Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster

Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster
Photograph of the black emptiness of space, with planet Earth partly in shadow in the background. In the foreground is an open-top red convertible sports car, viewed from the front over the bonnet, with a driver wearing a human-shaped white-and-black spacesuit in the driving seat.
The Roadster in a parking orbit above Earth, prior to departing Earth's gravity well on a trans-Mars injection heliocentric orbit
NamesSpaceX Roadster[1]
Starman[1]
Mission typeTest flight
OperatorSpaceX
COSPAR ID2018-017A
no.43205
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft type2008 Tesla Roadster used as a mass simulator, attached to the upper stage of a Falcon Heavy rocket
ManufacturerTesla and SpaceX
Launch mass
  • ~1,300 kg (2,900 lb);
  • ~6,000 kg (13,000 lb) including rocket upper stage[2]
Start of mission
Launch date20:45:00, February 6, 2018 (2018-02-06T20:45:00)
RocketFalcon Heavy FH-001
Launch siteKennedy LC-39A
Orbital parameters
Reference systemHeliocentric
Eccentricity0.25571[3]
Perihelion0.98613 au (147,523,000 km)[3]
Aphelion1.6637 au (248,890,000 km)[3]
Inclination1.077°[3]
Period1.525 year[3]
Epoch1 May 2018

Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster is an electric sports car that was the dummy payload for the Falcon Heavy test flight in February 2018. Starman, a mannequin dressed in a spacesuit, occupies the driver's seat. The 2008 Tesla Roadster car and Falcon Heavy rocket are products of Elon Musk's companies, Tesla and SpaceX. This electric car was previously used by Musk for commuting, and it is the only consumer car sent into space.

The rocket's second stage, with the car attached, imparted sufficient velocity to escape Earth's gravity and enter an elliptical heliocentric orbit that crosses the orbit of Mars. The orbit reaches a maximum distance from the Sun at aphelion of 1.66 astronomical units (au).[3][4] During the early portion of its voyage, the combination sent live video back to Earth for slightly over four hours.[5]

Advertising analysts lauded Musk's sense of brand management and effective use of new media for his decision to launch a Tesla Roadster into space. Some commenters were concerned that the car contributes to space debris, and others perceived it as a work of art.

Background

Photograph of a parking space with the words "SpaceX" and "reserved".  The parking space contains a red convertible sports car with Californian license plate TSLA 10. On the rear of the vehicle are written the words "Tesla Roadster Sport".
Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster in a parking space outside SpaceX in 2010

In March 2017, Musk stated that the launch of the new Falcon Heavy vehicle was risky, so it would carry the "silliest thing we can imagine".[6] On December 1, 2017 he said that the payload would be his personal Roadster,[7][8] subsequently verifying that he was not joking.[9] On December 22, Musk published pictures of the car taken before payload encapsulation.

Traditionally, concrete or steel blocks are used as ballast in risky test flights. SpaceX wanted to demonstrate that their new rocket could carry a payload as far as the orbit of Mars. They reportedly had offered NASA to carry a scientific payload, but these plans did not come to fruition.[10]

This Roadster became the first consumer car sent into space.[11] Three manned rovers were sent to space on the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions in the 1970s and these vehicles were left on the Moon.[12]

Roadster payload

The first-generation Tesla Roadster is an all-electric sports car. The red Roadster launched into space is one of Elon Musk's privately owned vehicles.[13][14] Musk said in a 2012 interview that the Roadster was "the one I drive to work".[15] The car was installed in the Falcon Heavy rocket at an inclined position above the payload adapter in order to account for the mass distribution.[16]

Large circular disc of a fully-illuminated planet Earth floating in the blackness of space. In front of Earth is a red convertible sports-car seen from the side. A humanoid figure wearing a white-and-black spacesuit is seated in the driving seat with the right-arm holding the steering wheel, and the left-arm resting on the top of the car door.
"Starman", a mannequin, seated in the Roadster

A number of whimsical objects were included in the Roadster. Positioned in the driver's seat is "Starman", a full-scale human mannequin named after the David Bowie song "Starman"[17] and clad in SpaceX's pressure spacesuit.[18] The mannequin has its right hand on the steering wheel and left elbow resting on the open window sill. The car's sound system was looping the Bowie song "Space Oddity"[19][20] as a symbolic gesture[21] even though the car's speakers cannot emit sound in space.[22]

There is a copy of Douglas Adams' 1979 novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in the glovebox, along with references to the book in the form of a towel and a sign on the dashboard that reads "Don't Panic!".[23][24][25] A Hot Wheels miniature Roadster with a miniature Starman is mounted on the dashboard. A plaque bearing the names of the employees who worked on the project is underneath the car, and a message on the vehicle's circuit board reads "Made on Earth by humans".[26] A copy of Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy on a 5D optical data storage disc was included – the disk holds 360 terabytes but the books only comprised 3 megabytes. It was created by the Arch Mission Foundation and added at the last minute after Musk was informed that the disk, previously created as a proof of concept and never intended to be launched into space, was available – Musk was a fan of the trilogy.[27][28][29]

The Roadster is attached to a Merlin 1D Vacuum second stage with extended nozzle by a payload attachment fitting.[30]