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 hood, with a mannequin in the driving seat that is wearing a white-and-black spacesuit
Roadster car mounted on Falcon upper-stage; Earth in the background
NamesSpaceX Roadster[1]
Starman[1]
Mission typeTest flight
OperatorSpaceX
2018-017A
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 (UTC) (2018-02-06T20:45:00Z)
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 served as the dummy payload for the February 2018 Falcon Heavy test flight and became an artificial satellite of the Sun. "Starman", a mannequin dressed in a spacesuit, occupies the driver's seat. The car and rocket are products of Tesla and SpaceX, both companies founded by Elon Musk.[4] The 2008-model Roadster was previously used by Musk for commuting to work, and is the first production car in space.

The car, mounted on the rocket's second stage, acquired enough velocity to escape Earth's gravity and enter an elliptical heliocentric orbit crossing the orbit of Mars.[5] The orbit reaches a maximum distance from the Sun at aphelion of 1.66 astronomical units (au).[3] During the early portion of the voyage outside the Earth's atmosphere, live video was transmitted back to the mission control center and live-streamed for slightly over four hours.[6]

Advertising analysts noted Musk's sense of brand management and use of new media for his decision to launch a Tesla into space. While some commenters voiced concern that the car contributed to space debris, others saw it as a work of art. Musk explained he wanted to inspire the public about the "possibility of something new happening in space," as part of his larger vision for spreading humanity to other planets.[7]

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".
Musk's Tesla Roadster parked outside SpaceX in 2010

In March 2017, SpaceX's founder, Elon Musk, said that because the launch of the new Falcon Heavy vehicle was risky, it would carry the "silliest thing we can imagine".[8] In June 2017, one of his Twitter followers suggested that the silly thing be a Tesla Model S, to which Musk replied "Suggestions welcome!".[9][10][11][12] In December 2017 he announced that the payload would be his personal "midnight cherry Tesla Roadster".[13][14][15][16] Later that month, photos of the car were taken and publicly released prior to payload encapsulation.

One of the test flight objectives was to demonstrate that the new rocket could carry a payload as far as the orbit of Mars. NASA had declined SpaceX's offer to carry a scientific payload.[17]

Following the successful launch, the Roadster became the first standard roadworthy vehicle sent into space.[18] Three special-purpose off-road vehicles had previously been sent to the Moon: the lunar rovers of Apollo 15, 16, and 17 in the 1970s.[19]

Roadster as payload

Illustration of Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster attached to the upper stage of a Falcon rocket, with a driver wearing a white-and-black spacesuit in the driving seat and the Earth visible in the background.
The Roadster is permanently attached to the upper stage of the Falcon Heavy rocket.

The car was permanently mounted on the rocket in an inclined position above the payload adapter. Tubular structures were added to mount front and side cameras.[20]

Positioned in the driver's seat is "Starman", a full-scale human mannequin clad in a SpaceX pressure spacesuit.[21] It was placed with the right hand on the steering wheel and the left elbow resting on the open window sill. The mannequin was named after the David Bowie song "Starman"[22] and the car's sound system was set before launch to continuously loop the Bowie song "Space Oddity".[23][24]

There is a copy of Douglas Adams' 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!".[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 placed underneath the car, and a message on the vehicle's circuit board reads "Made on Earth by humans".[26] The car also carries a copy of Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy on a 5D optical disc, a proof of concept for high-density long-lasting data storage, donated to Musk by the Arch Mission Foundation.[27][28]