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Space Businesses Earth Mars

Elon Musk Shows Off the Tesla Roadster That SpaceX Will Send Beyond Mars (theverge.com) 118

Elon Musk has released photos of the Tesla Roadster he plans to send to space via a Falcon Heavy rocket. "The series of photos, posted to Instagram, show the Roadster attached to a fitting and placed between the two halves of the payload fairing that caps the rocket," reports The Verge. "The photos were posted just hours after a picture leaked on Reddit that showed a grainy view of the car being readied for its final ride." From the report: This will be the inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy, a rocket that SpaceX has been planning for years. The successor to the Falcon 9 , it's essentially (and simply put) three boosters strapped together, all of which will add enough thrust to make it the most powerful rocket in the world. It will give SpaceX the ability to send bigger payloads to space while also helping the company push farther out into the Solar System. But SpaceX doesn't want to put a valuable payload on the very first flight, which even Musk has admitted could end (or begin) with an explosion. So the company plans to use a "dummy payload" instead. "Test flights of new rockets usually contain mass simulators in the form of concrete or steel blocks. That seemed extremely boring," Musk wrote on Instagram today. "Of course, anything boring is terrible, especially companies, so we decided to send something unusual, something that made us feel."
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Elon Musk Shows Off the Tesla Roadster That SpaceX Will Send Beyond Mars

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  • Naturally with a chicken game like the space gas station in Leisure Suit Larry.

  • I'm worried that Elon Musk is overloading himself. I'm extremely impressed with his accomplishments, but I think he doesn't give himself enough rest.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Of course, if the Heavy does not make it to orbit, the Roadster may end up swimming with the fishes (which might also be interesting).

    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      That's part of the reasoning for using it. It's not especially valuable in the grand scheme of things, but it's not a lump of steel or concrete either. It's like when server manufacturers throw a piece of candy or two into the box when they ship product, something to look forward to.

      • SpaceX could give somebody (maybe a university) a free launch though.

        • That is a terrific idea. The university would have to spend a lot of money to build a payload, even if the launch is âoepro bonoâ. Satellites cost a small fortune, which is why they test using blocks of concrete.

          • They could launch an experimental payload though. Anything is better than an old car which will accomplish fuck all apart from promoting Tesla.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              SpaceX has said the chance of a failure is quite high for this launch. Satellites or science payloads take a huge amount of development time and resources, and nobody wants to have theirs go all asplodey if something goes wrong.

              • I have some old servers that could go up there with a bunch of older batteries, Tesla could also provide a dead battery bank. Would be interesting to see what if anything is necessary to run regular hardware in space, failure modes and whether ECC correction rates or a metal casing would suffice. That way we donâ(TM)t have to send rad-shielded expensive stuff for âoenon-criticalâ entertainment to future Mars missions.

                There is plenty of old gear laying around research universities, there is no

            • We're talking about the car with the acknowledgement that it is included because it likely to be lost, and that can only happen with the rocket exploding or some other massive failure. Musk is smart to be setting expectations in this way that gets the most public awareness in case the worst happens. There has to be some value in that.
              • Musk could test a dragon capsule and launch escape system. There is value in demonstrating that launch escape works before they fly a human cargo.

                • They're already going to do an in-flight abort test, they're just not going to risk an expensive Dragon capsule and critical test milestone on an untested rocket to do it.

                  • by Teancum ( 67324 )

                    You mean an untested rocket like the original maiden launch of the Falcon 9 and the Dragon capsule that currently hangs above the cafeteria in the SpaceX Headquarters?

                    • There's a slight difference in circumstances between the two cases. For one, when they launched the first Dragon, they didn't have an already-operating launch system that has just done 18 launches in one year. For another, this is a more expensive manned capsule and a much more complicated and risky launch vehicle.

