UPDATE: Watch archived video above.
In a launch today that will be as much showmanship as it is engineering, Elon Musk will launch his cherry red Tesla roadster into space aboard the Falcon Heavy rocket.
Watch it LIVE in the video above, starting at 1:30 pm ET. The launch window goes until 4 pm ET. Click HERE to open this page in a new tab.
The rocket will be “the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two” once it lifts off and has “a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel” according to SpaceX. It will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, from a launch pad used for the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon and several Space Shuttle missions.
Musk has said it’s unclear how the three rockets will behave next to each other and their proximity could result in a spectacular failure.
Live view of Starman:
Musk released an animation of the planned journey of the Tesla Roadster, which will have a spacesuit-wearing mannequin (named “Starman”, of course) in its passenger seat, if all goes as planned. The car will be playing Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.
Watch the launch in the video up top.
Here’s the animation of what Musk envisions, if all goes as planned, set to David Bowie’s “Life on Mars:”
In case you haven’t heard, there’s an original Tesla Roadster sitting atop the Falcon Heavy. As long as the rocket doesn’t explode, the Roadster will be sent on a wide orbit around Mars. Musk revealed a new wrinkle in this plan on the call: Instead of separating the car from the rocket’s third stage shortly after leaving Earth’s atmosphere, the third stage (and the car aboard it) will instead enter a six-hour “coast” through the Van Allen radiation belts.
The goal is to demonstrate a new capability to the Air Force and other potential military customers. But it comes with some risk. “[The rocket stage is] going to experience a lot of radioactivity and high energy particles. It’s going to get whacked pretty hard,” Musk said. “The fuel could freeze, and the oxygen could be vaporize, all of which could inhibit the third burn which is necessary for [the Tesla’s] trans-Mars injection.” If something goes wrong during this time, the rocket stage — and the Roadster — might never fully escape Earth orbit, and would instead eventually burn up in our atmosphere.
But if all goes well, the rocket stage will eject the Roadster on a path toward Mars. At that point, Musk said he’s not worried about the Roadster’s health. The car has a “tiny, tiny chance” of crashing into Mars, Musk says. “It will be fine. I hope.”
Also, there are three cameras strapped to the car. It’s not clear what they’ll capture.
First static fire test of Falcon Heavy complete—one step closer to first test flight! pic.twitter.com/EZF4JOT8e4
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 24, 2018