• Red Tesla sports car owned by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is the payload on the inaugural test flight of his Falcon Heavy Rocket. The Tesla will be propelled to Mars on the rocket’s debut flight fromKSC pad 39A in early 2018. Credit: SpaceX
  • The triple barreled SpaceX Falcon Heavy features 27 first stage engines seen in this photo from inside Space’s rocket processing hangar at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Blastoff from pad 39A is slated for early 2018. Credit:SpaceX
  • SpaceX Falcon 9 blasts off with KoreaSat-5A commercial telecomsat atop Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, FL, on Halloween eve 30 Oct 2017. As seen from the crawlerway and the processing hangar. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com
  • SpaceX CEO Elon Musk discusses Falcon Heavy and rocketry during media briefing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

A Red Tesla Really is Heading for the Red Planet on Debut Falcon Heavy Liftoff - Musk Unveils Photos

Ken Kremer -- Space UpClose -- 22 Dec 2017

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Billionaire Elon Musk’s personal red Tesla sports carreally is heading for the Red Planet as the prime payload for the debut launch of SpaceX’s massive Falcon Heavy rocket scheduled for early 2018 – if all goes well.

Any doubts about the payloads true identity were put to rest today, when SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk unveiled photos of the Tesla Roadster in an Instagram post on Friday, Dec. 22.

“A Red Car for the Red Planet,” Musk wrote on Instagram.

Its all part of Musk’s dream to one day establish ‘A City on Mars’.

The post was accompanied by four glossy photos of his midnight cherry Tesla being encapsulated inside the payload fairing and bolted onto the payload adapter ring that will hold it in place atop the mammoth triple barreled rocket for its maiden mission - upcoming as soon as January 2018.

Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will serve as the launch site for the SpaceX Falcon Heavy test flight when its ready to roll.

The Falcon Heavy will also take the title of world’s most powerful current rocket whenever it does fly.

Inanimate mass simulators made of “concrete or steel blocks” often serve as the payload for the first test flights of new rockets Musk notes, due to the potentially high risk of failure.

But that would be “extremely boring” and Musk wanted something whimsical and that would generate a lot of publicity instead – like the wheel of cheese launched on the first test flight of his Dragon cargo freighter; that now regularly runs cargo resupply delivery missions to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA.

“Test flights of new rockets usually contain mass simulators in the form of concrete or steel blocks. That seemed extremely boring,” Musk explained on Instagram.

“Of course, anything boring is terrible, especially companies, so we decided to send something unusual, something that made us feel.”

“The payload will be an original Tesla Roadster, playing Space Oddity, on a billion year elliptic Mars orbit.”

Musk had teased the payloads identity a few weeks back in early December when he tweeted:

“Payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity. Destination isMars orbit.”

The electric battery powered Tesla Roaster sports car weighs about 2800 pounds (1300kg).

Space Oddity was an early hit song from David Bowie who recently passed away. The song is dear to the hearts of virtually every space enthusiast!

At that time many wondered if Musk was serious about launching his personally owned Tesla. Sources previously confirmed to me that Musk meant every word he said.

Space Oddity Video by David Bowie:

After liftoff the red Tesla will separate from the rockets second stage and be propelled totowards Mars orbit and beyond and looping around the sun.

“I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future,” Musk mused in another recent tweet.

Earlier this week Musk also published the first photos of the rocket itself taken inside thehuge SpaceX processing hangar at KSC pad 39A.

“Falcon Heavy at the Cape,” Musk tweeted Monday, Dec. 20, along with three photos showing the rockets first and second stages from the rear along with all 27 first stage engines mounted as well as images from the top of the hangar amounting to side views.

The payload - Musk’s midnight cherry Tesla Roadster- encapsulated in the nose cone was not yet mounted on top in Mondays photos – see below and read our story:

A hold down static test fire of the first two stages will be conducted soon and is a pre-launch requirement to confirms the rockets safety and readiness.

The Falcon Heavy first stage will generate 5.1 million pounds of liftoff thrust - fueled by liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants - when it blasts off from pad 39A. Only NASA’s retired Saturn V moon rocket and Space Shuttle were more powerful American rockets soaring off the same pad.

“Falcon Heavy launching from same NASA pad as the Saturn V Apollo 11 moon rocket,”Musk tweeted. “It was 50% higher thrust with five F-1 engines at 7.5M lb-F. I love that rocket so much.”

“Max thrust at lift-off is 5.1 million pounds or 2300 metric tons. First mission will run at 92%,” Musk explained via tweet.

The Falcon Heavy features about 2/3 the liftoff thrust of NASA’s Saturn V moon rocket and twice the power of the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy - which is currently the world’s most powerful rocket.

Of course, this launch comes associated with a high risk of failure that Musk forthrightly admits.“Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent.”

“There’s a lot of risk associated with Falcon Heavy, a real good chance that that vehicle does not make it to orbit,” Musk said recently while speaking at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Washington, D.C. on July 19.

The gigantic Falcon Heavy stands more than 229.6 feet (70 meters) tall and is 39.9 feet wide (12.2 meters).

It weighs more than 3.1 million pounds (1.4 million kilograms).

Like the Falcon 9 it will be fueled with liquid oxygen and RP-1 kerosene propellants.

SpaceX is developing the triple barreled Falcon Heavy with its own funds.

The Heavy is derived from the single stick Falcon 9 rocket funded by NASA which serves as SpaceX’s workhorse rocket - used for NASA, military, government and commercial customers.

The triple stick Falcon Heavy is composed of a trio of Falcon 9 boosters including a significantly modified central core to deal with aerodynamic stresses attached to a pair of side-mounted cores with newly developed nose cones mounted in place of payload fairings.

SpaceX will also attempt to recover all three cores post launch. The center one lands ona dronship at sea and the side boosters via soft landings back at the Cape.

Watch this SpaceX Falcon Heavy Instagram video animation to learn how the launch andlanding sequences take place

First draft animation of the Falcon Heavy three core launch. FH is twice the thrust of the next largest rocket currently flying and ~2/3 thrust of the Saturn V moon rocket. Lot that can go wrong in the November launch ...

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on

SpaceX engineers have soft landed and successfully recovered 20 Falcon 9 cores to date.

5 of those recovered cores have been successfully reflown – including the latest one Friday night Dec. 22 for the Iridium-4 commercial communications satellite launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA.

Musk’s vision is to recover and refly rockets as easily as commercial airliners in order todrastically slash the high cost of launching rockets and eventually establish a ‘City on Mars.’

SpaceX launched a record breaking 18 missions altogether in 2017.

Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.