                      Additionally, the Dragon will operate almost exclusively on the Falcon 9 under considerably different flight conditions, not the Heavy, and the Heavy will operate almost exclusively with fairing-e

            • This is clearly a way for Musk to funnel money from Tesla to Space X for this marketing opportunity. Downside for investors when there is such a clear conflict of interest. Musk profits though.

        • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday December 22, 2017 @07:41PM (#55793057)

          Well Trump said he wants to go to Mars, and SpaceX has a capsule design...

        • And get bad press if the rocket explodes and takes out a dozen university projects with it?

          On the other hand, I think the idea of exploding an electric car is pretty cool.

          • And get bad press if the rocket explodes and takes out a dozen university projects with it?

            Yeah better not to try in the first place.

            • No, better to put the resources to something less risky. Spending millions on interplanetary comms, power systems, thermal control, etc. and putting the result on an experimental rocket that has a good chance of destroying it all would just be foolish.

              Using a low-value payload is not unusual. The Saturn SA-1 payload was a bunch of Florida beach sand.

        • by haruchai ( 17472 )

          SpaceX could give somebody (maybe a university) a free launch though.

          There's no such thing

        • SpaceX could give somebody (maybe a university) a free launch though.

          There is no such thing as a free launch . . .

        • by Teancum ( 67324 )

          SpaceX could give somebody (maybe a university) a free launch though.

          They have. The first Falcon 1 launch had a satellite built by the students at the U.S. Air Force Academy. While there was practically no chance to get that satellite to fly as there was no budget to make it happen without this "free" launch, it was sort of sad to see literally years of effort on the part of the academy cadets blow up on the launch pad and have parts and pieces of that satellite scattered across the South Pacific in an ex

          • Which is weird. The Shuttle, for all its faults, flew almost perfectly first time,

            • by Teancum ( 67324 )

              The first flight of the Space Shuttle (STS) was incredibly risky. So much so that the astronauts actually sat in ejection seats (which were removed in later flights) and only two astronauts flew in what was arguably a test flight without any cargo at all... other than the two crew members and food for about a day. It didn't spend that much time in space either, but was mostly a flight up, a few orbits to evaluate systems in actual spaceflight, and then an incredibly risky landing.

              It should be pointed out

              • The shuttle never blew up on the pad.

                I think experience has shown that the first flights were the safest. Later flights were less safe because there was weaker oversight.

    • Of course, if the Heavy does not make it to orbit, the Roadster may end up swimming with the fishes (which might also be interesting).

      If it does make it, let's say it goes into orbit around Mars. And everyone forgets about it until 2062. The first manned mission to the red planet has just landed. Everyone is congratulating themselves on accomplishing the impossible. Earth communications loses contact with the crew on the return transport vehicle parked in orbit. The last picture received from it's external camera showed a "Tesla" logo.

      • It won't go into Mars orbit, though. It will end up (if everything goes right) in an elliptical solar orbit that goes as far out as the orbit of Mars.

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday December 22, 2017 @06:57PM (#55792793)

    ...were clandestinely building a means to soft-land the car on its wheels on the planet. Even funnier if they landed it in the pathway of one of the rovers...

    • Or even make it a "Martian Sputnik" beeping at us on its way and from Martian orbit.

      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        You can't hear the horn when it's in orbit...

        • by TWX ( 665546 )

          Someone doesn't understand what Sputnik was...

          I'd rather them put a tape deck with batteries that will slowly reduce voltage so the tape plays slower... and slower ... and ... slow ... er... Something like the Rolling Stones' Time Is On My Side.

    • I initially thought they were going to crash it into Mars which would be a stupid idea because the Tesla was never designed to be sterilized. But even in solar orbit its going to be a needless hazard in the long term and objects which originate at Earth eventually come back.

      • by Teancum ( 67324 )

        To paraphrase Douglas Adams, Space is big. Very big. You really can't comprehend just how large the Solar System is on a human scale, where something which is very definitely on a human scale in the form of a Tesla Roadster really is an insignificant hunk of nothing that won't even get in the way for the next billion years, won't even hit the Earth in that time frame nor even get to Mars.

