SpaceX, Elon Musk's rocket and spacecraft company, is on track to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket into space Tuesday at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., and the Tesla CEO has revealed a new photo of his long-promised payload: his personal cherry-red Roadster with a dummy in a spacesuit behind the wheel.
Musk uploaded the photo to Instagram with the caption "Starman in Red Roadster." It's an apparent reference to his plan to play the David Bowie song "Space Oddity" on repeat while the capsule makes its elliptical orbit around Mars and the sun — the whole affair making use of both definitions of the term "hyperbolic." There's a miniature Tesla mounted on the dashboard, and the dummy is fitted in SpaceX's prototype spacesuit.
SpaceX calls the Falcon Heavy the world's "most powerful operational rocket" with the ability to bring nearly 64 metric tons into orbit, more than twice the payload of the next closest current rocket. Its 27 Merlin engines will generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to roughly 18 Boeing 747 aircraft. SpaceX hopes the launch will be the biggest and most powerful rocket launched into space since NASA's last Saturn V moon rocket launched in 1973. (The Saturn V, by comparison, produced more than 7.5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.)
SpaceX will also try to soft-land all three of the Falcon Heavy first stage rockets at Cape Canaveral.
It's hoped that the rocket can someday transport humans into space. The Trump administration recently signaled that NASA may contract with a commercial provider to launch the first component of its Deep Space Gateway, a lunar-orbiting research outpost planned as a successor to the International Space Station in the next decade and a jumping-off point for missions to Mars.
The maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy was originally intended for last summer but has been delayed several times. If successful, It would likely give California-based SpaceX a leg up on rival commercial rocket companies seeking major contracts with NASA, the U.S. military, satellite companies and even paying space tourists.
Meanwhile, Tesla in November announced plans for an all-new Roadster as the "quickest car in the world," with a claimed 0-to-60 time of 1.9 seconds, a top speed of more than 250 mph and a range of 620 miles.