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In an unexpected move, Elon Musk has announced his intention to launch a Tesla Roadster into space. 

The electric vehicle will form part of the payload for the inaugural launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida.  If the launch proves successful, the car will be placed in an elliptic orbit around the Sun. 
If the launch is successful then the car will end up in an elliptical orbit around the sun.
(Image via SpaceX.)

This unique launch represents a union of Elon Musk’s two major ventures: SpaceX, a private aerospace company, and Tesla, a pioneering electric vehicle producer. The Tesla Roadster was the world’s first fully electric, commercially produced car and is powered by lithium-ion battery cells. Recently published photos on Instagram reveal that Musk’s own personal 2009 model Roadster has been secured inside the nose cone of the rocket, and take-off is due imminently. With the exception of three ‘moon buggies’, which were launched with the Apollo missions, this vehicle will become the only car ever to leave Earth. 

Appropriately, David Bowie’s 1969 song Space Oddity will be played through the car’s stereo system during the journey.  This continues in the footsteps of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who famously covered the song whilst aboard the International Space Station in 2015. A copy of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has also been placed in the car’s glove compartment. 
With the exception of the moon buggies that accompanied the Apollo missions, the Tesla Roadster will be only car ever to leave Earth.
(Image via SpaceX.)

Over the coming days and weeks, a series of meticulous checks will be carried out prior to lift-off. This mission is an extremely complicated and dangerous undertaking which has been significantly delayed in the past.   The Falcon Heavy –and its unusual cargo– will be propelled by twenty-seven first-stage rocket engines, housed in three adapted Falcon 9 modules. The intention is that these modules will be returned to Earth safely and will be reusable. During take-off, the rocket will produce five million pounds of thrust – equivalent to around eighteen 747 aircraft at full power – making this the most powerful operational rocket in the world.   

Ahead of the launch, Elon Musk said: “Test flights of new rockets usually contain mass simulators in the form of concrete or steel blocks. That seemed extremely boring … so we decided to send something unusual, something that made us feel”.
Space X's Falcon Heavy rocket will be used to carry the Tesla Roadster into orbit.
(Image via SpaceX.)

This is an exciting endeavour, and is certainly an effective way to generate attention. With an expected launch date in January 2018, Tesla and SpaceX are starting the new year boldly…

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Tags: Engineering
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