        Well before it becomes an object to be concerned about (which it isn't even if it was filled with swamp water and the d

  • Phosgene makes us feel, too. Send up a few hundred tanks!!!

  • OK I get it (Score:5, Funny)

    by AlanObject ( 3603453 ) on Friday December 22, 2017 @07:31PM (#55793001)

    I fully get why he is doing this. I just think that someone somewhere has a worthwhile payload that they have but they otherwise couldn't afford to pay to boost.

    Worst case is a cache of supplies to park in Martian orbit for the next time Matt Damon is stuck there and the Home Depot he used last time is closed.

    • I fully get why he is doing this. I just think that someone somewhere has a worthwhile payload that they have but they otherwise couldn't afford to pay to boost.

      I just think he's loading a military payload, and the roadster is a dummy. It will be subbed out for some payload of approximately the same mass.

      • It seems unlikely that he's do that on a rocket design that's never flown before, considering the risks to the payload.

      • I just think he's loading a military payload, and the roadster is a dummy.

        That seems too risky. Military hardware is too expensive when there are other more reliable ways to put it in orbit.

        Could he just be doing it out of a sense of pride? His first production vehicle going for a ride in yet another great accomplishment for transportation, because he can and why not.

        It is just as possible he's setting expectations in case the falcon heavy test fails, as is likely to happen.

        • by Teancum ( 67324 )

          The other choice is to do something like the RatSat spacecraft which flew on the Falcon 1 Flight 4. That was basically a big hunk of Aluminum which had the names of the SpaceX employees who were working for the company at the time go up into space (and it is still in orbit BTW).

          Oddly enough, sending up a Roadster is actually cheaper than the custom made spacecraft even if it is just a hunk of metal. A bill of materials can even be quickly sent to the FAA-AST for clearance and review in a format that they c

    • Any serious payload will be too expensive to risk on the first launch of a new rocket. That's why test launches like this usually use just a large hunk of material.
  • by kiviQr ( 3443687 ) on Friday December 22, 2017 @07:47PM (#55793093)
    I hope the transmit real time from all cameras on the Roadster!
    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      T-10 - inside of the cargo bay...

      T=0 - inside of the cargo bay...

      T+3 - inside of the cargo bay, very mild amount of visible vibration...

      T+30 - inside of the cargo bay, mild amount of visible vibration...

      T+60 - inside of the cargo bay, mild amount of visible vibration...

      T+120 - inside of the cargo bay, mild amount of visible vibration...

      T+2400 - inside of the cargo bay, very mild amount of visible vibration...

      T+3600 - inside of the cargo bay...

  • They should put on some kind or propellant tanks on the car, and launch it into space and target the moon.

  • Honestly, that's my question: Why should anyone not employed by him give a damn about Elon Musk and/or his toys?

    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      Because his companies are developing new products that are accessible to the middle-class in many cases, and disrupt the traditional pricing models across the board?

      Solar City was arguably the least innovative company of the bunch but a lot of people have achieved greater energy independence because of them. Sure, other companies do solar too, but the more players, the cheaper the prices.

      Tesla Motors has shown that a car company can manufacture only electric cars and manage to move models. True, they may

  • I'd hope if they could land on Mars, that that would at least do the landing like the Corvette in Heavy Metal.

    I'm sure Musk could come up with a Loc-Nar somewhere... :)

  • Very cool, but I thought they specifically chose payloads like brick or concrete because they don't shift around much and cause undo motion inside the rocket.? Can't imagine a car would be a good idea but I think it's funny
  • Why the HE double hockey sticks would you send a car into outer space. This is the dumbest idea ever.
  • This is the dumbest possible thing that they could do. They need some cheap mass on their rocket; and this mass might be able to get into Martian orbit.

