The cosmic triumph of the American businessman Ilona Mask was blurred. With a thoroughly established PR campaign, the SpaceX chapter was summed up by the technician. The central booster super-heavy launch vehicle Falcon Heavy crashed while landing.
The unit ran out of fuel, and therefore only one of the three engines used during landing was launched. As a result, instead of landing on a floating platform Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean, the unit collapsed into the water at a speed of 480 kilometers per hour, and its fragments damaged the platform. In this case, two side accelerators successfully made a synchronous landing near the spaceport at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
Ilon Musk turned the rocket launch into a show
Of course, an unsuccessful landing of the block is a trifle compared to the very successful launch of an extra-heavy launch vehicle. Falcon Heavy made its first test flight on Tuesday at 23.45 Moscow time from the launch site at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
It is impossible not to pay tribute to the talents of Ilona Mask in the field of PR. As a cargo, he placed his personal electric Tesla Roadster with a mannequin in a SpaceX spacesuit (both the car and the spacesuit are also Mask’s brainchild) on the top stage of the Falcon Heavy. On Wednesday morning, Tesla had already left the orbit of the Earth and now, according to the plan, will begin to move to Mars in heliocentric orbit.
At the same time, Tesla plays David Bowie’s famous Space Oddity track in the Tesla cabin, which anyone can enjoy watching videos from the cab of a car plowing space. It goes without saying that the launch of the rocket itself was accompanied by online video broadcasting.
Mask managed to beat and the collapse of the central block, promising that if the cameras did not explode and managed to fix it, put a video on which, according to him, it would be fun to watch.
Naturally, the businessman managed to attract the attention of the whole world, not to mention the USA. US President Donald Trump congratulated Mask, saying: “This achievement, together with commercial and international partners, NASA continues to demonstrate the ingenuity of Americans at its best!”.
A revolutionary model of space production
Despite all this foppery, the main success of Mask is not at all marketing. After a successful launch, Falcon Heavy becomes the most powerful launch vehicle in the world currently in use. It is planned that the carrier will be able to deliver up to 63,8 t to a low reference orbit, up to 26,7 t to a geo-transfer orbit, up to 16,8 t to Mars and 3,5 t to Pluto.
At the same time, it surpasses its closest competitor Delta IV Heavy from Boeing, not only in payload, which it can put into a low reference orbit (twice), but also in cheapness. SpaceX claims that the launch of the launch vehicle costs 90 million dollars, while the flight of the Delta requires about 435 million, and the project cost of one launch of the NASA-developed super-heavy rocket system SLS (Space Launch System) of the space launches of dollars. As noted by Musk, the entire development of Falcon Heavy cost his company about 500 million dollars.
The complexity of the engineering problem that Mask managed to solve can be described as follows. At the start of the Falcon Heavy rocket 27 engines work right away - and this is a very large number. So many rockets need not only to create the appropriate thrust. If at start you use only one engine for each unit, then it will not be able to deliver the required power during further landing - the thrust will be too high, the rocket uses the required fuel almost instantly and will collapse. But the greater the number of engines, the more mathematically more likely a failure of one of them is - and such a failure will almost inevitably end in disaster. The design invented by Mask is extremely reminiscent of the Soviet H-1 rocket, which also had 30 engines on the first stage - and all four of its launches ended in accidents.
How did Mask successfully launch a rocket with so many engines? The fact is that he approached testing in a completely different way than his Soviet colleagues almost fifty years ago.
At first, these units were tested on the Falcon 9 rocket - this allowed us to obtain data on how the unit behaves during the flight. Then the blocks were connected in one package, and a control run was made on all 27 engines for 12 seconds. The Soviet engineers in their time did not do such tests, because they were in a great hurry. And just making sure that all the engines successfully work in conjunction, was launched Falcon Heavy. In other words, Musk conducted a sufficient number of preliminary tests before making the launch today.
The head of the Space Policy Institute, Ivan Moiseev, noted that "this is an undoubted success - the emergence of a new launch vehicle, which is twice the size of the most powerful existing one or three times the size of our Proton."
The project is still being worked out, having carried out several launches, said Moses, noting that in the future this will open up new opportunities. “When exploring the planets of the Solar System, you can send heavy vehicles, you can commercially launch two heavy satellites at a time. This is a step forward, ”said the source.
The launch of a super-heavy rocket is “an outstanding achievement for Ilon Mask and his company,” Andrei Ionin, corresponding member of the Tsiolkovsky Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, told the VIEW newspaper. Falcon Heavy - "really the most powerful rocket in the world right now," said the source.
Since humanity is moving to a new stage in the development of astronautics associated with the exploration of deep space, this launch can be called “the first serious step towards the implementation of projects related to the exploration of the Moon and Mars. You can’t underestimate him, ”stressed Ionin. He recalled that such programs would require a very serious increase in traffic. And Musk is not going to stop at Falcon Heavy, he has more powerful rockets in his plans.
