Have you ever stopped to consider what it would be like if your car wasn’t reusable? Imagine, every time you went somewhere with a car, you would have to buy a new one. That is what the space industry has been like since it began. A single rocket launch would cost a ton of money because a new rocket would have to be built for each launch. Enter SpaceX, a company with the goal of creating a reusable rocket that can carry people to Mars. Their goal of and passion for reusable rocketry drove them to create the Falcon Heavy.
The idea was planted when the CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk (technological entrepreneur), founded the company. He wanted to make a reusable rocket to lower the cost of space travel as well as save rocket building resources. SpaceX created the Falcon 9, which was the first ever reusable rocket. However, this rocket was not powerful enough to get people to Mars. This drove SpaceX to try and make a much more powerful, but still reusable, rocket. All of the planning, testing, and construction resulted in the Falcon Heavy.
Now that you know how this rocket came to be, I assume that you are wondering how it works. A rocket has several stages. The first stage is the most powerful, and the second stage gets the item to go to space even farther from Earth’s surface. On the Falcon Heavy, the first stage can land.
The first stage consists of one core and two boosters attached to the side of the core. Each section consists of nine engines, totaling up to twenty-seven engines powering this rocket into space. I know, that’s a lot of engines, but it’s necessary for the ability to bring humans to Mars. If you can’t wrap your head around twenty-seven engines, just think of twenty-seven missiles strapped together and firing at the same time. With so many engines and lots of time and effort, the Falcon Heavy has become the most powerful rocket on Earth (as of 2018).
Next up are the grid fins. These are fins that are used to aim the first stage when it’s landing. The ones on the boosters are black so there are easy to see. The ones on the core are white, so if you look carefully you will see the grid-shaped outline of the fins. They are very important in making sure that the rocket can actually land on its target and not have to rely on the target to move for it.
Now, the material that the entire rocket is actually composed of. You may think that it’s made of iron or aluminium, like your car. However, your car would not stand up to the stress placed upon a rocket on its journey to space. So, the engineers of SpaceX turned to the combination of two different metals to make the structure both strong and light. They turned to a lithium-aluminium alloy. You may be thinking, “Wait, isn’t lithium in rechargeable batteries?” Well, yes it is but it is treated in a certain way so that it can hold a charge in a battery(it also keeps the battery from exploding upon impact ). The aluminium makes the structure extremely light and the lithium increases the strength of the material dramatically.
Probably one of the most important parts of the rocket itself are the landing legs. They allow the first stage boosters to land without blowing-up upon touching the ground. They are made of carbon fiber (a really strong and light material) and have an aluminum honeycomb shape on the inside. The aluminum gives the landing legs the extra strength it needs to support almost an entire rocket.
Now all SpaceX has to do is do minor repairs, refuel, and re fly. SpaceX is always working on rocket improvements, so, hopefully, we will see the Falcon Heavy get an upgrade in the near future and possibly carry us to Mars.