media users, you may not have known about the Space X Falcon Heavy launch before it happened on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, from Cape Canaveral. But in the hour before the launch millions of people who were not aware of the launch that day, and maybe even the entire program, were suddenly glued to their device screens as video of the launch preparation, the stunning launch itself and then the science-fiction like recovery of the boosters reached them via social media.
While Falcon Heavy represents a significant revolution in space technology it represents an even larger shift in media, and that shift was nothing short of spectacular.
The last time an Apollo mission took off from Cape Canaveral was over 45 years ago, and the last NASA space shuttle launch was nearly 7 years ago. That means there were many young viewers of Falcon Heavy who had never seen anything like this in their lives. And for older people who lived during the Apollo and more recent space shuttle program, this is what it felt like for your chest to swell with pride and your eyes to bulge in amazement at the space program.
Falcon Heavy is currently the largest lift capacity rocket on earth, with a staggering 70.3-ton payload lift capacity. That is the equivalent of hurling five and half loaded school busses into orbit and shattering the sound barrier in a little over one minute. At launch the spacecraft developed five million pounds, or 2,500 tons, of thrust.
It is possible the Falcon Heavy Launch may have been seen by more people over more media than perhaps any other space mission including the Apollo moon landings. Access to media, internet technology and other evolutions that happened since Apollo and even the shuttle program made it easier for the world to see Falcon Heavy fly. The commercial origins of Falcon Heavy may cross political boundaries more gracefully than a state-sponsored space program largely originating from national and even military agendas. Space X Falcon Heavy is a human endeavor that belongs to all of the planet, not just one nation.
Another part of the media revolution associated with Space X Falcon Heavy was many people’s first exposure to a new voice of space exploration reporting, journalist Loren Grush. Grush comes from a family of two NASA engineers. She has written and prepared video technical features for Fox and ABC News networks, Popular Science, Digital Trends and The New York Times. Like her predecessor from the Apollo mission television coverage, Walter Cronkite, Grush expresses a genuine reverence for the wonder of space technology and has the ability to connect with and share her knowledge and enthusiasm with audiences in an evolving media. She is a relevant and credible voice to report on the modern space program. Millions of people around the world met Loren Grush for the first time during her interview with Space X entrepreneur Elon Musk prior to the launch, and her commentary on the program. As Space X Falcon Heavy progresses, we will hear more from Loren Grush and reporters like her.
Another brilliant surprise for viewers of the Space X Falcon Heavy Launch was seeing the recovery of the twin boosters back at Cape Canaveral. Like something from a cheesy 1950’s “Mission to Mars” sci-fi matinee the boosters levitated downward as they seemed to defy physics. Their braking rockets fired and their tripod landing gear extended in a stunning synchronized landing as no less than four sonic booms from their re-entry thundered over the cape. Most viewers had never seen anything like this.
But revolutions in media and space technology notwithstanding, the Space X Falcon Heavy launch was nothing short of stunning. In an era of social media laced with cynicism, criticism and negativity the Falcon Heavy launch was as bright a spot as the two-hundred fifty-foot-long beacon of space fire that erupted from her boosters at launch.
Despite some low-key criticism of the commercial feel of tossing a Tesla car into space with live video streaming and the relatively minor bauble of losing the main booster during its recovery at sea, this was a stunning debut for the Falcon Heavy to the world.
I’m doing a basic study of the idea of using Falcon launch vehicles loaded with air to ground munitions with the intention of attacking S-400 and S-500 SAM batteries. The concept being to force the batteries to either fire and deplete their rounds, or take their chances of surviving an attack. It’s a ballistic saturation attack. The slugs are heat sunk rods of copper or tungsten with several hundred rounds per flight. It could be used to attack SAM batteries over vast geographic regions and punch wide holes in Russian/Chinese air defense systems. Given the cost of American and allied aircraft saved from having to go against advanced SAM systems the cost of flying/re-flying a falcon launch vehicle would be cheap in comparison.
“I’m doing a basic study of the idea of using Falcon launch vehicles loaded with air to ground munitions with the intention of attacking S-400 and S-500 SAM batteries.”
This can’t be done for a couple of reasons. Political and technical. It’s not a novelty, both sides were speculating on the idea during the Cold War. First, it is impossible because it’s a certain way to start a nuclear exchange. Early Warning Radars of the attacked country (US or Russia) would take such missiles(warheads) for ICBMs and an immediate, massive, nuclear response would follow. And there is another reason. Regan “convinced” Soviets into belief that Americans could actually do it. I mean the famous Strategic Defense Initiative fake. So, Russians decided to secure themselves from such eventuality anyway and created all their missile systems (cruise, antiship coastal batteries, air defense, and even ICBMs) extremely mobile. Today, unlike the US missiles systems, Russia’s systems can fold or unfold and get combat ready in a matter of few minutes. Its S-300/400/500, Pantsir, Bastion, Iskander, Topol and others. During the war situation, or on high alert, they would be able to change location several times in an hour!!! If with a well-trained personnel, the systems can’t practically be destroyed from air or space.
The idea is not new but its highly unlikely that it’ll ever see its fulfillment.
I did something similar a few years back…a bit aggressive, but love to see what you come up with: https://warontherocks.com/2016/05/militarizing-musk/
The returning boosters are impressive. And it was a nice media show. For the rest I haven’t seen anything we could not do 50 years ago with Saturn V in an age we had no computers.
“who had never seen anything like this in their lives”
Oh please, we have a Soyuz rocket going into space almost every month. Soyuz has launched over 1700 times, 10 times in 2017 and already twice in 2018. Although not as powerful as Falcon Heavy, a powerful rocket none the less. It’s launch is just not covered by media anymore since it is so common.
All the air pollution that was not emitted by all Tesla cars since 2008 is released into the atmosphere in 3 minutes by this rocket.
Quit holding out……….. Enjoy another breathe………..