Everything You Need to Know About SpaceX’s Secret Falcon Heavy Payload

Secret Payload

Last week, the world watched as SpaceX launched their Falcon Heavy rocket with a Tesla Roadster stowed aboard. However, the rocket also carried something else, and while SpaceX’s secret Falcon Heavy payload may not have generated the same headlines as the Roadster, it could have even bigger implications for humanity’s future in space.

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Inside of the Roadster, SpaceX hid an Arch (pronounced “ark”). The tiny, disc-shaped object is one of the longest-lasting storage devices ever built. It’s expected to withstand millions to billions of years in the harsh conditions of space (or potentially even on the surface of a cosmic object or distant planet).

The Arch isn’t just durable, though. It’s also able to store enormous quantities of data for extended periods of time. Each crystal disc, which looks like a throwback to the “mini-discs” of the early 2000s, can theoretically hold up to 360 terabytes of data. The longevity of the Arch is due to the technology used to inscribe the data and the medium: 5D optical storage in quartz.

Preserving Humanity

SpaceX’s secret Falcon Heavy payload is known as Arch 1.2, and it contains Issac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, a sci-fi series that discusses the preservation of humankind — a relevant topic.

Eventually, the disc’s developers at the Arch Mission Foundation plan to add to the collection to create what they’re calling the “Solar Library.” As co-founder Nova Spivack wrote in a post on Medium, “This is only the first step of an epic human project to curate, encode, and distribute our data across the solar system and beyond.”

Ultimately, the nonprofit group hopes their small quartz crystal discs could “preserve and disseminate humanity’s knowledge across time and space, for the benefit of future generations,” according to Spivack.

They already have plans to launch discs to support early colonists on Mars, and eventually, they hope to connect the Arch Libraries in an enormous, decentralized network that will allow for data sharing and storage throughout the solar system. This is certainly a moonshot, but if humans become a multi-planetary species, we’ll need such a system in place.

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The middle booster of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket failed to land on its drone ship

Though the Falcon Heavy’s outer cores successfully landed after launch this afternoon, the middle core of SpaceX’s huge rocket missed the drone ship where it was supposed to land, a source tells The Verge. SpaceX later confirmed The Verge’s reporting in a press conference.

The center core was only able to relight one of the three engines necessary to land, and so it hit the water at 300 miles per hour about 300 feet from the drone ship. As a result, two engines on the drone ship were taken out when it crashed, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a press call after the rocket launch. “[It] was enough to take out two thrusters and shower the deck with shrapnel,” he said.

It’s a small hiccup in an otherwise successful first flight. The Falcon…

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Watch SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch today at 1:30 PM ET

Today, SpaceX will attempt to launch the Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time. The launch window is between 1:30 PM ET and 4:00 PM ET. If you'd like to watch the launch (and trust me, you definitely want to), then you can livestream it below. The s…
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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Just Received Its Launch License

Ready to Launch

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket is currently sitting at Cape Canaveral in Florida, with successful testing under its belt, ready to launch into orbit. The rocket passed static fire testing with flying (or rather, burning) colors last week. SpaceX then confirmed that if all goes according to plan, the Falcon Heavy would be ready for launch by February 6th.

On Saturday, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy received a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration for the rocket’s first launch — which is, indeed, scheduled for February 6th.

This license covers only this first, inaugural, launch as every commercial launch in the U.S. need to acquire a license. It is possible, due to weather or unforeseen events, that the launch could be pushed to the 7th. For now, at least, the rocket is all systems go for this coming Tuesday.

Mission to Mars

The Falcon Heavy rocket will launch with a Tesla roadster within its payload — a playful way to put its weight-carrying ability to the test. The Falcon Heavy could be an enormous asset in conjunction with other missions, as well as solo missions, to carry more extensive payloads into space. This could have implications for any extended missions to the Moon, longer stays on the ISS, or beyond.

As some have pointed out, given where SpaceX has long had its sights set, the Falcon Heavy could be our best bet for reaching Mars.

From when the first Falcon 1 launched in 2006 (which failed during ascent) to the recent, successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket (which carried a classified satellite into orbit) SpaceX has come a long way. Now they seem ready to go beyond.

The Falcon Heavy has come to represent a new age of rocket technology and space exploration. Payloads are increasing, and the stakes are higher than they have ever been before for the relatively new company. It will surely be a thrill to anticipate the history-making launch that’s been a long time coming, but now, is just a few days away.

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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Launch Could Be as Soon as February 6

Falcon Heavy

Many have been on the edge of their seats for weeks in anticipation of a launch date for SpaceX’s powerful, mostly reusable rocket, the Falcon Heavy. On Friday, Jan. 26, Chris Gebhardt of NASASpaceflight.com tweeted that the Falcon Heavy launch will occur on Feb. 6 from Cape Canaveral, with a potential backup date the following day (February 7). Gebhardt’s prediction came after the rocket passed its much-anticipated static fire test.

Elon Musk quickly followed up the successful testing by tweeting that the rocket would be ready to launch within “a week or so,” which Gebhardt also confirmed on Twitter.

As of yet, SpaceX has not officially confirmed the date.Gebhardt followed up his initial announcement by clarifying that February 6 is only a No-Earlier-Than date; meaning the date is the soonest SpaceX could realistically launch the rocket.

Launch Date

While the static fire test was the last major hurdle the Falcon Heavy had to jump over before it could be considered generally ready for takeoff, the time between now and the official launch will be filled with double checking the rocket’s components and carefully ensuring that everything is exactly in order.

Many are excited to see if the Falcon Heavy will, in fact, launch a Tesla Roadster into space; Musk’s proposed method of simulating the heavy loads it will later carry into orbit. However, there are still significant doubts about whether Musk was serious about sending his personal Roadster as a trial payload.

Whether or not the launch happens on exactly February 6 (or 7), and whether or not there’s a Roadster aboard, one thing is undeniable: we’re closer than ever to seeing the Falcon Heavy liftoff.

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