Elon Musk is not standing still. The SpaceX CEO, fresh from launching his red Tesla Roadster into space, is now looking at next steps for the Falcon Heavy, his company’s largest rocket. On Thursday, Musk shared an image of the Falcon Heavy alongside a quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune.
The rocket, which launched its first test mission in February, is critical to SpaceX’s future plans, as it was designed from the start to potentially carry humans into space. It’s essentially multiple Falcon 9s strapped together, the rocket SpaceX has used to send multiple satellites into orbit. That means the height is the same as the smaller rocket but the width stands at 40 feet and the mass at 3.1 million pounds. The rocket has a staggering liftoff thrust of five million pounds, generated by its 27 Merlin engines. The Falcon Heavy is currently the world’s most powerful operational rocket, but NASA’s out-of-operation Saturn V still holds the overall record.
The quote comes from Dune, the 1965 sci-fi novel written by Frank Herbert, who happens to share the same initials as the Falcon Heavy. Musk makes regular references to sci-fi in his works: the autonomous drone ships Just Read the Instructions and Of Course I Still Love You, used to recover components of the rockets, are named in reference to Iain M. Banks’ Culture series. Musk’s original human-carrying Mars ship was called the Heart of Gold, a reference to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy. Even the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy are references to the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars.
SpaceX has big plans beyond the Falcon Heavy. The BFR, the company’s next major rocket, is set to launch in 2022 on course for Mars, with two ships carrying the first supplies for a future refueling station. This will be followed by four more ships in 2024, two of which will carry the first humans, with the refueling station enabling the humans to return home after the mission.
The Falcon Heavy is a key step on this journey. SpaceX has four Falcon Heavy missions listed on its website. The second launch, after the test flight, may be the LightSail 2 mission with a date set for no earlier than October 30, 2018.
It may not be long before the Starman-carrying rocket sees action again.