Back when Tesla still had its vehicle referral program, one of the perks was the ability to launch a photo to space with another one of Elon Musk’s company’s – SpaceX. Now, for many of the Tesla owners who have waited years, that time has actually come. Tomorrow, as SpaceX launches a Moon-bound South Korean satellite, many Tesla customers will have their photos tag along. Here’s everything you should know about the launch.
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Photos from Tesla Owners
When Tesla still had its referral program, one of the perks was the ability to have a photo of your launched into space. It has been several years, but at last that is happening. Of course, it makes no sense to launch a dedicated rocket just to send data into space (even if at one point it made sense for Elon Musk to send up his old Tesla Roadster), so the images are launching during the KPLO mission on August 4. The images submitted by the owners who earned the perk have been combined into a large mosaic showing Musk’s Roadster in space during the first test launch of the Falcon Heavy. Due to the risk of malfunction, the first launch of a new rocket will often use a mass simulator. These are normally just large chunks of heavy material, but sending up a Tesla Roadster back in 2018 brought a lot more hype to the debut of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket.
Falcon 9 Rocket
Tomorrow, on August 4, SpaceX will be launching another one of its Falcon 9 rockets. The Falcon 9 is SpaceX’s current workhorse rocket. After Elon Musk’s company had a few launches of the Falcon 1, they moved on to the Falcon 9, which first launched in 2010. The number nine signifies the number of engines on the first stage. SpaceX uses nine of their own Merlin 1D rocket engines on the first stage and one more Merlin 1D engine that is optimized for the vacuum of space on the second stage. The engines are powered by a combination of cooled RP1 (a highly refined kerosene) and liquid oxygen.
There have been a few different versions of the Falcon 9 as the company has improved the reliability and added reusability to the vehicle. The first stage of the rocket and the fairings, which surround the satellites, are the parts of the Falcon 9 that are reused. The Fairings parachute down and are fished out of the water by recovery boats, while Falcon 9’s, of course, have the iconic propulsive landing. Returning to land either back near the launch site or out at sea on the company’s droneships, some of the Falcon 9 Block 5 boosters currently in use have flown as many as 13 times – and that number is growing.
The specific Falcon 9 Booster launching the KPLO mission, and the photos from so many Tesla owners, is B1052. This booster first launched back in 2019 as one of the side boosters of a Falcon Heavy during the Arabsat 6A mission. It flew once again as a Falcon Heavy side core for the STP-2 mission, and then flew on its own as a Falcon 9 for the CSG-2 mission and two of the company’s internal Starlink missions. This will be the booster’s sixth flight overall. It is expected to land on the droneship Just Read the Instructions before returning to Cape Canaveral to continue in service.
The primary purpose of this launch is to carry the Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), also known as Danuri. This is South Korea’s first lunar probe, and in addition to validating the technology, the instruments will help survey lunar resources and produce topographical maps for future lunar landing sites.
The instruments onboard the orbiter include Lunar Terrain Imager, a Wide-angle Polarimetric Camera (which will help investigate lunar rock), a Magnetometer, a Gamma Ray Spectrometer, and networking equipment to test communication. In addition, NASA has a payload on the rocket – ShadowCam. That camera is specifically meant to look a reflectivity in order to search for ice deposits.
How can I watch the launch?
If you happen to be in the central Florida area and want to see the launch, there are lots of public locations you can view from. The KPLO mission will lift of from SLC-40, so going to view from Playalinda Beach can get you around 7 miles away if you stop at Parking lot one. Playalinda beach is part of the Canaveral National Seashore, so if you have a National Park Pass you can enter, otherwise its a general $20 admission fee per vehicle. The beach will close at 8 p.m., while the launch is at 7:08 p.m., so you should have plenty of time to make your way to the exit following the launch.
If you aren’t worried about being as close as possible to the launch, almost anywhere in the Titusville and Cocoa Beach area will provide a great view. When I view launches from SLC-40 off-site, I tend to stop at one of the pull-offs along A1A.
If you aren’t in the Florida area, don’t worry, cause you can still have the best view possible. SpaceX puts on excellent livestreams of their launches, with up-close and on board camera views, so head over to the company’s YouTube channel and keep an eye on their Twitter account for any last-minute updates.
With this mission, as the Falcon 9 is landing on a droneship out in the ocean, there will not a clearly visible return or sonic boom.