When the launch window opens at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday for the first-ever Falcon Heavy demonstration mission, it will send up two previously used Falcon 9 boosters that have already been to space and back.
SpaceX calls these boosters “flight-proven” because they are just that. One rocket launched the Thaicom 8 satellite in May 2016 and the other was used during the CRS-9 mission in July 2016, SpaceX notes in its mission guide. The “side-core” boosters are on either side of the center core, which is new for this mission.
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It’s not clear which booster is which, but the two side boosters will contribute to 5 million pounds of thrusting power, that will send Elon Musk’s old red Tesla Roadster into what may end up being a billion-year Mars orbit around the sun, Musk told reporters on Monday. The little red sports car has to make it through the violent Van Allen radiation belt first, though.
Here’s a super-brief recap of when those side boosters were first flown:
The Thaicom 8 Booster
This Falcon 9 rocket went to space and back on May 27, 2016, and when it landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic ocean, SpaceX had successfully completed three such ocean-based landings. The mission was to put a Thaicom 8 communications satellite into orbit.
Here was the landing, captured on a drone ship video camera and seen in this pixelated feed:
The CRS-9 Booster
The other side-core was used during the NASA CRS-9 mission, which launched on July 18, 2016, and carried two ISS docking adapters. The adapters allowed Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to dock on the station when transporting astronauts in the near future as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Here was the landing, captured from both cameras on the rocket booster with one positioned near LZ-1, a landing pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
When the Falcon 9 landed after the CRS-9 mission, Musk commented, “Ready to fly again.”
It’s unclear if he had the Falcon Heavy in mind at the time, but for someone who’s been talking up the Falcon Heavy since 2011, it seems possible.
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