SpaceX’s new rocket launch: The changing future
09-Feb-2018


‘Space Oddity’ is a song by the late David Bowie.

And so is ‘Starman’.

If you’ve listened to these songs, you will excuse the brilliant Elon Musk for some of his eccentricities.

You will, perhaps, condone his quirky decision to put a cherry red car, a Tesla Roadster, with a mannequin dressed in a spacesuit, sitting in it, driving around planets and asteroids.

This made-up ‘Starman’ and his car is now floating somewhere in outer space, with our blue planet on the horizon.

Go ahead. You can watch it ‘live’ on YouTube, before the feed stops streaming from its on-board cameras.

The car will soon go into an elliptical orbit, between Earth and Mars, and keep revolving around the sun like a tiny new planet.

It was a part of the payload launched on Tuesday by Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket, made by Elon Musk’s company SpaceX.

That is not too surprising because Musk is also one of the founders of Tesla Inc., a company which makes electric cars and energy storage products.

Tuesday’s successful test launch, of this robust reusable rocket, shows us the changes sweeping across the global industry of Space Technology.

It shows us that reusable rockets, at low costs, are now a reality of the future. And that even government agencies, like NASA of USA, may soon start outsourcing their satellite launches to private companies like SpaceX.

Watching the webcast online, from Bahrain, I was fascinated by the power and efficiency of this rocket.

With the thundering force of eighteen Boeing 747 jetliners, I read, the rocket rose up into the sky, from Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, USA.

With the ability to carry a weight of 64 metric tonnes into orbit, it tore up the sky, as it raced into space.

I did a rewind of the video that was live-streamed online, and checked the approximate timings, for some interesting stages.

[Oh, by the way, here’s a fun fact. With more than 2.3 million concurrent viewers, this Tuesday’s (6 Feb 2018) live-stream of Falcon Heavy Test Flight was the second-most-watched live stream in all of YouTube’s history].

Within 1 minute 10 seconds after launch, the vehicle reached supersonic speed (of 1235 km/hour). Within 1 minute 25 seconds, it reached Max Q (where the aerodynamic stress on the vehicle’s structure is the maximum). Within 2 minute 36 seconds, the side boosters shut down and separated themselves. Within 8 minute 6 seconds, the two boosters had come back to land, on earth. Smoothly.

In other words, astonishing history was made in just about the time you would take to read this column! With years of planning and building, of course.

Sadly, the centre core booster – as tall as a 16-storey building - did not land on the drone ship as planned. 

But that hardly matters. Especially when we realise that it was an incredibly successful mission, otherwise.

SpaceX is telling us that in future they will ensure that all boosters are successfully retrieved - for reuse.

Personally, the most beautiful sight I saw, in the webcast, was the two side-boosters coming down to earth. Their smooth and simultaneous landing. With beautiful poise and grace.

One can understand the magnitude of this amazing achievement, I think, only when one realises that each booster’s height is approximately equivalent to a 20-storey building.

Anyway, in the video feed from outer space, we can spot a phrase on the car’s dashboard: “Don’t Panic!”.

It is a phrase from Douglas Adams’ book “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.

But, somehow, whenever I think of how far man is going into space now, I panic!


Related Articles

The Days of Digital Distortion: What Can We Do? 
Feb 16

The Days of Digital Distortion: What Can We Do? 

People who are somewhat ignorant, but fully fervent, are present in all classes, in all religions, and in all countries. There is nothing wrong I think, for instance, if I swell with pride when people-with-great-power suddenly say good things about my country. There is nothing wrong I think if I become...

Read More
US Business: Trillion Dollar Tech Firms?
Feb 02

US Business: Trillion Dollar Tech Firms?

Apple, Amazon, Alphabet? Which one, among all the public-listed companies in USA, will become the first trillion dollar company? Simple. We have to wait and watch. And before the end of the year 2018, we will know. Maybe sooner. 2018 will surely be the year global business will see one US company - or maybe more...

Read More
India’s Busiest Airports: Challenges Ahead
Jan 26

India’s Busiest Airports: Challenges Ahead

“With nearly 47,500 flights, Mumbai-Delhi is world’s third busiest air route.” In 2017, only the Jeju-Seoul Gimpo route (with over 64,991 departures and arrivals) and Melbourne-Sydney route (with 54,519) were busier than Mumbai-Delhi. This is from a report in one of India’s leading...

Read More
Dan Brown’s new book: Robert Langdon’s Latest Chase
Jan 19

Dan Brown’s new book: Robert Langdon’s Latest Chase

In mid-November, when I went to purchase ‘Origin’, the latest book of Dan Brown, I had asked how many copies had been sold, till then. The cashier at Jashanmal bookshop in Seef Mall had replied, 66. And it had been barely a week, since the book was released. So, I knew that - like me - there were a few...

Read More
A button and a book: Trump strikes back!
Jan 05

A button and a book: Trump strikes back!

“US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was caught crouching under Donald J. Trump’s Oval Office desk on Wednesday, in an attempt to disconnect Trump’s newly installed nuclear button”. No. That’s not true. It is just a piece of satirical news in the “The Borowitz Report”...

Read More
The Calendar Complex
Dec 29

The Calendar Complex

What? Gone already? Another seventeen years, after the year 2000? But, wasn’t it just yesterday that we were all suffering from that millennium madness? The Y2K bug had bitten my generation so deep that the midnight-meeting of the clock’s hands after December 31, 1999, seemed like an amazing festive...

Read More