    They should send a couple thousand pounds of water. The containers to store it are are already 'off the shelf' inasmuch as we already are capable of rapidly producing a flight-tested design for holding water in space for a long period of time. And by chance if the thing makes it, a large quantity of water floating around mars would be an incredibly valuable

    • And by chance if the thing makes it, a large quantity of water floating around mars would be an incredibly valuable and useful commodity

      First of all, it's not going into a Mars orbit. Secondly, it would be virtually useless anyway. There's plenty of water on Mars, much easier to reach than from orbit.

  • And to all who post that he could shoot up something more valuable, like a university science project - did you read that they usually do these tests with blocks of cement or such? You just never complained about that because it wasn't on /.

  • The Telsa Roadster mass is about 1400 kg, isn't it ? This seems way too light for a payload simulator. The mass of the Soyouz is above 7000 kg, a loaded Dragon is about 10000 kg, and the Orion is close to 25000 kg !
    So this only makes sense if they also add a "boring" (but useful) dummy payload along it.
  • Justifying an accident when such an irrelevant frivolity is involved would be quite difficult. Personally, I am pretty much the opposite of a show-off, although don't mind taking risks/bringing things further as a way to accomplish something really worthy. I don't even care about (or/or feel a bit sorry for and/or make fun of) people behaving ostentatiously.

    Combining both unnecessary ostentation and unnecessary risk seems particularly difficult to defend. I seriously hope that nothing goes wrong, but I wo
    • Justifying an accident when such an irrelevant frivolity is involved would be quite difficult.

      I don't see why justifying an accident with a block of concrete would be any easier. In both cases, it's a setback, and you lose the rocket. The value of the car is peanuts.

      • There are evident differences in mass, weight distribution (inertial mass, reactions to turbulent conditions, stability, etc.) and even price between a car and a block of concrete. On the other hand, I am honestly not sure about how using any of these objects is really affecting the rocket setup. In principle, it seems quite sensible to assume that the car option would required an important adaptation (+ provoke not properly tested conditions). In case that both alternatives behaved similarly, my previous c
        • by Teancum ( 67324 )

          What testing would a Tesla Roadster need to go through that hasn't been already done by the U.S. Department of Transportation, given that the vehicle has already a mountain of test data simply to put the vehicle into serial production?

          It would be far more expensive to certify a block of concrete than to take a vehicle which already has the data needed for evaluation available. It isn't like this is the first automobile that the FAA has needed to certify for flight worthiness before.

          • From the point of view of being inside a rocket, most of tests done to that car are pretty much irrelevant. It has a very complex geometry and distribution of masses/densities/materials; there are lots of moving/easily removable parts; it is difficult to be kept perfectly balanced; etc. Nothing of this applies to a regular simple shape (e.g., a cube) made of cement or any other material.

            I don't think that this or any other car has ever passed through tests analysing its behaviour under as demanding conditi
    • -1 Overrated! Same thing yesterday when I wrote another not-blindly-appraising post to an Elon-related article! You can say whatever you want about the Elon's army, but at least they act consistently! LOL.
  • Nothing I've seen so far indicates the Falcon Heavy will replace the Falcon 9. A Falcon Heavy is far too large for most payloads: a Falcon 9 can launch most payloads and still have enough margin to land the first stage (and soon, the fairing).
    FH will be used for those payloads that an F9 could only launch in expendable mode. There might be some US military/national security payloads that are too heavy for F9 altogether. Plus the occasional interplanetary mission, perhaps.

    • If they can find a way to reuse the 2nd stage, the FH may end up cheaper than F9.

    • by Teancum ( 67324 )

      I agree. The Falcon Heavy isn't a successor. It is an additional launch vehicle which can put up payloads that the Falcon 9 simply can't do.

      The largest advantage of the Falcon Heavy is that it shares a great many components with the Falcon 9, including the engines and the internal tank design. That is also the reason why it has taken so long to get built, as the Falcon 9 design kept shifting and getting rolled onto the Falcon Heavy. As a matter of fact, the Falcon 9 is currently capable of sending the s

  • 100 million miles on one tank of gas!

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