“Mask, step by step, is implementing an absolutely new revolutionary model of space production,” the source said. He recalled that astronautics lives in the framework of those models that were laid in 50 – 60-ies in the USSR and the USA.
Musk changed all this, in particular, he completely revised the questions of how rockets should be done and how to talk about it. "These are his two major achievements",
- Explained the expert.
Do not exaggerate the value
Many have already rushed to announce the achievement of Mask "breakthrough." However, to exaggerate the significance of launching a super-heavy rocket SpaceX is still not worth it. “I would not use such loud words as the“ revolution ”in the field of space with regard to the launch of Falcon Heavy,” Moiseyev said.
If weighed on scales stories, it falls short of neither the first manned space flight, nor the landing of a man on the moon, agrees Yonin. “This event is one step lower, and it is very important in terms of the implementation of new programs for the development of deep space,” said the expert, expressing confidence that Musk will still have time to show everyone the historical event.
And it's not about the loss of the central overclocking unit. The fact that the central overclocking block crashed during landing didn’t matter, as this block is gaining more speed and it is more difficult to save it, said Ionin. “At the first start-up this is all the more nonsense. But even if he doesn’t save himself later, I don’t see anything terrible here either, ”he pointed out.
First, for now this is only the first test launch, and it’s still far from the start of regular rocket operation. Secondly, it is worth remembering that Musk didn’t meet his initial schedule. He promised to launch the first launch of Falcon Heavy in the summer of 2017, six months ago. In addition, we must not forget about the recent failure with the introduction into orbit of the secret American satellite Zuma. The satellite, launched with the help of the Falcon 9 rocket, which has been repeatedly tested, did not reach orbit, crashing when it fell into the ocean.
And this was not the first failure Mask. So, in 2013, the Dragon spacecraft lost control due to the blocking of the fuel valves. In 2015, another Dragon, which was supposed to deliver water and food to the ISS, after launch fell due to the explosion of a helium tank. The Falcon 9 rocket, along with the satellite it was supposed to deliver, exploded in 2016 right on the launch platform. Yes, and landing the first stage of the launch vehicle failed the company is not the first time. Also in 2017, the Dragon truck was unable to dock with the ISS the first time. Not to mention the regular timing of the various SpaceX projects.
The USSR launched much more powerful rockets
It is important to note that the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket that exists at the moment, but not in history. The Soviet Union was actively engaged in the creation of a super-heavy launch vehicle in the 20th century. For example, there were projects such as H-1 and Energy.
The H-1 program in 1960-s suggested the possibility of placing a payload from 90 to 100 t to a low reference orbit, but was not successful. All four starts failed, the rocket exploded due to the unreliable engines. “And when the engines were brought, the project was“ voluntarily resolved ”,” said Moiseyev.
Ionin did not rule out that the project could still be completed. In his opinion, it “was not implemented largely because it lost its political relevance. Both the American and Russian lunar projects were political. And after the Americans landed on the moon, the political significance declined multiple times. Therefore, the H-1 project was closed, ”the expert explained.
But the next project "Energy" was quite successful, said Ionin. The super heavy rocket with a payload in 100 t flew twice: in 1987 and in 1988 year. An even heavier version, Vulkan, was developed, with a payload of up to 200 m. “But the project was closed because the Soviet Union was gone, and the rocket was expensive and was not needed in 90’s Russia’s scanty space program. Keeping everything on standby is an incredible effort, ”explained the source.
“With“ Energy ”it turned out that it was well developed, well done, engines are still used. But a lot of money was spent on this rocket, but they didn’t make payloads on it, they didn’t have enough money, ”Moiseyev said.
In Russia, a super-heavy rocket should be expected not earlier than the end of 2020's
In modern Russia, however, the situation with super-heavy rockets is still not so good, and here Musk, with his first launch of the Falcon Heavy, is certainly far ahead.
Russia declared that it would create a super-heavy rocket, it is necessary for the program for the development of deep space, said Ionin. According to him, the launch can tentatively take place at the end of 2020's.
Moses said that we are considering the creation of a super-heavy carrier by the year 2028. In the meantime, a few years has been given to the conceptual design, the “paperwork,” he explained.
However, while there are discussions, it is necessary, the expert pointed out. “So far no money has been allocated for it, only for one node - the Soyuz-5 rocket, and even that is in question. Some loads for the rocket are not visible, not designed, ”he stressed. In his opinion, the situation is similar to Energia - they are going to make a rocket, “and why it is needed, no one can really say.”
By the way, one of the variants of such a rocket received the designation "Energy-3В", and in it, respectively, uses the developments of the old Soviet project.